Grace United Methodist Church Burnsville Worship
Grace United Methodist Church
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
To serve and unite those we touch with the Grace of God

Pastor's Post

Grace Notes, Octobber 2017
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”*

I know there’s never really a time of year when nothing happens. We all have various activities that fill our days. But when the morning walks start having a crispness to them and the sun starts setting around dinner time, I’m brought back to my middle school and high school days of cheerleading and gymnastics practices, football games, and wrestling matches. I love the fall and all the activities and excitement that it brings. This fall (and throughout the year) as I continue to get to know you, I would love to know what activities you’re doing - especially our children & youth.

If you’re in hockey, chorus, football, theatre, swimming, debate, band, dance, science olympiad, basketball, or any other activity - please let me know! And more than that…send me your schedule or slide it under my office door. I can’t guarantee that it’ll happen, but I would love in this season of “getting to know you,” to make it to at least one activity of each child/youth in our midst at Grace UMC, to cheer you on and support you in your passion.

Grace & Peace, Pastor Jen
 *Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
 
Grace Notes, September 2017
One of my favorite pictures from elementary school was taken with my first grade study buddy. I was a fifth grader at the time and even though I was four years older than her, you’d never know it by the picture. She and I were the same height (she may have even been a hair or two taller), we wore similar Disney Princess shirts and both had our hair in high ponytails. I don’t remember all the details of everything we worked on throughout the year…most likely reading, writing and arithmetic…but I do remember seeing her in the grocery store, or out at the park and feeling a thrill of excitement as this ‘little’ girl recognized me out in the community as someone she knew and could ‘look up’ to.

While we may not have study buddies in the church, we still have an incredible opportunity to cultivate relationships with each other as we live, worship, care and share together. On Sunday August 20th, our son, Paul, was baptized. He has been claimed by God with an open invitation to live into that identity throughout his entire life. You all have made promises to him and to each other — to support, encourage, challenge and nourish each other in your walks of faith. This fall, we’ll once again be starting up Sunday School, Choir and Wednesday night programming after Coming Together Sunday on September 10th. Where will you be plugging in to grow in your faith and engage in mission and ministry this fall?

If none of our current or upcoming groups, studies, classes or activities appeal to you, or don’t work with your schedule — let Pastor Jen know! We’ll work together and see what we can get started so every member is engaged and growing in their faith!

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
 
Grace Notes, August 2017
Members of Grace,
 
When I was ten years old, I helped my dad pour a concrete driveway for the first time. He even let me do all the edging by myself that day. Knowing that I helped make a piece of a family’s home, that my handiwork would last for years and years, and that my dad trusted me enough to do the work, made me immensely proud. So proud in fact, that it’s my favorite ‘little known fact’ to share with folks. Most people wouldn’t guess that I’ve poured concrete, hung drywall and shingled roofs more times than I can count. I love working with my hands and creating or re-creating something. Soon you’ll see a new creation that I’m working on now, a green stole, that some of the children took part in helping to create during a children’s time. It may take me a while to complete a creation, but the process of using my hands and seeing a new thing come into being, fills me with joy.
 
As I continue to get to know Grace UMC and each of its members, I look forward to discovering what brings you joy. Do any of our passions overlap? Or are they completely different? 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that even though we all have our own gifts/talents/passions, we are all a part of the one body of Christ. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.”  We’re unique individuals that together make up a beautifully diverse body.
 
And what’s even more beautiful, is when we use our gifts/talents/passions to work together, helping one another do the work of the body of Christ in the world. 
 
Throughout August, you’ll find some half sheets of paper with a variety of skills, hobbies and passions listed. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to share with us what your passions are. Check off everything you like to do from spoken word, to computer games, to plumbing, to childcare. And if you love to do something that isn’t listed, write it in! Let’s see how diverse the body of Christ is at Grace UMC!
 
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen

Grace Notes, July 2017
Hello Grace UMC,

I’m writing this before officially starting as your new pastor so I’m sure you, like I, have many questions? Who is this new family? What are their norms and expectations? Will they like me? Will I like them?  While time and space don’t allow for me to tell you my whole life story, here are a few highlights to help you get to know a little about me and my family.
 
I was born and raised in Yankton, SD where my parents and in-laws still live. They’re thrilled that we’re closer to home and we expect they’ll be up to visit frequently. My husband, Blair, and I met in high school and both attended the University of Jamestown in ND. I was a Religion/Philosophy major and served as a student-pastor for two rural churches during my senior year of college.
 
In 2008, Blair and I moved to Durham, NC so I could attend Duke Divinity School. After graduating, Blair and I flipped roles. He started his PhD work at Duke and I started working — first as a gymnastics coach and then as the pastor of Calvary UMC and eventually Union Grove UMC as well. We were blessed with the birth of our daughter, Marie, in February of 2014 and our son, Paul, in April of this year.
 
My journey of faith began as a very young child in the United Methodist Church. For a time, faith and church only meant frilly dresses and cookies between services. When my parents decided to start attending a non-denominational church, I began to understand that there was more to faith than simply showing up on Sunday morning in pretty clothes and enjoying something sweet. We eventually found our way back to the UMC when I was in late elementary school. And while I know that God has been a consistent presence throughout my life, it was when we came back to the UMC that I could clearly see and point to the work God was doing, which has led me to where I am today.
 
I look forward to sharing more and more with you in the weeks, months and years to come as we join our journeys together. Be on the lookout in the next couple weeks for ways that we can connect, not only to learn about one another, but to share the love of God in this place we call home.
 
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
 

 
 
Grace Notes, May 2017
My Dear Friends,
 
I hope that you know the joy and love that fills me as I think of all that we have shared over these past five years.  Your friendship, your caring, your faith and your willingness to try new ministries and to share God’s love in new and different ways have been true blessings.  You have been family for Kathy and I, and the gifts of life and love that you have shared with us have shown us the very heart of God.
 
Recently, I was asked to share some ministry reflections for the upcoming Annual Conference.  I would like to share these thoughts with you.  It seems like just a few years ago that I was ordained, and now I am sharing reflections on 27 years of ministry.  It has been a great ride filled with joy, friendship, challenges and more blessings than any one life deserves. This ministry has taken me from Huehuetenango, Guatemala, to Moscow and from the Vatican to Jerusalem.  I have enjoyed serving a variety of urban and suburban settings, with a wonderful stint as chaplain at a drug treatment center.  I have served with truly gifted and loving colleagues, and have been graciously invited to share life and love with so many of God’s beloved people.  Most especially, God has blessed me to share all of this with my wonderful family, and with the very best friend anyone could ever have, my partner in life and in ministry, my wife Kathy.
 
What a privilege to know God’s call through Jesus Christ in our lives, and to share in his ministry of proclaiming the gift of true and abundant life that is for all of God’s people. I am thankful every day that God entrusts such important work to flawed and gifted people like us.
 
So, what next?  Spending more time with family, especially our grandchildren, and with friends, doing a lot more traveling, and starting a new ministry. “Peace Meals: Extending the Table” is a new ministry of hospitality and table fellowship intentionally seeking to build community and understanding across lines of religious, cultural and ethnic division.  By God’s grace, I am thankful for all that has been, and very excited about all that is yet to be.
 
My beloved friends, Kathy and I will carry so very much in our hearts as we go from Grace UMC.  As most of you are aware, our United Methodist discipline wisely does not allow us to be involved with Grace UMC or its members.  While this is difficult, it is important.  Soon Pastor Jen Anderson will come to be in ministry among you, and she and her family will join their journey with yours.  I know that you will offer them the same gracious hospitality that you have given to us; it is who you are.
 
Our prayers and our love will be with you, and God’s blessings will be with all of us as we step toward the next part of this wonderful journey of faith.

Grace and Peace,   
Pastor Kevin
 
 
 
Grace Notes, May 2017
Dear Friends,
 
It seems like time has flown by so quickly this year. We just gathered for our Coming Together Sunday a couple of weeks ago, and now it is May. I am always thankful for the gifted and caring people who give so much of their time, talent, patience, and love to the ministries of Grace Church.  I especially want to thank those of you who give so graciously for our Christian education and music ministries. As the season winds down for each of these, I want to express my appreciation for the important and, I hope, joyful work that you do on behalf of all of us at Grace.
 
Music is central to the worship and fellowship at Grace. From our youngest God's Kids, our Youth and adult choirs, our musicians, and leaders, thank you for all that you share to carry our worship to God.  Music expresses so wonderfully what our words alone cannot convey. You bring joy, you express our hope, and you lift our prayers to God. Blessings to each of you for all that you give.
 
To all of you who give your time energy, patience, love, wisdom and faith to teach and support our Christian Education ministries, THANK YOU. From showing God's love to the children in our nursery to helping our most senior adults continue to grow in their faith, there may be no more important work that we can offer. Jesus was known first by his followers as "Teacher." Indeed, it was how Mary recognized him Easter morning. To follow in his way of sharing with others to nurture, shape and deepen their faith, understanding and relationship with God is at the very heart of what it means to be a disciple. You who teach at every level, you who organize and make sure lesson plans and materials are ready to go, you who plan, lead, organize and encourage, God's blessings, you have my deepest gratitude.
 
What a joy it is to share in Christ's ministry with all of you.
 
God's blessings,
Pastor Kevin

Grace Notes, April 2017
Dear Friends,

Each year I especially look forward to our celebrations of Holy Week and Easter. The journey of the events of Holy Week and the profound mystery and celebration of the Resurrection on Easter proclaim the very heart of our Christian faith. It is the message of life, full, abundant, and eternal that is ours in Christ; a gift graciously given and in faith received. Through his life and love, his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has shown us the grace of God that is for all people, and he has opened the way to full and joyful life and fellowship with God and with each other. All of this we confess when we proclaim the gospel, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
 
It is, for me, a profound joy to again enter this season of celebration with all of you. I must admit, however, that as the reality of my upcoming retirement begins to dawn, I have experienced moments of sadness about things that must come to an end. But more, I have felt the joy of all that God has shown us and invited us to share over these last years. Even more still, as I have been preparing for the celebration of this holy season, I have felt the hopeful anticipation and joy of all that our God will reveal and invite us to be a part of in the next steps of our journey.
 
From the moment he laid aside the grave cloths and stepped forth from the tomb, Jesus, the very Word of God, set us free to live fully and graciously. Through Jesus, God is continually calling forth new possibilities and ever greater life to embrace and to share. Though we may not know exactly where the journey will now lead, we do know the One who will lead us, and it is in this that we place our trust. A joyous and blessed Easter to each of you, my friends, for Jesus Christ the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!
 
Love and grace, Pastor Kevin
 
Grace Notes, March 2017
Dear Friends,
 
As I write this letter, it is another in the string of beautiful, spring-like days in this most unusual February. If, however, the reports are accurate, it will all soon come to an end, as winter comes crashing back in with a fury. For me, it is a reminder of just how little of the world and life I really control. Now I know that some will see this as a pessimistic view, but it isn’t. Indeed, it is simply a statement of reality; as human beings, we do not control very much. For some, this is a frightening thought, and they spend a great deal of time, effort and resource trying to exert their control over other people and situations, all in an effort to feel a sense of power, control and security. It is an exhausting, frustrating, and ultimately futile approach to life.
 
As people of faith, however, we discover through Jesus Christ, the key to true freedom and fullness of life. True freedom is never found in the use of force of power to control or bend others to our will. True freedom and life are found only through a deepening faith and relationship with the God of Jesus Christ, who is the one source of all life, and who truly does hold and love every single one of us. Through such faith, we are finally able, not only to realize, but to celebrate the fact that we are not and need not be in charge. There is a God of true power, gracious love and infinite wisdom, and it’s not you.
 
While that last statement may seem obvious, think about how much time, energy and heartache most of us have spent trying to control or change things that were simply beyond our ability and power. The good news, my friends, is that in Christ we have been set free to become everything that God has created us to be; beautifully gifted, capable, and profoundly limited human beings. Because in Jesus we know and have seen the gracious power and love of God, we are free to let go of those things that we never really controlled, and to embrace that which God has given to us, the ability and responsibility to make choices about our own lives. While I may not control all of the people and situations that impact my life, I can, through faith in a gracious, powerful, and compassionate God, choose how I will respond to the attitudes and actions of others, and the situations in which I find myself. Through Christ, we discover the freedom to choose life in all of its fullness and wonder, as God has intended.
 
I hope that you will join me both in worship and our Wednesday evening Lenten study, as we explore several biblical characters who, in encountering Jesus, found the freedom to choose life in new and more meaningful ways. Through their deep questions and faithful responses to Christ’s call, their stories can speak into our lives as well, offering, hope, understanding and faith to guide our steps and decisions. I look forward to sharing this season of Lent with all of you.
 
God’s blessings,
Pastor Kevin
 
Grace Notes, February 2017
Dear Friends,
 
Well, it looks like our weather reprieve is officially over, and winter has moved back in. But, it is the beginning of February, and we do live in Minnesota, so even though we have been setting record high temperatures, winter is inevitable.

I know that February can be a time to hunker down, hope the ground hog doesn’t see his shadow, and wait for winter to blow past. But I think right now, our world doesn’t need any more withdrawing. It seems to me that now may be the best time for people of faith to reach out in friendship. Is there someone at church, in your neighborhood or at work who you haven’t seen in a while, or who you haven’t gotten a chance to get to know? What better time to invite them for a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and let them know you care. Why not fix a big pot of chili and invite a neighbor, maybe someone you haven’t had a chance to meet yet, over for dinner and a game of Parcheesi (Do people still play Parcheesi?) Is there a relationship you need to repair?  Someone whose perspective you need to listen to and try to understand, not necessarily agree with?

In the grand scheme of things, with so much finger-pointing, mistrust and anger, I suppose all of this sounds inconsequential. The truth is, taking time to nurture respectful and caring relationships is at the very heart of our faith. In a time of such division, there may be no more important or faithful endeavor. So, shovel out my friends, Christ’s call to “Love your neighbor,” is for just such a time as this.

God’s blessings,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
 
Grace Notes, January 2017
Dear Friends,
 
Well, we have completed another journey around the sun together, and as we approach a New Year, it is always a time of reflection and anticipation. 2016 was in many ways a year of great strife and tension both nationally and globally. As a church, we said good bye to some very dear friends, and we celebrated the gift and hope of new life and new friendships. We worshiped and shared meals together, we laughed and cried and cared for one another. We made thousands of sandwiches for the homeless and reached out through our caring and giving to touch and make a difference in the lives of God’s people. Through our giving and caring, we were named as the volunteer organization of the year by Emma Norton Services. Yes, 2016 was a year of significant ups and downs, and I am thankful to have been able to share all of it with you. Because, through it all, I found great hope, strength and wisdom in my interactions and conversations with many of you.

Looking ahead to 2017, I must admit that I find reason for real concern, especially as I see the level of division among people. Fortunately, my trust is in God whose Spirit always works to bring about greater wholeness and unity. It is my sincere hope that as a church, as followers of Jesus Christ, we will make it our priority to be a part of this work in our community and beyond.

In light of this, there are some specific things that I would like you to consider being a part of in this New Year. First, in preparation for our reaching out more intentionally to our neighbors, and the increasingly diverse community around us, I invite you to be a part of an important Minnesota Conference training that we are hosting at Grace UMC. On Thursday and Friday, January 26th and 27th, from 9:00 a.m.—4:30 p.m., we will host important training in intercultural competency. This training, developed by the Kaleidoscope Institute, will help us gain understanding and skills to better connect with our neighbors and to be the Church of Jesus Christ in our changing neighborhood. For more information on this training, please talk to me or Marj Evans-de-Carpio. Please contact me or the church office by January 18th to register.

Second, I hope that you will consider the opportunity to participate in the upcoming Unidos en Cristo (United in Christ) weekends in February. These three-day weekends are designed to strengthen and renew your Christian faith and help to bring a new and more active awareness of living in God’s grace. There will be a men’s weekend February 16th-19th, and a women’s weekend February 23rd-26th, both at Faith Covenant Church in Burnsville. For more information please see the article entitled “Grace” on page five of this newsletter.

Each of these are important opportunities to prepare ourselves for where God will lead us in friendship and service to our community. A New Year is about to unfold before us. As we begin this new journey around the sun, my friends, let us renew our commitment to open ourselves in trust and hope to God, and to be a part of what it is that God is blessing among us.
 
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, December 2016
Dear Friends,
 
Here we are at the beginning of the season of Advent and the coming of Christmas.  It is always an exciting time of the year, filled with hope and anticipation.  While I know that these feelings are there, what I hear even more strongly this season from many is a sense of anxiety and uncertainty.  People have real concerns about the future for themselves, for our nation, and for our world.  It is, my friends, because of this      anxiety, and even fear, that so many are feeling, that I invite you to enter this season of Advent, this time of preparation, by listening to its messages of hope and promise.  
 
How often do our scriptures say, “Fear not,” or “Do not be afraid”?  These are not a naïve or empty words, but rather a call to remember in whom our hope and trust are truly grounded.  We worship a God who is a very real presence in our lives and in our world.  Indeed, our celebration of Christmas is our acclimation of this truth, Emmanuel, God is with us.  
 
God never calls us to denial or to close our eyes and ears to the truth that is around us.  God does, however, call us to open our eyes and ears to an even more profound truth, that the Spirit of Wisdom, Justice, Peace, and Truth is with us.  Therefore, I call upon all of us to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth by opening our eyes and our ears, our hearts and our minds to see how and where God is being revealed among us.  And then, may our gift to the Christ child be our commitment to be a part of what God, even now, is blessing.    
 
God’s blessings,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, November 2016
Dear Friends,
 
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is his grace and blessing that is alive within each of you that I celebrate. Perhaps it is because Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but I have found myself reflecting a lot on so much that I have to be thankful for. High on my list is each of you, Grace church, and the shared ministry that God invites us to be a part of.
 
As a church, we have been blessed in many ways. I cannot imagine a community of people with whom I would feel more blessed and honored to share this journey of faith than this one that I have been called to serve. We have a beautiful place to gather for worship, study, celebration and fellowship. We are in the midst of a beautiful and ever more diverse community of God’s people, where we have been invited by God to share the Good News of God’s love through Jesus Christ.

In response to all of this, I have two things to ask of you. First, in the midst of our seeking to understand where we believe God is calling us to grow in ministry, I very much want to hear your thoughts, ideas, and longings. Where do you believe that God is moving and calling us as a church, or, perhaps you as an individual to grow and to reach out in new ways? Over the last couple of weeks, I have met with a number of you in Vision for Ministry Sessions. Thank you to those who have participated. I would like very much to hear from more of you. We have a session scheduled on Sunday, November 6th at 8:45 a.m., between worship services. If this does not work for you, give me a call or send me a message. I’d be glad to meet with you individually, or receive your thoughts in writing.

Second, I ask you to prayerfully consider your financial commitment to the ministries of Grace church. God is truly generous in so many ways, and many of you have already responded generously as well with your 2017 pledge in support of our shared ministry. If you have not yet made your pledge, I ask you to take the time now to prayerfully consider, complete and turn in an estimate of giving card. It greatly helps us to plan how to move forward in our ministry.

May God bless you my friends, and may this be a season of joyful thanksgiving for us all.
 
In Christ,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
 
Grace Notes, October 2016
Dear Friends,
Many of you know, and others not yet, that it was nearly two years ago that we as a church adopted four principles to guide our life and ministry together. The words that we felt described these principles are Worship, Live, Care and Share. We spoke of worship as being at the heart of our community and of our life together. Live had to do with all of the things that we do as individuals and as a community to grow in our faith to live as the people God has gifted and created us to be. Care has to do with the ways we care for and respond to the needs and well-being of each other, our neighbors and God's creation. Share is all of the ways that we live out the gospel of Jesus Christ with our neighbors through our words and our actions.

These four words were never meant to be filed away in a report, but to serve as guiding principles for our community and shared ministries. I, therefore, am inviting all of us to enter into a season of prayerful discernment, first of how we have put these into practice within our shared ministry, and then, how are we being called to live these out even more fully. Over the next several weeks, I will be inviting you to participate in a visioning process through discussions, and online or other written input. As God has guided our journey thus far, we want to open ourselves to how and where God is calling us into the next part of our shared journey.

I ask for your prayers and for your commitment to participate. It is only together that we are the church, the body of Christ.

God's blessings,
Kevin,
 
Grace Notes, September 2016
Dear Friends,
 
Each time we baptize a child at Grace, together, each of us vows to surround that child with a community of support so that they may grow in their faith and become a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. There is perhaps no more serious commitment than this that we, as a body, make: to care for and teach our children of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ, and to share what it means to follow in the ways of Jesus.

As your pastor, I ask you to prayerfully consider specifically how you will respond to this commitment. I will be stepping out of the pulpit five Sundays during this Sunday school year to participate in teaching a children’s Sunday school class. This is how important I consider this to be. I need several of you to join me in this commitment.

Because of the wonderful work of others, our Sunday school is well organized and materials are ready each Sunday for teachers to step in and teach the lesson. Our children need to learn the stories, teachings, and meaning of our faith for their lives.

We also need caring volunteers each Sunday to watch over and tend to our youngest children in the nursery. This important ministry should not fall just to our young parents. There are many grandparents, aunts, uncles, and just plain caring adults among us who can give one hour on a Sunday morning every 6-8 weeks to read, play and teach our children about God’s love for them.

My friends, I am not asking you to sell your possessions and go and serve among the people of Bhutan, though Christ might. I am asking you to share a little time, a little patience, and a whole lot of love and joy.  Speak with, call, or email me, Rosalie Alcoser, our Director of Children and Youth Ministries, or Amelia Halsted, our Sunday school Superintendent. Please join me in this; you will make a difference.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, August 2016
Dear Friends,
What a wonderful Vacation Bible School. I think I have enjoyed this year’s program as much as ever. The children, about 35, and volunteers all seemed to have a great time of singing, learning, playing, praying, and walking on water (Honest, we really did!). The kids made sandwiches for Simpson shelter and raised money to buy a new slide for our nursery. I want to thank all of the many volunteers who helped in so many ways to make this year’s VBS a great success. From cutting the grass, preparing meals, generously donating food, money and supplies,
youth helpers, teachers, those who helped to set up and those who helped to clean up, and so many others. You are GREAT and very much APPRECIATED!

I do want to give a special thanks to Anna Kjesbo who put in many hours and a lot of effort before, during and after VBS to recruit volunteers, order and gather supplies, publicize, organize, and strategize so that everything ran smoothly. It was a big job, and Anna did it wonderfully, again. On behalf of all of us, thank you.
 
On another subject, I would like to invite all of you to read and reflect regularly over the next several weeks on Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16. As we prepare, this fall, to begin looking at the next steps in our shared journey as Grace UMC, and how we will reach out to the people of our neighborhood, I would ask you to consider a few questions:
* What is the nature and mission of the Church?
* What does it mean to be the body of Christ?
* What is God’s vision for the Church? For Grace Church?
* What does the community need from Grace Church?
 
Your prayerful reflection on these questions will be an important part of our looking toward our future in ministry together as Grace UMC.
There is still plenty of summer ahead, my friends. Please take time to enjoy it, but stop in from time to time. We do miss you when you’re gone.

Blessings,
Pastor Kevin
 
Grace Notes, July 2016
Dear Friends,
 
Dear Friends,

It has been four years this month that I became the pastor of Grace church, and Kathy and I began our journey here with all of you. They say that time really flies as you get older, and I think that is true. But I also believe that time flies when you love where you are at, what you are doing, and the people you are with. Being here and in ministry with all of you is truly a blessing. I was reminded of that as I listened to the news this morning, I wondered what words I would write about the airport bombing in Turkey, and so many other situations currently in our world. Our prayers, our love, and our support certainly are with our sisters and brothers who are injured and grieving today. But what also came to me, in the face of all of this, was how much your love, friendship, prayers, caring, and faithfulness mean to me and strengthen me to be in ministry with you and in the community. In the midst of such brokenness, hurt and uncertainty, how good it is to be a part of the body of Christ with all of you.

May God bless you,
Pastor Kevin
 
Grace Notes, June 2016
Dear Friends,
 
June has arrived, school is winding down, the flowers are in bloom, the sun is shining, the mosquitos are biti… well, you get the idea.  Summer’s here and it is time to relax, kick off your shoes, enjoy creation, and lose yourself in a good story.  Personally, I like to get caught up in a really good      mystery or spy novel, something with a lot of intrigue, power-plays, heroes and despicable villains.

If the idea of getting lost in a truly great story of castles and kings, villains and villainesses, mighty deeds and royal court scandal sounds like a good way to spend part of your summer, then you won’t want to miss any Sundays June 12th—July 2nd as we plunge the depths of betrayal and scandal, and soar the heights of faithfulness and trust.  When it comes to intrigue, Game of Thrones has nothing on Jezebel, King Ahab, and the prophet Elijah in the Book of 1 Kings.  It’s a great story, it’s God’s story, and it’s our story.  So come, kick off your shoes if you like, and get lost, or perhaps found, in worship and the ongoing story of our faith.
 
Blessings,
Kevin
 
 
 
Grace Notes, May 2016
Dear Friends,
 
 
I want to share two exciting and important opportunities. We are introducing a new mission outreach through Grace UMC: Young Adult Mission to Haiti and the Dominican Republic - I invite you to join Kathy and me for a Mission Education Encounter in Haiti and the Dominican Republic January 1-8, 2017. Working with the faith-based health organization International Child Care, we will visit and interact with children and staff at Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince, visit and learn about the work and needs of urban and rural community health centers, visit with migrant workers near Santiago, participate in service at Wings of Hope home for children with disabilities, learn about social, cultural and political issues of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and more. 
This experience is open to all adults, but we are especially encouraging participation by young adults ages 17-25. Come learn more at an informational meeting on Sunday, May 15th at 11:15 a.m. at Grace.
Second, it is GAME on! As many of you will recall, GAME is Grace Adult Mission Experience. About 18 months ago we worked in New Orleans rebuilding a house that was destroyed in hurricane Katrina. Well, it’s time to hit the road again. We will hold an organizational meeting for all who are interested on Sunday, June 12th between services, at 8:45 a.m. We will discuss options for where and what work we will be doing, and set a date for this fall.

We have been blessed that we might be a blessing to others. Reaching out through missions is an important part both of how we share God’s grace, and of how we grow in our faith.

Blessings,
Kevin
 
 
 
Grace Notes, April 2016
Dear Friends,
 
I drove to the church today listening to the report of the Hennepin County Attorney on the decision to not charge two police officers in the shooting death of Jamar Clark last November.  My thoughts immediately went to the Book of Jeremiah, where the prophet said on God’s behalf.
 
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”  Jeremiah 29:7
 
I began to pray, and I have not stopped praying for the city and the peace and welfare of its people.  I would ask all of you to join me in this prayer.  Whatever each of us may believe or how we may understand this decision, we live in a deeply divided community, and the racial, economic and political divisions are growing dangerously wide.  Prayer is our first and most important act in opening ourselves to God’s movement, and focusing our thoughts and energy on the difficult work of listening and acting for the peace and wellbeing of all of God’s people.
 
Too many people today seem intent on drawing sharp lines of division between “us and them.” Many seem far more interested in getting their opinions out than listening to the needs and concerns of others.  My sisters and brothers, as followers of Jesus, it must be different among us.  As Jesus continually reached across the barriers that divide God’s people to bring greater understanding and healing, so too must we. 
 
I have asked you first to pray for the peace and welfare of the city and its people.  Second, I ask you to open your eyes, not in anger or fear, but in love so that you might see in the  other your own sister or brother, and in so seeing, the Christ in you might begin to recognize the Christ in them. 
 
Third, I would ask us all to listen before we speak.  Listen, not only with your ears, but with your heart and mind, to truly hear the hurt, anger, fear, frustration, wisdom, experience and love of the other.  If we will commit and encourage one another in this, I know that we will come to a place where we can respond in life-affirming ways that can make a positive difference in our community. 
 
Christ’s Peace,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, March 2016
Dear Friends,
 
March is just beginning and already Easter and its promise of new and abundant life is on the horizon.  Through our Lenten worship, we continue to explore the ways that God, who chose to walk among us in Jesus of Nazareth, is revealed and present in our everyday lives through our senses.  God is as close as our touch or our taste, and continually invites us to experience the fullness of God’s love in the midst of our ordinary and extraordinary daily lives.
 
We know that there is never a time that God is not with us; through our joys and sorrows, our times of health and of hurt, God is there. Our Lenten studies, practices and devotions are not about somehow stirring God to move, but about opening us to a greater awareness of how and where God is already moving in our lives and in our world.

Through these final weeks of Lent, I invite and encourage you to set aside some time each day, even if it can’t be as much as you would like, to pray, especially to listen and reflect on how God seems to be speaking into your life. Read the scriptures. I ask that all of you read especially the Gospel of Luke in preparation for our worship during Holy Week. Finally, I hope that you will join in the full worship experience of Holy Week. Together we will journey down the Mount of Olives as the crowds cheered Jesus on his way into Jerusalem. We will gather around the table of Communion on Holy Thursday to remember Jesus’ last night, the betrayal and his arrest. On Good Friday we will journey to Golgotha and the cross as we remember and contemplate the crucifixion of our Lord. Holy Saturday we will gather to remember that somehow, even on this darkest night, the light of hope still shines. Then we will gather Easter morning in full praise and celebration of the resurrection, and the life that is ours through Jesus Christ.
 
My prayer for each of you is that during this season, God, who is always present, will touch and bless your life in a very special way.
Easter blessings, my friends,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
 
 
Grace Notes, February 2016
Dear Friends,

As Christ’s Church, we have been called to feed the hungry, care for the poor, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, bring the grace of our Lord to more people and to encourage more people to join our fold. A key factor preventing us from:
  • doing more outreach;
  • assisting our children, our teens, our general congregation and our seniors; AND
  • growing our church;
is that too much of our budget goes to paying off our mortgage.

Yes, we had a fire. And yes, we rebuilt the church. I give thanks to those who had the vision and perseverance to rebuild our church. And yes, we refinanced our loan to a more favorable rate. However, we still have nearly $1,000,000 to repay on our loan. A more painful fact, is that it takes one third of our annual budget, about $75,000 per year to pay off this debt. This is $75,000 we could be using to improve the programs we offer our congregation, but more importantly, spend on mission/outreach projects and put towards the Conferences apportionment, which goes to worthy regional, state-wide, US-based projects and worldwide needs. The fact is we as Grace Church are not meeting our apportionments and throughout the year, issues of cash flow hinder our ability to pay our bills on a timely basis.

To continue in this way would mean to continue our mortgage payment for the next 20 years. My friends, our debt is holding us back from growing the ministry God is calling us to build. We need to look in new ways at how we will faithfully and boldly use the gifts and assets we have been given, our land, our building, our talents, to envision and build the future ministry of Grace Church.
This is an important time for all of us as members of Grace UMC. We need a more sustainable approach and thus we need to place all options on the table for prayerful discussion and consideration. Several proposals have come forth, from renting our current space to working with a developer to build and manage senior housing on a portion of our land.
No decisions have been made, but this is the level at which I believe we need to be thinking. Right now, I am asking for your ideas. I know it is a well-worn cliché, but we really do need to “think outside of the box.” Rather than just seeing the problem of our debt, we need to begin to see the assets and possibilities that God has given us in new and creative ways. We need to hear from you!
Together, we will accomplish this. God has far too much for us to do to allow our debt to hold us back. Over the next few weeks, please pray, talk, share, dream, and let God’s Spirit open you, open all of us, to a new vision for Grace UMC.
Let me hear from you. What may at first seem impossible, may by God’s grace, be our way into a bright and wonderful future.
Blessings,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, January 2016
Dear Friends,
 
I hope that all of you have had a wonderful Christmas.  I know that spending time with family and friends, and celebrating worship with so many of you, has made it a joyful season for Kathy and me.  As we have said goodbye to family, cleaned up the house, started putting away the decorations, and begun to get back into the more normal routines of life, I have been reminded that now is when the real work of Christmas begins.  
 
As the Christ child was born into the commonness of everyday life, so it is there that we are called to bear witness to God’s great love through our actions and our words.  Through each of our acts of caring and selfless giving, through words of gracious love, kindness and forgiveness, Christ’s light truly does shine into the world’s darkness.  
 
We stand at the beginning of the gift of a new year.  Together, my friends, may we seek God’s vision for Grace Church, and how we are being invited to live out and to share the love of Christ in ways that will  truly make a difference in our lives, in the ministries of Grace Church, and in the community where we have been called to serve.
 
May this be a blessed and joy-filled New Year for us all!
 
Grace and Peace,  Pastor Kevin 
 
Grace Notes, December 2015
Dear Friends,
 
Perhaps it is a sign of my age, but it seems the time has flown so quickly, and we are already at the start of the Advent season and our preparations to receive the Prince of Peace who comes and dwells among us. As we enter this season, it is a very troubled and fearful time in our world, much as the world into which the Christ child was born. The most recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Mali have rightly heightened our level of vigilance, and that of many nations. At the same time, however, the level of fear among many, sadly intentionally fanned by statements designed for political positioning, has grown to dominate much of our discourse and decision making. As we debate our response as a nation to the mass migration of the millions who have been forced to flee their homes due to the horrors and destruction of war, how do we allow our faith rather than our fear to guide the discussion? In the midst of the debate, it should not escape those of us who are Christian, that Jesus, whose birth we prepare to celebrate, also began life as a refugee, fleeing with his family the terror of those who sought to kill him.

During Advent, I will be preaching on the theme, “I Believe, Even When.” Ours is not a fair-weather faith to which we hold only during the good times. Ours is an enduring faith which sustains us, strengthens us, guides us, and calls us even, and perhaps especially, in the midst of hurt, fear, and uncertainty. Through the Gospel stories, we will hear again how the anticipated good news of the coming of the Christ enabled Mary and Joseph to find the faith and courage to say “Yes” to God’s call despite their fear and uncertainty.  As we journey together through this Advent series, “I Believe, Even When,” we too, like Mary and Joseph of long ago, can receive the Christ into our lives, and know the faith and courage to follow his way whatever life may bring.

I look forward to our journeying together, my friends. 

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, November 2015
Dear Friends,
 
It was one year ago that we, Grace UMC, voted together to move our ministry in a bold new direction.  After more than a year of prayer, study, discussion, and discernment we adopted four goals to guide our life and ministry together. These goals include:
  • Worship: We shall regularly offer praise and thanksgiving to God and will seek to open ourselves to God who, by the Holy Spirit, is present with us.
  • Live: We shall grow in our faith as we live in community with each other and in the world as the people God has created and gifted us to be.
  • Care: We shall care for and be responsive to the needs and wellbeing of each other, our neighbors, and God’s creation.
  • Share: We shall share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our neighbors through our words and our actions.
We moved to a new Board structure as a way to more effectively meet these goals. The intent of all of this is to enable people to grow in faith and engage in meaningful ministry. Through this year we have taken some significant first steps. We have initiated important changes in our education program, we have begun to learn how to better reach our neighbors, and we have grown in our outreach to the community. We are still learning and listening to where God is moving and guiding .
I give thanks for God’s grace and guidance through all of this, and for all of you who have worked hard to lead and implement these changes. I pray that all of us together will continue to seek God’s call and guidance in each of our lives and in our life together as a congregation. I continue to give thanks for the joy and privilege of serving among you. You truly are a blessing.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, October 2015
Dear Friends,
 
It is October, and along with the weather getting cooler and the leaves turning their beautiful fall colors, it is the time that we and many churches talk more about stewardship, especially our financial stewardship and giving. Over the next few weeks we will talk about stewardship and what it means to give a portion of our financial resources for the ministries of Christ’s Church. But I would ask all of us to take some time to really reflect on why we give.

I give as one way of honoring and thanking God. All that I have, all that I am, and all that I can ever be is a gift from God. God has blessed my life in so many ways: family, home, friends, the Church, opportunities to meet, learn from, and serve so many people in so many different places. And at the very heart of all of this, God through Jesus Christ has invited me, and indeed all of us, into a full and eternal relationship of love.
So, yes, I give to say thank you for all of this and so much more. But there is more than thankfulness to why I give. I have come to realize that my giving, not from the leftovers, but from the first of what I receive, helps to shape how I use the rest of what I receive. When the first decision of how I use the financial resources I have been given is my gift to God through the ministries of the church, it centers me in my relationship with God and sets a priority for how I use all of my resources.
We all, I believe, seek to give generously in response to God’s graciousness. What we are able to give will be different for each of us at different times and in different circumstances of life. I think that what matters most is the priority of our giving. God, who gives all, should never be an afterthought of what is left over. When our giving to God is a priority, then our relationship with God will be a priority. And that, my friends, truly makes all the difference in our lives.

Blessings,
Pastor Kevin,
 
 
Grace Notes, September 2015
My Dear Friends,
As a way of organizing our life and work together here at Grace Church, there are four principles that guide our ministry:
Worship: We shall regularly offer praise and thanksgiving to God and will seek to open ourselves to God who, by the Holy Spirit, is present with us.
Sunday, September 13th, we will begin a six-week sermon series, “A Way Out of No Way.” Through some of our most ancient faith stories, we will see how God brought the people forward in times when it seemed there was no way out. And we will see in our own stories the strength God gives us to find a way through.
Live: We shall grow in our faith as we live in community with each other and in the world as the people God has created and gifted us to be.
Among the many opportunities at Grace to grow in your faith, I invite you to be a part of a Covenant Bible Study group that will begin this fall. Covenant is an in-depth group study of the Bible and what it teaches us about living fully in relationship with God, with each other, and with God’s beloved creation.
Care: We shall care for and be responsive to the needs and wellbeing of each other, our neighbors, and God’s creation.
Through a series “Graceful Aging,” we will explore our journey of faith in light of some of the most important, and sometimes perplexing issues and decisions we and those we love may experience as we grow older. We will learn to trust one another and God’s Spirit who calls us into true, faithful, and caring community as we explore together some of the most challenging and controversial issues of our time. Through the lenses of our faith and the Methodist practice of Christian conferencing, we will study and discuss racism and privilege in our society, and then immigration.
Share: We shall share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our neighbors through our words and our actions.
We have begun to learn how to reach out in caring and fellowship to our nearest neighbors and those in need. Two upcoming opportunities include first a Produce Fair on Saturday, October 3rd when we will invite our neighbors who may be in need to receive free fresh produce. Second, on Friday and Saturday, October 9th and 10th we will be updating two rooms at Emma Norton Residence in St. Paul. Each offer opportunities to share Christ’s love through service and fellowship.
As we move into this new season, I invite you to consider at least one commitment that you will make to grow in your faith and response to Christ’s presence in your life this year. It is a journey we make together as members of the body of Christ to be the people, to be the church that God has called and gifted us to be.

Blessings,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, August 2015
Dear Friends,
 
I hope that this letter finds all of you well and enjoying the blessings of a beautiful summer.

We have had a wonderful week of Vacation Bible School, where we’ve learned about and experienced the wonderful power of God’s love. We’ve sung and danced, played games, made crafts, tried neat experiments, ate great meals, prayed together, and just had a really good time! I want to thank everyone who has been a part of helping make this such a good faith experience for our children. It took a lot of care and a lot of work, but it was all worth it. I especially want to thank Anna Kjesbo, our VBS coordinator, for countless hours of organizing, planning, and leading us all. Take at look at pictures in the August 9th’s bulletin to see just how much fun was had by all.
I also want to thank everyone who supported and helped with the recent Simpson Produce Fair. It was a great day, and a lot of families received a lot of good, fresh food. I hope you’ll join in doing it again for our neighbors here at Grace on August 22nd.
Finally, I want to thank those of you who came to help clean up all of the branches blown down by the recent storm. It was a lot of work, and greatly appreciated.
I know that this is only a part of the many ways that you, the people of Grace, have offered your time, talent, and support to the ministries of GUMC recently. Every day you are making a difference for our church and our community in the service of Jesus Christ. It truly is a blessing to share in ministry with you, my friends.
Yours in Christ
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, July 2015
Dear Friends,
 
I know that we continue our prayers for our nation, for the community of Charlotte, South Carolina, for our sisters and brothers of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the families and loved ones of our nine sisters and brothers who were so tragically and senselessly murdered because of the color of their skin. Our hearts have been broken, and I know that I, like many of you, struggle to understand how such hatred and violence can exist among God’s own children.

Last Sunday (June 21st) I preached from the text Mark 4:35-41, I would invite you to read the text. It is the story about Jesus calming the storm as he and his disciples sailed across the Sea of Galilee. The focus of the message was Jesus’ call to get in the boat and go with him to the other side. For Jesus and his disciples this meant leaving their home in Galilee and sailing across to the foreign territory of the Gentiles. It was a journey to reach out to those who were racially, ethnically, culturally, and religiously not like Jesus and his followers. Not surprisingly, a storm raged as they left their comfort zone to reach out to people from whom they had been divided by walls of difference, prejudice, suspicion, and fear.
 
My friends, a storm rages in our nation today, and it showed itself again in the death of these nine beloved children of God. Racism is a reality that we as a nation, and we as the Church of Jesus Christ must confront. We have to choose to either stand on the shore, wringing our hands and hoping that someone will do something about the storm, or get in the boat, placing our trust in the one who calls us to go with him and reach out to the other side.
  • I call upon each of you, my sisters and brothers in Christ, to pray daily that the one who has the power to calm the storm will give us the faith, the courage, and the grace to reach across the barriers of race, culture, and ethnicity to embrace our sisters and brothers as children of the one God.
  • I invite you to sign a letter of love, sympathy, and support that we will send from our congregation to our sisters and brothers of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church. The letter will be available to sign from Sunday, June 28th—Sunday, July 5th.
  • I ask you to participate in a four-part training in September and October on intecultural competency that we will offer to both our Grace congregation and our neighbors to help us learn to better share with one another as a community in ways that invite and allow all voices to be heard.
  • I ask you to join with me this fall in an in-depth faith study and discussion series on race, privilege, and violence in our nation.
I invite you to meet with me on Wednesday, July 15th at 6:30 p.m. to share ideas and begin planning for a new outreach ministry I am calling Peace Meals. We will come together several times throughout the year in small groups with our neighbors of different racial and ethnic backgrounds to share meals, to share fellowship, to learn from one another, and to build trust, friendship, and community, that is, the things that make for peace.

Christ has called us, and the time has come; together, let us get in the boat and in trust, reach to the other side.

 
Blessings,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, June 2015
Dear Friends,
 
Greetings from St. Cloud and the Minnesota Annual Conference. I am here with Marj Evans-de-Carpio, our Conference Lay Delegate, Kathy, who is chair of the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits, and Pangea Carpio-Evans, who is here to participate in the Conference and see the larger workings of the Church. Today, Wednesday, is the opening of the Conference and was a day of worship, celebration of ministries, final approval of those who will be ordained for ministry, and catching up with old friends.
 
A number of exciting ministries of our Annual Conference were lifted up, including the Eli project, a new ministry internship program for college graduates considering full-time ministry, and exciting developments in lay servant and youth ministries. The Minnesota Conference is the largest contributor to the No More Malaria project, giving over $2.8 million, and Minnesota United Methodist Churches packaged over 3 million meals in the past year through Feed My Starving Children. There were reports of several new church and multi-site church starts throughout the conference. And Grace UMC was featured in a report on equipping missional congregations with our Lenten series, “It Seemed Like an Ordinary Day,” through which members of the congregation shared where they had encountered Christ in everyday life.

We will look forward to sharing more about Annual Conference over the next weeks. For now, God’s blessings for an enjoyable, safe summer. Please find some time to truly enjoy God’s beautiful creation. It makes God really happy.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Kevin
 
Grace Notes, May 2015
Dear Friends,
 
I may not say often enough just how thankful I am to be the pastor at Grace United Methodist Church.  Serving among you, God’s people at Grace, is a true blessing.  Even as  you take time to look through this current edition of Grace Notes, I think that you will get a sense of the caring and sharing of the Grace community as, together, we seek to live out our faith with one another and into the broader community where God calls us to serve.

So many of you give generously of your time, talents, and energy.  I want to take a moment,  however, to recognize and thank one particular group for all that they give to truly make a difference in all of our lives.  I want to thank all of you who are a part of our education ministries.  From the nursery to our adult Sunday school, you graciously offer your time, your patience, your wisdom, and your experience to help all of us in this life-long journey of growing in and living out our faith.  To those who take time each and every week to prepare and organize materials, those who organize and administer weekly programs and schedules, those who teach our children, youth, and adults, thank you.  You offer love, encouragement, and new understanding.  It is not always an easy task; I know, I was once one of those second grade boys.  Along with the challenges, I hope that you also find the joy, satisfaction, laughter, and fun of being a part of this important ministry of Grace church.
 
On behalf of the whole community, thank you, and God’s blessings.
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, April 2015
Dear Friends,

Throughout the season of Lent, we have been talking about those times when Jesus shows up in the midst of our most ordinary and extraordinary days. Through Scripture and sharing personal stories, we have seen how even our ordinary days are, in fact, holy days, because God is present. I have heard from several of you about what seemed like ordinary days until Jesus showed up. I would like to share one of those stories with you. It is a letter I received from Verna Borgman telling of how Jesus was present with her and Charles as they journeyed
together through Charles’ cancer and death this past year.
~ It was an ordinary day when we went to the Mayo Clinic to learn the results of the tests performed in connection with Charles’ annual checkup. While waiting for the doctor, we held hands and prayed that God would be with us whatever the results might be.           “Thy will be done”
~ Dr. Gettman had treated Charles for the past ten years and with deep emotion he relayed the news that the cancer had metastasized in three areas.          Jesus wept
~ We were referred to an oncologist who examined Charles and insisted upon he, himself, undressing and redressing him to include putting on his shoes.          Jesus washed the disciples’ feet
~ When the radiologist was going to be away from his practice he gave us a list of telephone numbers where he could be reached. Upon his return he called us at 7:30 a.m. to see how Charles was doing.        Jesus the Great Physician
~ In the months that followed many people were at our door showing their love and caring in so many ways.   
“Behold I stand at the door and knock”
~ Since Charles’ death he has been with me in good days and bad days, when I fail, and when I succeed.
Lo, I am with you always”
Ah, what comfort when we really open our eyes to see Jesus!”
 
As we come to the end of our Lenten journey with the events of Holy Week, and prepare for the celebration of Easter, I would encourage you to share your stories of where you have encountered the risen Christ in the midst of what seemed like an ordinary day. Your story matters!
 
The Good News of Easter is this: God loves you, has always loved you, more than you will ever fully know, and God is with you here, now, and always.

God’s blessings,
Pastor Kevin

 
 
Grace Notes, March 2015
Dear Friends,
 
Grace and peace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
As we journey together through this season of Lent, we are exploring, in worship, encounters with Jesus in the midst of everyday life. Using as inspiration the painting by New Orleans artist Bill Hemmerling, “It Seemed Like an Ordinary Day Until I had Coffee with Jesus at the Café Du Monde,” we are exploring people’s encounters with Jesus both in scripture and in our own congregation. Learning to recognize and share where we have experienced Christ’s presence in our lives is such an important part of our growing in faith.

The gospels tell us that Jesus came proclaiming that the kingdom of God has come near, that God is present.  Indeed, our faith teaches us that in Jesus, God has come among us in a new way, and that in him we have seen and experienced the very presence and nature of God. Jesus does not speak of a God who is aloof and watching events from some distant heaven. Jesus speaks of God who is present and seeking to be revealed in the midst of life; a God who longs for a relationship of love with all people.

If all of this is true, and through my own life and the lives of countless others I am fully convinced that it is.  But if so, then we should expect to see evidence of it. This is what I want to invite you to, especially during these remaining weeks of Lent, to pay attention, to simply notice. Where have you seen or experienced God’s presence recently? How has God been seeking to touch and guide you? How has God been seeking to be revealed in and through your life?
 
We often try to understand where God is in the major events of life, and rightly so. But it seems to me that what we often miss are the seemingly ordinary events, the common stuff of everyday life, where we live most days, and where most of God’s work is being done. I invite you to take some time each day, maybe a couple of times during the day, to sit and quietly reflect on the questions, “Where has God been present and seeking to be revealed today?” “Where have I seen, felt, or somehow experienced God’s presence in my life or the world around me?” Perhaps in the midst of a conversation you have found a sense of clarity or puzzlement that has caused you to take a new or deeper look at a situation. Has there been a thought or feeling that seems to be nudging our calling you to look in a certain direction? Has a situation occurred that has caused you to look at or consider an issue or person in a different, perhaps more open way?

Jesus has shown us that God is indeed present among us. Perhaps our greatest task is to open ourselves to how and where God is present and moving in our own lives and among God’s people so that we might be a part of what God is already doing.

It seemed like an ordinary day, my friends, until Jesus showed up, and we realized it was a holy day, filled with endless possibilities we hadn’t even imagined.

Blessings,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, February 2015
Dear Friends,
It is February, and, despite what the weather reports may say, we have made the turn toward spring. Indeed, the middle of this month will mark the beginning of the season of Lent, and our preparation for the celebration of Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Lent
is a time to reflect on our lives, our faith, our relationship with God, and what might be keeping us from fully committing ourselves to following in the way of Jesus.

I hope that during Lent, you will commit to at least one practice that might help you to reflect more intentionally on your faith journey and where God might be speaking into your life. Perhaps you could participate in our Lenten study, “24 Hours That Changed the World.” If you have not been participating in reading the Bible in a Year, why not start now? The daily schedule of readings is available on our web site, or in hard copy in the Narthex. What about fasting for one meal per day, and using that time to read the Bible, take a walk, and pray?

During Lent, I will be preaching each Sunday on the theme, “It Seemed Like an Ordinary Day Until….” The series and title are based on a painting that hangs in the Café Du Monde in New Orleans entitled “It Seemed Like an Ordinary Day Until I had Coffee With Jesus at The Café Du Monde.” Each week we will look at a person’s story in the gospels that started out as an ordinary day, until they encountered Jesus. Each week someone from our congregation will also share briefly about where they have encountered Jesus in their lives as well. I want to invite each of you to consider, during these next weeks, where you have encountered Jesus. Where is he guiding, calling, touching, healing, challenging you in your life? We may call them “God Moments,” but it is about paying attention, watching, and listening with the full expectation that God is present and acting in our lives and in the world around us.

I hope that you will allow this to be a part of your Lenten devotion - simply paying attention. Seem like just another ordinary day? Open your eyes and get ready, because when Jesus drops by, the ordinary suddenly becomes the extraordinary.

Grace and Peace,
Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, January 2015
Dear Friends,
Greetings, and may the fullness of God’s blessings be upon each of you as we enter this new year. I celebrate where we have come to as a church over this past year, and look forward to all that 2015 can bring. I am excited about moving into our new Administrative Board structure, and pray for God’s guidance as we work with this new way of ordering our life of ministry together. It is important to remember, however, that as much as we have emphasized this restructuring over these last months, the purpose is to enable us to better engage in active ministry and to live into the goals that we as a congregation adopted to guide our ministry.

In May, after much prayer, study, and discussion, we adopted the following goals:
Live - We shall grow in our faith as we live in community with each other and in the world as the people God has created and gifted us to be.
Worship - We shall regularly offer praise and thanksgiving to God and will seek to open ourselves to God who, by the Holy Spirit, is present with us.
Share - We will share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our neighbors through our words and our actions.
Care - We shall care for and be responsive to the needs and wellbeing of each other, our neighbors, and God's creation.
 
As we enter this New Year, may we, through prayer, study, and worship, be open to how and where God is calling and guiding each of us and all of us together as Grace Church. Through study, outreach opportunities, ministry trainings, and small-group and fellowship opportunities, I ask each of you to commit this next year to discover at least one way that God is guiding you to grow in your faith, to nurture and support others within our congregation, to reach out to share God’s love beyond the walls of our church, and to participate regularly in the worship. If we will all faithfully and prayerfully make this commitment, we will see our ministry flourish, and we will truly make a difference in the lives of God’s people in our community and beyond. This is my prayer, and my commitment as your pastor, to do all that I can for its fulfillment.

God’s blessings,
Pastor Kevin
 
 
Grace Notes, December 2014
Dear Friends,
 
The other day my daughter asked me about my Christmas list. I told her I could use a couple of sweaters, having worn out or out grown some of my favorites, and socks, since you can never have too many socks. But the truth is, except to spend some time with family and friends, there really is nothing more that I need this Christmas. What I have been thinking about as we enter this season of Advent and the coming of Christmas, is what gift I can give. How do I even begin to express the joy and thanksgiving that is mine because of the love of God that is so graciously given through Jesus Christ, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate.

It is the age old dilemma, what do you give someone who literally does have everything, and who has given you everything as well. We all know that the most appreciated and most meaningful gifts are never found in a store or online. It may seem like a cliché, but the gifts of ourselves, our time, our talents, our compassion, truly are the things that matter most. After all, isn’t that what God gave at Christmas, the gift of God’s very self in Jesus?

Since, through Jesus, God gave everything to reveal God’s love for all of us, it seems the least I can do is to share the good news of that love with others. I have decided that this Christmas, and on into the New Year, the gift that I will give is my commitment to share the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ with our neighbors. There are 48,000 people who live within 2 ½ miles of Grace Church. I believe that God has called us, Grace UMC, to share the good news with these neighbors. My gift is to heed that call and to seek new, exciting, and caring ways to share God’s love. I hope, my sisters and brothers, that you will join me.

Who is it in your life that needs to know that God loves them? As you prepare to celebrate God’s love revealed in the birth of Jesus, why not invite them to join you for worship, or just make a special effort to reach out and share God’s love with them. It is the greatest gift we can give.

I wish you all a Blessed Advent and a Merry Christmas.
Pastor Kevin
 
 

Grace Notes, November 2014
Dear Friends,
 
It has been a good September. It’s great to have everyone back from summer and to see our education, music, and program ministries up and running. It’s always exciting when the full choir is back, people are involved and the church is full of activity. I see God’s blessings every day at Grace in so many ways.

Sunday school is off to a wonderful start with over forty children registered, an exciting new curriculum, and a generous and committed team of teachers and leaders.  A new Youth Leadership Team has been planning an exciting and meaningful year of youth activities and faith formation. We are introducing a new Confirmation program for our 8th and 9th graders that will focus on their faith development and greater engagement in the life of the church.

Several of our members have touched the lives of many in the broader community by providing leadership and support for Unidos en Cristo encounter weekends.
 
Many of you have joined in our Reading the Bible in a Year and are participating in the various classes and discussions on books of the Bible.
So far this year we have provided over 2,700 sandwiches to Simpson Shelter, funded and hosted a community produce fair at Simpson, hosted a very successful fund raising jazz concert and ice cream event for Emma Norton Services, sent 6 youth and 4 adult chaperones on a mission to inner-city Chicago, and are preparing to send 14 adult in a mission to Salina, Louisiana at the end of this month.
Friends, we have been busy, and this is just a few of the ways that God has been inviting us to be the body of Christ in ministry together. As we journey together into this new season of ministry, consider the ways that God is blessing your life and our life together as a church. God is opening opportunities for us to grow in ministry and to share the good news of God’s grace in Jesus as we reach out in new ways to our neighbors. I invite you to prayerfully consider how you will respond to the blessings and opportunities that God is bringing forth. As a church we are moving in a direction to allow us to be more responsive to where God is calling us in ministry. As we prayerfully work together to develop our ministry plan, I ask each of you to prayerfully consider your personal giving plan. Through your generous response to God’s grace, we truly can make a difference for Christ in our neighborhood.
 
Our giving as a response to what God through Jesus Christ has and is doing in our lives is an important part of our spiritual growth. Each of us are on a spiritual journey growing and learning to live as followers of Jesus, to care for one another as any of us may have need, to share our faith with our neighbors through our words and our actions, and through worship to allow God to fill our lives. God provides abundantly for this journey, and as a part of our witness, God asks us to generously give to share that abundance with others.
Over these next 4 weeks we will share in worship and written information about our shared ministry. I truly believe that God is blessing us as a church and that we have much to celebrate. Please take this time to pray, ask God for guidance, and faithfully and generously give as you are able.

God’s Blessings My Friends,
Pastor Kevin

 
Grace Notes, September 2014
Dear Friends,
Well, we’ve been to the State Fair, which means that summer is officially winding down. I hope it has been a good season for you. As much as I have enjoyed our summer, I must admit that I am looking forward to Coming Together Sunday; everyone coming back from wherever your summer travels have taken you, and the startup of all of our fall ministry programs. It’s always great when the choir is back and classes and other activities are in full swing.

As we move into fall and a new program year, I am especially looking forward to the ways that we will seek to live out our Ministry Goals to Live, Worship, Share, and Care together as the body of Christ. There are a number of growth and ministry opportunities being introduced this fall that I hope you will take advantage of as we seek to live into these goals.

I want to encourage everyone to join in daily Bible reading and our plan to read the whole Bible together in the next year. We will begin on September 1, with the schedule of readings available on our web site, Facebook, and in hard copy at the church. There will be classes and discussions throughout the year to further explore what we are reading.

Faith development for all ages is central to our continued growth. We are introducing a new curriculum and some exciting changes in our children’s Sunday school. With our new curriculum, our children will begin a three year cycle that will take them through the entire Bible. We have teaching teams at each level, and I am looking forward to working with all of our returning and new teachers.

Our youth Faith Development ministries, including Youth Group, Faith Formation, and Confirmation, under the direction of Shannon Livingston-Harris, are helping our youth grow and truly engage in their faith. This is an exciting and growing part of our ministry, and I would encourage you to talk to Shannon about how you can be supportive of and involved in ministry with our amazing youth.

Watch for adult opportunities, including our new Lectio Divina prayer group on Thursday evenings, Where Faith Meets Contemporary Issues discussion group on Sunday mornings, and our adult Sunday morning class covering a range of topics, including an in depth look at the Gospels, their uniqueness and how they came to be.

Consider how you might share your faith with our neighbors in need through our outreach ministries with Emma Norton Services, Simpson Shelter and Center for Servant Ministries, 360 Communities, and Meals on Wheels.
 
Finally, I want to encourage you to participate in our fall Town Hall meeting, Sunday, September 28 between worship services from 8:45-9:45 a.m. There is a lot to share about our transition into our new administrative structure and other matters of our life together as Grace UMC.
 
There is so much to look forward to, my friends, and I am very excited about where God’s Spirit is moving and calling us to fully claim the ministries of Living, Worshiping, Caring, and Sharing faith and life together.
 
Blessings,
Pastor Kevin

Grace Notes, July 2014
Dear Friends,
 
I hope that all of you are finding some time to enjoy God’s beautiful creation this summer. I think that if there would be any sadness for God, it would have to be for us to not take time to notice and enjoy the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. My pastoral advice is that whatever else may be happening in your life, that you allow yourself some time to get out and simply enjoy the beauty that is all around us, spend time with family and friends, and take some time to get to know someone you don’t already know.
 
As I look outside, the sun is shining and I can hear some birds singing. So I’m going to take my own advice and go for a walk. It’s a good life, my friends, enjoy it; God will be pleased.
 
God’s blessings,
Pastor Kevin

Grace Notes, August 2014
Dear Friends,
 
One of the most important ministries of the church is sharing the good news of God’s gracious love and salvation through Jesus Christ with the next generation. That is why I am asking all of you to prayerfully consider being a part of our children’s Sunday School and youth Faith Formation ministries. Sharing our faith and the message of God’s love with the children whom God has placed in our care is a sacred trust that involves the whole faith community.
 
I am very excited about the new Sunday School curriculum, Faith Weaver Now, that we will be using starting this fall.  It is very engaging and takes the children through the whole Bible in a three year cycle. We need teachers, not just parents, but adults of all ages, to use these wonderful materials to share the good news of our faith with our children.  Teachers work together in teams on a rotating basis, so that no one is teaching every Sunday.
 
If you are not able to teach, perhaps you could help to make sure that the materials needed each week are ready for the teachers when they arrive. Maybe you could keep attendance records, provide communication to parents, or provide financial support for curriculum and materials.
 
Helping our children to grow in their understanding of the Christian faith and their experience of God’s love is one of the most important and rewarding things that we as a church can do. On the heels of a very successful Vacation Bible School, I encourage all of us to take that energy and excitement into the new Sunday School year.
 
Please talk to me, Shannon Livingston-Harris, or Rania Johnson about how you can be involved in this most important ministry. Share the Good News with a child and you will make a real difference in their life and in your own.
 
God’s Blessings,
Pastor Kevin
OUR MINISTRY GOALS
LIVE: We shall grow in our faith as we live in community with each other and in the world as the people God has created and gifted us to be.
WORSHIP: We shall regularly offer praise and thanksgiving to God and will seek to open ourselves to God who, by the Holy Spirit, is present with us.
SHARE: We shall share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our neighbors through our words and our actions.
CARE: We shall care for and be responsive to the needs and wellbeing of each other, our neighbors, and God’s creation.”
 
 

July 2012
Dear Members and Friends of Grace UMC,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though I have met just a few of you, you are all so much a part of my prayers. With each day I feel a growing sense of connection, and I look forward to our meeting in several weeks. I want to thank your pastor, Mary, for her gracious time and effort in orienting me to the life and ministry of Grace Church.

I am very excited about being in ministry with you, and, over time, getting to know each of you. In the meantime, here is a little introduction to me and my family. On June 23rd, Kathy and I will have been married for a wonderful 33 years. We have three grown children, Aaron (Kristen), Whitney (Ismael), and Kelsey. Kathy is a fiscal analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives. We both enjoy music, live theater, hiking, travel, trying all kinds of food, cooking (Kathy’s much better), and most anything about the Ohio State Buck-eyes. Beyond the two of us, our household currently consists of our daughter Whitney and her husband Ismael Ramirez, our 8-month old grandson, Alejandro (Alex), and Donovan (Whitney’s dog from Peace Corps in El Salvador).

I love being a pastor, having served in a variety of church settings, from inner-city to suburban, and also several years as the chaplain of a large drug and alcohol treatment center. Congregations have ranged from an average Sunday attendance of 50 to 700 people. Mission outreach is a particular love of mine. Whether it is across the street or across the globe, I am always energized and amazed by the ways that God continually invites us to share in the work to reach out to people in need. I enjoy Bible study, and I look forward to many opportunities to share how the scriptures speak to each of us. But at the heart of all that we do together as Christ’s Church is worship. I’ve learned that Grace UMC has a rich tradition of wor-ship with wonderful music, and I look forward to sharing it with you very soon.

As much as we are looking forward to being with you, new opportunities also bring about farewells. I give thanks for the blessings of Mary’s ministry among you, and hold all of you in my prayers during this time of transition. I would be grateful for your prayers as well, as we say goodbye to our dear friends at Simpson Church and our work at the Center for Servant Ministries.

May Christ’s blessings be upon each of you.
Pastor Kevin Schill

 
Grace United Methodist Church
15309 Maple Island Road, Burnsville, MN 55306
Phone: 952-435-5696

        Grace UMC is an Unidos en Cristo Affiliated Church