Monday, November 28, 2011

Three in One

No, I'm not going to launch into a theological reflection on the Trinity. I'm sure that most who might tune into this blog are quite familiar with that kind of thing and don't need or want me to give my latest version here. So, I won't. However, I did come across something that has a Trinitarian ring on a recent visit to the UCC in the upper Mid-west, in Minnesota.

Sign outside of SpringHouse Ministry Center
What I saw was three Minneapolis churches that are about to move into one building and share life and ministry. They call the new building the SpringHouse Ministry Center. These churches are not merging—and that is an exciting element of their story. What they have decided to do is take the largest of their respective buildings and refit it. The building will now serve three congregations, thus reducing their aggregate carbon footprint. The new facility will provide each congregation with an accessible facility where they can live out their distinct identities while sharing in Christian formation, community and mission.

Lyndale United Church of Christ, Salem Lutheran (ELCA) and First Christian Church (DOC) are the churches that have come together to embark on a new life in the edifice that was once the sole home of Salem Lutheran. The building will now house three sanctuaries, classrooms, offices, community space and a full-service kitchen. One interesting feature of this arrangement is that the congregations will rotate their use of the sanctuaries, giving each the opportunity to experience the unique features of each worship space.   

Minnesota Conference Minister, Karen Smith Sellers tours new site with Don Portwood and Michael Vanderford of Lyndale UCC.
This is a good news story, and it may give us a glimpse of what is possible and what the future might look like for many churches. In this instance, the churches coming together have ecumenical ties since the UCC congregation has a full communion relationship with both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. While the Lutherans and the Disciples do not have this kind of relationship, I'm sure that this living arrangement will enable these two congregations to discover a way toward oneness that might be a gift to their respective denominations. Of course, the presence of the UCC in the SpringHouse might just be the ingredient that makes it all work.    

SpringHouse Ministry Center
As I toured the site, one of the first things that came to mind was the story of Broadway United Church of Christ in New York City. For more than a decade, Broadway has also shared a building with an ELCA congregation. I shared what I knew of the Broadway story with our hosts, Don Portwood, the pastor of Lyndale UCC and Michael Vanderford, the Moderator. I'm sure they chuckled to themselves as I went on about these churches coming together. Once I was finished, they informed me that they knew about Broadway and that as the Spirit would have it, Broadway church had heard about them and had already blessed them with an encouraging gift!

Okay, I can't resist. I'm going back on my word just to say something about one person of the Trinity. That dynamic Holy Spirit just seems to keep working among us in mysterious ways.


Anabel Proffitt said...

This is an example of good stewardship! Thanks for sharing it.

Don Portwood said...

Geoffrey, you really captured what's happening. Thanks for getting the word out on this. You are our first publicity. We'd be thrilled to share how this came about with others.

Don Portwood, Pastor Lyndale United Church of Christ Minneapolis, MN

Anonymous said...

This is a great story thanks for sharing