The Minneapolis congregation celebrates his 24 years of innovative ministry at one of the PC(USA)’s largest churches
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — For the final time on Sunday, the Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Andersen took to the pulpit at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis, a church he has served as senior pastor and head of staff since 1999.
“When I began thinking about the date for my final sermon at Westminster, which is today, it didn’t take me long to settle on Reformation Sunday,” Hart-Andersen told people in the packed sanctuary. “That may be an obscure date for most of you, but for me, I’ve always appreciated this annual chance to look back at where we’ve been, help us understand where we are, and think about where we might be headed. We are the church, and the church has been around a long time.”
Watch Sunday’s worship service and a farewell celebration that followed here.
In April, Hart-Andersen announced to the congregation he’d be retiring Oct. 31. As senior pastor and head of staff of one of the nation’s largest PC(USA) churches, Hart-Andersen has preached regularly, led the work of the staff and provided strategic leadership as the congregation thought creatively about the future. He’s also served as moderator of the Westminster Town Hall Forum, an organization launched by the church in 1980 to invite guest speakers to engage the public in reflection and dialogue on the key issues of the day from an ethical perspective.
Under Hart-Andersen’s leadership, in 2012 Westminster purchased the property next to the church and expanded the 19th century building with a new wing that opens onto Nicollet in downtown Minneapolis. The facility is a model of environmental sustainability.
The congregation is currently in the middle of a $30 million Enduring Hope campaign in which Westminster is investing $11 million in affordable housing in Minneapolis and in programs shared with partners to further racial and social justice and leadership development in the local community and beyond.
Hart-Andersen is a founding board member of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians and one of the initiators of the NEXT Church movement. He chairs the board at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, and is a board member at his alma mater, McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
‘Those on the leading edge of change have often been animated by returning to the Bible’ — The Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Andersen
During his sermon on Sunday, Hart-Andersen recalled a trip to Cuba he and others at Westminster took more than 20 years ago. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s economy had been in a freefall for about a decade. Walking through the ramshackle camp where the group was staying, Hart-Andersen spotted a hand-lettered sign tacked to a tree, reminding him of the way Martin Luther had nailed his 95 theses at Wittenberg nearly five centuries earlier: “There will be better times,” the sign stated, “but this is our time.”
“It was only one sentence,” Hart-Andersen said. “But like Luther’s theses, those words signaled a recognition of hard times and a willingness to face them squarely, trusting in God to bring needed change eventually.”
There was “nothing sudden about the Reformation,” he said. Reformers including Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe and Jan Hus all planted seeds “that would bloom at the time of the Reformation. Their heresies are now at the heart of Catholic theology,” including caring for the poor and making the Bible available in languages spoken by the masses.
“Those on the leading edge of change have often been animated by returning to the Bible,” Hart-Andersen said. “That was the genius of the Protestant reformers. They wanted to arrive at a more focused, simple core of what it means to be the people of God. … They wanted to rebuild the faith from the ground up.”
The world today “is similarly roiled and roiling,” Hart-Andersen said, this time by “vast inequality, international conflicts, powerful new technologies, competing political values, global economic systems, massive migration, climate change, cultural hostilities and religious struggles. Like other times in history, this is the kind of context — right now — in which the church will have to adapt in order to sustain its life and continue its witness.”
“’There will be better times, but this is our time,’” Hart-Andersen said, recalling that hand-lettered sign. “Westminster, this is your time. You are the church. Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God! Amen.”
“Thank you for the laughter,” she told Hart-Andersen, taking his hand before praying for him. “The Bible says a merry heart does good like medicine. You have been our medicine, Tim, when we needed an injection of hope. When we needed an injection of tears, you cried with us. … You promised you would walk with us, and you have.”
Galloway gathered the pastoral staff at Westminster to lay hands on Hart-Andersen, then asked God to bless him in retirement. “May he rest and be restored,” Galloway said. “We praise you for your faithfulness,” she told the Almighty, “and for his servanthood. Amen and amen. Now go in peace.”
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