Our History

Saint Paul Mennonite Fellowship (SPMF) began in 1984 as a church plant from Faith Mennonite Church in response to racial tensions and violence in St. Paul's West Side neighborhood. Initially, the church met in homes on the West Side and then eventually moved to Neighborhood House for church on Wednesday evenings.

The Wednesday evening sessions at Neighborhood House focused on justice issues impacting refugees who were fleeing violence in Central America and settling beside the Hispanic community on the West Side. Our partly bilingual group learned Spanish hymns, some of which are still sung today at SPMF gatherings. With free drink and cookies, SPMF was a hit with the children at Neighborhood House!

SPMF grew as a neighborhood church funded by the Northern District General Mennonite Conference and the Iowa-Nebraska Mennonite Conference. Helen Wells (Quintela), one of the founding members, was ordained at Faith Mennonite Church to be our pastor.

In 1988, the community grew with the arrival of eight young, energetic voluntary service workers who formed the first Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) unit in St. Paul. SPMF hosted an MVS unit from 1988 through 2001.

In 1989, SPMF was commissioned out of Faith Mennonite Church and began meeting on both Sunday afternoons (in the basement of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church) and Wednesday evenings (at Neighborhood House).

From 1993-95 SPMF suffered some hard blows as a community. Rifts in the community arose out of a variety of issues and many people left the community. During that time, both Mennonite Conferences chose to stop funding SPMF as a church plant because of SPMF's full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. Although this threatened our small congregation's existence, we responded to this adversity with a "prom" celebrating our graduation from the conferences' financial support.

Within a year, we found ourselves hurting again. Our beloved six-year-old Mark - who had beat all odds as a 26-week preemie and had thrived despite his cerebral palsey - died from a brain tumor. We were touched and moved by this young man and his journey through life and death. His presence is still missed.

In 1998, when Helen (our pastor) became a staff chaplain at Gillette Children's Hospital, SPMF became a lay-led congregation. Lisa Pierce, our interim pastor from 1997-1998, assisted the congregation as we explored models for this transition. This change intensified our commitment to each other and to the Fellowship. It also brought with it additional exposure to the many gifts in our community. We have been the recipients of fabulous sermons, poetry, artwork, music and puppet shows over the years.

SPMF has a rich history as a transitional community for many wonderful people. Volunteers, students, visitors have passed through SPMF on their ways to other things, and the community has been nourished by their presence and their gifts. In 2007, SPMF underwent our own transition, moving from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church when they closed their doors and sold their building. We moved into Cherokee Park United Church, a sister congregation on the West Side. Leasing space from Cherokee Park has allowed us to deepen the connection between our two congregations.

SPMF's story continues to evolve, and we look forward to adding your chapter!