Peace Lutheran Church was slouching toward extinction. Only 20 members remained. It wasn’t hard to understand why.
You’d have to be lost to find the building, hidden next to a giant noise barrier on a backstreet in Lauderdale, the micro-suburb where East Hennepin and Larpenteur Avenues converge. Yet Peace’s problems were greater than geography.
There was a past affiliation with the conservative Missouri Synod brand of Lutheranism, whose rigidity drove people away, rather than invited them in. Peace had quietly defied doctrine by elevating women to prominent roles and welcoming anyone to its door. But this wasn’t something you could advertise to bring in new members. It all blew up when an out-of-towner attended service, witnessed the heresy, and ratted them out.
Then came the graying of Christendom. If older parishioners knew there were still churches that walked it like they talked it, their children and grandchildren did not. They’d grown up under a bombardment of pedophile priests, prosperity gospelers who reimagined Jesus as a venture capitalist, evangelicals who found so many loopholes in “love thy neighbor” there were few left to love at all.
Religion’s good name was soiled for generations, pushing small churches to the brink.
By the time Rev. Dave Greenlund arrived, just 18 months’ worth of savings remained to stave off closure. “It looked like he was either going to help it die or revive it,” says his wife, Karen Carlsen. “The first service he basically said to them they’re dead. ‘Now what are you going to do?’".......
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