Your First Visit to Minnehaha UMC
Minnehaha United Methodist Church is located at the corner of 37th Avenue South and 50th Street in South Minneapolis. It’s a big brick building with a steeple. You can’t miss it. You can locate it on a Google map right here.
When you arrive, the first thing you’ll notice is there’s no church parking lot. None. If you’re on foot, no problem. If you’re driving, you’ll need to find street parking. At least it’s free and our neighbors are very nice.
Get to the Front Doors
The church entrance is on 37th Avenue. You can get to the front doors via a ramp or stairs. Both work perfectly well. Once you reach the doors, though, watch out. On Sunday mornings there’s usually a greeter at the door. Be pleasant. Smile. Shake his or her hand. Say, “How about that weather?” That’s a sign you’re from Minnesota.
Enter the Narthex, Turn Left
Okay, you’re inside. Feel free to take a few deep breaths. You’re almost there. At this point you’re standing in an area called the Narthex. Nobody knows exactly why it’s called the Narthex, but that’s neither here nor there. You just have to get into the Sanctuary for the church service. It’s a quick left turn.
Minnehaha UMC holds an ecumenical Taizé service of music and meditation on the second Friday of each month at 7:00 p.m. Singing, scripture, meditation and silence allow an encounter with the mystery of God through the beauty of simplicity. Join us October through May.
The Danger Zone
Unfortunately, you’re now in what we call the Danger Zone. It’s the place where someone (usually a smiling someone) will ask you to wear a nametag. I know, I know. You want to fly under the radar. I get it. But here’s the deal: even people who have been members their entire lives wear them. Why? So they can easily spot visitors who aren’t wearing nametags! (Clever, huh?) So just nod your head, pat your pockets and mumble something like “left mine at home.” You don’t even have to use your real name.
Prepare for the Usher
It's not over. You still need to be alert. You see, there’s just one entrance to the Sanctuary, which means you’ll have to pass through another hurdle…ushers. There are usually two of them, one on either side of the doorway. They'll both try to give you a bulletin. But remember this: always take the bulletin from the usher on the left. Trust me.
Find a Place to Sit
Okay, now you need to find a place to sit. Not too close. Toward the back so you can get out fast. Don't stop or pause, just pick a spot and slide into the pew as though you've done it a million times. You’ll notice that the seats have cushions for your comfort. Not bad, huh?
Read the Bulletin
Now it’s time to relax and look through the bulletin. This has the names of the minister, music directors, and more. It also tells you what’s going to happen during the service: Prelude, Welcome, Announcements, Music, Scripture, Sermon, Prayer, Offering, More Music, and Postlude. There’s probably a responsive reading at some point, too. Whatever you do, don’t lose the bulletin. It’s your lifeline.
Look for Three Books
After you check out the bulletin, look in front of you. You should see three different books. The red one is the hymnal, which includes traditional songs like “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” “We Three Kings” and “Amazing Grace.” The blue book is the Bible. The third book, a black paperback, contains modern songs that nobody really knows. During the service if there’s a song from that book, just mouth the words and bob your head. That’s what everybody else does.
Bring Your Kids
If you brought children with you, that’s good news. There are lots of children at Minnehaha. The church encourages you to bring your kids into the church service. There’s also childcare, if you’d prefer. (Just ask somebody for directions.) And Sunday School is between services. If your child cries during the church service, no big deal. It happens all the time. Kids make noise. Everybody knows that. (And if you need a quiet place to nurse, ask one of those ushers to direct you to the chapel. It's small, private and it even has sound from the worship service piped in.)
Listen to the Sermon
During the service the minister will ask you to write your name on what’s called “the Welcome pad.” Nod knowingly like you’ve done it a million times. And be sure to include your email address and GPS coordinates. (In case you get lost.) Later on the minister will stand up and talk about something. Amazingly, the topic changes every Sunday. There’s usually some message that goes along with that, too. Some of the sermons are actually interesting, so you may want to pay attention. Otherwise, just smile and nod.
Pass on the Plate
There’s always an offering, too. But since it’s your first time at Minnehaha, you’re exempt. As the offering plate comes by you can look at the people on either side of you and mouth the words, “First time.” They’ll understand. Of course, the church could use your spare change. It usually goes to an important cause like the neighborhood food shelf, a homeless shelter, or a camp for disadvantaged children. Okay, empty your pockets and purse or wallet. And your car keys. Just put it all in there. You’ll feel better.
Shake Hands with the Minister
When the service is over, the minister will position herself outside the Sanctuary doors to greet everyone. Long-time members use some sneaky tricks to get past the minister, but these are far too complex to describe here. So you’ll need to get in line and shake her hand. Relax. It’s almost painless. She'll say something to you, so be prepared. Mention that you enjoyed the service...then wait for the look of disbelief.
After that, you can get coffee and cookies and visit with others, many of whom are surprisingly nice. Or you can breathe a sigh of relief and make your escape through the main doors. You made it! You survived Minnehaha! Now you just have to locate your car. Oh… and don’t forget your kids if you dropped them off at childcare.
Important Note: During the summer, everything is different. Service times are different. One service is inside the church and the second is outside. There’s no Sunday School. It’s usually warmer, too. Just go with the flow.