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Transformed by the Public Church Framework – St. Luke’s and James

Today’s post comes from Stephen Richards at St. Luke’s and James Episcopal Church in Minneapolis. He shares the story of the learnings and transformation their community has experienced by being a learning partner in the Riverside Innovation Hub. Steve has previously shared some of the story of their journey through a video on our blog.

This blog marks the beginning of a series of stories of transformation from our congregational learning partners, which illustrate the larger story of our project and learning partnerships as we begin to promote another learning partnership opportunity. 

peace craft logo with name of the organization belowI’ve been asked to respond to the question, How has your faith community experienced transformation as a partner in the Riverside Innovation Hub? I feel that any response to this question requires a two-part answer. Prior to the COVID pandemic, the work at St Luke’s was building momentum. We had a clear plan and goals for how we were continuing and expanding our work and partnership with RIH. PeaceCraft, the initiative that evolved from this, was very integrated into our faith community. The public church framework was becoming our lingua franca, or common language. Then COVID hit and it felt like everything came to a screeching halt.

At first, there was a felt sense of grief and lament. We’d lost so much and initially struggled to find our way to next-steps. However, the public church framework of listening, discerning, and applying what we had learned helped us rise up from the ashes.

Despite not being able to enter a physical building during the time of COVID, it feels we have been spiritually resourced by RIH to find ways to connect with God and others outside of it. In fact, it has become very natural to turn our attention out and towards others. For example, when a homeless encampment appeared around Lake Nokomis in summer 2020, some members of our community supported and worked with local groups who were providing food and resources for families. They felt that this work and our mission values inter-connected. I immediately recognized the public church framework playing out. This work was also immediately validated by our church as an expression of authentic Christian faith.

people gather to chat outside
Members of St. Luke’s gathered outside on their “front porch.” [Photo taking before the Covid pandemic]
Elsewhere in 2020, we were approached by the community of St James on the Parkway with an invitation to consolidate. I felt this process was also facilitated by the open and inquisitive work we had done with RIH. For instance, rather than focus on differences we looked for points of connection; in line with the public church framework. This work of consolidation eventually led to the creation of a new faith community of St Luke’s and St James. It is noteworthy that one of the reasons the St James community was initially drawn to consolidate with us, was because they were excited by the work we had been doing with RIH.

Finally, and as we look to COVID restrictions being lifted, we feel our new community is once again being drawn into the work of accompaniment, interpretation, and discernment. We’ve become curious. We are wrestling with the tension of programming vs innovation. Where it seems we have become too focused on programming, there is a restlessness and desire to turn our attention outside. We are finding ourselves existing in the thin-space between balancing the needs of the faith community and those of the neighborhood. We are also willing to ask why we are doing things. We are not rubber-stamping the old ways. In one sense, our partnership with RIH has led us to the idea that the work we do is never truly done, and also not necessarily measured by definite outcomes. Instead, we celebrate what has gone before and remain open to new movements of the Spirit amongst us.