By: Nina Winkler (NWSP Intern)
Redeemer Lutheran is an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America-affiliated congregation located in the heart of the Avenues West neighborhood. Under the guidance of Pastor Lisa, the church’s mission is “to show and tell the love of God” using the values of “sharing, caring and keeping it real.” The church offers interested individuals the opportunity to join the congregation four times, annually. Pastor Lisa stated that those who officially join their congregation often are already invested in the church and have participated in previous events and services.
This Near West Side church community offers a variety of services to both residents and members. A food pantry is hosted each Thursday from 11:30-12:30 and is available for those in the neighborhood who are in need of food assistance. A virtual Bible study takes place over zoom each Wednesday- the zoom link for those interested is posted on Redeemer’s website (https://www.redeemermilwaukee.org). During the Lenten season, a Taize service is available from 5-6pm on each Wednesday during the forty days, with healthy snacks in the narthex. Regular worship sessions take place in person, or can be streamed on life on YouTube, or after each Sunday at 10:00 A.M. After each regular Sunday worship, a lunch meal is offered at noon.
Currently, Redeemer is in the midst of a capital campaign, in hopes of raising funds for building restoration and renovation. Redeemer Lutheran, under Pastor Lisa’s coordination, recently temporarily housed displaced Milwaukee community members. After hearing word from the local American Red Cross that up to thirty Near West Side residents were put out of their apartments due to a fire, the church offered up their facility, and community, to be a host for these families. The church building is not intended for overnight residence, but the church recognized that when there is a need, there is a way. Fourteen community members stayed in the auditorium until local organizations were able to locate accessible and affordable housing. This brought light to the increasing need for a better-suited building. Pastor Lisa noted that they would like to be able to continue to help the community and offer shelter as needed, but the building is in need of a transformation to do so. Those interested in helping Redeemer Lutheran’s renovation can check out the website for more about the fundraising efforts.
When asked about the effects of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Pastor Lisa stated that her congregation never paused. While ordinances and need for safety prevented in person worship services from happening, the church community was quick to adjust. Her church continued to worship from home, virtually, until lowering case numbers allowed the reintroduction of in person services. Currently, Redeemer offers free on-site Covid testing by appointment only: https://drlisaadams-qualls.com.
Redeemer Lutheran’s community was comfortable with wearing masks and being vaccinated and boosted, something that Pastor Lisa said came from their profound commitment to loving others and following the advice of health professionals. The church community was aware of the hardships that COVID-19 placed onto small Near West Side businesses, and wanted to help in a sweet way. A partnership between A Goodman’s Desserts and Redeemer was created to support a small and local business; the congregation provided Alan Goodman’s bakery two months of rent and installed a working relationship to provide refreshments for after worship gatherings. More about this effort can be read here https://www.carvdnstone.com/cns-news/a-goodmans-desserts-received-two-months-free-rent-and-resources-from-new-partnership-with-redeemer-lutheran-church
The woman behind it all, Pastor Lisa, began her professional career as a professor of communication at Mt. Mary College, but could not avoid the calling from God to ordained ministry. In 2011, she became ordained and began serving Redeemer. Since becoming pastor, Lisa has worked to create a strong, God-serving community in the Near West Side. One of her additions, a bee hive, was installed on the church’s roof. Wax from the hives is collected and dipped into 7 candles on each Ash Wednesday; the homemade candles are used in later services. This buzzing tradition is one of the many unique to this congregation that focuses on community building and congregation engagement. One of Pastor Lisa’s favorite traditions takes place on Easter morning, when previously made, and locked away, scrolls with Easter celebrational phrases on them are marched in a parade procession by the congregation’s children.
The vision and future of Redeemer Lutheran is strong and unwavering under their dynamic community. In recent years, Pastor Lisa noted that her congregation has increased in diversity- personifying their dedication to loving all of God’s people. The church hopes to revitalize their daily noon run meal and offer the healthiest lunch bite for anyone in the neighborhood. A mental health assessment clinic that will serve the needs of the neighborhood is currently in the works; the facility will be within the site and allow intake for those who seek connection to mental health resources.
Those that are interested in joining this loving, dynamic congregation should start on the website, or contact the church directly at 414-933-7004. As Pastor Lisa said herself, this community has incredible energy and offers something unique in our sacred Near West Side.