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Date of Award

2004

Document Type

Graduate Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Theology

Department

School of Theology • Seminary

First Advisor

Dan McKanan

Abstract

In the mid-twentieth century, as suburban expansion replaced farmland, rural communities found themselves swept away in the flood of housing developments and the influx of new people. Rural churches were hit especially hard by this trend; some closed their doors, while others tried to expand and change to meet the needs of a different and rapidly growing suburban population. One example of this is Woodbury United Methodist Church, located just east of downtown St. Paul (Minn.) and for many years the center of a rural, farming community. Like many churches across the country, this church found itself in the middle of a suburban explosion in the early 1960s; once-fertile farmlands gave way to housing developments, and the once-tight rural congregation began to change. But rather than close its doors, the church increased membership and also increased participation in worship services, Sunday school and outreach activities. In the case of Woodbury United Methodist Church, suburbanization helped the congregation grow and, some would argue, made it even more vibrant. For churches seeking to hold on to their history while keeping up with new population trends, the Woodbury church provides a model for adaptation without loss of identity.

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