A few months ago, the church buildings at 4000 28th Ave. S. turned spring green. The color change is part of a transition for Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 2005, the Our Redeemer congregation, facing a declining membership, gifted its buildings to the rapidly growing Oromo congregation. Now, in early 2008, Our Redeemer will merge with Minnehaha Communion Lutheran Church, leaving the Oromos the sole occupants of the worship center and parish house.
The Oromo (uh-ROH-moh) people are the largest ethnic group in East Africa. Facing persecution by the Ethiopian government, thousands of Oromos have fled to the United States since the 1970s. About 12,000 Oromos live in the Twin Cities area. There are five Oromo churches in Minneapolis-St. Paul; Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Standish Neighborhood is the largest, with 700 plus members.
Partly to make the church buildings their own and partly to meet their needs, the Oromo congregation painted the exterior and interior, remodeled the church chancel, and installed new carpeting. Since joyful music is an important part of their worship service, the Oromos also renovated the sound system. (Passersby on a Sunday morning no doubt have heard the great sound coming from the building and wondered if the roof would stay on!)
Masresha Gemechu, the Oromo congregation’s office administrator, describes the congregation as spirit filled and family centered. It has a large youth and Sunday school ministry. In addition to ministries within the congregation, the Oromos help to settle new refugees and contribute to development and relief efforts in Ethiopia.
Our Redeemer will hold its last worship service on Sun., Jan. 13, 2008. While understandably saddened by the demise of their congregation, members are gratified that their buildings will be used by a new and dynamic Lutheran congregation. According to Valborg Tollefsrud, Our Redeemer’s congregation president, the cosmetic changes to the buildings are helping the members to “let go.” She also notes an interesting parallel between the two congregations. Just as Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church began as a church for Oromian immigrants, ninety-four years ago Our Redeemer Lutheran Church began as a church for Swedish and Norwegian immigrants.
SENA note: From 1995 to 2006, the office of the Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association was located in the basement of Our Re- deemer. Many SENA meetings were held in the church’s Fellowship Hall. SENA wishes to thank Our Redeemer for its gracious hospitality all those years.