Archive for January, 2020

The Community of Hope International is a global network of trained lay pastoral caregivers steeped in Benedictine spirituality who serve others through compassionate listening. St. John’s has now formed three cohorts of COHI-trained lay pastoral ministers: in 2015, 2017, and 2019. Our new cohort of lay pastoral caregivers completed their 14-week curriculum last month; a marvelous spiritual journey which began in late August.

Our newest cohort of 12 lay pastoral caregivers includes Kathy Brown, Joan Cleary (from St. Clement’s Episcopal Church), Richard Day, Tony Grundhauser, Jayan Koshy, Lee Larson, Laura O’Brien Smith, Sheryl Ramstad, Marjorie Rapp, Kevin Seitz-Paquette, Jennifer Tianen, and Jerry Woelfel. We are very grateful for the excellent instruction we received from our guest presenters: Sister Kate Maxwell, O.S.B. who led the Modules on Benedictine Spirituality and Commitment to Ministry; the Rev. Phil rose who led the Modules on Theology of Pastoral Care, the Pastoral Visit and Boundaries, and Pastoral Care for Seniors; Mary E. Johnson who led the Modules on Pastoral Identity; Confidentiality, Debriefing, the First Practice Visit at Episcopal Homes; and Care for the Caregiver; the Rev. Jered Weber-Johnson who led the Module on Listening Skills; Dr. Christine Luna Munger who led the Module on Prayer, Christian Meditation, and Silence; the Rev. Craig Lemming who led the Module on Motivational Spiritual Gifts; the Rev. Susan Moss who led the Module on Understanding Family Systems; the Rev. Joy Caires who led the Module on Grief: Coping with Loss; and the Rev. Jennifer Allred who led the Module on the Second Practice Visit at Episcopal Homes.      

Our new cohort of Community of Hope International lay pastoral caregivers was commissioned during the 10 o’clock Holy Eucharist on Sunday, January 5, 2020. They join our existing Circle of Care community of COHI-trained pastoral caregivers who were formed in 2015 and 2017. We bid your prayers for our pastoral care team as we follow Christ’s call to love and serve one another as we journey through the seasons of life’s joys and sufferings. 

“My COHI experience has been meaningful to me because during these last 14 weeks I have been able to claim my ‘Yes’ to God’s call to pastoral care. This has happened through spiritual nurturing with prayer, liturgy, deeply wise presenters; along with practical tools such as practice, role playing and reading. All of this has been supported with prayer through my COHI community under the compassionate guiding hand of Father Craig Lemming. I am so deeply grateful!”     — Kathy Brown

“COHI  has brought to my awareness the great need we have in our parish to show up and to be spiritually present to those in need, and how God is present in every situation.” — Marjorie Rapp

*Originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of the Evangelist.

Read Full Post »

The Faith Agenda emerged in 2017 when ISAIAH, a multi-racial community organizing coalition of faith communities from across Minnesota, hosted hundreds of house meetings in our state, listening to the concerns of citizens from all walks of life. The overlapping concerns, anxieties, values, and beliefs participants in those meetings articulated, shaped an agenda that spoke to a desire for unity over division, hope over fear, and abundance over scarcity. The Faith Agenda expressed these intersecting hopes, aspirations, and desires for a better Minnesota with one platform steeped in the language of faith, and guided by a desire for a politics in our state that brings people together.

The Faith Agenda was then brought to the Caucuses in 2018 by nearly 4000 “faith delegates” of all political persuasions, and those delegates in turn put themselves forward to move from the caucuses through their party’s process and in so doing, brought the Faith Agenda along with them. As hundreds of faith delegates showed up to their party process, candidates were brought into conversation with the agenda, and could see a growing movement in the state. ISAIAH had real numbers and real power. 

As our ISAIAH coordinator at Saint John’s, Jamie Bents, reminded those of us gathered on the 15th, because of those numbers and that power, “We had seven legislative issue priorities on our faith agenda in 2019. Seven of the first ten bills introduced by the Minnesota House were our top seven issues. The House led boldly throughout the session. The Senate was not up for election in 2018, and so they weren’t formed by our path. We have an opportunity to form every candidate for the legislature around our vision for a caring economy and a multi-racial democracy in 2020 if we lead together, but it starts with us being grounded together in what we are fighting for!”

On December 15th, some twenty or more members shared what difference the Faith Agenda, if enacted into policy and practice in our state, might mean for them and for the lives of those they loved. Saint John’s parishioners talked about the challenges of finding affordable housing for seniors, the ever expanding cost of healthcare, fears for how immigration policy might detrimentally impact their neighbors, families, and loved ones. Like those who attended the house meetings in 2017, we needed to get “grounded together in what we are fighting for” in 2020. It was clear that a politics and a state guided by the values articulated in the Faith Agenda would make a difference not only in the community beyond our doors – it could change lives for the better even in the pews of Saint John’s. 

So, what is the Faith Agenda, you might be asking? It defines a politics that “honors every person’s dignity,” focusing on racial equality and reconciliation, legal justice that focuses on restoration and rehabilitation, recognizing our inter-connectedness and dependence on one another, an emphasis on welcome of the stranger and immigrant, gender equity, public education that supports all children, and a caring economy that supports all families, truly affordable housing, access to sustaining and life giving healthcare, access to wealth, and an ethic of environmental stewardship. In short, it is a politics that sounds eerily similar to the baptismal covenant of the Episcopal Church with its emphasis on neighbor love and an ethic that strives to respect human dignity, justice, and restoration as defining of the Christian life.

It sounds too like what Martin Luther King described as “Beloved Community,” a vision of society that he believed was both realistic and achievable; which he thought could be realized through numbers of people of goodwill turning out to nonviolently change our politics and our communities. As the King Center describes Dr. King’s Beloved Community, it is a “vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”

In the wake of the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to desegregate the buses in Montgomery, Alabama, the fruit of a years long campaign for justice and equality, King pointed those engaged in the Civil Rights movement back to this bigger vision, to his faith agenda. He said “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”

This vision of a world restored and reconciled is not pie in the sky. We believe that in Jesus, as Mary sings, God is casting down the mighty and raising up the lowly. In Jesus, in the body of Christ, which is us, the hungry are fed, the poor are given dignity and new life, and those on the margins are brought to the center. We can help build a reality just like this, one of justice and peace, beloved community, by working with ISAIAH and Faith in Minnesota, with partners from every political and religious persuasion, we can bring a vision like this into reality in Minnesota.

If you’d like to be a part of just such a movement, I encourage you to reach out to Jamie Bents (jtbents@gmail.com), Jenny Koops (jenny.koops@gmail.com), Dave Borton (dave@sidewalkmystic.com), The Reverend Stephen Whitney-Wise (stephenwhitneywise@comcast.net), or myself. Throughout January there are “Caucus Trainings” that will guide you through the Faith Agenda and the Caucus process toward the 2020 election and how we might make this platform a reality in our state and city. On January 19th we be heard from our Saint Paul ISAIAH organizer, Vivian Ihekoronye (vihekoronye@isaiahmn.org), about this path and this process. Pray for this process, that through the organizing efforts of people of good faith, across our state, we might institute and implement this vision of a state and community that is united and not divided, that cares about the least, and that truly embraces Beloved Community!

Read Full Post »


I feel it first in the pit of my stomach. A sickish feeling that I have to make the choice again: how far to go. Like the snow accumulating outside of my office window, the questions pile up: Will people be offended? Am I messing with their spiritual lives? Do most people need more comfort than challenge? Don’t they get enough politics out of church?

And of course, will there be emails to the rector? Will someone leave the service mid-sermon? It’s all happened – more than once. It’s happened before when I preached about the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people. Yet it always gets to me.

Sunday’s Gospel leaves the path open: Jesus asks Simon and Andrew,”What are you looking for?” Good question – for me and for everyone else.

For the third time in our country’s history, the president has been impeached and now will be tried in the Senate. Pretty much every moral issue you can think of will be on the table or lurking nearby. That is, if the proceedings allow an open process – which they may not. On the eve of one of the most important weeks in our country’s recent life, the tone is solemn and fearful. Our highly-polarized country is holding its collective breath, terrified of the outcome for opposing reasons.

All week I have been looking for direction, clues, indicators of where to go with this. My favorite bishop, Stephen Charleston, was surprisingly direct on his daily Facebook post. Then this morning, a nationally-respected clergyman and prolific writer, Brian Maclaren, posts this advice to pastors:

“Remember, to avoid political subjects is itself a political act. It means that you’re choosing silence in the face of injustice, which is another word for complicity.”

It’s not like everyone is breathlessly waiting for my two cents on any this. I know that. Good grief, anyone with access to a computer or a microphone will be weighing in.
But since I have the privilege of a pulpit—and the staggering responsibility that goes with it – it’s a big deal for me. There’s a lot to talk about besides politics – and I’ll do that. And yet ….

So it’s back to work, seeking the “blessed assurance” that all will be well. That’s the name of the gospel song that will sung at the end of the sermon –thankfully not by me!

See you in church. Pray for our country.


Read Full Post »

In spite of an overall good economy, it is common for members of our community to experience unexpected job loss. This seems to be in many different employment groups and at all position levels. Knowing the stress unemployment produces I reached out to parishioner, Gil Lautenshlager, to get some first-hand experience and ideas.

Sarah: Gil, thank you so much for sharing with our fellow parishioners, what experience have you had with unemployment?

Gil: Years ago, I was President/CEO of a U.S. company.  It had been owned by a European firm for approximately four years and was underperforming. After two years I was escorted out the door. Three other executives succeeded me but conditions deteriorated to the point that the U.S. company had to be broken up and sold piecemeal. There was also turnover in the European Management. The point of my rambling is that in almost 50 years in business management, I have rarely seen an employee terminated, where it was solely his or her fault.  There are consistently under currents of management politics, hind side protection, outside influences and other factors that were clearly not caused by the employee who was let go.  Certainly, I made mistakes and did some stupid things. Probably the same was true of the other five executives let go. But ultimately the organization failed to define a viable strategic direction.

Sarah: It’s so tough losing your job, even when it’s not a good situation. I was laid off in 2012, along with 800 other employees, even though I saw it coming and welcomed the opportunity to change careers it was still hard not being wanted any more. What are your thoughts on that?

Gil: You cannot obsess on what you did to cause your termination. As with my experience, you can be assured there were factors beyond your control, that played a major part in the situation. Neither can you spend your energy being angry at your former employer. That will only serve to poison your job search. These are both difficult emotions. 

Sarah: How do you suggest handling these emotions?

Gil: I would suggest this is a good time to contact your priest or other trusted advisor. I did and that enabled me to move forward. You must “clear the deck” for the task facing you. I have experienced several career crises, and can guarantee that the sooner you find spiritual peace, the sooner you can effectively search for a new job.

Sarah: What do you think is the first step after being let go?

Gil: Once you have your “game face on,” you need to explain the situation to your spouse, partner, children, and other loved ones. Tell them your plan to secure new employment. Be honest about any financial sacrifices that need to be made.  

Sarah: Yes, honesty and an action plan worked for me, although it can be hard to keep your motivation up when faced with unemployment, do you have any recommendations?

Gil: Take the time to lay out all of the details of your job search. Commit them to writing. Do not take your unemployment status as an opportunity to slow down and relax. Your job search is a full-time effort and it helps to conduct yourself as you would during conventional employment. Set aside someplace in your home, where you can work, undisturbed. Have a desk or table, a phone and your computer with internet access. Get up at your usual time, get dressed, eat breakfast, all as you normally would. Be at your workspace, working, at the time you previously started work. Find a friend or acquaintance, who is familiar with the re-employment process to mentor you and act as a sounding board. There is no reason to be ashamed of unemployment. It is a reality of modern life and you are not being singled out. Work with your mentor to develop a list of target jobs, companies and industries. Consider your compensation requirements. Discuss the possibility of relocation with your family.

Sarah: Not having been unemployed before I found good advice invaluable and would recommend reaching out to the local workforce center, what recommendations do you have?

Gil: If a parishioner cannot find anyone, with whom they are comfortable, contact me (612-799-4474 or gil@leadershipr.com). Remember, I’ve been there. I will guide them through the process. In addition, I have a presentation, I prepared for a job search work shop, including a lot of sample documents. I don’t expect to be paid, but ask that when they are again employed and their finances are in order, they make a contribution to a charity of their choice. 

Sarah: That is very generous of you Gil – thank you – and as you mentioned you gave a job search presentation during a workshop at St. Mark’s Cathedral, what are your top tips?

Gil: Well, …

  • First, pray for strength.  Prayer DOES work.
  • You need to have a resume which gives an overview of your employment and education. You can find people who will “write” you a resume for a price. It’s up to you if you want to pay someone to edit or “pretty up” your resume. But the content MUST be yours.  You will need to repeat it over and over again and sell it in interviews.  That’s hard to do if they’re somebody else’s words.
  • You also need to develop and perfect an “elevator speech.” This is a 30 to 45 second verbal recap of your experience, accomplishments and the type of situation for which you are searching. Practice it over and over, in front of a mirror until it becomes natural and convincing. You will need it for casual conversations.
  • Once you have a resume there are several ways to approach potential employers such as applying for job postings, networking, civic and professional organizations, employment agencies and recruiters. You MUST be dynamic and do several of them – not just one or two.
  • You will quickly find that printed newspapers and other printed media are no longer a good source for job leads. Use them but concentrate on on-line job boards.
  • When responding to specific open positions, tailor it to relate directly to the position for which you are applying. Review the position, identify the requirements and tailor your letter and resume, to show how you meet those requirements.
  • Make a list of ALL of your personal and professional acquaintances. Don’t worry about being embarrassed, include everybody.
  • ID organizations that relate to your job skills or interests. Try to get their membership lists. Some will make it available, some won’t. If you can’t get a full list, you can usually get the officers names from their website.
  • Some experts suggest “cold calling.”  I’ve found a modified approach works better.  Prepare a generic letter or email (preferred). Explain your situation with a positive bias. Summarize your experience and accomplishments. Discuss your objectives. Say you will call in a few days. Send with a copy of your resume. Absolutely follow-up with a telephone call. If necessary, remind the person of how you know each other. Recap the information in your transmittal. Remember your “elevator” speech. Don’t ask for a job. Ask them if they can provide any ideas or directions. Ask them for referrals and repeat the process. Do everything you can to accomplish your objective but still keep the conversation brief. Send a short thank-you note and reiterate any significant subjects discussed. You may not find this easy. Don’t get discouraged. Take any negative experiences with a “grain of salt” and move on.
  • It will start slowly but you will begin to get called in for interviews. Take every interview that is offered to you even if you know you’re not interested. Interviewing is a learned skill and you need to get as much practice as possible. This is another place where you will need help from an acquaintance, who is familiar with the hiring process. Feel free to call me.
  • You may well have experienced some financial trauma while you were unemployed. I know I did. As soon as you get back on your feet, start accumulating a “war chest.”  Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, but unemployment does. I can tell you about it from personal experience. As soon as you land write, to everyone in your network, tell them about your new job and give them your contact information and thank them for their help. Every six months, or at least once a year, correspond with everyone in your network, tell them what you’re working on and offer to give them any kind of assistance they may need in the future. Pay it forward. If anyone contacts you, in a job search, bend over backwards to help them.
  • Remember to thank God via prayer.

Thank you Gil!

If you have experiences and resources to share with the parish, on employment or other financial related subjects, please contact Sarah Dull, Executive Administrator – you never know who needs to hear your story.

Read Full Post »