Congregation has changed over the years

Published 8:58 am Friday, February 10, 2012

By the Rev. Mark Boorsma, Ascension Lutheran Church

When the congregation was founded in 1887, everybody there spoke Swedish, so it made sense to call it “St. Pauli Evangelisk Lutherske Kyrkan.” The Phillips community in south Minneapolis was home to all my maternal great-grandparents, all of whom were born in the old country. As the 20th century unfolded, the Swedish-Americans spoke more English than Swedish, and their children and grandchildren moved to the suburbs. Some continued to drive into the city to their beloved church. My parents were married there, and I was baptized there. But by the time I was three years old, our family reflected the changing demographics and joined a suburban congregation.

My grandmother continued to live in the neighborhood and still went to the same church. On her birthdays, her ever-growing family would converge on the church and pack two long pews full, giving her the birthday present she loved best — her large brood gathered all around. When I went to seminary in 1989, I joined Saint Paul’s again and sang in the choir, served on the church council and enjoyed reconnecting with people I had known my whole life. Grandma died in 1991. I was ordained in that church in 1993. The same congregation that had launched me in life also launched me in ministry.

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Nothing stays the same. The Phillips community is now a rich, multicultural blend of Latino, Somali, Native American and every ethnicity under the sun. To help my home church celebrate 125 years of serving the Phillips community, I have the privilege of guest preaching there this Sunday. Since my Spanish isn’t so good, I’ll have a translator. I thank God for this congregation — Iglesia Luterana San Pablo — where I first joined a great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, from all tribes and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.

And by the way: Happy birthday, Grandma!