The Twin Cities Metro is Minnesota’s largest urban area, covering St. Paul, Minneapolis and their outlying suburbs, with over 3 million people living in the seven metropolitan counties. By my rough estimate, only 0.0209 percent of these folks are members of the four Moravian congregations of the Metro Area. This represents a small handful of people at work and in witness to an increasingly diverse and complex network of distinct communities.
Even in the five short years that my family and I have lived here, we have noticed significant changes related to immigration, economic recovery and development, relaxed religious affiliation, as well as shifts in generational patterns. Many of these changes are resulting in challenges with which I believe a handful of Moravians can help.
Now, two tenths of one percent may not sound like much—honestly, because it isn’t. But, when have Moravians ever let that stop us before? When did we stop trusting that mustard seeds and a couple of fish and crumbs from the Master’s table were good and plenty? We haven’t.
If you take a look at the Moravian congregations of the Twin Cities Metro: Chaska, Christ’s Community Church in Maple Grove, Lake Auburn in Victoria and Waconia, you will find loving fellowships of Christian believers reaching out to get to know their neighbors and exploring creative ways to bless the communities we are called together to serve.
In 2005, the Chaska congregation began providing space for youth activities to a local church plant. Within a few years, the pastor of that church started a faith-based non-profit called Launch Ministries to promote healthy, productive transitions into adulthood for people between the ages of 18 and 25. A recent statewide study by the Wilder Foundation found that homelessness in Minnesota had grown by about six percent in three years, with nearly half of homeless individuals being aged 21 or younger. “The ongoing partnership with the Chaska Congregation has been an incredible blessing to us and to the young people we work with,” said Corey Magstadt, executive director of Launch Ministries. “Never afraid to have ‘those kind of people’ around, [members of Chaska Moravian Church] make space for the ‘least of these’ in our community to discover new hope and a new future.”
Christ’s Community Church in Maple Grove partnered with a local elementary school to purchase, pack and deliver over 300 bags of non-perishable food once a month for each child in the school through KidPack, a weekend program for children experiencing food insufficiency at home. With 77 percent of students at this school requiring some amount of lunch subsidy, all students receive a bag of food regardless of need. The people of Christ’s Community joined KidPack for the 2014–2015 school year and are committed through 2016–2017. This exciting collaboration resulted from a review of congregational core values and vision, and reaffirming a shared sense of mission. Through their bold commitment, audacious prayers and God’s abundant provision, Christ’s Community is learning “that when we listen to God and discern his will, we can act without fear. God will provide. It isn’t always easy, but it is what we are called to do: love and serve others with faith, giving God all the glory along the way.” (For more on the KidPack program, see the March 2015 edition of The Moravian.)
Waconia Moravian Church began an innovative partnership in 2011 with the invitation to join Families Moving Forward, a network of churches offering hospitality to those experiencing homelessness in Scott and Carver counties. Waconia’s Joint Board carefully studied the program, talked it over and prayed about it. The number of volunteer hours needed, meals to be prepared, space required, etc. all seemed overwhelming—only as long as they tried to imagine doing it alone. The breakthrough was asking if this ministry could be taken on in partnership with another local congregation, Trinity Lutheran. Together, Trinity and Waconia now open their church homes to four families four weeks a year, and provide meals, fellowship, compassion and encouragement.
And it works. They eat together, play together, get to know one another and they got to hear from one of their guest families, “This is the nicest, warmest place we have been!”
A number of Eastern Carver County churches participate in Love INC (In the Name of Christ), a community of congregations and agencies working together to coordinate outreach services. A few years ago, Elders of the Lake Auburn congregation asked Love INC what needs they saw that were going unmet. Other Love INC partners offer linens, auto repair, home furnishings and food assistance. The answer was surprising: Love INC had been receiving requests for vacuum cleaners.
So, Lake Auburn used seed money from their endowment fund to purchase vacuums and started the Lake Auburn Moravian Vac Valet. Since 2011, Lake Auburn volunteers have given away 148 vacuums to area families. A highlight of many of these home deliveries is the opportunity to visit and pray with neighbors they may otherwise never have met. As one volunteer said, “It’s not just about the vacuum cleaner. We all need to know someone cares.”
These are a few examples of some of the ecumenical partnerships and collaborations that our Minneapolis-area churches are committed to. Additionally, these congregations have taken creative approaches to combine confirmation classes and team teaching. They have shared pastoral outreach and support at local assisted living facilities. They have collaborated on joint mission trips, projects and retreats involving youth and adults. And they even worship together occasionally.
There is a wonderful quote attributed to the renowned anthropologist and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Millennia prior, a little-known rabbi from Nazareth would teach his disciples in the way of thoughtful commitment to the life-giving, world-changing, heaven-revealing power of all the small things we can do with great love (to paraphrase Mother Teresa ). ■
Brian Dixon is pastor of Lake Auburn Moravian Church in Victoria, Minn. At right: Corey Magstadt, executive director of Launch Ministries, speaks at Chaska Moravian Church.