About : Our History
The Twin Cities were in the forefront of the early "gay rights movement," as it was called at the time. FREE (Freedom from Repression from Erotic Expression) was founded at the University of Minnesota on May 18, 1969 - just before the Stonewall Riots in New York City. The first Gay Pride parade in Minnesota was held in the summer of 1970. Gay House, a counseling and social agency for gay men was formed soon after, as was the Lesbian Resource Center. Minneapolis amended its human rights ordinance to prohibit discrimination against lesbians and gay men in 1974 and St. Paul followed with an ordinance in 1975 (which was repealed in 1978 during the Anita Bryant campaigns, but was again enacted in 1989). The University Student Body elected an openly gay man, Jack Baker, as its President in 1971. He was re-elected in 1972.
All across Minnesota gay men and lesbians began coming out of their closets and meeting with each other socially, to discuss common interests, and develop political activity. Two groups which eventually evolved into Metropolitan Community Church of the Twin Cities started meeting to discuss religious issues: one at Gay House in Minneapolis, and the other at St. Cloud University. In the spring of 1974, one of the St. Cloud State students and his brother, the Rev. Chuck Larsen, who was then pastor of MCC San Francisco, attended the religious discussion group at Gay House. Later on, Rev. Larsen and the Gay House group traveled to St. Cloud to hold a joint discussion with the group there. Many of the students who were members of the St. Cloud group were Seniors and planned to move to Minneapolis at the end of the school term. Those interested in religious services started meeting on Sunday afternoons, in addition to the weekly discussion group meetings. In July of 1974, the group requested to become affiliated with the Metropolitan Community Churches denomination. It soon hired its first part-time worship coordinator.
The group was led by Steve Barrett and met in various members' homes until late January 1975, and then shared the rent on a duplex at 3829 Harriet Avenue S. In February, the Rev. Elder "Papa John" Hose was the first official from the MCC denominational offices to visit the group of 20 people. The group was soon given "Study Group" status, and selected a new worship coordinator, Lowell Clark, from Los Angeles. The group started publishing a newsletter. Paul Nicholson started his social hour ministry at this time. The first church newsletter also started at this time. This was the first newsletter to be distributed in the gay and lesbian community.
In April 1975 the church moved to the Friends Meeting House at 44th and York in Minneapolis. In June, we had our first visit from a District Coordinator, the Rev. (later Elder) Carol Cureton, who was the pastor of the St. Louis church at the time. She dedicated our new worship space and presented us with the approval of our "Mission" status by the MCC Board of Elders.
In July 1975 the Board of Directors and Rev. Cureton called Rev. Phil Crum to be the pastor of the church. Rev. Crum, Ken Keate, and others were the first people from our church to represent us at a General Conference that was held in Dallas that year. We welcomed the Rev. Elder Freda Smith and the founder of our denomination, the Rev. Elder Troy Perry to our church for the first time this year. We also hosted the 1976 Spring District Conference.
Rev. Crum had agreed to pastor our church until it's chartering. That occurred in July 1976. The membership of the church rose to 75 members. The first Deacon was confirmed, (now the Rev.) Hal Hasse. Dan Pierre launched our outreach to the deaf community at this time. The Board of Directors presented the Rev. Joan Johnson as its choice for our next pastorate, and the congregation enthusiastically welcomed our first female pastor. Under Rev. Johnson worship attendance rose to 125 persons, an outreach was made to the women's prison at Shakopee, and several Deacons and Student Clergy began their ministries. We opened an office at 2932 Cedar Avenue so our pastor would not have to work out of her home and hired an Assistant Pastor, the Rev. Brenda Hunt. Ro Halford (now an ordained clergywoman in our denomination) moved here from Los Angeles to do her Student Clergy training. We started a building fund and an active building search team. The parents of one of our members, Dorothy and George Fitzgerald, personally contributed over $10,000 to our building fund, and helped raise over $5,000 more. Mr. Fitzgerald's death was the first funeral conducted by our MCC. We made a serious (but unsuccessful) offer to buy a church building now owned by the Salvation Army on Lyndale Avenue.
In the autumn of 1977, during the heat of the Anita Bryant controversy, our church was featured as a part of the WCCO-TV special "Fair Game Faggot." The attention the camera crews brought to the church brought demonstrations by people who lived in our neighborhood. One Sunday evening the Friends Meeting House was completely covered with spray painted slogans against us including: Anita Bryant for President, Fags Get Out and several others that were less printable. The Friends stood by us in our time of crisis.
In early 1978, members who lived in St. Paul felt a desire for a church in their own community. They received "Mission" status for their church in March and called Rev. Hunt as their pastor. The church first met in the basement of Foxy's bar on West 7th Street on Sunday mornings, but later moved to the Friends Meeting House at 295 Summit. MCC of the Twin Cities changed its name to MCC Minneapolis. In late 1978, Rev. Johnson became ill, and moved back to California.
A three-person committee of worship coordinators guided the Minneapolis church through that transition: Ro Halford, Hal Hasse, and Clark Bufkin, then a student clergy.
In the autumn of 1979, the Minneapolis church called the Rev. Marshall Williams from Sacramento as its pastor. Two members of the church, Larry Whitsell and Gail Van Buren, began their Student Clergy training and would go on to become MCC pastors. In the summer of 1980, Rev. Hunt resigned the St. Paul church in order to accept the pastorate in Detroit. Rev. Hasse became pastor in St. Paul.
The St. Paul congregation continued to slowly but steadily grow. This was a period of decline for the Minneapolis congregation. That group voted to move to a storefront at 22nd and Lyndale in October of 1981 because of decreased attendance. It was a very difficult time for the congregation.
During this time, Peter Helt, a very active member of the Dallas church was transferred to Minneapolis by his employer. His partner was a very talented pianist and organist. They began attending the church and helped turn things around. Rev. Williams resigned in May of 1982. Meanwhile, Rev. Hasse's contract with the St. Paul congregation was not renewed. The two congregations began discussions for merger, which culminated in August of 1982. The Minneapolis location was chosen as the meeting site of the merged congregation. The merger committee suggested the name "MCC Unity" but that name was not very popular. During the congregational meeting of the new church, Gail Van Buren mentioned that she had received a letter sent to the Minneapolis church addressed to "All God's Children". She suggested that the name be "All God's Children MCC." The name was adopted almost unanimously. In September, the newly merged church called the Rev. Elder Roy Birchard, then of St. Louis, to be its new pastor.
Rev. Birchard began immediately to restore the pride and image of the church, which had been badly damaged. Sunday morning services averaged about 75 people, which was standing room only, and a new space had to be found. After an extensive search, a space on the northeast corner of Park Avenue and Lake Street was located. The first service was held there on Palm Sunday, 1983. Attendance continued to grow and consistently surpassed 100 people each Sunday. Outreach groups were started in Fargo/Morehead, St. Cloud, and Duluth/Superior. These groups each lasted less than three years with many of their members eventually moving to the Twin Cities. The Deacon program expanded with Linda Larson beginning her training. Peter Helt became Student Clergy during this time as well.
The congregation decided not to renew the contract with Rev. Birchard when it expired in the fall of 1985. A Pulpit Search committee was formed and the Rev. Arlene Ackerman was called to be our pastor from Bakersfield, California. She began in October. Rev. Ackerman was a very dynamic preacher and motivator. Soon attendance increased to the point where the sanctuary was so full that people had to listen to service over a PA system installed in the basement. We just could not fit more than 150 people in that building for worship. The church needed to move again.
We heard that the Peace Bible Church (an off-shoot of the Jesus People Church) might be on the market. We contacted the Christian Scientists (who held the mortgage) to find out that they had already started cancellation proceedings. We made an offer on the property located at Park Avenue and 31st Street. Since we had not renewed our lease on our present space, we had 5 days to move. On Sunday, August 24, 1986, we started our service in the old space and received permission for a police escort down the block to our present location. The police never showed up for the march so some of our church members simply stopped traffic on Park Avenue and Lake Street. We had a record-breaking 175 people in church that morning and set record attendance every Sunday for six months, until we were averaging 300 to 350 per Sunday. The annual budget rose to over $200,000 and we received awards for two consecutive General Conferences as the fastest growing church in the denomination. Membership in the church increased from 125 to 375 within two years.
In the summer of 1989 we hosted the General Conference of Metropolitan Community Churches at the Radisson Hotel in downtown St. Paul. At that conference, the Board of Directors hired the Rev. Ken Caton from San Diego, California as our Assistant Pastor. Peter Helt was licensed as clergy and moved to accept the pastorate at MCC Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.
Although things went well for the congregation for several years, a growing dispute finally resulted in a sizeable number of people leaving the church in 1991. This group formed a new church, which eventually became Spirit of the Lakes and became part of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Ackerman resigned in May 1991 and eventually became the District Coordinator for the Mid Atlantic District and later an Elder in the denomination. Rev. Caton left to accept the pulpit of MCC Las Vegas, Nevada. Two student clergy were licensed during this time and became MCC pastors, the Rev. Nancy Horvath-Zurn, and the Rev. Lee Campbell.
In 1991, the Rev. Charles Larsen was called back to the full-time ministry from his job as a social worker in San Francisco. He had previously served MCC congregations in San Francisco, Houston, and Atlanta. He resigned in September 1993 and remains an active member of the congregation.
The church went through another transition time until September of 1994 when it called the Rev. Paul Graetz to be it's pastor. Rev. Graetz was a former Assemblies of God pastor who had been a member of the congregation for a while before accepting the call to once again become a pastor. During his pastorate the church flourished. Student clergy Susan Phillips and David Regnauld were licensed to become MCC pastors from the church. The staff expanded with the hiring of Paul David Stanko as Minister of Music.
Rev. Graetz accepted a call to become pastor of 1st MCC in Atlanta, Georgia and resigned in August, 2000.
The congregation called the Rev. Glenna Shepherd to be its Interim Pastor in October 2000. In April 2001 it was decided to call Rev. Shepherd as the permanent pastor. Unfortunately, because of an issue from a previous congregation, she was unable to accept the call of the congregation, which once again found itself searching for direction. Rev. Shepherd was later completely exonerated of all charges and would go on to become an Elder in the denomination.
During this time the church hired consultant Wendy Foxworth to do a comprehensive assessment of the church and it's ministries. From this assessment the church leadership developed a plan to put in place the structures and policies that would support the church through its next stages of growth and development. During this interim time, various speakers from other MCC churches as well as local congregations were invited to fill the pulpit while the congregation developed its mission and vision statements in preparation to call a permanent pastor. The Rev. Paul Tucker from Cathedral of Hope MCC in Dallas was asked to be the Interim Pastor and lead the congregation through this transition period. He arrived in the Twin Cities in October 2001. In June of 2002 the congregation voted to call Rev. Tucker as their permanent Senior Pastor. He was installed in August of that year. This was the year the parking lot was completed adjacent to the church building. The church entered into a Strategic Planning process for the next two years to develop a vision/mission/core values/goals statement. This document would be used to guide the church for five years.
In 2004 the issue of same-sex marriage made national news. AGC was at the forefront in the struggle in the Twin Cities. A "Renewal of Vows" was held at worship in February 2004 that was extensively covered by all four major television stations. Sixty-five couples renewed their vows as a statement of the commitment of GLBT people to our relationships. Rev. Eknes-Tucker (he had married his partner Bill Eknes at a service at MCC Toronto where marriage had been made legal for same-sex couples) served as the Co-Chair of the Minnesota HIV Services Planning Council for six years. He was also selected to be a community chaplain for the Minneapolis Police Department.
In 2005 an amendment to the Minnesota constitution was being considered by the Minnesota legislature. This amendment would have made all legal relationships between same-sex couples null, including domestic partnerships and civil unions. The bill was stalled in the Senate and did not become law. All God's Children was a key player in raising the consciousness of the state and the legislators to not add this mean-spirited legislation to our constitution.
In 2005 the church had grown to the point where the pastoral staff needed to expand. Through the strategic plan process the congregation had determined that Christian Education and calling a female pastor were priorities. A pastoral search team was selected and found Rev. Robyn Murphy in St. Louis, MO. Rev. Murphy joined our staff in November as the Pastor of Christian Education. She and Rev. Eknes-Tucker developed a pastoral leadership model that shared the pastoral responsibilities of the congregation. This model proved so successful that in 2006 Rev. Murphy (who by this time had married her partner Kathy at a service in MCC Toronto and changed her name to Robyn Provis) and Rev. Eknes-Tucker made the model permanent. Rev. Provis was instrumental in developing the All God's Children Institute which provided an extensive curriculum of education in a wide array of choices.
2007 brought an important outreach initiative called "Would Jesus Discriminate?" This initiative was part of a national strategy understaken by MCC nationally in conjunction with the national organization "Faith In Action." All God's Children developed the local plan including opportunities for dialogue with other faith communities and events to raise the consciousness of the larger Twin Cities community to the issues of GLBT people.
In April of 2007 Rev. Provis accepted a call to become Interim Senior Pastor at MCC Austin at Freedom Oaks in Austin, Texas. The congregation blessed Rev. Provis in her new ministry and wished her our best.
2007 was the year the congregation stepped out in faith to raise substantial resources to fund the church. Through a capital appeal campaign called "Blessed and Blessing Others" the church set a goal of raising $500,000. This money would be used to replace the heating and ventilation system in the sanctuary and Ackerman Hall, retire the mortgage on the church property and fund the "Would Jesus Discriminate?" campaign. This was the largest fund-raising effort in the church's history and marked a pivotal moment in our growth as a faith community.
In 2008 we welcomed Rev. Robyn Provis back to All God's Children when her time in Austin was completed. We opened the nursery staffed with trained and screened volunteers each Sunday morning. Creating a Life that Matters (CLM) held their largest class and new support ministries for women, men and the transgendered were begun.
2009 was designated as "The Year of the Child" at All God's Children. We strengthened our Children's Ministry and continue to reach out to all of God's children using our voice for justice, peace and equality.
2010 began a year of assessing our structures, staffing and resources to offer the kinds of programs that a congregation our size should be providing. Following a "Size Summit" hosted by the denomination in Kansas City and then later in Minneapolis, the Board and Pastor proposed a bold new plan to expand our ministries and outreach. We hired our first Director of Outreach, Brian Cihacek, and immediately began expanding our programming and connections with other organizations and congregations to partner in social justice and compassion ministries.