A mortician in central Minnesota, his wife and two young children. Eight acres of land just outside of Osseo. And hundreds of dedicated volunteers.
That’s how it began. Now Advent Lutheran Church in Maple Grove is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, and looking ahead to many more.
“God has been good to us,” said Rev. Jerry Anderson, founding Advent pastor.
He was working as a mortician when he felt the call to become a pastor.
“It still boggles my mind to think that this is the congregation that started with myself, Ann and two children,” he said of Advent Lutheran.
It was in February 1966 when Rev. Anderson was called to started a Lutheran congregation in the Osseo-Maple Grove area. He and his wife and children moved from Minneota to Maple Grove. He estimates he knocked on about 1,600 doors to see how many people were interested.
That September, he said 160 people joined in worship in the Osseo Elementary gym. Two months later, Advent Lutheran Church became an official congregation. The congregation bought eight acres of land for $60,000 just north of Osseo and hosted the first worship service in its new building on Christmas Eve 1967.
“The name I had picked out, ‘Advent,’ means ‘the beginning,’” Rev. Anderson said. He jokes that he also liked to have a word starting with the first letter of the alphabet because it would be easier to advertise.
“They don’t have any class that tells you how to start a new mission,” he recalled. “You just fly by the seat of your pants, but I had a glorious time.”
Rev. Anderson was the pastor at Advent Lutheran Church for 28 years.
The founding pastor, who’s now a young 87 years, made his comments in a video interview that played Dec. 3 at Advent’s 50th anniversary program. More than 200 people attended, including a number of the original church members. They got to hear the Anderson family harmonize in a moving rendition of favorite hymns, including “The Old Rugged Cross.”
They also got a message from Bishop Ann Svennungsen, the presiding bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She said the past 50 years have brought amazing changes, including cell phones and the web. And many of the cultural supports that were around in 1967 are no longer here.
Many millennials have no church affiliation now, and “we are in a much more secular world than when this church began,” Svennungsen said.
In the last 50 years, Advent has grown to more than 1,500 members. It has built three sanctuaries and an atrium, and installed a commercial kitchen and office spaces — primarily with volunteer workers.
Advent has a strong music ministry and reaches out to the community through many programs including its Families Moving Forward and Backpack ministries. Five men and women grew in faith at Advent and have gone on to be pastors themselves. “It’s the people, we’re family,” Rev. Anderson said.
In looking ahead, Bishop Svennungsen urged Advent to “be clear about who you area, your identity and your purpose.” That means having a shared sense of what God is calling the church to do, and making sure it shows up in the way people behave, she said.
The bishop also said churches must focus outward and ask, “How am I called to be the presence of Christ with my neighbor?”
She continued, “And they must pay attend to leadership. Look expectantly for God to show up. What can Advent Lutheran Church expect of the Holy Spirit in the years to come? I hope your expectations are high.”