In its heyday, Augustana Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis once swelled to more than 1,000 members. These days, the number is closer to 75.

On April 29, the congregation will hold its last worship service at the brick church on 11th Avenue South near the Metrodome. Augustana is selling the nearly 130-year-old church to a nearby congregation -- Hope Community Church -- and moving five blocks south to a smaller church building.

"We saw the handwriting a few years ago that we were small enough we couldn't afford to keep that big building up," said J. Paul Carlson, president of Augustana's church council.

One of the oldest Lutheran congregations in the metro area, Augustana will also celebrate its 146th anniversary at the final farewell service. The Rev. William Berg -- who is 102 years old and served as Augustana's pastor from 1965 to 1980 -- will give the last sermon at the church, Carlson said.

"There are some people absolutely devastated at the thought we are not going to be in that structure," said Carlson, who was married at the church in 1968. His children were all baptized and married there as well. "My own feeling, and a lot of others, is that we're very happy there's a vital, growing congregation that's going to be worshipping there for probably decades to come."

The church has played a vital role in Twin Cities Lutheran life for decades. Some of its members went on to establish other prominent metro area Lutheran churches -- including Mount Olivet in Minneapolis, considered the largest Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregation in the U.S.

Carlson said the congregation is expected to hold its first service at its new home, a former Methodist church at 19th Street and 11th Avenue, on May 6.

"We'll do a processional down 11th Avenue from Augustana. That will be symbolic of our move, which will have taken place a few days and weeks earlier."

Rose French • 612-673-4352