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When One (Church) Door Closes, Another (Church) Door Opens!

Holy Closure at Grace Evangelical Lutheran San Francisco, CA

Have you ever wondered what happens when a church decides that they are ready to close their doors? And how the closing of one door could possibly lead to the opening of other church doors?

We call these Holy Closures! A Holy Closure is the process a congregation and their community undergo when they have come to the conclusion that the original mission of that worshiping community has concluded their mission. When this conclusion is made, congregations may choose to sell their building, gift property to the synod, or perhaps take a new approach.

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco, CA is one congregation that is walking through the process of Holy Closure - but in a rather unique way. This worshiping community has found a way to support the mission and ministry of other congregations in our Synod with resources from their congregation.

When the congregation began the process of selling their building and distributing assets, there grew a deep desire for the spirit of the congregation to live on through support of other congregations.

What does this look like?

Grace Evangelical Council Treasurer Shelley Carroll began writing a list of all of the items the church was looking to give to others: bookcases, cleaning supplies, a baptismal font, paraments, tables, a refrigerator, and so much more. As of last week, 15 congregations, mission partners or ecumenical organizations in our Synod had received gifts from Grace Evangelical to help further their ministry.

Here’s a peek into where some of the items from Grace Evangelical have landed:

  • Mt. Cross Ministries received wood and corrugated plastic

  • Santa Maria y Santa Marta Lutheran Church in San Francisco received bibles, communion supplies, paraments, and more

  • Gift of Grace Lutheran Church in Fernley, NV received altar candles and a cross

  • San Francisco Night Ministry received plates and cups

  • Good Shepherd South Asian Ministry received bathroom materials

  • St. Mark’s Lutheran in San Francisco received candle holders, flower vases, and offering plates

  • The New Oakland Multicultural Lutheran Leadership Center received a plethora of kitchen items and hosting elements

This list is not exhaustive, but simply a peek into the incredible ways Grace Evangelical is supporting other ministries in this time of Holy Closure.

St. John’s Lutheran Church in Antioch, CA was also a recipient of a gift from Grace Evangelical. Looking to integrate a new music opportunity in their congregation, Council President Bill Dietz reached out to the Synod Office looking to purchase a new set of handbells from a congregation who had a spare to sell. Simultaneously, Grace Evangelical was looking to gift a full set of handbells to a congregation. With a simple meet-up halfway, the handbells were gifted to St. John’s and have since been a tremendous gift to the community.

“In these trying times of the pandemic and decreasing memberships, we now have an opportunity to invigorate our congregation with the gift of alternative and delightful music. We hope this will blossom into many other opportunities for outreach,” shared Council President Bill Dietz.

On Saturday, January 29, 2022, the congregation of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church gathered one final time in their church building for a Service of Leave-Taking. Here, they celebrated the decades of ministry in the Sunset District of San Francisco, as the congregation's spirit continues on to bless other ministries throughout our Synod in the years to come.

The building has been sold to Bodhi Light International, a Mahayana Buddhism worshiping community. Blessings to the Grace Evangelical community as they continue the Holy Closure process, and to the Bodhi Light International group as they move into this new space.

This final blessing and declaration of leave-taking was shared in the conclusion of the community’s service. Join us, as we bless Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, one final time.

“With thanks to God for the work accomplished in this place, I declare this building to be vacated for the purposes of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May the witness of the people who have ministered here in the name of Jesus Christ continue to live on as they leave these walls and begin life in a new place. Amen.”

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