New Life Evangelical Lutheran to celebrate 25 years with art and event

New Life Evangelical Lutheran Church will celebrate its 25th anniversary this weekend. (Mike Munzenrider/Bulletin)
New Life Evangelical Lutheran Church will celebrate its 25th anniversary this weekend. (Mike Munzenrider/Bulletin)
Martin Luther’s Seal is a traditional Lutheran symbol. It was designed for Luther in 1530, and he used it as a means to authorize his writings. Cordes says there are five basic elements to the seal: a black cross that represents sin and death, a red heart that represents faith, a white rose that represents purity and beauty, a blue background that represents the heavens and a gold ring representing eternity. (Artwork courtesy of Jason Jaspersen)
Martin Luther’s Seal is a traditional Lutheran symbol. It was designed for Luther in 1530, and he used it as a means to authorize his writings. Cordes says there are five basic elements to the seal: a black cross that represents sin and death, a red heart that represents faith, a white rose that represents purity and beauty, a blue background that represents the heavens and a gold ring representing eternity. (Artwork courtesy of Jason Jaspersen)

Church serves Shoreview and Vadnais Heights

New Life Evangelical Lutheran Church will celebrate its 25th anniversary this weekend, though the church's roots in the communities of Shoreview and Vadnais Heights go deeper than a quarter-century.

New Life's pastor the Rev. Mark Cordes moved his young family to Shoreview in September of 1986 to begin an exploratory mission in the area.

During the winter of 1986-1987, Cordes says it was "my privilege" to speak to people in the community about their spiritual needs. He remembers "walking the streets of Shoreview and Vadnais Heights — I rang 1,300 doorbells."

New Life held its first service just shy of a year after Cordes arrived on Sept. 13, 1987 — not at its current location at 180 County Road F in Shoreview, but in the gym at Snail Lake Elementary School. Some 200 people showed up for that first service, and the congregation was housed at the school for the following three years.

By 1990, the congregation purchased the land on County Road F and built its first sanctuary; keeping its September streak alive, the first services at its current location were held on Sept. 30 of that year.

For this year's 25th anniversary, Cordes says he and others at New Life commissioned a painting to mark the occasion. Previously, a congregant created a stained glass window for the sanctuary.

Additionally, renovations of the sanctuary last year, including new projectors, pews, sound system and carpet, begged for another addition.

"We were looking for a way to welcome people as they come through the doors, which can be scary for people," says Cordes.

Cordes says he, along with Michael Valleau, a recent church president and member since 1999, searched for an existing painting, but nothing really seemed to be a fit for New Life.

That's when Valleau turned to someone with whom he'd worked in the past: Jason Jaspersen.

Creating a painting

Valleau, the former chair of the board of regents at St. Croix Lutheran High School in West St. Paul, says he had previously commissioned Jaspersen to create a mural at the school, and approached him to create a painting for New Life.

Jaspersen is a painter, print maker, illustrator and sculptor who teaches art at Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School in New Ulm. He says Valleau first approached him in March, 2013 about doing the work and that it was right up his alley. "This is just the kind of commission I love to work on," he says.

By committee, New Life decided to portray Martin Luther's Seal, a traditional Lutheran symbol, in the painting.

Valleau's wife Rebecca suggested it should be customized to reflect the community. "That was really the breakthrough in our design process," Cordes says.

Cordes explains that the seal is significant in part because it reflects much of the congregation's German roots and the culture's use of family seals. Further, the seal represents the church's beliefs.

"Luther's seal was his way to express in graphic terms a way to represent his faith," Cordes says.

The seal is useful in his day-to-day work, Cordes says, as he sometimes uses it to explain The Catechism to children.

Additionally, Valleau says, the painting incorporates elements seen at New Life.

"We wanted [Jaspersen] to combine some of our imagery and the unique art that we have in our church," he says.

Anniversary and after

The anniversary event the evening of Feb. 28 is an opportunity to see the 3x3-foot painting in person, though many tracked its progress on Jaspersen's blog at www.jjaspersen.com.

Valleau says he's excited for people to come see both the painting and New Life's recent renovations, which he says have given a more modern, refreshed look to the sanctuary and church that are so important to him.

"We've just always really appreciated the fellowship and the embrace that we've gotten from New Life and look forward to be there a long time to come," he says, looking towards the future.

Cordes says it's becoming more and more common for pastors to maintain their ministries for extended periods of time.

"If God gives me 10 more years here, wonderful," he says.

Cordes says he is looking five or 10 years into the future with New Life, and says he has, from time to time, been called to work elsewhere, from high schools to Hong Kong.

In the meantime, though, he says he'll continue to approach his work at New Life with one question in mind: "How can we be a blessing to this community?"

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.


If you go...

New Life Evangelical Lutheran Church’s “25 Years of Grace” event and painting unveiling is Saturday, Feb. 28, from 5-7 p.m. There will be complimentary food and refreshments, along with a chance to meet and speak to artist Jason Jaspersen. The church is located at 180 County Rd. F in Shoreview.


 

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