by Tony Morley
Of the five partnership ideas for the future of St. James that Acorn laid out a few months ago, two have uncovered sufficient wider interest to warrant continuing exploration. Three others are still “on the table” but currently without a clear course ahead to actualize the vision that got them started.
There is lively interest outside St. James in the concept of a Christian-Muslim-Jewish multi-faith center at the present St. James location. Ruth Anne Olson, Max Athorn and Monica Herrera are the Acorn work-group for this idea. As currently imagined, such a center might include work and worship space for each of the three faiths, along with common facilities that could serve them all. In theTwin Cities and elsewhere are varied start-up examples of mutual work and learning among the three faiths, with no agenda in mind of conversion or merger. Members of the Acorn work-group continue to meet with local Jewish and Muslim leaders to explore the vision further.
Likewise there is already a tradition of limited collaboration among three neighborhood Christian congregations — St. James Episcopal, Minnehaha United Methodist and Lake Nokomis Lutheran. Acorn seeks to envision and explore a much stronger relationship, again with no agenda of conversion or merger, but continued rich worship in each tradition and enhancing each other’s strengths in service and learning. Louis Hoffman and Tony Morley are the Acorn work-group for this idea. With support from all three pastors they are meeting with lay Lutheran and Methodist counterparts to identify common values and envision practically how a robust partnership might work. Existing national agreements among the denominations — especially Lutheran-Episcopal — lend momentum to this exploration.
Still “on the table’ but less active now are three other Acorn explorations. In children’s education St. James and Mandala Montessori work well together as landlord and tenant, and by sharing information and volunteers, for example, both parties want to expand the collaboration. Rosemary Caspar is the liaison for Acorn and St. James and will continue to work toward such goals. Financial realities, however, are a prohibitive obstacle to Mandala playing a larger role in addressing the building and budget challenges at St. James.
As for partnership possibilities with other parishes, Anne Scheible has researched the idea with the parish priests at Holy Trinity in St, Paul and All Saints Indian Mission in Minneapolis. St. James has historic connections with each of these, the one African American and the other Native American. Mutual involvements (First Nations Kitchen, for example) are still fruitful and rewarding, but, again, financial realities stand in the way of achieving a larger vision.
Acorn’s fifth exploration and partnership vision — St. James as home for an arts-oriented neighborhood center — remains speculative only. It may still strike a spark, and if it does, Joe Ordos for Acorn will help fan it to a flame.
Acorn meets the fourth Wednesday of each month. It will make its year-end report and recommendation to the Vestry in December.