Ten Years Together

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I’ve reached that point in my life when I’m reminded on a daily basis how time flies. This is certainly the case this week as we celebrate a decade of being in ministry together.

On February 15, 2009, I preached for the first time as St. James new Lead Pastor. My family moved into our new home just two days before.

Ten years later, I remain grateful for the home that we found not only in Savage but for the church home that we found in St. James Lutheran. Through challenges and opportunities, we grew together and sought to follow Jesus. It has been a time of perpetual transition as we have had to face the overall changing nature of the church in our times and St. James’s need to resize and refocus from a program-based ministry to a relationship-based ministry. Over that time, we laughed and cried. There was both joy and sadness as people came into and departed from our community.

I look forward to seeing you all in worship this Sunday, as we begin our 11th year of ministry. May God continue to renew and reshape us according to Jesus’ love.

In Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

 

On Winter Retreat...

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This week, I am taking a few days to be on a winter’s retreat. I type this note from the corner room of the top floor of a Benedictine monastery. The view from the window is spectacular. Snow is falling while the hoarfrost covers the trees. It is a winter wonderland. A good time and place for praying, thinking, and writing.

I’m taking this retreat, which is part of my continuing education, in these days that lead up to Lent. This wonderful season of the church year is a time for us all to reflect and reconnect with God. There will be extra opportunities for worship and study to allow you to deepen your relationship with God and through that relationship to others.

The purpose of my retreat is two-fold. First, it is important for me to take time apart on an occasion basis. This time always me to recharge my proverbial batteries. More importantly, it allows the needed space away from my daily duties of a pastor to work on my spiritual connection with God. After retreats, I find that I’m always better able to offer spiritual care to others.

Second, I will be taking the time on this retreat to prepare Lenten materials for us to use at St. James. It will be a writing retreat. I will author the Lenten daily devotional series, which you will be able to receive free-of charge starting on Ash Wednesday, March 6. Also, I will create a weekly Bible Study that will be shared among a variety of small groups. Last, I will work out basic sermon outlines for the season. I will be busy but I am grateful for the opportunity to do this work in Jesus’s name.

I invite your prayers for a productive and meaningful retreat. Please know that when I am away, there is pastoral care coverage in case of emergencies. I am thankful for Pastor Nancy Connor, St. James Visitation Pastor who has gracious agree to provide coverage in my absence.

I return in time for Wednesday’s Meal Pack (6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.). As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship.

in Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

Smiles All Around

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Almost thirty years ago, before I attended seminary, I went to Clown Camp. It was a training camp for adults in the arts of clowning. I spent a week on make-up, magic tricks, juggling, stilt walking, and physical comedy. At the time, I was was in college and had formed a clown troupe at my church. We would go and visit folks in the hospital and entertain children at Sunday schools, V.B.S., church camps, and town picnics. It was lots of fun and a great way of sharing God’s love. In fact, I credit my experience of clowning instrumental in my decision to go to seminary. It was a compelling joy for me to share the love and grace of God.

Over the years, I have incorporated clown arts into my ministry with children. Sometimes, I would don my colorful red wig and put on makeup. Other times, I would leave my clown character, Talofa, at home and just be goofy Pastor Walt (be kind!). The kids and teachers of St. James Lutheran Early Education Center have experienced this side of my ministry on a weekly basis as I do ‘Jesus time’ with the kids.

This coming Saturday, I will be doing my first full “kidshow” at St. James. It will be on Saturday morning from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and feature a variety of things from stories, magic, juggling, puppets, and general silliness. A snack and balloon animals will be provided to each child that attends. The theme is centered on God’s love - the source of all our smiles. Though I will be leaving my make-up at home - I will be wearing a big (natural) smile on my face.

An additional joy for me is that my son Mark will be taking part. He is amazing with puppets and will bring a bunch of his furry ‘friends’ with him.

Although the show is designed for children ages 3 to grade 1, kids of all ages are welcomed to attend. With the cold weather that we have been having, causing schools to close multiple days, I’m sure that more than one parent will be a little stir crazy by the time the weekend comes. Parents, see this as an opportunity to get out of the house and let them enjoy something a little different.

Like God’s love, there is no charge for the program. So that we can get an idea of how much snacks we need, if you could sign up (Click here) it would help matters.

I look forward to seeing many smiling faces on Saturday… and, of course, on Sunday too.

in Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

With Thanks and Appreciation for a Bright Year.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

As we prepare to leave 2018, I am filled with a sense of gratitude for the ministry that we do together. I thank God for many memories and blessings of 2018. It was a year that was bright with good things.

Over a decade ago, I encountered theologian Letty Russell’s definition of a church as a community of faith and struggle. We believe as a group of God’s children in the sure and certain hope of resurrection. We baptize and celebrate throughout our lives God’s promises of life, forgiveness, and God’s constant presence. We share God’s goodness with others. We come together to worship around Word and Sacrament. We celebrate with joy across the generations. In these and other ways, in our community there is faith. AND. We also struggle as a broken people. We don’t always follow God’s lead as we should. We aren’t always as kind as we could be with our words and actions. We struggle also with the harder sides of life. We cry and grieve. We hurt.

Over this past year, as a community of faith and struggle, we have grown in our relationship with God, with each other, and with our neighbors. I am looking forward to what lies ahead in 2019. Led by the Spirit, we are in for a wonderful journey of building and deepening those loving relationships.

Blessings to you and your family,

in Christ,

Pastor Walt

Yesterday and Tomorrow

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At the start of the week before Christmas, I am struck by the way that ministry at St. James engages people. Yesterday was a wonderful celebration. During our regular Sunday worship, our children told the Christmas story through word and song. Under the guidance of Sunday school teachers, parents, and our children’s music leaders - they did an awesome job of leading our worship. This memorable experience touched the hearts of many. I am deeply appreciative of all the efforts that go into our Children’s and youth ministry at St. James. So much goes on that sometimes we don’t always share all the stories. We will try to do better.

Ministry at and through a church depends upon the passion, dedication, and willingness of everyone. From the giving of time, talents, and treasure, we come together to BE the Church - to share the good news that is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Tonight, Tuesday, December 18, from 6:00 TO 7:30 P.M., we will gather to PLAN ministry for the first four months of 2019. Everyone is invited to this event, which is given extra support by our Council. We will imagine together how we might BE CHURCH in this place in the first third of 2019. Bring your ideas, hopes, and dreams for ALL AGES. Our innovative structure allows for ministry to be flexible, open to new ideas, and helps us improve without judgment on what we’ve done before. The way WE DO ministry invites input and dedication from those new to St. James and those who have long make this congregation their church home.

I hope that you can join me. Did I mention - there will be pizza! What a deal!

As always, I look forward to the ministry that God has in store for us all.

in Christ,

Pastor Walt

Spirit-driven Nomination Process

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus!

 

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As a dynamic and vision-focused community of faith, we constantly need leaders who have both the courage, enthusiasm, and humility to ask "where is God wanting us to go as a community".   I thank God on a regular basis for these qualities that have been a mainstay among leaders here at St. James in the almost ten years that I’ve served here as Pastor.

 

The lifting up of leaders is not a "once upon a time" effort; something that is accomplished and then onto something different.  It is an ongoing effort of discernment.  What challenges and opportunities face our community of faith and struggle at this moment?  What skills and gifts are needed?  What resources has God already given to us in order to meet these needs?  How might we, through focusing on our core G.R.A.C.E. values (God's grace, respect, appreciation, care/compassion, encouragement), develop and strengthen individuals in their own leadership qualities?

 

The continued growth and vitality of the church is always in God's hands.  God's spirit moves in familiar and strange ways among ordinary people so that extraordinary things are made possible.  In prayer we seek to connect to this Spirit and discern where God is leading us to praise and serve.

 

The Nomination Process that we use to identify potential persons to serve on Council is grounded in these questions and ideas.  At St. James, nominating people to serve on Council has become a creative and spiritual activity that is both open and transparent.   From the names lifted up last year as potential Council candidates, who were unable at that time to stand for election, a Nomination Mission Team has been established.   It will be meeting next week on Tuesday, December 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the Koinonia room.  I am grateful for Vice President, Brenda Nygren-Moe’s leadership of this group.

 

Once again this year, you are invited to take part in the process of identifying leaders that will be on the ballot for Council come our Annual Meeting on January 27, 2019.  

You are invited to:

 

1) Nominate a person (or persons) online or by writing down a name and giving that name to either Brenda or myself.  These names will be entered into the process during the first step.  When considering a person who might make a good Council leader, it is helpful to think about who demonstrates our G.R.A.C.E. (God's grace, respect, appreciation, care/compassion, encouragement) values.  Also it would be helpful to consider our clarified vision:  "By the Grace of God, we will build and deepen loving relationships with God, each other, and our neighbors"   All names received WILL BE entered into the process.

2) Attend the meeting on next Tuesday as an observer.  See how we will prayerfully lift up leaders using our proven spiritual process.   


 

3) Pray.  Pray for the Spirit to be present and guide those who are gathered so that the right skills and gifts are identified for this time in our life together.  Pray also for current leaders and those who will be transitioning from leadership roles in 2019.  Say a prayer of thanksgiving and appreciation for the long hours and hard work that our leaders have so generously given.


 

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday.  With Advent anticipation, I look forward to experiencing God's presence as we gather round Word and sacrament.  With Advent hope, I look forward to the ongoing renewal of our community and to the unexpected ways that God will use our gifts in the coming year.

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

Preaching on the good news in Isaiah

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I will begin an Advent preaching series on Sunday entitled, “Threshold.” This series will be in conjunction with the daily Advent devotional that I’m making available to the St. James community (click here if you like to register for this daily devotional).

Advent is a great time to seek God’s presence in the midst of life’s transition - or “threshold” moments. To do this we are going to turn to the ancient wisdom found in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah shared words of guidance, comfort, and hope to a people living in exile. These words were remembered and treasured. Jesus preached from the scroll of Isaiah as he began his earthly ministry. Christians ever since have turned to the proclamation of good news found in Isaiah to strengthen their faith in the Messiah and direct their faithful living.

Throughout this season of Advent, I will be following in this long established tradition of preaching from Isaiah. This tradition helped to inform the writing of the Gospel (particularly Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Even Martin Luther preached from Isaiah. The specific texts from Isaiah are found throughout years A, B, and C of the Revised Common Lectionary.

It may seem peculiar to some that I won’t be preaching from one of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. What about Jesus? Shouldn’t a sermon be based on a story from the life of Jesus?

Rest assured, I will be mentioning Jesus and the advent of God’s kingdom in Christ. I will do so trusting in the promise the Christ child is found in the fullness of the Bible’s witness. Both testaments bear witness to God’s plan of salvation for the whole world - not just the New Testament. With the long-expectant nature of Advent, we have a good opportunity to explore this Biblical truth and expand our Biblical imagination/thinking.

I am excited for this opportunity to study and proclaim the good news found in Isaiah and I hope that you join me in worship to listen to this series. Don’t forget - with Advent - we worship on Sundays (8 and 9:30 a.m.) AND Wednesdays (7:30 - location varies - check out calendar).

in Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

With Thanks for the Journey we Share

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As I begin this week of Thanksgiving celebrations, a sense of gratitude fills my heart.

God's Spirit is alive in the midst of our community of faith and struggle. From the joy that our children bring to worship to the generosity that folks have been displaying in response to Armful of Love and our annual Stewardship Pledge drive - ministry at St. James remains vibrant.

Pastor Mponzi's visit earlier this month reminded us of the blessing that St. James' decades-old relationship in Tanzania brings. Two Sundays ago, we learned from President/CEO Jeff Mortensen of similar blessings brought about through our local partnership with 360 Communities.

Please know of my thanks for you and every disciple of Jesus at St. James Lutheran. Together, God is accomplishing the proclamation of good news in this time and place. Thanks be to God!

With joy in my heart, I share an invitation with you. Starting on Sunday, November 25, we begin a daily four-week devotional series that coincides with the season of Advent. The first week is a Pre-Advent week and helps us get ready for the annual journey of preparation.

Starting on Sunday, December 2, I will preach an Advent sermon series called "Threshold." The sermons (Sundays and Wednesdays), like the daily devotions, look at navigating the transitional moments of life when we find ourselves in a new place. We will be relying on a familiar Advent voice, the prophet Isaiah, for guidance along the way.

My trip to Chaco Canyon and its ancient ruins inspired me to write this series. I am offering it for free to the whole St. James community with thanksgiving for this wonderful journey of ministry on which we find ourselves together. Follow the link below to sign up today.

Blessings to you this week as you celebrate Thanksgiving. As always, I look forward to worshiping with you on Sunday.

Taking Care of your Spirit

Recently, I have started to count calories again. Using an app on my phone, I’m recording what I’m eating throughout the day. I did this a few years ago with success. It helped me to lose a little weight, making me feel healthier. Unfortunately, I got out of the habit of watching what I ate; this had the negative result of weight gain.

With life as busy as it is, our health depends upon our being intentional. This is true of our physical health. It is also true of our spiritual well being.

Taking care of our spirit is a critical part of maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Spiritual care involves worship, study, prayer, and making time to be present with God. Some of these practices involve others, some do not.

St. James Lutheran offers a variety of options to help individuals of various ages to grow in their awareness of God’s presence. Although this is true throughout the year, we are rapidly approaching a season that has an abundance of opportunities.

Advent begins in just three Sundays. Throughout the four weeks leading up to our Christmas celebrations, we are offering additional worships on Wednesday evenings, a Bible study on the Christmas story (which you can do online - click here ), and Advent calendars. All of these are great ways for you to take care of your spirit.

I have also written a daily devotional that begins on November 25 - one week before Advent starts. You can sign up for this FREE daily, 5-minute inspiration which I will send to your email, inbox in time for your morning coffee. Use the button below.

When we are intentional about caring for our spiritual well-being, it has a positive effect on our relationship with God and others. Although it is true that God loves us no matter what, we are apt to overlook this fact. An irony emerges. Our lack of spiritual care obscures from view the God who walks alongside us. This God, who desires to be intimately involved with our whole life, waits patiently for us to turn.

So mark your calendars! Get ready to make this Advent a special time for you and your family to turn to God and take care of your spirit.

Looking forward to seeing you in worship.

in Christ’s Light,

Pastor Walt

Welcome Pastor Nancy Connor

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I am pleased to announce that Pastor Nancy Connor begins her service as a part-time Visitation Pastor at St. James Lutheran.

Pastor Nancy is a retired ELCA pastor who recently moved to the twin cities area from serving her last call in the Pacific Northwest.

She comes in answer to a prayer. Since Vicar Andrew completed his service with St. James a year ago last June, there has been need for additional help. Pastor Andrew Lewis is now serving Christ’s church in Macon, Georgia. When Andrew returned to his home state, a gap was created.

I continue to be grateful for the service of the Pastoral Care Team - a dedicated group of trained volunteers from St. James who assist in making communion visits and phone calls. In addition to their hard work, there was a need for more pastoral support.

Throughout this year, St. James Council had encouraged me in my search for part-time assistance. Many prayers later, I am happy to report that we have found the pastor for which we have been looking.

Pastor Nancy is with us for ten hours a week and will be making home and hospital visits during that time. She will also provide additional on-call coverage on the occasion when I’m away (weekly on-call coverage on days off is now provided through a partnership with Lydia’s Place and makes use of trained seminary students coordinated by Pastor Scott.)

To get to know the congregation, Pastor Nancy will also be attending a scheduled event once a month. On some months, like this coming Sunday, it will be during our worship time.

I invite to you meet Pastor Nancy Connor this coming Sunday, November 11 at either the 8:00 or 9:30 a.m. worships. Please join me in welcoming Pastor Nancy to the St. James Lutheran family.

in Christ,

Pastor Walt

Blessed to be a part

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For the first part of this week, I am away with pastor colleagues from around the St. Paul Area Synod at the Bishop’s Theological Conference. Each year, Bishop Lull hosts this gathering to bring us together, to build relationships, to study and worship, and to renew. This year the gathering is at Cragun’s up north.

Our keynote speaker is Presiding Bishop Eaton of the ELCA.

What a joy it is for me to have Pastor Mponzi join me at the conference. It is amazing how the church is wonderfully small and connected! More than once, we ran into pastors who knew pastors who knew Pastor Mponzi! He even was able to speak Swahili with some.

Together, Pastor Mponzi and I, are learning much. We are also enjoying the beauty of belonging to a church that has global relationships and shares in the proclamation of God’s love that is found in Christ!

Bwana Jesu Asifewe!

I look forward to seeing you all in worship this coming Sunday on Reformation Sunday!

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

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