It’s Monday

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June 14, 2021

I’ve been reflecting on the staff transitions of the past year. Last summer we hired Emily Turner as our first Media Arts Director. A few months after we hired Emily, we adjusted Becky Benson’s responsibilities so she could focus half her time on service engagement. At the end of last summer Kristen Bloxham moved on to a new call which led to a discernment process for our student ministry that concluded recently with Nate Bergengren filling the re-designed position of Formation Leader for Teens and their Families. This past fall we hired Tim Linn to oversee our finances. Pastor Jeanne departed from the congregation early this year and Pastor Rich will re-retire at the end of the month. In the transition, Pastor Janet agreed to step in on a part-time basis focusing on worship participation and pastoral care. This summer we will be filling two preschool teacher positions and training in a few more people to help us run our worship livestream.

Wow! For some on the staff it’s been dizzying, for others it’s been worrying, for me it’s been clarifying. A primary function of leadership is “putting the right people in the right positions.” Each transition by resignation, retirement, or re-design has given us the opportunity to clarify who we are and who we are going to be moving forward.

A few months ago, I posted characteristics I/we look for in people who fill ministry staffing positions. They include:

  • Collaborative: Staff who will invite other leaders, and the larger community, to actively participate in creating ministry together.
  • Creative: In the world of improvisation, there is the “Yes…And…” response. We take the best of what a person offers (we say “Yes”) and we build on it (And…) to make it even more generative, participative and connective.
  • Self-initiating: Two phrases that I love to hear—one from the staff and leaders, the other I love to say. From staff, “I’ve been thinking about _________ and this is what I hope to do!” From my lips, “I have never thought of that before, let’s give it a shot!”
  • Fearless: These are leaders who use the gifts of the past to design a new future, who are willing to experiment and fail, then experiment again.
  • Jesus followers: People who live (in the best way they can) and invite people into (in the most gracious way they can) a life that looks, sounds and acts like Jesus.

Remember, each transition by resignation, retirement, or re-design gives us the opportunity to clarify who we are and who we are going to be moving forward.

Our vision statement at Incarnation helps us imagine “A world filled with God’s grace and love.” A world filled with God’s grace and love requires people who are filled with God’s grace and love which necessitates leaders who will create environments of grace and love so that we can grow in grace and love.

So, we keep asking God for wisdom and courage and discernment and hope. Then, we move forward… together to create a world filled with God’s grace and love.

Peace. Kai

June 7, 2021

I’ve been thinking about “phases of life” recently. Each phase, if we allow it, brings something new to imagine and enter into. Each phase, as we reflect on it, carries the joy and grief of what was as we depart from it.

A few weeks ago, one of my sons called after purchasing tickets to the Memorial Golf Tournament in Columbus, Ohio and wanted to know if I could join him. It might have been the fastest purchase of a plane ticket in my life. Forty-five minutes later the trip was set. When I arrived, he took me out to lunch at one of our favorite spots . . . and paid. Following our first day on the course, he and his wife made reservations for an early birthday/Father’s Day dinner at Urban Meyer’s (the former OSU football coach) newest restaurant . . . and paid. Throughout those few days together, he set the agenda and I simply went along with the plans.

I was beginning to really enjoy this new phase of life.

But, it also made me very reflective. He could pay because he’s a young adult who’s responsibly making his way into his new phase of life. Which also means I’m a parent of not just one, but four adult children making their way into new phases of life. When did that happen? And I couldn’t help pondering about the phases of life. Each phase, if we allow it, brings something new to imagine and enter into. Each phase, as we reflect on it, carries the joy and grief of what was as we depart from it.

What is true in our individual lives is also true in congregational life—there are phases. Each phase, if we allow it, brings something new to imagine and enter into. Each phase, as we reflect on it, carries the joy and grief of what was as we depart from it.

This month will mark another phase of our common life, specifically in regard to our pastoral care ministry. For seven years, Pastor Rich Omland has been an integral part of our pastoral care staff. He was plucked out of retirement by our former Senior Pastor Gary Medin and invited to be a part-time servant in our caring ministry. From my vantage point of these past two years, he has served the people of Incarnation beautifully and supported me generously. Rich and his wife, Julie have embedded themselves in the caring ministry and the ongoing life of this community in ways that give me a vision of what it means to “make a community better” by your presence. For that I say, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

After a move to Edina a few years ago and with new opportunities to be with family now that travel is opening up, Rich knew it was time for him to move on from Incarnation and retire, again, on June 30, handling just a few commitments he has already made in the days following. Through the end of the month, if you want to extend your gratitude to Rich and Julie you can still use his email or send a card to the church and we will make sure he gets it.

There are phases in our communal life. Each phase, as we reflect on it, carries the joy and grief of what was as we depart from it. But, each phase, if we allow it, brings something new to imagine and enter into.

As we move forward with our Pastoral Care Ministry, Pastor Janet Karvonen Montgomery has agreed to continue on after her three-month initial commitment. She will add a few more hours a week in pastoral care, continue to be present in worship twice a month, and be available for special services as needed. As you know, Janet has been such a gift to this community. We are delighted for her ongoing service.

There are phases in our communal life. Each phase, as we reflect on it, carries the joy and grief of what was as we depart from it. But, each phase, if we allow it, brings something new to imagine and enter into.

Finally, as people of Spirit and hope, we also acknowledge there is no phase of life where God’s Spirit is not present and accessible to us. That’s a gift!

Peace. Kai

May 24, 2021

We are in a season of transition for our student ministry at Incarnation. As you know, Nate Bergengren, has accepted our redesigned position as Formation Leader for Students and Families (6-12th grade) and will begin his work on June 1. Kelsey Blinn will be leaving the role of Director of Confirmation and Middle School Ministries on May 31.

Pastor Joel Vander Wal, Kelsey’s supervisor, writes, “Kelsey originally began working at Incarnation in 2016 in the front office working with our Small Groups Ministry and as the Financial Secretary. In October 2018 Kelsey began working in her new role as Director of Confirmation and Middle School Ministries. In that role, Kelsey implemented a new Confirmation curriculum, led summer mission trips and service camps like Summer Stretch. Her generous spirit was always well received by our middle schoolers during her teaching.

Although, this past year has been difficult as many of our programs had to pivot to online, Kelsey took it all in stride. Her tireless work and continual effort to check-in with middle schoolers and their families is something that will be missed. We are so grateful to her and her spouse Nate for all the gifts and ministries they share at Incarnation. We wish them the best as they discover what God is calling them to next.”

If you would like to share a word of encouragement with Kelsey you can send a card to the Incarnation office and we will make sure it gets to her.

We are also grateful for the work of Nick Clark and Interserve, a student ministry consulting organization, as he guided the high school program and led our process of discernment for next steps in student ministry. Nick also finishes his work at Incarnation this week.

A few weeks ago, we told you about a summer internship program that we are launching this year. The program was generously funded by our Endowment Fund. The purpose is: To help form another generation of leaders for the church and the world, and to benefit from the insight and energy of young leaders in our ministry at Incarnation. In its inaugural year, we have invited three students to participate. We asked them to introduce themselves to you:

Jennie Norberg: “I am at Luther working on my Master’s of Divinity at Luther Seminary. I plan to become part of the ELCA’s Word and Service ministry. Along with that, I will be returning to Slovakia at the end of the summer to continue teaching English and religion as part of the ELCA’s Central Europe Teacher’s program. So, before I leave, I look forward to this time at Incarnation, and being a cheerleader at my niece and nephew’s soccer games! Jennie will participate in and lead in small groups and the Racial Justice Task Force, among other things. She will be with us in June and July.”

Jace Nguyen: “My name is Jace Nguyen and I am entering my fourth year at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where I will be completing my degree in Vocal Music education. I am looking forward to further exploring the field of Ministry this summer at Incarnation. I am excited to experience the life and spirit of the congregation!”

Siri Nilsen: “My name is Siri Nilsen, and I am going to be a Senior Vocal Music Education major at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. I am looking forward to experiencing Incarnation in meaningful ways, including participating in the musical scene as well as getting a better sense of the love and joy in this church’s community.”

Jace and Siri will arrive this week and will be with us through the middle of July. They will be leading worship and working with Vacation Bible School, among other areas of engagement.

Each student will also be meeting with me, weekly, to talk about calling, gifts and faith formation. They also have been assigned an individual mentor to guide their experience.

Does it feel like a lot of transitions? It does. Is there an excitement around the possibilities ahead? There is!

As I mentioned in my sermon this weekend, when the Spirit lands on a community, there is always a sense of re-imagining, movement and possibility. It can also be a little unpredictable and messy as we let the Spirit lead. We’re up for it!

Peace. Kai

April 27, 2021

From Pastor Kai . . .
Last fall, we contracted with Interserve, a student ministry consulting organization, to both sustain the ongoing High School Ministry program after Kristin Bloxham resigned and lead a Transition Task Force in a process of discernment about our future Middle School and High School Ministries. The process included a conversation with Dr. Andy Root, Luther Seminary, about the changing nature of student ministry; conversations with adults, students, and staff about the history of our ministry and hopes for the future; and an online survey available to students, parents and congregational members. We are grateful for Nick Clark, from Interserve, for leading this process.
Among other things, the Transition Task Force tapped into a long-standing discontent. From the report “Related to engagement, respondents commonly expressed concern regarding decreased participation from youth after the rite of confirmation, after comparably high levels of participation from youth at the confirmation level.”
In looking specifically for a leader for this area of ministry, the top three competencies according to the congregational survey were:
  • Relatable: relationships at all levels matter
  • Enthusiastic: create excitement around ministry
  • Visionary: a person to creatively re-imagine the ministry
Strong Supporting competencies included:
  • Inclusive: non-judgmental and hospitable
  • Empowering: trains and equips others to serve and lead
  • Organized: plans events and programs
  • Leader: strategically pursue goals
With that in mind, we designed a new staffing configuration that includes:
As you can tell from the job titles, “formation” (having students and families becoming more like Jesus in their everyday lives) is key for our new vision. We also hope to:
  • Build a seamless bridge across our Middle School to High School Ministry.
  • Re-Imagine the middle school confirmation process to include significant family involvement.
  • Create more relationship building opportunities for middle school students within Incarnation and open spaces for them to invite friends.
  • Develop high school leader teams (students and adults) who can connect with and mentor younger students.
  • Serve: Serve within the congregation/Serve the community/Serve the world.
The good news for today is that we have hired Nate Bergengren as our Formation Leader for Students and Families. Nate began church ministry after graduating from Gustavus Adolphus in 2003 and has served primarily in student ministry and worship leading roles. In his words, he has “landed Lutheran” after growing up in the charismatic tradition. Personally, I have loved how that tradition has shaped his openness to the Spirit’s movement in his life and the church. He is currently finishing his M.A. in Christian Ministry at Luther Seminary. Nate is finishing his current ministry call work in the middle of May and will begin his full-time role at Incarnation in June. Nate will be joined by his wife, Audrey and their two kids, Vivian and Carl.
Many of you know a little about Nate through his very part-time work at Incarnation these past years. This summer we will put together more opportunities to get to know him and our emerging vision for student ministries at Incarnation.
While that transition is happening, a few ministry highlights will remind us how we continue to live out our call to be a “church without walls”:
  • Feed My Starving Children: Thank you for all who came out on a snowy April weekend and participated in the trial MobilePack. What a gift it was to see so many of you. Here is what we did: 298 volunteers, packed 85,536 meals that will feed 234 children for a year! Good news!
  • 44 Students Affirmed Their Baptismal Faith: On Sunday afternoon we celebrated with these students and families as the students said “yes” to an ongoing journey with Jesus. How exciting it is to imagine the world these students will help co-create.
  • Offering of Letters: This Sunday, May 2, we will invite the community to write letters to local leaders in support of hunger initiatives. If you would like more information about why the letter writing is such a critical way to express your faith in the world, visit the new Bread for the World website.
Jesus came to help us imagine and co-create a better world.
Thanks for being co-creators.

April 19, 2021

From Pastor Kai . . .
Jesus came to help us imagine and then co-create a better world.
One of the ways we can participate in co-creating this world Jesus imagined, especially when we aren’t sure what else we can do, is through prayer. So, this It’s Monday is a call to prayer.
For Our community: The closing arguments will be heard today in the trial of Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Our prayers this week include prayers:
  • For justice
  • For the family of George Floyd
  • For Derek Chauvin
  • For a community that longs to move toward healing and overcoming generations of division
  • For the National Guard and other officers who will seek to keep peace in our streets
  • For the community of Brooklyn Center and all who have taken to the streets to make their voices heard.
For Feed My Starving Children (FMSC): One of the ways we are co-creating a better world is through our partnership with FMSC and the trial Mobilepack we are hosting this week, April 22-24. There are still slots available to pack. Go to and sign-up. One of our members, Anne Cremons, wrote a beautiful prayer that we invite you to pray this week.
Dear God,
Oh, how exciting it is that you are ushering in new hands on hope with the return of in-person packing at Incarnation! All these months we have laid our hands of prayer over the children who are waiting for this life-giving food.
Your fingerprints are all over every one of them. And soon, in a newly secure and careful way, our virtual fingerprints will be packing these meals, sealing these boxes, and coming together in prayer to guide the food safely to its destinations.
Remind us always that your fingerprints cover all of creation, you have fashioned us to love and care for every part of it, and this work is our prayer to do what we can to meet the needs of the least of us.
For our Offering of Letters: Another way we co-create a better world is through intentional advocacy for hunger initiatives. On Sunday, May 2, we will invite the community to write letters to local leaders in support of hunger initiatives. If you would like more information about why the letter writing is such a critical way to express your faith in the world, visit the new Bread for the World website.
So, we pray and we work. We work and we pray. That’s how we both imagine and then co-create a better world.
Thanks for being co-creators.

April 12, 2021

From Pastor Kai . . .
There are a number of ways to financially support the ongoing and future ministry of Incarnation:
  • Consistent, Generous Giving: Reminder—we give, first of all, as a response to a generous God. On its most basic spiritual level, financial giving is one of the ways we offer what we have been given back to God as a response to God’s love for us. It all starts with God’s grace and love. Second, as a result of, and dependent on, your financial giving, we, together, can do the work of our daily ministry. We provide ministry for all ages, we extend ourselves in outreach through our ministry partners, we pay staff, and we keep the lights on. All of that is dependent on consistent, generous giving to our operating fund.
  • Capital Giving: We also give so that we can do ministry through our facility on Hodgson Road. Many of you have a mortgage. We have a mortgage. Even as a church without walls, we provide resources for these walls so that we can use them to shape and send people to do active ministry in the world.
  • Endowment Fund: Do you know we have an Endowment Fund? Through gifts to the Endowment Fund, we can use the interest earned to support ministry for many years into the future! The most recent Lifetimes highlighted the creative ways the Endowment Fund is being used this year to support outreach.
I have one more example of the creative thinking of the Endowment Team—Summer Student Interns. Last month, the Endowment Team agreed to support four summer student interns for a six to eight week pilot project in leadership development. The participants need to be at least 18 years old or older. The internships will be 20 hours per week. Here is the language used in the proposal:
Incarnation Vision: A world filled with God’s grace and love.
Purpose—To form another generation of leaders for the church and the world, and to benefit from the insight and energy of young leaders in our ministry at Incarnation.
Participants—Two categories of young leaders will be considered:
  • People, inside our community or community extended, who may be thinking about a career in public ministry.
  • People, inside our community or community extended, who have specific skills that can push us forward in a targeted ministry area.
Preferred Outcomes:
  • Students will be more enthusiastic about the work of the church in the world.
  • Students will envision themselves as leaders within local faith communities and non-profits that make a difference in the world.
  • Mentor staff will experience a deep satisfaction in knowing they are developing a new generation of leaders.
  • Incarnation will begin to imagine itself as a leader developing congregation for the sake of the church and world.
  • 25% of our students will pursue further study and/or calls within the church or non-profit community development organizations.
  • Each student will identify their core leadership strengths through the StrengthsFinder Inventory and build a plan for developing those strengths.
  • Each student will identify areas of growth in leadership and build a plan for addressing those areas.
  • Students will take on one supervised leadership role. Examples include, but are not limited to:
  • Recruiting and working with volunteers on a specific initiative.
  • Facilitating small groups.
  • Leading public gatherings.
  • Creating and/or further developing a ministry initiative that can be sustained after they complete their internship.
Presently we have two participants who have accepted and one more considering the opportunity. Given our new immersion in livestreaming we would love to also find someone who might have or would want to build those technical skills, especially if it could translate into ongoing support with our worship services.
If you are interested in these summer internships, or know someone who would be, have them contact me at We hope to begin June 1.
I’m grateful for this generous community. As we continue to gradually open the doors to more in-person ministry, your giving will provide ways for our common work to be accomplished for this time and for future generations.
Remember, Jesus didn’t come to help us just build bigger churches; Jesus came to help us imagine and co-create a better world. Within the walls we are shaped into the image of Jesus so we can be sent beyond the walls to shape the world Jesus imagined.

April 5, 2021

From Pastor Kai . . .
The Easter season is a celebration of the resurrection promise that there is always life AFTER—after death, after loss, after shame, after doubt. Consider this daily prayer and weekly reflection/action guide an invitation to experience that promise over and over again.
Daily Prayer: Each day (or as many days that you remember) we invite you to say this prayer as a way to focus your mind and spirit on the ways God’s Spirit is alive in and through you. If there are other people in your household or who are close to you, you may choose to say this prayer together.
Spirit of God
Put love in my life.
Spirit of God
Put joy in my life.
Spirit of God
Put peace in my life.
Spirit of God
Make me patient.
Spirit of God
Make me kind.
Spirit of God
Make me good.
Spirit of God
Give me faithfulness.
Spirit of God
Give me humility.
Spirit of God
Make me feel alive!
Weekly Reflection and Action: Each week we invite you to focus on one phrase of this prayer. Through reflection (our inward journey) and action (our outward journey) the Spirit works to deepen our experience of God’s presence in and through us. Again, these can be done on your own or with others.
(Spiritual development in this context is being described in terms of an inward and outward journey, meaning that spiritual growth is dependent both on the work we do internally (inward), within our own hearts and minds, and externally (outward), what we do in the physical world.)
April 4-10: Spirit of God, make us feel alive. Mark 16:1-8
  • Reflection: What are the life experiences that make you feel most alive? Make a list of them and ask, “When can I do one or more of those things this week?”
  • Action: The natural world in springtime is a vivid reminder of how God creates new life. Take a walk outside and notice the signs of life coming up from the ground, from trees, from the chirping birds, see the tracks on the ground from people or animals. Breathe deeply the air outside and notice how alive and rejuvenated your lungs feel. Then, thank God for being present in the natural world.

March 29, 2021

Today begins the trial of Police Officer Derek Chauvin, accused of killing George Floyd. Today, we continue our journey of Holy Week. Two thousand years ago, a system built on violence and threat, unjustly condemned Jesus to death. The injustice of it seems so obvious from a distance of years, doesn’t it? What did he do to deserve to die?

This week, and in the weeks to come, there will be a person, a system and a culture on trial. Over and over, we will hear evidence impugning the character of all involved. In relitigating the events of a year ago, old wounds will be opened, our conscious and unconscious bias will be examined, and the threadbare fabric of our community will be exposed.

But, the questions remain: What did he do to deserve to die? What will justice look like this time? Who will we be as Jesus’ people, for one another, for the sake of the world God loves, in our time?

As we prayerfully enter this Holy Week, a few questions might well lead our journey:

  • How will we use this time to examine our own prejudice—the way we pre-judge people based on ingrained assumptions and life circumstances that shape our vision of others?
  • What does it mean to be Jesus’ people in this time?
  • How can you look out for a friend, a colleague, a neighbor that will be especially affected by the heightened racial tension we will experience?
  • Jesus’ words on Maundy Thursday remind us to, “Love one another as I have first loved you? By this everyone will know you are my disciples.” Can you recommit to be a person who loves all people with the love we see in Jesus?

Because these great themes of justice and love pervade this Holy Week and now present themselves to us again, we look forward to “seeing” you this week for our Holy Week services. It will be good to be together whether in-person or by livestream. Since we are still being conscious of your physical health and well-being, appropriate distance and masking will continue to be practiced when in-person. If you are considering an Easter Service in-person, we encourage you to steer toward the 7:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. services. The 9:00 a.m. service is already approaching capacity.

Click here for the Holy Week and Easter webpage.

Easter Sunday will launch our new sermon series, “After…”.  Our hope for this season is to draw people into the transformative news of the resurrection. There is always life AFTER… (after death, after loss, after shame, after doubt, etc…)

One of the experiences in this Easter Season you won’t want to miss is:
An Evening with Brian McLaren:  Sunday, April 11 from 6 – 7:00 p.m.

Brian is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. He is a pastor advocate for “a new kind of Christianity”-just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good.

Brian will be leading a conversation about his new book, Faith After Doubt. I would suggest picking up the book as an Easter gift to yourself so you can be prepared for the conversation. Invite as many friends as you like.

The Zoom link for the event is:

Look forward to “seeing” you, in-person or through the wonders of technology, this Holy Week.

Peace, Kai

March 15, 2021

Well, we did it. We figured out we could livestream from both worship spaces and do it pretty well. It took a boatload of behind the scenes work and I’m grateful for many who worked diligently to make it happen. Given that it was our first time with the new technology, we became aware of many small things that we can adjust. It’s a work in progress, but the team did a great job getting us to this point. I’m grateful!

Next step: Our hope is to be able to livestream both services each week. Currently, we only have equipment for one space at a time. A few of you have already made contributions toward the $7,500 needed to equip both spaces. Thank you. If you would like to assist us in moving this project forward, let me know. For now, we will go back and forth, week to week, with all Holy Week services being in the Sanctuary.

Speaking of Holy Week, we re-evaluated the seating capacity in the Sanctuary noting that many of the 100 single spots we originally designated are being used safely and with good distance by households of two or three. Keeping that in mind and also our ongoing need to encourage six-foot distancing, we remeasured the space and will have a capacity of up to 200 people for each service in the Sanctuary, including the worship and music leadership.

Two upcoming events you won’t want to miss:

Wednesday Worship Webinars: Wednesdays, March 17th and 24th at 6:30. This week, congregational members Jim Meinen and Bill Reichwald will help us focus on the theme, “Living with Purpose.” They were inspired by a very simple and practical model, the Japanese concept of Ikigai, and they adapted it with language that reflects our life of following Jesus. Even if you haven’t been able to attend our worship webinars, check this one out on Wednesday.

An Evening with Brian McLaren:  Sunday, April 11 from 6 – 7:00 p.m.

Brian is an author, speaker, activist and public theologian. He is a pastor advocate for “a new kind of Christianity”-just, generous and working with people of all faiths for the common good.

Brian will be leading a conversation about his new book, Faith After Doubt. I would suggest picking up the book as an Easter gift to yourself so you can be prepared for the conversation. Invite as many friends as you like.

The Zoom link for the event is:

Spring is awakening. New possibilities are slowly emerging for us to be together. Our new use of technology will keep us all connected in the interim time and beyond.

Peace, Kai

March 1, 2021

A new season.

The ice fishing houses are coming off the lakes today. Temperatures will be in the 40’s and 50’s for a few weeks starting tomorrow. The sun feels warmer. Even if it isn’t appreciably different day to day, it still feels warmer. The spring thaw. New possibilities. The seasons are changing.

Two new possibilities are emerging for us at Incarnation, one more quickly than the next. This week we will begin livestreaming our worship services. To start, as we experiment with the technology, we will go back and forth from traditional to contemporary. On March 7, you can watch the contemporary service live at 10:00 a.m. You can also watch the service any time after 10:00 a.m., if that doesn’t fit your schedule. On March 14, we will livestream the traditional service at 8:45 a.m. On the 21st, we will be back in the contemporary space for the 10:00 a.m. service.

Note: The livestream service will be our online option in this new season. There will be no prerecorded services like we have been doing this last year. An email reminding you of the service times and how to access the services will be sent each week. So, the schedule for this Sunday, March 7 is:  In-person worship at 8:45 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Register in advance. Online worship live at 10:00 a.m. or watch the service any time following.

Click here to find Incarnation’s Facebook page.     Click here to find Incarnation’s Youtube account.

If all goes well, we hope to be livestreaming both services each week after Easter. To do so, we will need to duplicate the livestreaming systems so that we have one in each space. The cost, including the technology and the base set-up, is about $7,500. If you would like to contribute specifically toward making that happen, let me know.

A new season for worship.
We are also entering a new season for our outreach. Last year, we made it part of our strategic vision to partner with a church or another ministry organization that would:

  • Help expand our mission reach to a local neighborhood in the Twin Cities.
  • Support a local ministry in achieving its mission.
  • Get us off of Hodgson Road.
  • Create service opportunities where Incarnation members could build relationships with people of different ethnicities, socio-economic classes, orientations, religions, etc. Remember: Transformation happens in proximity not at a distance.

Last March, we began working with the synod to identify a community that may create this possibility. As you can imagine, the pandemic slowed this process down considerably as most communities (including us) were scrambling to deal with the enduring crisis of COVID-19.

But, it’s a new season. In January, we began meeting with the leadership of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer on Dale St., just south of I-94. Last year, they had put together a “Futures” team to explore what new things God is inviting them to do in their neighborhood. Through the synod, we made the connection and are just starting a conversation.

One of the encouraging connections we made in our first meeting was with the leaders of the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), housed about mile from Redeemer, on University Avenue. NDC focuses on building neighborhoods by providing small business loans, entrepreneur training and incubator sites for new businesses to use as they launch. They were excited about potential partnerships with Redeemer and other collaborative relationships that could develop as they continue to build community in the Rondo neighborhood and beyond.

Where will it go? I’m not sure. But, we started and will listen well to how the Spirit is inviting us to serve our extended community.
A new season. Spring awakens. The Spirit of God invites. Possibilities expand.

Peace. Kai

February 22, 2021

There are good and necessary reasons for us to use social media. There are also many reasons to be suspicious of it and cautious in our use. Every once in a while, though, something strikes me and shapes my imagination, something I would have no access to if it were not for social media. In this case, it was a tweet from a distant friend, Sam Rocha. “This Lent, the key is not to give up.”

I mentioned this in my sermon over the weekend as we launched our Relational Resilience series. Lent has often been the season for “giving up” something—chocolate, alcohol, red meat, TV, social media. Too often, it becomes an exercise in delay. There is no real intent to make a significant life change. There is only the exercise of “I bet I can for a season.” So, Easter Sunday, we toast to our success with wine, devour a juicy steak with chocolate for dessert while we stare at the TV for hours and mindlessly scroll our social media accounts again. Jesus is Risen, we proclaim. So, life can go back to normal.

This “not giving up” tweet hit home, especially as we come up on almost a year of struggling with the effects of the pandemic. Half a million deaths from COVID-19, deepening isolation, a fractured nation and communities and families because of our political divide, the spiking mental issues for health care professionals, teachers and students, are calling me to more than simply give up something I intend to resume when the seasons turn.

So, this is where I am as of February 22, 2021:  How about…

  • Not giving up…
  • Not giving up on the vision that Jesus has for a more compassionate, just, and loving world
  • Not giving up on our part in co-creating that world
  • Not giving up on one another—family that continues to disappoint, friends whose thinking about life and the world couldn’t be more different than yours
  • Not giving up on our faulty and fragile democratic system
  • Not giving up on yourself—these are hard times, keep going
  • Not giving up on those who are most vulnerable in our culture
  • Not giving up…

This Wednesday is the first of our Wednesday Worship Webinars. We will be exploring multiple ways that God has helped our presenters become more resilient in the face of, sometimes, daunting life obstacles. Rev. Juanita Rasmus will be our guest presenter. Here is a link to her website for more information on Rev. Juanita.  The links to the evening events are included here:

Please click the link below to join the Wednesday Worship Webinar from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.:
Passcode: 321483
More information on how to join the Zoom Lenten Webinars.

Join the conversation after from 7:30 – 8:00 p.m.:
Zoom—After Conversation:
Meeting ID: 810 0345 9504. Passcode: 185816.

We are just entering the season of Lent. If you did give up something this season, I hope you use it as an opportunity to ask deeper questions about life and what we need or don’t need to feel alive. But, this season, I would also encourage all of us to give ourselves to my friend Sam Rocha’s simple wisdom:

This Lent, the key is to not give up.

Peace. Kai

February 16, 2021

From Pastor Kai . . .
Want some good news? You came to the right place. Nothing in-depth for this “It’s Monday” but plenty of reasons to be grateful.
Pastor Janet Karvonen-Montgomery has agreed to re-join the team for the next three months, on a limited time basis. She will periodically assist with worship and preach a few times. She will also participate in our care ministry as part of the pastoral care team. I’m grateful for her willingness to help us out. I’ve always appreciated her presence and compassion. She will begin March 1.
Worship Wednesday Webinars (sounds like a lot of alliteration) begin February 24. Scripture, music, practical spiritual exercises, and presentations focused on Relational Resilience fill the first hour from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Zoom conversations with our pastors and the speakers will follow from 7:30 – 8:00 p.m. Watch your email for a link to each. (You may also find more information on how to join the Zoom webinars here.) The speaker for week one is Rev. Juanita Rasmus who leads an urban church in downtown Houston along with her husband, Rudy. Here is a link to her website for more information on Rev. Juanita.
The Staff/Council Retreat this weekend gave us an opportunity to re-engage and re-energize the Four Pathways we created last year. 1). Anchor Church: An intentional ministry collaboration with a local congregation and/or ministry organization. We are in very preliminary conversations with the synod and the leaders of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer on Dale Street just sound of I-94. 2) Servant Culture: As we are able to more freely gather, we made a commitment to more intentionally engage our community, both within and outside the congregation, by creating simple, consistent pathways to service. 3) Re-Imagine Student Ministry: We are being led by Interserve, a student ministry consulting organization, as we develop a new vision for our 6th – 12th grade ministry. 4) Technology for the 21st Century: The urgency of the pandemic forced the issue. In 2021, we will be developing a new website, becoming more active and focused on social media, and live-streaming our worship services soon!
Our leadership team spent the afternoon processing the results of an Intercultural Diversity Inventory. This inventory was suggested to us by the Racial Justice Task Force as a tool to build our self-awareness about issues of cross-cultural differences and our cross-cultural competency. It was obvious that we have some work to do! More to come.
In-Person Worship and Livestreaming will begin on March 7. The same protocols will be in place as they were in the fall—wearing masks, six foot distance, registering for worship, etc. We also hope to be livestreaming our worship by that weekend. So, when people are in worship, we will be simultaneously streaming those services for those who choose to participate online in our church without walls.
AND…New members joined Incarnation this week! We had our first Zoom new member process. In two separate sessions, we welcomed almost 30 adult members plus their families. You need to hear some of the things they said about our community, even during this pandemic year. “Worship has been a lifeline for us in a very difficult year.” “We love the energy of the place and look forward to being back together.” “We felt welcomed from the beginning.” “We love all the opportunities to be in small groups and serve.” And one more, “When you come to Incarnation is obvious that IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT SUNDAY.” It seems like our church without walls continues to expand its reach!
Did I tell you I had good news? Look forward to sharing more with you as these ministries emerge.

February 1, 2021

In Ephesians 3, the Apostle Paul prays that you “may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.”

Inner strength. Rooted and grounded in love. Christ and his Spirit dwelling within.

For Jesus’ people, those are the ingredients of resilience—our ability to stay grounded in chaotic times and to overcome when we feel overwhelmed.

Our Lenten series, Relational Resilience, is an invitation into a wholistic conversation about resilience and an opportunity to learn simple spiritual exercises that build our personal and relational resilience.

Wednesdays in Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, February 17th, we will focus on specific aspects of building a resilient life. The Ash Wednesday service will be recorded and available throughout the day. We will also be providing you with a devotional guide for the season, a cross made by our woodworking team and a small bag of ashes for your worship on Ash Wednesday. You can pick the Lenten bags at the office the week prior to Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday, pastors will be available as you drive through the Incarnation parking lot from 7 – 8:00 a.m./12 – 1:00 p.m./5 – 6:00 p.m. to distribute the Lenten bags and to mark you with the cross of ashes on your forehead, if you choose.

We are excited for the Worship Webinar Wednesdays that will follow Ash Wednesday. You will receive a link by email to join the webinar. No registration required. Each Worship Webinar will include:

  • 6:30 – 7:30
    • Prayers, scripture readings, and song
    • Presentation (see below)
    • A spiritual practice for the week
  • 7:30 – 8:00: We will invite you to join an open Zoom conversation with the pastors and/or speakers.

Wednesday Theme: Resilient Relationships

February 24: Our Relationship with God: How does God see us?

  • Pastor Juanita Rasmus from Houston, Texas, a friend of Pastor Nilsen through the Renovare’ community, will be our teacher. Juanita’s recent book, Learning to Be, chronicles her personal journey from her “crash” (as she calls it) to a more thriving life.

March 3 and 10: Our Relationship with Ourselves: Part 1—Resilience: Managing our Thoughts and Feelings, Part 2—Grief/Conflict/Forgiveness/Gratitude

  • Incarnation member Pat Nyman, for many years a facilitator of resilience groups, will be our guide as we do a deep dive into how we deal with our daily lives—the routine and extreme stresses that shape us.

March 17: Our Relationship with the World—Living with Purpose

  • Incarnation members, Jim Meinen and Bill Reichwald, have designed a simple and meaningful way to help you discover the intersection between what the world needs and the gifts and passions you have.

March 24: Our Relationship with Others—Loving the “Other”

  • Resilient Jesus communities push beyond the walls of those they are most comfortable with and engage the world that Jesus loves. Donte Curtis, a frequent presenter throughout the synod on the Jesus narrative and the call to justice, will lead the conversation.

Inner strength. Rooted and grounded in love. Christ and his Spirit dwelling within.

As the winter of Covid and the winter season linger, this will be an important season for us to take this common journey.

Peace. Kai

January 25, 2021

A world filled with God’s grace and love.

As I was interviewing at Incarnation one of the things that piqued my curiosity was the vision statement of this community—A world filled with God’s grace and love. I long for that kind of world. I, too, envision that kind of community. I’m willing to do what it takes to move in that direction.

Pastoral transitions give congregations the opportunity to both look back and look forward. We look back to both celebrate the season of ministry of Pastor Jeanne Hartfield and to ask “What about that season needs to be preserved and then built upon?” Then, we also look forward and ask, “What new thing is God calling out from us as we move forward?”

We are in the process of thinking more specifically about how and where God is calling us. To create a world filled with God’s grace and love we will undoubtedly be called to more actively engage the world through acts of service in our local community, through the development of media and technology that connects with other generations, and by creating a community where students and their families grow together in their lives of faith. We are adjusting job descriptions of existing staff to lead us on those pathways.

To preserve and build upon a rich part of Jeanne’s ministry of compassion and care we will call a .5 time leader for Community Care and Connections with these areas of focused ministry:

  1. Respond, as the first contact, to incoming care calls and then triage, if necessary, to appropriate staff.
  2. Develop a system of contact with those who are more isolated, especially critical in this time of COVID.
  3. Mobilize caring teams to help with basic needs.

One of our community values at Incarnation is Relationship. We are looking for a compassionate and organized person to build relationships with those who are struggling. We think that person may already be part of the Incarnation community. If you are interested in the position, please contact Danette Griffith, for more information.

A world filled with God’s grace and love.

To co-create such a world, we need to be people filled with God’s grace and love, especially for those who suffer in any way.

Peace. Kai

January 18, 2021

On Friday, we received a call we all dread. My mother had been taken to the emergency room with signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Our minds whirred, our emotions flailed as we swiftly packed our bags and headed to Des Moines to be with my dad and wait for news about my mom. By the end of the weekend, they had diagnosed her with Broken Heart syndrome (It’s a real diagnoses). The Mayo Clinic web page describes it as “a heart condition that’s often brought on by stressful situations and extreme emotions. The condition can also be triggered by a serious physical illness or surgery. People with broken heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they’re having a heart attack. Broken heart syndrome affects just part of the heart, temporarily disrupting your heart’s normal pumping function.”

For the moment, we are hopeful that a combination of meds, rest, new daily practices and time will bring healing to her “broken heart.”

As my wife, Patty, and I were driving back last night, I wondered how many of us are coping with our own versions of broken heart syndrome brought on by the stressful situations and extreme emotions of our time. The physical separation from loved ones due to the pandemic weighs heavy on our hearts. The staggering number of lives lost in our country is heart-breaking. The heart ache of a country divided, threatened by hints and acts of violence, by falsehood and conspiracy theories, makes us wonder if it is possible to heal.

Biblically, the word “remember” has deep spiritual resonance as it connects us with the grand narrative that reveals God’s heart of persistent love and hope. Today, we remember the beating of God’s heart through the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He envisioned the world that could be and it compelled him to confront the world as it was. He was embolded by a God who creates light in darkness, births hope in times of despair, and heals broken hearts.

Let’s allow his words to be balm for our aching hearts and hope for what seems, at times, to be a heartless world.

Our ultimate measure is not where we stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where we stand at times of challenge and controversy.

If you can’t fly, then run.

If you can’t run, then walk.

If you can’t walk, then crawl,

But by all means, keep moving.

Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.

Hate cannot drive our hate; only love can do that.


January 11, 2021

Dear Friends—
It’s hard to believe I’m in my final week as a pastor of Incarnation. I am so grateful for the cards, emails and phone calls that you have shared with me over these last few months. You have blessed me with stories of how my ministry with Incarnation has touched your life. Several of you started with “you may not remember this . . .” yet I remembered every situation so far in detail.

It has been a privilege to serve as your pastor for the last 18 years. I am so grateful for all of you and who we are as a community together. I was a new pastor when I arrived at Incarnation and you helped me learn and grow into the leader I am today. You allowed me to share in your holy moments of grief and joy and in the midst of ordinary days. It has been a profound honor to serve with you all these years and my time at Incarnation will forever be one of the great blessings of my life.

Late yesterday afternoon as Andrew and I gathered with the staff and Incarnation council for a farewell event, our daughter Tillie was busy making art. She brought this drawing in to share with everyone and announced, “This is our church!” She drew the building with hearts emanating out from it; but I believe she captured the spirit of Incarnation. My prayer is that the Incarnation community—a church with and without walls—will move into the future as a community that emanates the love of Jesus for one another, in the immediate community, in the wider world.

Loving with the love of Jesus is no small thing—especially, but not only, in these days of pandemic and unrest. It requires us to allow God’s Spirit to shape us more and more into people—as individuals and as a community—as we are shaped by Jesus’ way, teaching and love. Being shaped and reshaped as God’s people is not comfortable. It centers Jesus’ heart over our desires. It is a life-long process that upends our notions of identity, power, justice and what it means to live as a community where each and every person has dignity and what they need to thrive. It is a process of becoming. It is also a process that is life-giving.

As I depart, I am adapting a prayer used in the Reformed Church to pray for a pastor as they leave the community to pray for all of you instead:

Blessed are you, O God, for you have created the wide and wonderful world in which we live. We praise you for your constant care for those who have trusted you in ages past, you journeyed in faith to new lands of promise. We trust that you will hold the community of Incarnation securely in your hands as they, too, follow your call into a new season. May they take with them hearts filled with your love and grace, that those with whom they live and work may see in them the face of Jesus Christ. Bless them that they may be a blessing. Guide them to your desired future, where they may continue to grow in grace, in Spirit, and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Your sister in Christ,
Jeanne HartfieldPastor for Adult Learning and Spiritual Formation (for a few more days)

P.S.: Some of my favorite, most meaningful work over the past two years has been writing reflections for Small Group faith studies. During Epiphany and Lent, you can participate in the Caring for One Another small group series that goes with the Community Matters sermon series. It is a great way to explore how we love one another in the way of Jesus during challenging times. Watch this video for about this small group series.


January 4, 2021

Last fall we invited you to make three commitments:

  • Prayer and Encouragement
  • Financial
  • Service

We are grateful for the financial and service commitments you made for our common work in 2021. As we begin this New Year, we are going to hold you to your commitment for Prayer and Encouragement. If you make one resolution this season, we hope you will resolve to pray together as a community throughout this season of Epiphany. Our theme for the season is Community Matters. One of the simple and profound ways we can participate in community is through prayer. Paul begins his letter to the Philippians with these words, “I thank God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you…” (Philippians 1:3-4).

Each week we will have a different prayer focus. Each time you pray during that week we invite you to include that prayer focus in your prayers. We also invite you to use a common prayer practice. It’s a simple way to engage your body, your mind, and your spirit in prayer.

Prayer Practice:

  • Centering: Take as many deep breaths as needed to calm your mind and ease your body.
  • Holding: Then, hold your hands out in front of you or rest them on your knees if you are sitting, palms up. Place in your hands all that you are “holding” and want to offer to God in prayer. For our purposes this season, use the weekly theme as a guide.
  • Offering: When finished, lift your hands in a bodily gesture that you are offering all that you are holding as your prayer to God. Hold that posture for a moment.
  • Thanking: Thank God for holding you, your concerns, your community in God’s compassionate embrace.

 Community Matters: Weekly Prayer Focus

January 3-9: Praying for One Another
Holding: Say the name of all you know who are experiencing hardship or loneliness or sadness. Also, say a prayer of thanks by naming those who are experiencing times of joy or celebration.

January 10-16: Life Transitions
Holding: Pray for those who are navigating life transitions—career, family transitions, aging, illness, etc.

January 17-23: Shaped and Reshaped: We are Vessels of God’s Love
Holding: Pray for the ways God can shape or reshape your life, your community to be more like Jesus—more loving, forgiving, compassionate, and hopeful.

January 24-30: Wrestling with God: Questions of the Faith
Holding: Pray for those you know who are struggling in their relationship with God, who are burdened by the hard questions of life. Also, honestly express to God your own questions, doubts, fears.

January 31-February 6: God Meets Us in Suffering
Holding: Pray for the ways your eyes can be open to see God’s presence in your own struggles. Ask God to lead you to be present (to be God’s presence) to those you know who are struggling.

February 7-February 13: Finding Hope in Difficult Times
Holding: Specifically pray for those in our community who are struggling with any kind of mental illness, with despair, with addiction or substance abuse disorders, with suicidal thoughts. Pray for families or health care workers who can respond.

February 14-17: Listen—Be Present
Holding: Use that time in prayer to ask God, “What do you want me to know, to hear, to learn?” Then, say nothing for a period of time, and listen. If any word or image or person comes to mind, follow up. It may be a way God is hoping to encourage or lead you.

Peace, Kai