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Things are jumpin' at Redeemer

North Minneapolis congregation draws 300 for monthly Hip-Hop worship

A hip-hop worship service that follows the basic Lutheran liturgical format is attracting around 300 people the second Sunday evening of each month at an ELCA congregation on Minneapolis’ near north side.
Redeemer Lutheran Church at 1800 Glenwood Avenue, just west of downtown Minneapolis, is the scene of this fledgling venture into a musical style often associated with the African American culture. The worship participants range in age from 10 to 20, with a nearly even split between young people with black and white skin tones.
The creative musical force behind this experiment in reaching traditionally unchurched youths is David Scherer, a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Scherer comes from a family with four generations of Lutheran pastors, and he has plans to attend a seminary himself. A family member described his hip-hop ministry as more like a Gap commercial than a traditional worship service.
Redeemer’s pastor, the Rev. Kelly Chatman, was open to experimenting with the format. An African American native of Detroit, Chatman attended Seminex in Chicago and Gettysburg Seminary before serving five years as Director of Youth Ministries for the ELCA. The hip-hop ministry has evolved over the past two years of doing urban youth ministry in Minneapolis.
Mission partner congregations each underwrite a month’s programming costs for the worship. Those partner congregations include Calvary Lutheran, Golden Valley; Immanuel Lutheran, Eden Prairie; Central Lutheran, Minneapolis; Shep-herd of the Hills Lutheran, Hopkins, and Mt. Olivet Lutheran, Minneapolis.
A hip-hop service at Redeemer includes a five-piece band, dancers, vocalist, Power Point visuals, a sound person and Scherer himself plus a disc jockey (DJ Smooth) who spins the records. A short video, usually no longer than three minutes, is based on the evening’s theme, and might be considered the sermon in a traditional worship service. Worship participants include youths from the immediate area around Redeemer plus youths from Messiah Lutheran and Our Savior’s Lutheran, both in Minneapolis.
The-hip hop service runs from 7-8:30 p.m. From 6-7 p.m. there’s an “open mike” time for youth to share their talents.
Pastor Chatman said the hip-hop service appeals to a broad spectrum of youths, many of whom are not church members, as well as to others who attend with adult youth leaders from their own churches. He said, “Some of the youths don’t understand what communion is, so this can become an entrance point to the church.”
In preparation for each of the monthly services, Pastor Chatman says, “David (Scherer) takes the Gospel message and puts it into the vernacular so that kids relate to it. The service includes the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and other elements of traditional Lutheran liturgy.”
Michelle Morse, Youth Arts Coordinator at Re-deemer agrees. She says, “Young people really like feeling involved in the service rather than being a more passive worshiper.”
Morse works with Lonna Field, Director of the Kids’ Café, a ministry operated by the church. The hip-hop service operates under an umbrella organization called JUMP (Joint Urban Ministry Program).
Redeemer Lutheran is a 96-year-old congregation located in what was once a Scandinavian-American community. To-day the congregation is about evenly split between white and black members.
Immediately across the street is Milda’s Café, a popular gathering spot operated for years by its namesake, also a member of Redeemer. Although Milda now resides in a nursing home, the café continues under family operation.
Redeemer operates a number of interesting programs reaching out to its diverse neighborhood. Down the block from the church is a brightly-colored little popcorn shop called the Peace Palace. It’s managed by Babette Chatman, Pastor Chatman’s sister. Besides popcorn, ice cream and other treats, kids arriving after school find computers and loving adults who help kids experience belonging in the neighborhood. “It’s a phenomenal ministry,” Pastor Chatman said. And, it has made a change in the neighborhood. He remarked that before Peace Palace opened, “purses were being snatched; drugs were being sold on street corners, where young people gathered. With the Peace Palace, we have been able to reclaim the neighborhood.”
Redeemer’s Kids Café is one of over 300 such operations across the country. It provides free prepared food and nutrition education for hungry children.
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For more information about the hip-hop worship service, call Pastor Kelly Chatman at 612-374-4139 or write to David Scherer at agape@hiphopout