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Case Study: St. Paul’s Congregation

The Alley News of the Phillips Neighborhood in Minneapolis recently posted an account and explanation of St. Paul Lutheran Church’s “Notes of Growth and Change.” This looks a lot like the basic facts people would want to have about their particular churches for a congregational timeline. The account is full of rich detail and interesting asides for people interested in understanding the past and present culture of the congregation.

Some highlights:

Rev. F. H. Carlson 1880-1884

StP’s on April 9, 1883 decided to move the old church to the rear of the lot and erect a new house of worship. A 1927 newspaper clipping says when the old church was sold, the new church was built, “just before the first horse-car line between Mpls.& St. Paul on Washington and University Ave.” “Mpls’ population was only 50,000.” StP was the City’s third Scandinavian Lutheran church.”

Rev. K. C. Holter 1894-1897

The congregation continued to experience steady growth with all worship services exclusively in Norwegian until 1898.”

“Rev. A. L. Lawrence 1919-1923

StP C celebrated its 50th Anniversary on June 11, 1922. The Ladies’ Aid had redecorated the church and replaced the gas lights with electricity, in addition to the installation of a new carpet in 1920.”

Roland J. Wells, Jr. 1988 – present

Following the 1987 vote, several members felt that they could not be members of the ELCA. Many young families left. The congregation selected Rev. Roland J. Wells, Jr. as their fifteenth pastor. Pastor Wells began with extensive visitation, asking the congregation, “What is your vision for the future of St. Paul’s?” The congregation began to look forward. The Staff, Pastor and Council began to look at their strengths and focus their ministry. Pastor Wells developed the House Church structure now in place, based on the model of the Korean pastor, Yongii Cho. In 1990, nineteen from the congregation served in a short term mission to Por Venir, Baja California, Mexico.”

“One-third of its membership comes from within a three-mile radius; about one-third from a six mile radius and the rest from a 60-mile circle including Eagan, Lakeville, Chanhassen, Shakopee, Maple Grove, Maple Plain, New Brighton, Roseville…and all over. On any given Sunday our congregation has people from five generations and four races. Come and see why!”

What would it look like for your congregation to look through its archives to find the remnants of the past? What do the stories of where the congregation has been tell us about where the congregation is now?

Ellen Childs
About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at StudyingCongregations.org