Creating A Caring Community

Date posted: Monday 10 December 2018

In 2018, the Saint Paul Area Synod released "Stories of the Synod," a 24-page stewardship booklet detailing the synod's work. The stories inside are just a glimpse of the work that Mission Support makes possible. One of those stories, below, is about how Renewal Micro-Grants are revitalizing congregations in our synod.


Christmas in July

Thirteen years ago, the Rev. David Greenlund was preparing the community at Peace Lutheran Church in Lauderdale for an imminent closure. Asking the question, “What can we do with our remaining funds?”, they decided to repair homes for neighbors in Lauderdale during a special weekend event called Christmas in July. “We wanted to somehow engage our neighbors in a meaningful way that delivers a sacramentally tangible gift,” Pastor Dave explains.


It is exactly ministries like these – that partner and walk with their community, offering grace and love – that revitalize a congregation. Whether Peace Lutheran knew it or not, they were renewing themselves for the long-haul.


Renewal Ministry Saves

Thirteen years later, Peace Lutheran still hasn’t closed its doors. And while their first Christmas in July weekend only had three neighbors saying “Yes!”, Peace now finds themselves with as many as 40 houses to work on each year.


Peace Lutheran was a recipient of a Renewal Micro-Grant from the Saint Paul Area Synod. In 2017, the synod began distributing these grants to help congregations jumpstart or sustain projects that open up church doors and look towards the future. For Peace, grant funds were used to buy construction materials. From repairing roofs and replacing toilets to building new retaining walls and fixing failing furnaces, the Peace community and their growing volunteer team have done it all. And, through it, have shown their neighbors what a caring community looks like.


A Safe Place

Luther Memorial in South St. Paul also wanted to show radical hospitality to their neighbors. The South St. Paul school district had been suffering from trauma, abuse, bullying, and suicide, and Luther Memorial felt called to respond.


Alongside community leaders, “we discussed what support the community of South St. Paul needed,” says the Rev. Amanda Olson de Castillo, senior pastor at Luther Memorial, “what risks we had of having another death by suicide, the realities of secondary trauma and the lack of a safety net in the community outside of the schools. We were all at the table together.”


From this discussion sprouted Safe Place Youth Program, “developed as a program that provides youth with a meal, community support, positive engagement, homework help, and fun activities on non-school days,” says Pastor Amanda.


Through the help of a Renewal Micro-Grant, Safe Place is supporting community youth. As the program has grown, so have relationships. The Rev. Patrick Joiner, associate pastor at Luther Memorial, and Senior Pastor Amanda are both working with leaders and institutions to better address youth needs in the community. And, the congregation at Luther Memorial has taken note.


“Sometimes just starting is the hardest part, but in this case it made a difference and began to change a church in the process,” reveals Pastor Amanda. “We now have members saying that we are a church that is committed to our community and willing to try new things.”



Stories of the Synod

Churches are encouraged to share the content of these stories in their congregations. Any re-print should include: Saint Paul Area Synod, To request printed copies of the booklet, please call 651.224.4313. A PDF of the booklet is also available here.