Dear Greater Milwaukee Synod,
I have received several questions as of late about what is happening with the congregation and building of Good Shepherd, Milwaukee, so I am writing this update for those who are interested.
In 2010, Trinity Presbyterian approached Good Shepherd’s congregation about exploring the idea of shared ministry. The ELCA and PC-USA are in partnership through the Formula of Agreement, so both the Greater Milwaukee Synod and the Milwaukee Presbytery supported this exploration. After many conversations, shared worship services, prayer and discernment, the two churches started worshipping together weekly in January of 2011, worshipping for a month at a time at each church building to get a feel for how a combined congregation would operate in each space. After deciding that our partnership had the potential for long term ministry together, we assessed each building with an eye for which one offered the most flexibility for future growth. In the fall of 2011, we decided to operate our primary ministries out of the Trinity building located at 3302 N. Sherman Blvd, and have been doing so ever since January of 2012.
Good Shepherd Trinity has a shared governing body, staff, budget, ministry, and we are moving toward a formal merger which will allow us to be a congregation of both the ELCA and the PC-USA. Both denominations have guidelines to help congregations through this kind of ecumenical merger. In the process, we have to address basic assumptions about identity, polity, worship and theology. It is forcing us to affirm the core of our beliefs and name what is essential and what is not. We are also clear that this merger is not the end goal, but a first step in addressing together the changing realities of being a 21st century church in the city. We still need to transform our mission and ministry practices as we proclaim the hope of the gospel in today’s context. It has been challenging and deeply rewarding to be on this journey, and while there are no guarantees how this will turn out in the long run, we have already learned so much about letting go, trusting God, listening to the Holy Spirit, and affirming our unity in Christ. This spiritual growth will follow us wherever our life journey takes us. It is good, and it is blessing.
As we continue to grow into a combined ELCA/PC-USA congregation, we have also committed to partner with SeedFolks Youth Ministry to support the creation of a community arts center called the Body and Soul Healing Arts Center at the 3617 N. 48th Street church, which Good Shepherd’s congregation still owns. SeedFolks has had an office at the Good Shepherd building since 2006 and hosted many events in that space. We are excited about the creative ministry that will be birthed from the new Body and Soul Healing Arts Center that Venice Williams will be directing and facilitating. We understand the great need for healing of our land, our bodies, and our communities and believe the arts are a powerful way to celebrate life, to discover spiritual wholeness and to connect to God’s presence and movement. Many of you know that Good Shepherd has long been an advocate for creative arts in the community through our summer arts camps, so we are glad to see this new ministry center take shape. We hope that you will also partner with SeedFolks as new ideas emerge to respond to the hunger for healing, hope and restoration in the city, through ecumenical and interfaith, spiritual and artistic dialogue and expression.
We also hope that you will continue to be open to learning from one another and open yourself to new ways to listen to God’s call to be in ministry in your location, building new partnerships where perhaps you did not look before. We are more united with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and with those of other faith traditions, than we often want to admit. In this time of deep separations and fears, I cannot think of a more profound call than to unite as communities of faith in humility and respect, curiosity and wonder at what God will teach us when we risk new relationships with others who are different from us. I think this is in part what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meant by creating the beloved community. We all fall so deeply short of this vision, and yet that doesn’t mean we cannot continue to strive toward it.
Please pray for our emerging ministries as we pray for yours. May God continue to bless you and your ministries as you shine the light of Christ in all you do, being ready to be transformed for the sake of the world.
Peace to you,
Rev. Kristin Nielsen,