|Congregation Description:||The center of the life of Christ Church Lutheran is worship. We gather every Sunday at 9:30 am for worship centered in the grace and love of God, in Word and Meal. Our worship is liturgical, creative, thoughtful, engaged, transformative. The congregation values excellence in preaching, in worship leadership, in music. The Table is open to all, and it extends to our homebound people through our Eucharistic Ministers. |
Our life together grows out of our worship. It is marked by joyful hospitality, care for our neighbors and for one another, love of creativity and the arts, and thoughtful engagement with God's work in our world.
After worship on Sunday morning, people greet new and old friends in the Narthex and at the Coffee Cart. Many attend the weekly Forums that focus on such things as our church life together, Bible Study, vocation, global concerns, justice issues. In addition to the Forums, our Adult Education offers workshops, retreats, beer-brewing and bread-making classes, wine-tastings, etc. A beginning Sunday School will help our children develop friendships with one another, learn about Jesus' love for them, and express themselves in music and the arts.
During the week, our church building is alive with the active work of congregational committees, our Retirees group, our Stationery Group, community groups meeting here, neighborhood basketball and volleyball groups using our gymnasium, etc.
Last year, we hosted four concerts by the remarkable chamber music group, Accordo; this year they will perform again at Christ Church. Also, the Rose Ensemble uses our space for some rehearsals, and will sing a vespers service at our church on the Vigil of Pentecost in 2013. We also exhibit art by local artists occasionally. We are working to grow and deepen our connections with and outreach to the arts community.
Our church building is a National Historic Landmark (2009)--the only church in Minnesota with this designation--designed by father and son, Eliel Saarinen and Eero Saarinen. Another part of our ministry is welcoming people from across the country and around the world who come to see our building. Classes from the universities and colleges in the area, and from places like Chicago and St. Louis, come to tour and study the church building. A nonprofit group, Friends of Christ Church Lutheran, helps the congregation in educating people about the building; raising funds for its preservation; and raising public awareness of this architectural treasure. They have a cadre of trained docents to lead tours for private groups and for the public.
Christ Church is located in the greater Longfellow-Seward neighborhood--which extends from Franklin Avenue at the north to Minnehaha Park at the south; from Hiawatha and the light rail line to the west to the Mississippi River on the east. This neighborhood was built up in the early decades of the 20th century. The housing stock is mostly Arts and Crafts Bungalows; in fact, it is called "The Bungalow Neighborhood." Especially at its edges, it is mixed racially; at its center, it is mostly Anglo. People buying the homes around our church tend to be college-educated professionals who are committed to an urban life.
The new people we are attracting come from our neighborhood. They also come from some distance, attracted to us because of friendships with people already attending; because of our worship; because of our Landmark building. A number of people who have joined in recent years say that they came for the building and stayed for the community they found here.
This year, Christ Church Lutheran is celebrating its 101st anniversary. Its origins are in the Missouri Synod. For the first 65 years of its life, it was part of that church body. But in 1977, after much study and conversation and prayer, the congregation voted to leave Missouri Synod. The vote passed by one. As a result, half the congregation left. Many of the long-time members of the congregation remember those days vividly and with some sorrow still. The congregation was hit hard, too, by the flight to the suburbs by many of its members in the 1980s. By the mid-1990s, Christ Church was facing some very difficult times as it continued to dwindle in membership and wonder if it even had a future.
It is a testimony to this congregation that its people entered bravely, thoughtfully, and creatively into conversations about their mission, their options, and their future. They eventually voted unanimously to become "a transforming congregation"--embracing needed change, deepening and articulating again their sense of identity and mission, and calling a new pastor to work with them for renewal.
The recent years have been a rich time of growth and re-invigoration. The congregation has found again its wonderful heart for hospitality, its commitment to liturgical worship, its care for our neighbors and for the creation, and its love of learning. New people are coming to worship, and the congregation is welcoming them and incorporating them into their life together.
Three years ago, we applied for and received a significant matching grant from the National Park Service to restore our iconic Tower and do other needed tuck-pointing and repair of bricks. The congregation--with the help of the Friends of Christ Church Lutheran--successfully matched the grant, and, in fact, exceeded it by $60,000. The restoration work was completed in time for our 100th anniversary on Christ the King Sunday in November, 2011; we had a celebratory picnic the month before, to thank our neighbors for their patience during that project.
Another exciting new effort has been the work of our Visioning Committee. They have been leading a process that includes the broad and deep involvement of the congregation in naming again our identity and mission, and developing a strategy and structure for making them happen. It has been a thoughtful, prayerful, good-hearted process. Our hope is to launch ourselves into the next century with intentionality and with a strong sense of who we are and what God is calling us to do. It's an exciting venture for us!
Another huge achievement has been our plan over the last four years to arrive at a balanced budget. For almost 20 years, the congregation's budget was "in the red," using special funds of the congregation to balance it. This was not sustainable. And so we devised an aggressive plan to get ourselves "in the black"--by making some difficult budget decisions, AND by talking again about Stewardship. People have responded with remarkable generosity--our giving is up, the number of households pledging is growing, while, at the same time, we are increasing our giving to the wider church. We are very hopeful about becoming sustainable for the long-term while still doing significant mission through our giving.
This is a rare and remarkable community of hospitality and health, of kind-heartedness and courage, of creativity and care for tradition. It is a marvelous teaching congregation and loves its seminary students. We hope you'll come!