A brief history of Calvary Lutheran Church

Calvary Lutheran Church grew out of a Sunday School in South Minneapolis, which had been started in 1911 by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church with additional support by Augustana Lutheran Church.

The congregation was founded in 1923 to provide English services to the primarily Scandinavian immigrant population.  The congregation was originally part of the Augustana Synod Lutheran (later Lutheran Church in America).  Pastor Clarence O. Granlund was called to serve as the first pastor (serving from 1923-1945).  The present sanctuary was constructed in 1930, a bold act of faith as the contracts were signed the same month as the 1929 stock market crash.  The education building was added to the facility in 1955.

As the neighborhood became more diverse in the 1960s and 1970s, Calvary responded, becoming a congregation known for welcoming couples and families of different races and backgrounds, and including the gifts of all in worship and leadership.  Seeking to meet the changing needs of our neighbors, an emergency food shelf and, in cooperation with Hospitality House Boys and Girls Clubs, an evening tutoring program were begun. 

In the late 1980s to mid-1990s the congregation entered into a difficult time and wrestled with finances and there was a rapid turn-over in pastoral staff.  There were significant questions of next steps.  With the arrival of co-pastors, the Revs. Thomas and Rebecca von Fischer, in 1995 the congregation began to re-envision its mission and find a renewed spirit in South Minneapolis.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s the congregation began significant work in deciding that its commitment was to be outwardly focused and engaged in the world.  Through several significant bequests Calvary began to develop new programs.  Additionally, the congregation felt moved to proclaim greater inclusivity, becoming a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation that welcomed and affirmed inclusivity of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and their families.

The congregation also remodeled and refurbished the church facility in order to meet the needs of the community and neighborhood.  This included elevator access to welcome people with additional accessibility needs; and the renewing of the worship space.

Today, Calvary continues to serve the changing neighborhood and is doing much within the community.  The church building houses:  the Urban Arts Academy (founded by Calvary), The Twin Cities Women’s Choir, The Twin Cities Girls’ Choir, BeechWood Inc., The Metropolitan Pipeband.

In November of 2009 the congregation called Pastor Brad Froslee to serve as the next pastor.  This has prompted work with visioning and planning for the congregation well into the future.

In December 2016 Pastor Brad accepted a call to Saint Michael Lutheran Church in Roseville, MN.

Pastor Bruce Arnevik began his call as Interim Pastor at Calvary on January 3, 2017.

Pastor Galen Hora began his call as Interim Pastor at Calvary on January 23, 2018.

Pastor Hans Lee was called by the congregation to be its pastor, and began his work in this community on April 16, 2018.

The congregation is committed to vibrant and faithful worship, nurturing relationship, and work in outreach and justice.

What's New at Calvary

Calvary - through its Race & Equity Steering Committee - is coordinating film gatherings this summer. The events combine fun, food, and post-film discussions (especially from a race and equity perspective).Suggested donation of $5 per person, $8 per family. Everyone is welcome regardless of ability to pay!

Calvary invites and would enjoy having individuals and families connected to UAA and Masons/Eastern Stars join us:

  • Saturday, July 21, 5:30PM - Black Panther: In July, we plan on showing this winter’s recent blockbuster (parental advisory – rated PG-13). Again, all ages are welcome, with our hope that adolescents and young adults will particularly enjoy this one. The film has already received numerous accolades, including due to its willingness to focus on themes of race and identity. How do you see these themes in the film? Are they done well? What—if anything—more or different would you suggest?


The Calvary Emergency Food Shelf is available for area residents each Saturday from 9:00 - noon. There are eligibility requirements. Click on the "Food Shelf" link in the "Outreach" tab above, or call the church office at 612-827-2504 for more information.