“Whatever the future of The United Methodist Church…we create that future with how we are being church with one another, in our communities and all across the state of Minnesota, right here, right now.”
Rev. Susan Nienaber, Big Waters District superintendent, said that to members of the 2019 Minnesota Annual Conference Session during a spoken Missional Report that was part of opening worship on Tuesday afternoon. The report highlighted and celebrated a variety of Holy Spirit breakthroughs in our midst—ways in which Minnesota United Methodists are daring to reach new people and love boldly.
One of the ways we are loving boldly is by caring for the children in our communities, by sending them to camp, forming partnerships with local schools, and going on mission trips, to name just a few.
Many churches are taking bold steps to get outside of their buildings and build bridges to new residents in their communities. For example, the small congregation of Lydia Zion UMC started a new bilingual worship service to welcome Hispanic people in its community; this offering has resulted in several new professions of faith. (Watch video.)
Other congregations are extending their reach by live streaming their worship services. Messiah UMC in Plymouth and Aldersgate UMC in St. Louis Park are among those spreading the gospel through this use of technology and seeing fruits from their efforts. (Watch video.) In 2018, the Minnesota Conference had a 1 percent increase in average worship attendance, and 11 percent of that attendance was attributed to online worship.
Sometimes, daring to love boldly is doing the very brave thing of surrendering everything you are and have and trusting that resurrection is true. After 137 years and starting several impactful ministries through which its legacy will live on, Simpson UMC in Minneapolis is closing its doors and donating its property to Simpson Housing Services so it can build a new state-of-the-art facility to serve the homeless. During the Missional Report, Rev. Walter Lockhart, who serves Simpson UMC, and longtime member Mary Gates came on stage to present a $100,000 check to Simpson Housing Services Executive Director Steve Horsfield. (Watch video.)
As part of the Missional Report, several faith communities and individuals were honored for the remarkable ways in which they are loving boldly:
Denman Award for Reaching New People—Laity: Dan Ziegler: Dan Ziegler has served as the director of Koronis Ministries since 2016. In just over three years of his leadership, Koronis is poised to reach record for summer attendance in 2019. This continued growth is attributed to Ziegler’s passion for ministry, his creativity in camp programming, and his heart for sharing Christ with children and young people. “This is how Dan is loving boldly: Dan does not simply say, ‘All are welcome at Koronis’ (but they always are); he says, ‘We had you in mind when we created this program…” said Keith Shew, director of camp and retreat ministries for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area. “This ministry is personal to Dan. He commits his whole heart, his whole self, to it—and because of him, hundreds of children, youth, and adults are experiencing Christ, creation, and community in profound ways.”
Denman Award for Reaching New People—Clergy: Rev. Ronald Bell, Jr.: Rev. Ronald Bell. Jr. was appointed to Camphor Memorial UMC in St. Paul last July. In less than one year, average Sunday worship attendance increased by 26 percent. The congregation received 44 new members, celebrated 13 adult professions of faith, and six baptisms. On April 28, Camphor launched a second Sunday worship service to facilitate further growth. A relationship with Jesus, a kingdom mindset, and a commitment to love all people are the lens through which Bell and the church view their ministry. “Because of Rev. Bell’s relational, compassionate, optimistic, and energetic leadership, the people of Camphor church are propelled out as a community of believers to evangelize and make a difference in people’s lives,” said Teresa Neal, Camphor’s Church Council chair.
Jeanne Audrey Powers Award for Healing a Broken World—Rev. Erica Koser:
Rev. Erica Koser, pastor of discipleship and justice ministries at Centenary UMC in Mankato, is daring to reach and loving boldly in her leadership of its Holy Grounds ministry, which provides breakfast to and shares God’s love with the church’s homeless and food-insecure neighbors six mornings each week. (Watch video.) Koser feels personally called to this work and has talked about how she sees Jesus in all of those it serves. Because of her engagement with this particular population—feeding people, having life-giving conversations, and creating space for people to be in community with one another—Koser has become a go-to person in the Mankato community when it comes to issues of homelessness and has built strong relationships within and throughout the city.
Multiplication Matters Award—Parent Churches: The Multiplication Matters Award was given for the first time this year to recognize and honor those churches that are daring to reach and loving boldly by starting a new service or new site, or partnering to help start a new church. New faith communities mean new opportunities to reach new people, develop new leaders, and explore new visions. The 11 churches receiving this award, each of which has recently started a new service, site, or church—are:
Anoka UMC, which started Northern Light Church
Brooklyn UMC (Brooklyn Center), which started an African worship service
Blaine UMC, which helped birth North Summit Church
Centennial UMC (Roseville), which launched a second “St. Anthony Park” campus in St. Paul
Crossroads Church (multi-campus), which started now independent Crossroads Church—Elko New Market
Crosswinds UMC (Maple Grove), which is helping to start a new church in St. Michael
Fridley UMC, which started an African worship service
Grace UMC (Fergus Falls), which started new worship service “The Bridge”
Richfield Church of Peace, which started Recovering Love Church
Simpson UMC (Minneapolis), which launched Hispanic church start Iglesia Piedra Viva
The Well (Rosemount), which launched a second campus in Apple Valley
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Karla Hovde also contributed to this report.