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Church closes, doors remain open

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The congregation may be gone, but Trinity Lutheran Church is still a popular meeting place. On a recent Friday at the building, Simba gets a hot lunch provided by Secret Place Ministry.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The congregation may be gone, but Trinity Lutheran Church is still a popular meeting place. On a recent Friday at the building, Simba gets a hot lunch provided by Secret Place Ministry. Photo Store

Although it no longer holds worship services and ceased to exist as a congregation last summer, the doors of Trinity Lutheran Church are still open.

 

That's because the last act of Winnipeg's first German-speaking Lutheran church was to give away their building at 265 Flora Ave. so community groups could continue to use it.

"We're losing a congregation, but I'm proud of the legacy they leave," explains Rev. Larry Ulrich, assistant to the bishop of the Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

"They saw themselves as gifting the building when they could no longer care for it."

After its last worship service on Aug. 25, just months after marking its 125th anniversary, Trinity Lutheran Church handed over the keys -- and the deed -- to Aberdeen Mennonite Church, already a tenant in the building.

Ulrich said the congregation, which had dwindled down to a dozen parishioners, decided to give away their 45-year-old building instead of selling it and donating the proceeds to another cause, because they wanted the existing programs to continue.

"In some ways, they tried in a powerful way to say this is how we do ministry in this community, and the building is the piece that allowed them to do that," explains Ulrich.

In addition to Aberdeen, the 10,000-square-foot building also houses two other congregations, First Nations Family Worship Centre and House of Prayer, a weekly lunch program, two food banks, a coffee house and government-run Healthy Start for Mom and Me.

With up to 300 people in and out of the building weekly, the Lutheran congregation was reluctant to force its tenants to find new homes, said Rev. Ronald Nelson, Trinity's minister for 14 years.

"That's what made this easier (to close), that Aberdeen would continue," he says of the existing programs that operate out of the building.

"It's somebody that will maintain the program."

After a long association with the building, first with House of Prayer and now with Helping Hands, which co-ordinates twice-a-month coffee houses to benefit local charities, Rita Green is relieved her program can continue at the corner of Flora Avenue and King Street.

"The facility is big and there's a great kitchen. It's easy to find and it's in a very convenient location," explains Green.

About 10 years ago, Trinity Lutheran Church decided to rent out space after years of trying to sell their property. Nelson says his congregation learned to accommodate, and even enjoy, the increased traffic in the building.

"We kept sharing it because in the end, we wanted to continue" to worship together, says Nelson.

"Sometimes God works in mysterious ways."

The people at Aberdeen are grateful for the gift and are open to even more groups using the building, says Rev. Sunnie Friesen.

"Our people here are very committed to their neighbourhood," she says.

And they're also committed to recognizing the long history of Trinity Lutheran Church in the North End by renaming the building, says Friesen. Before 1968, Trinity owned a church at Dufferin Avenue and Salter Street, but the congregation was forced to move after the property was expropriated.

"As a way to honour the group that met in Winnipeg for 125 years, we're going to call it Trinity Place."

brenda@suderman.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2013 D15

History

Updated on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 8:57 AM CDT: Added colour photos

9:00 AM: Fixed cutline

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