Resurrection Lutheran in North St. Louis’ O’Fallon Park neighborhood formed on Easter of 1986 as a merger of three congregations: Our Savior, Pilgrim, and Mt. Calvary.
During its 35+ years of ministry, Resurrection launched an after-school program in the public schools, renovated two buildings to serve as transitional housing, rehoused homeless families, started a basketball program for neighborhood youth, provided monthly stipends to neighborhood kids attending college, and collaborated with the St. Louis Symphony and choirs from ten neighboring churches to create a Jazz Mass featuring jazz musicians from the neighborhood.
In 2006, a fire destroyed the old building, but they were able to rebuild a new facility at the corner of W. Florissant and Fair. As the congregation aged and relocated, the ministry dwindled, and amid the pandemic in January of 2022, they decided to close, reverting their property to Synod ownership. On the day Resurrection turned the keys over to the Synod, one of their council members reflected on the history of the building and the difficult decision to close. “Well,” she said, “we had a fire. And we had a flood [referring to a broken pipe that caused extensive damage]. Maybe now we will have a resurrection.”
The Synod council tasked the Director of Evangelical Mission to look into possibilities for ministry, hoping to honor the history of amazing ministry that had been the hallmark of the congregation over the years. Late last summer, we met Bishop Derrick Robinson of the Kingdom Destiny Fellowship. Derrick lives in the O’Fallon Park neighborhood and has a passion for doing ministry that will help build up the community. We entered into an agreement with him for the use of the building to provide services for the immediate neighborhood. Using funds from the distribution of items left in the building (hymnals, worship furnishings, etc.) and an ELCA Synod Vitality grant, we were able to offer some support as things got started.
Within just a few months, Bishop Robinson made huge strides in the community! He began by walking the neighborhood, talking to folks about what they needed and wanted, and went to work gathering volunteers to make things happen. He started with community meals, and things blossomed into basketball teams, dance groups, children’s choirs, community meetings with utility representatives, an Easter carnival, and so much more! By January of 2023, he had people asking for a worship service, and by the summer, he had 31 new baptisms! This summer, they provided a day camp for neighborhood kids three days a week, complete with meals provided by the school district.
The evidence of the Spirit is hard to argue with, and seeing this, the Synod Council decided to gift the building to the work of the Kingdom Destiny Fellowship and Bishop Robison, allowing them to move their ministry forward in ways that are best for the community, and release the Synod from the obligations of building ownership. This does not mean we are released from our responsibility for the O’Fallon Park neighborhood. With St. Philip’s and Gethsemane the only two remaining ELCA congregations in the City of St. Louis, we are compelled to do what we can to stay involved. We are working with the ELCA’s innovation team to discern collaborative opportunities for St. Philip’s and Gethsemane and other congregations in the Eastern Missouri Conference. We hope to continue to serve the people of the O’Fallon Park neighborhood for many years to come.
The Synod Council and staff believe that, with the gifting of the building and our ongoing collaboration there, a resurrection is already happening at Resurrection.