The ministry of buildings: two neighboring churches plan to share space

Two local churches – Salem English Lutheran Church, 610 W. 28th St. and Lyndale United Church of Christ, 810 W. 31st St. – have a plan to share sanctuary space in a mixed-use housing development on the current Salem site.

The Whittier Alliance Board approved the project’s concept on Thursday, March 23.

Although the churches would host services and other programs in the same space, taking advantage of common amenities, their congregations and identities would remain mutually exclusive.

That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t learn from one other, though, said Salem Pastoral Minister Jen Nagle. “We’re able to share space, draw off each others’ energy, work and resources,” she said. “Churches have divided themselves for so many years. We’re different congregations, but this is something that we can do together.”

Under the proposal by Common Bond Communities and Augustana Development, Salem’s 44,000-square-foot building would be demolished. In its place, seven unique town homes would be built along Garfield Avenue with two sanctuaries and a freestanding retail space.

Although it hasn’t been finalized, the plan calls for 23 town homes with several considered affordable units. Parking would accommodate the churches, residents and retail.

The partnership grew out of both churches’ costly need for renovation. They modeled their ideas in part after the Episcopal Center, which shares a sanctuary and housing at the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota.

Salem’s property might need to be rezoned, but that hasn’t been determined yet.

Salem’s last service before closing for construction will be Oct. 29.

The project will provide both churches a sustainable building. “This is about our ethics and our values, not just money,” said Nagle.

“It’s just common sense and good stewardship of our resources. There’s an economy of scale at work. We save money by sharing space. We don’t need two boilers, two sets of Sunday school rooms,” said Don Portwood, a pastor at Lyndale United, to his congregation in December.