The synod has a new worshipping community
Building bridges across cultures is just what Pastor Melissa Melnick does. Years ago, as a high school Spanish and ELL teacher, she noticed that the honors Spanish students were all white and the ELL learners were mostly Latino. And the two groups never interacted. So, she worked to bridge relationships and to help desegregate the two groups. Pastor Melissa lived a multicultural life in every aspect except one – church.
“My church life didn’t reflect my multicultural life,” she said. So now, she is starting one. She named it Tapestry, and right now, she’s cultivating a core group of leaders who are working together to create a multi-cultural dinner church. They meet on Sundays at 5 p.m. at Woodlake Lutheran Church in Richfield, Minnesota. People from many different cultures come to share a meal and then sing, worship, and create relationships.
“I got the idea when I was sitting in McDonald’s one day,” said Pastor Melissa. “I was watching a group of retirees who were enjoying each other’s company around cups of coffee and food. At the same time, I noticed that others nearby were on the outside and looking in as the others experienced the power of community. I could sense their loneliness. So I wondered, ‘How do we build this kind of community at church?’ Beautiful things happen around a table with food – community and relationships, stories and listening. And in the church, we also have a table where Christ is present and feeds us.”
At this point in their development, leaders are knocking on doors in the surrounding neighborhood to listen. They are curious about what residents think about their city. What changes need to happen? What strengths are present? “At first, people are suspicious of us,”she said. “But as we ask about their thoughts, they discover that we really are just curious about them, and you can see the suspicion melt away. And by the end of the conversation, they want to know more about who we are. We’re learning the importance of coming in humility.”
Woodlake Lutheran Church, as part of its desire to more closely fit their changing neighborhood, is fully on board with this new ministry. The members see the congregation as one of the “hosts.” They are sharing their space, and some staff time, and some financial support. More partners are welcome at the table, though. “We’re hoping to cultivate congregational partners who are willing to walk side-by-side with us,” said Pastor Melissa. “Of course, we need financial support, but we also want true relationship that benefits both communities.”
Melnick reminds her new flock, as it is recorded in The Message’s version of Colossians 2:2, “I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery.”
It takes intentionality to weave together cultures and relationships, with Christ at the center. And that is what Tapestry is about.