A Tablecloth for ALL SAINTS

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Setting the Table with the Saints in Mind.jpg

Back in 2010, we introduced a 'eucharistic experience' for All Saints' Sunday that involved pictures.  We gathered photos of the saints in our lives to place around the Altar Table for this annual festival that gives thanks to God for those whose lives bear witness to Christ's love.   This practice was continued for six years and helped to frame our Eucharist on All Saints' Sunday as a celebration that was done with all the saints in heaven and earth.  Through the sacrament, God connects the saints together into one eternal body of Christ.       

This year, our 'eucharistic experience' for All Saints' Sunday will again involve recalling those special people in our lives that have taught us and shown us Christ's love.  Instead of photos, however, we will be writing down the names of those saints.  Throughout the month of October, there will be a tablecloth in the narthex (back of church).  Using a variety of colored markers (saints are as diverse as the rainbow) you are invited each week to write down a name (or two) in thanksgiving for their life.   Each week, you will be asked to recall saints from various parts of life.  For example, who was a memorable Sunday School teacher or a kind coworker that showed you compassion?  The point of the exercise is to think deeply and recall those lives that really matter so that we can share our deep thanks to God for them.  

On All Saints' Sunday, we will have the children bring the tablecloth in during the offering and help set the Altar Table.   With the names of the saints in our lives literally on the Table, we will celebrate and share in the Body of Christ.  

We begin the first week with recalling someone that shared God's love with you as a child.  Come and write down their name (or names) on the tablecloth.   

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

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

New Number, New Name, Same Personal Care.


Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

For the last seven years, St. James has had a designated line for emergency pastoral care.  This innovation made getting a hold of a pastor easier - all you needed to do was call one number, and a pastor would pick up on the other end.  The 24/7 coverage was provided by multiple St. James pastoral staff members (pastors, pastoral assistants, interns, pastoral care team) as they passed the on-call phone back and forth among themselves.ll

To continue to provide the same availability with a single pastor serving the St. James community, we have begun a working relationship with MAS Communications.  This is a Minnesota company, based in Mankato, that provides live after-hours answering service for Prince of Peace Lutheran in town.  Pastors at POP recommended them based on their own positive experience.     

Going forward, MAS Communications will initially answer calls made to the Pastoral Care Line.  They will be better able to provide referrals for those who are seeking financial assistance (which make up a significant number of the calls that come in on the emergency line).  When people are in need of financial help, the operator will be able to give them the direct phone number of our partner organizations (such as 360 Communities or CAP) - something I was never able to do because I didn't have a directory with me at all times.

To make the switch, we had to change our phone number (something technical related to the area code).  Please replace the former St. James emergency number on all your devices with the FOLLOWING NUMBER:  

(952) 890-4410.   Pastoral Care Line   

The old number is no longer in service.  A message to that effect will remain on the line for the next month but we will not answer any calls or messages from it.    

As we make this change, we are also changing the name of this service.  Instead of "Emergency Pastoral Care Hotline," we will be using - "Pastoral Care Line."   What's with this name change?  We discovered that the word 'emergency' was getting in the way of people calling to say that someone was in the hospital and wanted a visit, or someone wanted to meet with the pastor for prayer.   People did not consider their needs an "emergency"; even though, they were hospitalized for a week and would have liked a visit.  Pastoral Care line - invites ALL requests for pastoral care contact including conversation, visits, hospital stays, as well as emergency calls (unexpected surgery or hospice).  If you would like to add someone to the PRAYER list or have a message for the Pastoral Care Team, you can also call this number.  

I am aware of the inconvenience that this phone number change presents.  Thank you for your patience and for erasing the old number.  

I am also excited about this new resource as I am convinced that it will provide better care and will allow a sustainable on-call coverage.  Not having to field a variety of non-urgent calls at various times of the day and day will allow me to be more present in my pastoral role for when it is needed the most.

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

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

Commemoration and Reformation


Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

On October 31, 2017, Lutherans (and other Christians) around the globe will be commemorating the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.  On that date in 1517, an obscure (except in the region surrounding Wittenberg where he taught Bible at the University) monk posted 95 Theses with this intention of starting a scholarly debate over needed reforms in the church.  What resulted was a widespread needed Reformation and sadly a schism of the church (which is finally seeing healing through the tireless efforts of Lutheran and Roman Catholic theologians).   As a church in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, St. James is part of this historical legacy.

A bunch of things will mark this significant anniversary at St. James.  For the last four months, a Ministry Team - led by Judy Jensen - has been meeting and planning.  Fun activities, educational opportunities for children, youth, and adults, fellowship moments, movies, a book fair, a Reformation Faire, and a German-style potluck are all in the works.  Pay attention to website, bulletin, and weekly emails for details.  Each day, on the St. James website, we will post a daily Luther fact which Vicar (soon to be Pastor) Andrew Lewis researched and provided commentary on for us  (click here to read today's Luther fact).  

For my part, I am excited to be work on two efforts.  Along with Dr. Gary DeKrey, historian and part of the St. James community, we will be hosting a two-week Adult conversation on Luther's ideas.   Starting on September 17, I will also be posting a daily, seven-week blog on my website: www.Lightfromthishill.com.  

In the spirit of ongoing Reformation, this blog series, entitled "From...to...", will raise seven areas that need reform within our church today.  Through sharing my perspective as a pastor with over twenty years of experience teaching and preaching in the church,  I will raise some questions and invite conversations.   I will be using Isaiah as a scriptural background with a passage from this prophet (which Luther taught at Wittenberg) selected for each day.  I hope you will join me for this journey - a link will be emailed out daily through St. James email and Facebook.  For those who prefer a printed copy, these will be made available on Sundays at St. James.  

It continues to amaze and delight me to be a part of a church that God's Spirit continues to make anew.  

See you in worship, 

Pastor Walt

Time to Rally!


Each year I look forward to the September start up of another school-year of ministry.  This year is no exception.  In fact, there is a level of joy at St. James this year that makes me particularly excited.  There is good energy in both Sunday School and Confirmation.  Plans have been made to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran reformation in meaningful and memorable ways.  A host of ministry opportunities is available for folks to share their talents.  New faces have found a welcome and a church home in St. James.  New lighting throughout the building and parking lot will literally brighten things up.  Comfort Meals are ready to be made, packed, and distributed.  Worship is dynamic and continues to involve children on a weekly basis.  So much goes on and so much for which to be thankful.  Our back to church special offering is coming in strong and being supported by an ever widening circle of people.  Life and ministry at St. James are in a good place.

On Sunday, September 10, we kick a new ministry year with our Rally Day worship, the start of Sunday School, Comfort Meal Pack, and BBQ lunch.  Wow!  So much really does go on!  All ages are invited to participate, celebrate, and take part in the faith formation that lies ahead of us all.  

I hope to see you in worship on Sunday for Rally Day.  Join me in praying for the continued strength and vitality of St. James as the Spirit moves among us and ignites our response.

in Christ,

Pastor Walt




A New Kind of Youth Ministry

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus!

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This past week, I was struck by the involvement of youth in the life of the St. James community.  We may not have the flashy or big youth program in town, but something good is happening with and to our teenagers that ought to be recognized and celebrated.  Instead of ministry TO youth in the classic "youth group" fashion - we are doing ministry WITH youth.  At St. James, youth are integrated into the ministry that we do together (across ages) in the name of Jesus.  Just last week, we had high school youth volunteer in the office as office support, sing solos during worship, provide audio-visual coverage and act as a wedding coordinator!  Throughout the summer, they have participated in our Wednesday night band, weeded flower beds, worked as part of the Handymen of St. James, and engaged in Vacation Bible School as teachers and leaders.  

It is a pattern that has been present at St. James for many years - our youth are engaged and work alongside adults to do ministry.  These are leadership roles in which our youth are being affirmed by our community for their maturity, gifts, skills, and unique personalities.  More important than something they can list on a college resume, these are opportunities for them to grow as children of God in the context of a community that genuinely cares for and loves them.

I am proud of the St. James community and the kind of ministry that we are doing with our youth.  On a one-on-one basis, we are making a big difference in the lives of our teens.  Our emphasis is not on attracting the masses.  Instead, we are about making connections with individuals.  This aligns with our vision to build and deepen relationships.  Quality not quantity is dictating our efforts.  We are living out our identity as a "relational church." 

We will continue to offer group-based opportunities for youth to gather together.  These remain important.  SPARK - our weekly ministry for high school students after confirmation - will be led this year by Casey Fuerst.  More information will be coming out soon about this exciting ministry which will start up again at the end of September.  Registration is underway for Confirmation - a ministry for youth in middle school and 9th grade.  In addition to the learning, there is a lot of time devoted to building friendships and service.   In September, registration will occur for the National Youth Gathering.  I am looking forward to filling Wanda (the church van) with youth for this gathering down in Houston.  Given the flooding that is currently happening in Houston, I am sure that there will be many important service opportunities there next summer.

Youth ministry is alive and well in the St. James community.  Yes; it looks different than it once was.  Yes; it looks different than what most folks would imagine it to be.  Yes: as a parent of two teens, I am grateful for the opportunities for my boys to grow in their faith, serve their neighbor, and make connections with adults that are serving as positive role models.  I hope that you will join me in raising thanks for our incredible youth and for the ministry that we are doing with them.  

In Christ,

Pastor Walt 



Thanks Graham!


You might have noticed that there is a new addition to the landscape at St. James Lutheran.  As you drive into the parking lot at the end of the building that houses the St. James Early Education Center, you will see a mini church, two benches, and new mulch.  The tiny chapel houses a community library and it is the Eagle Scout Project of Graham Moberg.   Graham, a Boy Scout in Troup 471, used to go to the St. James Lutheran Early Education Center when he was in pre-school.  For his Eagle Scout leadership award, he wanted to give back to the school and St. James.  This library, which already contains books for adults and children, will be used by not only the families who bring their children to SJLEEC and St. James but also by the entire community.  Thanks Graham for this wonderful gift.  You truly display the qualities of leadership and are a good example of a Boy Scout.

You are invited to check out the library - perhaps bring a book to share.

In Christ,

Pastor Walt


Restructuring the Office of Pastor in a Generative Manner


The process is important.  That is often the case.  It is especially true as St. James leaders work on a new vision of the pastoral office.  As I am away on vacation this week, the Pastoral Support Team is meeting with the Executive Mission Team to share a new paradigm for pastoral ministry at St. James.  

The Pastoral Support Team is made up of Konrad Gastony (past President), Dave Dickman (past President), Birdie Olson (past Council person and Internship Mission Team co-leader), Jessi Kurvers (past Council person and Internship Mission Team co-leader), and Bjorn Pearson (Vice-President).  Among them, they have a vast knowledge of the workings of the pastoral office, pastoral leadership styles, and understand the needs of St. James.  Over the years, they have reviewed results of our many congregational surveys and direct feedback from Town Hall meetings and numerous conversations with others in our community.  As important as their leadership experience at St. James is, I think their most significant contribution to this project is their passion.  They have a deep passion for the health and vitality of St. James Lutheran.  Connected to this passion is a deep support of the pastoral office.  Healthy pastors and healthy congregations go together.  The Pastoral Support Team understands this relationship.  

In a time of largely uncharted waters for the church, the Pastoral Support Team has been a valuable asset to me.  Their support to the pastoral office comes in many forms.  At times, they are a sounding board that allows a confidential outlet for expressing concerns and frustrations.  At other times, they have spoken hard truths out of love.  They are natural listeners that know how to go to the deeper questions.  The team challenges, comforts, encourages, raises concerns, and offers alternative perspectives.  

Now, they are presenting ideas on how to adjust the role and responsibility of the Lead Pastor in light of the reality of St James being a sole-pastor parish for the current season in which we find ourselves.  These ideas have come from careful deliberation and exploration.  They have reviewed previous job descriptions for all the roles that have been expected of the pastoral office, when multiple pastors, interns, assistants served.  They listened to the wisdom of Pastor Sandy Rothschiller, who worked with Portico (benefit arm of the E.L.C.A.) and served as a sole pastor before joining the staff of Prince of Peace.  They interviewed people from other congregations in the area to see what expectations they had of their pastors.  They have also reviewed the comments, on what people in the pew expect from their pastor, made at the Pastor's Coffee and Conversation in early August.  They have done a lot of work.  

The new paradigm that they will be presenting to the Executive Mission Team is a step forward in reshaping pastoral roles and expectations.  Back to process.  Here is how we will make the ideas better together.  From the Executive Mission Team, the work-in-progress will be shared with Council at their September meeting.  After Council has had a chance to discern how it connects with our congregational tri-part vision - a Town Hall meeting will be scheduled in October.  At this point, the ideas will be made public.  Feedback and input will be solicited from the congregation at large.  Again, we will make it better together.   Following the public hearing, at the October Council meeting, a vote will be taken on the new model for pastoral ministry at St. James.  When all is said and done - many voices and perspectives will go into restructuring the Office of Pastor. 

I am grateful for all the work that is being done in reshaping the Office of Pastor in such a generative manner. As you might have guessed, since the beginning of the year, it has been a challenge to provide the visionary leadership that is needed to meet our challenges while also covering the other aspects of the Pastoral Office that were once done by multiple pastors. New patterns are needed in order restore healthy practices and expectations to the Pastoral Office now that it has only a single occupant.

 As I shared in my blog series this summer, I remain hopeful for St. James and excited for the ministry that we will do together.  I can't wait to see what comes out of the work of the Pastoral Support Team and the Executive Mission Team while I'm away.  Again, the process is important.  That they are doing significant work in my absence points to the new paradigm that we are entering.  Please pray for these leaders, the generative process, and the well-being of St. James.

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

Barn Signs, Ultimate Frisbee, Horseback Rides, and Community


Last weekend, five families participated in this year's Family Camp.  We couldn't have had a nicer weekend regarding weather.  Thanks go to the Gastony family for sharing their beautiful farm with us.  They were such gracious hosts, and the accommodations were among the best that our Family Camp has seen.   Thanks also need to be shared with our Ministry Hosts - Jeff and Kari Owens - who made sure we had enough food, supplies, and social activities to make happy campers. 

There was a lot to do.  We painted barn signs using authentic farm boards.  Kaia Gastony lead horseback rides.  A game of Ultimate Frisbee involved all ages - even the panting pastor!  There were also bike rides to Cleary Lake, water wars, and campfire worship.  It was a full weekend that even had some time for naps.   Perfect.

Although there was so much to do for all ages and great fun each step of the way, the best part of the weekend had not so much to do with doing as it did with being.  Simply being together was the best part of Family Camp.  We were a community.  We were a family.  And we stopped along the way to listen, laugh, and share life.  Whether it was a meal, a cup of morning coffee on the deck, washing a paint brush in the shared water bucket, or sitting in a circle around the fire - the interaction was something special.

Christian community happens when those who follow Jesus share their lives with each other.  The level of the sharing can be deep, reaching those places where we are most genuine and vulnerable, or at the level of a joyful laugh, light and filled with frivolity.  To be the people that God created us to be, we need community.  We need interaction with others that goes beyond our tribe and clan.  Jesus knew this and so the building of community was connected to his acts of healing and compassion.  The community expanded as Jesus proclaimed in word and deed the kingdom of God.  True community patterned on Jesus must be open and ever expanding.  Hospitality broadens the circle around the campfire and adds space and chairs for others to sit down.

I am grateful for the hospitality extended and the community shared at this year's Family Camp, which was a short drive away.   Thank you all and thank you, God!

In Christ,

Pastor Walt


Line Up!


Early this summer, our parking lot was re-lined.   The old lines had faded over the years, and it was a job that was desperately needed.  The bright, painted lines are a welcomed sight.   I am certainly thankful for a job well done.  

As a community, we need to share our combined thanks to Duane Stabler who completed the job.  A member of the Council, Duane exemplifies a renewed spirit of participation and engagement that is moving through St. James.   Duane saw what many saw - we needed to have the lines repainted.  This spring, I had more than one person bring this to my attention.  Pastor, the lines need to be repainted.  It was a job that would have cost us in the thousands.   Although we might have been able to do it, financially it was not on our priorities, and we are still in the midst of careful fiscal management.  In the discussions that followed, Jerry Sjogren (who years ago did the job the last time) mentioned that we have a line painting machine in the basement.  Duane not only located the machine but went to the local paint stores and bought all the parking lot paint that we could find.  

Over a series of hot days, lasting over a week, Duane re-lined the lot.  He continued to buy up all the parking lot paint at the local paint stores.  It was a lot of effort but it paid off and it looks great.  Thanks Duane for exemplifying the spirit of 'jumping right in there' and lending a hand.  You join a host of people who share their time, talents, and treasure at St. James - that get things done and make our church home look good and welcoming.  Thank you and thanks to all those who pull weeds, water flower, cut trees, maintain air conditioning/heating units, the list goes on and on.   And the church facility/property goes on too!

in Christ,

Pastor Walt 

Smore of This!

Over last weekend, St. James hosted Vacation Bible School for children from the parish and beyond.  It was a great experience for kids, youth, and adults alike.   There was singing, Bible stories, games, crafts, and snacks.   It had all the beloved and classic elements of V.B.S. making it lots of fun for all involved.   The whole experience was topped off with worship on Sunday morning.  The children sang, led prayers, collected a noisy offering, and handed out lanterns that they made to worshipers.  Skits and photos from Bible school helped to share some of the key learning.  Tents, trees, and rocks decorated the worship space, getting everyone into the 'Camp Out' theme.

As I think back on the success of this ministry, three "I"s pop into my mind: Innovation, Invitation, Inspiration

Innovation - This was a classic ministry done in an unorthodox way on a weekend.  One of the great challenges in previous years (St. James has not had a traditional VBS in about three years) was finding adults who could run it during the week.  Thankfully, we always had one or two dedicated folks who did not work during the summer months or were able to take the week off.  Staffing was a challenge and it often fell upon all too few shoulders. Offering this year's V.B.S. over a weekend greatly opened the pool of resources.  In the way of innovation, this ministry was guided by a Ministry Plan and by a talented group of leaders that came together specifically for this ministry.  

Invitation - Flyers announcing V.B.S. were passed out into the community and neighborhoods surrounding St. James.  Special scholarships, provided by St. James, encouraged participation among those who are new to the kind of children's ministry that St. James offered.  I am proud of the team that went out seeking our families that may not otherwise have come.  In the case of one family that didn't have a ride, the team arranged transportation.  

Inspiration - Watching our leaders (adults and youth) at work throughout the weekend, I was inspired.  It was a joy to experience their energy, creativity, and enthusiasm.  Keeping with the theme, they made the extra effort to pitch about a half dozen tents on the lawn.   They brought a deep sense of excitement that just propelled the weekend.  I am deeply grateful for Paul and Jeni Wojahn, Allyson, Ben, Zoe, and Jack Tressel, Patty Seewald, Sherri and Emily Lawrence, Helen and Dave Osterkamp - what a team!  The ministry of St. James happens when people share their gifts of time, talent, and treasure.  They shared such rich gifts and the result was an inspiring success.

To top it all off, as we were finishing on Sunday I received a delightful surprise.  As the team was taking the trees and tents out of the sanctuary and cleaning up, they were tired and smiling.  And they were talking already about next year!  Thanks be to God!

In Christ,

Pastor Walt


Houston - We have an OPPORTUNITY

Next summer, Lutheran youth from all over the country will be gathering in Houston Texas for a few days of life-changing experiences.   An estimated 40,000 participants will pack arenas, hotels, restaurants, and everywhere in the city of Houston.  And Wanda (St. James church van) will be parking in the world's largest parking lot.

We are going to the Gathering because it is truly an experience for youth like none other.  Something incredible happens when you get that many Lutheran youths and supporting adults together.  I can honestly say that attending a National Youth Gathering (back in the early 1990's) had a positive effect on my faith life and vocation as a child of God.  I remember being charged up and feeling like I was a part of a church that was much bigger than my imagination.  I heard incredible and inspirational people share their faith.   I recall "rocking on" with the music of Jay Beech.   It truly opened my perspective and formed my theology (thoughts about God).   

We are going to Houston because this experience is important for the next generation of Christians to have.  They need to have their faith inspired, charged up, and the opportunity to experience the larger church.   St. James has long supported youth participation in National Youth Gatherings.  We have a good and positive tradition of attending these Triennial gatherings.  

Over the course of the next week, I will be offering two information gatherings for parents and youths to find out the details about the Houston Gathering.   Invitations have been sent to households.   I hope that we will have folks come out - I know already that there are more who will be coming out for these info nights then went to the Gathering in Detroit.   I say 'hope' rather than 'wish' because hope involves trusting in God to make things happen.  The success of Gatherings in the past has largely been to the work of the Spirit moving among people who shared their time, talents, and treasure in order to provide this essential faith growth opportunity.

I hope (again, trust) that parents will encourage their children to take a chance on attending the Gathering.  They may not know anybody else who is going.  They may not think that it will be "cool enough" or fashionable enough.  Courage is needed to go outside of boxes.  Sadly, all too often we let our children stay inside carefully constructed realities (which ironically are not real at all) at the expense of exposing them to new opportunities.  This has the effect of stifling their growth.  The Gathering is a safe and life-changing experience where they will be able to talk about their faith, celebrate it, question it, and have fun.     

Catch me and I will be happy to share more stories and experiences of Gatherings over the years.  As a veteran of three Gatherings, there is a lot to tell.  

If you don't have youth in your household (grades 8-12 this September) to encourage to attend, then simply pray to God for the blessing of this effort.  Celebrate the ways that we are reaching out and connecting with high school aged youth.  Support, through your general giving, the ministry that provides this opportunity.   Pray.  Please pray for those who will be going, those who will be preparing Houston for the Lutherans.     

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

Making Good Use of Summer time


It is tempting to drag out the old hammock, find a shading space, and catch a snooze.  Summer time is certainly the season for taking a deep breath.  I've already had a chance to do some of this as we vacated town and headed back east.  

Summer is also the time for dreaming and retooling.  In the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day, ministry downshifts a bit.  It allows for dreaming and to reimagine ministry.  I have always enjoyed this work.  

This year, I am blessed to work with staff and congregational leaders on a variety of projects.  They are:

Reimaging the role of Pastor at St. James:  Along with the Pastor Support Team (consisting of former council members and past presidents), we are looking at the role of pastor as we transition to being a single pastor parish.  Starting today, I will be publishing a new 20-day blog sharing my thoughts, dreams, and tools that are essential for pastoral ministry moving ahead (click here). I hope that folks will take the time to read and share their feedback.  In early fall, there will be a Town Hall Meeting for the congregation.  At this event, the Pastoral Support Team will present their work and ask for feedback.   We will work together to adjust expectations and rewrite the job description of St. James pastor.  

Strengthening Confirmation Ministry:  I have been working with the Small Group Leaders/parents to enhance our Confirmation Ministry.  Building on the positive changes that were made in the spring, we will continue to make this middle school aged ministry the best it can be.  I just met with a sub-group of the Small Group leaders to incorporate suggestions and feedback that was shared at an end-of-the-year review dinner.  The result is an exciting schedule that is filled with service, bible and catechism study, speakers, and a weekend winter retreat.  We are also going to be experimenting with Learner Directed Confirmation.  This original idea seeks to offer a confirmation experience that students and parents design from a comprehensive list of learning objectives.  It will be offered as a pilot and participation will be voluntary.   

Reconfiguring Staff:   At the beginning of the summer, we were sorry to see Bonnie Gauquie leave our church office staff.  This caused us to rethink the way that our office staff was structured.  We are currently looking for a contract-to-hire candidate to fill a newly created position that will provide needed communications and front office coverage (click here for a job description).   Also, we are looking at creative ways to provide the needed support to multiple ministry plans.  We will do this by shifting roles and expectations of the whole staff.  One of our congregational strengths during this time of adaptive change has been a flexibility when it comes to matters of reorganization.   The Council and Executive Mission Team will leverage this strength to make sure that we have all the bases covered by Rally Day.  

Youth Ministry:  Two areas are currently being worked upon.  First, I am in the process of gathering a group of teens to go to next summer's National Youth Gathering in Houston, Texas.  I am optimistic that we will have a good-sized group of youth attend.  Second, we will be reshaping our SPARK ministry- weekly youth experience.  We are thankful for the leadership of Mary Kruse and Jeff Owens who guided this ministry for the past two years.  I am in the process of forming the new leadership team and look forward to announcing their names by the end of this month our new leaders.  Both ministries offer excellent opportunities for high school aged youth to connect with each other and grow in their faith.  

 These are just four areas that are being worked and reworked.  Please keep the process, staff, and leadership of St. James in your prayers as we go about the task of improving all of our  ministries.  As I say on a weekly basis at the end of worship - when the people of God share their gifts (time, talent, treasure) we are able to do the ministry of Christ in this place and time.  Your gift sharing allows the needed resources to do ministry.  With a grateful heart for what has been shared and a hopeful heart for what will be shared, I close this week's Ministry Moment.


in Christ,

Pastor Walt










Fall Ministry Night -

On Thursday night, July 13, at 7:00 p.m. we will be hosting a Fall Ministry Night.  Once again, it is time to invite suggestions, ideas, perspectives, and assistance with the ministry that we share as we look ahead to the Fall.  The last time that we did this in the early Spring, we had a great turnout.  As a result, we had lots of constructive input into making St. James ministry the very best that it can be.  This innovative approach puts the responsibility for doing ministry with the people.  We gather.  We plan.  We do the ministry as the Body of Christ.  Ministry is not the sole work of a paid staff.  Ministry is the work of the people.  

So, come out, and lend your hand, mind, and heart to this effort.

I look forward to seeing you and working with you together.

In Christ,

Pastor Walt


New Position in the Church Office


At last week's Executive Mission Team, authorization was given for the hiring of a part-time, office support person.  Although this will not replace the position recently vacated by Bonnie, we are in need of coverage and administrative assistance.   This person will answer phones, serve as a receptionist during regular office hours Monday-Thursday, prepare bulletins and parish publications, maintain the website, and help out with other needed support tasks.  A complete job description will be coming out in early July and we will seek to hire as soon as we can fill the position with a qualified candidate.

If anyone knows of someone who might be interested, please have them submit a resume to me as soon as possible.  I am looking forward to conducting interviews during the week of July 9.

We are in the process of evaluating staffing needs in consultation with the Executive Mission Team, Pastoral Support Team, and the Council.  This work will happen throughout the summer months.  It is my hope that we will have a new configuration in place by September.   

As with all matters involving our life together as a community of faith and struggle, I look forward to receiving feedback and input.  Be sure to let me know what is on your mind.  I will return from two weeks of vacation on July 2. 

In Christ,

Pastor Walt 

Taking Children's Messages "out of the box"


Starting on July 2, I will be trying something different during the Children's Message.  A box is in the narthex.  Children (and parents too) can please whatever items fit into the box.  At the time of the Children's Message, I will open the box.  I will reach in and out an item.   Using this mystery item,  I will preach a message.  I will need to keep on my toes, no doubt.  There is even the potential of "stumping the pastor."  We will see.   It promises to be a lot of fun.  

Kids, be creative.  With your parent's permission, find something to bring in each week.  Who knows, your item could be the 'mystery item' that I pick out of the box.   

I am looking forward to seeing what happens.  It will be an adventure, no doubt.  

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

Take Out Church

I am pictured here in front of my home church in Secaucus, New Jersey.   I traveled back to my hometown during a recent continuing education event.   

I am pictured here in front of my home church in Secaucus, New Jersey.   I traveled back to my hometown during a recent continuing education event.   

This summer,  we will be offering "Take Out Church" at St. James.  Unlike the high-calorie versions available from local fast food restaurants, our 'Take Out' will be filled with wholesome ingredients.  Each week (on Sundays and Wednesdays) there will be a stack of boxes ready to be taken.   Inside each box, there is a scripture reading, prayer, short devotion, little notebook, candle, matches,  a small vial to bring back water from your trip, a few crayons, and a "Flat Luther."   

Individuals/families are invited to pick up a "Take Out Church" box whenever they are going to be away.  Whether your travels are near or far, you can use this resource to stay connected with St. James and your faith.  

Use "Flat Luther" (you can use the crayons to color him or not) to take a selfie.  Send your pictures to me (pastorwalt@stjameslc.com) and I will post them to the website and put them on the screens on Sunday morning.  In this summer that leads up to our 500th Commemoration of the Reformation, let's see how many places "Flat Luther" can go!

Use the water vial to gather a sample of water from your trip.  When you return to worship, you will be invited at the start of worship to pour your water into the baptismal font.  During our weekly Thanksgiving for Baptism, we will be thanking God for the waters of our lives and will be naming those bodies of water where we live and play.  Just let me know before worship starts that you have water to share.  

Please return the boxes after each trip that you take.  We will be replenishing the supplies within.  Also, the small notebook will allow greetings to be shared with others in their travels.  You are welcome to take as many 'Take Out" boxes for each of your adventures.   


I am grateful for Vicar Andrew and his work of bringing this idea into being.  Thanks also need to go to Doreen Evans and her office volunteers who put the boxes together (and will be updating them throughout the summer).   

Let's have fun and grow in our faith this summer.  The "Take Out Church" boxes will help us stay connected when we are gone.  Sunday morning and Wednesday night worship will do this when we are in town.  As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship (and looking forward to seeing your pictures with "Flat Luther" as well)!


in Christ,

Pastor Walt 


Taking Time to Reflect


I am grateful to have served two congregations that have had a robust tradition of providing Continuing Education for their pastors.  This time last year, I had the benefit of being able to take a time of sabbatical renewal.   In so many ways, I remain appreciative of this opportunity that provided deep renewal, perspective, and spiritual growth.  Time away that is used for the purpose of regeneration is essential - this is especially true for those who serve the church.  The daily grind of ministry can be consumptive.  Left unattended, it can be destructive.   Times of sabbath are needed to keep the spirit alive and open to the work of THE SPIRIT.   

I am taking one of the two weeks of Continuing Education that are allotted to me each year to travel to New Jersey.  It has been twenty years since my ordination.  In that time, many changes have happened in my life and in the life of the church that I love and serve as pastor.  I will be taking along my camera and my computer, a few audible books (including one that I read as I prepared for my ordination twenty years ago:  Henri Nouwen's, Can you Drink this Cup?).   I will be driving alone and stopping along the way to write.  I find long drives to be restorative and wonderful opportunties to do some heavy thinking.   

I will return for worship on Wednesday evening.  I am grateful for Pastor Gregg Helland who will be preaching and presiding on Sunday, to Vicar Andrew for guiding worship, and to Doreen and Bonnie who will continue to care for the ministry while I am gone.  I ask for your prayers during this time of renewal.  It is my hope to be able to share with you the fruits of this labor in a 20 day retrospective on 20 years of ministry which I will be publishing as a blog starting on June 9.   

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

Pastor Walt  

Hot dogs, marshmallows, music, and worship!


Summer time is here.  Time to be outdoors and appreciate the beauty of living in such a beautiful part of the country.  Starting this Wednesday, it is also time for us to worship outdoors.   Back in 2010, the idea of worshiping mid-week during the summer was revived.  Today, our campfire worship is well established as a favorite among many.   We gather for hot dogs (roasted over the open fire) at 6:00 p.m., and worship begins at 6:30.   Bring your lawn chair and something to drink.  Hot dogs (or as some call them "tube steaks") will be provided.  

This year, following worship (@7:15 p.m.), I will be hosting a campfire conversation.  Bring a second beverage of your choosing.  Like our anceint ancestors in the faith who gathered around the fire to share stories of faith, so too will we venture to the place of creative theology.  The conversation will be brought by those who gather as we explore our questions about God, Bible, and faith.  No prior Bible Study experience is required.  Bring your Bible and a learner's mind.

I look forward to our Wednesday evenings in the summer and hope that you can come out.  Although it is intended as an alternative worship option to those who are away on Sundays during the summer, there are some who come out 'in addition' to Sunday worship.  It is just that special.  For me, it is a time when community is apparent.  We are a 'family' of sorts as all ages share this time of food, fellowship, and sacred connection.   The music is also amazing and who doesn't like a campfire sing-a-long?   

See you soon in worship (on Sunday or Wednesday)!

In Christ,

Pastor Walt


Making Beautiful Music


With Memorial Day weekend just days away, I am reminded that we have come to the end of another year of ministry (if you think of these things in terms not of the official Church Year but of the practical School Year calendar).  Before we enter into our summer schedule (Sunday worship times stay the same at 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.; Wednesday Campfire "hotdog" worship begins on May 31) it is good to pause and give thanks.   In previous weeks, I shared thanks for the Sunday School teachers and Confirmation Small Group leaders - because of their wonderful efforts, we have exciting ways of encouraging faith in our children and teens. I remain thankful for them and for the kind of relationship-based ministry that we are offering as a church.

This week, I want to strike a slightly different key - literally.  I want to share words of thanks and deep appreciation for our Music Ministry. There is a long standing tradition of quality and participatory music at St. James. We have great choirs (vocal and bells) and awesome leaders who not only direct the notes on the page but also (and perhaps more important) foster relationships among those who share their musical talents.   Each choir is a group that genuinely cares for each other.   I am thankful for the overall guidance of Kelvin Miller (Minister of Music), the passion and skill which Jan Pofahl (Organist and Principle Accompanist) shares on the keyboards of piano and organ, and for each of our choir directors: for Kjersten Dysthe (Praise III), Kari Owens (Jubilation Ringers), Barb McCutcheon (Grace A'Plenty), and Barb Kleinfeldt (Soul Fire).  Thankful for each of the choirs - Chancel, Praise III, Grace A'Plenty, Jubilation Ringers, and Soul Fire (previously Praize Wee).  Thankful also for the additional musicians that provide accompaniment throughout the year:  Bob Andrews (Bass, guitar), Mark Lind (mandolin and guitar), Jeff Owens (Banjo and guitar), , Jeni Wojahn (piano and flute), Carolyn Fuerst (piano), Janet Karsten (guitar), Tim Evans (Bass), Tim Pofahl (Trombone) and Dave Osterkamp (drums).   We are also thrilled to have our youth assist with festivals and special events:  Jack Tressel (drums), Sarah Dysthe (Trumpet), Ainsley Fuerst (Oboe), Mark (French Horn) and Noah (Trumpet) Lichtenberger.  As you see we have so many talented folks - please forgive me if I have left any names out.     

God has richly blessed us with the ability and the passion to raise our songs of gladness.    

Thank you all.    

I look forward to the music that is yet to be made.   

In Christ, 

Pastor Walt



Waters that Open Toward the Future


Twenty-two young men and women will be making their confirmation this coming Sunday at St. James.  It is a joyful time for families and teens alike.  As a pastor and a father who experienced the confirmation of his oldest a few years back, it is a privilege to see how they have grown.  Before our eyes, we see a new maturity as they stand up, read their chosen confirmation verse, publicly profess their Christian faith, and ask for God to help and guide them.  It is a hope-filled moment.  

On Sunday, twenty-two young believers will return to the waters of baptism as we celebrate the completion of one stage of their faith formation and the entrance into another.  Over the course of three years, they have learned, studied the Bible and the catechism.  They have also served others.  They have engaged in the life of the St. James community.  Now they are ready to wade further into the water. 

Camp Beisler was a Lutheran church camp in the northwestern part of New Jersey.  I worked there as a camp counselor after my second year of seminary.  In those days, before the construction of a beautiful pool, we swam in the lake.  This lake was made by damming up a small stream that ran through the property.  It had a 'beach', which was also fabricated by dumping a large quantity of sand along the shoreline.  To say that the lake was nothing special would be an understatement.  It was common and lacked the pristine quality of a proper and natural Minnesota lake.  Still, in the summer, on those hot days - it became a source of delight.  The sounds of children and counselors lent energy and excitement.  It was a place where everyone - whether they knew how to swim like a fish or sit like a rock - could be refreshed.  Relationships and friendships were built in those waters - they were a source of life.  It was at the heart of the camp's community.

Memories of the lake at Camp Beisler come back to me as I reflect upon Sunday's confirmation.  At the start of worship, each confirmand will be carrying in a little glass container of water.  They will pour their water into the font.  The water will be straight from the tap - in of itself nothing particularly special.  And yet the symbol is powerful.  In the waters of baptism - which each of the confirmands will be affirming - community, life, and hope are created.  God makes the ordinary extraordinary for it bears the promise and presence of Christ.  Baptism continues to open toward the future.   

And so my prayer for them, for this church, for me too - is that they/we will continue to find delight, meaning, and purpose in the waters of baptism.  May they/we have the courage to affirm our faith again and again toward God's future in ways that support relationships and community.  

in Christ,

Pastor Walt


p.s.  Confirmation worship starts at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 21.