Sunday May 21, 2023 we held a closing liturgy at the campus of St. John’s Lutheran, Oak Cliff, Dallas, TX. This was a day we didn’t want to see but became more and more a reality in the last years. With the Covid-19 pandemic and then the loss of our sister the Rev. Doris Harris, St. John’s community became less able to maintain their facility and also became more aware that they could be together online, without the need of maintaining and aging building.
St. John’s was initially planted in 1949 when Oak Cliff was a largely white, working class neighborhood of Dallas (Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended in a movie theatre in that neighborhood). By the late 1960s changes in economics and white flight led to Oak Cliff becoming a largely African-American neighborhood. St. John’s managed that change and became a majority African-descent congregation. Over the years they were served by many pastors including the Rev. Willard McIver who presided over the Eucharist today.
In the past decades the neighborhood has changed again becoming majority Latinx as the African-American community moved into new suburbs in Cedar Hill and Lancaster. This led to membership loss at St. John’s. The congregation continued to do its work as a witness in the NT-NL Synod, ELCA. Pushing us to recognize the reality of systemic racism and economic privilege in our midst. But with the death of Pastor Harris and Mr. Mederick Rodgers this past year the reality was the community and their leaders understood the ministry was not sustainable to maintain the property. So they made the faithful and difficult decision to release this asset to serve the mission of the church.
St. John’s will continue to live on. The people gather online for fellowship and study. And by releasing this asset they are now going to be able to bless other ministries in our synod and beyond. It was a beautiful worship service. A reminder that the building isn’t the mission. And that we shall overcome. By God’s help. #NTNL #InMissionTogether