Space to Imagine

By: Kelsey Schuster

Have you ever been to a church on a Thursday night? The big beautiful space feels solemn and lonely without the clatter and energy of Sunday morning.

If you were to walk into St. Paul’s on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis on a Thursday, however, you would find something completely different. Maybe you would hear the clash of swords, and hear excited voices shouting more thee’s and thou’s than you might expect to hear.

All this noise and life, well, it traces its roots back to and experience that the Rev. Marcus Halley, the new Rector at St. Paul’s, had in Kansas.

He was working in Kansas at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Folks at the church began to wake up to the fact that they had this great building that they were spending money to maintain, that was empty most of the week. They began to wonder together what God might be calling them to do with the gift of their space, and started to wonder how they could partner with others to make sure that it was used.

Meanwhile, down the street, the United Church of Christ was making changes to its building use policies that made it more difficult for outside organizations to come in to use their space.

This left one of the longtime partners of United, Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, without a space for their summer programming. The festival brought in over 200 kids for programming over a six-week period. So, the festival organizers approached St. Andrew’s, and were surprised to learn that they could use the space for free.

The festival organizers wanted to give something back to the church, so, they offered what they felt they could best, a series of classes for parishioners about Shakespeare and the church, and the connection between drama and liturgy.

This truly two-way, mutually beneficial partnership was an inspiration to Halley, and cast a vision for him that he was excited to see lived out at his new church in Minneapolis.

When Halley was approached by the Classical Actors Ensemble - an acting troupe that puts on plays outdoors during the summer months - to use St. Paul’s as a venue for rehearsals during the week, he jumped at the chance.

For him, it wasn’t about earning extra revenue for the church, but rather about a way for St. Paul’s to connect with the passion of their neighborhood for drama, and a way to fill St. Paul’s with even more life and energy.

As Halley put it, “imagination is more important than money - getting people to imagine what church can be, what relationships we can build, where we can lean into who we are and where we are, that goes a lot further than a few hundred dollars in the budget every month.”

What’s next for this partnership? Well, Halley has a dream about the Classical Actors Ensemble offering a workshop to parishioners on adding passion and a bit more drama to their reading of the liturgy. But who knows. The door is open, and the partnership is ready to blossom.

Want to learn more about the Classical Actors Ensemble? Catch them in the Twin Cities this summer. To learn more, click here. http://www.classicalactorsensemble.org/