Lifetimes: December 2020

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

Do you remember the beginning of the shutdown in March? It seems like about 10 year ago, doesn’t it? Do you remember how much more complicated every decision seemed to be? Think about going to the grocery store:

Do I have a mask?
Did I wipe down the handle of my cart?
How do I avoid getting close to others?
Do I handle cans or fruit that someone else may have touched?
Do the cashiers have protective shields?
Did they clean the credit card keypad?
And, of course, the big one . . . DO THEY HAVE TOILET PAPER?

On and on . . .

And then you had to bring the groceries home and go over a hundred more questions about how to safely get them in your house and cupboards. It was exhausting!

As we enter the holiday season, we are confronted with another list of questions that we previously haven’t had to ask: Should I get together with family? (Not when we get together, but should we get together?) Who have they seen? What is their risk of exposure? Is it worth it?

In the past eight months, the mental gymnastics we’ve had to go through to make otherwise simple decisions has been exhausting. In some cases, it’s not an incrementally more complicated decision, it’s exponentially more difficult to decide. What used to be easy, default decisions are now a conscious, deliberative process—more intentionality, more time, more energy.

As we entered the Stewardship season this year, the Stewardship team knew it wasn’t a normal year. We weren’t gathering as usual. We wouldn’t have a big “Commitment Sunday” when most people would bring in their commitments. So, we hoped to make it as easy as possible. A few clicks online and you could make both your financial and service commitments. No problem!

For many the process was that simple. We are grateful for your responses. But, in our conversations with others we are also hearing things like, “I used to put my card on the table as a reminder to get it in. Now, I don’t think about it.” “I’ve been out of the rhythm with so many things this fall, I haven’t gotten to it.”

I get it. This time has been disorienting in so many ways. Our normal rhythms of worship, gathering, learning and being with one another have been turned upside down. Like so many other things, including going to a grocery store or having family together for the holidays, the decision-making process takes more intentionality, more time, more energy—energy that often feels sorely lacking.

To give you an update on our response, the table below compares the total number of responses by the end of 2019 to our current responses through Sunday, November 15.

Commitments for 2020 Commitments for 2021 Comparative %
Operating Fund 590 360 61%
Capital Fund 283 200 71%


We are on our way and still have a way to go. So, if you haven’t found time in the new rhythm of this season to make your commitment for 2021, here are the links:

Financial Commitment
Service Commitment

In the midst of all the different daily decisions we are having to make, what we are grateful for is that the Spirit of God continues to work through this community in generous and encouraging and hopeful ways. A church without walls has become more real than we ever imagined a few months ago. Could it be that even when we are able to gather more freely again, our minds and hearts will have shifted in such a way that we understand that in every place, at all times, we are Jesus’ people? Our work is always in front of us. The Spirit leading us through it all.

Peace. Kai

Simply Hope: Christmas Worship

Enjoy a Christmas service from the safety and comfort of your own home! Pick a time and invite your friends and family to worship online with you and gather as a digital community. Christmas services will be streamed at three different times:

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

5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.* – Simply Hope: Christmas Worship
These services will contain well known Christmas Carols, Bible readings and a message.

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

If these times don’t work for you, don’t worry! The services will be uploaded to our Vimeo and Youtube channels for you to enjoy anytime on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

ELCA World Hunger Good Gifts this Advent Season 

As has become traditional at Incarnation, Advent will be a time for us to remember our connection with the ELCA through World Hunger. The opportunity to continue to support others during this season of gift-giving continues following the Alternative Giving Fair. We are hopeful that the Incarnation community will be able to raise $9,000+ for ELCA World Hunger during Advent 2020. While any Good Gift is always welcome, this year each week during Advent will bring a focus on specific areas of giving but “Anytime is Good for Animals”. Consider gifting family, neighbors, teachers, and friends in a unique and life-giving way this holiday season. 

The focus for each week during Advent is:
Week 1: Food and Nourishment
Week 2: Health and Sanitation
Week 3: Education
Week 4: Water and Sustainability 

However, any Good Gift, including animals, is always appropriate and welcomed. Watch for information about gift suggestions during each of the coming weeks in Advent and be generous as you share God’s love this holiday season. 

Your Love and Support Matters in Tanzania! 

Remember at the end of October when we were able to enjoy excerpts of a conversation between Pastor Kai and Pastors Donald Kiwanga of Mkwawa Parish and Alex Mhanga of Kigamboni Parish during worship? Less than a week later, the below email appeared in several Incarnation inboxes which filled our hearts with in more joy! If you ever wondered whether your love, support, prayers and financial gifts matter in the lives of young people across the world, wonder no more. Learn more about our Tanzania partnerships here. 

Samwel Lungo

From: samuel lungo 
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2020 12:31 AM
Subject: THANK YOU!!

Greetings to everyone at Incarnation Lutheran Church! “Bwana Yesu Asifiwe (Praise the Lord Jesus)”.

My name is Samwel Joseph Lungo, member of Kigamboni Lutheran Church at Iringa. It has been 15 years now since the day you all came into my life, I was a little boy with no future living in a tin house with my parents and four siblings but with a dream of becoming a medical professional. Thanks to Pastor Koko who introduced me to Jacobsen family (Tom & Karaand  Bega kwa Bega. It was the Jacobsen family and you people of Incarnation who made me who I am today, you carried me on your shoulders, supported me, never gave up on me. As a teenager I made a lot of mistakes, too many foolish decisions but I have a mother, my love, my comfort, a mother who never gave up on me, who would go beyond miles to support me, push me, pray for me and give me every support I need to make sure I become a better man (her name is Dr Kara). Now I have graduated from a medical school, I am teaching at University as a pharmacy lecture. I want to touch as many young teenagers lives as I can, so I have decided to teach a place where I can meet hundreds of youth and encourage, support them, help them reach their dreams and grow through Christ Jesus.

Samwell & Lancelot, his son

I want to thank everyone from Incarnation who are giving their money, time, support and anything to Bega kwa Bega ministry. What you give to us might seems a small money or just a money you can spend on one dinner with friends but to us it’s a future, it is courage, it is a  miracle and a passage to a great future, a way to run from poverty and living a life God promised us!! You’re angels to us!! I was dreaming of becoming a drug dealer when I was young because I knew I had no future but it was you people of Incarnation who turned me to an educated drug dealer (a Pharmaceutical personally). I live with no worries now, giving 10% of my salary to others every month, paying school fees for my two young siblings and one uncle, taking care of my old father who has heart problems and can’t work. All that I have learned from you that living is helping others. Even if I won’t get to buy a luxury house or luxury cars, my heart is at peace if I can change few lives as you did to me. There are so many other youths who have been supported by you and their lives have changed here. I want to thank you all, know that your money and support are changing lives!!!

As you go through tough time of Corona virus pandemic I pray that God will see your sacrifices/offering, protect you and your families!! The bible says “But while you live, let your life be an offering.” You’re doing that and God will listen to your prayers!! I hope to come in Minnesota one day, see you and thank you all in person for your good hearts!!


With love, Samwel Lungo 

Apostles Library Book Review

New Kid  By Jerry Craft

New Kid by Jerry Craft is every middle schooler’s nightmare of starting a new school especially if it is compounded by being an African-American kid in a fancy schmantcy day school with a sprawling campus, rigorous curriculum and lots of extracurricular (required) activities. The school is also decidedly lacking in diversity as Jordan travels from his home in the Bronx to Washington Heights in Manhattan. Craft deftly shows how Jordan gets confused with other students of color, spoken to in slang, and other sorts of small but obvious aggressions. Jordan would rather be at an art school – and the many pages of his own drawings show that would be a good fit while they show what tension he is feeling as he attempts to navigate between his two distinct worlds. (He changes clothing and persona while riding the bus from home to school and vice versa.)

This engaging story offers other intriguing characters and captures the high jinks of middle schoolers and the tensions that come with being a person of color in a traditionally white space. This book will make you stop and think – even one of the teachers/coaches gets misidentified by other staff after being at the school for 14 years!

Year End Giving is an important time for the financial health of our faith community. Click here to see the approaching deadlines and to learn more.

Click here for memorials.


Incarnation Building and Office Update
The Incarnation Office and building will be closed through January 1 to the public to help keep our community safe, but phones will be answered Monday – Thursday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. A limited number of staff will occasionally be onsite to care for the building and receive mail. If you have a giving question, please email Amy Faymoville at.Thank you for your support during this time.

Living Nativity: A Journey of Hope – Saturday, December 19 (New time!) 3-6:00 p.m.
This year for the Christmas Eve service for families with young children we are bringing the Nativity story to life! Come for an outdoor experience as live performers act out the story of Jesus’ birth with singing and animals! It will be a safe way to gather in small household groups and share this truly hope-filled story of God being with us. Register online here! 

2020 Alternative Giving Season
Incarnation’s alternative giving season continues with a variety of giving options listed on this page. Note the specifics about who and how people will benefit from your gifts, how to purchase gifts, how to ensure your gift(s) are transported to recipients (as applicable) as well as due dates for purchasing gifts. Note that Incarnation is unable to be a drop off site for any alternative gifts you might purchase for ministry partners this year.  

Christmas Cookies for the LifeHaven Community
Are you a baker and would like to brighten the season for the LifeHaven community of teenage women who are balancing online school while also being moms of little ones? Email Katie Nichol, LifeHaven Program Manager or call 612-246-7881 to coordinate when to drop off cookies at the LifeHaven house, 325 Jenks Ave E, St Paul, MN 55130. 

Small Groups: Caring for Ourselves & Caring for One Another: Inward Journey & Outward Journey
Times are tough right now, whether due to the pandemic or other life circumstance. We know that we each matter to God and so how does our relationship with God speak into the difficult times of life? Where do we look for comfort or hope or guidance? We also matter to our neighbor, so how do we walk alongside others who are going through a rough time? Talk with others who are also wondering about these questions in a small group starting in January. To find out more or express interest, contact Denise Floe or go the Small Group website.

Preschool Registration for the 2021-22 School Year
Preschool registration for the coming school year starts in January. The Incarnation Preschool offers 2.5 hour and 4 hour sessions! Visit the preschool pages of the Incarnation website for details. Registration packets will be available in mid-December. Packets for 2021-22 school year can be mailed to you or forms may also be downloaded from the website. Call Kirsten Barie at 651-766-0723 for more information, to schedule a tour or to have a packet mailed to you.

Preschool Tours Available 
Due to the current health situation, the Incarnation Preschool will not be offering a large open house event this year. Private tours will be offered for families outside of preschool class hours. On a tour you will be able to see the classrooms, explore other areas of Incarnation that are used and ask questions. Contact Kirsten Barie, 651-766-0723 or to make your private tour appointment. 

I AM Yoga
Lead by Tina Zerrath, an experienced Yoga teacher, keep your body and spirit healthy and strong. Some prior experience is necessary to ensure a safe practice as Tina is not able to see everything you do and make adjustments. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Incarnation Office at 651-484-7213.  

Mondays, January 4 – March 8, 2021 via Zoom
Mat Yoga: 9:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
Chair Yoga: 11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
10 times, $70, Drop-In $10 

Honoring Pastor Jeanne Hartfield’s Incarnation Ministry
Several opportunities are being planned for the community of Incarnation to honor and say goodbye to Pastor Jeanne, her husband, Andrew, and daughter, Tillie, in meaningful ways. As we enter the final chapter of Pastor Jeanne’s 18 year ministry as a part of Incarnation, you’re invited to send her a card or note. Mail your card to the Incarnation Office, attention Pastor Jeanne to 4880 Hodgson Road, Shoreview, MN 55126. If you would prefer to send something via email, please send to 

Mark your calendars for January 17, Pastor Jeanne’s last day as an Incarnation pastor and a drive-by goodbye opportunity that will be available in the Incarnation parking lot from 10 – 11:00 a.m. For more information and for updates on what is being planned please click here.

Also, incase you missed it, the letter Pastor Jeanne wrote to the congregation about her departure, can be accessed here. 

Brewed Theology for Young Adults
Brewed Theology is for young adults to connect with others who are around the same age and stage in life! Gather over Zoom on Sunday mornings between 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. and use the podcast Finding Fred, a podcast about Mister Rogers, as a springboard for conversations. Bring your own brunch and a story to share! For more information or to receive the Zoom link contact Eliza Hartley and Laura Hemstad. 

Online Giving
If you currently give electronically and have increased or need to make changes to your commitment for 2021, please remember to log into your Realm account to make those adjustments effective for January 2021. If you are currently signed up through Realm for reoccurring donations, do not have any changes for 2021 and do NOT have an “END DATE” recorded, there is no need to do anything as they will continue beginning in January. If you scheduled your donations to stop at the end of the year, you will need to go into your Realm account and schedule new donations to start in January. If you have any questions, please contact Amy Faymoville, Financial Secretary via email or 651-484-7213.

2020 Contribution Deadline
Checks and cash that are mailed and received at the Incarnation Office on or before Saturday, December 26 will be credited to your 2020 giving statement and may be claimed as a charitable contribution deduction for 2020. Due to the challenges of COVID and mail pick-up, we are asking for an earlier cut-off this year than the normal December 31 deadline, so that we have time to process all of the end of year donations. Online gifts are subject to business hours processing and must be processed prior  to December 31. Thank you for your support!

Stock Gifts to Incarnation
Stocks make an ideal gift to the Incarnation Operating and Capital fund with contributions of all sizes working for Incarnation’s mission. If you want to donate a gift of stock, please take action before December 15 (or as soon as possible) to ensure the transfer is complete before the end of the year. Please contact Amy Faymoville to let her know of your stock transfer so she knows who is donating it as well as the number of shares and the name of the stock. Otherwise we receive stock and do not know who is donating it. Please contact  Amy Faymoville, for information on how to make a stock donation to Incarnation’s Fidelity Investment account. Note: We received some gifts of stock in 2020 that we have not been able to link to a donor. If you donated stock and you have not seen this Non-Cash donation appear on your quarterly giving statement, please contact  Amy Faymoville, so we can record it in your giving account.

Realm: An Online Incarnation Photo Directory–Upload Your Photo!
Did you know that Realm can double as a photo directory? Log-in to your Realm account and upload a picture of yourself and if you find a photo is already in your profile, feel free to change it to something you like better. Nudge your family and friends to do the same. If you haven’t claimed your Realm account yet and need assistance, contact Amy Martell. Help create an online directory of the Incarnation community! 

Plastic Bags Needed!
The Christmas season is a great time to collect plastic bags that will be made into mats for those experiencing homelessness. Several people at Incarnation are either making “plarn” from the bags or crocheting mats or both! If you have plastic bags, they can be picked up at your house – just contact Danette Griffith to make arrangements. To date, we have made 12 mats and they will be distributed by January. It’s a great way to keep plastic bags out of landfills! *Please note that the Incarnation building will not be open for bags to be dropped off.