Small church moving to space in Phoenix Theater

Uptown Church will hold mass in theater’s lobby this summer

The Rev. Jeremiah Lideen
The Rev. Jeremiah Lideen gives a sermon on how the brain processes dreams during his final service at the old Joyce United Methodist Church building on West 31st Street. Photos by Christopher Shea

After the Joyce United Methodist Church closed in 2013, the Methodist Church’s statewide body gave the space to a small congregation that Rev. Jeremiah Lideen had started in his living room the year before with a handful of followers.

Six years later, Lideen’s Uptown Church and its 45 regular parishioners are leaving the building at 1219 W. 31st St. and renting space in Lowry Hill East from the Phoenix Theater.

Lideen said the reason for the move is that the church’s current building, constructed in 1886, is in need of repairs and the church’s small congregation couldn’t raise funds to make them. While the outside of the old building looked completely fine, Lideen said, “inside it’s a whole ’nother story,” with rusty pipes, inconsistent heating and cracked plaster.

Holding a weekly Sunday service in the theater will require little setup beyond moving tables and chairs. The church will use the theater’s lobby space for mass during the summer and will eventually move into the theater during the winter so parishioners do not have to look at the snow through the lobby’s windows.

“The idea that we’re moving into a very public space is a very exciting one,” member John Van Hofwegen said.

The former Joyce United building has been sold to the Northland Real Estate Group, a developer that recently turned a Burnsville Methodist church into apartments. The developer said it is working with the city to figure out what to do with the building.

When the Uptown Church began looking for a new location a year ago, Lideen said his congregation needed to make a decision between renting space at the Phoenix Theater or the Lyndale Community School. “We came to realize when we picked either Phoenix or Lyndale, we were actually making the decision of what the [near] future of the church would look like,” he said. In the end, congregants decided they preferred to cater to a younger population living in Uptown rather than to families living in Lyndale.

Jeremiah Lideen
Lideen packs chairs into his van on June 9 as his church moves to space in the Phoenix Theater.

Phoenix Theater’s Eric Cohen said it will be great to put the building to use on Sunday mornings, when it would otherwise be empty. “We’re happy to have more people attend the theater,” he said.

Although the location will change, Uptown Church’s services will continue to combine sermons from Lideen and guitar music. The church will also continue to host other events such as bible readings at nearby coffee shops and brunch following mass.

Member Kim Willow said the church means more to her than its physical location. “The building we meet in is really secondary to what we do,” she said. “We’re still the same church, we’re still the same people.”

The church’s main goals for the future are to get more people involved and to eventually set up more programs for kids.

“We know what to do, and if we do it as authentically as we can, people will likely show up,” Lideen said.

Uptown Church will hold its first service at the Phoenix Theater at 10 a.m. on June 16.