Improvise!

Lyndale UCC Pastor Don Portwood shares the story of the ecumenical partnership:

What are your options when your building is too big and costly and your congregation too small? Improvise.

The 115 members of Lyndale United Church of Christ, Minneapolis inherited a beautiful, but costly building: 25,000 sq ft. to heat with an aging boiler, deteriorating walls and ever increasing fuel bills. In 2002, we recognized we had to do something to have a sustainable (economically and environmentally) ministry into the future. In 2006, we partnered with Salem Lutheran Church, 3 blocks away, who had the same problems and found a developer who would build affordable housing and a new sustainable building on Salem’s bigger site at 28th & Lyndale S. Neighborhood opposition stopped that. Salem closed their building and moved in with us on November 1, 2006. We combined Sunday School and Youth Group, but worshipped separately, except on special occasions.

To make a really long story shorter, by the Spring of 2007 we found Brighton Development, who would build affordable condos on the site and renovate Salem’s old 15,000 sq. ft sanctuary for a ministry center for us.  Lyndale’s building, to our surprise and joy, sold in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the great depression. But with the condo market tanking, the project was put on hold. Still, we had to move out and settled on Intermedia Arts, ½ block from the Salem site. Lyndale Jesus puppetPalm Sunday, April 5, 2009, Lyndale and Salem processed from our church home of 85 years, past the two sites of previous Lyndale Church buildings at Lake and Aldrich and Lake and Lyndale, to 2822 Lyndale for a joint service. Here’s a brief clip of that procession from the news .

But God was still speaking. April 12, 2010, we reported discussions with First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who had sold their building in the neighborhood and were renting back. August 3, 2010, Lyndale hired the Ackley Consulting Group to help us raise $400,000 needed to buy into the project, along with the money our forebearers provided from the sale of our building. November 7th the three congregations held a “worship and meet” at Intermedia Arts. A pre-closing groundbreaking was held November 19th for The Greenleaf Affordable Housing and Salem/Lyndale Ministry Center. And on November 23rd the deal between Brighton, Salem and Lyndale closed.

In January 2011, the congregations voted to enter a 3 way partnership. That February we reworked the plans and by March 15th interior demolition began as well as construction of the new entrance. Renovation continued through the year with a more green friendly, sustainable building to house three congregations. The congregations moved in November 2011 and January 2012.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Whatever it is, we seek to be a witness to the still speaking God and how 3 small, but vital congregations can faithfully improvise with what’s set before them, withtrust and playfulness, hope and non-attachment, prayer and vision, never imagining how much more God has in store for us, than each of us originally thought.

This writing originally appeared in the July 20, 2011 edition of Commantary, the e-newsletter for the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ (with recent edits in 2015).  

 
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