Racial Justice Survey

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.

Westminster Hall Named Best New Music Venue

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.

Westminster Prayer Tags

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.

Magnet Senior Center

Seniors can visit the Magnet Senior Center four mornings per week (an expansion from the current two): Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 am to noon at Westminster Presbyterian Church, in the Heller Commons; and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 am to noon at Minneapolis Central Library at 300 Nicollet Mall. Individuals over the age of 50 and of all faiths are welcome at both locations.

The Magnet Senior Center offers older adults a place to gather for coffee, conversation, and cultural and educational events. An advisory board comprised of library staff, church members and seniors has formed to plan programs, ranging from chair yoga and healthy diets to board game competitions and book discussions. The program is drop-in; no reservations are required.

The Minneapolis Central Library opened the Magnet Senior Center in July 2017 in response to the closing of the Skyway Senior Center last March. Due to budget constraints, the center was open only two mornings a week for two and half hours. A Westminster member and frequent Skyway Center attendee approached church leaders about the need for seniors to have more options for a place to go for social support and learning. “By combining and leveraging our resources, both the Library and Westminster can better serve the seniors in our community,” said Dillon Young, service manager at Minneapolis Central Library. Rev. David Shinn, added, “The Library has wonderful programming expertise but has space and budget limitations. Westminster can provide financial support, meeting space our building, and free parking.”

We invite all seniors to stop by the center at either location.

Questions? Contact Magnet Senior Center Coordinator, Angelique Kingsbury.

Report on successful, interfaith Bold Hope event

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey kicked off a celebratory and moving interfaith gathering to benefit the Emergency Rental Assistance Program of Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness.

Westminster to Open Doors on Inspiring Expansion

Westminster Presbyterian Church will open the doors on an inspiring expansion to its historic building on Nicollet Mall on Sunday, January 14. The expansion is part of Open Doors Open Futures, an initiative to transform Westminster’s telling presence in the city.

The day begins with 10:30 am worship celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., followed by the inauguration of Westminster Hall with a premiere of a commissioned choral work and tours of the building.

“Westminster is a church open to creative new ways to serve and engage the city,” says senior pastor Tim Hart-Andersen. “This new wing gives us the tools to do that: easy access, multi-use space, enhanced technology, inspired green design, and much more.”

The new two-story, 40,000-square-foot wing, designed by James Dayton Design, features open, flexible spaces to serve the changing needs of the congregation and community; cutting-edge environmental design; 300 new underground parking spaces; and significantly improved entrances. New inviting gardens and gathering spaces surround the building and will add considerable green space to downtown Minneapolis. The expansion will also soon house The Harman Center for Child & Family Wellbeing, a new campus and innovative early intervention clinic of St. David’s Center.

January 14 marks the first in a series of inaugural events, which also includes Bold Hope in the North, a January 28th Super Bowl Host Committee-sponsored event supporting Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness; a concert featuring Cantus on March 2; a community open house on March 3; the grand opening of the Harman Center on April 17; an all-church celebration on May 5; and a festival celebrating Palestinian art and culture May 17–19.

A New Building for a Changing Community

The new wing will provide welcoming, flexible spaces to creatively serve the emerging needs of new generations and fulfill long unmet needs for congregational and community celebration spaces. Two new worship services are planned for Westminster Hall: starting February 14, a 6:30 pm Wednesday contemplative service called “The Clearing,” and in September, a 5 pm Sunday service.

Open, youth-friendly places will serve Westminster’s young people as well as youth groups from all over the country who often need a place to connect and stay.

In partnership with Hennepin County Library, Westminster will host an on-site senior community center two days per week to respond to the needs of the downtown seniors dispersed by the recent closures of two senior centers in the area.

The Westminster Counseling Center—which the church has long supported with funding, office space and administrative support—will have offices on the second floor of the new expansion.

The new outdoor areas will reduce the heat island effect and complement the Downtown 2025 Plan through creation of much-needed green space, areas of respite for the public to enjoy, and a skyway connection. Environmental leadership for the project includes:

  • High efficiency building design and mechanical and air filtration;
  • LED lighting, with 95% of the building designed to receive natural light to reduce need for artificial lighting;
  • Green roofs;
  • Permeable pavers to control water flow into storm drains and a system to capture and store rainwater for reuse to irrigate trees and plants and flush toilets;
  • Participation in a community solar garden program to provide 100% of Westminster’s electricity and to offset energy demand.

St. David’s Center will occupy approximately 8,000 square feet of space on the second floor of the new wing, primarily serving children birth to age five who have experienced relational trauma. Services will include an infant team to assess and treat families with children in out-of-home placement, children’s mental health services and pediatric rehabilitative therapies, a clinical training site for graduate students in mental health, and a new home for the Center’s day treatment program for young Somali children diagnosed with autism.

Open Doors Open Futures also provided $8 million for mission projects to support building the Harman Center; affordable housing; college access and leadership training for young adults; urban ministries; peacebuilding in South Sudan; and global ministry partnerships in Cuba, Cameroon, and Palestine.

Inaugural Events

January 14 | 10:30 am – 1:30 pm
Kick off of Open Doors Open Futures Inaugural Events

  • 10:30 am worship celebrating legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with Liberty Church and Grace Trinity Church (Westminster partner churches), participating in worship
  • Guest preacher Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
  • Post-worship celebration: congregation procession to new underground parking garage for a blessing and coffee hour; musical inauguration of Westminster Hall (commissioned setting of Isaiah 43:19: “I am about to do a new thing. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?”); building tours

January 28 | 2:00 pm
Bold Hope in the North

  • An official event of the Super Bowl Host Committee to showcase Minnesota’s national leadership in multi-faith dialogue and cooperation and to raise money for the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness Emergency Rental Assistance Program
  • Spearheaded by the Downtown Senior Interfaith Clergy
  • Music by members of the Steele Family, members of the NFL Players Gospel Choir, and the Alliance and Street Song Choirs (homeless or formerly homeless person and their allies)

March 2 | 7:30 pm
Concert featuring Cantus

  • Free and open to the public

March 3 | 10:30 am–12:30 pm
Community Open House

  • Brief program with church, architect, community leaders, and the Justice Choir
  • Building tours
  • Free and open to the public

April 17 | Timing TBA
The Harman Center Grand Opening

May 17–19
Windows into Palestine: Encountering the Heart of a People Through Art

  • A festival of Palestinian art & culture featuring visual art exhibition by Palestinian artists, music performances and workshops, films, Palestinian cuisine cooking classes, and an authentic spice market

Minnesota’s Own Taizé Cross

The Taizé Community in France is an ecumenical monastic community of more than 100 Brothers from 25 nations. Their primary ministry is to young adults who come by the thousands from all parts of the world to spend a week of worship, Bible study, and fellowship with the Brothers. The Community has developed the well-known songs and prayers of Taizé; simple meditative chants that have spread to worship services in churches around the world.

A group from Minnesota traveled to Taizé in 2001. One member, Rev. Bob Nervig, a retired Lutheran pastor, was a close friend of Brother Eric. Brother Eric mentioned that in the 1980s he’d made two five-foot hand-painted wooden Taizé Crosses and that the second cross had never been used. Discussions followed, and the duplicate Taizé Cross was sold to the Minnesota group, with the stipulation that it be made available for use by all.

St. Paul’s Monastery, Minnehaha Methodist, Luther Seminary, Westminster, and many others were among its early users.

As can happen, most of the members of the original group moved away, going on to other ministries, and the use and knowledge of this cross diminished. The Cross is now housed at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis and is being made available to all.

The hand-painted wooden Cross is large—59” tall, 52” wide, and 3” deep—but also fairly light as it is not solid wood. It can stand by itself, or be hung on a wall, or laid flat on the floor.

The Cross can be used in a variety of situations, from a full Sunday morning worship service, to a traditional Taizé Morning or Evening Prayer, to Praying around the Cross, to a simple service made up of a short period of silence, a few songs, a Bible reading, and intercessions.

If you would like to welcome Minnesota’s Taizé Cross to your church or community, contact Dr. Rodney Allen Schwartz at Westminster:  rschwartz@wpc-mpls.org or 612.332.3421. Click for PDF with Cross information and reservation form.

Great River Landing receives $14.1 million in tax credit financing

GRL is the fourth development from the Housing 150 collaboration among Westminster Presbyterian Church, Plymouth Congregational Church and Beacon, created in honor of the congregations’ sesquicentennial anniversaries.