It’s Monday

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January 24, 2022

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

This quote from poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes has been a source of inspiration for me in the past few years, especially when the weight of the world bears down on us.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing…

I don’t want to offer a lot of commentary on her words. I added a few prompts for reflection/meditation. I want you to live with them and let them speak to you.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.

  • What is within your reach today?

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.

  • What small, calm thing can you do to help another soul?

It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

  • We are part of tipping the world toward an enduring good. Imagine that.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing…

  • What small, calm thing can you do, over and over again, to help another soul?

Here’s to tipping the world toward an enduring good!  Peace. Kai

December 21, 2021

A few years ago, we launched a new holiday tradition at the Nilsen house—Winter Solstice. Rather than trying to jam a festive meal into an insanely busy Christmas Eve and Day with all of our responsibilities of church and work, all who were available would block off December 21st for a lavish dinner and night of conversation. Since the winter solstice marks the longest night of the year, we fought back against the darkness by each finding meaningful images and quotes about light in the darkness, hope in our waiting. We then had to explain why that image or quote spoke to us. By the end of the night, the conversations were as rich as the meal.

At the Blue Christmas service last night, I shared the quote I used for our first Winter Solstice celebration. In the words of Anne Lamott,

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.

 The dawn will come.

As I also mentioned last night, the bummer is that the change is often imperceptible day to day. A few more minutes of daylight are barely noticeable when experiencing a dark night. Many days it feels like nothing is happening at all; the darkness seems to deepen, the grief lengthens, our hopes lessen.

Have you been in that place? I have.

In those times, I have had to rely on trusted and loving friends to remind me that a winter soul eventually thaws and a spring spirit blooms; the dark of night diminishes as the dawn of new days emerge. The pacing for our lives is more unpredictable than the deliberate march from the longest night to lengthened days. But, the promise is sure.

The dawn will come. So, we wait… in hope!

Here is something else I have noticed in those seasons. Most often, our hopes come because someone becomes hope for us.

Who can you be hope for in this season? How will you be open to receive the gift of needed hope for your season?

I’m sure you heard the stories of the tornadoes that ravaged many communities in Kentucky and surrounding states. If you feel led to be hope for those communities, our national church, the ELCA, has set up a relief fund for you to make direct contributions.     GIVE NOW

I’m sure you have heard the stories of hope from Incarnation members these past weeks and have lived the stories of hope through our ministry and ministry partners this year. We are grateful for your contribution of time and money that made our common work possible in 2021. Now we look to 2022 and we lean on one another to be as generous as we can be in the final weeks of our year so we are prepared for our common work ahead.

Our hopes come because someone becomes hope for us. This season we celebrate primarily the hope we know and have experienced in Jesus’ life. Then, we live that life for the sake of the world.

See you in worship.

Peace, Kai

December 6, 2021

Our Advent theme, We Wait… In Hope, is a reminder of the way God continues to work in us and through us, for the sake of the world. God is present in hopeful ways as we gather in community and as we extend ourselves financially and in service to our ministry partners in this season of great need.

As we enter the final month our fiscal year at Incarnation, Pastor Nilsen invited us to remind you of all the ways that we can give financially to our operating and mortgage funds. We can end the year in a strong position and be well prepared for our common ministry in 2022.

Below are the traditional ways to give:

  • Place cash or check in worship offering basket by December 26.
  • Mail checks to Incarnation to arrive by December 31.

During the pandemic, many of you chose to start giving electronically. There are multiple options for electronic giving:

Finally, there are an increasing number of you who have chosen to give through…

  • Grant via Donor Advised Charitable Fund (Contact whoever manages your fund)
  • IRA Distributions (QCD/RMD) (Contact whoever manages your fund)
  • Stock (Contact your broker and notify Incarnation’s Financial Secretary)

Since there is a processing timeline for these gifts, we are encouraging these gifts be received by December 10. Of course, if you think about it after that, we will process them as expeditiously as possible.

If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact me, Amy Faymoville at

On behalf of our financial team at Incarnation, peace for the season,

Amy Faymoville
Stewardship Manager

November 29, 2021

I am saddened (for us) and delighted (for Erin) to announce that Erin Thorstad will be leaving our staff on December 8. Erin has served our community well for over 14 years in various roles leading to her most recent position as our Director of Communications. Below is the blurb she wrote to our staff to announce her transition.

“I have been blessed to serve our faith community for over 14 years on a staff I have loved being a part of. Incarnation has given me many gifts and I look fondly on the time I have spent here and I’m proud of the good work we’ve been able to do, together. I look forward to going back to school in January and increasing my skills in the areas of marketing and digital media. I would humbly ask for your prayers as I enter this exciting new chapter as well as for the next person who will fill my role. Thank you for being faithful people and letting me work with you as we seek to build a world filled with God’s grace and love. May God bless you with a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

I’m a little envious that she is heading back to school (I’m a consummate learner!). I’m grateful for her love for this community and her willingness to share her skills and passion with this place for so many years. If you would like to share a note or memory with Erin, please send it to

As we move forward, we have short term and longer-term needs. Longer term we will be hiring someone to lead our communications ministry at Incarnation. If you know of someone who would be a great addition to our team, let them know. We will be posting the position in the next few weeks.

In the short term, if you have these specific skills and a few hours per week you are willing to offer this community, volunteer or paid, we would love to have you let us know. Please contact Danette Griffith at

  • Website editing (WordPress)
  • Worship Powerpoint development
  • Social media posts (Facebook and Instagram)

Finally, it’s hard to believe that we will be turning the calendar to December on Wednesday this week. So, here’s my encouragement as we close out this year:

  • Worship: We have Wednesday and Sunday services throughout December as we gather around the theme “We Wait…In Hope!” We would love to see you. Bring a friend or neighbor who also needs to experience the hope of the season. These services will also be livestreamed.
  • Give: Specifically, give toward the operating budget as we close out the year so we can start from a position of strength in 2022. It’s exciting to give toward special projects. You have proven your generosity throughout this year. It’s essential to give toward our ongoing work (staffing, programs, facility, outreach) through the operating fund.
  • Commit: If you haven’t turned in your commitment cards, financially and/or for service, there is still time. Here is the link.

In other words, join us, as together, “We Wait… In Hope!”    Kai

November 22, 2021

Many years ago, my parents and siblings wrote a book of family blessings as an invitation for individuals and families to pray, reflect and experience life’s great transitions and celebrations. I am including, with permission, a portion of the Blessing for Thanksgiving Day. My hope is that you will use this blessing as you gather for your Thanksgiving celebration.

Each part can be read by different people or the whole blessing can be led by one person. If you would like to experience the other blessings, For Everything A Season: 75 Blessings for Life’s Milestones is available on Amazon.

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. Welcome to this time of hope-filled gratitude and honoring of the earth.

Maker of earth and sky, we praise you for the millions of creatures and living things you have made; for earth, air, fire and water that give us life. Give us grateful hearts for all your gifts and passionate commitment to the earth you have put in our care. Amen.

Bible Texts
You have given us dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under our feet. Psalm 8:6
I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify God with Thanksgiving.  Psalm 69:30

Share or reflect on the things you are most thankful for in your life. Using these sentence starters may be helpful:
When I think about this country, I am most thankful for…
When I think about my family, I am most thankful for…
When I think about my life, I am most thankful for…
When I think about the earth, I am most thankful for… 

May the enduring love of our Creator fill us with gratitude and responsibility for all we have been given. Amen.

Enjoy this blessing for Thanksgiving. We will see you for Advent worship this weekend as we launch our Advent/Christmas series, We Wait… In Hope!
Reminder: There is still time for you to get in your commitment cards for our upcoming year of ministry together. Follow this link (add link) or pick up a hard copy by the Incarnation Office.

Peace. Kai

November 16, 2021

I offered these words of encouragement in worship this past Sunday. Notice the generosity of both God’s Spirit and the people of Incarnation. Before you read them, I have two things to ask in the final weeks of giving for this year:

  • Be as generous with your giving to the Operating Budget as you are to special offerings (see the good news below). It’s exciting to give to special appeals. It’s essential to give toward our ongoing work (staff, facility, outreach, programs). We want to be in a strong position as we enter 2022.
  • Make your commitment to serving and giving. There is still time. You can also pick up a hard copy outside of the Incarnation Office. Here is the online link: Stewardship 2022: I’m In! (

From this past Sunday, As we bless and encourage one another for our commitments to our ministry in 2022, hear these scriptures…

From I Corinthians 12: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good….” For the common good!

One of the ways that a Jesus community is different from many others is that we don’t live for ourselves, we offer ourselves… for the common good! You have often heard me say Jesus didn’t come to help us make bigger and better churches, Jesus came to help us imagine and co-create a better world!

For the common good! Our lives are not just about us.

Paul also addresses the cycle and attitude of giving in 2 Corinthians 9. “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly (in my words… a stingy spirit creates a stingy life) and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (in my words… a generous spirit breeds a generous life). Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Friends at Incarnation, we have been given many gifts for the common good and we have sowed bountifully.. Today we celebrate the generosity that has allowed us to do generative ministry in a very difficult time. Thank you! On top of what you have given to sustain our ongoing ministry (keeping the lights on) you have given over $200,000 in special outreach gifts to our ministry partners! Add that amount to the money we give to our ministry partners on a monthly basis and we’ll end up giving away over $350,000 this year!

Today, we also look ahead to what God can yet do through us as we prepare for 2022. Join me in this prayer:

Gracious and generous God, thank you for your generous love which sustains us in times of struggle, encourages us in times of confusion, and empowers us to work for the common good.

Thank you for the generosity of this community that has sustained our ministry through these past years of uncertainty, encouraged our ministry partners in times of need, and empowered us to work for the common good.

We now ask that your spirit of generosity and grace would encourage us once again as we prepare for our common work in 2022. Bless our financial commitments and our commitments to serve. Help us to know that our gifts, whatever they may be, build up this body of Christ and help us to imagine and co-create this better, more loving world you long for. We ask this in Jesus’ name…. Amen.

Question: Do you commit yourself to our common work of co-creating a better, more loving world?  If so, please respond together, “We’re in!”

Peace. Kai

November 8, 2021

The All Saint’s service this past weekend is always one of my favorites. The lovely, moving music, the lighting of candles, the hope of Jesus’ resurrection that pulls back the veil of death and darkness—the veil draped over the country and so many families this past year. It’s a hope that lives in you! I’m so grateful for the readers, the worship leaders and musicians that lifted the veil for us this weekend.

As we prepare for next weekend, Commitment Sunday, November 14, I want to share some inspiring words with you. The first words come from Brian and Emily Schwieters and give us a sense of why they are committed, financially, through community, and in service to our ministry at Incarnation.

The many stories of struggle and suffering we have and haven’t heard of people in our community and throughout the world, lead us to share our resources so they can experience the joy and love of God. Investing alongside others of Incarnation has given us loving relationships, a greater understanding of God’s love, as well as a place to hear the stories and see the successes of the many missions we share in. The joy we have received through experiences in small groups, CYF with our kids, volunteering at church and other missions, give us daily reminders of how important this community is to us. A favorite sign in our house also reminds us of our importance to this community. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” – Luke 12:48.  

Second: I have such a deep sense of gratitude for this community and your response to our Feed My Starving Children MobilePack. Because of you and our community extended,

  • 1,121 children will be fed for a year.
  • 409,320 meals were packed.
  • 1,200 volunteers made it all happen.

The financial contributions are still coming in but, at the very least, we went over the $150,000 we had committed to Feed My Starving Children. We are also making a dent in the added $50,000 stretch goal that we put in front of you.

Wow. Thank you for connecting with God’s gracious and generous Spirit.

As we make our way to Commitment Sunday here are few things we are asking:

  • To see you! We’d love to celebrate the holiday season with you, your family, and your friends who are not connected to another church!
  • Turn in your Financial and Serving Commitments for 2022. Here is the link. If you would like to get a hard copy of the forms, they are available outside of the Incarnation Office.
  • Focus your generous giving on the Operating Budget as we end the year. We have had some incredible response to specific initiatives in the past few months. Your generosity prior to year-end will create the momentum we need as we (hopefully) open up, more and more, for in-person ministry.

One more thing, beginning next Sunday, November 14, you can pick up your Advent kits. The theme for our Advent and Christmas season is We Wait… In Hope! The kits include a devotional for the season and candles for each of the weeks of Advent and your Christmas celebration. Please pick one up. If you know someone in your neighborhood that would benefit from the gift, pick one up for them!

The All Saint’s service reminded us that Jesus continues to live on in and through us. I sense it in your compassion, your generosity, and your love for this community and beyond.

Peace. Kai

November 2, 2021

As you consider your financial and serving commitment for 2022 through our I’m In! Stewardship Campaign, consider what Nikki Kelly, member of Incarnation, says about why she and her husband, Rich give.

This week Pastor Kai talked about the good life. For Rich and me, part of the good life is feeling like we are helping to make things a little bit better in this world. All that we receive from God is temporary — our time, possessions, education, money — on loan to us to do with as we see fit. It seems like it’s so easy to hold tight to these things, to feel that we are in control, that our plan will lead to the perfect outcomes, and to protect ourselves right out of letting Jesus be part of it. At our house, it’s easy to compartmentalize things — there are areas where Jesus guides us (our faith, relationships, love for each other, family), and areas where we are in the lead (financials, jobs, how we spend our time, what we buy). But I sort of wonder what we miss when we limit Jesus’ job description — what if he has different plans for us in the other areas, things that bring us closer to him and closer to the good life, making things a little bit better in this world? Through Incarnation, Rich and I continue to grow in our faith that Jesus’ love and provisions are endless — that through deeper relationships, sharing our gifts, making music with this congregation, and relying on Jesus a little more each day, we can help to create the world that God envisions.  

We have a few weeks left before our Commitment Sunday on November 14. You can fill out your commitment online. There are also hard copies available outside the Incarnation Office door.

Question: Do you know Incarnation has an Endowment Fund? The purpose of Incarnation’s Endowment Fund is to provide resources, apart from regular giving, to support and enhance the mission and vision of Incarnation Lutheran Church.

Recently, the Endowment Fund has allotted resources in two focus areas: Budding Idea Grants and Leadership Development.

Budding Idea Grants support innovative outreach programs in the greater community and beyond. This includes start-up initiatives or expansion of existing programs. Here are a few examples of ministries we supported this year:

Another Kind of Happy Hour workshop. A grant of $2,700 was made to two trained facilitators (one an Incarnation member). They have used it to enhance the Another Kind of Happy Hour curriculum to make it a richer experience for people of faith. This program helps participants learn to increase positive emotions and achieve greater resilience.

Changing Gaits. Since 2007, this faith-based nonprofit has used the healing bond with horses and emphasis on a life lived for Christ to help youth struggling with mental, emotional and behavioral disorders to find new strength and capabilities. This year, Changing Gaits is launching a Youth Horse Camp. With daily and week-long options, this program will use equine-assisted therapy techniques to help develop character and leadership skills in elementary and middle school aged children.

Shobi’s Table, a pay-as-you-can café. This organization offers healthy, delicious, from-scratch meals to anyone and everyone who comes to their food truck, no matter what they can pay, in the Frogtown and Midway neighborhoods of St. Paul. There is one lunchtime meal offered at each of these locations weekly. BIG funding of $3,000 is being used to add a serving day and location (Capitol Hill/Rice Street neighborhood) to their schedule this spring.

For more details about the Budding Idea Grants program, visit the web page and print a copy of the brochure, which describes eligibility and how to apply.

Leadership Development: Summer Intern Program

Our first initiative in Leadership Development, our Summer Intern Program, was very successful this past summer. Though we got a late start this spring and had only three applicants, they all made important contributions to the development of this program and our summer ministries.

We developed two tracks: 1). Ministry Focused Track (those who may see themselves as future leaders of churches or non-profits) and 2). Skills Focused Track (those who have particular skills that would help us move forward at Incarnation).

The St. Paul area synod is now looking at how to make connections with our internship program as we, together, develop leaders for another generation of ministry. We will be opening up opportunities for others to engage the process in January 2022.

If you want to be part of this exciting vision through our Endowment Fund, you can make gifts to the Endowment Fund online or by a check made out to Incarnation with “Endowment” indicated on the memo line. These and other options are described on the web page.

So many ways to be “IN!” as we do our common work together.

Peace. Kai

October 25, 2021

Why Ministry Partners?

This weekend, we will use Jesus’ words from Matthew 25 as a guide to respond to the questions, “Why does the Church exist?” and “Why are we here?”. In Matthew 25, Jesus invites us to imagine ourselves responding to the needs of the world in a natural and organic way, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

This is what Jesus’ people do.

At Incarnation, we know there is more need in our community and world that we can ever meet. So, ministry partners become a way for us to expand our capacity for living into Jesus’ invitation.

We have ministry partners that develop because of longstanding connections and new ones that emerge as the Spirit encourages newly discovered passions. Many of the ministry partnerships include a financial commitment. Others create opportunities for Incarnation members to serve alongside people from our larger community as, together, we imagine and co-create a better, more loving world.

If you would like more information on our specific ministry partners, click here.

So why talk about ministry partners during our stewardship campaign? First: We want to say thank you for all your generosity these past years. Annually we give about $135,000 in monthly support to our ministry partners and over $200,000 in gifts given for specific partners. Think about the expanded capacity for ministry you provide through your giving. Our ministry partners depend on our generosity. Thank you!

Second: Ministry partners also create spaces for us to serve. And serving changes our hearts when we heed Jesus’ invitation to walk with those who are “hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned” as it says in Matthew 25.

As you consider your commitment to the Stewardship Campaign “I’m In!” for our 2022 ministry year, know that you are a part of the big work of God through your generous giving and serving. Commitment cards are available online or hard copies are available outside the Incarnation Office. Remember, November 14 is Commitment Sunday. Use that as your timeline for making a commitment for our common work.

Here is why Claire and Jerry Gilbert, members of Incarnation, are committed to our common work:

“As members of Incarnation, we have found a home, a family and the tools to form a deeper connection to God. As members of our church, we give our resources and time for many reasons. First of all, we enjoy participating in ministries of this church. Volunteering brings us great joy and personal fulfillment on many levels. Secondly, giving our resources allows our church to continue and expand the opportunities for worship and service in the building and the greater community. God gave us our unique talents and resources and by sharing these with others we are doing what He wants us to do. By supporting Incarnation, we get back so much more than we give.”

They give and serve so we can expand our ministry in the greater community.

If you are looking for a way to support one of our ministry partners, Feed My Starving Children, this is your week! Follow this link to sign up to serve or give.

Are you in?

Know that thousands of people in need await our response.

Peace, Kai

October 18, 2021

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

Email Pastor Kai directly here.

In the middle of this Stewardship Campaign (I’m In!), as we are asking you to make both a financial commitment and a commitment of service for our common ministry in 2022, let’s take a moment and review some core biblical principles:

  • All our lives come to us as gift (Genesis 1). Our reason, our creativity, our physicality, our ability to relate and, therefore, our ability to earn and accumulate in our world come from these gifts–these gifts from God.
  • Giving is living. Have you ever noticed this part of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that God GAVE….” Giving reflects the nature of God’s life.
  • We don’t give only when it works for us and to those we believe are deserving. We give because God has first given to us and God longs for all to experience the goodness of this life.
  • Love one another as I have first loved you. (John 13:34) It’s Jesus’ command to his followers. By this love everyone will know you are followers.
  • Money is not evil. It is the love of money that is considered the root of all evil (I Timothy 6:10).
  • How do you know what you love? What you love is what drives you. These questions may provide you with some insight:
    • What am I thinking about most often?
    • How do I choose to spend my time?
    • Where do I invest my resources?
  • You cannot serve both God and wealth (Luke 16:13). It doesn’t mean you cannot have wealth. It does mean, though, that a pre-occupation with wealth distracts from our focus of serving our God.
  • Giving and serving are not simply actions we do as faithful people, they are our way of life.

In a money driven, individualistic culture, where what’s mine is mine and I have the right to do with it what I want, these principles might seem foreign or challenging. For now, let’s agree to begin by asking ourselves, “What if this is the way Jesus wants us to engage our world with our money and service?” “How is my life being lived consistently with Jesus’ call?” “Where can I grow?”

First: Let me remind you it is possible for us to continue to grow. Like any growth, challenges and discomfort will be present, intentionality will be required, and persistence will be essential.

Second:  Here’s a simple path forward.

  • Start giving and serving: Do it simply. Do it one time and then find a way to do it again.
  • Give and serve consistently: Start to consciously look for ways to give what you have and serve others. At this phase, don’t worry about the amount. Simply look for ways to give and serve in the daily rhythms of your life.
  • Give and serve until you notice: Many of us can offer a financial gift or a bit of our time for service without even noticing it. But, when you give and serve until you notice, you start making decisions about what the most important things are in your life. What gives your life the most meaning?
  • Give and serve generously. The biblical notion of the tithe (10%) is a starting point. But, generosity is never bound by a number, in money or time.
  • Give and serve as a way of life. Over time, you won’t be waiting for others to give you opportunities to give and serve. You will think about it in every aspect of your life. What do I have to offer my family today? My community? My neighbor? The stranger in need?

Spend some time with these principles and this pathway forward and then ask, “God, what will you have me do this year?” “How can I participate more fully and freely in co-creating a better, more loving world?”

We invite you to make your commitment now through November 14 (add link).  Remember, if you make a commitment and your circumstances change in the next year, positively or negatively, you can change your commitment. For now, we simply want to know that “You’re In!”

Peace. Kai

September 27, 2021

By Nate Bergengren, Formation Leader for Students and Families 

Last spring, as Incarnation began to re-envision student ministry, we used the work of the Transition Task Force, led by our Interim Student Ministry leader Nick Clark, to establish some hopes for our 6th-12th grade family ministry. They included:

  • Students knowing they are valued by God and they are valuable for our ministry.
  • Building a seamless bridge across our middle school to high school ministry.
  • Re-imagining the middle school confirmation process to include significant family involvement.
  • Creating more relationship building opportunities for middle school students within Incarnation and open spaces for them to invite friends.
  • Developing high school leader teams (students and adults) who can connect with and mentor younger students.
  • Active Service: Serving within the congregation/the community/the world.

In the process, Incarnation also restructured the staffing for student ministry:

In June, I began my work as the overall Formation Leader for Teens and Families. After interviewing a number of candidates for the part-time positions, we have recently hired Adam Boldenow and Michael Sell to fill the part-time formation positions. Let me introduce you to Adam and Mike.

Adam (they/them) is our new Formation Leader for Middle School and is excited to help guide our younger teens and their families take a big step into their faith through the confirmation process. Recently graduating St. Olaf college where they majored in Religion and Biology, Adam has begun the journey into Luther Seminary in St. Paul, where the hope is to earn a Master of Divinity and become an ordained pastor. Originally from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and from a rather large extended family, Adam is currently living in NE Minneapolis with two college friends. Adam would tell you they are an extremely nerdy individual, who likes Science fiction, fantasy, and everything in between. Adam self-describes as, “an extrovert who is energized by being around others, bringing people together and creating community.” Beyond that, some of Adam’s hobbies are hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, walking, video games, board games, watching movies and TV. Adam is excited to work with the Teens & Family Formation team at Incarnation and foster a community that is inviting and open to all, increasingly attuned to God’s Spirit, and fun to be a part of.

Mike (he/him) is our new Formation Leader for High School. Mike spent this past summer up at Camp Amnicon as a wilderness guide leading youth groups on weeklong trips, experiencing God’s grace on the rivers of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Mike studied Sociology and Political Science at Augsburg University, where he was able to reconnect with his birth state of Minnesota. And it was in Colorado where he spent most of his life, practicing faith and ministry. He has served in homeless ministry, 10+ years of camp, and a mission trip to Iringa, Tanzania! While he has grown up in a Lutheran church as the son of the music and worship director, he says he’s spent most of his young adult life “cut off from the sunlight of the spirit”. Serving and giving back is the call Mike feels, now, living a life of gratitude, openness, and invitation. Mike says, “we all may experience grief, loss, and sorrow in our lives, but God is ever present. Our ability to comfort and create a safe space for those suffering is God at work in our lives every day, and an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus.” Mike is excited step into life with Incarnation and looks forward to getting to know you and investing in high school teens and their families.

We feel God inviting us to live into our baptismal promises in an increasingly meaningful way, settling into the ancient truth that the family is the primary way we begin to know God and form a vibrant and valuable faith, not just to us but to the world God so loves. For a deeper sense of context and inspiration, the MSM (middle school ministry) and HSM (high school ministry) websites are being updated regularly. Take a look at our Vision 1-Pager too!

We know this is a stretch for some families; we are attempting big, holy shifts in culture. This is a transition year in the middle of a pandemic, so we’ll be starting as best we can, adjusting as we go, learning a lot and asking for and offering plenty of love and grace as we go along the way. We are being called into this newness by a loving and gracious God, so let’s be brave together. Peace.


Nate Bergengren

September 20, 2021


One of the mantras I used as I entered this community and that I keep in mind when I think strategically about where we are going comes from Jim Collins in his book, Built to Last. If you want an established community to flourish over time you need to do these two things simultaneously—Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress.

Incarnation has a rich heritage of excellent worship and music. With Dave Ellison’s retirement as our Director of Music for almost 18 years, we have both the gift and opportunity to preserve the core of our music and worship tradition and stimulate progress as we move forward.

I’m excited to announce that both Amy Maakestad and Sean Turner have agreed to take on expanded roles and lead us forward. The names may sound familiar to you based on which service you normally attend. Both Amy (traditional worship) and Sean (contemporary worship) work part-time at Incarnation—Amy for over three years and Sean for 13. As I got to know them these past two years, it was immediately evident that they both have so much more to offer this community.

Amy will be working 2/3 time focusing her energy on traditional worship—planning the traditional services, leading worship as the primary organist, accompanying the Senior Choir, and directing multiple bell choirs. She has a Master’s degree in Sacred Music, Organ, and Conducting from Luther Seminary and a bachelor’s degree in piano performance. She has been the Director of Worship and Music at multiple churches and is presently the artistic director for Twin Cities Bronze, a community handbell ensemble.

Sean will be working full time across both contemporary and traditional services as contemporary worship leader, senior choir director, and director of smaller instrumental and vocal ensembles. He will also oversee the ongoing development of our livestream worship experience. Over the past 20 years Sean has enjoyed his roles as a college educator and department head as well as that of a professional musician performing live and composing and producing music for television and film. Sean holds a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in jazz performance and a master’s degree in orchestration from the University of Chichester (England). He is excited to bring his broad base of experience to collaborate with the worship team in creating an inspiring, inclusive and deeply meaningful worship music experience at Incarnation.

Here’s what I love about both of them. Yes, they have impressive resumes. But, they also love their God, the community of Incarnation, and they work well on the team and with one another. Those are the intangibles that will allow us to both preserve the core of our rich worship and music tradition and stimulate progress as we move forward.

Amy officially began her new role on September 16. Sean will begin October 1. If you have been involved in musical groups over the years, you can expect to hear from them soon.

It’s fun to start a Monday with good news!  Peace, Kai

September 13, 2021

What a joy to see so many families and kids in worship this weekend. Welcome back. I bet I had, at least, ten conversations with people who said, “It’s our first time back since the pandemic began!” We are delighted. For me, the community seemed more whole. We look forward to seeing all of you as we enter this fall season of ministry together.

I also want to thank all the staff and volunteers who made yesterday possible—chalk artists, musicians, balloon arch makers, set-up and take down teams, servers throughout. When we talk about Our Story, that’s what we are talking about. People from across the community serving together so that members and guests might experience something of the welcome of Christ. Well done.

Speaking of Our Story, someone recently asked me where our sermon series ideas come from and how they sync with the church year.  We use the church calendar (Advent/Christmas/Epiphany/Lent/Easter/Pentecost) as our guide and many seasons of the year we use the assigned gospel reading for preaching. But, in some seasons, we create a series that allows us to directly address themes that are bubbling up in our world or our local community.

For instance, the church season of Pentecost spans the summer and fall. We often break that up into smaller “teaching sessions.” This year we focused on questions of faith you asked us to preach on in June and July, Paul’s letter to the Colossians (we are preaching on one of Paul’s letters each August) and, finally, this fall, Our Story.

The process for creating the theme is simple, though sometimes is takes a while for us to get needed clarity. The Formation Team (staff overseeing education for all ages) begins to ask these questions months in advance: “What is God saying to us as a community in this time?” “What is happening in our world that we need to address?” “How can our community grow together?”

The theme, Our Story, emerged out of our sense that, in an increasingly fractured world, God has called us from the beginning to live beyond the divisions of our world, to work for healing, and God has “Blessed us to be a blessing to others.” That is our story. We then divide the big theme into sub themes and the person assigned to preach on any given weekend focuses their preaching on that sub-theme as it relates to the larger theme.

We look forward to seeing you this fall as we continue to explore Our Story.

Peace. Kai

September 7, 2021

Is it possible to talk about “Our Story” in a culture driven by “my story”? Well, we are going to give it a run this fall. Our Story, our fall sermon series, will explore the dynamic confluence between God’s story, our neighbor’s story, and our individual story. Each can be a source of energy and inspiration. Each can become a place of stagnation and division.

This season, we are inviting you to see beyond—beyond the old categories of we/them, mine/yours, past/future—and, in the process, become a more vital presence in your present, ordinary life. Our story is only as hopeful as your active engagement in your story. Your story is enlarged by fully participating in “Our Story.”

Here are the themes and texts for the upcoming season.

Date Worship Theme Worship Notes
9/12 Celebration Sunday: Your Story Matters

Acts 2:43-47

A full morning of blessing and enjoying friends and neighbors
9/19 God is Present in Our Story

Acts 43: 13-22

We focus on how God works in and through each one of us.
9/26 Receiving our Neighbor’s Story

Acts 8:26-40

We highlight our partnership with Tanzania and the gift of being willing to receive another person’s story.
10/3 Telling Our Story

Acts 7:1-8

Launch Open Enrollment month for Stewardship.


Children, Youth, and Family ministries launch this week.

10/10 The Stories We Once Believed about Ourselves

Acts 10:9-29

Feed My Starving Children Invitation
10/17 Everchanging Stories

Acts 15:1-11


Guest Preacher: Osheta Moore, author of Dear White Peacemakers (see notes below)
10/24 Danger of a Single Story Line

Acts 17:22-28

Celebration of other Ministry Partners
10/31 Reformation: Ancient Stories that Shape Modern Life

Matthew 25:31-40

Feed My Starving Children Mobile Pack Weekend
11/7 All Saint’s: Remembering the Stories Told

2 Timothy 1:3-7

With candles and music and reflection we honor the lives of those we love who have died.
11/14 Stories of Generosity Commitment Sunday: We affirm our financial and serving commitments for 2022.
11/21 Stories of Gratitude Alternate Gift Fair Launch


Here is Osheta’s description of her book and a little more about herself.

“Dear White Peacemakers is a breakup letter to division, a love letter to God’s beloved community, and an eviction notice to the violent powers that have sustained racism for centuries.

I’m an African-American, suburbanite Texan who fell in love with urban core development in New Orleans when we moved into an under-resourced neighborhood. Since then, we’ve evacuated New Orleans when Katrina hit, my husband finished seminary in and served at a church in Los Angeles and now we’re living in Saint Paul, MN . . . and we’re both pastors of different churches.

Wild, right?

I’m a stay at home mom whose ten-year plan had me comfortably settled in a law firm on the partner track, not settled at a messy kitchen table keeping track of an urban minister’s tight budget. And until I married my white husband, I didn’t listen to rap music, know the difference between Tupac and Snoop Dogg, or watch BET.

But you know what? Living at the intersections of so many seemingly contrary ideas and identities has helped me confidently embrace the “middle”: the gray space where most of us reside, but constantly feel tugged to be either/or. I’ve learned life and people are messy—it’s all too complex to pigeon-hole as this or that. So, I’ve grown to love being in the middle.”

Quite a story, right?

You know what we need to fill out Our Story this fall? You! And Your Story!

Summer is over. A new season is upon us. I look forward to seeing what will happen at the confluence of God’s story, our community story, and our individual stories.

Peace. Kai

August 24, 2021

Good news. We have received our first bid for the new sound system in the Sanctuary and are awaiting a few others in the upcoming weeks. I know you love looking at those box speakers on their sticks during worship but, we will be moving forward once we receive those other bids and make our decision on providers.

Another bit of good news: A generous servant of this community has already given the opening gift of $50,000. Given that the bids could come in as high as $150,000, they are now offering another $50,000 as matching dollars for this community. If you would like your gift matched, simply make a gift toward the Sanctuary sound system. We would love to be able to move quickly once the final bid is secured. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Speaking of worship, here are a few notes on our upcoming worship experiences:

  • Sunday, September 5:There will be one in-person worship service at 10:00 a.m. in the Sanctuary. A pre-recorded service will also be available that morning. There will not be a livestream on this day.
  • Sunday, September 12:Celebration Sunday: Your Story Matters! There will be two services in the Sanctuary at 8:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. Only the 10:15 a.m. service will be livestreamed. Following each service will be an opportunity to gather as a community outdoors. Food trucks will be available, come hungry. Inflatables and a climbing wall will also be available for our kids to enjoy the morning.

Come. Breathe. Enjoy. Be together. See old friends. Bring new friends for us to meet!

As we announced last week, learning for all ages begins in October. Just like that, summer will be over and the fall season will begin.

As it does, be aware of how your friends and neighbors are doing. There is an enormous amount of anxiety in the air as schools open. Be encouragers of those who make the re-opening decisions. Support your teachers and administrators who are leading and being with our kids through extraordinarily difficult times. Tell your kids you love them and they are not alone.

Revel in the 70 degree days. Each one is a gift!

Peace. Kai

August 17, 2021

Sometimes it is good to go back to basics. From the beginning, the Judeo-Christian tradition understood the unique role that the home plays in passing on the faith from generation to generation.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”   Deuteronomy 6:4-9

In the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy,

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.”  II Timothy 1:5

The faith of the past generations—through the ways they loved us, lived with us, talked with us about Jesus—gave us the opportunity to embody their vision of a living faith for our own lives or, in some very difficult cases, became the catalyst for us to abandon it and strike out on our own. We all know those stories and they are deeply painful. There are many distorted images of God that have been presented over the years or oppressive, judgmental visions of the faith that the generations beyond the baby boomers have rejected. Subsequently, there are spiritual orphans dotting the religious landscape of our time.

So, what do we do? Maybe it’s time to get back to basics—to create simple ways for our families to worship together, learn together, serve together and grow together. Author Brian McLaren paints this hopeful picture for us in his book, Faith After Doubt:

Deep personal formation of the next generation depends on close-at-hand mentors and models who authentically embody the way of life we hope the children will “catch” through imitation. The loving hearts of parents, teachers, and other significant adult models in a child’s life are the primary sacred texts from which the child will learn faith expressing itself in love. “

Notice the concepts:

  • Faith is formed by “catching” through imitation. In other words, our kids are watching us, as adults, and noticing whether what we say we value is actually lived in our lives.
  • Parents, teachers and other adults become the primary texts through which children will learn a “faith that expresses itself in love.” In other words, together…

We are learning to live and love like Jesus, for a lifetime!

But, this reality is not lost on me: We, as leaders of the church, have your attention for one, maybe two hours per week. Given the hectic schedules that many of our families keep, oftentimes less! In that case, who are the primary faith formers for this next generation?

This isn’t new question for us, at Incarnation. Before I started as Senior Pastor two years ago, the leadership of Incarnation had developed a new vision for our community:

We envision a world filled with God’s grace and love.

Along with that vision there were hoped for initiatives around worship that would begin to address these realities of faith formation. The hope was to develop inspiring worship that included people across the generations with the very practical task of examining the schedule of all Sunday events to eliminate obstacles to attending worship, especially for families.

At our staff/leadership retreat a few weeks before the COVID shut-down, we had affirmed that direction and were planning on a re-design of the worship/learning schedule for the fall of 2020. Well, we all know what happened to 2020 and the beginning of 2021.

Now, it’s time for us move forward. If formation for our children happens primarily in families, and if we only have a few hours per week where we gather as a church, then we want families to experience life in this community together whenever possible.

Beginning Sunday, October 3:

Traditional Worship at 8:45 a.m.: Families will worship together up until the sermon. At that point, kids Pre-K through grade 5, will be invited to Grace Hall and led in an age-appropriate learning time through the end of the service. Parents, if they choose this option, will pick their kids up at the end of the service.

Contemporary Worship at 10:15 a.m.: Families will be together throughout the service. Because of the adaptable space in Incarnation Hall, we will have tables set up in parts of the space for families with younger children to sit together with age-appropriate resources provided for them to color, read, etc.

Wednesday Nights: Our hope is to have an abbreviated worship service from 6 – 6:30 p.m. that is available to all beginning in October. Following worship will be:

6:30 – 7:00 p.m. Children’s Ministry learning Pre-K through grade 5.
6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Middle School and High School Ministry.

Families have many options:

  • Simply enjoy the experience of worship together on Sunday. It’s ok to just be together in worship and then strive to live a faith-filled daily life with your family. We will provide you with conversational and spiritual practice resources that you can do on your own.
  • If you have children Pre-K through grade 5, worship at 8:45 a.m. for a portion of the service and then have age-appropriate time of learning.
  • Worship together on Sunday and then learn on Wednesday.
  • Worship and learn together on Wednesday.
  • Nursery will be available through age 3 beginning September 12.
  • For those not comfortable gathering in-person there will continue to be an online option for you to do together as a family.

One of the ways we will also be encouraging active engagement within families through our Middle School Ministry is that we are designing six short term classes that a parent (or guardian) and their student will attend together. Topics include: Family Faith Formation, Difficult Faith and Life Conversations, Who is Jesus today?, What does it mean to be Church—a church “within the walls” through worship, sacraments, and relationships and a church “without walls” through the ways we understand and serve a multi-cultural, multi-faith world?

More specific information for age-specific learning, small groups, Kairos (adult learning), and service will come through your ministry leaders later this week. We will also be watching closely the impact of the spread of COVID-19 in our community and will pivot as necessary.

But, for now, imagine if the biblical witness was being realized in this next generation at Incarnation. Wouldn’t it be great if someone like the apostle Paul could say of us, “I see the faith of your parents and grandparents living in you!” Or if our households were, in their own way, living God’s command to love by “reciting it in their home and when they are away, when they lie down to sleep and when they rise.”

How awesome!

Our role at Incarnation, in the time we share each week, is to create an environment where we will learn how to get there.

Together, we are learning to live and love like Jesus, for a lifetime!

Peace, Kai

August 9, 2021

I receive the On Being email and podcast link each Saturday. This past week, I was struck by the interview with Sharon Salzberg, a renowned writer and teacher about meditation. One of her core teachings is what she calls the radical lesson of “start; and start again.” “The healing is in the return,” Sharon says. Starting over is the most significant thing she has learned in 50 years. Sounds simple. Or is it?

This past year feels like a constant learning laboratory in starting over. And with the recent resurgence of COVID-19 through the Delta variant, we wonder if the gains we seem to have made will be for naught. It’s confounding, frustrating, and potentially, if we allow it, intensely divisive.

But, when I read these words from Salzberg this weekend, “the healing is in the return” I felt a rush of hopefulness. There is too much uncertainty to think the “return” will soon be a return to normal. But, what if the healing is in smaller, but no less significant, steps. What if the healing is in…

  • The return of a renewed habit of worship after a season apart.
  • The return of a raised consciousness of the value of community.
  • The return of joy in experiencing the simple gifts of laughter and tears that remind us of our common humanity.
  • The return of a commitment to one another, to loving your neighbor as a first order of our calling.
  • The return of a longing for and leaning in to what gives life ultimate meaning—love for all, justice for the oppressed, compassion for the hurting and hope for each new day.

All of this means, whatever your experience of the past year in connection with this community, maybe it’s time to “start; and start again.” For starting over may be the most significant thing you can do.

We look forward to seeing you. Peace. Kai

Note: It would be good seeing you at 8:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. this weekend as we celebrate the ministry of Dave and Cindi Ellison. If you would like to give a financial gift in honor of their ministry, Dave has requested it be designated toward 1). Feed My Starving Children or 2) Organ Repair Fund. You may give to either of those options online here.

July 26, 2021

The Re-Opening Task Force met last week to evaluate our progress and to learn more about the Delta variant and its spread. Though the numbers have ticked up in Minnesota, we will continue with our chosen path forward, for now. This, of course, as we have learned well in this COVID season, is subject to change as we monitor what’s happening in our community. For now,
  • If you are fully vaccinated (two weeks after the last vaccination shot), masks are optional. If you are unvaccinated, we ask, for your safety and for those you are in proximity to, that you wear your mask. Remember: Love is patient and kind. We will continue to move forward together.
  • We have removed the pew spacing and room limits. Again, we assume that you will respect distance when you can and if there are people in your small groups who are unvaccinated, we encourage you to work out the best scenario for your group. Some groups are using a hybrid of Zoom and in-person. Others are meeting outside. Still others are choosing to wear masks out of respect for the comfort of all in the group.
  • We are looking at September as a time to resume coffee and other beverage service on Sundays.
  • In the end, the best thing we can do is encourage one another to get vaccinated if, and when, you physically can. Again, love is patient and kind. We will continue to move forward together.
On Sunday, August 15th, Dave and Cindi Ellison will retire from their ministry at Incarnation. That morning we will have two of the same services in the Sanctuary at 8:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. The Senior Choir will musically anchor both of the services. There will be a reception, outside, after each of the services so you can greet the Ellisons. We have a tradition of giving gifts in honor of their ministry. So here are ways you can encourage the Ellisons throughout the month of August:
  • Send a card to the Incarnation Office expressing your appreciation for their ministry. We will pass on the cards to them at the end of August.
  • If you want to give a financial gift in honor of their work, Dave has asked those gifts be designated to two places of importance for them: 1) Organ Fund: This provides ongoing upkeep for that magnificent instrument. 2) Feed My Starving Children. You may either send a check to the Incarnation Office with “In honor of Dave & Cindi’s Ministry” in the memo or give online here and select “Honoring Dave and Cindi’s Music Ministry – Organ” or “Honoring Dave and Cindi’s Music Ministry – FMSC”.
Finally, throughout the month of August we will preach on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Once a year we take one of Paul’s letters and make it the centerpiece of our preaching and worship. Let me close with some of Paul’s words from the first chapter, “For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord… as you bear fruit in every good work.”
We are praying for you. We want to see you in worship and in our common service. We want to be people who bear fruit in every good work, together.

July 19, 2021

I’m reading a book by Ariel Burger entitled, Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom. Wiesel survived a year at Auschwitz as a teenager and subsequently spent the rest of his life bearing witness to some of the most heinous acts of human cruelty while being a hopeful actor of human kindness. Burger has been a lifelong student of Wiesel.

According to Burger, Wiesel believed that every student, every human has a voice that needs to be heard so that we can create a future not bound by the past. “It is not enough to repeat the stories of the past; we must also write new ones,” Professor Wiesel explained. “We must step off the page into our own situation, which is unmapped and unknown.”

Wiesel is adamant about not losing the stories of the past, especially the stories of the atrocities committed so as not to repeat them. But, simply retelling the stories of the past won’t create the new future.

I’ve been ruminating on that phrase, “It is not enough to repeat the stories of the past; we must also write new ones.”

What does that mean for you? For your life?

In the church, we can get stuck in the past. We have scriptures written thousands of years ago and church traditions that extend back almost as long. We may have fond memories of growing up in the church and how central the life of the church was to our communities and families. It is good to tell those stories and to mine the richness of the past. But, if Wiesel is on to something, and I think he is, “It is not enough to repeat the stories of the past…”

We must also write new ones!

So, what is the new story we will write? To reflect the vibrancy of a spirit led community, the story will undoubtedly contain:

  • Vital worship that engages our best gifts to inspire our community to live a Jesus shaped life in their world.
  • Smaller gatherings of honest and humble people who are learning to navigate the great chasms of difference in our world because they are compelled by a Jesus who asked us to love the neighbor, the stranger, even the enemy.
  • Households that practice and live the faith in their homes and in their communities.
  • Individuals who are generous in giving and serving because they know that life is not just about them.
  • A community that extends the expansive love of God to those whom God loves but the world has not created a loving space for because of their socioeconomics, race, orientation, or creed.

Wiesel adds, “We must step off the page into our own situation, which is unmapped and unknown.” Which means this new story is a little scary. A tad bit fearful. Somewhat nerve-wracking. Not always clear.

But, I think it’s faithful—to the God of new creation, our Lord Jesus who invites us to a new life, and the Spirit that makes all things new.

What new story will you help write?

Peace. Kai

Note: We have the opportunity to help write a new story for our neighbors through our Tons of Love fundraiser for the Ralph Reeder Foodshelf.  You can give financially or bring in designated items that have been requested for families. Here is the information you need to give.

June 22, 2021

Last week I wrote about many of the staff transitions in the past year. The words I used were, “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.”

It’s true.

But, some transitions, based on tenure and impact, also give us pause to reflect and celebrate how God has been at work, in this case, for almost a generation at Incarnation and for almost three generations throughout a career. Below is Dave Ellison’s letter announcing his retirement.

“Over the last fifty-six years, I have served in worship leadership, with the last thirty-six years working in full-time music ministry. I was called to be the Director of Worship and Music in the spring of 2004, and now after over 17 years at Incarnation, and after many prayers, I have decided that it is time for me to retire. Effective as of September 1, 2021, I plan to retire as the  Director of Worship and Music. My last Sunday leading worship will be August 15. I will take two weeks of vacation from August 17 to August 31.

During my tenure as Director of Worship and Music, there have been many highlights. Just a few of the highlights include these:

  • The initiation of mid-week Advent worship using Holden Evening Prayer
  • Summer music camp for children in elementary and middle school
  • The Senior Choir invited to sing with the Northern Lights Community Band on two occasions
  • Good Friday Tenebrae worship led by the Senior Choir
  • Easter Sunday worship with the choir singing five worship services
  • Christmas worship led by all vocal choirs, bell choirs, and brass and string players
  • Choir tour to Norway and Sweden

It has been an honor and a privilege to have been called to serve at Incarnation. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this community. God’s blessing for you and for the music ministry at Incarnation.

In Christ’s Service,

              Dave Ellison”

Both Dave and Cindi Ellison will be retiring from their work at Incarnation. Their hope is to be able to spend more time with their kids and grandkids and to travel while they are still healthy. In the two years that I have known and served with them, Dave and Cindi have been steadfast in their invitation to a deeper connection with God through music, willing servants who have had to adapt significantly in the past year, and beautiful people of faith and hope. We will miss their presence even as we rejoice with them in this new phase of their journey.

At Incarnation, we are blessed with exceptionally talented musicians in both our traditional and contemporary service leadership. We will begin our process of moving forward with extended conversations about how their gifts can be best used in the life of our community.

Note: The choir will sing a few more times in the upcoming weeks. We will have a celebration of the Ellison’s ministry on August 15.

Join me in thanking Dave and Cindi for their commitment to their Lord and this community.

Peace. Kai

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