How This Minneapolis Church Is Fighting the National Norm of Sunday Segregation

Martin Luther King once said that 11 a.m. on Sunday was the most segregated hour of the week. Is that still true?

People who study the question say it is. They say that fewer than one congregation in 10 can be considered even 20 percent multiracial.

But here and there are churches that seem to be bucking this national norm. Sanctuary Covenant Church in north Minneapolis is one of them. On a recent Sunday, I visited the church to try and figure out what it’s doing that’s so successful.

Sanctuary Covenant Church, or “Sanctuary,” is a congregation of about 700. It’s an Evangelical Covenant Church that just moved into a renovated storage building off Interstate 94 in north Minneapolis. The space is clean and modern, with high ceilings, stations for coffee and furniture that looks like it might have come from IKEA.

The worship area is about the size of a hotel ballroom, and by the time the Sunday morning service started there were about 300 people packed into rows of chairs and singing along with the band.

What really caught my attention was the diversity of worship leaders up on stage. They were Asian, black, white, Hispanic. And the people singing along in the pews were just as diverse.

After an opening prayer and some announcements, a group of Native American musicians started drumming and singing. Smoke from a bundle of sage wafted through the worship area.

I wasn’t the only one that morning who was struck by the drum circle. Edrin Williams, Sanctuary’s associate pastor, told me he got a lot of feedback, and some pointed questions.

“Today, when the drumming was going on, someone texted me to say, ‘Is this worship? Is this biblical?'” he said.

Sanctuary Covenant’s vision, in its own words, is to be “An urban, multi-ethnic, multiplying movement, reconciling people to God and one another.”

But the lead pastor, the Rev. Dennis Edwards, told me he is not interested in a nice, politically correct picture of racial diversity at his church.

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Source: MPR News