Archive for the ‘The Stories of St. John’s’ Category

By Lea Anne Schmidt,
Coordinator of Growth & Member Engagement

Each week we have the privilege of worshipping with an average of 3 to 6 first-time visitors. And during the last program year, St. John’s welcomed over 25 new members! This fall you will surely see some faces of fellow parishioners whom you recognize but haven’t had the opportunity to meet. Our parish is growing and with that, we multiply the opportunities to cultivate new relationships and friendships through worship, ministry, and prayer.

This program year, St. John’s has adopted a theme of Seeing through God’s eyes, Noticing each of God’s beloved, and Welcoming with God’s love. The joy of noticing and welcoming our new members belongs to each person in the parish. To name just a few examples: You may hear new voices in the choir this fall with the addition of Courtney Veszi and Beth Rhodes. If you attend a weekday morning prayer service, you will be praying alongside Jayan Nair, the primary morning prayer officiant. And when stopping by the office on a Tuesday afternoon, Marjorie Rapp will most likely be the one to greet you. All of these members have been profiled in The Evangelist in the past, and in this issue we are introducing you to two more households who joined the church in May.

Our newest members have courageously jumped into life at St. John’s with both feet. Please meet their enthusiasm by noticing new faces and taking a moment to introduce yourself. Ask them what they love about the ministry they serve or the liturgy they attend, and let them know we appreciate the energy, presence, prayers, and voices that they bring to our faith community.

Andrew Fox

Andrew grew up in Hastings; his family goes back six generations in Dakota County. At Augsburg College, he majored in Medieval Studies and Religion. He first attended St. John’s at a Compline service a few years ago. The rich liturgy, music, and welcoming atmosphere have made him feel very much at home here. He’s grateful to have been recently confirmed and now be a “full-fledged Episcopalian!”

He loves visiting museums, especially the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the American Swedish Institute. He works for the Minnesota Historical Society and has a great fondness for historic houses.

Phillip & Julia Takemura Sears

Julia grew up in Japan and Iowa, while Phillip (having a father who worked on army bases) moved around a lot. They were actually both born in Maryland, but didn’t meet until attending Iowa State University together.

Julia, a digital archivist, loves to sing, dance, draw, paint, do voice acting, and roller skate. Phillip loves telling stories with friends.

Phillip first came to St. John’s as a staff singer. He says, “As a singer for church services, I have sung in many congregations of which I was not formally a part of.  Julia and I decided that we wanted to sing and also join the church we sing for.” Julia adds, “I ended up joining the choir and have kept coming ever since. I also keep coming back because this church seems to be about open-minded thinking and universal love.”

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

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By Jered Weber-Johnson

Most of you know that I absolutely love Luke’s resurrection story when Jesus shows up on the road to Emmaus, and how the disciples didn’t recognize him until he broke the bread at dinner with them.

This summer over 130 members of our faith community gathered in one another’s homes to break bread and share stories, and in so doing, we began to notice and see the presence of something holy. Simple hospitality, laughter, learning each other’s names and backgrounds, full bellies and hearts: these were just some of the ways we described our experience of these Connect Meals over the past three months.

Thanks to our hosts and thanks to all who were courageous enough to show up not knowing who’d be there or what exactly to expect.

Here’s what you noticed, experienced, and took away from these meals:

Even though I knew who the other guests were, several were people whom I had never talked to before that evening. I guess that is what is supposed to happen at these gatherings!
—Cynthia Bertheau

Living alone, I enjoy having a meal with others and, frankly, checking out their homes to see what they collect and cherish. I’m already looking forward to next year’s gatherings.
—Karen Mosso

I enjoyed the chance to see my hosts in the natural environments of their homes. I love seeing what they have around them, the colors, the artwork, the gardens, the pets (especially the pets!). I appreciate the effort my hosts put into their meals and love it a lot when someone cooks for me!
—Barbara Mraz

Having interviewed thousands of people I’m reasonably good at reading body language, eye contact, and voice inflections. What was wonderful for me was not what happened, though that was nice enough, but what didn’t happen. Nobody so much as batted an eyelash when I arrived being different. People approximately in my age range (72), who might  hypothetically have had more conservative reactions to me, didn’t skip a beat. Everyone was wonderfully and reflexively hospitable.
—Jennifer Tianen

We were amazed at the many life stories shared at our Connect Meal and appreciated the opportunity to hear how life can hold so many opportunities for growth and change.
—Ed Stieve and Otto Paier

Conversations that would not otherwise happen took place that will lead to new understanding and relationships.
—Linda Lindeke

We loved the meals we attended. So fun for the kids to all play, and for the parents to hang out with each other!
—Jessica Berry

I was surprised to learn that more than one of the youth knew me from my participation in cross-generational Lenten meetings. They notice and remember. Those times are invaluable.
—Roger Wilson

To have the Rector prepare and serve me food in his home was humbling. It was also a gift to get to know Erin better—that is, beyond how I know her as a spouse and mother.

An added joy was the sound of kids playing in the basement and the occasional appearance of a happily excited child. The parents were calm and amused by the scene.
—Sally Sand

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

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By Ellie Watkins

Every time we meet someone new, we give them information on how we’d like to be seen and addressed. We tell them if we have a nickname that we prefer. We tell them if we are a Dr. or a Miss or a Ms. We might encourage them to be less formal and call us by our first name. We’re revealing to this new acquaintance a part of who we are, and we want them to truly see that part and respect it.

Another part of the introduction process that’s becoming more common is to tell the other person your name and your pronouns. For example, I’d say, “My name is Ellie, and my pronouns are she/her.” Jered Weber-Johnson’s pronouns are he/him; he cooks great eggplant. Margaret Thor’s pronouns are she/her; her leadership is invaluable. Some people identify as they/them. (Grammarians may bristle at using a plural pronoun to refer to a single person, but we already do that with the word “you” and we still understand each other!)

Why is this something that we, as Christians in community, benefit from integrating into our own lives? Sharing pronouns is a way for transgender and gender-nonconforming people to ask: Do you accept me? Do you see me? What can I expect from you going forward? Using their correct pronouns tells them that we want to know their true selves, not something constructed for someone else’s comfort. For people whose gender identity matches the one they grew up with, sharing pronouns is a way to normalize that part of introductions so that everyone feels comfortable doing it. It can also help prevent someone with a name common to men and women (like Jess or Dale) or a less familiar name (like Wei or Elif) from having their gender misidentified.

Beginning on Gathering Sunday, we’ll have stickers available for you to put on your nametag so that people can notice your name and your gender identity.
In this way, we can truly see and welcome each other with God’s love.

If you have any questions, please feel free to speak to Ellie Watkins in the office, or any of the clergy.

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.


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By Richard Gray, Director of Music

When I think about Compline, I think of a peaceful ending to a long day. This service, the final office of the day, is an opportunity for faithful worshippers to gather and reflect.

My first experience with Compline was actually assisting to officiate it. Two years ago, I was the organ scholar at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, learning about the Anglican services. I finished choir rehearsal and then headed to a 9pm service of Compline. Some questions went through my head: “Is this like an Evensong? Is there a bulletin? Wait, was I supposed to prepare organ voluntaries??” I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how calm and beautifully simple this service was. It reminded me of my Catholic upbringing and how we used to “keep watch” throughout the night-long adoration in the chapel.

I am excited to continue our wonderful tradition of offering Compline weekly at St. John’s. A goal of mine is to keep with the practice of faithful participation by the congregation and also explore additional meditative and contemplative components. I look forward to welcoming back the Mirandola and Lumina ensembles from right here in the Twin Cities, as well as introducing a new quartet, The St. John’s Compline Choir, that will lead a few times each semester.

I am eager for Compline to have an even greater presence in, not only the musical life of St. John’s, but the entire faith community.

By Keith Davis

What first drew me to Compline was curiosity. I’ve had a lifelong interest in Gregorian Chant, and I had prayed with the monks at St. John’s College. This new way of worship enthralled me and left me humbled, excited, and scared all at once.

When I first began attending, the Rev. Craig Lemming was leading the services. What a perfect voice! His chanting, and the meditative and contemplative experience, made my week.

I’m an incurable romantic, and being in the Compline service always takes me back to that monastic time. But it also connects me with the spiritual traditions of other communities today.

I see our welcome in the service because any and all are invited. We have a core group of Compline attendees, and not all of them are from St. John’s. Some are members of other churches or live in the neighborhood. People unaffiliated with any church come here to listen. You never know what people are bringing to Compline or wanting or needing. As my grandmother used to say, “Your blues may not be like mine, but they are blue.” We’re all at Sung Compline for a reason, and we all share in the bonding experience. We all let go of what we did or did not do that day.

The word “Compline” comes from Latin meaning “completion” because, as the last of the Daily Offices, it completes the day. Compline means completion, and it is completion.


By Sister Julian Smith-Boyer

I pray all the Daily Offices with my dispersed religious order by way of a customized computer application that joins us across different time zones.  These times of prayer are integral and essential to my everyday life and spiritual growth.

I feel especially blessed to be able to be part of St. John’s weekly Compline service while sitting among people who I can see face-to-face in our choir space— lit with soft lighting and candles and enhanced by some incense (which I enjoy even though I am sensitive to it). I am transported with this “intentional” community of neighbors and fellow parishioners to a time of quiet and a sense of being in the presence of the Divine Mystery

Our voices are led in ever-improving harmony by a small choir who help even those non-singers like me believe I can sing.  On occasion, the service is followed by contemplation-inspiring music.

Given the nature of this service, there is little conversation, but there is a knowing and welcoming exchange of smiles and nodding heads. Throughout and after the service, we look out for one another—for example, by sharing a bulletin, walking to the parking space in the dark together, or by offering a ride home.

Sung Compline is among the offerings by St. John’s that I am most grateful for.  It centers my week and helps to end my Thursdays with a feeling that “all shall be well.” It completes the day, and in some ways I feel it also completes me.

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.


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By Jered Weber-Johnson

Compline has been a regular part of our practice of praying the Daily Office for over five years. While the customary has shifted and changed some each year, the consistency of observing the Daily Office, whether in the morning, at noon, or in the evening, has strengthened our life of Common Prayer in this faith community. Thanks to a generous gift from John Graham to create a Compline Fund, sustained by the support of additional donors, we have been able to offer weekly Compline each Thursday evening during the program year.

Over those years we have also seen different leaders: Keely Morgan, Craig Lemming, Kim Sueoka, and, most recently, Monte Mason. This past year as Richard Gray assumed the responsibilities as our first full-time Director of Music, Monte graciously stayed on as our Compline Coordinator, arranging musicians, scheduling
vergers, and seeing to the important details that a liturgy of this caliber requires. Now that Richard has a year under his belt, these duties are passing to him and a new season of Compline leadership begins. I am immensely grateful to the calm and patient leadership of Monte, his good humor, and wisdom. As the program moves into this new year, I know Richard will inherit a well-tended and thoughtful liturgy.

As the year begins, we look forward to Compline and some of the ways that this service can help us see and notice things in our life of faith, with new eyes.

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

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Children’s Choir & Music Education
by Ellie Watkins

Richard Gray, our Director of Music, and Haley Olson, our new Assistant to the Director of Music, are both feeling excited and energetic about the Children’s Choir programming beginning this fall.

“We want an organized structure for Sunday mornings,” Richard explains. “We want to be clear to children and parents what their options are.”

For those children ages 5 to grade 5 who want to participate in the Children’s Choir, rehearsals will occur every Sunday at 9am in the Music Room. Haley will lead the kids in ear training, music theory, and other building blocks of music education. The children’s music program will use the internationally acclaimed Royal School of Church Music Curriculum, adapted to make sure that the choir rehearsals are accessible for all kids, even those who have never had any musical experience before.  The program will be very developmental, giving kids a strong foundation that they can continue to build upon as they grow. Richard shares a quote that resonates with him: “If we don’t have good children’s choirs, we won’t have strong adult choirs.”

For Richard, it’s important that these young vocalists know they’re being taken seriously, and that they regularly get to be a part of worship, musically and liturgically. In this initial season of Fall 2019, he plans to have the children’s choir sing at several services. But he also stresses that a big point of the children’s music ministry is not the events they prepare for, but the rehearsals themselves. “They are regular meetings that provide education and also let kids build relationships with each other as peers and then as friends. They’re more likely to stick with it longer if they’re doing it together with their friends.”

The Liturgy Commission and the Music Commission are both taking a role in helping with the faith formation of these choristers. “We’ll be talking about things like, ‘Why is my family Episcopalian? What does that mean?’ What is music? What is liturgy? Ultimately by the end of the first year we want them to be able to answer those two questions.”

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

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By Ellie Watkins

Katie Madsen, our new Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministry, is taking on her responsibilities with energy, thoughtfulness, and her sunny and welcoming demeanor that makes you feel valued as soon as you start talking to her.

I got the chance to discuss upcoming programming with her as we sorted through books for the CYF Center (also known as the Gathering Space, newly revamped for an extra focus on children’s ministry). Occasionally she stopped to comment on her favorite books—Old Turtle, The Tale of Three Trees—and in between, she outlined what’s coming up this fall:

Nursery care from birth through age 4

Going forward, Nursery Coordinator Tracy Johnson and her team will be part of Katie’s department. As in previous years, the nursery will be open starting at 8:45am every Sunday. It will close immediately after 10am worship, so parents are encouraged to pick up their kids right away as they head to the gym for coffee hour.

During coffee hour, the gym will have both a “soft space” and an “open play” area so that kids of all ages can relax or run around.

Parents and caregivers of 4-year-olds who will be “aging out” of the nursery into Godly Play during the church year are encouraged to talk to Katie and Tracy about ways to help with the transition.


Children’s Ministry for age 5 through Grade 5

From 9:00-9:45am on Sunday mornings, kids who are not participating in choir can enjoy “open time” in the Gathering Space with comfy seating, books, craft project, and loving adults to supervise.

When 10am worship begins, children attending Godly Play will process together behind the verger, carrying a banner, before heading to their classrooms. They will return to the nave to join their parents before the service ends.

God calls us to see, notice, and welcome our youngest parishioners into our life as a parish. “For a long time, kids were not seen in worship,” Katie observes. “It’s so important to make sure that kids feel like they’re part of the community. When they are seen and heard, they retain their engagement  with their faith.”

“We at St. John’s pride ourselves on being welcoming, but sometimes we are so focused on newcomers that we forget it also means being welcoming to those who are already here—listening to what they want and need, and welcoming in a new way. Changing the Godly Play rooms, for instance, is a new way to welcome those who are already here.”


Youth Ministry for Grade 6 through Grade 12

Katie has already been helping out with the Youth Group for two years. “They love being together, and love spending time together. They’ve created relationships with each other that have lasted through international travel and many other trials, and come out the other side.”

“I remember being a teenager,” she says, recalling how meaningful it was for her to share in youth ministry with other kids her age. “There was something that bonded us more than math and science, and it was rare and special.”

Now, she’s excited to work with St. John’s youth and listen to them as they reimagine the youth program together and create something that will be very meaningful and formative for these teens. On Wednesday evenings, the gym will be open beginning at 5:30pm for open gym time; then they’ll have dinner at 6:30pm, and discussions and programming at 7pm.

Katie is looking forward to working with the youth. As they grow, “they become really cool adults and it’s fantastic to get to walk with them.”

Originally published in the September/October 2019 Evangelist.

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