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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Changing neighborhood

Lutheran Church of the Covenant is located in Maple Heights, Ohio, a blue-collar Cleveland suburb that was built with modest housing after World War II. The congregation once had 700 members, but average Sunday attendance has dwindled to 130.

As the older generation dies, African American families are increasingly moving into their first homes in Maple Heights. About 10 percent of Sunday worshipers are African American.

"We're still perceived as a white congregation," said Joseph Rinderknecht, pastor. "It's not an easy barrier to overcome. The church continues to be the most segregated place in society on Sunday morning."

Covenant House and other ministries help change that perception.

Funding is an ongoing challenge because the program has been unsuccessful in tapping into public funds. The church contributes $12,000 annually toward the $40,000 budget and provides tutors and meeting space. Erica Davis-James is the first full-time staff person,


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