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On New Member Sunday, St. John’s welcomed 10 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!


Denis and Lynette O’Pray

Lyn and Denis are “coming home,” as they began attending St. John’s about 53 years ago, and their three sons were baptized here.

Denis started his life as a professor of American Studies. While worshiping and teaching at St. John’s (Lyn was Treasurer) he got the bug to become ordained in the Episcopal Church. Since then, they have lived in the Twin Cities, then in California for 27 years, then back to Minnesota ten years ago to lead the Church of the Nativity in Burnsville. They now have a “family compound” in Minneapolis where they and two of their sons have homes within the same block.

Denis and Lyn are active participants in the arts including the SPCO, Minnesota Orchestra, and the Guthrie.  Lyn also does glass work, reads a lot, and loves her kids and grandkids. Denis has a shop where he is building Shaker furniture that he hopes to enter in the State Fair.


John and Melissa Mulloy 

John and Melissa found the Episcopal church a bit later in life, after being brought up in Lutheran and Catholic traditions.  They first came at the invitation of Elaine and Tom Eyre and were drawn to the beauty of the church, the “formal” liturgy, and the music.

John works for Thrivent and Melissa is a business litigator at Larson King LLP, in downtown St. Paul. When they are not working, they enjoy football, running, kayaking and cooking. They have season tickets for Minnesota Gopher football, and are also enthusiastic Packer backers. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.


 

Edwin Schenk and Jennie Walker

Edwin and Jennie joined St. John’s after seeking out a faith community near their home. They wanted a congregation that could speak to their evangelical background, with Jesus-centered worship, but also with a sense of broad horizons.

Jennie is a librarian at the Debra S. Fish Early Childhood Resource Library in Little Canada, and Edwin owns Abstract Pigeon, a web development company.

They have been together for three years, and are raising two daughters. They enjoy cooking together, hosting friends, reading, going on walks, traveling, and working together on a blog. This summer they’re looking forward to keeping up the blogging, while fishing, getting out into the cities, finding the best restaurant patios, and doing some home remodeling.


Lesley Pandian

Lesley comes to St. John’s most recently from Dallas. He has a worldly perspective; his parents are from India and he was raised in Moscow.

He is a programmer at Thomson Reuters in their financial risk sector. He loves his work. Growing up, Lesley enjoyed playing video games, but while playing would imagine how he could make it better. He ended up getting his masters, where his work was to create virtual reality for people to train in “real world” environments.

Lesley is also an accomplished tennis player and thrives on the hard work and challenge that the game offers.


Amanda Gould, Joseph OBrien, and Olivia O’Brien

Amanda and Joseph are new parents who were blessed to welcome Olivia Rose into the world last fall. Amanda’s background in real estate keeps her plenty busy, as does Joseph’s background in structural engineering. They enjoy nature walks, volunteering, and writing children’s books.

They were initially drawn to St. John’s as a place of worship close to home. They’ve enjoyed meeting the church’s friendly members. during subsequent visits, and are excited for Olivia’s baptism.


Jeff, Sherryse, and Eleanor Corrow

While living in Canada, Jeff and Sherryse found an Anglican church, which they loved. When they moved back to Minnesota they began looking to find a church home here that would continue along the same path. A colleague of Sherryse’s recommended they try St. John’s. Jeff was happily surprised to see Richard Brynteson, a former professor of Jeff’s, attends here as well.

Jeff is an Operations and IT Manager for a non-profit and Sherryse is a professor of Child Psychology and Neuroscience at Bethel University. Five-year-old Eleanor enjoys sword fighting, riding her bike, and walking her new puppy named Jefferson.

Sherryse and Jeff are eager to get to know others at St. John’s.


Patty Voje

About a year ago, Patty moved to a brownstone across the street from the church. She spent last summer listening to the church bells at St. John’s, and finally made her first visit on Christmas Eve.

The mother of two 20-something daughters, Patty was raised as a Catholic but left the church after a divorce.  For many years she didn’t attend any church. She missed being part of a religious community but didn’t think that there was a place for her in organized religion. She appreciates many things about St. John’s; the warm welcome she’s received, our programs, and our music.  She feels that she has found a church home again.

Patty is the president of Spot Communications. She is also an accomplished oil painter who exhibits locally and nationally.


Richard and Paula Day

Richard and Paula have been attending St John’s since November of 2017.  They picked St John’s after checking out other churches.  They are here because of the music, liturgy, and outreach.

They are relative newlyweds, having been married for just about a year and a half now.  Richard was living in Madison and Paula in Eden Prairie when they met via the internet.  They clicked and picked a middle-ground location in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul to settle together in.

Richard is a widower and has a married daughter with two teenage children.  Paula has two sons from her previous marriage. Richard is retired from medicine, an internist; Paula still works as a media buyer and planner.

Richard knows several languages and Paula several more. Richard plays the organ (they have one in their house!) and enjoys musical performances, while Paula enjoys reading, music, politics, and travel (and her work).


Megan August-Hau and Andrew Kampa

Megan & Andrew are planning to marry in February, 2019. After graduating from Cretin DH, Andrew went to UW-Stout, but decided to move back to St. Paul and found his calling attending Dunwoody College for HVACR Systems Servicing. He is now an HVACR Service Technician.

Megan grew up in St. Paul and spent her early years at St. John’s, leaving to continue her education at U of MN – Morris. She then returned to St. Paul, completing her degree in Social Science at Metro State University. Megan is now a Logistics Program Manager.

Megan and Andrew enjoy spending time outdoors, camping, and relaxing at the lake . When asked if they have a “favorite” part of the liturgy, Andrew mentioned the Homily; Megan enjoys the passing of the Peace.

 


Mike, Jamie, Louie, and Charlie Bents

Mike and Jamie Bents have a very busy household.  Besides two energetic boys— six-year-old Louie and two-year-old Charlie, they both have careers and lots of hobbies.

Mike is a software engineer with Target, having received his MS from St. Thomas. Jamie is a transportation planner, working in Environmental Studies out of Chicago, and is able to work from home.

When not working or tending their boys, you will find Jamie in her potter’s studio or with her plants and gardens.  She is also very involved in social action campaigns. Mike likes hockey (playing and watching) and is interested in baseball stats.

Their quest for finding a mutual church home has been an interesting one, as their backgrounds are very different.  Jamie comes from a Reformed Jewish background in Iowa, while Mike was raised as a WELS Lutheran.  While living in Chicago, they gravitated to the Methodist Church, but began looking at the Episcopal Church.  After moving to this part of St. Paul, they found St. John’s and feel as though they have found a real fit.

 

 

Originally published in the May-June and July-August 2018 Evangelists.

 

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.

 

The Sailor

By the Rev. Barbara Mraz

Fort Snelling National Cemetery is beautiful and haunting, as is the story I am about to tell you. It is a story about a sailor and his St. John’s family who endured more pain than most of us can imagine. It is also about the angel that whispered in my ear at his funeral.

 

Ceremony

A sunny Friday in late May and all is lush and green at Fort Snelling. The white canopy for the brief service is in place when we arrive. Everything here is on a tight schedule since there are an average of 23 funerals a day.

The visual landscape is relentless and sobering: row after row of white markers, each one with its own story of loss. We are here to add another.

Today Christopher Plummer will be formally laid to rest, a beloved son, brother, husband and father, a child of this parish who had spent the last 30 years of his life in a wheeled bed in the sunroom of his parents’ home a block from the church, completely disabled from what happened to him in the US. Navy aboard the USS St. Louis in 1988. The Navy denied what happened for years.

There is white everywhere today, a marked contrast to the dark questions that hang in the air, questions about the reality of God’s love and the randomness of suffering. The box holding the cremains sits between two bouquets of summer flowers: white lilies and snapdragons. Christopher’s sister Elizabeth, herself in a wheelchair, holds a bouquet of white hydrangeas. Standing in place are a Navy Ensign and a Petty Officer, their uniforms sparkling. They wear white gloves and hats and are resplendent figures as they assist with the burial of a fallen brother.

It begins as a soldier plays “Taps” and I wonder how many thousands of times have these notes echoed across this hallowed landscape? How many silent tears have been discreetly wiped away, like my own that day?

The beautiful burial service is read out of the Prayer Book. It doesn’t disappoint today, with words poetic and hopeful.

The two Navy men salute and then painstakingly unfold a flag, snap it in place, and hold it for an instant unfurled in front of the cremains, then fold it again. It takes a long time and is almost painful in its well-rehearsed perfection. They present the tri-folded flag to Chris’s widow Mitsuko “on behalf of a grateful country.” She is standing next to their tall, handsome sons, George and Robert, both in medical school on their way to becoming doctors.

And then it is over. People from St. John’s mix with Plummer cousins and other relatives. As for me, I haven’t stopped crying since I drove into this place and continue as I drive away and think again of the Plummers and their endurance, and of the miles and miles of white markers—225,000 of them in this place where there are over five thousand funerals every year.

Christopher Plummer (left) and Bill Plummer.

The USS St. Louis

We can learn part of Christopher’s story from the history of St John’s entitled For All the Saints, written by James Frazier:

Christopher Plummer was injured in the run-up to the first Persian Gulf War. He was serving on the USS St. Louis in 1988 when it was caught in the flight path of Iraqi planes attacking Iranian targets. Exactly what happened to the crewmen on deck remained for some years a matter of contentious debate. The CIA knew the identities of those on the deck but long refused to acknowledge that their injuries were indeed the result of the Iraqi attacks. Chris himself was never sure what caused his injury but all signs now point to the likelihood that the men were sprayed with sarin gas, a chemical of mass destruction that causes permanent and rehabilitating neurological damage. The Veterans Administrations required evidence that Chris’s injuries were caused in the Persian Gulf in 1988 but eventually acknowledged the serious of his deteriorating condition awarding him back pay and financial support for his family.”

The account continues: “As if Christopher‘s tragedy was not enough for the Plummers, in 1994 – six years later – his only sibling, Elizabeth Plummer, suffered traumatic head injuries in a car accident on Summit Avenue and required a great deal of physical and occupational therapy.” She was hit by a car while she was attempting to cross the street.

Elizabeth, previously a biologist, subsequently became an amateur photographer and had her work displayed outside the Fireside Room at St. John’s. She continues to struggle with the results of her injuries and now resides at Serenity Homes in White Bear Lake. She is the only one of the family still living. Her mother Sona died in 2014 after a long illness, and her father Bill died suddenly in 2017. The large family home across Portland Avenue from St. John’s, at the end of the block, has recently been rehabbed and is up for sale.

 

And so….

Once I asked Bill Plummer, the father of Christopher and Elizabeth, how he kept going, fighting the government year after hear to get recompense for his son, and then helping to care for Elizabeth and Christopher and also his wife Sona who had a long illness before she died. He told me that getting the V.A. to finally provide financial support for Chris and his family was immensely satisfying.

He also told me this: “I only live in the past.” I was never quite sure what he meant by that but I know that he received comfort from his house full of collections and antiques, from memories of his children in their prime, and in helping them every way that he could. Sona was the same, fiercely committed to her children. She always carried a picture of Christopher in his Navy uniform and was proud to show it to people.

The church was important to Bill and Sona. Then-rector Dick Lampert was with the family after the tragedies occurred; they called him “a godsend.” While Bill and Sona came to church regularly, the Armenian church was also important to Sona. An Armenian priest preached at her funeral.

Then there are the cousins! An extended family has surrounded the Plummers and continues to care for Elizabeth. Members of St John’s also call on her. Occasionally she makes it to church, with help.

I miss Bill Plummer, his steadiness, his intelligence and wit, his amazing knowledge of history from the Greeks to the city of St. Paul. For me, this story is heartbreaking, but also reassuring, that in the worse of times and also in the best, endurance is real, persistence can be rewarded, and caring and faithful people are what make the love of God tangible.

 

“Be confident in your goodness”

Sometimes we lack the confidence to act, the self-assurance that we have what it takes to make a difference. So I was taken by the words I heard at the funeral service: “Be confident in your goodness.” The phrase struck me because I think it is often lack of confidence that holds us back from acts of compassion and even words of kindness. It does me.

When I called the Rev. Susan Moss, who presided at the funeral, and told her I couldn’t find those words in the Burial Liturgy (although I had written them down in my notebook), she said, “That’s because they’re not there, and I know I didn’t say them either. An angel must have whispered them in your ear.”

“Be confident in your goodness.” That confidence can change a lot.

Reference: For All the Saints by James E Frazier, Afton Press, 2014, p. 231.

 

Originally published in the July-August 2018 Evangelist. 

Summer Rhythms

It feels like summer is flying by, but if you’re still searching for balance, there is plenty of time left to pause and find it. This article originally published in the July-August 2018 Evangelist offers some ways to help. 

By Jean Hansen

Striking a balance between being super busy and doing nothing over the summer can be very difficult for families. When summer hits, we often struggle with finding a rhythm. I wish to find that sweet spot of doing some fun things and having time to do nothing. By the end of the school year, my kids and I are completely exhausted!

Below are some suggestions for finding a rhythm: I will be trying some of these too:

 

Create “Blank Space”

As you look at your summer calendar, make sure there are days on the calendar where there is nothing planned. There should be “blank space” on those days. In our busy world, it’s important to have days where kids and parents don’t have something to do.  These days allow us to be spontaneous and creative.

 

Searching for Sabbath

Are there ways that we can intentionally choose to pause, to savor beauty, appreciate goodness, and celebrate and enjoy what God has created?

Pastor Ken Shigemastu writes in God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God, “The golden rule for the Sabbath is cease from what is necessary to embrace what gives life.” This summer, I will try to capture minutes and occasionally hours to embrace what brings my family life. Will you join me?

“Then God surveyed everything He had made, savoring its beauty and appreciating its goodness. Evening gave way to morning. …God blessed day seven and made it special—an open time for pause and restoration, a sacred zone of Sabbath-keeping, because God rested from all the work He had done in creation that day.” -Genesis 1:31-2:3, The Voice

 

Observe a Sabbath

Whether the day falls on Sunday or another day of the week, we need to have one day when nothing gets accomplished. Sabbath reminds us that our relationship with God is not about what we can do for God, but that we are God’s children and can rest in our relationship with him.

If you do something on your Sabbath, stick to activities that are life-giving and that remind or point you towards your relationship with God. I like how Eugene Peterson talks about the Sabbath pattern he and his wife created for most of their life in pastoral ministry. Every Monday they would take off and hike for most of the entire morning in silence, then gather to eat lunch together and reflect upon what they had seen. Your family can create your own Sabbath rituals—including time to play and time to pray.

Getting Started

To get your family started with a rhythm for sabbath, here are some guidelines:

  • Don’t stress out.
  • There is no rule about how often to practice Sabbath. Do it when you can. No beating yourself up about not doing it more often!
  • Everyone in the household should find a way to participate if possible.
  • Sabbath practices really do work best when all devices are turned off (adults too.)
  • Begin by asking each other, “what brings you life and joy?”
  • No murmurings of discontent.
  • End your Sabbath practice with a prayer of thanksgiving.

 

The world’s greatest superpower is under the contrail of a fragile and insecure narcissist known for objectifying women, bragging about his wealth, and turning every personal slight into a full-blown national crisis. His ineptitude would be comical were if not for the xenophobic advisors who hood court in his administration, threatening the lives of religious and ethnic minorities with unjust laws.

Gotcha.

The reference here is actually to King Xerxes of Persia, identified in the book of Esther as “Ahasuerus.” Eventually the king gets outsmarted by a Jewish orphan named Esther and a group of shrewd resisters. (1)

Sometimes the parallels in the Bible to present day events is startling. Such is the case this coming Sunday with the lesson from the Hebrew Scriptures about David and Bathsheba.

David was “a man after God’s own heart” but was by no means perfect. The story of the rape (and it was a rape) of Bathsheba is perhaps his most egregious failing:

David did what was right in the sight of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. (I Kings 15:5)

Uriah was Bathsheba’s husband.

Is David just another failed political leader who disappointed those who followed him? Why doesn’t God deal more harshly with David? Does the repression of women in “Biblical times” taint its message for women today? And – have to do it—what are the parallels to the present and its implications of what we must demand of our leaders? And, more importantly, of ourselves?

Lust, a rape, a murder, a cover-up, and one man who speaks the truth and changes everything.

See you in church.

Barbara

(1) Rachel Held Evans,” The Bible is literature for the resistance,” Washington Post. July 12, 2018

This is Pride Week in the Twin Cities, when we have a particular chance to honor our GLBTQ+ family, friends, and parishioners, and to celebrate God’s ever-expanding love for all that God has created. Members of St. John’s will be marching in the Pride Parade with other Episcopal congregations (click here for details). The cathedral is also hosting several Pride events this weekend.

Another way we honor the diversity of all people at Saint John the Evangelist — all year long — is by being a safe space for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (GLBTQ) people.

A welcoming space is a wonderful and hospitable thing! We welcome visitors and long time parishioners alike each time we gather. Being a safe space goes a few steps beyond being a welcoming space.

As a safe space, we strive to create a faith community where everyone’s story is respected as their own, held in confidence, and not shared without their permission. We speak from our own experience, and ask others what they need in order to feel comfortable in our faith community. We listen. At the same time, we recognize that everyone is human, and may make judgmental or prejudiced statements. We do not shame or shun one another; rather we seek inclusive conversation. Consider the ways you tell your story, and the ways you encourage others to share their own stories. Our attitude towards one another makes us a safe space.

Saint John’s embracing of safe space is not new. In 2012, we had many conversations as a parish about the impact changing our marriage policy to include homosexual and other non-gender conforming couples would have on us as a parish. Along with taking a position opposing the marriage amendment to the state constitution, making our marriage policy inclusive was a public sign of our becoming a safe space for GLBTQ people.

Jesus taught love of God and love of neighbor as the most important commandments. When we create a safe environment for everyone, we honor his teaching.

 

Originally published on the St. John’s website.

 

 

The deepest crisis of any society are moments of change when the stories we live by today become inadequate for the present situation.”

Thomas Berry
American monk, historian

Stories have been a major theme at St. John’s for some time, especially the stories about ourselves that we tell each other and the stories of Scripture that we hear each Sunday.

The thing is, the “truthiness” of stories changes (thank you for the term, Stephen Colbert). I know that some of the stories that I used to tell about myself aren’t as true as they once were because I have finally learned some new ways to understand my life. Old stories such as: Me as the kid whose parents never told her they loved her; Me as the kid in high school who never fit in; Me as the sad but valiant survivor of divorce.

My stories now are more like this: Me not fitting in during high school but who wanted to be with those people anyway; Me modeling resilience for my daughters; Me as “successful” by the standards I now value; Me, grateful for the changes that almost destroyed me.

And now you don’t even have to eat with me!

Some of the stories in Scripture are not as pristine as we may have thought once. Next Sunday’s lesson from Samuel is an example. The story is about the selection of David as the new king of Israel and it begins with a lie.

Saul was losing it as a king and God sent Samuel out to find the new king – with a cow. He did this so when the nervous elders asked him what he was doing in Bethlehem he would say, “Oh nothing, just going to church to make a sacrifice — see the cow?”

No report on what happened to the cow, but Samuel found David, the greatest of Israel’s kings.

Each Sunday the preacher of the day has a mighty challenge because of what people want at church. Some want comfort, peace and direction –they are unhappy if the stories are interpreted too much in light of present events, especially political ones. Others are unhappy if the stories are NOT interpreted in light of the present day because the outrage and despair they feel about the state of the country and sometimes their own lives cannot be instantly forgotten as they walk through the red doors. They want immediate relevance.

Jesus didn’t have much time for the separation of church and state. In fact, he was forever reinterpreting the stories of his Jewish tradition. He enlarged the meaning, he changed it; sometimes he even said it was just wrong. He roared against the injustice and selfish arrogance of the Roman oppressors.

Stories are living, breathing entities that change as we learn more about ourselves and about God.

Mine sure did.

See you in church.

There will be stories.

Barbara