This week’s post is by Todd Willmarth, who writes about how welcome he felt when he first visited Church of the Redeemer three years ago. Todd leads the team of greeters at church, so if you’re interested in serving our congregation in this way or just want to know what it involves, contact him.  

Community group leaders get regular e-mails from Pastor Nathan suggesting discussion questions for the group. Last week’s ice-breaker question asked about spring and what the change in weather gets us thinking about.

For me, the melting snow always makes me feel excited about our perennial gardens (and inevitably planning what patch of the yard I’m going to dig up next). And of course I think of Easter and warmer weather. But this time of year also reminds me of our first Sunday at Church of the Redeemer.

Three years ago, Holly and I were seriously searching for a church home. We wanted something smaller where we could get to know people, but we also had this dream of a fellowship right in our own neighborhood. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to walk to church?  I started to pray that way.

After Easter, after yet another visit to another church, we were driving around our neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon. (To be specific, we were gawking at a Victorian house that had just been remodeled.)

We saw a red and white folding sign in front of the former St. Andrew’s Catholic Church by Como Lake. We hadn’t heard anything about a church meeting there, so we looked it up online. Our first reaction: Wow, they meet in the afternoons. We could visit TWO churches on one Sunday.

Anyway, I was growing more and more discouraged, and Holly was sending me websites of potential churches, when I said we should make time to visit “that church at St. Andrew’s.” I wasn’t particularly optimistic, but I was excited about walking around Como Lake on a beautiful spring day.

In a moment that we still consider rather comical, we misjudged the weather and our stroller-pushing pace that day. It was quite hot for spring, and we were late for the service.  We carried the baby stroller up all the steps at St. Andrew’s and tried — unsuccessfully — to walk quietly and unnoticed into that magnificent echo chamber of a sanctuary during the opening hymns.

As Nathan preached, I grew excited about the possibility of having found our church home. (Those of you who have experienced the acoustics in St. Andrew’s will tell you that I was probably hearing only every third word of Nathan’s sermon.)

When the service ended, Holly wandered around the building in search of a baby-changing area and was stopped by at least four people welcoming her. By the time she was back in the sanctuary, I had met about a dozen people and was eating cake served in celebration of a child’s baptism that day.

The whole walk home, I was thrilled about an answer to what I thought was a rather random prayer request.  Not only was Church of the Redeemer right in our neighborhood, but people had been so friendly and welcoming to us that I joked that the church might actually be a cult.

God answered our prayer in such a giant way that day. We love our church family. The people who so warmly welcomed us that first Sunday have become friends. Obviously we aren’t at St. Andrew’s anymore. (The building is now the Twin Cities German Immersion School.)  Even though the space was beautiful, we are glad that we can hear each other and Paul and Edward and Nathan. I’m so thankful for the men’s ministries and the listening prayer gatherings.

We were talking recently to some of the families who helped start not just Church of the Redeemer but Church of the Cross, and I want to thank them for such a huge leap of faith and sacrifice of time and energy.

As a church greeter, I sometimes help set up those folding signs on Sunday afternoons, and I’m grateful to whoever set up the sign that day we spotted it from the street in 2012.

With spring coming, we plan to start walking to church again. And no matter where the congregation meets, we consider Church of the Redeemer our home.