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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Gifts for growth

In closing, Tacoma congregation funds new ministries

On Nov. 9, 2003, Emilie Pedersen worshiped for the last time at Luther Memorial Church in Tacoma, Wash. She had been married there in 1942 and buried her husband from there in 1995. Her children had been baptized there too. "It's like the old homestead," the 86-year-old member said.

Her fondness for the church in the heart of the city didn't keep Pedersen from deciding, along with a small group of other leaders, to close the 112-year-old congregation, whose membership dwindled as times changed.

The reasons for the decline aren't unlike those of many other churches. Generations raised there had moved to the suburbs. Members had grown old and died. Those who did come often couldn't find parking. "If attendance was in the low 20s, it was a really good Sunday," Pedersen said.

But Luther Memorial didn't decide just to close the congregation: They determined to leave a legacy for new ministries — from down the street to thousands of miles away, said Eugene Wiegman, the pastor who led the effort.


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