‘Sanctuary’ church in Minneapolis is achieving racial diversity in divided times

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Article By Angela Meyer // Church News

Though some would argue that America is now more racially divided than ever, this certainly isn’t true at Sanctuary Covenant Church in north Minneapolis.

The Evangelical congregation of about 700 has a great mix of Asian, black, white, Hispanic and Native American members—both on the platform and in the pews.

Edrin Williams, Sanctuary's associate pastor, tells MPR News, the goal is to be "an urban, multi-ethnic, multiplying movement, reconciling people to God and one another." Despite the tense political climate in the U.S. and polarizing views widening the cultural chasm, Sanctuary’s diversity efforts appear to be flourishing.

The lead pastor, Rev. Dennis Edwards, who is African-American, says he is intentional about building solid relationships and breaking down barriers across cultural lines. He offers workshops and small group sessions to help Sanctuary members develop cross-cultural skills in an effort to be truly multicultural.

 Edrin Williams, associate pastor, talks with people during a Sunday morning worship service at Sanctuary Covenant Church. (Credit: Angela Jimenez for MPR News)

Edrin Williams, associate pastor, talks with people during a Sunday morning worship service at Sanctuary Covenant Church. (Credit: Angela Jimenez for MPR News)

"If you are reconciling, it means you share power," he explains. "It means you've got to find a way to connect with other people. And that's really hard to do."

Hard or not, the church isn’t backing down from its mission. And so far, so good. According to MPR, surveys reveal that the church is about 60 percent white, 30 percent African-American and 10 percent Latino, Asian, Native American and African national.

 Angela Jimenez for MPR News

Angela Jimenez for MPR News

Edwards says what he preaches is "a liberating kind of a message. It's not a simplistic message that God loves you and has a great plan for your life. But it's a message that marginalized people can receive and be built up with."