Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why is your worship style more elaborate than the other Lutheran churches I’ve attended?
A. American Lutheranism in the Midwest was heavily influenced by informal rural church traditions brought over by European immigrants in the late 1800s. Mount Olive developed formal traditions closer to those found in the Lutheran churches of larger European cities. Indeed, formal styles prevail in many Lutheran churches in older American cities, especially on the East Coast.
Q. How many members do you have and where do they come from?
A. We have about 500 members, with average Sunday attendance of about 200. That makes us a mid-sized congregation. About one-third of us live in nearby neighborhoods. The rest come from all over the metro area.
Q. You are located in an up-and-coming but still relatively poor neighborhood. What are you doing about that?
A. Our neighborhood has experienced a dramatic turnaround in the past decade, but poverty persists. We have many programs to help our neighbors. In turn, our neighbors help us understand that we’re all in this life together. We embrace our surrounding community. We’ve been here for 100 years and intend to stay another hundred.
Q. I detect quite a few gay people and gay couples in the pews. Are you a gay church?
A. We’re not a gay church. We have quite a few members who happen to be gay. We don’t count people on the basis of GLBT, race, class or any other measure. We’re here to worship God and to reflect Christ’s love in the world. We try not to place conditions on that love.
Q. Are you a church with a political agenda?
A. No. We probably have more liberals than conservatives, but that’s not important. We try to respect differences in approaching the divisive social and economic issues of our day. We do believe that it’s important not just to care for our personal spiritual needs, but to get involved in the world.
Q. What’s the role of women in your church?
A. We follow St. Paul’s dictum that whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Women can be ordained and become pastors in our denomination. Many of our parish leaders are women.
Q. Do you have provisions and programs for children?
A. We do not have a staffed nursery. Instead, we welcome children into our worship experience. We offer Sunday school, children’s music, confirmation, and a youth group. Unlike many suburban parishes we do not have hundreds of children, but kids play an extremely important role in our life together.
Q. How long are your services?
A. On Sundays, services run about an hour and 15 minutes—a bit longer on festival days.
Q. I thought you were Protestants. Why do you kneel, bow, chant, burn incense, and make the sign of the cross?
A. Luther rejected none of these practices. We believe in sensual worship, that it can be appropriate to worship God with all of our human senses. It’s not the only way to worship; it’s just a way that suits us.
Q. Why such an enthusiastic emphasis on singing and music?
A. We have a long history of excellence in music, especially in singing and organ-playing. Our cantor, David Cherwien, who also directs the National Lutheran Choir, considers congregational singing our primary musical expression in worship. Our emphasis on organ goes back to the prominent and influential organist, Paul Manz.
Q. How often do you have communion?
A. Every Sunday and on feast days that do not fall on Sunday. We also usually celebrate communion at weddings and funerals.
Q. What are Lutherans all about?
A. Lutherans have been called the original Protestants who left the Roman Catholic Church in the 1500s and hope, naively perhaps, for reunification one day. Differences center on our theological emphasis on faith over works and on our belief that God’s grace is freely given rather than earned. The ELCA Web site offers a fuller discussion of Lutheran beliefs.
Q. Do you get along with one another?
A. Despite a plethora of people with Ph.D.s and ordained clergy in our midst (42 pastors or former pastors at one count), we are a surprisingly amiable parish. That’s probably because we know ourselves pretty well and understand our “niche” in the Lutheran market—we can’t be all things to all people. Our clergy roster has been remarkably stable: six pastors in 100 years.
Q. How do you see Mount Olive positioned among other Lutheran churches in Minneapolis-St. Paul?
A. We are more like a boutique than a department store. If you like classical music, formal worship, an atmosphere that welcomes all comers and a commitment to social ministry, you may like us.
Q. Is it safe to come to church at Mount Olive?
A. Yes! The neighborhood is increasingly family-oriented, and crime rates are far lower than a decade ago.
Q. Do you have services or programs in Spanish?
A. No, but we have a diverse congregation that serves a neighborhood that includes Latino residents.
Q. What are these initials: ELCA and RIC?
A. ELCA stands for Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It’s the largest Lutheran body in North America and is considered a “mainline” Christian denomination. RIC stands for Reconciling in Christ. That’s shorthand for parishes that affirm all people’s full participation in the church, no matter their race, class, gender or sexual orientation.
Q. What’s your church’s stance on abortion?
A. It’s not an issue that comes up much, probably because we respect the varying views of our members as well as the complexity of involving government in an issue that many people see as intensely personal.
Q. Do you have air conditioning?
A. Not yet. Phase two of our current renovation project calls for an environmentally-friendly geo-thermal system to be installed.