Several years ago, Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe, pastor at Living Table United Church of Christ in south Minneapolis, began conversations with the pastor at nearby Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church. Both congregations were grappling with how to become more sustainable for the long-term. “Like many churches, we aren’t in debt, but we also don’t have big reserves and we have an aging building,” says Keefe. “We wanted to see if we could ease the financial burden to refocus our energy on our ministries.”
The ministers invited others into the conversation, including Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community. Now, after nearly four years of discernment, the trio has developed an exciting plan for the three congregations to renovate and share space at Lake Nokomis Lutheran’s site at 5011 31st Avenue South.
Lake Nokomis and Spirit of St. Stephen’s will share a renovated sanctuary, with a separate, smaller sanctuary developed for Living Table. The congregations plan to stagger worship hours but leave time for overlap so people from the different houses of worship can be in the building at the same time. “It’s one of the things we’re most looking forward to,” says Keefe. “We’re really excited about developing a stronger sense of community from a shared building. We want the building to be used as much as it possibly can.” If all goes well, renovation will be completed by end of 2021. A separate entity has been formed to manage the building.
The renovation will focus on re-designing spaces for the most flexibility, given the varied needs of the three congregations. Classrooms and meeting spaces will be shared, and sound and video systems updated. Keefe said she is particularly looking forward to having colleagues in the building. “Our staffs are quite small so joining together will bring us much-needed collegiality.”
Keefe says it has been time well spent thinking about a different church model. “While the discussions started with sustainability, we really turned to asking ourselves how we could put more money into our ministries?” says Keefe. “That drove our decision making.” She says that the three congregations plan to work together on mission and outreach projects and are excited about pooling volunteers to support efforts such as Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative and Every Meal, which all three congregations now are supporting separately.
The Minnesota Conference UCC celebrates congregations that are stewarding God’s gifts and leveraging resources to accomplish our collective mission in the world.