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BEST CHURCH Minneapolis 1998 -

This congregation celebrated its centennial in 1993 after weathering a remarkable century of white flight, racial and economic tension, and soul-searching among its members. Today, Park Avenue Methodist ministers to the most integrated black-white flock in town, working into its services a host of glory choirs, open-minded sermons, and prayers for the living in an anxious, wearing time. What tops the list of sacred purpose here is making the church part of the neighborhood it lives in: It helps area residents with transitional housing, a low-income medical clinic, food-shelf donations, free legal consultation, a computer center that tutors kids and adults, a girls' science club, and on and on--plus a 25-summers-running Soul Liberation Festival with street-smart testimonials, dogs on the grill, and big-bellied gospel music that sounds like the heavens in harmony.

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