Lifetimes: June 2021

From the Staff

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

By Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

One of the reasons we bought a newish townhome when we moved here two years ago was that I am not very good at home improvement projects. We also didn’t want to get in that cycle of doing one upgrade only to have everything around that upgrade look dated and the list of upgrades keep expanding, like a lone dandelion that seeds dozens of other dandelions if untreated.

Well, guess what? The urgency of our technology upgrades, that have allowed us to livestream our worship services, has revealed how dated other parts of the sound system are and it will soon be time for another upgrade.

The speakers in the Sanctuary (about 20 years old) have blown out components in each of them that have significantly reduced their clarity and capacity. The parts are worn. The technology is dated. You may have noticed the interim solution we are using with those standing speakers.

We are in the process of receiving multiple bids for new speakers that will enhance the worship experience as we gradually re-open. One thing is for sure: there will be a significant cost for us to get the upgrades needed. The technology has changed significantly in the past 20 years. We will let you know when we have an accurate bid. Our hope is that we can move forward this summer. Stay tuned.

Just to keep you in that mindset, we are also putting together a project list of upgrades that will be needed for our facility. Those who tend the facility have been good about putting money away for ongoing upkeep of the building. The projects we are evaluating (ex. parking lot, portions of the roof, heating/cooling units) are longer term projects that will require us to pursue another capital campaign in the upcoming year.

We have become accustomed to hearing the language of “a church without walls.” And, it‘s true. This year has allowed us to envision a community that lives and serves as God’s people wherever we find ourselves. We are also a church that has walls. Within that church, we worship, learn, hope, pray and dream so that we can prepare and equip people to be the church without walls in the world.

Keep hoping and praying and dreaming about our “church with(out) walls” and how you can participate, financially and fruitfully, in creating our future.

Peace. Kai

“Thankful for the past…. Looking forward to the future”

By Rich Omland

As a little kid, I remember setting the kitchen chairs in a straight line in my grandmother’s living room so I could preach and conduct worship services for the family and they all said: “You should become a pastor!” That was my first outward call into public ministry, and I continued to be encouraged for that public vocation in my home congregation. Through my family and our congregation that outward call was confirmed by an inward call of the Spirit through various life experiences and my ongoing education.

Following my graduation from St. Olaf College, along with a beautiful new bride and a brand-new box spring and mattress (the best wedding present ever), I headed for Luther Seminary in St. Paul for my formal theological and practical training to serve as a pastor in the church. I was blessed with a fine theological education and learned a lot about parish ministry—and myself—on my internship at First Lutheran in Glasgow, Montana.

We headed back to St. Paul for my senior year and while on the way, Julie was offered a teaching job in Mound MN, and I commuted from the Lake Minnetonka area across the metro to St. Paul for my senior year at the seminary. Apparently, I had not done too much damage on my internship for I received my first call to come back to Montana and serve as an assistant pastor in a two-point parish north of Great Falls in the Golden Triangle. It was a wonderful place to live and serve and those saints did a good job in shaping my ministry over the years. Our first daughter, Becky, was born while we were there.

Wyoming was in the middle of an energy boom in the mid 70’s and the bishop asked me if I would leave the wheat country and head to coal country to organize a new congregation in Gillette. We stayed there for almost ten years and made great friends in the ranching community and with energy company folks who came there from all over the world. Our second daughter, Mandy, was born in Gillette and Julie taught in a great school system funded by energy dollars.

In 1985 a new call back to Montana came from American Lutheran Church in Billings where I served as co-pastor with a good friend and colleague I had come to know in Wyoming. After several years at American, I was called to serve as the Director of Church Relations and Pastoral Care at a large senior continuum of care community in Billings, and while in that position I was elected to serve as Bishop of the Montana/Northern Wyoming Synod of the ELCA. We lived in Billings for 17 years and our girls graduated from high school there before heading on to college. After one year as Bishop, we moved to Great Falls where they synod office was located. I served a six-year term as synod bishop.

I was blessed to receive a call from Luther Seminary following my term as bishop to serve in the Office of Seminary Relations and we moved back to the Twin Cities in 2007. In that position I traveled locally and across the country helping major donors to fund the education of the next generation of pastors for the church. I always felt that it was an opportunity to say thanks to the folks who made my education possible. We joined Incarnation at that time because of the congregation’s focus on outreach and mission support, solid preaching, and uplifting worship and music. We have been blessed to be in this community!

On July 1st of 2014, I moved to half-time at the seminary and (while minding my own business in the back row of the choir) was asked by Pastor Gary Medin to do a little visitation ministry for Incarnation.  Since my current and previous calls kept me more on the administrative side of ministry, I was pleased to be invited to get back to the “hands on” side of my calling. I was given the opportunity to make hospital calls, visit with home bound parishioners and bring Holy Communion to them, preside at funerals and some other public worship services of congregation, and walk along with folks in the changes and chances of all our lives. I was blessed by and am thankful to the members and staff of Incarnation for giving me this opportunity to wind down my public ministry of Word and Sacrament in this good place.

In this COVID time, I’ve said time and again to our pastors and staff: “I’m glad I’m not in charge anymore.” This first quarter of the 21st century (even before the pandemic) has been such a time of change and complication, I’m not sure I had the gifts and talent to keep up with it all. Thankfully, God has blessed us with gifted and talented leaders at Incarnation—pastors, staff and lay folks—to lead us through this time. The context for ministry has changed since I began 48 years ago, but not the content: “….in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the ministry of reconciliation to us. So, we are ambassadors for Christ since God is making his appeal through us….” (2 Corinthians 5)

My vocation as pastor of the church is coming to an end, but surely not my ministry. For like each of you, I’ve been baptized into the Body of Christ and with all of you a member of the communion of saints.  We’re all a part of God’s mission to bring the world back to himself. We all have gifts and talents for being God’s ambassadors in the place where we live out our daily lives. I’m hoping to live my ministry out in God’s good future with this text as my motto: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works so that no one may boast.  For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for doing good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) It’s time to move into the future with trust and hope and discover those good works that God has prepared for each one of us. God bless and keep you all.

Pastor Rich’s last day on staff will be June 30. If you would like to extend a note of gratitude to him, his Incarnation email at will be active until June 30 or you may send a card to the Incarnation Office (4880 Hodgson Rd, Shoreview, MN, 55126) and we will make sure it gets to him.

Mark your Calendars: Tons of Love is Coming July 1-August 1

By Diane Iverson and Kris Madsen 

After more than 15 months, life is slowing getting closer to “normal,” and we are so excited that this year’s Tons of Love will include both monetary and specific item donations needed by the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf. Another step closer . . . and even though we couldn’t donate actual items in 2020, our congregation donated over $50,000 – thank you! As new members of the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf Action Group, we were asked to share what motivated us to join. 

“Addressing the issue of hunger can be a complex process. Addressing the needs in our local community is a good place to start. I chose to become involved with the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf Action Group because it is a tangible way to address food insecurity. I wanted to be sure our local food shelf is well supported. The Ralph Reeder Food Shelf does such a great job of meeting needs in our community.”  –  Kris Madsen 

“I have always been concerned about hunger in my community. When I was teaching, I saw hunger first-hand in my small elementary school. Some students came to school hungry, so we provided breakfast and started a building food shelf. Then I joined Incarnation’s Hands & Hearts group and was able to see how Ralph Reeder operates when our group unloaded and shelved food donations. As I see our community’s growing need for food/other essentials, I chose to become involved because Ralph Reeder Food Shelf does an amazing job of meeting our community’s needs.” – Diane Iverson 

Monetary donations make a huge impact because of the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf’s ability to buy items at discounted rates. It also assures them that items are within “best used as dates”. What does your money buy? 

  • $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 
  • $75 ensures three children receive holiday gifts and stocking stuffers 
  • $100 sponsors a food insecure student with weekend snack packs for each week of the school year 
  • $200 purchases a pallet of fresh produce 
  • $250 provides a week’s worth of milk for 150 families 
  • $750 provides hygiene and cleaning supplies for 125 families 
  • $1,000 provides meat boxes for 150 families 

This year, in addition to monetary donations, you may purchase and donate physical items. Should you choose this route, please use this list of targeted items for each week, as these items are difficult for the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf source at a discount. 

July 4: Summer Safety Items – sunscreen, kid friendly bug spray, band-aids, triple antibiotic cream. 
July 11: Items for Cooking – rice, dried beans, canned tomatoes, fish sauce, enchilada sauce, soy sauce, hot sauce, rice noodles. 
July 18: Household Essentials – laundry detergent, dish soap, all purpose cleaner, toilet paper 
July 25: Kid-friendly Meals and Snacks- granola bars, 100% juice boxes, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mayonnaise, mac and cheese cups, microwavable meals, pudding cups, 
August 1: Hygiene Items – deodorant, shampoo, fem hygiene items, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bar soap or body wash, diapers sizes 5 and 6.  

More publications about Tons of Love will be coming your way as July approaches and as we work through the campaign. We look forward to your support as we help feed the hungry in heart, body, mind and spirit. 

Holy Hammers to Remodel White Bear Lake Home

The Holy Hammers’ project in 2021 will be to remodel a single family home at 2431 Elm Dr. in White Bear Lake. Habitat for Humanity was able to purchase this house because the lower level was severely damaged by water runoff. The landscape has now been modified to avoid the water issues, and the interior damaged areas have been removed. The seven-week project will now start on June  28 to include remodeling  the lower level, updating certain areas on the first floor, and additional outside landscaping.

TCHFH is implementing Covid-19 safety guidelines regardless of volunteers’ vaccination status. These will include using only six-person crews to maximize social distancing and wearing of masks. Perhaps the most impactful change is that volunteers will be required to bring their lunches rather than enjoying those delicious lunches and snacks provided by our talented and generous food providers.

Despite these changes, our project this year will still provide the usual benefits of prior years:  SOCIAL INTERACTION – working with Habitat personnel, fellow Incarnation members and Holy Hammers from other churches to renew old friendships and make new ones.  MENTAL STIMULATION – learn new construction skills and tips and reinforce old ones like “ measure twice and cut once.”  PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – you may choose a task to match your interest and capability and your body will benefit from a day of building something new.  COMMUNITY SERVICE – your volunteer work will help a family buy a home, which will cost no more than 30% of their income, helping to address our area’s affordable housing crisis, especially for people of color.

Incarnation has been a member of Holy Hammers, a coalition of fifteen area churches since 1999, and we want to thank Incarnation and all the volunteers over the years for their financial and talent support. If you have any questions or want more information, please contact Jim Fruehling at or 651-335-3554.

The Saint John’s Bible: More Ways to View and Be Inspired 

Thank you to the Incarnation Woodworkers! A member of the group has designed and built a stunning new cart to be used to bring volumes of the Saint John’s Bible to any location in the building. Instead of visiting the Chapel to see the Bible, the Bible can travel, creating new and innovative ways to use the Bible and to reach many more people. The cart was thoughtfully designed to safely move the Bible and to serve as a display stand so that people in large and small groups can view the Bible, all at the same time. Incarnation is blessed to have a Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible. The original Saint John’s Bible is the first fully scripted and illuminated Bible in 500 years, commissioned by and on display at Saint John’s University. A newly formed action group will create new opportunities to use the Saint John’s Bible and be inspired by God’s Word. Interested in finding out more about the action group, contact Grant Rykken at 

Apostles Library Book Review

Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar? by Meredith Gould

Here’s a question for you – Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar?  This book tells us of the Jewish roots of Christian worship. Gould, who describes herself as “a Jew in identity, a Christian in faith, and a Catholic in religious practice” is well qualified to help us learn about our shared history. She says that her study of Jewish history has helped her appreciate the structure and content of Christian liturgy, especially the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.

Surprising in many ways, Gould helps us learn about the Jewish roots of what we often think of as uniquely Christian artifacts and practices. Her emphasis on how much more alike Christians and Jews are than they are different helps us understand and appreciate our shared heritage and is one way to begin repairing the way in which Christian-Jewish relations have often been shattered.

An extensive index, a list of resources. Documents on Christian-Jewish dialogue (including the one from the ELCA), a helpful timeline, and a glossary of Hebrew terms and Jewish concepts makes this a wonderful resource. I think you will learn a lot; I know I did.

Staff Updates

Janet Karvonen-Montgomery, Interim Pastor

Pastor Janet Extends Her Interim
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. Thank you, Pastor Janet for your commitment to our faith community! You may reach Pastor Janet via her email at

Click here to view the memorials.

Among the Congregation

Sympathy To:
Joel Vander Wal and family on the death of his grandmother; the family of Ed Humphrey on his death; Kate Tollefson and family on the death of her father. 

Recently Baptized:
Annabelle Marie, daughter of Brian and Tina Coyle; Ava Marie, daughter of Kristopher and Stephanie Thorstad; Lilah June, daughter of Josh and Sarah Meyers; Westley Alexander, son of Alex and Libby Sederberg; Whitney Rebecca, daughter of Dan and Katherine Erhard.


Solid Ground Spring Shower 
You are invited to participate in a Spring Shower for residents of Solid Ground now  through June 20! Simply purchase items from the list below and place them at the base of the large cross outside the Sanctuary so we can all see the growing mound of generosity and celebrate this important ministry partnership! If you’d prefer to make a financial contribution for the Spring Shower, write a check to Incarnation with “Solid Ground” in the memo or make an online donation through Incarnation’s secured online giving site, selecting “Solid Ground” from the pull down menu. Thank you in advance for your generosity.
New Items only:
Lamps: sturdy floor, table, desk
Small end tables
Night lights for children and bathroom
Extension cords
Vacuum cleaners
Sponge mops
Flip-lid kitchen garbage cans
Mixing bowls
Silverware sets
Baby/toddler plastic tableware sets (bowls, glasses, plates, silverware, etc.)
Crib sheets

Solid Ground Volunteers
Summer Camp at Solid Ground provides weekly tutoring, enrichment activities and offsite outings to children grades K-6 living at East Metro Place and volunteers are needed to make it successful: 

  • Academic Tutoring (indoors) – Mondays & Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and Wednesdays & Thursdays from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. 
  • Enrichment Activities (outdoors) – Mondays & Tuesday’s from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. 
  • Field Trip Chaperon (outdoors) – Thursdays, 12:30 – 3:00 p.m. 

To learn more about Summer Camp service opportunities or for questions, email Dylan McDonough or call 651-846-9042. 

Vacation Bible School (VBS) Volunteers Needed!
Help support youth make friends, have fun and deepen their faith by being a Vacation Bible School Volunteer. Click here to tell us which VBS Training you would like to sign up for. Training will be on either June 16 or 20.

Another Kind of Happy Hour – June 17 from 6 – 8 p.m.
Another Kind of Happy Hour is a workshop designed to help increase the capacities within each of us to flourish in our lives and is based in scientific research and intersects with faith-based practices. It includes understanding what positive emotions are and how to cultivate them, optimism as a skill we learn, the importance of practicing gratitude, learning about our character strengths and how we use them to be more engaged in life, identifying and defining our meaning in life, and skills to make us better at all kinds of relationships. There will be a spring session and a fall session facilitated over Zoom. Click here for more information and to register.

Small Groups

Caring for One Another: Summer Small Groups
How do we walk alongside others who are going through a rough time, whether it is someone close to us or someone in the community? Connect with others to explore this topic in a new small group that will meet once a week on Tuesdays from 6:30 – 7:45 p.m. Group leaders: Dee Hilgers and Melanie Ahlstrom. Register: For more information on Caring for One Another, go to This group meets once a week on Tuesdays, 6:30 – 7:45 p.m., June 22-August 10, indoors 

Alongside: Summer Small Group – Daytime and Evening Groups
Explore the book, Alongside, written by Sarah Beckman, to find the best way you can be present to others in a challenging time. This small group is an opportunity to discern how you can express care in a meaningful way, through your unique gifts, circumstances and relationships. Daytime and evening groups are available. A daytime group will meet once/week on Wednesdays, 9:30-10:45 a.m., on Zoom, starting June 16. An evening group meet on Tuesday evenings from 6 – 7:30 p.m. outdoors (indoors if poor weather), starting June 29. Order the book or find out more: Register for daytime group: Register for evening group: 

Dear White Peacemakers: Summer Book Discussion
Connect in a small group to talk about the newly released book, Dear White Peacemakers: Dismantling Racism with Grit and Grace by Osheta Moore. Written in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Dear White Peacemakers draws on the Sermon on the Mount, Spirituals, and personal stories from author Osheta Moore’s work as a pastor in St. Paul, Minnesota. Leader: Jennie Norberg. Register: Order the book or find out more at: This group meets on five Mondays, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m., June 14 – July 26, outdoors/indoors at Incarnation. 

Being a Prophet in Modern Times: Summer Book Discussion
Biblical prophets spoke truth to “power” and the people, pointing out not-always-popular issues. The issues of today need prophets to champion them, and we can all speak for those without a voice and promote change. This small group will talk about the book, The Time is Now by Joan Chittister and the role of prophets in the past and today in four Monday gatherings by Zoom. Leaders: Cindy Spellman and Linda Brynjulfson. Order the book or find out more: Register: This group meets once a week on Mondays, 1 – 2:30 p.m., July 12 – August 2, by Zoom. 

Caste: Summer Book Discussion Group
Join others to discuss Isabel Wilkerson’s portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America in the book CasteWilkerson explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings. And, she points forward to ways America can move beyond separations toward a common humanity. Register: To order the book or find out more: group meets on four Wednesdays, 7 – 8:30 p.m., July 7 – August 11, by Zoom. 

What is the Bible: Summer Book Discussion Group  
Many of us have plenty of questions to wonder about when it comes to the Bible. This small group will discuss “What is the Bible?” by Rob Bell for a perspective that is “revelatory, revolutionary, and relevant…”  To order the book or find out more: Register: gdrykken@gmail.comThis group meets on five Thursdays, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., June 17 – August 12, outdoors/indoors at Incarnation. 

Summer 2021 Packing Opportunities at Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) Coon Rapids Permanent Site
Are you looking for opportunities to serve and help feed God’s kids this summer? Join members of the Incarnation community at Feed My Starving Children! Starting in June, you can reserve a time to pack meals at the Coon Rapids FMSC site in shifts that have been reserved specifically for Incarnation.

There  will be two evening shifts on the 4th Tuesday of each month and two daytime shifts on the 4th Wednesday of each month. FMSC has adjusted processes and practices following the most up-to-date COVID-19 guidelines, allowing volunteers to pack while maintaining safety. For more information and to sign up for a shift, visit the FMSC page on the Incarnation website.

Shobi’s Table Service Opportunities
Shobi’s Table, a pay-as-you-can café and ministry of the St Paul Area Synod, now has service opportunities available each weekday for kitchen volunteers to do food prep, wash dishes and get meals ready to serve on the food truck. Learn more or sign up to volunteer here. The same link will tell you where you may pay-as-you-can to have a delicious lunch from 12 – 1 at one of the three spots in St Paul where the truck is found throughout the summer! Listen to Incarnation’s own Rich and Julie Omland about why they love to serve with Shobi’s Table.

Preschool Positions Available
Our NAEYC accredited preschool program is seeking two qualified part-time assistant teachers for the upcoming school year. One position is for the M/W/F 9-1 class for 4–5-year-olds and the hours would be from 8:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. The other position is on T/TH with three-year-olds and is from 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Additional hours for both positions are throughout the school year for meetings, trainings, prep work, orientation, school events and substituting. The ideal candidates will be able to meet Minnesota DHS and NAEYC requirements. For more information, contact Kirsten Barie at or 651-766-0723. 

Fraudulent Email Alert
Please be aware that there have been fraudulent emails appearing to be coming from Pastor Kai asking for money or gift cards from members and friends of the congregation. These are fake emails. If you are ever uncertain if an email is fraudulent or not, please do not hesitate to call the Incarnation Office or email Danette Griffith, Administrator to verify if the email is authentic.

Incarnation Office Hours
The Incarnation Office is open Monday – Thursday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. There will also be more staff working in-office at this time. If you need to meet with a staff member, we ask that you schedule meetings ahead of time as in-office schedules will vary.

Updated COVID-19 Policy 
Incarnation has an updated COVID-19 policy. Please click here to review the full list of updates, including an update on masks. We are grateful to the Re-opening Task Force, the Incarnation Council and other leadership for the work they have done to help our community create policies that show each other love and patience as we strive to create a safe environment to gather.

In-Person Worship

Sign-up or Just Show Up
We’d love to see you!
Attend in-person services at 8:45 a.m. (Traditional) and 10:15 a.m. (Contemporary). Call 651-484-7213 or email Amy Martell to RSVP. You may also just show up (doors will be open 20 minutes before service time). When you come to worship, you will check in and proceed to the worship area. If you aren’t feeling well, we encourage you to stay home and view worship online. Children are always welcome in worship and there are activity bags you can take with you when you leave.