Despite the building being lost, the Church in the Maples has been regularly attending congregation at Norwood Young America’s Church of Peace every Sunday. And since October 1, they’ve had a new pastor leading the congregation named Michael Baker.
Baker has been with the Fridley Covenant before as well as Huntly Covenant, and now is a pastor for both Church in the Maples and Arlington’s United Methodist Church.
Baker was appointed to Church in the Maples by the Bishop approached the congregation and recommended him. The congregation approved of the new pastor, and Baker prepared to start his work at Maples.
Of course the biggest challenge for Baker is the fact the physical building burned down, news that spread far in the Methodist community.
“Nearly everyone knows about the fire,” he said. “What I think is important to know is that despite it, the church is still meeting and putting things together.”
Though Baker’s background is an Evangelical Covenant Pastor, part of the reason United Methodist approached him is his experience. He’s particularly skilled at helping churches grow again, and considering the circumstances, seemed like a great option to help Church in the Maples start getting back on its feet.
What he hopes to do over the next couple a years is bring the congregation together in order to help them grow again.
“No one pastor can come in and make the church grow again,” he said. “It’s going to be the whole church itself.”
One plan is to talk over the devastation of losing the church, a building that had just celebrated its 187th birthday just months before it was lost. In discussing the past, the church can move forward, according to Baker. They have the opportunity to look at their past actions as a church and see what worked really well for them in the community, and even what didn’t, according to Baker, especially now that there’s a “new lease on life”. The hope is the re-engage with the community, since it’s difficult to process what to do after such a big change.
For now, the congregation has been meeting at Church of Peace in order to get together, which Baker stated he is very thankful for. The numbers did fall a bit after the fire, according to Baker, so the first step after talking over some of the grief of losing the church is to start getting people back. Understanding what the future looks like is what Baker hopes to do before even starting to put together money to build a new church for the Maples congregation.
So far, though, Baker’s first month has been going well.
“Part of the challenge of coming to new city is meeting with everybody you can,” he said. “I want to know names, get to know people, let them tell their story. It’s been wonderful, and I’ve already met so many.”
He’s not planning any changes for the time being, as he’s still settling into the community. As of now, he plans on learning more about his new community and understanding what they want from him as a pastor. Only once he has a better grasp on the past and what they see in the future will he start making changes if needed.
For those that want to see Baker in action, or visit with Church in the Maples, they still meet every Sunday at 8am at the Church of Peace on Reform Street in NYA. They also meet at The Haven on the first Sunday every month for Communion if anyone wants to join in.