By Kelly O’Hara Dyer, Correspondent
For Rev. Kelly Chatman, senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis, a deep relationship with Luther Seminary takes many forms.
Chatman, who has been at Redeemer for 17 years, has long served as a mentor to the internship and Christian Public Leader (CPL) students from Luther Seminary who work within his diverse, multicultural church and congregation. In addition, numerous members of his church have themselves enrolled at the seminary as students over the years. His wife, Dr. Cheryl Chatman, is a former trustee for Luther Seminary, and the couple also financially supports students pursuing their education by donating to the seminary’s general scholarship fund.
Chatman believes his congregation and ministry benefit from a symbiotic relationship with Luther Seminary that strengthens both sides. For instance, as the larger church changes and becomes more diverse, Redeemer offers Luther Seminary students a hands-on chance to work and learn within a multicultural context.
“Redeemer is a 108-year-old congregation that was started in 1918 as an English-speaking Scandinavian congregation, and today we worship 90 to 110 people on a Sunday and are probably 40 percent people of color,” Chatman says. “And over the years our congregation has become a teaching congregation. This whole faith community helps to shape leadership and the vision of the church, particularly in a diverse context.”
As a church, Redeemer has taken a number of steps to reach out to its community, using innovative avenues to affect change in its neighborhood. In 1999, the congregation started a nonprofit called Redeemer Center for Life (RCFL). The nonprofit was developed to support the congregation in fulfilling its mission to be a beacon of hope in the community in response to three primary needs: job growth, attainable housing and youth development.
A program offered by RCFL is the Housing and Transition program (HAT) that serves young adults who lack secure housing. HAT helps individuals secure their first apartment and provides empowerment and life skills.
Another Redeemer program, called Redeemer Youth Handmade, helps high school students turn old bike parts into various salable articles, including jewelry. The group receives many of its materials from another Redeemer effort, the Venture North Bike & Coffee Shop. The full-service bike shop opened in 2011, and provides development services and training in bike repair and other skills to neighborhood youth, in addition to providing a valuable neighborhood service.
In each of these efforts, Redeemer offers students from Luther Seminary a way to engage directly in community outreach efforts and learn to work within a diverse community.
From Redeemer’s side, Chatman says his church benefits from the fresh flow of ideas from seminary students.
We benefit from this in that we get wonderful leaders, whether they come here as interns or CPL students or whatever it is,” Chatman says. “And I think Redeemer is a critical place for people who want experience doing ministry in a context that is diverse.”
Alissa Kretzmann is currently serving her internship year at Redeemer while finishing her studies at Luther Seminary. She is enthusiastic about her reception from the church community there, noting Redeemer is “a very dynamic place with a lot happening!” For his part, Chatman calls Kretzmann “a gifted leader who pretty much does everything I do in terms of the opportunity to practice as a pastor in a multicultural, neighborhood-oriented community.”
As it happens, Kretzmann is also a beneficiary of the general scholarship fund to which the Chatmans have donated.
“I have a Trustee’s Scholarship,” Kretzmann says. “I’m incredibly grateful for it, and it covers about 60 percent of my cost at Luther Seminary. It makes it possible for me to finish this last step as I prepare for ministry.”
Chatman says his and his wife’s decision to give to the seminary’s general scholarship fund stems from a desire to ensure students such as Kretzmann receive the financial assistance they need as they pursue their theological education, and to help continue the strong relationship between Redeemer and Luther Seminary.
“We believe in giving back,” he says.