A church in transition

After eight years on the pulpit at Uptown’s Joyce Lutheran Church, Pastor William Morton, better known as Bill, is retiring.

He will serve through June, at which time he’ll hand the reigns off to Pastor John Darlington, who is relocating to Joyce from Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester, Minn.

“I’ve had a marvelous time with this congregation,” said Morton, who found Joyce after moving to Minneapolis from Milwaukee to be with his son. “They’ve really made giant strides. I’ve tried to turn them inside out to the community, I’ve done this and I’ve drawn up a strategic plan. They’re ready for the next phase and it’s a perfect time for transition.”

Morton, 75, has been an active community member and serves on the Calhoun Area Residents Action Group (CARAG) board. When he’s not at community meetings, he spends much of his time with his son or sailing on Lake Calhoun.

He said he plans to stay active in the community and the church, but he is going to back off a bit to let Darlington get involved.

Darlington, 56, is originally from Des Moines, but has spent 11 years of his 30-year ministry career in Minneapolis. He and Morton are friends who have known each other for several years.

Darlington said he had been looking for an opportunity to return to Minneapolis because he didn’t feel his Rochester church was a good fit for him.

“Much of my work was with families and personnel from Mayo Clinic or IBM, which are the two big employers in Minneapolis, so it felt like a corporate ministry
experience,” he said.

He said he’s been fascinated with Minneapolis since he was a boy, when he used to look at the Interstate 35 sign that read “Minneapolis 236 miles” and wonder what was in the City of Lakes.

Darlington said social justice and affordable housing are a couple of his top interests and he feels Minneapolis is a good place to work on those issues.  

“I think of Minneapolis as a human services Mecca and that’s the arena in which I really enjoy doing ministry,” he said.

He plans to take over for Morton at community meetings and continue the work of turning the church inside out.

“Churches tend to have an insular quality, confined to its own members,” Darlington said. “But this mentality that Bill has embodied so well in Uptown and in CARAG says that the neighborhood is our parish, the community is our church membership.”

Darlington will also serve at Simpson United Methodist Church at 28th Street and 1st Avenue S. He plans to live in Minneapolis and make it his permanent home.

Morton, a Minneapolis newcomer eight years ago, isn’t going away either.

“It’s been my first time in the inner city and I’ve loved it,” he said. “I intend to stay here.”