[Episcopal Church in Minnesota] The Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior and the trustees of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (ECMN) have known for a while that the offices located on Loring Park in Minneapolis were not a fit for ministry.
Only one room could accommodate more than 10 people and the building lacked accessibility and an elevator, meaning meetings often needed to be scheduled elsewhere. Over time, the list of ways that the space did not work grew longer.
With a relocation inevitable, Prior and the trustees were determined that the move must follow the call of God rather than simply finding a building with the right space and dimensions. “We wanted to make sure that we were locating ourselves in a community,” said Prior. “We knew that we needed to learn and grow through relationship, that we needed to be connected to our neighbors, and be working to steward the gifts and resources that God has given us to be useful and usable in that space.”
It was a relationship that brought ECMN to its new community on the corner of West Broadway Avenue and Emerson Avenue, in the heart of North Minneapolis.
Sammy Mcdowell owns Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, home to what many locals consider the best sandwiches and sweet potato pie in North Minneapolis. Sammy’s had provided food for ECMN events, and through this a relationship began to form. So, when one of the tours of countless office spaces brought the bishop and the trustees to the address of Sammy’s Avenue Eatery and they toured the office space right above the café, they began to sense the call of God to this new space.
North Minneapolis has faced its share of challenges over the years. With a lack of investment by businesses, schools and industry, the community has been economically depressed. And yet there are churches and organizations that have been doing good work there for decades.
As the bishop and trustees discerned their call to a new space and they sensed that God was moving and calling ECMN to this new building in this new neighborhood, the purchase was made and the process of shaping the space for the needs of ECMN began. As they considered designs, Prior said, “We took into consideration the widest possible definition of our community – we’ve asked ourselves questions like: How will this space be useful in 20, 40, 60 years? How can this be a usable asset for every faith community in the state? How could this space serve our neighbors?”
The purchase and construction of the new offices was funded by the sale of the previous office building. The new offices are set over three floors and include four conference rooms, one large meeting space, and many other areas to gather, collaborate and network. There are offices that will be used by community partners, both those with Episcopal roots and others, to act as an incubating space for innovative work that benefits Minnesotans.
Meanwhile, Sammy’s Avenue Eatery is co-located in the space, which further deepens and strengthens the existing partnership, as the restaurant continues to act as a hub for North Minneapolis residents and as a place to meet, eat and build relationships with others in the community.
During a recent open house hosted in the new offices, Episcopalians from across the state crowded into the newly renovated Gathering Space – intended for 100 people, but on this below-zero Saturday afternoon, nearly 200 crammed in shoulder to shoulder. They gathered to hear the words of Bishop Richard D. Howell, leader of Shiloh Temple International Ministries, a highly revered church of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. His words of blessing rang out as those in the room nodded their heads in agreement, “that there will be love and peace and your witness oh God, that as we lift up your name all men and women shall be drawn unto you. Bless this work, bless this congregation, bless this community of believers today, that every person passing up and down that street will truly say ‘surely, the Lord is in that place.’”
– Kelsey Schuster is missioner for communications with the Episcopal Church in Minnesota.