By Peter Wagner
When I began attending the University Lutheran Chapel in 2010 as a University of Minnesota freshman, I not only found a congregation which became my on-campus family, but a solid Christ-centered foundation in the midst of the large public university. It was a great encouragement to meet other confessional Lutheran students, and I was pleased to see students, families, young adults, teens, and older members of the congregation all united together in Word and Sacrament. When our chapel building was senselessly sold and demolished in August 2012, I was one of many students who stayed, knowing that without a strong student presence we could not make a case to raise support for rebuilding the chapel. Now, three years later, we are back on campus with the Luther House, where students and recent graduates are living and growing together, and the Word is being faithfully preached in weekly Bible studies and prayer services. It is an island of wholesome faith in an ocean of secularism. However, as wonderful as it is, a social place like Luther House is no substitute for a church building. A house blends in with all the other houses on the block, but a church stands as a bold witness of faith, proclaiming that here the Gospel is still preached and the Sacrament is still administered, in spite of the raging foes of secularism and unbelief all around.
The on-campus location of the proposed new University Lutheran Chapel is crucial to reach out to university students, who are often reluctant to travel to our current rented worship space at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul. Construction of the chapel is projected to cost $2.1 million. As of November 30, 2015 the Build it Back fund had reached $422k, plus an additional $420k earmarked from various ULC funds. Furthermore, we are in a healthy position to service a planned $400k loan from the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, which brings the total currently available construction funding to $1.24 million. The remaining $858 thousand must be covered in gifts and pledges before beginning construction. While we hope that a portion of this funding will come from continued Minnesota South District financial support, we are still heavily reliant on pledges and gifts to the Build it Back fund.
As recently announced, two generous donors have offered to match a total of $55,000 in donations to the Build it Back fund through the end of December 2015. The full $110,000, if successfully raised, will be a huge step toward breaking ground, perhaps even sooner than originally hoped.
While exhorting the multitudes to leave everything behind and follow Him, Jesus made a practical financial analogy, saying, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” (Luke 14:28-30, NKJV). Nevertheless, we trust that Christ will not allow a project begun in his name to go unfinished, because this place of worship is necessary to reach students by restoring regular preaching and sacramental worship to the campus. Therefore, we pray that God will continue to bless this work so much that we will become like the people of Israel in Exodus, who had to be restrained from bringing freewill offerings for the construction of the tabernacle because the craftsmen already had more than enough.