February 2019- Neighborhood/ Mission/ Outreach

 February 2019- Neighborhood/ Mission/ Outreach

How have we expressed mission and outreach as a congregation to our neighborhood?

For most of us, Our Saviour’s identity has been tied to urban ministry through two well-established and long-lasting mission programs, The English Learning Center and Our Saviour’s Housing.  Now nearly forty years later, it is difficult to imagine a congregation that didn’t include them as part of how we talk about, provide service, or visualize our congregation’s mission.  But these were not the first mission programs that shaped Our Saviour’s and they most definitely would not have begun here without the long history of mission and outreach to our neighbors during our 150 years.

Leading up to the 80’s, two programs in the 1950’s and 60’s also started out of member passion, and then also grew beyond our congregation and eventually became programs outside of the congregation. Open Door Center provided services and spiritual opportunities for children with mental and developmental disabilities.  And Southside Family Nurturing Center grew out of an effort to provide support for young children who had experienced abuse.   As programs within the congregation, they were ways members could be actively involved in service and ministry, but they also were strengthening the identity of our congregation as accessible, open and welcoming, a place of hospitality and love.

That sense of ministry had deeper roots though, for this congregation had in the 1940’s seen itself as a place for those who had been displaced by World War 2.  Our Saviour’s women had been active since the beginning of the congregation in providing care for families in need. In the 1920’s a Benevolent Fund was in place helping people in need, it is now the Our Saviour’s Foundation and has been helping the congregation thrive for many years. While lots of energy was focused on construction projects in those first years outreach ministries were active.   And throughout the years, efforts to help start new congregations in a growing city also point to a very mission minded community of faith.

The Phillips Neighborhood underwent many changes during our 150 years. As one of the first neighborhoods outside of downtown, the area reflected Minneapolis’ early growth. There was vibrant commerce to the north along Franklin and south along Lake Street and up and down Chicago Avenue where the streetcars ran. The first major hospital, Abbot Northwestern, was founded here along with two influential corporations, Minnesota Moline and Honeywell.  The large railroad yards just to the east were a major employer for the area.  But vast differences in wealth from east to west were present throughout Phillips history for although it was always had a working-class feel, it also was home to many of the grandest mansions in the city along Portland and Park Avenues.    During the Great Depression years, Phillips was a home to immigrants and freed black population arriving from the south, but much of the neighborhood was considered slum housing.  The development of the interstates in the 1960’s isolated the neighborhood further and kept it from being able to change much since those difficult years.   In the early 1970’s Little Earth was created as the only American Indian preference rental assistance housing community in America.  Recent efforts to redevelop Franklin Avenue have brought some stability back, but “distressed”, “blighted”, and “poor” are the descriptors most often used for the Phillips Community.

At year 75, the congregation wrestled with one of its most important mission goals, to provide education to its children.  In 1946, the “parish” building was constructed, some 25 years after the congregation had moved into the worship building with a note that there had been forces beyond its control that had kept any investment from occurring during those years.  And grow they did.  This group of members was given a goal of $100,000 to construct a building for education that included the recreation space for young people as well.  They even envisioned a third floor and a chapel space to grow into once this part was completed.  It was clear at that time that Sunday school education was first and foremost in the decision process.  And when staffing was added the emphasis was always on youth and outreach, including efforts to minister to the American Indian population of Phillips. 

In the early years, it was from Scandinavia and eastern Europe, and in years to come, new Americans from southeast Asia, west Africa, central America and east Africa, have made Phillips their first home.  Our Saviour’s has, in many ways, found ways to welcome the stranger and keep its heart open to a changing neighborhood.  That seems as true now as it ever has.