It’s Monday

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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.:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85887996282?pwd=NE8vVWk0L0ZMblFLdnExQkRVL2lXdz09
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: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81003459504?pwd=am5tMWpSSG9tMjNnZEtiSXRkSVJhdz09
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.
Peace,
Kai

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, dgriffith@incarnationmn.org 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.

Peace,
Kai
 

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


December 14, 2020

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

Our Advent/Christmas theme, Simply Hope, is an invitation to both receive and give. Writer Anne Lamott establishes our theme with these words; “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

This season we invite you to:

  • Wait: Prepare yourself in heart and mind to receive, again, the good news of Jesus’ birth.
  • Watch: Watch for signs of hope—simple signs, ordinary signs, yet hopeful signs nonetheless.
  • Work: For the world to be different, we are invited to participate in co-creating a more loving, more hopeful world.

In other words, we are both receivers and givers of good news, hopeful news. That’s how Jesus will be born again in your life, in our world.

As we anticipated our common work in 2021, we invited you to say “I’m In!” both financially and in a commitment to service. Many of you have already made that public commitment and we are grateful. If you have not yet made a commitment to our common work, but plan to, please click here.

As you know, the vaccine is rolling out across the United States. The timeline will take months but, after nine months of not knowing how long this will go on, hope is on the horizon. We have a few more difficult months in front of us, months of being distant from one another, but you have already proven your resiliency in your words of encouragement to our staff, your active participation in our online community for learning and worship, and your financial generosity.

Your financial gifts now, at year end, will better prepare us for the good work we will be doing together in 2021. And I mean it . . . together. As the year rolls on we might even be in each other’s presence without masks! A simple hope for 2021!

Simply Hope. One life at a time. One commitment at a time. One community at a time. One common purpose of working together to co-create a more loving, more hopeful world.

Peace for the season,
Kai


December 7, 2020

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

I closed my sermon this weekend with these words from Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

Trust in the Slow Work of God

Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you.
your ideas mature gradually–let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Even since I discovered these words, I’ve been both comforted and challenged by them:
Slow work of God: Both comforting and challenging
Naturally impatient: Challenging
Skipping intermediate stages: Comforting to know I’m not alone
Law of progress passes through stages of instability: Comforting and challenging
It may take a long time: Challenging!
Ideas grow gradually, don’t force them: Comforting
Accepting the feeling of being in suspense and incomplete: Challenging

So, what about you? Maybe you want to re-read these words slowly and make you own list. For me, they tap into both what I believe about how God works in the world and what I expect from myself and others.

Trust in the slow work of God.

Maybe you’ve been waiting patiently (or not so patiently) for what will happen on Christmas at Incarnation. We will be releasing online services at these times on December 24:

3:00 p.m.* – Living Nativity: Family Christmas Worship
This worship service will contain pre-recorded performances from the Living Nativity: A Journey of Hope event from December 19th and will include special guest appearances by families leading us in Christmas Carols.

5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.*: Simply Hope Christmas Worship
These services will contain Christmas carol, Bible readings, and a sermon.

*Links for the services will be sent out in upcoming communications and on social media.

We hope you organize your day around those services so that, in a “church without walls” way, we can be together, wherever we are, celebrating the simple hope of Jesus’ birth.

Call your family and watch it at the same time. Invite friends from work and/or your neighborhood to watch it together. We will light candles (in your home also), sing our favorite carols, hear the story, share communion, and sing “Silent Night” while lighting our own candles, together!

In all of it, we trust that God’s Spirit will slowly work in and though us—binding us together and then sending us together to be Jesus’ people of hope and love in the world.

Peace. Kai


December 1, 2020

Pastoral transitions are significant times in the life of a congregation, especially when a pastor has been around for almost eighteen years. This weekend, I was watching the Blue Christmas service that Pastor Jeanne led and was reminded of the gifts she brings to bear in her ministry—her gentle invite into an honest reckoning with the harsher realities of life, her gracious invite into the healing heart of God. I’m sure many of you could name one moment, dozens of moments, when you experienced her ministry in these ways.

Having transitioned out of a community in the not too distant past, I know how important it is to hear from the community about shared joy, shared grief, shared life. Throughout this holiday season, we are inviting you to send a card or a note to Jeanne (and Andrew and Tillie) expressing your appreciation for her presence and her ministry at Incarnation. Send them to the church address and we will get them to her. In a time when we can’t be physically present with one another, we can be present in shared remembrances, shared story. It’s one way we can mark this transition for its significance.

We can also mark the significance of this transition by using it as a time to re-think, re-hope, and re-shape how we will do our ministry together as we move forward. In broad strokes, I want to give you a sense of what I look for in leaders and what I anticipate will be essential for Incarnation as we move forward.

Future Leadership Considerations and Directions

  • Characteristics of leaders: Collaborative, creative, self-initiating, and fearless Jesus’ followers.
    • What do I mean by fearless? Leaders who use the gifts of the past to design a new future, who are willing to experiment and fail, then experiment again.
  • Less Pastors and more targeted, passionate staff leaders: Pastors are trained for and called for a few specific things: to preach, teach, administer the sacraments, and provide for a system of care for the community. All other functions can be done and, candidly, are often done more effectively by passionate, faithful people from the community. Remember, our Lutheran heritage birthed a concept called the “priesthood of all believers”! Let’s leverage the gifts of our people.
  • Staff as team builders: We will hire program staff not just to do ministry on our behalf, but primarily to invite the community to actively participate in serving and creating ministry together.
  • Move from cognitive, content based to experiential, practiced based faith: Information itself does not lead to transformation. Relationship experiences (often relationships with people who are different from us in one way or another) and consistent, simple practices of the faith that open our bodies, minds and hearts to the ongoing presence of God’s Spirit are primary ways the Spirit works to shape our lives to reflect the life of Jesus. We engage head and heart—the inward/outward journey.
  • Community connections are key in a disconnected, lonely world: Loneliness is a key issue for us to address in our world, not just inside the Incarnation community, but also in our larger community.
  • Leverage Ministry Partnerships: For our world to be different, we will actively seek out and fully support our ministry partnerships. The process of developing an Anchor Church connection (a church or ministry that makes an impact in the Twin Cities) has been slowed during this COVID time, but is still on the radar.
  • Move from print to multi-media communication: We are catching up to the rest of the world with our methods of communication. We still have a ways to go.

Advent is a new season. The Simply Hope theme is not just wishful thinking for Jesus people, it’s an active mindset and a directional heart leaning. So, we look forward to something new even as we actively participate in making it happen!

Peace, Kai


Living Nativity: A Journey of Hope

By Pastor Joel Vander Wal
Hands down, my favorite worship service that we hold at Incarnation is the Christmas Eve service we do for families with young children. I love seeing the wonder in children’s eyes as they hear and share in the Christmas story. I love the energy and excitement that comes from generations coming together to retell the story of Immanuel, because in the midst of busyness and chaos that often comes with the Christmas holiday, God is with us. That’s the message we want our children to believe and hold onto. God is with us. God is with us when we feel excited. God is with us when feel disappointed. God is with us when we are happy. God is with us when we feel sad. God is with us even when life feels mundane. God is with us.
This year, we are not able to hold our Christmas Eve services for families with young children like we have in the past due to the pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean we still can’t celebrate God being with us and retelling the story of how that came to be. So, on Saturday, December 19 from 4 – 6:00 p.m. we will be retelling the story through a “Living Nativity.”
What is a “Living Nativity?” Bring your family out to Incarnation and walk around the outside of the church to hear the story being retold through seven different stations. Some of the stations will be interactive, others will simply tell one part of the story, and of course there will be live animals that you can pet. If you are not able to make it out to the Living Nativity on that Saturday, there will also be an online experience that you and your family can enjoy together later that week.
While it is disappointing that we are not able to gather together like we have in previous years, we know that God is with us. God is with us in the person of Jesus Christ, who’s birth we celebrate and share the Good News of this present hope in our lives.