Lifetimes: May 2020

From the Staff

By Pastor Kai Nilsen

I’ve loved digging into the Gospels of Mark and Luke in preparation for the “Morning Java Breaks” Bible studies Pastor Joel (Wednesdays) and I (Mondays) are leading at 10:00 a.m. If you haven’t started the reading plan or tuning in, no problem, just pick it up from now through the rest of the Easter season. 

As we launched Mark’s Gospel I was struck by how quickly the mood shifted from the clamoring crowds craving Jesus’ presence and attention and power in chapter 1 to the pernicious powers of the religious elite plotting Jesus’ demise by the start of chapter 3. What happened?   

Jesus gives us a clue with two simple images in the middle of chapter 2. “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” 

new patch on an old cloak worsens the tear. New wine in old wineskins bursts the skins.  

Jesus’ presence and power were a threat to lovers of the “old” ways, the rigid traditionalists, and those unable to imagine a new future. His was:  

  • A Way of compassion, not coercion. 
  • A Way of gracious inclusion, not guarded exclusion. 
  • A Way of faith grounded in the past but not bounded by its historic path.  
  • A Way forward in love, not fenced in by law. 

In other words, “We’ve always done it this way!” wasn’t his preferred mantra.   

With the advent of the coronavirus we have been forced to consider new ways to be together, new opportunities to offer ourselves in service and new practices that connect us to our faith. The whole circumstance has been disturbing, hasn’t it? Unsettling? The scaffolding that has supported our lives of faith (gathering in worship and for prayer, being present with one another for comfort or challenge) has crumbled underneath us and we are desperately looking to regain our footing.   

Incarnation Preschoolers gathering online.

When will it get back to normal? Short answer, “It won’t.” At the very least, it will be a new normal.  

As a staff, we are planning for the long term. Although there is no specific date on the horizon, we won’t be back to big group gatherings any time soon. So, while our staff has been scurrying around trying to live the new realities of distant learning and online connecting in the short term, we are also starting to make plans for the longer term, not knowing how long this will change how we gather.  

So, for now, your pastors are learning the “new wine” of online preaching and teaching, of caring and connecting when we can’t be physically present. Education and Small Group leaders have been developing content for each age group and being trained on and training others to use the virtual tools of connecting that allow us to be a church without walls.  The facility staff is creating and then checking off a list of projects around the building that can be done most easily in the time when the building is empty. The support staff are continuing to process your contributions, organize the congregational calling initiative, learn and develop the new membership database (Realm) we installed recently, create the online connections through email and social media, and provide the connections for our pastoral care and prayer. Musicians are creating music for weekly worship and preparing for upcoming seasons.  

All of this is new wine for a new time. Chances are high that we won’t simply revert back to the “ways we’ve always done it!” The change of times will demand something new from us. The change of circumstance, with the coronavirus and the physical distancing, will create new possibilities for us that will endure long past a cure for the virus.   

Keep praying for discernment. Keep connecting with one another. Keep loving your neighbor. Keep being generous so that we can provide for those most vulnerable in our communities.   

Peace, Kai 

Finance Report

The Finance Committee recently reported to the Congregation Council the first quarter of 2020 income and expenses. The following is a summary of that report, along with other items that the Finance Committee is doing to keep Incarnation fiscally sound during this extraordinary year.

First all thank, thank you for your continued commitment to the ministry of Incarnation. You have made good progress since early March where our giving was trending down relative to budget. Though we are under in giving by $27, 600, we are also $71,000 under in expenses for the year. The staff has done a nice job of controlling expenses during the Covid-19 virus.

The Finance Committee recommended to the Congregation Council that Incarnation apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan through Bank Cherokee. We were approved and received funds to cover salaries and benefits through June 15. This will enable all of our staff to receive their salary and not be furloughed.

The Finance Committee also recommended to the Congregation Council that Incarnation request a deferment of our mortgage payments from Thrivent Financial. The Council agreed and Incarnation was approved for a three-month deferment.

These two actions will enable a better cash flow at Incarnation and allow us to continue to support all of ministry initiatives and ministry partners at Incarnation.

If you have any questions about this report or other financial questions, please contact Roger Schlichting at 612 812-8180 or Danette Griffith at 515-441-6414 or

Building Update

The Incarnation Council and staff leadership met remotely on April 20 to discuss Incarnation’s building closure status, but made no change to the previous May 8 deadline. It was decided that they would continue to monitor the situation and follow the guidance of the state before reopening the building. When the building reopens to the public, the staff will have created a strategy to help reduce the risk to people’s health as best as possible and will continue to provide online worship for those who choose not to leave the safety of their homes. When this strategy has been finalized, you will be given a detailed description so you may assess if you feel comfortable entering the building and are aware of our best practices for people’s behaviors while inside.

We continue to pray for your physical, mental and emotional well being and we give thanks for your generosity and sense of community in this time.

Grief & Loss: Coping at a Distance 

By Amy Martell, Office Manager

Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone is taken away. During this pandemic, it is likely that most of us, if not all of us, has experienced some sort of loss. Whether it be the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of personal freedoms or security, we all need and deserve the space to grieveSometimes we‘re sad over seemingly small things like no longer shaking hands or missing out on gatherings that have traditionally been important to us and as the year continues on, it is likely we will find more changes to our normalcy that are upsetting. But how do we grieve while we are still in the depths of this pandemic and grieving for losses that are sustaining?  

The grieving process is such an individualized experience, and depends on your personality, coping style, your life experiences, and how significant the loss was to you. However, here are the five most common stages of grief that people experience. You may experience them in the order below, but know that it is common to move around within these stages as you experience your grief.  

  1. Denial – Denial is the intellectual and emotional rejection of your experience. Although it is a useful survival mechanism to get through temporary pain, it is less useful in the long term 
  2. Anger  In this stage of grief, anger hides deeper emotions that you may have towards a person or your situation. Often it hides feelings of sadness or resentment and looks to place blame. 
  3. Bargaining – In an attempt to gain control, you may find yourself trying to compromise to find a less painful solution.  
  4. Despair – Despair occurs when reality sets in, and we realize the need to “sit” in our emotions about what we have lost. In all stages of grief, support is essential, but it is even more so in this stage, especially if you are feeling stuck in despair. 
  5. Acceptance – Being accepting of your grief or loss doesn’t mean you have moved past it. In acceptance, you can rationally understand what happened and also deal with the emotions as you experience them.  

Grief, caused by COVID-19 or otherwise, is (unfortunately) an inevitable part of life, but there are ways to cope and pick up the pieces. 

  1. Acknowledge your pain. 
  2. Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions. 
  3. Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you. 
  4. Seek out support from a trusted friend or family member. 
  5. Support your emotional health by taking care of your physical health. 
  6. Recognize the difference between grief and depression and seek help if needed. (For example, grief usually can be pin pointed to a specific event, whereas depression can feel more pervasive through all areas of life.)
  7. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, text MN to 741741 or call 651-266-7900 (for Ramsey County). These resources provide 24/7 care if you or someone you care about is having a mental health crisis.
  8. If you aren’t in immediate crisis and you wish to speak to a pastor, you may call the On Call Pastoral Care line at 612-276-2797 and the pastor on call will respond as soon as they are able. 

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional mental health care and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any mental health conditions. Amy has her Masters in Marriage in Family Therapy, is not licensed to treat, nor is she a mental health professional.

Sabbatical: Tuning into the Holy Spirit

By Pastor Jeanne Hartfield 

I am grateful to announce that beginning Monday, May 4, I will be on sabbatical for three months. The focus of my sabbatical is this: I pray it will be a time of deep rest and physical and spiritual renewal. 

For the next three months, I intend to set aside my planner and to-do lists, allow my mind to quiet while I live open to and attentive to the Holy Spirit and see what unfolds. In the midst of that, I also look forward to cultivating a spirit of play and adventure with our family.  

While all of this may seem like an extended vacation, the truth is the demands in my personal and work life over these last few years have left me on the verge of burnout. While I have already been experiencing renewal, I look forward to my “long break,” as our daughter Tillie calls it, so that I can return to ministry at Incarnation with new energy and creativity.  

Thank you for supporting the well-being of the staff through this sabbatical policy. Thank you for this time for renewal. I look forward to seeing you all on or after August 6. 

Connecting As Incarnation: Checking In & Survey 

Volunteers and staff from Incarnation are reaching out to the households that make up Incarnation to check in during this time when we are all impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The goal of this effort is to share greetings from Incarnation, listen to peoples’ experience, and assess needs that might be addressed within our larger community. 

If you have not yet had a call or email from a volunteer or staff member, either it is still coming or the contact information we have for you is out of date. You can help our efforts by completing the online survey at, if you haven’t done so already.  

Many thanks to our volunteers and to all of you who have responded—and responded with such kindness and grace. Prayer requests are being prayed for by staff, the Incarnation Council and Wednesday Prayer Leaders. Those prayers remain confidential. 

If you indicated a need, such as a desire for a mask or help with technology, we are processing information and requests as quickly as possible.  

If you have questions about this process, please contact Amy Martell at If you have an urgent pastoral care issue, please call the On Call Pastoral Care line at 612-276-2797 and the pastor on call will respond as soon as they are able. 

Update on Confirmation

By Kelsey Blinn, Director of Confirmation & Middle School Ministries

After conversations with Incarnation Staff it has become a reality that it would not be safe for us to have a large gathering in the near future. With that said, for your safety we have decided to postpone the confirmation celebrations until the fall of 2020.

New Dates:
 – Parent Presentation: September 27, during all services
– Celebration of Passage: September 28, 6:45 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.
– Service of Confirmation Rehearsal: October 3, 10:00 a.m.
– Service of Confirmation: October 4, 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Contribution for the Confirmation Gift Books can be handed in until August 15. Letters can be emailed to or mailed into the Incarnation Office. If you have a picture collage, either mail it in or drop it off once we are able to be in the building.

Please, reach out if you have any questions, concerns, prayer requests, or just want to talk.

Be safe and I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Summer Activities for Children, Youth and Family

Incarnation’s Children, Youth and Family staff (CYF) have been busy planning the best summer possible and we are excited to highlight some of the new ministries taking place!

Vacation Bible School – TO GO!

FOCUS VBS will NOT be happening in-person at Incarnation. We are NOT canceling Vacation Bible School, but we are going to offer you something different.

Curbside pick up will be on June 10 – You will be emailed with more information.
Cost: This is being offered for FREE.
To Register: Click here to register by June 5 by 4:00 p.m.

CYF Bonfires

Join other families on Wednesdays June 24, July 22 and August 26 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. for an evening around the campfire. There will be songs, s’mores and more!

MSM (Middle School Ministry) and HSM (High School Ministry) Service Learning Camp

This virtual and in-person (at Incarnation if allowed) camp will be a four-day experience for 6th – 12th graders. Our time together will include learning from non-profit leaders from around the country, service projects that can be done at home (or at church if allowed), and discussions in middle/high school groups. Projects completed during this Service Learning Camp will benefit organizations in our community and around the country.

HSM’s Fritter Friday’s and First Thursday’s

Students in 9th – 12th grade will have the opportunity to gather with others at monthly Fritter Friday’s and First Thursday’s.

Click here for dates and times.

Click here for more information for all summer 2020 opportunities.

Apostle Library Book Review

More Together Than Alone, By Mark Nepo

By Jo Zschomler

The subtitle of this book: Discovering the Power and the Spirit of Community in Our Lives and in the World sounds hopeful and almost prophetic since the copyright was 2018 and who knew that we would be in the middle of a pandemic today? This is yet another of those times in history when community is more important than ever.  

This book is both meditation and guide as the author helps us learn about the power of community (ala One Minnesota) and why it is so essential in our lives. Mark Nepo draws from history, spiritual thought leaders and nature to show how in every generation it is our tendency  to join together to accomplish our greatest achievements. 

In what right now seems like the bleakest of days, the stories in this book teach us that we do have the power to create connections and draw strength from one another. My guess is that you have been thinking about and working at forming/supporting/sustaining community during our “stay at home” time and that you will want to read this book when the Apostles Library reopens 

Among the Congregation

Sympathy To: The family of Phyllis Lehman on her death; Barb Belin and family on the death of her motherKirsten Bornus and family on the death of her mother; Mary Blomquist and family on the death of her stepmother; Larry and Siri Peter on the death of their nephew; Bill and Linda Armstrong on the death of their brother-in-law; the family of Becky Schilling on her death; Nancy Haugen and family on the death of her cousin; the family of Carmen Montgomery on her death; Mary Lou Lindholm and family on the death of her brother; Becky Ericson and family on the death of her father; Greg Teske and family on the death of his nephew. 

Recently Baptized: Cassidy Nan, daughter of Chris and Samantha Kerkhoff.

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.


Solid Ground Every Family Needs a Home Fundraiser Event

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 starting at 8:00 a.m. and will continue through May 13.

Solid Ground’s 15th annual Every Family Needs a Home Fundraiser will take place virtually on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 starting at 8:00 a.m. and will continue through May 13. This virtual event features testimonials, a video of Solid Ground programs and a call for giving. Though not necessary, join the Incarnation group participating by contacting Wayne Quehl at wquehl@comcast.netTo learn more or join the event any time May 6 – 13click here.  

Lutheran Social Service 2020 Benefit for Youth Event

Tuesday, May 19 starting with a virtual gathering at 11:45 a.m. followed by living streaming presentations from 12 – 12:30 p.m.

At this virtual community gathering, you’ll learn about the obstacles young Minnesotans face, hear stories from a few of the 11,711 youth LSS served last year, which includes LifeHaven youth, and discover how, together, we can map a route to their success. The event will be held Tuesday, May 19 starting with a virtual gathering at 11:45 a.m. followed by living streaming presentations from 12 – 12:30 p.m. To register, click here.

Masks for the Incarnation Community  

As people continue to move around more freely, it’s evident that face masks are an important part of the way we protect ourselves and others to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Some within our Incarnation community do not have access to face masks. If you are willing to make masks for others of Incarnation, please contact Julie Durbin at Both sew and no-sew assembly patterns from the CDC can be found here. Pass this invitation on to others who also sew or like to be creative. Thank you for generously caring for those in need! 

LifeHaven and Solid Ground Needs Due to COVID-19

Incarnation’s ministry partners LifeHaven and Solid Ground have identified specific donation needs for their residents during these continued uncertain times. Learn more details on the LifeHaven page and the Solid Ground page, including when and where to drop off items, and how you can get help transporting your donated items should that be needed. 

Preschool Positions Available 

Incarnation’s NAEYC accredited preschool program is seeking a qualified part time lead teacher and an assistant teacher for the Mon/Wed/Fri classes for 4-5 year olds for the upcoming school year. This position would be from 8:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. with additional hours throughout the school year for meetings, training, prep work, orientation, school events and substituting. The ideal candidate will be able to meet Minnesota DHS and NAEYC requirements. For more information, contact Kirsten Barie, Preschool Director at or 651-766-0723. 

Small Group: Job Transitions and Loss 

Once a month, starting in early June, days/times TBD 

Connect with others who are unemployed, under-employed or in a job transition, especially those impacted by COVID-19. This Small Group is a chance to meet other people in a similar life circumstance to find a sense of hope, purpose and community with a faith perspective. The group will gather over Zoom (no subscription is needed). Facilitator: Mike Styba. To register or find out more contact Denise Floe at 

Small Groups: Renew Your Life in a Time of Radical Change

Groups will meet virtually once a week for 6 – 7 sessions starting in June. 

How do the themes of Renew Your Life speak to a time of social distancing, isolation and the life transitions of COVID-19? Summer Small Groups will meet virtually (Zoom or FaceTime) to take a deeper look at the themes from this book and sermon series and reflect on how the messages speak to today. Take part in a summer group, whether or not you were in a winter Small Group. Pastor Kai Nilsen will add short reflections with new questions, bringing the themes into today’s context. Contact Denise Floe at to find out more and to express interest. Books available on Kindle/Nook or in paperback (limited supply). 

Small Group: Couples

Twice a month on Thursdays from 7 – 8:30 p.m.  

Connect with other couples (ages 35-60 approximately) to talk about short videos from Everybody Always featuring Bob Goff. This group meets virtually on Zoom (no subscription needed). Participants will order their own participant study guide. Facilitator: Tina Zerrath. To register or find out more contact Denise Floe at 

Claim or Create Your Account in Realm

Our new database system, Realm, allows you to connect with Incarnation in a new way. Manage your privacy settings, monitor your giving, keep track of what communications you want to receive and more. If you haven’t already claimed or created your account, email Amy Martell, Office Manager at to have an invitation link sent to you. Please note that if you were in our previous database system, you already have an account that needs to be claimed.

The Peace Garden is Open

Incarnation’s Peace Garden is coming to life now that it’s spring and is a serene place to pray. It is open to the public to use, but we urge you to continue practicing social distancing in the garden. Please stay at least six feet away from others and note that any seating areas will not be sanitized between use. The garden contains a variety of plants and flowers that will blossom and grow at different times of the year, so stop back more than once to enjoy its beauty.

Send Us Your Photos and Videos

The Solfests having a family fun night.

On Fridays, we’d love to share what everyone has been up to on our social media sites. Send us your photos or videos of your art, photography, musical talents, baking/cooking, games, service projects, what you’ve been working on or learning – just about anything! You can either share content on our social media sites or email Erin Thorstad, Director of Communications at You can have your name included or remain anonymous, the choice is yours.