What Can you Do for Five Dollars?

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Last Sunday, we kicked off our 2019 Stewardship campaign. From now until Thanksgiving weekend, we will be collecting financial commitments to support ministry in 2019.

To meet the rising cost of ministry, to reestablish 2016 levels of pastoral care coverage, and to finish our real estate debt elimination effort, we are asking every household to increase their giving by $5 a week.

Of course, if you are able to give more it will help cover those who are not able. If everyone participates, we will not only meet the projected 5% increase on the budget but we will also not need to hold special offerings throughout 2019 to close the pledging/giving gap.

I am grateful for those who came out on Sunday to listen to the presentation on the 2019 mission budget. President Jeff Owens did a fantastic job in walking us through how St. James spends its money. Each dollar you give is carefully spent to support worship, faith formation for all ages, pastoral care, outreach, and community. 5 Ministries Alive at St. James!

The question was raised about the “increase” in 2019 to the Pastoral Care line. This is not so much an increase as it reestablishes funding for pastoral care ministry to where it was in 2016. Let me explain.

Since June 2017, other than a few weeks of vacation, I have been on-call, 24/7 without coverage. As you can imagine, with a church of St. James’ size, this is not a good situation. I am grateful for the Pastoral Care Team and their visitation and call support of home-bound members and those in nursing/care facilities. Their ministry, however, does not cover emergency calls and the need to have someone ‘on-call’ to respond to those in crises.

After the planned departure of Vicar Andrew last summer (he was scheduled to be with us for but a year), we tried a variety of volunteer options for over-night coverage that didn’t last. It fell on my shoulders. Since pastoral care is so important to me, this wasn’t something I refused or complained about. That said, not having a day truly off - wore heavy on me and my family.

Supported by St. James Council and leadership to find a solution, we partnered with Pastor Scott Simmons and Lydia’s Place in September to provide weekend coverage. Pastor Scott is supervising seminary students, who have been through their Clinical Pastoral Education. From Thursday evening through Sunday morning, all emergency calls are answered by this team. We are currently funding this coverage through a variety of non-budget sources, including unspent ministry funds from 2017. In 2019, this will be funded through the Mission Budget.

There is also need for a part-time, retired pastor to help make pastoral visits. Again, with Vicar Andrew’s departure a year ago, we have had to reduce the frequency of pastoral visits. Restoring our ability to reach out to those who are hurting and vulnerable in our midst is a priority. Since early 2018, I have been actively searching for a retired pastor to close our visitation gap. For most of the year, this search was unsuccessful. In recent days, however, I am encouraged in the quest. I hope to be able to share more with you soon. If we are able to secure this needed help, we will fund it for the balance of this year with unspent ministry funds from 2017. In 2019, it will be a part of the budget.

I know that this has been a lengthy explanation. But I wanted to make sure that you had the details that I shared on Sunday.

What can you do for five dollars? You can help support ministry that is alive - and that brings a word of comfort and hope to those who are hurting, struggling, and lonely. You can help us as a church to be present with Word and Sacrament when someone finds themselves in great need.

With five dollars you could also buy a hotdog dinner for two at Costco… your choice!

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship,

In Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

I Can't Wait To Meet My Brother

 Pastor is pictured here with his wife, Sarah. 

Pastor is pictured here with his wife, Sarah. 

I was excited and filled with joy to hear the news. Pastor Mponzi has his airline tickets! He is coming to Minnesota!

Who?

He is my brother in Christ from Africa, who I will meet in person for the first time at the end of October. Pastor Baraka Mponzi serves as pastor of the Lutheran church in the mountain village of Idunda, Tanzania.

For decades, St. James Lutheran and Idunda have been in a mission partnership. We pray regularly for each other and support each other in mission. Numerous trips of visitors from St. James have traveled ‘over there' to witness the joy found in Idunda. The Lutheran church in Tanzania is the second largest growing Lutheran church in the world and it is filled with a vibrancy that is contagious.

I was first introduced to Pastor Mponzi on Facebook. For over a year, we have sent words of encouragement to each other and have exchanged pictures of Lutherans in action on opposite sides of the globe. I am grateful for technology that allows us to be connected in a way previously undreamed.

Before the last group from St. James went to Tanzania, discussions began about the possibility of bringing Pastor Mponzi to visit us. I am grateful for the vision and support of many leaders who recognized the importance of such a visit. I am also thankful for the guidance and work of Dr. Ken Olson, Pastor Peter Harrits (Director of Bega Kwa Bega and Assistant to the Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod), Mchg Lusungu Misgwa, BKB-DIRA Coordinator and April Trout (BKB volunteer). Working together we navigated the waters of preparing for International travel (i.e. passports, VISAs, necessary approvals, etc.)

Why would we bring Pastor Mponzi all the way to Minnesota?

Relationship. Relationship. Relationship.

To celebrate the relationship that our two congregations have that spans decades. God linked us together and blesses us through each other. Pastor Mponzi’s visit will help strengthen these ties.

To learn from the wisdom of the second largest growing Lutheran church in the world. We have much to learn from our sisters and brothers in Africa about the joy of the gospel. Pastor Mponzi will preach and teach us many things about God’s love.

To share what we have with Christ-siblings on the other side of the globe. Pastor’s visit will give us a chance to be generous and return the hospitality that so many of our folks have received when they journeyed to Idunda. Now it is our turn to give a heart-filled welcome.

Now that Pastor Mponzi’s tickets are purchased, we are finalizing the details on our end for his visit. Stay tuned for information about how you can meet Pastor. There will be multiple opportunities in the two weeks plus that he will be with us.

For now, I hope you can join me in just getting excited….

I can’t wait to meet my brother!

As always,

I look forward to seeing you in worship,

In Christ’s Light,

Walt

Time to Wear our Sneakers to Worship

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Once a year, I wear my sneakers to worship.  I do this in support of all the work that goes into the CROP Walk.  This annual ministry is a cooperative effort between Christian churches of various denominations that are south of the Minnesota River.  Six years ago, St. James Lutheran was a founding contributor of this local walk to raise local awareness and resources to combat hunger in our midst and around the globe.   

This Sunday, October 7, at 1:00 p.m. St. John Lutheran in Lakeville will host this year’s walk.  I invite you to join me, the confirmation students, and dozens of others from St. James.   Put your sneakers on (you can wear them also to worship if you'd like) and enjoy a beautiful walk.  Strollers and even dogs are welcome.  Our congregational goal is to raise $1,000 - 25% of which will go to local food pantries; 75% to global initiatives.  We are already more than half way there!     

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship.

In Christ,

Pastor Walt  

The Light At the End of the Tunnel...

Rest assured. The light at the end of the tunnel IS NOT a train! At least, that is the case as we look to the future at St. James. After decades of operating under the constraint of debt, St. James is less than 30 months away from being free of our real estate debt. The last time that our congregation was in this position was before 1988.

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I am grateful for both the wisdom of St. James leaders and the generosity of those who call St. James their church home. Together we have brought the debt from $1.3 million in 2009 to less than $300,000 today. This is a remarkable achievement that opens up tremendous possibilities for our future. There is the light of a new day of mission at the end of this long tunnel.

Anticipating the availability of additional resources to invest in ministry, I am leading two mission exploration teams to help with our planning. The first, whose work is already underway, seeks to explore our neighborhood. We need to go into the community to listen to social agencies, police/fire/emergency services, schools, and other places to learn about those who live in about a five mile radius around St. James. What are their needs? What resources do we already have or could we provide? How might we share the good news of God’s love with them?

The second exploration team involves youth ministry. At our last Council meeting, I formed a Youth Vision 20/20 Team. This group will explore what is working in youth ministry both here and outside our congregation. We will identify resources needed to grow ministry to and with our youth in concert with St. James overall vision for ministry. Many of the same questions above will be asked here as well. How might we share the good news of God’s love in new and innovative ways with our youth?

Both these groups will be working over the course of the next year to uncover needs and resources. We will adopt a beginner’s heart and mind in our work as we open ourselves beyond preconceived notions. Instead of seeking quick solutions we will listen deeply. We will take our time to do a thorough job of understanding and then imagining what the future will be in these critical mission areas.

Around the time we get to putting together strategies, we will have additional resources available to do ministry. With our debt retired, we will have sufficient dollars available for the kind of staffing that will be able to make a difference. Since we have taken the time to think through what kind of leadership we need in these areas, we will have a better chance of success.

As I send this week’s mission moment out, I am asking for three things. First, if you are interested in serving on either ministry exploration team, we could use your help. Sign up using the link below. Second, pray for the work of exploration in both areas that it might be open to where the Spirit is leading us to go. Third, continue your generous giving that brings us ever closer to a brighter future.

As we head toward the year 2020, it is good for us to be starting to think seriously about vision and mission. Some questions pop into my mind. What will things look like after we leave the tunnel? What new landscapes will there be for us to explore? What new faces will be turned into new friends? Where will the Spirit lead us? How will we build and deepen those loving relationships with God, with each other, and with our neighbor? These are all very exciting things for us to ponder together.


As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship,

In Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

Partnering In Providing Care for the Sake of Mission

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With over eight hundred people officially on the membership roles and many more who are still a part of the St. James community, providing pastoral care in times of crises and joy is a daunting task.  I am grateful for the trained volunteers who are a part of the Pastoral Care Team and Befrienders Ministry.  They make it possible for us, as a church, to visit in homes, hospitals, and care facilities. We pray, share sacrament, and are present for those who need spiritual support. As a pastor, I still make these visits too but couldn't cover all of them and do everything else that ministry requires.  

Since June of 2017, I have been the sole provider of pastoral care in cases of emergencies and to be present when someone is dying.  This has meant that I've been on call for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  The only break in this time was vacation.  Having to have a phone on me at all times, knowing that it might ring at any moment is a burden that other emergency care providers know all too well. When a call is received, it must take priority. Providing regular relief to emergency and on-call providers is essential to maintain healthy boundaries, family care, and prevent burnout.

St. James Council and Pastoral Support teams encouraged me to find such coverage. I am happy to share with the congregation the result of my efforts. St. James Lutheran is partnering with Lydia Place in St. Paul. Lydia Place is a mission start that is under the leadership of Pastor Scott Simmons. Currently, it is housed in an Art Gallery on University Ave and takes an innovative approach to ministering to the local neighborhood. A steady stream of students from Luther Seminary connect with Lydia’s Place as part of their formation to be pastors. Pastor Scott will coordinate these students to provide St. James with weekend on-call coverage (from Thursday evening to Sunday morning.) All of these students have undergone Clinical Pastoral Education and have been trained to respond to critical situation.

Should you need pastoral care in an emergency call the Church Office at any time, night or day. 952-890-4534. You will be connected with the on-call pastoral provider. For most of the week, that will still be me. From Thursday night to Sunday morning, it will be a Seminarian. Further, I will follow up on any care that has been given when I’m off-call.

I am grateful for the wisdom of our Council, Pastoral Support Team, and Pastoral Care Team that has recognized the importance of sabbath rest for the sake of long-term ministry. Knowing that St. James’ emergency pastoral needs are being covered, I will be able to rest a little deeper this evening as I enter sabbath rest. This rest allows me to be more fully present to the needs and challenges that will arise.

I look forward to worship with you this Sunday,

In Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

The Lambs are coming "Baaack"

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Starting on Rally Day, our Little Lamb ministry will be the recipient of new energy and focus.  Little Lambs began over six years ago as a way of encouraging children's participation in worship.  The idea was simple.  Give a nice stuffed animal to the kids.  Invite the children to bring their lambs to worship and engage our youngest worshipers.  It was one of our worship innovations involving children.   Dozens of lambs were given out and cherished. 

Thanks to the efforts of my wife, Katie, this ministry will be revived starting on Rally Day.   Children who currently have lambs will receive a special gift when they bring in their lamb back and register anew.  Time to search for those "lost" lambs!  Those without lambs will be given new lambs when they register.  Each Sunday, children can check in at the Lamb pen.  After ten visits they will be able to choose a prize.  On special "Lamb Sundays" everyone will be invited to bring their lambs so as to participate with them in worship.  Little Lambs will also help children celebrate their baptisms.  They will receive email invitations to bring their Little Lamb to church on the Sunday closest to their baptism where they will receive a gift.   Visitors and children who forget their lambs at home will be able to borrow a lamb from a small flock that will live at church.   

I am looking forward to this fun ministry as it engages families with small children and encourages them to come to worship.  Children are not just the future of the church - they are a critical part of Jesus' body today.  That is why Jesus told his disciples to let the children come to him.    Without our children in worship, our church would be missing a part of Christ's flock.  Thankfully, St. James is a place where children are welcomed.  They are the true treasured "little lambs" of our community.  

If you would like to register your child for the Little Lamb ministry (ages 2 and up - until they lose interest) please follow the link below.  At this point, all are being asked to register, even if you already have received a lamb.  Thanks ahead of time for signing the little ones up!

Whether you have children or not, I look forward to seeing you in worship.   Young and old - together we are church - we are the body of our Lord!  

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

 

Final Campfire Communion of the Season

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It is hard to believe but we have reached the end of our summer worship schedule.  This Wednesday night is the last of our mid-week outdoor worships.  Did that summer go by quickly or what?  

If you have been wanting to come all summer but didn't get the chance - you have one more opportunity.  On Wednesday, August 29 from 6:30 to 7:15 we worship around the campfire.  Hot dog and bratwurst roast at 6:00 p.m.  Bring your lawn chair.  We provide the "tube steaks!"

Throughout the summer, I have been grateful for the efforts of many people who have made this unique worship experience possible.  Thank you to our band - Jeff and Kari Owens, Bob Andrews, Janet Karsten, Tim Evans, and Mark Lind.  Their weekly dedication throughout the summer allowed us to raise our song of praise.  Thanks also go to Pam Larsen, Jeff Cheney, and Doreen Evans who provided regular meal and logistical support.  

Looking forward to seeing you at this worship or at the ones that we will do on Sunday.  Worship remains at the center of the baptized community of St. James.  

in Christ,

Pastor Walt

The Care That We Share

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Three times a year, the Pastoral Care Team hosts a luncheon for all St. James seniors who are living in local senior living communities.  On Thursday this week, we will be providing a picnic lunch at Valley Ridges in Burnsville.  It is always fun to gather together with the most life-experienced members of the St. James community.   We share laughter, stories, reminiscences, practical wisdom, a meal, and the eucharist.  I am not alone in looking forward to Thursday's luncheon.  

Thanks to the generousity of the DeKrey family, lunch (and a flower for each participant) is provided in the loving memory of Cathy DeKrey.  Cathy was a foundational part of the Pastoral Care Team and visited with most of those who the luncheon serves.  As we continue to mourn, we are deeply grateful for the many ways Cathy served St. James.   

I am also thankful for the efforts of the Pastoral Care Team, which provides regular visits to our homebound folks and checks-in on the well being of so many others.  Given the size of our parish, as a solo pastor, I have all I can do to keep up with urgent care, hospital/surgery visits, emergency calls, and funerals.  The training and compassion of the Pastoral Care Team allows for St. James to be present in the lives of a wider circle of those needing spiritual care.   We gather each week in prayer and support each other in our efforts to reach out to our community.  Please join me in giving thanks to Birdie Olson, Karen Krafka, and Kari Owens.   In addition to the Pastoral Care Team, I share thanks for Viv Aarestad - Grief Support Ministry, and the Befrienders led by Deb Mueller.  

So as you have your lunch this Thursday, please think of those who will be gathering at Valley Ridges.  Pray for us.  Give thanks, also, for the community in which we all share.  Together we care in Jesus' name.

Look forward to seeing you in worship,

 

In Christ, 

Pastor Walt

 

Welcome to a Familiar Face - Patty Seewald

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As we look forward to the fall and the start of children's faith formation at St. James, we are pleased to welcome Patty Seewald to the St. James staff as a part-time coordinator of Sunday School ministry.  Patty brings years of experience working with kids and parents at St. James.  Not only that, but Patty brings an exuberance, joy, and lots of energy.   Supporting Patty's efforts is a team of dedicated parents - together, they will provide an incredible learning experience for our children.

Sunday School will begin on Sunday, September 9.  Our "Rally Day" is always a fun and full day.  Stay tuned for details.  At this point, be sure to mark your calendars.  You will not want to miss the special worship, Sunday School, Adult Faith Conversation, and luncheon potluck.

Please join me in thanking and welcoming Patty the next time you see her in worship or at church.  

in Christ,

Pastor Walt

Thanking All Worship Teams

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Each week, there is a special group of folks whose support makes it possible to extend hospitality and greeting to all those who come to worship.  Not only that, but they work behind the scenes to make sure that communion is set up, we have enough bulletins, assist latecomers to find a seat, and help perform a host of other tasks.  They are our WORSHIP TEAMS and I'm grateful for their many efforts.  Because of our WORSHIP TEAMS and the TEAM LEADERS who guide them, we are able to create an environment on Sunday that is welcoming to newcomers and those who have claimed St. James as their church home for many years.

On Monday, August 20, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., Doreen and I will host a THANK YOU WORSHIP TEAM BBQ to share the appreciation of the whole St. James community.   All who have served on a WORSHIP TEAM this past year are invited to attend.  PLUS... those of you who are interested in serving in this way are invited to attend.  Mark your calendars if you are in either group.  For the purpose of having enough food - please use the sign-up form below if you are able to join us.

We will share a meal and appreciation.  Following dinner (which the church will provide), we will look ahead at the coming year.  There will be an opportunity for conversation about how we welcome folks and a chance for feedback and suggestions on how we can do even better.  

I am always pleased when someone who is new to St. James comments on the friendly reception that they have received when they came through the front door.  Welcoming is truly the work of all who worship.  I am grateful for our WORSHIP TEAMS and the good witness they give to us all in the welcoming department.   

Look forward to seeing you in worship either on Sunday or on Wednesday.  This Sunday we share Godspeed Prayers with Seminarian Sherri Lawrence and her daughter Emily as they leave for a Pastoral Internship. 

in Christ,

Pastor Walt


 

WORSHIP TEAM BBQ - SIGN UP

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Into the Community with God's Word

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For over twenty years of parish ministry, I have offered a variety of Bible Studies.  It is both a passion of mine and an essential part of my role as a pastor to teach God's Word.  Conversations around scripture are generative and life-giving.  They help to shape our faith perspective and faithful response.  In recent years, I have found my preaching enriched by the interaction that I have with others around a reading from the Bible.  

Wanting to increase the presence of St. James in our neighborhood, I am taking my Bible teaching on the road.  Starting this week, I will be offering a forty-five minute Bible Study at Savage Senior Living.  It is my intent to duplicate this weekly effort at other senior living communities where we have a lot of St. James members.  These efforts will replace the 'in-house' study on Thursdays that I previously offered.  It is with joy that I note that those who regularly attended my 9:00 a.m. Thursday Bible Study share my excitement about moving this study into the neighborhood.  They have promised to come to one of the two weekly offerings. I am grateful for their support and encouragement with this outreach initiative.

I'm easing into the new schedule with adding the weekly study at Savage Senior Living this month.  In September, I will be adding another location (to be announced soon once I have the details confirmed).  For those who are concerned about me adding too much to an already busy plate, I am exchanging a single hour and a half time of teaching for two forty-five minute slots.  'Time-wise' it is an even swap.  When I consider that I will be multiplying the number of people I am able to reach in the neighborhood, it is a big WIN-WIN situation.

It is important for us as a church to be moving beyond our walls to share the love and grace of God in new and creative ways.  Each of us have agency in this effort.  We may not be leading a Bible Study.  No matter.  Each of us have our talents, interests, and abilities to connect with those who live around us.  Each of us, as a child of God, are called to take God's Word into the community through our actions, kindness, compassion, and generosity.  I pray for you - asking God to give you the imagination, courage, and strength as you live out your faith.  I ask that you would pray for me, and for the new Bible Studies that St. James is offering to the wider community.

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

Taking Time to Refresh and Vacate

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Over the next three weeks, I will be taking time for summer vacation.  Both my family and I look forward to this time for reconnection and renewal.

While away, I am grateful for my pastoral colleagues that will be providing worship leadership and care coverage.  Thanks go to Pastor Chris Beckman, Pastor Brent Erler, Pastor Scott Simmons, and Seminarian Sherri Lawrence.   

Should a situation arise that you require pastoral care, you can either call the Church Office (952) 890-4534 or the Pastoral Care Line (952) 890-4410.  Someone will respond to your need.  

I look forward to returning to worship on July 29.  

In thanks for the ministry that we share in Jesus' name, 

Pastor Walt  

Send Off to Something Spectacular

On Sunday, St. James will be sharing Sending Prayers with the group of youth and adults heading to the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston.  You are invited to come to worship and participate in this sending.

To say that I'm excited about going with the group would be a gross understatement.  These events are formative and memorable.  Each one has unique experiences.   This will be my fourth ELCA Youth Gathering - but no two are alike.  

I am grateful for the youth and adults that will fill WANDA  (the church van) as we make our journey south.  

So that you can join in the fun, I will be posting pictures and updates from the adventure to the church website.  Be sure to check all of next week.

Look forward to seeing you in worship - either on Sunday or on Wednesday night.

in Christ,

Pastor Walt

 

Working With Some Talented Creatures

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I am excited about a project that I've just completed with the teens who are going to Houston for the ELCA Youth Gathering from St. James.  They are an exceptional group of youth.  Together we put together a 30-creature prayer book called God of Creatures Great and Small.  I wrote the prayers and took the pictures.  They researched fun animal facts for this eclectic grouping of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks, and arachnids.   There are some really cool insights. 

In just three weeks, St. James will be carrying on a long-standing tradition of sending youth to ELCA national gatherings.  Over the years there have been different sizes of the group, different host cities (for example, Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Antonio, Dallas), different styles of music played, and different groups of kids.  These differences are a cause for us to celebrate.  How wonderful and diverse God has made us!  What is common, however, is also remarkable.  We will go and share an incredible experience with thousands of other Lutherans.  Together, we will give our thanks to God for awesome gifts of love and grace.  We will celebrate the work of the Spirit in the lives of our kids.  How wonderful and awesome is our God!

St. James actively supports youth participation at National Gatherings through general giving.  A portion of every dollar given throughout the year goes to fund not only this experience but faith formation for all ages.  If you are a regular giver - thank you for your generosity.  You have made it possible for us to take a group to Houston.

To share additional support, Light From This Hill - my online devotional company - is offering the original 30-creature book that I mentioned.  It can be used as a daily devotional or just a fun read.  For a donation of any amount - Light From This Hill will send you God of Creatures Great and Small as a thank you.  You receive a link to each of the creatures in your inbox.   You decide when the series starts and control the pace through all the creatures.    For more information about this project CLICK HERE.   

It was a real pleasure for me to see the enthusiasm of our teens for this series.  I can't wait until they see the final product of our common work.  Perhaps we can look through the animals as we make our two-day journey by church van to Houston - what fun!

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship this summer either on Sunday or Wednesday night.

In Christ's Light,

Pastor Walt 

Sharing Hope, Wisdom, and Meaning Through Jesus' Stories

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Summertime is here and it is time for campfires and being outdoors with family and friends.  There is something wonderful about hearing stories told around a campfire - they ignite our imagination in a way that connects with our inmost being.  This summer, I am excited about offering a different kind of sermon series.  At Wednesday night campfire worship (which starts tomorrow night - May 30 - 6:00 p.m. hot dogs/6:30 worship), we will hear stories that Jesus told.  These stories, all recorded in the Gospel of Luke, will be told in a manner like you would be accustomed to hearing a story around a campfire. 

Over the course of the summer, there will be fourteen stories in total.  Jesus was a master storyteller, using down-to-earth examples and illustrations from everyday life to talk about God.  Wednesday's sermon (which will be different than Sunday's sermon this year) will look at the hope, wisdom, and meaning that is found in these wonderful teaching stories.  

You can hear these sermons live on Wednesday night at the Campfire Worship or online on Thursday each week.  The sermons will be posted on the St. James website on Thursday.  If you would like, you can sign up to receive a free link to the sermon that will be sent directly to your email inbox as soon as its posted.

Of course, I will look forward to seeing you in worship when you are in town.  When you're away, check out this accessible online resource to nurture your spirit.  

In Christ,

Pastor Walt 

Exploring The Unknown Land Outside Our Door

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When I think of expeditions of discovery and exploration, my imagination goes quickly to remote corners of the globe.  You discover places and things that are far away.  Frozen tundras and civilizations hidden in rainforests.  Ever since a child, I have been fascinated by stories and photos of the kind that you encounter in National Geographic or on the Discovery Channel.  I have always been eager to learn about this planet and its peoples.

When the church traditionally talked about missionary work, it looked to places afar.  We would send preachers, teachers, doctors to the other side of the earth to be missionaries of Jesus' love.  Although this history has not always been reflective of that love, Lutherans learned that the model of accompaniment is able to produce much fruit and life-connections.  We have as much to learn and receive in global partnerships as we have to teach and give.  I am grateful for the relationships that we have at St. James with the Christians in Idunda.  Over this summer, you will hear much about how we are planning to strengthen this network through visits to and from Tanzania.  We have so much to learn from our African sisters and brothers.      

For now, I want to focus on the needed missionary work outside our front door.  Our neighborhood is a largely unexplored horizon when it comes to sharing the love of Jesus.  Dramatic demographic changes are happening all around us.  Major cultural expectations regarding church and religion have shifted.  No longer is church attendance and membership a prized social value.  The neighborhood has changed drastically since the days when the people built St. James in the early 1960's. 

On this Thursday night, I am gathering a group of folks to begin a year-long expedition to learn about the hopes and dreams of those who live within a few miles of St. James.  If you are inquisitive and like jigsaw puzzles - I could use you on my team.  If you like to ask questions and talk with people you don't know - I could use you on my team.  If you would like to see St. James engage its neighborhood in a new way - I could use you on my team.  If you like to read National Geographic to learn about other cultures - I could use you on my team.  If you daydream and wonder what God might be up to these days - I could use you on my team. 

Thursday night - May 24 - 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. our expedition to Discover the Neighborhood begins.  I hope to see you there.

AND... of course, I always look forward to seeing you in worship.

In Christ,

Pastor Walt      

Pentecost is Going to Be BIG this Year!

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Over two decades of parish ministry has taught me that each church has a rhythm.  Annually, we get excited about things at different times of the year.  Energy rises and falls.  Participation increases and recedes.  Like the waves that lap upon the shoreline, there is a pattern that is observable.  Receiving this reality as a gift has been a challenge at times.  Sometimes you need to act 'out of season' or against the natural pulse.  More often than not, however, if you can time efforts with the natural flow, you will find that there is a double blessing.   

In Minnesota, with its long winters, and amazing summers, the pattern of ministry is influenced by the weather.  When it gets nice outside, folks will head to the lakes.  By Memorial Day weekend, the pattern is fully established.  Family cabins, camps, and state parks all have a gravitational pull that is both understandable and undeniable.  Time is our most precious gift and time spent with family is even more valuable.  The weekend exodus has already begun.  In just two weeks, our mid-week outdoor worship will offer an extra opportunity for those who are gone on Sundays.

Pentecost is a movable festival.  Fifty days after Easter, we deck the sanctuary in red and celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit to energize the church's mission.  Often this special celebration coincides with the MN 'lake-exodus' phenomenon.  As a result, we don't usually seem to have the people-power to celebrate 'up big.'     

Things are different this year.  With an early Easter (April 1), we get an early Pentecost before Memorial Day.  Most families are still in town.  Yay!  We will be leaning into the opportunity and having children play a larger role than usual in leading worship.  The Sunday School children will be singing three songs as part of our liturgy.  What is more, all kids present will be helping us to dramatize the reading of the Pentecost story.   This is in addition to the usual participation of the little ones during the procession, recession, and noisy offering. 

It is a tradition to wear red on Pentecost.  Red is the color connected with the Holy Spirit.  Later in the day, our ninth graders who completed their Confirmation studies will be wearing red stoles that they made for their Affirmation of Baptism worship (1:00 p.m.)  What joy to celebrate this important time in the life of our teens!   

So if you are in town, come to our Pentecost worship (9:30 a.m.) or Confirmation worship (1:00 p.m.).  Wear red and join in a joyful celebration of what the ways that the Spirit continues to move at St. James.  God's Spirit is active and leading us in new ways to open our hearts and doors to share God's love with others.  I look forward to seeing you in worship.

In Christ, 

Pastor Walt

Getting Our Hands Dirty

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Tis' the season for planting and spring cleaning.  With the winter behind us, there is a lot of work needed before our flower beds and gardens bloom and produce.   Unless we have a full-time gardener on a household staff, we will need to get our hands dirty.  Plants don't plant themselves and weeds absolutely refuse to leave of their own accord.

Yard work and gardening are good metaphors for ministry.  As we begin the second Trimester of Ministry at St. James ( May-August), there is a need for folks to step up and commit their heads, hearts, and hands.  We no longer have household staff to carry out all the ministry that needs to be imagined, planted, nurtured, pruned, and harvested.  Leadership for ministry must come from all those who call St. James their home.   We need Ministry Hosts to fulfill our vision of building and deepening loving relationships with God, each other, and our neighbor.  

At the second Trimester Ministry Planning Night, the group (in which the entire Council participated in for the first time) came up with a whole list of ideas.  Some of these things we've done before.  Some of them are brand new.  There is something for every age group.  Things that will strengthen our spirits, friendships, and connect us with the outside community.  

Already we have had people step forward and respond to the invitations in the bulletin to serve as Ministry Hosts.  As Director of Ministry/Operations, Doreen Evans will work closely with them to make sure that they have the resources needed for success.  If you have led ministry before, you will recognize in our Ministry Plan a level of detail that makes sure all the proverbial bases are covered.  If you never have led a ministry as St. James, fear not!  The Ministry Plan has it all laid out for you.  You will receive the support that you need to make your inaugural leadership experience a satisfying one.  

So..... are you in?  Are you able to lend your time and talents towards ministry that will give you a sense of accomplishment and connect others with the life and love of Jesus?  

I am confident that God has blessed St. James with all the resources and leadership that it needs to be a positive force in our lives and in our community.  My prayer is that the Spirit will inspire us to a deeper level of response and action.

Look forward to seeing you in worship,

Pastor Walt

On Prayer Retreat

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This week, I will be spending three days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) on a Prayer Retreat with my Spiritual Director.   I share this information with you for a couple of reasons.  First, I want you to know the practical details of my being away - I won't be available in the office or on the phone or email.   If you have an emergency, are in the hospital, or need to speak to a pastor - rest assured, I have arranged for coverage.  Just call St. James pastoral care line - 952-890-4410 - and someone will be able to assist.  This line is answered in person 24/7.   While I am gone, Seminarian Sherri Lawrence has graciously agreed to be 'on-call' for me.  If the matter can wait - leave a message for me or send me an email and I will get back to you when I return.

Second, I want you to know that your pastor prays.  Time away for spiritual reflection and prayer plays an important part in grounding my pastoral ministry.  I seek to have my connection with God strengthened as I live out my call as an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament.  A few years ago, my sabbatical taught me the importance of tending to my spiritual needs.  Although every Christian life needs prayer, it is an essential component for those who preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When I find myself too busy to pray, I become distracted and frantic.  Praying helps to center and focus efforts, energies, and priorities.   Prayer informs my pastoral leadership by reminding me to open my heart, mind, and spirit as I seek to discern where God's Spirit is calling us.

When I pray, I have found it helpful for me to clear my mind of thoughts, words, agendas, concerns, fears, and distractions.  I close my eyes and breath deeply.  Most often, though not always, I kneel using a prayer bench (pictured above).  Since I'm usually concerned about time, I set the timer on my phone for an amount of time and then I don't worry about it.    Clearing mind, breathing deeply, I open myself and listen for God. 

It is hard to describe how this meditative practice works except I have found that it does.  At times, silent prayer offers me a glimpse of God's shalom.  At other times, it slows me down so I catch a needed breath.  At other times, it offers clarity.   It is always different and I'm never sure of what outcome, if any, will transpire.  

As I head off to the woods of Wisconsin for this retreat, I ask that you would keep me in your prayers as I will keep you in my prayers.  

I will be back in time for worship on Sunday.  As always, I look forward to seeing you then.

In Christ,

Pastor Walt 

A Different Kind of Garage Sale

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This weekend, there will be something unique happening once again at St. James.  We will be hosting a garage sale.  This in itself is not unique.  Many churches and organizations host Rummage or Garage Sales.  It is a popular way of raising funds that involve a bunch of folks.  Although we will be engaging a lot of people - we are not in it for the money.  In fact, no money will exchange hands.  St. James' Garage Sale is FREE!   It is a ministry that seeks to serve our neighbors.  We are so richly blessed by God's Grace that we gracefully share with others.

True to our vision to build and deepen loving relationships with our neighbors, our FREE GARAGE SALE will bring neighbors together.  There will be something for everyone.  Those who give their time and treasures will receive the satisfaction of helping others out.  Those who come and receive the many items (clothes, household goods, toys, books, etc.) will be blessed with items that will be given a good 'second' home.  Together we will reuse and recycle.  

Food will also be served.  Hot Dogs are on the menu for all.  Extra Comfort Meals have been made and will be given out to all who wish to take these quality, homemade,  frozen meals.  

A ministry this large takes many hands and I'm grateful for everyone who freely gave of themselves in the planning, gathering, sorting, and setting up of this ministry.  Special Thanks go to our Ministry Hosts, Kevin Bohnsack and Steve Hawks.  Additional hands are needed.  If you have some time this week - check with our Director of Ministry - Doreen Evans (doreen@stjameslc.com) and you'll get a job.  

It is a blessing to serve in a church community that is always reaching beyond itself.  This FREE GARAGE SALE is just another example in a long line of ways that we share God's love with others.

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship,

in Christ,

Pastor Walt