By Paula Schlueter Ross
Seeing and visiting the new Luther House campus-ministry center at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, has been good for junior Hannah Saunders.
Last summer, Saunders, 20, was faced with the wrenching sight of her campus church — University Lutheran Chapel (ULC) — being torn down right across the street from her apartment building.
“I was very upset and it took me until we had the new location to feel anything positive about the situation,” she told Reporter.
Saunders, a junior who is studying child psychology at the university, said she believes “no church should ever be torn down if at all avoidable.
The ULC ministry was forced to relocate when the LCMS Minnesota South District’s board of directors voted in 2011 to sell that district-owned property and another campus-ministry property in Mankato, Minn. Although the action took place before he took office as district president, the Rev. Dr. Dean Nadasdy said he understood that the decision “was a move by the Minnesota South District to divest itself of the high costs relative to maintaining buildings and to have campus ministry become a ministry of congregations.
“The district had — and still has — an aggressive plan to expand campus ministry in the district through existing congregations and new starts, without the burden of owning and maintaining facilities,” Nadasdy told Reporter.
Even though buildings were sold at both locations, “both campus ministries now continue as congregational ministries,” he noted.
Delegates to the district’s 2012 convention adopted a resolution to provide $2 million from the sale of the ULC property toward its relocation. The campus ministry in Mankato continues in the same facilities, which were purchased by Hosanna Lutheran Church, Mankato, also with assistance from the district convention.
“Healing and reconciliation will continue among us,” Nadasdy said. “My prayer is that both campus ministries will flourish as these two congregations bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their respective communities. I’m also praying that our district can proceed, as planned, to expand congregation-based campus ministries.”
The new Luther House, just a block from the ministry’s former location, is an English Tudor structure formerly used as a sorority house. A portion of the $2 million in funding from the sale of the ULC property was used to purchase the new building, and the rest went to the “Build It Back” campaign to raise an additional $1.6 million for construction of a chapel on the new site (see www.buildulc.org for more information).
“We still need to build a chapel, hopefully right next to Luther House,” said the Rev. David A. Kind, LCMS campus pastor at the University of Minnesota. “But it is wonderful to have a place again on campus where we can operate the campus ministry of the congregation and serve the students of the U of M, many of whom would not find us, or perhaps simply wouldn’t come to us, if we were totally off-campus.
“We also think that Luther House — and eventually the chapel — will send a strong message to the community that we will not abandon our campus and her students, but are committed to serving them with Christ and His Gospel.”
More than 150 people attended the opening and dedication of Luther House on April 5, according to Kind. And the building is actually “more conducive to campus ministry,” he said, than the former chapel.
“Luther House is a very warm and inviting place, having large public spaces on the first floor for students to gather, study and hang out in, and a wonderful game and movie room in the basement for them to enjoy,” Kind said.
“The old chapel had a great location — right across the street from one of the dorms. But the new location is also very good — only one block further away from campus, and situated on a main walking route to campus in the midst of sorority row.”
The Rev. Marcus T. Zill, campus pastor at St. Andrews Lutheran Church and Campus Center in Laramie, Wyo., and coordinator of campus ministry for the LCMS Office of National Mission, said it was “a true joy” to take part in the Luther House dedication.
“University Lutheran Chapel has certainly endured a lot the last two years,” Zill told Reporter. “While they still have a long way to go to completely re-establish themselves and they need our ongoing support, the dedication of this house gives them a tremendous opportunity for a new beginning.
“Luther House will be a tremendous asset to University Lutheran Chapel in continuing to provide a solid Lutheran presence at the University of Minnesota for years to come,” he added. “This is essential as the University of Minnesota is not only one of the largest universities in the nation, but also has a significant Lutheran student population.”
Kind said ULC’s ministry did not stop after the property sale. Sunday worship services were held on the campus of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., between the university’s St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses, and a van was purchased to shuttle students from their dorms to the seminary.
But fewer students attended services at the off-campus location, he added, “in spite of our best efforts” to keep them coming.
“This shows why establishing Luther House is so important, and why building a new chapel on campus is even more important,” he said.
To learn more about ULC’s ministry, visit www.ulcmn.org.