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

On May 5, St. John’s celebrated New Member Sunday and welcomed new families into our faith community. Read on to get to know some of them a little better and say hello next time you see them!

Courtney Veszi & Oszkar

I grew up in Alton, IL in an American Baptist church. After a long stint away from the church, moving abroad, and then moving back again, I settled in Saint Paul for a fresh start. My 4 year old son Oszkar and I moved here at the behest of my oldest friend Erin Weber-Johnson and I’ve been overjoyed to find a community of welcoming people that challenge me and my faith.

What I enjoy most about St. John’s is the intelligent way that faith is viewed. I look forward to investigating and deepening my relationship with God and the people here. The things that give me the most joy are, hands down, my son and creating meaningful art that inspires and touches those around me.

Originally published in the July/August 2019 Evangelist.

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By Beth Bowman and the Rev. Craig Lemming

Stories are incredibly powerful. They connect us to each other. They surprise us, delight us, and move us.

We all have stories to share. When we share our own real-life experiences with others we come together in new and authentic ways.

In our shared life of faith at St. John’s, when we listen to the sacred stories of Holy Scripture, when we liturgically and ritually remember the story of God’s radical love for us in Holy Eucharist, and when our own sacred, personal stories of deep joy or harrowing struggle are shared and heard, our spiritual identity unfolds and deepens with authenticity and grace that is palpable, genuine, and inspiring. We recognize profound spiritual truths which connect us to one another and our spiritual ancestors through faith stories that knit us together as beloved children of God who are made in God’s image.

We plan to curate, share, and preserve the faith stories of our St. John’s community by partnering with American Public Radio’s StoryCorps platform. StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit project of recorded audio interviews. Their mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.  It is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind. StoryCorps interviews usually take place between two people who know and care about each other. A copy of each interview is archived at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear, and we would like to make the recorded faith stories of St. John’s available on our website as well. In support of St. John’s strategic goals and priorities, we hope to engage, curate, share, and preserve the faith stories of our members.

In recent StoryCorps surveys, 81% of listeners were reminded of their shared humanity; 80% helped see the value in everyone’s life story and experience; and 71% became interested in thinking about how society could be improved. By participating in this project, we will each have the opportunity to have an extraordinary impact on the lives of one another and the lives of all the people we welcome into our community of faith.

Please join us on this storytelling adventure! Contact Beth Bowman (bethbowman@mac.com) or the Rev. Craig Lemming (craig.lemming@ stjohnsstpaul.org) to find out more information about serving as an interviewer or sharing your faith story.


Originally published in the July/August 2019 Evangelist.



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We are people made of body, mind, and spirit, and it is important to intentionally care for each of these aspects of our whole selves when we’ve been traumatized or hurt by the events around us. News of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton and the ongoing struggles of immigrants and asylum seekers has left many of us numb, horrified, and grieving — and longing for something to do or a place to turn next.

Here are three resources offered as pastoral care to your whole self: a reading for your mind, a rally for your body, and prayers for your spirit.



The Reverend Daniel Romero, a pastor in the United Church of Christ and the minister for Faith Formation at First Congregational Church of Minnesota, was our guest preacher at our annual Summer Picnic with Holy Apostles on August 4th at Lake Phalen Park Pavilion. Daniel is deeply engaged in the work of community organizing and activism for immigrant rights and immigration justice in Minnesota. He is an outspoken advocate for immigrants, refugees, and those seeking asylum in our country, and has become a powerful leader in the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM) and the Minnesota UCC Immigration team.

Click here to read the full sermon from the Rev. Romero.



Minnesota Capitol: Honor Them with Action
A Rally Against Gun Violence and Hate on Wednesday, August 7 from 7-8:30pm at the Minnesota State Capitol South Steps
Stand up against gun violence and hate at this rally co-sponsored by Protect Minnesota and MN Moms Demand Action. We will honor recent victims with calls to action, demanding meaningful gun reform by Congress and our state legislature. Minnesota Gov. Walz, gun violence prevention champions from the legislature and Minnesota’s congressional delegation, student activists, and leaders from law enforcement, immigrant and faith communities will be among the featured speakers calling for immediate passage of stronger gun laws. This rally is co-hosted by the ISAIAH coalition, one of St. John’s Faith in Action partnerships. WEAR ORANGE!

To view the full details of this rally, click here.


Daily Morning Prayer is held each weekday at St. John’s from 8-8:30am in the Chapel. The readings and prayers invite us to steep ourselves in the themes of the Christian faith and listen for the voice of God speaking to us.

We offer this prayer for our troubled spirits:
Loving God, you are the author and sustainer of our lives. You know the anguish of the sorrowful; you are attentive to the prayers of the brokenhearted. Hear your people who cry out to you in their need; strengthen their hope in your lasting goodness.We pray for those who have died because of vile acts of terrorism. Draw them to yourself; let your face shine upon them. May they be greeted with choirs of angels and experience your eternal peace and joy.Be near to all those who have been touched by terrorism: those who have been hurt, lost their loved ones or lost their sense of security. Be for them a steady comfort and safe resting place.Soften the hearts and steady of the minds of those who would do violence to others. May hate be replaced with love, violence with peace, and darkness with your light. Amen.


Source unknown-possibly The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet- Los Angeles Province


If you have pastoral care needs or prayer requests, you can always reach out to the church staff or clergy, including Craig Lemming or Terry Dinovo.

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A Profile of the Rev. Cynthia Bronson Sweigert

by the Rev. Barbara Mraz

In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to
cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new castles.

—Maria Popova, entrepreneur

By the Rev. Barbara Mraz

She has connected many dots and built many coalitions in her 39-year ministry.

The resume, in part: A priest ordained in 1975, only a year after the first ordinations of women; rector of a congregation in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh for 17 years during an explosive time for that Diocese; dialogue and conference planning work with the National Conference of Christians and Jews; transitional priest associate for eight months at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Minneapolis; former staff person at the Minnesota Council of Churches and current organizer of the Taking Heart “Iftar” dinners joining Muslims and Christians (which have grown to 1500 people and 26 mosques during her five-year-leadership); a deep love for animals that permeates her life.

A native of Stillwater and graduate of the U of M and General Seminary in New York, on Sundays now Cynthia occasionally does supply work, or is with us at St. John’s and has been since March of 2017. When he is able to do so, her husband of 24 years, Dan, joins her. She also serves on the Liturgy and Adult Formation commissions.

During the week, she travels from her home in South Minneapolis to New Richmond, Wisconsin, home of SoulSpace, an animal sanctuary. Here she feeds the animals and hangs out with characters such as Wally the Pig (“the official face of SoulSpace”). More about Wally in a minute…

The Heart of a Vocation

Early on, Cynthia realized that interfaith work was at the heart of her ministry. Even as a student in Minnesota, she remembers being horrified at the anti-Jewishness in ways the New Testament was interpreted, as if all Pharisees were evil, the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus, and Christianity somehow replaced Judaism. Even worse was her realization of the way Christian anti-semitism has treated Jews throughout history.

She set about educating herself at synagogues and later mosques, finding wonderful people wherever she went and noting that “all people feel deeply about their faith.” She remembers that “for several years in Pittsburgh, groups of Russian Jewish emigres met at our parish hall to learn more about their Judaism than they’d been able to learn in their home country.”

Cynthia explains, “I think that the Trinity, as a Community of Persons, is a foundation for interfaith relationships. Likewise, I initially assumed that my passion for animal rights was “something else” added to other interests in my life. But for me that love is a completely natural outgrowth of a kind of love that pays more attention to God’s creation – and hopefully, will play a part in reconciliation with that Creation, as well as its restoration.”

A delightful surprise in her work with Muslims from many different countries has been seeing so many women whom she describes as “gutsy, smart, funny and well-educated,” unlike some traditional stereotypes.

However, Cynthia confesses that she could never leave Christianity. “Jesus,” she says, “is my way of seeing God. He’s my prism.”


One Smart Pig

It started with a basset hound named Mady and a cat named Calvin that found their way into Cynthia’s life and heart. Mady lived to be 16 and Calvin 11. Later Sebastian the Cat took up residence. Before each pet died, there was a hospice vet who came to the rectory and Cynthia led a liturgy. Eventually, Cynthia found her way to SoulSpace where many new relationships awaited. Now she volunteers there as often as she can, after first picking up lettuce and “expired” vegetables at Vincent De Paul Warehouse in Cedar/Riverside. She uses it to help feed the five large pigs, two potbelly pigs, two turkeys, a donkey, a goat, three sheep, and an assortment of chickens and ducks who live here. They have found their way to the sanctuary of Soul Space after being abandoned or lost. The hashtag for Soul Space is #compassionchangeseverything.

Cynthia says that her eating habits had been changing gradually over the years and now she is a vegan, eating no meat, fish, dairy or eggs, and wearing no leather, wool or down. “Becoming vegan reflects my abhorrence of factory farming and animal cruelty of all kinds, including animal testing,” she explains.

What’s the magic of SoulSpace?

“Here I see a glimpse of a recreated order, an almost Biblical vision. It’s kind of like getting back to the Garden, and how things should be. When I look into the eyes of these animals, there is really something in there. I once approached a resident sheep on Iona and he locked me with a look.

One dramatic story involves Wally the Pig who, within a few miles of the slaughterhouse, broke out of the truck, jumped down to the highway, and made a break for it. A motorist saw the escape artist at work and called an animal protection group who brought the pig to sanctuary at SoulSpace. Wally recently celebrated his second “jumpaversary.”

All of Cynthia’s endeavors – the interfaith activities, her work as a priest in the church, and the deep love of animals – are vocational, marked by a call received and answered with deep commitment and respect for all beings, great and small, and a desire to help them know and appreciate each other.

And Wally’s jumperversary? There was cake. Vegan cake.


Originally published in the July/August 2019 Evangelist.

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“Local Talent” is a silk wall hanging created by Sarah Stengle. The format is inspired by the Korean Pojagi tradition, which is pieced, geometric, and intentionally irregular. The text on the hanging describes the positive qualities of those within the congregation, as participants talked about themselves or each other anonymously.

“Local Talent” is currently in the Gathering Space (lower level) and will hang there during the season of Pentecost. Come see it and experience all the words, ideas, and stories that this community contributed to the project.

Originally published in the July/August Evangelist.


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St. John’s parishioner Jamie Bents, artist and owner of j.teabee ceramics, has begun creating shells for the church to use in the sacrament of baptism. Jamie is a potter
(in the early morning and night) and an environmental consultant (by day), while parenting Louis and Charlie with her partner Mike. Her story of learning to use a pottery wheel began in studio classes at night; she eventually set up a pottery studio in the family’s Mac-Groveland garage, complete with an old silver and blue kiln affectionately named “The R2 Unit.”

Jamie developed the baptismal shells for St. John’s to reflect the feel, color, and depth of seashells. She used a porcelain-stoneware clay body that fires into delicate but durable ceramic as smooth and light as beach sand. A small ridged handle feels like a shell fragment picked up on the seashore. They incorporate an ombré glaze for sheer, softly layered color like the inside of a shell. She is honored to create this body of work for St. John’s, and sends blessings to our baptismal candidates.

Originally published in the July/August 2019 Evangelist.

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By Cammie Beattie


Ten years ago, this church made a commitment.

Led by Barbara Mraz and Jennifer Kinkead via Give Us Wings, it was our response to a call from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church: to work towards the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Those ambitious international goals—related to poverty, education, health, and environmental sustainability—initially seemed beyond our reach. And yet, even when making a difference seemed impossible, we resolved to do just “one good thing.” We made a commitment to help the people of Kayoro, Uganda build a clinic.

So much has happened in the decade that followed. St. John’s Kayoro Health Center II (SJKHCII, as it is known in Uganda) was built in 2011 and a maternity wing was added in 2017. It is now part of a health care compound with a water pump, solar panels, baby warmer, autoclaves, freezer, refrigerator and many other improvements.








Photos depict the evolution of the compound from one building in 2011 (below left) to constructing new wings in 2017 (below right) to a level-3 health center(above).







A staff quarters was recently completed, largely supported by funds from St John’s. It can house 3 staff, with modern toilets, a shower and a small kitchen. It allows the clinic to be open 24/7—one of several measures needed to bring the clinic to the level of a Health Center III, which results in more benefits from the Uganda government and greater service to area residents.

Plans are in place to expand the inpatient ward as medical needs are increasingly being met, including a larger maternity ward and an operating room. The clinic is partnering with Health Partners to develop a health care insurance program. And Simba Oil Ltd, located across the road from the clinic, has offered to extend electricity from their plant without cost, because SJKHCII provides “very vital services to the community”!

SJKHCII has increased the number of people that it serves each year. It regularly offers training on immunizations, reproductive health, pre-natal and infant care, and other issues. Overall, more than 18,000 people received care from SJKHCII in 2018!

Clearly, doing “one good thing” has led to more than we could have ever imagined. It was the spark to develop a full-on health care compound that has attracted many other funding sources beyond St. John’s. Every day, more people are living healthier lives with dignity and hope. Through God’s grace and St. John’s generosity, One Good Thing has led to MANY GREAT THINGS in Kayoro Village, and this story has even more chapters to come.

Is God calling you to participate in this ministry? There are many ways to respond!

  • Join the St. John’s Kayoro Clinic Committee. (Contact Sue MacIntosh at suemac94@me.com)
  • Help make Days for Girls reusable menstrual kits so that young women don’t have to miss school each month. (Contact Patty Byrne Pfalz at pbp2053@gmail.com)
  • Help make Mama Kits of medical supplies for pregnant women who live too far from the clinic and will likely deliver at home. (Contact Cammie Beattie at cbeattie96@gmail.com)
  • Visit Kayoro! A trip may happen in February/March 2020, and there may be scholarship funds to help with travel costs. (Contact Therese Anderson at director@giveuswings.org or Sue MacIntosh at suemac94@me.com)

Originally published in the July/August 2019 Evangelist.

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