Lifetimes: July 2020

From the Staff

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

We have been actively living into what it means to be “a church without walls” since the middle of March. As you know, whether we thought about it this way or not, Incarnation has always been a church without walls. In these past months, we’ve had the specific reminder of being physically distant from one another.

Speaking of that, “How are you?” Though we’ve kept in contact through phone calls, online Small Groups and worship, I’m feeling the distance these days. Being community, for me, is being present to see, to hear, to sense, to hug, to encourage. It’s what we need in uncertain times. I bet you are feeling it too.

The re-opening task force will meet again next week to fine tune the protocols that will allow us to gradually open. When they are affirmed by the council, we will use them to determine what size groups can be in the building—when, where and with what guidelines in place. At this point, the building remains closed, except for necessary work and recording of worship, through the end of July. We will be reviewing that date in the next few weeks.

The upside of this time is the tangible reminder that, even when we are not gathering in a physical space, we are still the church. Still active. Still extending our work into the community. Your generosity toward specific asks for local congregations in need and for Tons of Love is compelling. Your ongoing giving for our work daily work is not taken for granted. Thank you.

At the end of January, we decided to lean into four pathways in 2020. Even with the disruption caused by the coronavirus, we are moving forward.

Anchor Church
Key Question—What local communities/ministries will Incarnation be collaborating with in our near future that will both build up that local community and expand the heart of outreach for Incarnation?

  • Next Steps?
    • Bethlehem Lutheran Mutual Aid Site: This has emerged in response to the racial protests and community upheaval in the Midway area. To collaborate with the local community organizations, Incarnation is providing food and household items once a week and supporting their distribution efforts with volunteers.
    • We are also in very early conversations with a pastor in St. Paul whose church is transitioning in the next few years. Our hope is to connect with and build a longer-term relationship with a community that would expand our vision of what it means to be a church without walls.

Servant Culture
Key Question—How can we meaningfully engage all members of Incarnation in active service within and outside of Incarnation?

  • Next Steps:
    • The Serve Team and Stewardship Team created an overall conceptual framework for Serve Culture.
    • Serve Team: Developing a process to move people from first time engagement to active ministry.
    • Stewardship Team: Will incorporate both financial and ways to serve both internally and externally into our fall campaign.
    • We also created a half-time Engagement Leader Job Description. Becky Benson is now focusing her work ½ on volunteer engagement and ½ on service ministries.

Students in Worship and Leadership
Key Question—How do we prioritize the ministry for kids/students/families at Incarnation to involve them more actively in worship, learning and service?

  • This one got thrown up in the air more than the other three.
  • There is much creative thinking going on with this pathway as we adjust to both online opportunities and in person gatherings when we are able this fall.

Technology for the 21st. C
Key Questions—Most people visit the website of a congregation before they choose to visit the congregation. How are we connecting to those outside of Incarnation with our use of technology? What messages are we communicating? And how do we better connect with one another?

  • Next Steps:
    • We went completely online at the end of March using a combination of Zoom, Instagram, Facebook and other online means of connection.
    • We developed a job description for a part-time Media Arts Director.
    • We Interviewed candidates at the end of June.
    • Even when we go back to onsite worship and learning, we will continue to grow a more vibrant, creative online presence.

A church without walls.

Peace. Kai

Listen, Learn, Include, Imagine, Act 

By Cindy Nielsen

After George Floyd’s killing and the social justice protests that followed, I wanted to help those affected in the underserved communities in our area. I was so grateful Incarnation had so many resources online inviting us to contribute in various ways. One opportunity offered through Incarnation was a Pop Up Donation Drive. Volunteers load up bags dropped off at the Incarnation parking lotthen deliver the items to Bethlehem Lutheran intheMidway of Saint Paul. I wanted to be a part of this!  

The first collection day was the beginning of June. The cars filled quickly. My mind and spirit did too. We collected diapers, formula, baby wipes and food. We collected a shared concern for all in our greater community. We were having (masked) face-toface conversations about the inequities in our communities, cities, states, country and world. We were sharing stories, books, news and recent messages from our Incarnation faith leaders about the painful and important events that had taken place. I heard a lot about listening. I heard a lot about learning. Driving my packed car through the midway of St. Paul was humbling. Unloading the donations at Bethlehem Lutheran, I noticed the great number of volunteers helping unload, sort and distribute. I also observed the great number of people in line, waiting to pick up their groceries and essentials.  

As soon as it was understood the need would continue for some time, I was motivated to continue this service weekly. Each week in June has brought new people together filling cars with donations, new conversations, even different places in Saint Paul to drop off donations, all for the Midway Community Mutual Aid Network. 

I invited my 15-year old friend, Ava, to help load donations and deliver them to Ginkgo Coffeehouse this past Thursday. She agreed to help and surprised me by taking it to a higher level. Days before the donation drive, Ava, her Mom and sister printed out a small note to their neighbors inviting them to put out a bag of donations on their doorsteps. Wednesday evening the three of them started to walk down the street to collect the donations. The response was enormous! They had to go back to their house and get their van to collect all the bags. On Thursday, Ava’s mom drove the van to the Incarnation parking lot. The three of us stuffed my car full, along with other donations dropped off by Incarnation members! 

The important and positive conversations that took place for all of us through these actions were huge. I think this illustrates God’s children (all of us) imagining a cohesive, greater community and acting on it!  

Thank you Incarnation, for creating this opportunity, and many other opportunities, for so many people (a church without walls) to contribute, receive, and feel God’s Love and Grace. These are opportunities to listen, learn, include, imagine and act on bringing relief to those marginalized, those underserved. There is so much more to do. The pain and inequities are still present. And yet through these relationships, I feel seeds are being planted to imagine more relief, more equity and more of God’s children brought to the table. `

Tons of Love: Our Loving Response to Continued Weighty Times

Since June 21, we’ve invited the Incarnation community and those others connected to Incarnation to remain committed to the work of the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf as they serve a community still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. Giving financially from our abundance so that those who suffer from food insecurity may live well, is in our blood.” With an increase of 35% of households the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf serves each week since COVID-19 arrived (and over 50% of those served are children)the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf is grateful for every dollar donated. 

Our monetary donations have a far weightier” impact than physical donations during these weighty” times. A dollar donation, when used by the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf, can purchase far more than we can. Are you wondering what your dollar will buy? In some cases, as much as 8 lbs. of food can be purchased for just a dollar; for some other items it’s more like 10 lbs. for $30. But either way, this is better than what individuals can generally purchase when they grocery shop on their own. Consider this buying power also: 

  • $25 provides a holiday meal for a family of four with all the fixings   
  • $40 feeds a family of four for a week
  • $50 provides one student with a backpack and supplies to start the school year off right 
  • $75 ensures three children receive holiday gifts and stocking stuffers 
  • $100 sponsors a food insecure student with weekend snackpacks for each week of the school year 
  • $200 purchases a pallet of fresh produce 
  • $250 would provide a week’s worth of milk for 150 families 
  • $500 feeds 20 families for a week 
  • $750 provides hygiene and cleaning supplies for 125 families 
  • $1,000 provides meat boxes for 150 families 

And, Incarnation, you have already responded in powerful and profound ways! A goal to raise $15,000 was set for this year’s Tons of Love campaign donations through last Sunday were already excess of $16,000! Well done, faithful community; thank you! And, our work is not finished. Consider that Minnesota saw more than 3.5 million visits to food shelves in 2019, a new record high ( how many of God’s children in our area could be fed with $25,000 or even more through Tons of Love! Let’s set a new generosity goal where we all take part in feeding those who suffer from food insecurity.  

During worship on July 12, you’ll hear from Lisa Baker, Basic Needs Manager of the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf. You’re invited to take out your phone and text the word “ILCTEXT” to 73256 to make a donation of $40 (or more!) to feed a family of four for a week. Donate more if you can. Every dollar donated for Tons of Love matters! Learn more here.  

How will you provide Tons of Love this season? What will you give so that others may live well? Thank you in advance for your prayerful and faithful response as we cocreate a better world through this partnership. 

Job Loss and Transitions Small Group

Mike Styba

By Mike Styba

On a Wednesday, mid-day, my boss called unexpectedly and requested that I come to his office immediately for a meeting. I asked what it was about and his answer was“ Just come . . . Now!”

When I got there, he seemed very uncomfortable as he commenced to close all the window blinds in his office . . . I thought ”this isn’t going to be good” . . . it wasn’t. He told me my position had been eliminated and that this was my last day. I had been on his side of the conversation before, so I knew negotiating for more time or a different position within the company would be out of the question, so I waited until he was finished, shook my hand and left.

I drove home to find my wife in the front yard. She was surprised to see me home so early. When I told her what had happened, she hugged me and we held hands and prayed. We thanked God for all His gifts in our lives and asked Him for His help, protection and guidance going forward.

That day was the end of a 27 year career with one organization and an eight month roller coaster journey which culminated with a job offer in an innovative, forward looking, high tech internet and telecom company.

Your story will contain similar elements as mine and I can assure you that the feelings I experienced regarding my disrupted life routines, my grief over the lost job, my embarrassment, and my concerns about lost income totally consumed me for a while . . . I became paralyzed at times.

But I can also tell you that I got through this time and there were things that helped along the way–my faith, prayer, people in my life and some unexpected blessings. When Denise Floe approached me to discuss the possibility of starting a Small Group on Job Loss and Transitions, I was excited to be involved because having been through this situation on three occasions in 16 years, maybe I could offer some insight and help others work through the process and come out the other side stronger in their faith, confident about their skills and accomplishments, and excited about the “other doors that would be opened” along the way.

In this Small Group, we will discuss how our faith plays a huge role in our work lives and where God’s grace is seen and experienced through the Bible stories and prayers we will explore.

We will walk through and discuss the feelings we have when we lose our job, the losses we experience in addition to the income and explore coping mechanisms and actions that can be taken to acknowledge our current reality and to get unstuck when we become mired down with the weight of losing our job and seeking a new one.

In order to get us started, anyone interested in learning more can join in on a Zoom call meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, July 20th to discuss how the Job Loss and Transition Small Group will work. I look forward to seeing you soon. If you’d like to join the Zoom call, contact Denise Floe to receive the Zoom information.

Many Parts, One Body

By Kate Lawless

We have all had to adapt our lifestyles for the health and safety of our community in the last few months.  Before these changes, we could worship together on Sunday mornings, attend Small Groups to explore our relationship with God and each other and answer the call to service through our work with local charities around the Twin Cities. 

Many of our members are struggling with personal challenges as a result of the pandemic and may feel like they lack direction with how they can express and grow in their faith when social interaction is limited. But we at Incarnation already have a blueprint for how to continue serving and learning together, even when we cannot gather. Incarnation has always been a community where our faith work has extended far beyond the Sanctuary on Sunday mornings. 

Earlier this week, I spoke with Connie Aram, one of the many leaders who has invested her time and energy in supporting Incarnation’s mission. Connie and her family joined Incarnation in 1989, when she was pregnant with her second daughter. Connie and her husband George were searching for a new community where their daughters could be connected to a larger community and when they came to their first service, they immediately felt a sense of home and comfort. Since then, the Aram family has been involved in many faith, service and learning initiatives over the years. 

Connie began her service working with the Ralph Reeder Foodshelf to help families struggling with food insecurity. In some ways, her work has evolved, but her mission of social outreach has remained the same. Later on, Connie was on the oversight committee when Incarnation began partnering with Lifehaven, a shelter for young moms. Connie, a self-proclaimed people-person, derives meaning from connecting with other Incarnation members. So when the pandemic hit, she was not able to continue her Small Group work and in-person volunteering but found another way to stay connected with the community. Most recently, Connie was part of a team that has been checking in on our members via phone calls, reaffirming our connections to one another even when we cannot gather together, physically. 

The work of the Aram family is an example of the diversity of ways to serve and love our neighbors. Like with Connie and her commitment to serving in a social capacity, it is great to know how we each can best do our part to express our faith and build community. The call to serve looks different for every person, but we are all invited to do our part. Now, we are all invited to think about how our acts of love and service will adapt to this new environment.  

We have already set this precedent for our community through our continued support for one another as we worship, learn and serve together. We are not strangers to finding many, creative ways to support the Incarnation mission, but we may be feeling like strangers in a post-pandemic world. 

Call your loved ones. Dedicate more time to expanding your worldview and asking yourself how to better love God’s creation. Make a commitment to supporting charitable causes that we at Incarnation have championed over the years. Look into online giving to help Incarnation navigate our way through unprecedented times. This is a time to be generous with our time, energy, love, and support in new ways. The work of the Incarnation community has not stopped, but we are being asked to evolve in the approach to our mission. Even the smallest acts of generosity can have a big impact in challenging times, especially when we as individuals make the commitment to serve the whole. 

Apostle’s Library Book Review

Consider the Women By Debbie Blue

This new book is subtitled “a provocative guide to three matriarchs of the Bible” and that does describe the discussion of Hagar, Esther and Mary. Author Debbie Blue is one of the founding pastors of House of Mercy in St. Paul and has several other books published, including Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible.

Studies and books about both Mary and Esther can be found in abundance but don’t let that deter you from seeking new information here. I had not considered the aspects of farce (men behaving badly!) in Esther’s story nor how sexual it really is. The descriptions of the relationship between Mary and other mother goddesses were eye-opening, too.

Then there is Hagar whose story we know less well. I certainly didn’t know that the Muslim hadj recounts Hagar’s running to the Zamzam well. Blue contrasts Abraham’s treatment of Ismael with his willingness to sacrifice Isaac – which shows more love?

This title will certainly make you think as you consider three women from our Christian scriptures but who are also important to people of faith in the Jewish and Muslim traditions.

To Vote Is To Be An Advocate

By Vernita Kennen

To advocate is to publicly support an issue or a stand on something. Christians are called to advocate for those who are in special need, those who hunger, who are imprisoned and others in peril. Voting is one way we declare our values as we choose candidates who reflect the values we ourselves hold. The Hunger Awareness and Advocacy group at Incarnation encourages you to be an advocate in 2020 by exercising your right to vote.

Minnesota’s primary election is August 11th and the general election is November 3rd. With all of us being especially careful of our health during the COVID-19 pandemic, we may be uncomfortable going to a public polling place to cast our votes, especially in August. It is important to know that in Minnesota (as in 26 other states) anyone who is registered to vote can access vote-by-mail using an absentee ballot.

You can find full information about voting by mail, early voting, and even polling places by checking the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website. I used the website: to register so I will be able to vote by mail in both the August and November elections. We suggest you do so, too.

Staff Changes

Stefanie Straka

Stefanie Straka has made the switch from being the Nursery and Children’s Ministry Coordinator to being an Assistant Preschool Teacher and will be working with the Incarnation Preschool now! Congratulations on your new position Stefanie . . . we know that you will bring your love for children to your new ministry position and will help our preschoolers grow and discover their relationship with God.

Click Here for the 1st and 2nd Quarter Memorials for 2020

Thank you for your generosity and support!

Among the Congregation

Sympathy To
George Aram and family on the death of his sister; Gary and Mary Moen on the death of their sister-in-law. 

Recently Baptized
Charlotte Faith, daughter of Scott and Tina Allie.

To be added to the public prayer concerns list, please contact Amy Martell at If you would like to add someone else to the public prayer concerns list, please obtain their consent first.


Katch Up with Kai

July 1st through August 19th at either 10:00 a.m. or 7:00 p.m.

Join Pastor Kai Nilsen as he marks his one-year anniversary with Incarnation. Meetings will be held via Zoom in a small group format every Wednesday, now through August 19th at either 10:00 a.m. or 7:00 p.m. The meeting will include a year in review, a check-in for each attendee, council reflection with a council member and a Q&A session. Please sign up at least two hours in advance of the meeting you wish to attend. Click here to register.

Tons of Love Financial Drive

A goal of raising $15,000 was set for this year’s Tons of Love and donations through last Sunday we’re already in excess of $16,000! Well done, faithful community; thank you! Imagine how many of God’s children in our area could be fed with $25,000 or even more! Let’s set a new generosity goal where we all take part in feeding those who suffer from food insecurity.
Today we’ll hear from Lisa Baker, Basic Needs Manager of the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf during worship. You’re invited to take out your phone and text the word “ILCTEXT” to 73256 to make a donation of $40 (or more!) to feed a family of four for a week. Donate more if you can every dollar donated for Tons of Love matters. Learn more and donate here.

Ralph Reeder Food Shelf Volunteers

A few service opportunities at the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf are now available with special care and consideration given to COVID-19 and keeping volunteers safe. These opportunities include Drive Thru Set Up, Drive Thru Clean Up and Back Up Food Rescue Drivers. Click here to learn more or to volunteer.

Kaffe with Kai

Mondays at 10:00 a.m. on Facebook Live

Join Pastor Kai on Mondays at 10:00 a.m. on Facebook Live for Kaffe with Kai. Ask questions, say hello to others from our faith community, or if you can’t join in at 10:00 a.m., watch the video later at your convenience.

Twin Cities Mutual Aid Donation Drop Off & Service Opportunities

As Incarnation continues to support the Twin Cities Mutual Aid network, you can be a part! Details are available here including ways to sign up to serve.

  • Drop physical donations at Incarnation near Door 1 on Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. through July. Rally your friends/family to drop off donations at your house and bring them all to Incarnation!
  • Drive donations from Incarnation to a Twin Cities Mutual Aid drop off site, Thursday mornings through July.

Holy Hammers Habitat for Humanity Home Construction

July 13 – September 4

The Holy Hammers are proceeding with plans to build a Habitat for Humanity home in St. Paul July 13 – September 4. New practices will be utilized to keep people safe given the health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Note that no food preparation and serving opportunities will take place this year. Details about serving as well as the link to register to volunteer, can be found here.

Blessing Bag Pick Up this Thursday

July 16 from 9 – 12:00  
Thanks to the service of middle and high school students who were a part of Incarnation’s Relational Service-Learning Camp recently, you can pick up a blessing bag (or two!) to give to those you encounter who might be grateful for one. Stop by Incarnation’s parking lot Thursday, July 16 from 9 – 12:00 while supplies last. And, drop off some mutual aid donations of food, household or hygiene items at the same time.

Building Update

The Reopening Task Force has been busy creating guidelines for how to safely reopen the building, when we are able to gather again. They will continue to meet on a regular basis and will provide updates, as they are able. For now, the building will remain closed, except for necessary business, for the rest of July. Click here for previous building updates.

Zoom Conversation on Job Loss and Transitions

Monday, July 20 from 7 – 8:00 p.m. on Zoom 
Many people are walking through a job loss or transition in this time. If you are experiencing this, take an hour to informally connect with others in a one-time Zoom call, guided by Mike Styba. You will be with other people who are or have been in a similar place, facing the same questions and concerns. As part of the call, you’ll also hear about the topics covered in a small group around job loss and transition (no obligation to join). To receive the Zoom invite, contact Denise Floe.

Book Discussion Groups on Racial Justice

Read a book on racial justice this summer and engage in a discussion with others in one of the groups listed below. Each group of 6-12 people will meet weekly from late July to early September. Register with the group leader and order your book on-line. Email Denise Floe for questions. Find out more on the website. 

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
When: Tuesdays, 7 – 8:30 p.m., July 28 – September 1 via Zoom
Leaders: Nancy Stutzman and Kathy Ginsbach

A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota edited by Sun Yung Shin
When: Tuesdays, 10 – 11:30 a.m., July 28 – September 1 via Zoom
Leader: Connie Aram

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
When: Wednesdays, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., July 29 – August 26, outdoors at Incarnation
Leader: Anne Salo
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Details TBD

Offering Envelopes

With recent changes in not being able to worship on site, many folks have moved to giving online. Other methods of giving include gifts of Stock, Grant or IRA Distributions. If you are currently receiving offering envelopes and no longer need them, please let us know. Our next list is scheduled to go to the printer in mid-July. Please send an email by July 15 to be removed from the envelope list. Or, if you don’t currently receive envelopes, but would like to be added to the list please let us know by sending an email to Amy Faymoville, Financial Secretary.

Solid Ground Summer Camp Tutors

Monday – Thursdays, now – August 6. Different days of the week and time periods are available.

The lives of children and their parents at Solid Ground have been disrupted in so many ways since March. Caring adults and older teenagers are needed not only to focus on academic skills but also to be a reassuring presence. Tutoring will take place Monday – Thursdays, now through August 6. Select a day of the week or time period that works well for you. Changes to the programming have been made to ensure the health and safety of all. Learn more about being a Solid Ground Camp Tutor and how to volunteer. 

Company Matching Dollars to Support All Hands on Hope MobilePack

October 21 – 27
Incarnation’s Feed My Starving Children All Hands on Hope MobilePack Event is back: Get fired up for October 21-27 when we’ll together back over a million meals! Now is a great time to consider applying for a matching donation from your employer, as money is raised to pay for the ingredients packed into those meals. Some companies will double or triple your donation; others will make a cash donation if you volunteer a certain number of hours. Be sure to include this idenifier with your company’s submission form: Event Code: 2010-009EA All Hands on Hope. Check out this link to see if your company will match.

Good Samaritan Fund Donations Needed

Incarnation’s Good Samaritan Fund is used to help individuals in need find aid to sustain them during a difficult time. This year, we’ve helped several individuals and the fund is running low. Please consider donating online or sending a check to the Incarnation Office with “Good Samaritan” in the memo to help people in our community. Thank you for your generosity.

Word in Season

Word in Season is a daily devotional resource that Incarnation subscribes to, and the July-September edition is now available. Due to the building being closed, we are able to mail this resource to you instead. Please contact Julie Durbin to request your copy (a large print version is available as well).