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700 pillows to go to homeless

Lake Harriet UMC's fellowship hall was filled with donated pillows on Sunday, May 1. [Photos courtesy of Lake Harriet UMC]
Lake Harriet UMC's fellowship hall was filled with donated pillows on Sunday, May 1. [Photos courtesy of Lake Harriet UMC]

How many pillows fit into a Nissan Leaf? Some members of Lake Harriet UMC can now answer that question: 34.

The Minneapolis congregation’s fellowship hall looked like a soft, cloud-like fortress on a Sunday in May with more than 700 pillows donated by members.

Lake Harriet United Methodist Church is a part of the Minnesota Annual Conference.

It all started a few months ago, when a few people were dreaming up some fun events that would help individuals connect after two years of pandemic. They decided to attempt to create the world’s largest pillow fort in the church parking lot. Unfortunately, the weather got in the way and the fort moved indoors but it was still quite a spectacular scene.

Why pillows? “Because persons experiencing homelessness deserve a soft place to lay their heads,” said Rev. Karen Bruins. “Agencies serving people experiencing homelessness routinely seek donations of pillows and bedding.”

The pillows, which fill three FedEx trucks, will go to several such organizations, including Simpson Housing Services, Union Gospel Mission, and People Serving People. Slumberland is matching the number of pillows the church collected.

“Our mission statement is ‘walking together the words and ways of Jesus,’” said Bruins. “Opportunities to serve in Christ’s name, along with learning more about lack of affordable housing and homelessness, help us to walk the words and ways of Jesus.”

So, was the church’s pillow fort really the world’s largest? Who knows; there’s no official record currently and the church decided not to pay the requisite $13,000 to get it logged with Guinness. But it was certainly the biggest pillow fort most attendees had observed.

Some of the pillows had been ordered in advance with donations and others were brought on Sunday. Parishioners created an assembly line to get the pillows into the building and had an impromptu unpacking party after worship. The party also included games, like launching an ice-cream cone pillow from a water balloon launcher, crafts, mini donuts, and a food truck.

Great fun was had by all, and Lake Harriet created a connections ministry to plan and execute more events to both build community within the congregation and serve the greater community. A part-time staff position, made possible thanks to an Investing in Congregations grant from the Minnesota Conference, will work with this ministry, which has on tap remote control car races, a singalong themed around the movie “Encanto,” and a BMX bike event.

excerpt from a story by Christa Meland, director of communications, Minnesota Annual Conference

This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.