A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC
Snapshots of congregations from around the Church of the Lutheran Confession
Nestled in an inner-tier suburb due north of Minneapolis, Grace Lutheran Church of Fridley, Minnesota, has been proclaiming the priceless Gospel of Jesus Christ. This group of Christians has been gathering together around the Word and sacraments for the past sixty-five years. They have a dedicated core of members who take growing in the Word of God seriously as they bask in the grace of their Savior. Even at its initial founding in July of 1955, the voters of the congregation adopted as their official motto Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”
While certainly Sunday worship is an ongoing and primary activity of the congregation, another fruit of its faithfulness is how important the group considers instruction from the life-giving Scriptures. Bible Classes on Sundays and Wednesdays are well attended, evidence that such study is a key component to congregational life. A recent study of the book of Proverbs has demonstrated how this group eagerly mines for the precious gems of heavenly wisdom and searches for the Spirit-intended meaning of Scripture. There is often a lively and beneficial discussion about how various pithy statements of wisdom apply to their daily walks of life: “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” (Proverbs 16:16)
But Grace also understands that these priceless diamonds are not to be hoarded by the adults, but to be generously shared with the next generation: “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Christian education for the youth has always been a key focus here. The adults, by way of support, are quite mindful that the children are the future of the church.
Grace Lutheran School, started in 1976, has been a flourishing center of activity as it anchors children in the Word. In addition to the parents at Grace who take advantage of this haven for their children, many opportunities have arisen recently to share the valuable truths of God’s Word with children outside of our fellowship. In recent years, usually about half of the enrollment has been made up of non-member children; for example, ten of our twenty-one students in 2019-20 are non-members.
Grace has been advertising its school in a local parade held in Spring Lake Park, the community due north of Fridley, which is also the public school district in which Grace resides. This has become a concerted effort as the children, parents, and grandparents have pooled together to promote the school. Their love of and appreciation for the school is publicly evident by the positive witness they give to others in the community. This has greatly helped in differentiating Grace’s school from other Christian schools in the area. In the past year, such advertising has led to more non-member students in our school.
The parade has also helped in further promoting our vacation Bible school. Recently Grace had fifty-nine students registered. In order to staff this endeavor, many of our young people have helped teach and assist with activities. The vacation Bible school has also attracted more non-members students into our school.
Grace’s website has been an effective tool in advertising our church and its Christian education. It helps to have technologically gifted members who are aware of cutting-edge tools which help to make this possible. Videos of our worship services and Bible classes have been regularly posted on on our website, and statistics indicate that these are well utilized.
For the past ten years, Grace has also been blessed with contacts from Liberia, a west African country that is English-speaking and has its constitution modeled after that of the United States. Due to a civil crisis in that country during the early 2000’s, some Liberians expatriated to the northern areas of the Twin Cities. After a Liberian joined the congregation in 2010, Grace’s pastor traveled to Liberia in 2015 to visit the member and investigate the possibility of doing mission work there. The CLC Board of Missions eventually called Grace’s pastor to be the part-time visiting missionary to Liberia, and the congregation allows him to travel there on an annual basis.
Another wonderful Spirit-led feature that is evident at Grace is its unassuming friendliness. The congregation has a tight bond between people of all ages and backgrounds. To foster this, a regular hospitality activity is held following its worship service on the first and third Sundays of each month. To see people integrate with each other makes this a beautiful fellowship opportunity. The members and visitors interact with each other, sharing aspects of their individual lives, and also providing much-needed Christian support and encouragement. This also provides an avenue for informal discussion about congregational matters, keeping the members active and engaged. In fact, the parking lot regularly has vehicles in it during the week as members actively serve in many varied and important ways.
Currently Grace has 160 members with 36 of these being pre-communicants. Sunday worship attendance can typically be between 90 and 100. While Grace’s congregational numbers have declined, its activity and commitment to the Word certainly has not. Many members have transferred to other CLC congregations. In fact, many current and former Grace members are usually seen at CLC events and are serving in synodical leadership positions. Thus, historically and currently, Grace has been a pivotal pipeline providing support to the CLC as a whole.
Grace continues to look to the Word as the Holy Spirit fills the congregation full of life. The Savior’s love is evident as members love one another and support one another in the midst of a world that is often inhospitable to Christians committed to the truths of God’s Word. The congregation continues to move ahead by the Lord’s grace, with confidence that He will lead us according to His good pleasure and with the Christian support which we sincerely provide to one another.
John Hein is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Fridley, Minnesota, and chairman of the Board of Regents of Immanuel Lutheran College.