Lifetimes: September 2020

From the Staff

By Kai Nilsen

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

Four weeks ago, my daughter and I sat through a webinar from her University as they laid out their plans for welcoming students to campus. One week later, they decided to go all online through much of September. I understand the same rhythm has happened in local school districts—one decision one day, another the next. It’s hard and disorienting and perpetuates a low-level anxiety that we have all been swimming in these past months. So much uncertainty. So much unknown.

We’ve been swimming in those same waters these past months as the Re-opening Task Force put together their guidelines in July and as the staff has been planning their fall ministry to fit the guidelines. I don’t write anything down in pen anymore. I just pencil it in, knowing it may change.

Given that, we are excited to announce (in pencil) opportunities for us to gather in person this fall. Note that at any time we may have to pivot if the numbers shift in Minnesota and recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health change. We trust the science. Our highest goal is the well-being of this community. We have now posted our guidelines on the website.

On September 13, we will continue our online worship experiences, but we are also inviting you to join us in celebrating who we are in community and the launch of a new year. From 9 a.m. -12 p.m. food trucks will be present at Incarnation. There will be blessing stations for households as they begin their new school year and a gift for our students to put in their backpacks, even the ones they use at home! Stop in any time during the morning. We’d love to see you. Masks and distancing will be required for the sake of our neighbors.

September 20 we are planning two worship experiences—traditional at 8:45 a.m./contemporary at 10:30 a.m. Here are a few things you need to know about those experiences.

  • You will need to register in advance since the numbers will be capped in each space based on distancing requirements.
  • Masks will be required. If you forget yours, we will have extras.
  • There will be wonderful instrumental music and music from small ensembles but no congregational singing.
  • We will gather and read scripture and pray and receive communion and be surrounded by people in community.
  • Our online worship community will continue for those who are not able to be present in worship.

The preschool is beginning with a hybrid version of smaller classes in person and online teaching on the opposite days.

Learning and faith formation for our students will begin the fall online, with a few outdoor gatherings planned for relationship building and connecting.

As we gradually open to more in-person experiences at Incarnation, in October we hope to have spaces open during the week for small groups as the weather starts to turn and outdoor gatherings become more difficult. Each group will need to sign up for a space in advance so that we know who is in the building in case we have to do contact tracing in the event that someone is known to have COVID-19.

Again, the calendar is written in pencil as we begin our fall. Thank you for being the kind of people who both long to be together but recognize the higher value of health and safety for our neighbor.

Peace. Kai

The Blessing of the Backpacks & The Great Incarnation Fall Get Together

Sunday, September 13, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Celebrate the start of a new school year with the Blessing of the Backpacks and a modified Great Incarnation Fall Get Together outside on the Incarnation lawn. A variety of food trucks will be in the parking lot. All are welcome – invite your friends and neighbors! Bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on in a household circle. Please maintain social distancing and wear a mask when not eating or drinking. The Blessing of the Backpacks will take place at 9:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Students will receive a trinket for their backpacks at that time. Click here to learn more.

Solid Ground – Hope and A Chance

By Diane Betterley

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Volunteers sorting garments during the 2019 coat drive.

Now, more than ever, I am grateful for the work of Solid Ground in our community. The Solid Ground staff and volunteers treat their families with the utmost of dignity and respect while providing a broad network of support and encouragement. Vulnerable families experience safe and stable housing at Solid Ground, as they work on skills to overcome barriers and enhance their ability to become more self-sufficient. Solid Ground has been helping families break the cycle of homelessness and poverty for over 30 years.

Latisha, a current resident, not only moved from homelessness to stability at Solid Ground but also earned her GED and CNA certification! In her own words, Latisha said Solid Ground “gives people hope and a chance.” I am so proud Incarnation partners with Solid Ground in their mission to end homelessness and is part of the “hope and a chance” experienced by families who live there. The Spirit of God is working among all of us.

In the eight years we have partnered with Solid Ground, nearly 100 people have volunteered in a wide variety of ways sharing their time and talents, many more have donated winter coats, household goods, cleaning supplies and Christmas trees. Our community has been very generous in their monetary donations as well. At Incarnation, we are fortunate to have a committed and compassionate Action Group who is devoted to providing leadership and guidance in our partnership with Solid Ground.

In my volunteer experience at Solid Ground, I have had the opportunity to connect with some pretty special children and families. It has given me a better understanding of the complex issues of homelessness and the barriers that make it so difficult to become self-sufficient. I see the courage and strength it takes for families to address those barriers and the community effort needed to make powerful change. I am grateful for our partnership with Solid Ground so we can all experience the “hope and a chance” together!

To learn more about Solid Ground or to receive our periodic newsletter, connect with Diane Betterley via email or call 651-238-4040.

Thank You, Gordy Rosine

If you quickly look across Incarnation’s parking lot it could seem to be like any other, but you’d be wrong. Towards the back, near the Preschool playground is an oasis of flowers, native plants and areas to sit quietly alone or with a friend – welcome to the Peace Garden. If you visit often enough, you might spot a lone gentleman tending to the plants and shrubs in the garden and around Incarnation’s building. This is Gordy Rosine and he has been caring for Incarnation’s garden spaces for over 12 years, following his retirement. He serves our community in this way out of a love for gardening and a desire to give people a place to nurture their spirits.

The Peace Garden is tucked out of the way because it is the beautification of a rain holding pond that Incarnation needs to have for environmental purposes, but it offers a beautiful sanctuary for those who visit. A woman outlining her husband’s funeral while sitting in the garden . . . a neighbor lady who likes to drink her coffee there while her children play nearby . . . the woman who felt close to her mother after she had recently passed . . . the father who bikes with his children to sit in the Prayer Pavillion  . . . a twenty-something seeking peace during 2020 . . . the small groups who gather . . . the baptisms . . . the lessons preschoolers receive about the plants and butterflies that live there . . . the Peace Garden is host to all sorts of different people’s needs.

Gordy is quick to note that he had help in creating the garden and landscaping and remembers the work that two Boy Scouts did to earn their Eagle Scout badge as well as the member who donated the use of their equipment to sculpt the paths and build the boulder walls.

We encourage you to visit the Peace Garden often as Gordy intentionally used a variety of plants and flowers that bloom and change during different times of the year. If you happen to see Gordy, smile and wave – he will be so pleased to know that you are enjoying the garden!

Thank you, Gordy for your service and for sharing your gifts with our community.

Staff Changes

Welcome Nick Clark

Incarnation is excited to welcome Nick Clark as our new Interim Director of High School Ministries! Nick  has been serving in congregational Youth Ministry since 2009. He graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead with degrees in Religion and Written Communication, and has an M.A. in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary in St. Paul. Nick’s ministry has always been rooted in helping others thoughtfully discern and apply their unique gifts toward God’s mission in the world. He joined InterServe Ministries in 2019.

InterServe’s mission is to work alongside congregations as they experience times of transition in their Children or Youth Ministry program. As well as working to maintain programming in an interim capacity, Nick’s role with InterServe is to help congregations discern their unique needs and priorities for youth ministry, implement a model for change, and assist the congregation in their process of securing long-term staffing. Nick is incredibly excited to begin this partnership with Incarnation in September!

Nick lives in Woodbury with his wife Liz, sons Harvey (3) and Everett (1), and two dogs.

Welcome Emily Turner

Incarnation is pleased to welcome Emily Turner as our new Media Arts Director! Emily went to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and studied Art and Psychology. At Luther, she worked at the Photo Bureau as a photographer specializing in concerts and also worked as a Sound and Lighting Technicians at two different venues on campus, one of which she managed. She’s been a member of Incarnation since her family joined right before she went into 2nd grade. As the new (and first) Media Arts Director, she’s excited to establish and expand the reach of Incarnation through the development of a live-streamed worship service. Over the next few months, she plans to strengthen the congregation’s connection to Incarnation through a series of videos that will foster a sense of community as we are, truly, a church without walls.

Changes for Becky Benson

For years, Becky Benson’s role at Incarnation revolved mainly around new member engagement, but as opportunities at Incarnation opened up, her position has grown considerably. Becky is now the Director of Engagement and Service! What does this mean? In a nutshell, it means she oversees the Serve Ministry Team and works with volunteers to help foster a strong sense of service in Incarnation’s culture. She also works with our ministry partners, both locally and globally, to build relationships and opportunities for us to use our gifts in service to others. Planning mission trips is another area Becky leads, which she looks forward to being able to do again, when we are able to travel safely. As you may be able to tell, this is not a small job, but we are grateful to God for Becky’s dedication, enthusiasm and passion for her ministry.

Pandemic: Faith Deepening without Walls

Working from home, attending online classes, hybrid learning, physical distancing, isolation, time alone, the chaos of juggling multiple roles at the same time . . . Whatever your “normal” was before, the pandemic has upended your daily routine and reset your life circumstances.

Where does that leave your faith? Are you longing for a sense of God’s presence, guidance and love? How might God be already at work in your life in this season? In this very upside-down time, we all seek a greater sense of peace and calm, meaning and purpose, community and care.

You might be someone with less activity, a slower pace, or more flexibility in your calendar. Perhaps this is a time when you can carve out more space for God. Maybe this is a time to sink your roots more deeply into your faith life with intentionality, so that you can reach out in new ways to love others in a church without walls.

Or does life feel chaotic and your mind is spinning with daily decisions and bases to cover. Perhaps you need a time to sit quietly in God’s presence and be reminded that God does love you. Maybe you crave a few minutes of soul care, even when it seems most unlikely, to remember who you are to God and how that identity shapes your life in the world.

Wherever the pandemic has placed you, God is already there. And, there are many ways to be present to God’s Spirit – a Spirit that goes beyond walls – a Spirit that goes through walls.

Along with Sunday worship this fall, there will be small groups to explore the theme You Matter to God and how this theme is lived out in our relationships, daily activities, love for our neighbor and more. If you’re experiencing grief, Journey through Loss, is a place to find support and comfort. If you need to remember God is present with you, come to the Blessing of the Backpacks – even if your backpack is now a stack of files on the dining room table or a folder on the “cloud”. And, watch for ways that families can share stories of faith together across all ages.

In this Lifetimes and other fall communications, you’ll see ways to pause and be present – whether virtually or in person, in your own home or as a church without walls. May you know that you matter to God in this season and always.

Click Here for Memorials

Thank you for your generosity and support!


Holiday Office Hours

In observance of Labor Day, staff will not be available on Monday, September 7. Any voicemails or emails will be responded to on Tuesday, September 8 or shortly after.

Incarnation’s COVID-19 Preparedness Plan

Incarnation is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace and worship space for all our workers, congregants and visitors. To ensure we have a safe and healthy environment, Incarnation has developed a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read the Preparedness Plan.

Solid Ground Winter Coat Drive

Thursdays, September 3 and 10 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Help the families at Solid Ground stay warm this winter. Donations of new or clean, gently-used coats, boots, hats, gloves and scarves in all sizes are needed. Boots are especially in short supply. Items may be brought to Incarnation during the outside drive up/drop off collection days. Monetary donations help purchase items when sizes are not available. Donate online under the Solid Ground Coat Drive designation or by check to Incarnation with “Solid Ground Coat Drive” in the memo.

Solid Ground Fall Shower

Thursdays, September 3 and 10 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Many families arrive to Solid Ground with few, if any, personal belongings. Most needed items are bakeware (cookie sheets, pans, casserole dishes), kitchen knives (sets of three are preferred), kitchenware (measuring sets, mixing bowls, can opener, colanders, cooking utensils), pot and pan sets, shower curtains, liners and rings. Purchase new items from this list and bring them to Incarnation during the outside drive up/drop off collection days. Monetary donations are used to purchase items most needed by families. Donate online under the Solid Ground Fall Shower designation or by check to Incarnation with “Solid Ground Fall Shower” in the memo line.

Growing Through Loss Grief Support Series to be held at Incarnation

Thursdays, September 10 – October 15 from 6:45 – 9:00 p.m. IN PERSON

Growing Through Loss is a grief support series sponsored by the North Suburban Grief Support Coalition, which includes Incarnation. This 6-week series provides an opportunity for individuals to obtain information and support for a variety of loss and grief issues. Each session begins with an educational presentation by a professional, followed by small groups facilitated by leaders who understand the grieving process. Click here for information on the weekly topics.  This grief support series will be in person at Incarnation. Enter through Door 1 near the Sanctuary. Please wear a mask and practice social distancing. Volunteers are also needed weekly to greet participants and help with registration. For more information, contact Pastor Jeanne Hartfield.

The Blessing of the Backpacks & The Great Incarnation Fall Get Together

Sunday, September 13, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Celebrate the start of a new school year with the Blessing of the Backpacks and a modified Great Incarnation Fall Get Together outside on the Incarnation lawn. A variety of food trucks will be in the parking lot. All are welcome – invite your friends and neighbors! Bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on in a household circle. Please maintain social distancing and wear a mask when not eating or drinking. The Blessing of the Backpacks will take place at 9:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Students will receive a trinket for their backpacks at that time. Click here to learn more.

Register for In-person Worship, starting September 20

8:45 a.m. (Traditional) and 10:30 a.m. (Contemporary)

Gather to hear scripture, pray, receive communion (gluten free is unavailable) and be surrounded by people in community. Enjoy instrumental music and music from small ensembles, but no congregational singing. Masks will be required. If you forget yours, we will have extras. The Nursery is unavailable at this time. Click here to learn more.

Register for September 20.
Register for September 27.

After you register, you should receive a confirmation email; if you do not, please contact Amy Martell.

Budding Idea Grants 

Funding is being made available to help put promising new ideas to work in the greater community, locally and globally. Sponsored by Incarnation’s Endowment Committee, the Budding Idea Grants program will launch September 20. Details, including eligibility, will be available online.

Lutheran Disaster Response: U.S. Wildfires

Lutheran Disaster Response is engaging with Lutheran Social Services of Southern California and Lutheran Social Services of Northern California, along with the three California synods (Sierra Pacific, Southwest California and Pacifica), to assess the situation and determine the best ways to respond. We expect immediate needs to include food and other life necessities, as well as emotional and spiritual care for those who have been traumatized. Your gifts will support wildfire survivors. Gifts to “U.S. Wildfires” will be used in full (100%) to assist those affected by wildfires until the response is complete. Click here to learn more or donate.

You Matter to God: Learning and Small Group Opportunities

Small groups meet a variety of days/times starting in October

Along with Sunday sermons, this theme will be explored in greater depth in daytime and evening small groups and a mixed large group/small group format on Thursday afternoons. To register or find out more, click here or contact Denise Floe at

Retirement Small Group

Once a week on Mondays from 7 – 8:30 p.m. on Zoom 

This small group will focus on how retirement can be a time of purpose, relationships and spiritual growth (the group will not discuss financial planning). Drawing from the book, How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free, meet for six Mondays, starting September 21 by Zoom (no subscription needed). Leaders: Nancy Stutzman and Grant Rykken. Register:

Holy Envy Small Group

Twice a month on Wednesdays, 1 – 2:30 p.m., October – March 

Engage in conversations around the book, Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others, by Barbara Brown Taylor in a small group setting. In Holy Envy, Barbara Brown Taylor, recounts teaching the world’s religions to undergraduates and how her own spiritual journey was renewed. Meet by Zoom (no subscription needed, assistance available), starting on October 7. Leaders: Anne Cremons and Georgia Schultz. Register:

Job Transitions and Loss Small Group

Once a month starting in September, dates/times TBD

Connect with others who are unemployed, under-employed or in a job transition, including those impacted by COVID-19. Meet other people in a similar life circumstance to find a sense of hope, purpose and community with a faith perspective. Gather over Zoom (no subscription needed, assistance available). Leader: Mike Styba. To register or find out more, contact:

Food Donations

If you have physical items you’d like to donate to the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf, please bring them to the Lake Johanna Fire Station where an open trailer is ready for donations, especially school supplies. Incarnation is not accepting physical donations for the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf at this time; please do not leave anything outside or within the Incarnation building. Thank you.

Incarnation’s All Hands on Hope Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) MobilePack Event Update 

Feed My Starving Children has delayed MobilePack events until at least March 1, 2021 due to continued COVID-19 safety concerns. Incarnation raises funds year round in support of our annual MobilePack events, but because of the profound need to feed kids worldwide now, we’ve chosen to donate $86,000 we had already raised to support FMSC machine meal packing, and permanent site packing. Incarnation will work with FMSC to schedule a 2021 All Hands on Hope MobilePack Event, hopefully for the spring. Heartfelt gratitude to all of you for your generous support of this ministry and partnership!

Volunteer to Pack Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) Meals at Permanent Sites 

FMSC is dire need of volunteers to pack food so that they can continue to feed kids around the world. Packing stations accommodate up to five volunteers who will not be socially distanced, so it’s best to sign up with two to five people with whom you are comfortable being physically close. Here’s what you can expect as how to register. Consider volunteering if you are not vulnerable or are caring for someone who is.