From a piece for the local newspaper
While the pandemic was bringing many churches to a screeching halt, MainStreet Covenant Church was on the move in 2020—to the lake! MainStreet has moved their ministry to the shores of Lake Minnetonka at St. Martins By the Lake Church in Minnetonka Beach after 7 years in their storefront location in Mound. “St. Martin’s has been the most gracious of hosts during these tumultuous past months,” remarks Rev. Jeremy Berg, lead pastor of MainStreet. “They are aware of the beautiful building and grounds God has entrusted them with, and they are happy to see even more ministry within their walls.”
The geographical move is accompanied by a shift in ministry model, as MainStreet tries to meet a changing religious landscape with creativity and innovation. “People today are more spiritual than ever, but less likely to attend worship services regularly,” Berg notes. “Our aim is to become a hub for spiritual growth and healing resources, providing more targeted classes and seminars to meet the real needs of our members and the broader community.” For instance, MainStreet brought on a Christian therapist to offer spiritual direction and counseling services; monthly Soul Care Seminars feature experts on the inner life; and MainStreet has multiple certified Christian yoga teachers offering classes multiple times a week.
Pastor Berg is especially concerned with finding new ways to engage people who don’t show up for Sunday worship. Berg’s new Daily Illumination podcast brings on-the-go spiritual encouragement to people while they walk their dog, drive to work, or jog down the trail. The pandemic also coincided nicely with Berg’s own doctoral dissertation he was finishing up when Covid struck. “My thesis warns against the shortcomings of impersonal, virtual modes of teaching and ministry,” says Berg, “and emphasizes the importance of the personal relationship between pastor and parishioner in education and formation.”
When most churches were moving their services onto Zoom during lock-down, Pastor Berg reached for pen and paper and spent a year writing personal pastoral letters to individuals in his church as part of his thesis project. “I call them ‘soul-to-soul sermons’ wherein I try to speak personally to the specific needs and life circumstances of my flock.”
On Friday afternoons you could find the good shepherd driving around town, mailbox to mailbox, delivering ancient-looking wax-sealed parchment envelops to his people filled with “good news” for pandemic-weary souls. In a fun twist of fate, Berg took a newspaper route 10 years ago when he and his wife, Kjerstin, were just beginning to plant the church. “In those lonely hours while the town slept,” he recalls, “I drove house to house praying over neighborhoods as I delivered the Star Tribune—hoping and trusting God would gather some of them into the church. And He did!”
Recipients of Pastor Jeremy’s letters have voiced unanimous appreciation for this more personalized mode of ministry. “I read them over and over, to help remind me that I am not alone,” said one parishioner during the early months of the pandemic. Another admitted, “While I love a Sunday sermon, I felt these letters so much more deeply in my heart.” Berg’s pastoral letters from 2020 fill up a 300+ page book that helped him earn his doctorate degree this June. These letters are, in his own words, “Some of the most enjoyable hours of ministry I’ve spent these past 10 years at MainStreet.”
While MainStreet explores new ministry pathways in a post-pandemic world, it is still embracing the timeless rituals of worship and the sacraments, Bible classes and Kids ministry, fellowship and service to others. MainStreet is joining with St. Martin’s for a Sunday of service to the community later this summer. “We’ve moved locations, but we are unmoved in our commitment to being a community of intentional discipleship and formation, loving God and loving others in Jesus’ name,” says Berg.
Sharing the historic 1888 chapel with St. Martin’s has meant moving MainStreet’s Sunday gatherings to 5PM. As more people get vaccinated, MainStreet is excited to finally invite the community to come out to the lake and visit them in their new place. This summer’s services have a vintage “Old Time Summer Camp” feel featuring campy songs and fun for the family.
“In these days when people are bombarded with impersonal information and a dizzying array of perspectives from online news sources,” says Berg, “MainStreet wants to be a place where people find personalized, Biblically grounded spiritual guidance in the company of loving and trustworthy friends.” This Fall will mark MainStreet’s 10th Anniversary since starting public services. More at www.mainstreetcov.org and explore Jeremy’s Daily Illumination writings and podcast at http://www.jeremyberg.org.