Liftimes: October 2020

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

By Pastor Kai Nilsen

Two of my sons got married during this global pandemic. Neither wedding was what we had originally anticipated or hoped. Both were exercises in what is a consistent exercise of this time—the ability to hold joy and disappointment together.

But, in the middle of this paradoxical time, both couples made promises to each other. The promises amplified joy, but they also acknowledged pain—for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Through it all, they would be together.

We are entering a time of commitment at Incarnation. Each year we ask the community to make a financial commitment to your God and for our common work. This year, we are hoping you will also make a commitment to serve, both inside and outside the church walls. A church without walls requires that kind of full-life commitment.

It may seem like a difficult time to ask for any commitments. Life is hard for so many people. We are just starting to worship together after six months. Our learning is primarily online. We don’t have the same freedom to see each other, be with each other in ways that are healing and uplifting, and encourage each other face to face. It’s hard being the church when we can’t be together. I know.

Maybe we need to go back to “why” community is important. Is it important only when it meets our needs, only when it feels good, only when it works with our schedule and timeline? Or, can community teach us what it means to make promises, to commit even in and through difficult times, to walk side by side even when our opinions seem far apart.

Promises and commitments amplify joy, but they also acknowledge pain—for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Through it all, we say, “We will be together!

The theme for our campaign this fall is “I’m In!” We will be giving you the opportunity to make your commitments to give financially and serve from October 4 – November 8. You can think about it as an open enrollment period. Throughout, you will be able to make your commitments online—we encourage you to do so, especially for those who are not able to be physically present with us.

This is a hard time personally for many. This is a hard time to be community. But maybe it’s a time when we will learn what it means to be God’s people “together” –for better or for worse. And maybe it will be a time when Paul’s words from Romans 8 will seep more deeply into our collective and connective tissue.

“What will separate us from the love of God in Jesus, Christ? Nothing! Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.”

So, as you prepare to make your commitments for our future together let me ask you a few questions:

What if we could create a more loving world, a world filled with God’s love and grace? How many of you would say, “I’m in!”?

What if your community was more collaborative, your workplace more creative, your neighborhoods more connective, your family more celebrative because you were intentionally living a Jesus-shaped life? How many of you would say, “I’m in!”

What if no child went hungry in our community and Incarnation’s children and students hungered to make the world better? How many of you would say, “I’m in!”?

We will be together, through it all.

Peace. Kai

Stewardship 2021: I’m in!

The theme for the 2021 stewardship campaign is “I’m in!” because your support matters to the vibrancy of Incarnation’s faith community. This campaign has three components:
  1. Prayer and encouragement – Please pray for our community and for those who are experiencing hardships.
  2. Financial Commitment – Our common work and mission together wouldn’t be possible without your support.
  3. Service Commitment – Service shapes us as individuals and people of faith. On the Service Opportunities Form you can explore a wide variety of ways to serve.
Commitments can be made online anytime between now through November 8. To learn more and to make a commitment, click here.

Some of Our Favorite Things: Ministry Partnership with our Tanzanian Brothers and Sisters

By Sue Nelson 

We are members of the Tanzanian Action Group at Incarnation. Our official purpose is to “oversee, guide and support Incarnation’s partnerships with Mkwawa and Kigamboni Lutheran churches in Iringa, Tanzania.” Being in partnership includes: 1. scholarships for secondary school students, 2. funds to support the churches’ building needs, congregations, and outreach, and, especially, 3. friendship and mutual prayer for one another. Did you know that in the early spring, during the summer months and even nowboth these congregations pray for Incarnation by name in their prayers for protection from COVID19? 

These are a few of our favorite things about this ministry: We, of the Tanzania Action Group, are in regular contact with the pastors and partnership committee members of both communities through WhatsAppAdditionally, in late September, Pastor Kai was able to enjoy a Zoom conversation with the Senior Pastor of Mkwawa, Donald Kiwanga and Senior Pastor of Kigamboni, Aleck Mhanga. It is enlightening and inspiring to hear each other’s thoughts, joys and concerns through these communications and to see one another’s faces and expressions as we speak. 

We feel such joy and gratitude each year as we are able to apply Incarnation members’ gifts for secondary education scholarships and other educational initiatives. As parents, we know the value of graduating high school and going to college for our kids. It is equally rewarding to imagine the impact these educated young people have on their country. 

Gifts from Incarnation also help with critical building projects on the church and school campuses. Some projects include windows for a Sunday school building, a roof for the science lab at Lutangilo secondary school and avocado and pine trees as income producing groves grown on church property. 

And, most importantlyBega Kwa Bega which means “shoulder to shoulder in Swahili. Bega Kwa Bega represents the group of 100+ congregation partnerships on opposite sides of the worldbetween St. Paul Area Synod churches and Iringa Diocese parishes, as well as the commitment between the synod and diocese to do life in partnership. All these christians are united in God’s work. That’s awesome! 

Mark your calendars for October 25, Reformation Sunday, when some special messages will be shared and you will be invited to be a part of deepening these relationships! 

New Grants Program Supports Outreach

By Vicki Engelen

Often, the only thing preventing a great idea from becoming reality is a lack of funds. The Budding Idea Grants aim to bridge that gap. They provide start-up, or “seed,” money to help put promising ideas to work in the greater community and beyond.

Perhaps you have such an idea. Or maybe you know of someone who does—be it an adult, youth or nonprofit organization. Budding Idea Grants provide funding for specific outreach initiatives—endeavors that align with Incarnation’s mission and vision, and that take place beyond the church facility. The start-up funds provided by these grants will help new initiatives get off the ground and pave the way for grantees to generate additional interest and other means of support to continue these initiatives.

Applicants (adults or youth) must either be actively involved at Incarnation, connected to Incarnation-affiliated mission partners, or be a part of community organizations with initiatives that complement Incarnation’s mission, vision and values.

For more details about this grants program, visit the Budding Idea Grants web page and print a copy of the brochure, which describes eligibility and how to apply. Grant applications can also be found on the web page and may be completed online. Or they can be downloaded, filled out and sent to the Budding Idea Grants email address, Questions about the program can also be sent to this address.

Incarnation’s Endowment Fund provides resources, apart from regular giving, to support and enhance the mission and vision of Incarnation Lutheran Church. The fund’s special characteristic is its ongoing stream of income for years to come. Contributions remain in the fund; only earnings are used each year. A portion of these earnings will continue to help cover one-time expenses that expand Incarnation’s ministry in new ways, while the other portion will be used for Budding Idea Grants.

There are a number of ways to make gifts to the Endowment Fund, including online or by a check made out to Incarnation with “Endowment” indicated on the memo line. These and other options are described on the endowment web page.

An Update from the Holy Hammers

This was an email from Jim Fruehling, sharing how the current build is progressing:

“[This is a photo] of our Habitat for Humanity house at 588-90 Wells St in St. Paul as of September 4, 2020 after 10 weeks of construction by the Holy Hammers. Our Habitat site supervisor, Terra Lumely, was pleased with the progress we made because it is now enclosed for winter and ready for contractors and the Habitat regular crews to compete the construction. A special thanks to the 13 Incarnation volunteers who contributed 36 of the 257 days the Holy Hammers worked over 10 weeks. Although the work day was 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. rather that 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., it seemed that we got a lot of work done especially since we had shorter breaks and lunches. And we really did miss those tasty Incarnation lunches. Hopefully, next year we will be back to larger crews, an earlier start (cooler weather) and those tasty lunches and treats.”

Apostles Library Book Review

Broken We Kneel: Reflections on Faith and Citizenship 

By Diana Butler Bass

A question that seems more prominent in these unusual days is “To whom do Christians owe deepest allegiance? God? Or country?” We, in the United States, seem to have a relationship between the two that ebbs and flows in both directions. What does “church” mean? What does “citizenship” mean?

Broken We Kneel: Reflections on Faith and Citizenship by Diana Butler Bass is an excellent resource to help you with your own answer to those questions. This second edition of the title is interesting in that Bass wrote the first edition shortly after 9/11 while this edition was written shortly after Charlottesville. Both events have much influence on her own experiences of faith, as writer, teacher, wife, mother and churchgoer. And the 16 years between editions has seemed to only sharpen the tension between serious faith and national imperatives. As one publicity piece says: “Broken We Kneel is a call to remember that the core of Christian identity is not always compatible with national politics.”

Bass is a highly regarded scholar of American religion and brings important historical information into the book as well as her own passion.

Staff Changes: Goodbye Wayne Boike

Incarnation extends its gratitude and a fond farewell to Wayne Boike, our accountant for the past year and four months.

Wayne is looking forward to spending more time with his family, grandchildren and spending more time in Florida with his daughter and her family. He will also enjoy more cabin time, traveling, reading and working with charities including Faith’s Lodge, Life Source, Abbott Northwestern and Second Harvest.

If you’d like to send your well wishes to Wayne, you may email him at through October 16, his last day.

Update from the Synod Assembly

(This article is a reprint from the ELCA website.)

Thank you to all who made our 2020 Synod Assembly possible! We are grateful to voting members, committees and volunteers who helped create a meaningful gathering online. Here are a few of the highlights:

Click here to for more about the 2020 Synod Assembly.

Click Here for Memorials

Thank you for your generosity and support!


Stewardship 2021: I’m in!

The theme for the 2021 stewardship campaign is “I’m in!” because your support matters to the vibrancy of Incarnation’s faith community. This campaign has three components:

  1. Prayer and encouragement – Please pray for our community and for those who are experiencing hardships.
  2. Financial Commitment – Our common work and mission together wouldn’t be possible without your support.
  3. Service Commitment – Service shapes us as individuals and people of faith. On the Service Opportunities Form you can explore a wide variety of ways to serve.

Commitments can be made online anytime between now through November 8. To learn more and to make a commitment, click here.

Kairos Fall Webinar Series kicks off Tuesday, October 13

Kairos Adult Forum is sponsoring a series of webinars via Zoom that will allow people to safely engage with presenters and other participants around important topics. Join us on Tuesday, October 13 from 7 – 8:30 p.m. as Dr. Dwight Zscheile, Vice President of Innovation and Associate Professor of Congregational Mission and Leadership at Luther Seminary presents on Being the Church in Disruptive Times.
If you would like to participate in any of the live Kairos Webinar events in real time or watch the webinar later, you will need to register to receive the Zoom link and other instructions for participating. Learn more or register, click here.

Register for In Person Worship

Did you know you can register to attend worship as late as the morning of? You can register via the Incarnation website, call the Incarnation Office at 651-484-7213, or show up and attend if there’s space.

Gather to hear scripture, pray, receive communion (gluten free wafers are now available). Enjoy instrumental music and music from small ensembles, but no congregational singing. Masks will be required. The Nursery is unavailable at this time. Click here to learn more.

8:45 a.m. (Traditional)
Register for October 18.
Register for October 25.

10:00 a.m. (Contemporary)
Register for October 18.
Register for October 25.

After you register, you should receive a confirmation email; if you don’t, please contact Amy Martell. To make registration for worship (and future events) easier, please log-in to your Realm Account (or register if you haven’t yet logged in). Go to to log-in or register your account. After which, click the link to the worship event you are wanting to attend to get registered.

Please note that online worship is here to stay! You will be able to continue to enjoy worshiping from the comfort of your home or while you travel . . . click here for the online worship page.

We Need You! Interim Worship Team Members

In order to ensure in-person worship experiences are safe a small assembly of worship team members are needed each Sunday. Outdoor greeters, check-in hosts and ushers are needed to support each service. Learn details here and complete this online survey to let us know how you are willing to serve as a part of worshipContact Julie Durbin with any questions.

Solid Ground Service Opportunities

Solid Ground is excited to gradually welcome back volunteers in direct work to help families emerge from homelessness. All volunteers must wear a facemask and undergo a brief COVID-19 screening before signing up to serve. If you have questions or would like to serve, please call 651-846-9024 or email

  • Volunteer Driver – Weekdays, flexible times. Transport essential household items from Solid Ground’s office in White Bear Lake to families at scattered sites in the Metro area. This is a contactless opportunity.
  • “Community” Meals – Every other Tuesday, 1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Provide supplemental meals from local restaurants to families at the White Bear Lake location. This is a limited-contact opportunity. Additional PPE can be provided if requested.

The Hunger Awareness and Advocacy Group Encourages You to Vote Safely This Fall – Request an Absentee Ballot or Vote Early!

With the November 3 election fast approaching and COVID-19 still present in our community, many people are nervous about how they can vote safely. Fortunately, requesting a mail-in ballot is easy and available to all Minnesotans. You can visit to request an absentee ballot, register to vote, or see a sample ballot. Make sure to fill your ballot out carefully, mail it back right away, and check to make sure your ballot is received!

Solid Ground Fall Shower Results

Thanks to the caring people of Incarnation, Solid Ground’s incoming families will receive many essential household items as they begin to settle into their new homes. In addition to household items, $825 has been donated as of now to help provide for the most needed items when inventory is depleted. Thank you all, once again, for your amazing generosity. This year’s abundance of donations is especially appreciated given the increased number of families Solid Ground is working with to provide strong foundations and stability.

Solid Ground Coat Drive Results

This year’s Solid Ground Coat Drive was a resounding success thanks to your generosity and the outpouring of support from our surrounding community! The need for warm winter wear was greater than ever this year and the response from you and our community was BIGGER than ever! Solid Ground had 73 families in need of winter wear (267 family members in all, 178 children and 89 adults). We received an abundance of new and nearly new winter items along with an astonishing $2,950 in monetary donations so far. A special thank you to the Arden Hills/Shoreview Rotary Club for partnering with us to collect both winter wear items and monetary donations for the Coat Drive. Our gratitude also goes out to those who asked their neighbors to join in our efforts and to the many dedicated volunteers who gave their time and talents to help our neighbors stay warm this winter. Thank you for your overwhelming support, your prayers, passion and commitment to the mission of Solid Ground.