Lifting high the cross at Central Lutheran Church is in-spire-ing event
A chapter in the life of Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis — lived out largely in the public eye and one that has provided the opportunity to tell the story of Central’s urban mission far and wide — recently came to a successful conclusion.
Braving arctic-cold weather, members of the congregation gathered outdoors in mid-December and sang “Lift High the Cross” as Central’s historic spire cross — damaged in a rare downtown tornado last summer — was raised by a 200-foot crane and permanently remounted on the church’s spire.
The tornado touched down near Central August 19 as the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center across the street. Two outdoor, tented hospitality areas, set up to serve assembly voting members and guests, were destroyed. The storm snapped the center supporting mast of the spire, leaving the 14-foot tall, 900-pound cross dangling upside down. It was safely removed the following day.
The storm caused $298,000 in damage to Central’s campus. Events scheduled inside the congregation’s buildings went on as planned. Despite the fact that plans months-in-the-making were changed in an instant, the storm caused no injuries. There were also some surprising results.
Within moments of the storm, local and national news organizations, including CNN and the Associated Press, began calling Central. People around the globe read about Central and sent their good wishes. Some from as far away as New Zealand sent e-mail messages. The cross-raising received the same high level of media attention as did the tornado.
After the storm
Voting members and guests at the assembly showed their generosity in the wake of the storm. Many asked the Rev. Craig Johnson, bishop of the ELCA’s Minneapolis Area Synod, how they could help Central. It was decided that an August 21 offering would benefit Central.
Before the offering was taken, the Rev. Mark Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, announced that Central’s leadership had decided to give all the money received to Lutheran World Relief (LWR) in support of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI).
The LMI, formally launched at the assembly, was to have received 10 percent of proceeds from the congregation’s Carillon Cafe and Pub Central, both destroyed by the storm. It was estimated that proceeds from the outdoor venues designated for LMI would have been approximately $2,500. The assembly offering totaled nearly $9,000.
In addition, it had been announced before the assembly that 66 outdoor trees and shrubs, purchased to decorate the worship area and the plenary-session stage, would be donated to Central. Members of its Fiscal and Property Committee were not sure if there would be room to replant them all. The storm resolved that problem.
Hanson told the assembly that Central’s leaders decided to plant the trees and shrubs in an area on the south side of the church, suddenly bare after the storm uprooted several trees.
“That is the story of God, the good Gardener,” Hanson said.