The five miles of skyways above the streets of downtown Minneapolis make it possible for 29,000 area residents, 132,000 office workers and countless visitors to stay warm in winter and cool in summer as they move from building to building.
For Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, these skyways — elevated walks connecting structures — are the focus of an innovative outreach ministry. Cherian Puthiyottil, a pastor of Central, got the idea for the ministry after working with the city's poor.
"I thought, Hey! I should reach out to people who are on the other side — in the business community," said Puthiyottil. "With job pressures, many of them don't have the time to attend Sunday worship services."
"Skyway Connection" began with Bible study on Thursdays in the convention center, which is part of the skyway system. A year and a half later, the program also includes a topical forum every Wednesday and a study of weekly lectionary texts every Friday.
The connection provides ongoing Bible studies, devotions, health and healing classes, a place of prayer and pastoral counseling. Joining Puthiyottil in the ministry are Minneapolis Lutheran pastors Mark Ditmanson of Lake of the Isles and Nate Lundgren of Augustana churches.
"The potential for the Skyway Connection as a vehicle for witness and service is, in my judgment, great," said Dennis Griffin, Central's interim pastor.
The ministry has been growing, and some of the weekday participants have attended Sunday worship at Central.
"To have this exposure to the downtown business community can only be viewed as a wonderful opportunity for Central," Griffin said.
And the opportunity is bound to increase. The Minnesota Legislature earmarked millions of dollars to expand the convention center. The expansion will take some of Central's parking space, making the church even closer to the convention center and skyway system.
"Most importantly, the program can be of genuine service for education, information and religious experience for the multitudes who walk the skyway each day," Griffin said.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers