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

by the Rev. Julie Luna, Curate

I’ve been pondering our journey together this past year as I’ve served at St. John’s both as a Transitional Deacon and as Curate, and how so many of my experiences have been ones of building Beloved Community.

The Episcopal Church, with the guidance of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, uses the promises found in our Baptismal Covenant as a guide to building Beloved Community.


Baptismal Promise: We will persevere in resisting evil, and when we fall into sin, we will repent and return to the Lord.

 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43)

Each week I witnessed and participated in the St. John’s community coming together to proclaim our faith by listening to Scripture, confessing our sins, receiving forgiveness, and sharing a Holy Communion meal to remind us that we are part of the body of Christ.

Food is a really important part of my life and that of my family’s life.  I was pleased that St. John’s offered so many opportunities to eat together and to eat really good food together at the New Member lunch, the Chili Cook Off, the Christmas gathering, and the Sabbath dinner meals.  My favorite food gathering was the sabbatical ice cream social in the parking lot with the farmer’s market!  Gathering for a meal is an act of reconciliation as we leave our grudges at the door and enter into the sharing of food in Christ’s name.  It is a time to reconnect and re-learn why we love and our community and in that act we forgive one another and we again become the one body of Christ.  We practiced this each week as we shared the Holy Communion meal, and St. John’s shared with me the art of extending that Sunday meal to other times in the year when we could be a reconciling and loving community through sharing a good meal.


Baptismal Promise: We will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.  (Matthew 26:12-13)

St. John’s is a living example of the good news, modeling by example the Good News of God in Christ.  Each Wednesday morning, I arrived at the church and headed to my office in the Gathering Space.  Twice a month, I was pleased to be welcomed by the prayer shawl knitting group.  One morning I had the honor of blessing a prayer shawl that our pastoral care team would take to a person in need of the prayers lovingly knitted into each stitch of the beautiful creation.  I liked to imagine that when a person draped themselves with the carefully crafted and blessed shawl they were experiencing the same feeling of love and compassion that Christ did when the woman anointed his head with oil.  That each shawl was like oil flowing with the love and prayers of our St. John’s community.


Baptismal Promise: We will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

I arrived at church each Sunday about 7:00 am to set the altar for the 8:00 service, make sure the readings and prayers were in the binder, and check on last minute details.   Each week, I was not alone.  There were others there with me to serve Christ in all the people of our community, and to love them as Christ.  Two consistent souls came early to make coffee—a much-appreciated gift for clergy and lay leaders as they began their day.  The altar guild faithfully appeared to clean up the 8:00 service and set up for the 10:00 service.  Many of these important tasks may go unnoticed and yet they are acts of love and service to our neighbor.


Baptismal Promise: We will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

…learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

In the warmer months when I arrived at church Sunday mornings, the farmers were already setting up the Farmer’s Market.  I was excited when I saw them and couldn’t wait to see what seasonal fruits, vegetables, and flowers with which they would surprise me.  I often wandered out there between our Sunday services and bought fruits and vegetables for my weekly menu (the one I made up based on what I bought!).

I also had the opportunity to visit Hallie Q. Brown and learn about its programs.  My family and I spent an evening with several Project Home families.  My favorite memories are that of three little girls combing and styling my daughter’s long hair, and my son running and playing with other children while they played ball with our family dog.

St. John’s is filled with compassionate people supporting one another, and the broader with its many local and international ministries.  Each of these ministries helps build justice and peace and respect the dignity of all God’s people.

I am grateful for the love I have received from the St. John’s community and the ways in which we have engaged in and fostered Beloved Community.  And now, it is time for me to take what I have learned and spread my wings in a new faith community and learn to live into Beloved Community with new people and new challenges.  I take you with me and know that the love I’ve received from St. John’s will always reside in my heart and guide me in the ways of Beloved Community.  Peace and Love to All of You.

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The men and women of the Bible held the Sabbath so dear that they made it the Fourth Commandmentplacing it above the injunction against murder…

Judith Shulevitz, The Sabbath World


By the Rev. Barbara Mraz

When our rector and his family return from their sabbatical, we will hear all about it: the experiences, the adventures, the insights. They will also hear about what happened at St. John’s in their absence.

Here are some preliminary responses, preceded by a personal reflection on the challenging, persistent command to observe the Sabbath, even after summer ends.

Sabbatical and Sabbath

Both demand a break from the ordinary, the routine, the unnoticed, business as usual. The Scriptural mandate that the seventh day of the week “belongs to God,” has been replaced today by seeing Sunday as the last day of the weekend, perhaps interchangeable with Saturday. In fact, for many it often looks identical to Saturday, with the same tasks calling and the same schedule in place.

As Judith Shulevitz writes, “God stopped creating after six days to show us that what we create becomes meaningful only once we stop creating it and start remembering why it was worth creating in the first place.  …We could let the world wind us up and set us to working like dolls that go until they fall over because they have no way of stopping.  But that would make us less than human.  We have to remember to stop, because we have to stop to remember.”

I admit I have been sloppy about Sundays. While I almost always go to church, from noon on can be catch-up time: laundry, grocery shopping, yard work, house stuff. My grandsons have soccer practice and games virtually seven days a week some times. Weekly “family dinners” must be scheduled weeks ahead.

How, then, to “keep the Sabbath”? Remember, Sabbath can be observed whether you live alone or with a family or any other group that gathers on a regular basis and on any day of the week.

The major idea is to start small, remembering that the larger culture will rarely support you in your efforts. Overall, Americans are no longer a Sabbath people.

Sabbath and Community

The writer quoted above says this about the collective aspect of the Sabbath: “The Sabbath can easily be reconfigured as a twelve-step program for forging community spirit.”

I think that has happened this summer. We are socializing more often, hearing more diverse ideas from the pulpit, and have had the Sunday pressure and intensity reduced. This, in spite of the fact that during eight days at the end of July, we had three funerals!

More opportunities to give your thoughts and reactions will be coming soon.

Reflections on the Summer So Far

“I have loved the women power in the pulpit and at the altar! I hope it continues!”

“I like having the altar closer and distribution of Communion standing up and the chance for new service music.”

“We have dined and coffeed informally more this summer — not with sabbatical intentions— but with church people whom we have gotten to know. Perhaps the encouragement of the Sabbath dinners has helped this, or maybe just because we have felt closer to people.”

“The sermons from non-clergy provided us with insight that we may view as outside of the norm; I enjoy them during Holy week and again now.”

“The Sabbatical dinners are a blast! We all seem to let our guard down and really talk about ourselves and REALLY listen to each other.”

“I like Susan’s calm demeanor during the services.”

“I never knew how many supply clergy we had at SJE; we are really blessed! “

“As an 8 o’clock regular, I heard from people preaching who I never met; it caused me to listen harder, reflect on why they should impact me. The new made me work harder; more discussions at home, as well. The biggest point for me – I realize how lazy I’ve become, going by rote. Now it’s more like: Wait? What was said? What was referenced? I don’t remember that Eucharistic prayer at 8. Who is this? Why is ‘Hallelujah’ being sung before that sermon? I’ve woken up these last two Sundays, to go back and read 2 Samuel again and beyond. Is it odd that I feel ‘bring it on’ is in order? I am looking forward to seriously attending adult formation in the fall. I’ve never committed to that before.”

“It has been good to think about Jered and his family getting this time away together. Being the center of a church must be exhausting physically and emotionally and I imagine that this time will rejuvenate their family. When there are glitches on Sundays, it makes me smile and realize that everyone at SJE is pitching in to make the sabbatical work. The glitches have not been a negative but a positive.”

“I have really enjoyed the visiting preachers and the whole sermon series. New perspectives and new topics to consider.”

“Highlights for me have been the sermon series and dinners.”

“I’m not sure if it’s summer or the sabbatical but I feel less attached to the church and that there’s a little less of Jesus or God orientation in my life. It’s more guided by the fun activities of summer. I miss the structure. The ‘breaking bread and sharing stories’ dinners [that] were part of the sabbatical, these were positive.”

“Sunday attendance has seemed really good! I liked knowing who was coming up as a preacher and reading a little about them in the service sheet.”

“I have seen God through the smiles and positive feedback from folks who hosted and attended the dinners and ice cream social. I think our parish has needed the encouragement to JUST BE WITH each other. So many folks express the desire to get to know others but don’t always know how to go about it. This was a way in for people.”



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by the Rev. Susan Moss

Back in mid-May, the Sabbatical Season of Renewal was about to begin for our rector Jered, his family, the staff, and congregation. We were all preparing to head out into unknown territory. (Wagons Ho!) I asked, in a homily, one of my favorite questions: “What’s in the room?

As I write today, we are heading into the final month of the Sabbatical Season.

In the midst of another glorious, always too short summer, there have been new faces at the altar and new voices in the pulpit, a pilgrimage, two weddings and an ordination. We gathered as a community of faith to mourn the deaths and support the families of Dick Lyman, Jeanne Gilbertson, and Cooper Olson.

An ice cream social, sabbatical dinners, a rousing Thursday Book group, young adult and young family gatherings and the picnic with Holy Apostles are deepening relationships among us. We will bid farewell and thanks to Monte Mason as Interim Music Director though he will continue as Compline Coordinator.

What’s “in the room?” these days?

In September a mix of familiar and new faces will literally be in the room on Sundays. Margaret Thor is back in the deacon’s post. Associate Rector Craig Lemming will join Julie, Barbara, and me at the altar and in the pulpit. Music Director Richard Gray will be on the organist bench, and with the choir’s return, we will resume the use of the high altar.

As we prepare now to welcome and celebrate Jered and his family’s return, I urge you to take time to reflect on these Sabbatical months.  One of the ways to do this is by practicing The Examen. For centuries prayerful people have found direction by setting aside time to ask two questions: For what am I most grateful? For what am I least grateful? One of the aims of the St. John’s Sabbatical is to increase connection with one another. So you might also ask:  When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, to others, to God and the universe? When did I have the least sense of belonging?*  Your reflections can lead to insights and direction on what to maintain and what to leave behind when the Sabbatical Season ends.

Father Greg Boyle is founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles: one of the world’s largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and reentry programs. Boyle’s call to practice “kinship across lines of difference” inspired and gave shape to the founding of  ECMN’s chapter of The Episcopal Service Corps, now beginning it’s third year. Craig Lemming, founding Program Director, named ECMN’s service corps Circle of the Beloved, reflecting MLK, Jr.’s  vision of a society based on justice, love, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human being.

Boyle’s new book Barking to the Choir: Power of Radical Kinship was on my summer reading list. His stories of kinship with gang members have bearing on those who seek to increase deeper human connections that matter.

It is true enough, Boyle writes, that we could make the world more just, equal, and peaceful, but something holds us back, in all our complicated fear and human hesitation. It’s sometimes just plain hard to locate the will to be in kinship—even though, at the same time, it’s our deepest longing. So no matter how singularly focused we may be on our worthy goals of peace, justice, and equality, they actually can’t happen without an undergirding sense that we belong to each other. Seek first the kinship of God, then watch what happens.

In gratitude for the kinship you have shared with me,
Susan Moss
Sabbatical Priest in Charge


*Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life. Denis, Sheila, Matthew Linn Paulist Press


Originally published in the September-October 2018 Evangelist.

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By the Rev. Margaret Thor

“Junk, Joy, Jesus.” These three words were the threads that tied us together and grounded us in our pilgrimage. John, our host and guide, introduced these words to us as a means to share our faith with each other. At the close of the day, we reflected on the individual “junk” we felt, the “joy” we experienced, and how we saw Jesus.

If you have been with teenagers for any length of time, you can imagine some of the “junk” voiced during the trip. Words such as “long” and “tired” were prevalent during the first couple of days. After a while, the comments became humorous. Following one hike, a pilgrim confessed that she was the one who stepped in the cow patty – yuck! However, as time went on, the phrase “no junk today” won out followed with excited descriptions of “joy.”

And there was a lot of “joy” to be shared. A long hike in mountain capped by a trip up to a waterfall. Clearly the pilgrims were awed by the power of the waterfall and the beauty of the countryside in Ireland. The hike along the rocky edge of the water by the lighthouse was another highlight. We stopped and built a “cairn”, a pile of rocks, with each rock representing something we wanted to give up that was bothering us. We then gathered around the “cairn” and offered our prayers to God. There was “joy” in exploring a ruin of an abbey that was accessed through the window – none of the adults could climb up to or fit through the window which made it that much more exciting.  We took a fishing boat out to the Saltee Island and visited a bird sanctuary. Although almost all of the pilgrims were hesitant about this particular experience, I think it may have been viewed as one of the highlights of the trips. At one point we all sat on the rocks overlooking the sea observing a large flock of gannets. These large birds were noisy but peaceful (if you can imagine that) as they lived their lives playing with each other, flying in and out, and caring for their young. (And did I mention puffins? Seeing the puffins in the wild was one of my joys.)

Reflecting on the Jesus moments started out hard for some yet as our time together progressed, it became easier to express. Many of the Jesus moments tied directly to the “joys” and other times to what was observed. Watching a youth help a hiker, a stranger to us, navigate through the slippery rocks on the island was one example. Seeing the pilgrims assist each other down a difficult set of rocks; reaching up and grabbing a foot to place it on the next rock down. My Jesus moment? It was simply being with the pilgrims as they became a “squad” of friends tied together with this experience of the pilgrimage. We proclaim that Jesus is love and that is what I experienced on our pilgrimage.


Originally published in the September-October 2018 Evangelist.

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As our program year begins, here are some thoughts on invitation and evangelism from Lea Anne Schmidt, Coordinator of Growth and Member Integration. 

My best friend, Amy, once invited me to go on a blind date, and that (much later) turned into an invitation to marriage from my husband, Patrick. My oldest child graduated from high school this year, so I invited over a hundred people to my house. We are all invited in many different ways: to meals, to mingle, or to mourn. Invitation makes us into who we are.

In an age of email and Facebook, inviting someone to an event can seem easier than ever. Why, then, do we seem to hesitate so much more before inviting folks to church? Why don’t we share a great church experience on Facebook like we may share a great dinner, concert, or party?

When we recite our Baptismal Covenant, we are asked, “Will you proclaim the good news of God in Christ in word and deed?” and we answer, “I will with God’s help.” In the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, John and two of his disciples see Jesus walking along the road and ask him, “where are you staying?” Jesus responds, “Come and see.” Jesus offers an invitation.

This week I have been asking myself: Where is Jesus inviting me to “Come and see?” And who does He want me to invite to come along with me? When and how do we do the work of Jesus by offering invitations to others? When and how do we evangelize on His behalf, the Episcopal way?

The Episcopal Church guides us through its recently published Charter on Evangelism.  It states, in part, that “Through the spiritual practice of evangelism, we seek, name and celebrate Jesus’ loving presence in the stories of all people—then invite everyone to MORE.”  The Charter describes three components of evangelism: of the church, by the church, and for the church.

Evangelism of the church points to us. Before we can share Jesus’s love with others, we need to dwell in it through reading scripture, worship and prayer, both privately and corporately. We need to tend to our spirit and allow ourselves to be loved by God.

Evangelism by the church is what we do to share Jesus’ love with others. In our service for others and in our moments of need, we want to be open to naming what it is that sustains us. By talking openly about our faith, we become disciples of Jesus.

The third part is Evangelism for the church.  New members are crucial for the vitality of a congregation. Their questions, energy, curiosity, and love for the church keep us attuned to our community and our mission.  The more diverse we are, in a myriad of ways, the more closely we reflect the Body of Christ.

Do you need to invite people to Sunday services? No, but that is an important part of who we are as a church, and is a gift we are called to share—however much it is a step out of our comfort zone.

During these last weeks of our church sabbatical, I invite you to engage in some private and public evangelism.  First make space for God and take time to pray, study scripture, and attend worship. Then ask the question, when or how did your faith carry you through difficult times? How has St. John’s helped you to answer Jesus’s invitation to “Come and see”? And after feeding your own spirit and acknowledging your blessings, ask yourself who you know that needs an invitation to “come and see” and invite them to church.


Originally published in the September-October 2018 Evangelist.

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By Director Kathy Hopkins

This summer marked the completion of our fifth year at St. John’s. We continue to marvel at our luck on finding such a welcoming community. We often hear how wonderful it is to walk into the building and hear lively and happy children’s voices.

It was a busy year. We regularly had visits from storytellers, science presentations, Minnesota Valley Nature Center trunks, and Como Zoo. We toured the Minneapolis Art Institute and Dodge Apple Orchard, and attended Minnesota Orchestra Kinder Konzert and theater productions at the Children’s Theater and Imagination Theater.

The highlight of the year was our Art Show. We transformed the gym into a gallery that showcased the children’s work, and more than 300 family members and friends attended. It was a great way to celebrate the children and their accomplishments.

Crocus Hill continues to maintain our excellent ratings. We have a 4 Star Rating (the highest) from the State of Minnesota and we are nationally accredited from NaEYC, the preschool professional organization. We work hard to maintain our high standards. One of the main reasons we are such an effective preschool is because of our teachers. They sincerely enjoy their work with children and the atmosphere here.

We’re recharging our batteries this summer and will soon come back ready to welcome a new group of shining faces at St. John’s. Thank you for your continued support.


Originally published in the July-August 2018 Evangelist.


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By the Rev. Julie Luna

Sabbatical time is a chance for activities that we don’t normally make time for—such as meeting new people, sharing a meal, or gathering to talk about a current issue or concern.

The small groups that are formed through St. John’s are a great way to embrace this summer’s theme of “Companions in Transformation.” Each small group is different, but they commit to meeting regularly for fellowship, getting to know one another, and practicing our Christian faith through hospitality.

In our New Testament stories, we learn that Christ is present when two or three break bread, share stories, and gather in Christ’s name. The early church gathered in small groups in people’s homes to worship together. This is radical hospitality at its best: when we pull others into our journey and are transformed along the way.

In May, ten energetic young adults met at Sweeney’s for food and drink and to talk about forming a small group. They quickly jumped in with ideas for bowling, ice skating, movie nights, dinners out, and book discussions.  The enthusiasm was palpable and I witnessed it beyond that evening, when I saw young adults after the next Sunday service pulling in others to tell them about the upcoming gatherings.  The young adult group is planting the seeds of sabbatical rest that will bear the fruit of new friendships, and companionship with others along our journeys with Christ.

Small groups at St. John’s are a fabulous way to engage in sabbatical time all year long; to step out of our lives briefly to share hospitality with others. In addition to the new young adult group, there are plans underway for a young families group, a women’s group, and an LGBTQ group. The Young Families Small Group will have their first meeting after 10am worship on Sunday, August 19; all parents with small children (birth-elementary age) are welcome.

If you are interested or have any questions about small groups, please contact me at julie.luna@stjohnsstpaul.org.

Originally published in the July-August 2018 Evangelist.


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