When entering seminary (at least Lutheran seminaries), you are paired with a “contextual education” site–or teaching parish. Usually, the students have the opportunity to pick their own site, and are given guidance if they desire. When thinking about my teaching parish, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone a bit, and explore urban ministry. After many conversations and bit of exploring, I ended up at Redeemer Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis (off of Glenwood). Let me tell you a bit about Redeemer (forgive me while I gush a bit…).
Since then, Redeemer has been a home for me (and my wife, Kirsten, when she moved in). Redeemer calls itself a “Beacon of Hope” in the city, and it has played that role for me, as well. Redeemer gives me energy–it gives me life. And through Redeemer, God renews my faith each and every Sunday.
One thing about Redeemer that stands out is its diversity. After studying culture and sociology (a bit), I’ve learned that diversity is its own culture–different than simply white, or black, or Asian, or anything else. A group must be very intentional in creating a diverse and welcoming culture, refusing to cease in its welcoming of others. Redeemer is truly diverse, in just about every sense of the word.
One of my favorite things about Redeemer is its worship music, which certainly reflects its diversity. Redeemer primarily used the This Far By Faith hymnal, but often branches out. Whether through the choir, solos, or congregational singing, we sing and play (instrumental) songs from nearly every time period, genre, ethnicity, and musical taste. The songs (almost) always are tied to the Scripture for the day, and the music director makes a special effort to consistently try new things. That said, my love for Redeemer is partially based on two songs that are repeated every week.
Whenever there is a prolonged transition time (often at the tail-end of communion), we break into a somewhat-impromptu version of “Amazing Grace.” I must say…it’s awesome. Growing up in the upper-middle-class white suburbs, I never sang the “Praise God” verse at the end of the song, but I have grown to love it. The other song we sing each Sunday is “Till We Meet Again.” At the closing of every service, we grab hands across the aisle and sing it. When I first joined, I raised my eyes to the beautiful stained glass as we sang. Now, as I sing “Till We Meet Again,” I look each (or most) of my fellow members in the eye, and wish them God’s Peace until the following Sunday.
Thank you for allowing me to indulge my need to gush (or brag, or tell, or witness) about my love of my contextual education site. Is it perfect? No. Do I sometimes feel overwhelmed with my responsibilities there? Yes. But, when I take into account what I’ve written above, and throw in the 10-15 minute sharing of the peace (no joke!!) and a wonderful community of God’s people, I cannot help but give thanks for such a wonderful church.
Funny how a place that I deemed “out of my comfort zone” has now become like a home for me.