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Who We Are

Welcome. Let us introduce ourselves. We are St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church and here is a overview of our mission and ministry.

Getting Acquainted with St. Philip the Deacon

St. Philip the Deacon is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America—the largest Lutheran denomination in North America—located in Plymouth, Minnesota, a western suburb of Minneapolis.

The congregation was founded in 1958, and has evolved and grown since that time into a healthy, vibrant and vital congregation of approximately 5,000 members with a rich tradition of exceptional worship and extensive outreach ministries.

St. Philip has a variety of ministries and programs for people of all ages, with a particular emphasis on ensuring that young children and their families are supported so that they can be equipped for lives of meaning and purpose as they grow.

St. Philip the Deacon has also become well-known in our own community and the Twin Cities as a congregation that can be relied on to support individuals, families and communities who are in need.

Mission & Values

A framework for our mission and ministry.

Our Mission

  • Reach out to all God’s people
  • Proclaim God’s word at every opportunity
  • Inspire people to do God’s will

Our Values

Faithful: Anchored in God’s gift of grace, we seek to be partners in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and loyal witnesses of our Lutheran tradition. As we follow the example of Saint Philip the Deacon, we reach out to our neighbors both locally and globally to proclaim the good news of the Gospel and inspire people to do God’s will.

Hospitable: We are a caring, compassionate community that welcomes all. We seek to provide a positive and supportive environment where we joyfully act on our faith to inspire one another.

Generous: Because we recognize the goodness we receive from God, we continuously seek ways to give back and to be Christ to our neighbor. We share our time, talents and treasures to put our faith into action and to ensure that all can share in God’s blessings.

Capable: We seek to anticipate and address the changing needs of our community and the world and to meet these needs in an efficient, decisive manner. With high expectations for excellence, we are leaders of faith development in our community, and mentors to each other as well as the church at large.

Creative: As we look to the future, we challenge one another to continually explore new ways to improve our ministry. We deepen and share our faith through a rich variety of worship, educational, and service opportunities.

Engaging: We provide opportunities for each person to utilize God’s gifts and encourage participation in our mission. Our inviting, warm style is based on being accessible and authentic.  

What We Believe

The content of our Lutheran faith.

What do Lutherans believe about creation?
Lutherans believe that God is Creator of the universe. Its dimensions of space and time are not something God made and then left alone. God is, rather, continually creating, calling into being each moment of each day.

Human beings have a unique position in the order of creation. As males and females we are given the capacity and freedom to know and respond to our Creator. Freedom implies that we can choose either positively or negatively to respond to God. Doubtlessly, this is God’s most generous gift to humankind.

Where do Lutherans stand on the question of sin?
Lutherans believe that all people live in a condition which is the result of misused freedom. “Sin” describes not so much individual acts of wrongdoing as a fractured relationship between the persons of creation and God. Our every attempt to please God falls short of the mark. By the standard of the Law, of which the Ten Commandments are a classic summary, God expresses his just and loving expectations for his creation. And our failure to live up to those expectations reveals only our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus is God’s Son, chosen by God to become human like us. In his life and being he broke through the prison of sinfulness and thus restored the relationship of love and trust that God intended to exist between himself and his children.

The man, Jesus of Nazareth, lived and died in Palestine during the governorship of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate; and we believe him to be the Messiah chosen by God to show his love for the world. He is God, yet with all the limitations of being human. His relationship to God, however, was not one of sin but rather of perfect obedience to the Father’s will. For the sake of a sinful world, Jesus was condemned on the cross.

But death could not contain him. On the third day after his execution, the day Christians observe as Easter, Jesus appeared among his followers as the risen, living Lord. By this great victory, God has declared himself to be the good news of reconciliation. The gap between all that separates us from our Creator has been bridged. Thus, he lives today, wherever there are persons who faithfully believe in him, and wherever the good news of reconciliation is preached and the sacraments administered.

Why do Lutherans talk about justification by grace through faith?
The New Testament clearly affirms that our reconciliation with our Creator can only be thought of as a free gift from God. It is not to be earned, and certainly it is not deserved. God in love and mercy offers to everyone a new life, one that begins at baptism and continues beyond death.

This discovery of a gracious God who seeks those who are lost, was the turning point in Martin Luther’s understanding of the Christian faith. For him the matter was clear; we cannot climb to God, we cannot even meet him halfway.

Rather, God comes to us in the person of Jesus, the Lord. We only need in faith to receive God’s acceptance of us.

During the Reformation of the sixteenth century this became known as the doctrine of Justification by Grace through Faith, an affirmation of most churches. Lutherans recognize the ease with which Christians tend to forget this central affirmation. We persist in trying to justify ourselves by our own works, by our own accomplishments. Lutheranism as a Christian movement, however, stands or falls with its faith that reconciliation with God is wholly God’s act through faith in Christ.

How do Lutherans look upon the Bible?
To borrow a phrase from Luther, the Bible is “the manger in which the Word of God is laid.” While Lutherans recognize differences in the way the Bible should be studied and interpreted, it is accepted as the primary and authoritative witness to the church’s faith. Written and transcribed by many authors over a period of many centuries, the Bible bears remarkable testimony to the mighty acts of God in the lives of people and nations. In the Old Testament is found the story of God’s new covenant with all of creation in Jesus.

The New Testament is the first-hand proclamation of those who lived through the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. As such, it is the authority for Christian faith and practice. The Bible is thus not a definitive record of history or science. Rather it is the record of the drama of God’s saving care for his creation throughout the course of history.

What is the Church?
The Christian church is made up of those who have been baptized and thus have received Christ as the Son of God and Saviour of the world. Lutherans believe that they are a part of the community of faith that began with the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence with his people, on the day of Pentecost. The church, regardless of the external form it takes, is the fellowship of those who have been restored to God by Christ. Indeed, to be called into fellowship with Christ is also to be called into fellowship with other believers.

The church is essential to Christian life and growth. Its members are all sinners in need of God’s grace. It has no claim on human perfection. The church exists only for the hearing and doing of the living Word of Christ, administers the sacraments, and gives itself to one world in deeds of service and love. Most Lutherans recognize a wider fellowship of churches and are eager to work alongside them in ecumenical ministries and projects.

What sacraments do Lutherans accept?
Lutherans accept two sacraments as God-given means for penetrating the lives of people with his grace. Although they are not the only means of God’s self-revelation, Baptism and Holy Communion are visible acts of God’s love.

In Baptism, and it can be seen more clearly in infant Baptism, God freely offers his grace and lovingly establishes a new community. In Holy Communion—often called the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist—those who come to the table receive in bread and wine the body and blood of their Lord. This gift is itself the real presence of God’s forgiveness and mercy, nourishing persons in fellowship with their Lord and with each other.

Do Lutherans believe in life after death?
While there is much we do not and cannot know about life beyond the grave, Lutherans do believe that fellowship with God persists even after death. Judgement is both a present and future reality, and history moves steadily towards God’s ultimate fulfillment. This, of course, is a great mystery and no description of what life may be like in any dimension beyond history is possible. Anxiety for the future is not a mark of faith. Christians should go about their daily tasks, trusting in God’s grace, and living a life of service in his name.

What must a person do to become a Lutheran?
To become a Lutheran, only baptism and instruction in the Christian faith is required. If you are already baptized, it will be necessary only to attend a New Member Workshop in a Lutheran congregation and thus signify your desire to become a part of its fellowship. Active members of other Lutheran congregations usually need only to transfer their membership.

Timeline

Our History

Over the course of 60 years, St. Philip the Deacon has grown from a mission church with a handful of members to a faith community of 5,000 members, making us one of the largest churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

April 1958 – First organizational service with 51 members, led by Mission Pastor Ralph Loges. A partnership was formed with Mount Olivet Lutheran Church at Medicine Lake benefitting both congregations by sharing a pastor.

October 1960 – St. Philip the Deacon became a single congregation under the continuing leadership of Pastor Ralph Loges.

June 1961 – The Rev. David Lindblom accepted the call to become the second pastor in St. Philip’s history. The next 10 years witnessed steady growth as the present church site was purchased in September of 1961 followed by construction of the worship sanctuary in January of 1967.

December 1970 – The Rev. Charles Claus was installed as St. Philip’s third pastor, enthusiastically serving the community for fourteen years. The pipe organ was installed and dedicated in February of 1977 followed by the construction of the new educational area.

April 1985 – The Rev. Dr. David Hoffman began his journey with St. Philip the Deacon, ushering in phenomenal growth in membership which required a new, larger sanctuary. Under Pastor Hoffman’s dynamic vision, St. Philip the Deacon blossomed into a leading force in local and global community outreach.

November 2013 – The congregation called The Rev. Tim Westermeyer, who had served at St. Philip the Deacon as Executive Pastor since 2007, as the congregation’s next Senior Pastor. Pastor Westermeyer assumed this role on June 1, 2014, when Pastor Hoffman retired after nearly 30 years of ministry. Pastor Westermeyer initiated a strategic planning process within his first year, which has helped position the congregation for continued health and vitality.

As we give thanks for the past and anticipate the future, we give thanks for everyone who has made St. Philip the Deacon their church home, and has helped us Reach Out, Proclaim, Inspire.

Who Was St. Philip the Deacon?

Where we get our name.

St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church takes its name from St. Philip the Deacon, who was selected as a deacon—someone chosen to look after the poor in the early Christian church—with six others in Acts 6.

St. Philip also appears in Acts 8, where he interprets and explains the Prophet Isaiah to a eunuch of the Queen of Ethiopia. This is depicted to the right in a detail from an Icon of St. Philip the Deacon by artist Ann Chapin, commissioned in celebration of the church’s 50th anniversary in 2008.

This story about St. Philip from Acts 8 is, in part, where St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran Church gets its mission statement—to Reach Out, Proclaim, Inspire—since St. Philip reached out to the Ethiopian eunuch when he didn’t understand the Prophet Isaiah; proclaimed to the eunuch what the passage meant; and inspired him to go and serve God himself by baptizing him.

St. Philip is also mentioned in Acts 21, where we are told he lived in Caesarea with his prophetically gifted daughters.

There is a stained glass window in our sanctuary that stylistically represents St. Philip the Deacon. The entire St. Philip icon can be seen where it is permanently displayed near the entrance of the St. Philip the Deacon Sanctuary on the west wall. In our chapel, the church also houses an original bronze statue of St. Philip the Deacon by sculptor Alexander Tylevich.

Strategic Plan

Filled with hope.

In 2017, the leadership of St. Philip the Deacon concluded a three-year process of investigation and discernment around the development of a new strategic plan for the congregation. Click here to view a one-page summary of the plan (PDF).

Below is a video that was created as part of the discernment process. If you have questions or would like to engage in further discussion about the strategic plan, please contact Pastor Tim Westermeyer at 763-475-7136 or by email.

— CHRISTIAN WISDOM —

“Without silence words lose their meaning, without listening speaking no longer heals, without distance closeness cannot cure.”

Henri Nouwen