I'm a fan of alliteration as well as a fan of exploring new cities. In early July, I had the opportunity to visit Minneapolis for a couple of days with my colleague Alesia Frerichs, the Vice President of Member Engagement for our network. Our trip was in anticipation of next year's LSA Annual Conference, and we had the fortune to meet with some of our members and partners as we prepare for a great event.
There are many reasons why Minneapolis was chosen to host our national network's largest annual gathering, including the wonderful representation in the area, state and surrounding areas of the Lutheran community. Minnesota is a Lutheran social ministry stronghold, with no less than 31 LSA members represented (10% of our entire network) and 24% of residents identifying themselves as of the Lutheran faith. There is also, not surprisingly, an incredible culture of philanthropy in the region. It feels like the sense of serving one's neighbors is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the community, and the presence of nonprofits and philanthropic giving is evident … one of the interesting ways this is manifested is through innovations in the nonprofit sector and interesting community partnerships.
Many of our LSA members, including Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Fairview Hospital Systems, Ecumen, Our Savior's Community Ministries and Crestview Senior Communities and more are engaged in unique and thought-provoking programs with government, private, educational or other non-profit entities, and we will be bringing many of these case studies and examples to bear for the Annual Conference, as well as tapping local corporate and civic leaders to speak to what has worked for their region, that we can look to scale and replicate across the national Lutheran social ministry network.
We're also blessed with wonderful partners in the immediate area, including Thrivent, Portico Benefits Services and InFaith Foundation, to name just a few – and they are also involved with helping bring a robust program and agenda to bear for the benefit of all our members and attendees.
Inasmuch as I knew of the dynamic Lutheran and social ministry community in the area, there were also some fun surprises for me on my short trip to Minneapolis:
- I felt regret – that this was my first time visiting this charming city.
- The weather was marvelous – sunny, warm and low humidity, with glorious blue skies. It seemed like the entire metro Twin Cities population was out and about, biking, jogging, walking their dogs and simply enjoying the summer. It was easy to see first-hand what a pleasant, livable city it is, and why so many people (and businesses) choose to make their home in Minneapolis.
- Sheer diversity – the area has one of the largest Hmong populations outside of Southeast Asia, and a thriving Somali community. There are amazing markets, restaurants and community organizations that serve and are served by the wonderfully diverse residents of the city.
- Walleye – the fish. I wasn't sure if I'd like this lake fish which you'll find on many menus, but it was tasty! The area also apparently has a very active craft beer scene, if you are so inclined to wash down your meal with a local brew.
- The Lutheran art collection – I had heard that Thrivent had a nice collection of Lutheran art and artifacts, but I was blown away to learn about the size and scope of the collection and the lovely (and free) gallery that is open to the public and features changing exhibitions to display a portion of the collection at a time. http://www.lutheransonline.com/lutheransonline/art
As we plan for the conference, there are certain things we look for in a host city for a conference:
- Proximity to the airport – the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is only about 15 minutes to downtown and the conference hotel (Hilton Minneapolis) – easy to reach by car, shuttle or taxi, and there is also a very budget-friendly light-rail option as well.
- Attractions and amenities near the conference hotel – the Hilton Minneapolis is in a terrific location adjacent to the Convention Center, the ballpark, theater row and the Nicollet Mall area. There is an abundance of shops, restaurants and attractions within walking distance. (Even the Mary Tyler Moore statue is nearby, for television buffs.)
- Worship opportunities – there are numerous churches in and around the conference location, and strong and thriving congregations. Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church in southwest Minneapolis is reported to be the world's largest Lutheran congregation, with 13,000 members!
- Presence and support of LSA members in the area – off the charts!
I encourage you to watch the video message from LSS of Minnesota's CEO Jodi Harpstead's on the "Top 10 reasons to come to the LSA Annual Conference in Minneapolis," which was recorded this past April during the 2015 conference.
Save the date for the LSA Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Minn.: April 25-28, 2016!
- Learn more about the conference – http://lutheranservices.org/AnnualConference2016
- Top 10 Reasons to Attend the LSA Annual Conference in Minneapolis video – https://youtu.be/HZfLT5AQ56s
- Additional reading: "The Miracle of Minneapolis," The Atlantic magazine - http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/the-miracle-of-minneapolis/384975/