Lifetimes: October 2021

Stewardship 2022: “I’m In!”

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

This is going to be a little different than most letters launching a yearly Stewardship campaign. Often, we focus only on the positive message and hope it encourages you to engage with your financial and service commitment in the upcoming year.

We’re not doing that this year. Our Story is more complex than that, isn’t it? Let’s begin with a bit of honesty. This year has been hard. Culturally. Communally. Personally, for each of us, in our own way. No need to deny it. We wouldn’t be telling the whole story if we didn’t acknowledge the difficulty and division, the grief and loss, the broken dreams but also the burgeoning hopes we experienced.

That’s our story. Raw and real. Confusing and confident. Painful and promising.

It reminds me of Paul’s words in Romans 5:3-5, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Here’s the good news: I’ve sensed your endurance, the shaping of character, and, in the end, I’ve sensed the hope of Christ. Throughout, you proved to be faithful and forward looking, gracious and generous, patient and persistent.

  • We strapped on masks for the sake of our neighbor and began to come back to in-person worship together.
  • We began livestreaming worship for those who were not comfortable with public gatherings and those who are yet seeking a faith community like ours, centered on God’s grace and love.
  • We celebrated with fifty students and their families a next step on their journey of faith through their confirmation.
  • We showed up for an experimental Feed My Starving Children MobilePack™ so that our ministry partner could learn how to expand their work in trying times.
  • We gathered on Zoom or in-person or by Zoom and in-person because we longed for the transformative potential of community.
  • We navigated the multiple staffing changes throughout this year, with all the accompanying uncertainty and possibility that brings.
  • We fed the food insecure in our community to the tune of over $36,000 and 500 pounds of specifically requested physical items through our Tons of Love campaign for the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf.
  • We gave mounds of winter hats, coats, mittens, boots and snow pants so that those who’ve experienced homelessness, now families in transition, could prepare for an uncertain winter.

Friends, that too, in an unprecedented time in our communal history, is our story.

I think the character of a community is revealed most profoundly in its ability to adapt and newly imagine itself through times of crisis. Endurance producing character. Character producing hope.

On behalf of the staff and leaders of this community, I say thank you!

As we prepare for another year, we are realistic and yet, hopeful. Realistic because we don’t know the long-term implications of COVID-19 on our ability to be together in the ways that are the most satisfying and encouraging. Hopeful because our revealed character as a community is faithful and forward-looking, gracious and generous, patient and persistent.

In 2022, we are going to lean into that adaptive character as we…

  • Redefine our children’s and student ministry around a simple motivation: “Learning to live and love like Jesus, for a lifetime.”
  • Expand the breadth of our musical experiences in worship with our new leadership team and create musical events for us to invite our neighbors and friends.
    • This will include significant upgrades in the sound and lighting in the Sanctuary, and some needed organ repairs. (Note: A few generous donors have already begun to lead the way.)Continue to seek partner organizations or congregations that can expand our vision for our community work demographically, culturally, or socio-economically.
  • Expand our work with our trusted ministry partners (Solid Ground, Ralph Reeder Food Shelf, Lifehaven, the
    St. Paul Area Synod, Feed My Starving Children, etc.) so that children will be fed, families will be supported in transition and our local community will be impacted by God’s grace and love.
  • Prepare for a Capital Campaign that will address some neglected facility upgrades.

That’s our story. Raw and real. Confusing and confident. Painful and promising.

Throughout, you were faithful and forward looking, gracious and generous, patient and persistent. Well done, good and faithful servants.

As we turn the year, there is more work for us to do. We can only do what God is encouraging us to do with your ongoing generosity and active commitment to service. Financial and service commitment forms are available on the Incarnation website. Commitments can be made in-person or online anytime from now until Commitment Sunday, November 14.

A new chapter of Our Story awaits your response. Are you “in?”

Kai Nilsen, Senior Pastor


In addition to a financial commitment, we are also inviting you to make a commitment of service for 2022. God calls us to serve one another following in the way of Jesus. Before his death, Jesus modeled service for his disciples, washing their feet: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:15-17). Following this example, we are called to serve our neighbors—especially those most in need.

Service is an expression of the outward journey. When we share our gifts and talents in service, we participate with God in creating a better, more loving world. In the process, we are also changed.

We invite you to make a pledge of your time, gifts and talents, selecting from a variety of options, including opportunities to support the ministry inside the walls of Incarnation as well as outreach ministries, which serve those in need in our broader community.

On the Stewardship page, you will also find instructional videos that will walk you through how to complete the online pledges

Volunteer. Donate. Pray.

The Feed My Starving Children All Hands on Hope MobilePackTM event is just a few weeks away, beginning October 28-November 1, 2021 at Incarnation. As we prepare to host over 2,800 volunteers over five days, we are reminded of the great need for nutritious meals the MannaPacks provide. According to FMSC’s website, hunger is rampant across the globe. Surging food prices, civil unrest, climate crisis causing natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have all compounded to drive 272 million people into starvation. This total has doubled since the pandemic began. (World Food Programme)

But there is hope! The All Hands on Hope MobilePack can help reduce the number of children who are suffering from undernutrition, one meal at a time. We need your help to fill volunteer shifts, fund the 614,304 meals that we expect to pack which will feed 1,683 children for one year.

Visit our All Hands on Hope website to find out important information on packing shifts, provisions to keep packers safe, donation needs and a link to volunteer to register. With the global hunger need so great, we are asking all who are able to volunteer, donate and pray until all are fed!

For questions or more information, visit Incarnation’s All Hands on Hope webpage  or contact Becky Benson.

Guest Preacher on October 17: Osheta Moore

We’re excited to welcome a guest preacher at the 8:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. worship services on October 17: Osheta Moore!

Osheta (O-she-da) Moore is a pastor, public speaker and author (Dear White Peacemakers: Dismantling Racism with Grit and Grace and Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World) who focuses on peacemaking, anti-racism and living a Jesus centered life.

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

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

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

Wild, right?

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

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

Both the 8:45 a.m and 10:15 a.m. services will be in-person, livestreamed and recorded so you can listen to and share Osheta Moore’s message.

The Power of Sharing Stories

By Jennie Norberg

This fall we have been talking about the importance of my story; your story; our story. I was blessed to be able to hear a number of stories this winter/spring when I was back in the US doing my CPE (clinical pastoral education) unit.

Now, this is a time that I had been looking forward to. I was going to be in the hospital and working with the chaplains, and in my comfort zone. Well, we all know that these past couple years have been anything but what we thought it would be. My return to the US was unexpected. So, instead of doing CPE in the fall and in a hospital, I had to scurry around looking for one in the winter or spring. And, the only one that I found was a social justice online version. This seemed like the last kind of CPE I would want to do. Online, no; social justice, no. Uncomfortable, yes.

I ended up working three mornings a week at the Dignity Center, which is a part of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in downtown Minneapolis. The focus of the Dignity Center is to be a place where people in the homeless (housing instability) community can find resources to help them on the road to housing stability. We offer breakfast, a hot meal, access to computers, hygiene items, and many more physical things. One of the most invaluable things that we offer is the sense of community and respect. There are volunteers who help our participants find resources for employment, stable housing, assist with legal, financial or medical issues, or even just basic needs. An important part of this job is to listen to their story to help discover their gifts and needs. Everyone has a different story to tell.

My job as a chaplain intern was to be a listening ear, and as the participants said, their sounding board. We talked a lot about stories. I was able to have a number of blunt and real conversations with them. We talked about what’s on the surface and first impressions. It is easy to just look at someone and make a quick judgement when you don’t know their story. On the surface, I was the rich, white girl trying to make herself feel better by being a “do-gooder.” People see them as the big, black, homeless criminal; the immigrant who should “go home”; the poor, drunk Native American that can’t hold a job. However, during our conversations, we learned that we are more than what our outside surface shows. There is so much more to us and our story than just that first impression or the common stereotypes. I learned about many of the storylines in their lives, with all the various intersections and road blocks. Are they rough around the edges? Yes. However, they have built a sense of community here at the Dignity Center. They respect me and each other. One of the participants told me . . . “You are here, humbling yourself to our level, trying to help, trying to learn about our lives.” I will always remember that. They love to laugh and tease each other, me included. I became “Jenny from the Block.” They are working hard to meet goals for housing stability or employment. They have opened their hearts and lives to me. They want people to know that they are caring and compassionate. They long to be seen and heard, to share their stories. Multiple times they said, we all bleed the same. We are all part of the same human race and we are not invisible.

Was this the CPE placement the chapter that I had planned to write next in my life story? No. However, looking back, I can’t imagine a different one. I learned a lot about myself and my fellow siblings in Christ. I learned that we are all part of God’s beloved community and there are many out there that need to be reminded of that.

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity, the Dignity Center is always looking for help. Some of the volunteer opportunities are for someone who can commit regularly, others are more open. The Dignity Center is always in need of donations of clothing, financial gifts, toiletries, etc. If you would like more information, please check out their website.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By Jennie Norberg

Domestic Violence, or domestic abuse, is the most commonly known term, but it is also referred to as intimate partner violence, dating abuse, relationship abuse, or gender-based violence. According to the “The” website, domestic violence is “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” Domestic violence does not discriminate. People of any age, race, gender, religion, education level, sexuality or economic status can be a victim, or a perpetrator.

According to a recent study with the National Institute of Health, Domestic Violence affects 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 9 men. When looking at teenage dating, about 1 in 3 teenage girls with be the victim of physical, sexual, emotion, and/or verbal abuse from a partner. The victim normally feels a lot of shame and guilt for what has happened to them. They have difficulty knowing where to turn to for support; where they can feel safe and protected; where they are not judged. It is important for the victim to feel loved. God loves them, God will not leave them. In the past, the Church has not been very helpful. This is not due to their sins or “their cross to bear.” It is actually a crime against them and they have nothing to be ashamed of. At times the church has placed more emphasis or importance on the marriage than on the safety of the victim. In our patriarchal society, advice has been given to wives to be more submissive and obedient to their husbands in hope that it may decrease the abuse. Also, there has been the thought that since Jesus suffered, the victim should be willing to suffer as well. Views are starting to change and the ELCA came out with a social message in 2015.

According to the ELCA’s Gender-Based Violence Social Message, “God says “No!” to the violence inflicted on us by others. God is against gender-based violence because through it, someone has treated us like an object and violated our bodies, hearts and minds. God has created our whole being and loves us dearly, heart, mind and body.

God does not intend for us to suffer through any abuse or violence. But we live in a broken and sinful world, and we do suffer…Together we will speak and act on the promise of resurrection life in Christ, not only for the future but for healing in this life. God seeks to heal the effects of sin that we know too deeply; God’s power and presence can bring new life to our bodies, minds and spirits.”

Jesus sought above all to live out God’s love in the world and then accepted the cross as the consequence for him. Those who follow Jesus, likewise, are called above all to live out God’s love in the world. Sometimes suffering will be the consequence of living out God’s love, but this does not require living with violence.

Sometimes it is hard for us to see what is right in front of us. Here are some common signs that your partner is being abusive from

  • Keeps you from seeing or contacting your family and friends
  • Takes and controls money, including refusing to give you money and how it’s spent
  • Insults, shames you, or puts you down
  • Controls all aspects of your life, including what you do, what you wear and where you go
  • Has unrealistic expectations, such as a partner has to be available at all times
  • Threatens to take away or hurt your children
  • Threatens to hurt or kill pets
  • Denies abuse is happening or downplays it as a problem
  • Plays mind games and places blame
  • Destroys property
  • Forces you to use drugs or alcohol
  • Intimidates you with guns, knives, or other weapons
  • Shoves, slaps, chokes, and/or hits you
  • Forces sexual acts on you against your will
  • Threatens to commit suicide

If you are a victim of domestic violence, text START to 88788 or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) which is the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This resource is free, confidential and is available 24/7. If you wish to speak to a pastor, you may also call the On Call Pastoral Care line at 612-276-2797 and the pastor on call will respond as soon as they are able.

Remember, it is not your fault. You are a beloved child of God, worthy of love; worthy of God’s love.

Apostles Library Book Review

12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Live a More Intentional Life by Ellie Roscher and Heidi Barr

12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Live a More Intentional Life makes positive change sound really easy, doesn’t it? The authors, Ellie Roscher and Heidi Barr, both live in Minneapolis and joined in putting together a Facebook group called 12 Tiny Things focused on single parts of life for just a single month. The authors are graduates of Luther Seminary and both are published authors as well as being trained in wellness and yoga. This book developed after three years of the group.

Those tiny things? They are: community space, work, spirituality, food, style, nature, communication, home, sensuality, creativity and learning,

Vernita Kennen says of this book, 12 Tiny Things is designed to help you develop practices that promote a more reflective, rooted and intentional life. Reading this book is pleasant, enlightening and comfortable. While this is not specifically a “religious” book, connecting health, wellness and spirituality is intentional and does truly connect to our faith. (I have heard a sermon series at a Lutheran congregation this year based on this book!)

There is a website which accompanies the book (and the Facebook effort continues). At you will find free resources like liturgical calendars with suggestions for each day. You can also read an article about this book in Living Lutheran, May 2021.

Staff Updates

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

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

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

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

Click here to give online.


We honor the memory of loved ones in the memorial gifts given below:

Date Range: 8/24/21 to 9/17/21

Among the Congregation

Sympathy To
Sue Katzke and family on the death of her mother; the family of Carol Sykes on her death; Gary Anderson and family on the death of his brother; Shannon Dullum and family on the death of his father; the family of Kathryn Anderson on her death.

Recently Baptized
Valencia Patricia, daughter of Tony and Tara Maras; Grace Rose, daughter of Stacy and Matthew Nelson; Eden Christine, daughter of Katie and Andrew Quarfoth; Quinn McKenzie, daughter of Erin and Chad Johnson.

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


All Hands on Hope Feed My Starving Children MobilePackTM – Less Than a Month Away

The FMSC All Hands on Hope MobilePackTM is quickly approaching, October 28 – November 1, at Incarnation. Many more volunteers and financial donations are needed to pack 614,304 meals feeding God’s children as planned. Sign up and donate toward the $200k goal here. If you are a Thrivent Member, you have until October 8 to submit your application for an Action Team grant to help fund meals to be packed.

New Office Hours
The Incarnation Office will be open Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sundays 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. Many staff are working partly from home, so if you are trying to connect with a certain staff member, making an appointment is helpful. Please call the Incarnation Office at 651-484-7213 or email Amy Martell, Office Manager if you need assistance.

Joint Legislative Religious Coalition Housing Webinar Series
Join one or more monthly Housing Webinar Series offered by the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition to learn about the issues surrounding homelessness including affordability and scarcity of supportive housing, as well as how to make a difference. Learn more and register here for the program and small group discussions. This series is held on the first Thursdays of the month, October 7 – February 3 from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

STARTING NOW – Fall Small Groups: Our Story
Connect with others in a new small group as you explore stories in the Bible and consider how our stories are shaped by and live out God’s Story. New small groups will take part in a five-session faith study based on the Our Story theme. Daytime and evening, virtual and in person groups are all available. To find out more, visit the Our Story webpage. Register with Denise Floe.

Kairos on October 11: “Shattered to Whole”
Join us on Zoom every other Monday night at 7 – 8:30 p.m. To register click, here.

The ELCA adopted a sanctuary memorial in 2019 supporting congregations who recognize asylum seekers and refugees seeking safety and support. The International Association for Refugees, of which Jonathan House is a part, sees itself as a tool in the belt of the churches for doing ministry with forcefully-displaced people. Bethany Ringdal, a Luther Seminary graduate, will share her personal and pastoral mission as Community Formation Coordinator for International Association for Refugees, its work providing asylum seekers safety and support at Jonathan House and how people in the community can get involved.

Solid Ground Bring It Home Virtual Fundraiser
You are invited to Solid Ground’s Bring It Home Virtual Fundraiser on Friday, October 15.  Learn more about Solid Ground and their holistic approach to provide housing and opportunity for families who are experiencing homelessness. Pre-program begins at 6:15 p.m., program at 7 p.m. The event is free. Register here.

Another Kind of Happy Hour
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. This session of Another Kind of Happy Hour is on October 21, 6 – 8:00 p.m. via Zoom and is the last two hour trial edition. Click here to register.

Kairos on October 25: “Finding Hope in a Divided Country”
Join us on Zoom every other Monday night at 7 – 8:30 p.m. To register click, here.

Kairos invites you to join us for an evening with author, The Rev. Angela Denker, as we investigate the rise of Christian Nationalism in America and seek to more deeply understand the role of politics across American Christianity. Learn more about regional differences among American Christians, and hear stories from Christians all across the country: from coastal California to rural Appalachia.

About the presenter:
Angela Denker is an ELCA pastor and a journalist. She has written for many publications including The Washington Post, and FORTUNE magazine. Denker has appeared on CNN, BBC and SkyNews to share her research on politics and Christian Nationalism. Her book, Red State Christians, Understanding the Voters who elected Donald Trump, was an award winner for political and social sciences. She presently serves as Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Brownton, Minnesota. She has also pastored congregations in Chicago, Las Vegas, Oange County and The Twin Cities.

Wednesday Morning Prayer Group
Are you a prayer warrior looking for community? The Wednesday Morning Prayer Group meets every Wednesday in the Chapel from 9 – 10 a.m. and prays for the concerns of this congregation as well as Incarnation ministries. If you are interested in being a part of this prayer group, please just show up!

Sunday Worship Blessing 
The Saint John’s Bible illumination of “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” is being used for the Sending Blessing in worship. As look at this illumination, think about how the words and artwork are speaking to you today. If you have questions about The Saint John’s Bible, contact Grant Rykken.