The Mpls Downtown Improvement District (DID) announced its 9th annual Greening & Public Realm Award winners, a group decided by an interactive public vote.

The Greening Awards aim to showcase greening efforts by organizations and companies that help beautify the downtown area through enhancing our urban landscape. This summer’s voting turnout was the largest in Greening Awards history, nearly doubling the 2017 voting numbers.

Westminster Presbyterian Church, which last won a greening award in 2012, won two awards this year, claiming top spot in the Small Green Space and Public Realm Improvement categories.

“The emphasis on quality public realm spaces we’re seeing from downtown businesses, organizations and individuals is extraordinary,” Mpls Downtown Improvement District President & CEO Steve Cramer said. “Congratulations to this year’s DID Greening & Public Realm Award winners, and thank you for being shining examples of how added greening helps enhance the vibrancy of everyone’s overall downtown experience.”

Winners will receive a commemorative Greening Award created by Wood from the Hood, a Minneapolis-based company that reclaims discarded trees from urban neighborhoods and creates high-quality wood products. Each award will display the year the award was issued. Winning locations also received a Greening Awards winning logo placed on site.

The Mpls DID accepted public nominations for green spaces throughout August, and finalists were announced on August 28. Voting for finalists remained open through September 14.

The finalists, nominated by the public, were selected by members of the Mpls DID staff based on criteria including overall year-over-year enhancements as well as continued excellence in adding vibrancy to the public realm.

WOMEN LEADING
A panel of local women entrepreneurs will discuss their fascinating array of work at TownTalks Thursday, November 29. These young, innovative women are setting the stage for future women entrepreneurs, small business owners, and CEOs. Hear what motivates them to write, form businesses, and express creativity in fresh, dynamic ways. Panelists include Melissa ColemanAshley MaryCarly Van Veldhuizen, and Alex West Steinmann. Minnesota Public Radio reporter Marianne Combs will moderate the discussion.

Happy hour begins in Westminster Hall at 5 pm with appetizers and a cash bar, followed by the panel discussion at 6 pm. The event is free, and no registration is required. Learn more here.

November 29 \ 5 pm Happy Hour \ 6 pm Panel Discussion
An initiative of the Westminster Town Hall Forum, TownTalks is a new program engaging young adults in reflection and dialogue on the key issues of our day.

Westminster’s Racial Justice Work Group (RJWG) began meeting in January 2017 in face of the sharp rise in overt racism nationally and here at home. After a year of thoughtful discussion and soul-searching, we believe that Westminster must pledge to take actions that respect each of our stories yet gives all a voice in policymaking. We must build strong relationships with our community neighbors and work vigorously to dismantle public policies that persist in oppressing and prohibiting our brothers and sisters of color from achieving equality of opportunity in life.

To build these strong relationships, we are motivated by our faith in the beloved community envisioned by Jesus.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

To foster the kind of racial reconciliation that is consistent with the teachings of Jesus, we must be an active and listening presence in our community. We hope many of you will want to join in. To move forward, the RJWG has some questions we’d like you to answer. Your responses will help us gain a sense of what types of programs/activities might appeal to you. We want to hear from church members of all ages and in all life stages so we can offer programs and activities that will most engage and motivate our congregation in this important ministry.

Please answer the questions honestly and as candidly as possible. There are no right answers; we want genuine feelings and opinions.

PC(USA) will help recovery effort in Florida panhandle, southern Georgia and southeast U.S.

By Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

Hurricane batters Florida coastLOUISVILLE – As news comes in of the devastating effects of Hurricane Michael, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is organizing a response that will help sustain life and restore hope in the coming days. “Our hearts break and rise up in prayer for the people of northern Florida, Georgia and southeast Alabama,” says Laurie Kraus, PDA director. “Right now, we need the church’s prayers and financial assistance.”

And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has given to us. — Romans 5:5

“PDA was in communication with the presbyteries that were projected to be in the path of Hurricane Michael,” said Jim Kirk, associate for U.S. disaster response. “Now that the storm has passed through Florida and Georgia, PDA has reached out to the impacted presbyteries and will be deploying national response teams early next week, as well as offering emergency grants. The teams will support the presbyteries with initial assessments and next steps for the response. As happened last year, there have been multiple major hurricanes striking the U.S.”

Hurricane Michael was a strong Category 4 storm blowing winds in excess of 150 mph when it made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, Wednesday afternoon. It’s the strongest storm to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Michael left much of the Florida panhandle coast in ruins, including Panama City, which was forced to evacuate hundreds of patients from its two hospitals, including intensive care patients. A FEMA official was quoted as saying that Mexico Beach was “wiped out.” Two deaths have been reported so far, a man in Florida and a girl in Georgia, but rescue crews fear more will be added to the death toll as they begin cleaning up the debris.

The fast-moving storm had cut a swath through southeast Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas by Thursday morning. It’s expected to dump from four to nine inches of rain on the already soaked Carolinas, a region still reeling from flooding as a result of Hurricane Florence last month. More than 300,000 residents are currently without power in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

Kraus and her colleagues in the Presbyterian Mission Agency and throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are working with our partners to meet immediate needs and support long-term recovery.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is the emergency response and refugee program of the denomination, committed to the long-term journey of recovery of communities adversely affected by a crisis or catastrophic event. It is funded by the One Great Hour of Sharing and has designated funds for responding to specific disasters.

To support recovery efforts in the wake of Michael and Florence, click here. You’ll be taken to the PC(USA) website to donate securely and quickly.

If you prefer to mail a check, please note “DR000194 on the memo line. You may send it to:

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA, 15264-3700

You may also call Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (EST), at 1-800-872-3283 and donate by phone.

Visit pda.pcusa.org for continuing updates.

God is our refuge and strength. Therefore, we will not fear … though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble. —Psalm 46

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) urges your support for those affected by Hurricane Florence. PDA is delivering immediate aid to those impacted by the storm on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Initial assessment suggests catastrophic destruction, but the full scope of the damage will not be known for many months. Through your prayerful gifts, we draw hope out of the chaos.  Learn more here

When Westminster Presbyterian Church opened a luxurious expansion to its downtown Minneapolis campus in January, few could have guessed how quickly it would become a go-to venue for classical music.

The vocal group Cantus first performed there in March, with plans to return regularly during the 2018-19 season. “The acoustics are nicely suited for a chamber group like ours,” executive director Joseph Heitz said of the 400-seat Westminster Hall. “We also appreciate the size, which creates a sense of closeness between audience and singers.”

Another group switching to Westminster for the 2018-19 season is Accordo, a chamber ensemble comprised of soloists from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra. The venue has “a wonderful focused sound that is rich and resonant but not boomy,” said Accordo violinist (and SPCO concertmaster) Steven Copes.

Westminster Presbyterian senior pastor Tim Hart-Andersen is delighted by the hall’s success. “We asked the architect, James Dayton, to design a worship, recital and performance space that would be acoustically superior and highly flexible,” Hart-Andersen recalled. “It has more than exceeded our expectations as a venue for music.”

Next up for Westminster Hall is the Source Song Festival (Aug. 5-11) for a week of concerts and masterclasses devoted to the classical art song. “The space is visually stunning and acoustically excellent, ideal for song recitals,” said Source artistic director Mark Bilyeu.

By Terry Blain

Star Tribune article in full.

Passersby Write Prayer Tags of Hope

WCCO Jeff Wagner \ Minneapolis, MN

Twin Cities church is going beyond its walls to help get prayers heard, and hopefully answered.

Westminster Presbyterian Church, along the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, started a prayer railing this spring. Passersby write messages on tags and then hang them for others to see. The simple gesture is touching people in a way they never expected.

“We pray that you will teach us to love one another well,” Sherrod Colbert said, reading one tag. “And I pray for justice for all.”

The sounds of the city flow with force, but if you stop and listen with your eyes, it’s amazing what you can hear. Prayers from other people, written on a whim, left hanging with hope.

“Praying for better days,” Sarabe Singleton said, of her prayer. “Hopefully it gets around. I know there are people out there that are going through the same thing as me.”

The railing outside Westminster Presbyterian Church has become shoulder to lean on, a spot where thoughts and prayers can be shared with others time after time.

“I’m feeling a peace come over me as I’m writing this,” Narissa Antoine said. “My husband is really sick. He has to have two major surgeries, actually. … It really just gives me hope that I’m not alone, that people will read this and think about me when they read it.”

Her feelings are exactly what Rev. Sarah Brower and Rev. Meghan Gage-Finn envisioned when they started the prayer tags in the spring.

“I think there’s such a need for connection, yearning for belonging, a need to be heard and to be known,” Gage-Finn said.

A thousand tags were ordered.

Some prayers are personal, others meant for those struggling. Recently homeless, Colbert wrote his on June 9.

“It says, ‘I pray for the rains of God’s salvation to visit us and bless us here in Minnesota,’” Colbert said. “Today I got an answer. I’m not gonna be homeless. Tomorrow I’m going to sign a lease to get back in an apartment.”

It’s an answer he feels came from a higher power.

“I know that it has good, man,” he said. “I can tell you that’s so true, because the people of this household of faith here, they’re genuine people.”

Those very people will even bring the tags inside the church to pray on them.

“I think we do hope that as people walk by or walk away after having written one that they trust that God hears their prayers and that we are hearing them,” Brouwer said. “We’re excited to see where this goes. We are certainly being led by this endeavor.”

One that has a following, growing stronger and stronger each day.

“I wouldn’t stop it for nothing in the world,” Colbert said.

Three years ago, the vocal program at the women’s state prison at Shakopee was basically four women and a karaoke machine. Jim Verhoye, the facility’s education director, wasn’t satisfied and went to the University of Minnesota on a hunt for help. That search led him to Amanda Weber, and she’s been at the helm of the Voices of Hope choir ever since.

Read more.

Festival of Palestinian Art & Culture
Comes to Minneapolis May 17–19

 Windows into Palestine kicks off with Palestinian soccer star Honey Thaljieh as the featured speaker at the Westminster Town Hall Forum

Visit windowsintopalestine.org for the full schedule of events

A three-day Windows into Palestine festival will celebrate the art and culture of Palestine May 17–19. All events are free and open to the public and take place in the recently renovated Westminster Presbyterian Church. Free, on-site parking is available throughout the festival.

Windows into Palestine kicks off with Palestinian soccer star Honey Thaljieh as the keynote speaker at the Westminster Town Hall Forum May 17. The festival continues with an exhibition of visual art by Palestinian artists; musical performances and workshops; films and discussions with filmmakers; Palestinian chef showcase, cuisine and cooking classes; a spice market; and an Iftar dinner.

“The festival provides a rare opportunity to learn more about the culture of a society that is often misrepresented in today’s world,” said Beth Nelson Chase, executive director of Bright Stars of Bethlehem. “Through exploration of the art, culture, and food of Palestine, we learn the hopeful story of people who have lived for more than 2,000 years in the Holy Land and who continue to thrive in the midst of occupation and political and religious challenge.”

Featured artists in the festival include the internationally acclaimed Georges Lammam Ensemble, filmmakers Baha’ Abu Shannab and Raghab Mukarker (whose I Love Bethlehem will have its U.S. premiere at the festival), and actor Munir Nassar. Chefs Sameh Wadi (World Street Kitchen) and Bassem Hazboun (Bethlehem) will headline a chef showcase.

The festival is presented by Bethlehem Lutheran Church Foundation, Bright Stars of Bethlehem, Christmas Lutheran Church of Bethlehem, and Westminster Presbyterian Church.