From the outside, Central Lutheran looks like a pretty traditional church building with a blend of the usual Gothic features. But the appearance is deceiving; inside is a 20th century building with a steel frame that allows the wide-open vaulted space you can see above.
Inside, the church uses that space in a variety of ways, with smaller and larger settings available, and movable furniture as well as areas of fixed-in-place traditional pews.
Which is not to say it's one of those churches that doesn't really look like a church; it has all the usual accoutrements, including its altar space and organ.
The mix of older and newer forms would seem to indicate a church that is not rigid in its view of itself, and there's a history to support that. The church was formed in 1919, just at the end of the First World War, on the premise that it would have an important role in an uneasy period.
Its foundation marked a key shift for Minnesota Lutherans; up to that point, most of the area's Lutheran churches were Norwegian-speaking, and followed services adapted from the Church of Norway. The founders felt a need to change that, to adapt 'American' ways and the English language. The church grew quickly, and was soon able to start building.
It was also one of the earliest mainline churches to turn to modern methods of outreach; its first radio broadcast was in 1922. It's also been a pioneer in outreach to other denominations, including holding joint celebrations with local Catholics. In 1957, the Lutheran World Federation held its International Assembly at Central.
With all its activities and a congregation of thousands, Central outgrew the office space that originally stood next to the church. A few years ago, it was torn down, and the church wrapped new space around the back and side of the church, opening up office space and space for more activities. Entrance into the main sanctuary is now through the new lobby.
Even the parking lot gates that came with the new addition got some real artistic attention. Below, in the lobby, Resurrection by the Minnesota sculptor Paul Granlund; at bottom, an arrangement in a corner of the sanctuary.
And, outside on the plaza, a used clothing sale. Although the area around the church has changed from residential over the years—its neighbors are now the Convention Center, highways and offices—it is still active in community work.