ELCA congregations nationwide have transformed their ministries by partnering ecumenically.
"God is certainly working a patchwork in the church, bringing together various parts to work together ecumenically; not only to start new congregations, but also to renew and lead toward the health and vitality of our existing congregations," said Neil Harrison, ELCA program director for congregational renewal.
As Salem English Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, struggled with declining membership and the rising costs of maintaining its large facility, members wondered if "the glory years of ministry may be over," recalled Jennifer Nagel, pastor. "Live or die was the question and a real place for discernment. We could finish our ministry and celebrate many years of dedicated service, or we could intentionally choose to live differently, not quite knowing where God was leading."
In 2006 the congregation shuttered its facility so it could divert resources that normally went toward the cost of upkeep to invest more in mission and outreach. It also freed the congregation to partner with nearby congregations: Lyndale United Church of Christ and First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
The partnership culminated in the formation of SpringHouse Ministry Center, a hub with three worship areas, and shared Sunday school, youth ministry programs, justice activities and staff.
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