Grace United Methodist Church Burnsville Worship
Grace United Methodist Church
Friday, August 19, 2022
To serve and unite those we touch with the Grace of God

Pastor's Post

Grace Notes, June 2022
Grace Church,
Summer has finally arrived! And with it my almost one-year anniversary with you all as pastor and people. So much has been emerging during this past year and yet so much is yet to emerge. I cannot wait for the next phase of “Christ’s Construction” with us as a church. The Spirit is not done with us. A calling is beginning to form and emerge within all our hearts. Keep listening, my brothers and sisters. Keep open to the creative energy of God flowing within you. It’s going to coalesce into the body of our church. And we will become the body of Christ right here in the Burnsville, Lakeville area - making a difference in the community. All because we had the audacity to show up and let God work miracles in and through us.
Once the Outlook at Crystal Lake Apartments opens on June 15th, we will begin to put into practice this dream and miracle-workings. So please, stay tuned the best you can over the summer to our communications regarding opportunities for you to engage your Christlike presence in body and spirit with our new neighbors. We will begin welcoming them with radical hospitality in small and significant ways.
And speaking of summer, please note the following information: Our Summer Worship Service is MOVING to 9:00 a.m. and will begin on Sunday June 12th. My hope is to begin doing so in our backyard worship space, and I hope it is your desire too to have that.  However, for that to be possible I still need a small team of Grace summer worship folks willing to lead light set-up and take-down for those Sunday mornings. This will simply entail rolling the electric keyboard out to the space, wiping dew off the seating area, bringing out cart of hymnals/TFWS and putting away, etc. Again, I would LOVE to engage this opportunity of outdoor worship with you this summer but need YOUR HELP to make it happen. 
Please text or call my cell (651-503-2242) if you are feeling called to be a part of the summer worship team.
People of Grace, I am really looking forward to where God leads us together as we begin our second year of ministry this summer!
Get outside. Enjoy the beauty of Creation. And give thanks to the One from whom all the galaxies, stars, lakes, and wilderness were birthed.
Stay in Peace and Every Good,
Rev. Amanda Lunemann
P.S. There will not be an official Grace Notes for the month of July. Instead, we will be sending out an update on all things The Overlook related.
Grace Notes, May 2022
Brothers and Sisters of Grace 
Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!
And boy does it feel that way. Our journey through Lent in worship drew us closer together as a congregation and reminded us of our call to keep drawing closer to God. Because it is there where God reveals abundance and unexpected life.

Then we went into Holy Week and discovered just how true that was! Sharing Palm Sunday and Good Friday with Spirit of Truth Church infused both our congregations with a life and energy reminiscent of resurrection hope. And then Easter: We spoke, sang, and proclaimed true the resurrection hope continuing to emerge here at Grace UMC!

And now it is time for us to courageously embrace such hope for a new future for this church. That is why I - along with the Grace Admin Board - are happy to announce and invite every member and participant of Grace UMC to the Mortgage Burning Celebration on June 5th, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. (Pentecost). Yes, you read that right. We will celebrate and mark a turn-ing point and new opportunity in the life cycle of this church. And we will marry the story of the birth of God's church (Pentecost) AND the rebirth opportunity Grace church now has to live into a new vision and dream God's Spirit has for the body of Grace UMC!

Our Worship service that day at 10:00 a.m. will be a special celebration of both of those stories, with the choir helping lead throughout and some interactive elements to help spread the flame of Christ's Good News in our minds, hearts and bodies - especially for our kiddos and families.

From there we will all process outside and gather for a ritual and burning of the mort-gage (a shackle of debt and debilitation for so many years for this body). And we will celebrate the freedom we now have to move into a new future of abundance and minis-try agency.

So, mark your calendars! You won't want to miss this special day! And stay tuned for more details and an official invitation to be shared with you and the entire body of Grace UMC.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!

Stay in Peace and Every Good,
Rev. Amanda Lunemann
Grace Notes, April 2022
Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. - Luke 24:5
For this month’s reflection, I felt it best to leave it in the hands of a great modern poet and artist: Jan Richardson.
The message of Easter for our church this year is simply this: God Is Not Done with Grace UMC. We are a Risen people, not bound by the narrative of death, but the narrative of life renewed. This is the story we will continue to let embrace us, transform us, and move us forward into our new future together in Christ. 
Risen - Jan Richardson, from Circle of Grace
Risen, Jan Richardson
If you are looking for a
blessing, do not linger here.
Here is only emptiness,
a hollow, a husk where
a blessing used to be.
This blessing was not content
in its confinement.
It could not abide its isolation,
the unrelenting silence,
the pressing stench of death.
So if it is a blessing you seek,
open your own mouth.
Fill your lungs with the air
this new morning brings
and then release it with a cry.
Hear how the blessing breaks
forth in your own voice, how
your own lips form every
word you never dreamed to
See how the blessing
circles back again,
wanting you to repeat
it, but louder, how it
draws you, pulls you,
sends you to proclaim
its only word:
Stay in Peace and Every Good,
Rev. Amanda Lunemann
Grace Notes, March 2022
Lent. A season in the life of Christians that dates all the way back to the Third century. And although today Lent has become synonymous with “giving something up,” the core of its mean-ing is to follow Jesus into the desert of ourselves and return to the heart of God. The intention is to actively pursue the reclaiming of to whom we belong; to whom from which our lives echo. And because we are human, it’s easy to get lost in the layers of distraction and temptations that continually blanket us from that memory. Lent is that time to – with intention – work to peel back those blankets and truly remember to whom we belong and who we serve and to who we are meant to be. A time of deep identity remembering and recreation. How beautiful!
Here at Grace, we are actively pursuing with the Holy Spirit as our guide our next call into the present and future as a church on the hill in Burnsville. We are pursuing the active call of God placed on our hearts to be engaged witness’ of Jesus and Divine Love in our corner of the world. Also, how beautiful! So Lent will be our time to dive even deeper into this call. To “Return to God, with All Our Hearts” and listen deeply to the divine voice calling us to go and be seekers of people. And one of the ways we will do this with intention is to start with the basic tenant of our Wesleyan faith: Scripture. Wesley believed there are four primary dialogue partners of faith: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Our Experience. But Scripture is where it starts and vibrates outward. So we are going to “Return to our Bibles” as a whole church during this season of Lent.
On Sunday March 6th, all third-grade Grace kids as well as those who weren’t able to receive their bibles due to COVID will be receiving their first Bibles in a celebration ritual during worship. Additionally, everyone else – all adults – are asked to bring a Bible that has meaning to you OR is one you are wanting to explore more to worship that same Sunday. As a whole, we will state our intention and offer a ritual of blessing around us reclaiming this core tenant of our faith – The Bible. From there, all children, youth and adults will be asked to bring their Bibles back with them the following Sunday, March 13th for our Reconnection Event in the fellowship hall after worship. It is here we will reacquaint ourselves with our Bible while enjoy-ing some snacks and refreshments. I will lead an Intergenerational “Introduction to your Bible 101” study for all gathered. Because boy, do I know so many of us – including this Pastor- have a complicated relationship with this core of our faith. It is my hope to help create space for all of us to return to God in our Bibles in a way that leaves us hungry to wrestle with, be amazed at, and find hope in this text that is the core of our faith. Additionally, at the Reconnection Event, the schedule for in-person Sunday School, Confirmation, and Adult Spiritual Formation will be shared and discussed. SO YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS THIS!
Here’s the recap for your calendars:
*March 6th – Bible Sunday (Third Grade+ Bibles received; everyone else brings their own bible for a ritual of blessing)
*March 13th – Reconnection Event in the Fellowship Hall after worship – BRING YOUR BIBLES. PASTOR AMANDA LEADS INTERGENERATIONAL BIBLE 101. Schedule for Sunday School, Confirmation and Adult Spiritual Formation will be shared and discussed.
I’m looking forward to returning to God this Lenten season with you all.
In Christ, Pastor Amanda
Grace Notes, February 2022
February in Minnesota tends to be that tipping point for many of us where the longevity of winter begins to seep into our bones and we feel the longing for spring’s arrival. And although our culture gives us the facile, Hallmark-induced holiday that is Valentine’s Day to momentarily distract us from the monotony of the cold, dark February days, the month can feel less friendly to us Minnesotans.
But here at Grace we have something to look forward to during the month of February. As you are aware, I have started a sermon and worship series on Holy Scaffolding: Building Materials for Grace. This series will continue all through the month of February and take us right up to the beginning of Lent at the top of March (Ash Wednesday is March 2nd and begins the 40 day journey of Lent towards Holy Week and Easter.) As a church we went from celebrating the proclamation that “God is building something new!” to specifically now exploring the spiritual and practical elements and building materials needed for that “something new.” In other words, we are taking the necessary turn of moving celebration into planning and action. We need to know WHAT we need in order to act with faithful conviction and build a spiritually and physically sustainable future as a church.
Going into February will also include the new 2022 Grace UMC Board members sharing in a half-day retreat with me. Together we will use that time to reclaim and reconnect with the spiritual “WHY” and intentionally lay some groundwork for ministries of the church to emerge anew in the coming months ahead. There is much work to do indeed, but the work we are called to do as a church needs to be guided first from the Sacred Center and everything else moving in a spiral outwards from there. The retreat’s focus will be just that: the Sacred Center and putting shape and form to those spirals. I am looking forward to that time with our Board and what tangibly emerges out of it.
Grace Church, the winter may be feeling long but goodness is percolating underneath it all. The Spirit continues to move and it is my hope you can take this month of February and participate with me and one another in the Holy Scaffolding being constructed in our midst.
Oh and by the way, if God was to send a Valentine’s card to each and every one of us I’m sure it would go something like this: I love you, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. Love, God. Happy February, Church!
Pastor Amanda 
Grace Notes, January 2022
Or at least that is where our hope lies: in a happier new year. Going into 2021 we were all hopeful that the year would lean towards a life more familiar and less determined by the pandemic. We were all hopeful church would once again become that place where we could fellowship in person and resume our spiritual learning and lives. Instead, 2021 brought more pandemic fatigue, more virtual church, a new pastoral change, construction challenges, and the manifestation of The Overlook apartment complex as our building neighbor on the hill. It is no wonder that going into 2022 we may be feeling a tad hesitant about proclaiming a “happy new year!” with too much gusto.
And yet, as people of faith we can stand in the present and look towards the future with hope in our bones regardless of circumstance because the God we proclaim with our lips and serve with being is a God who is “making all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Perhaps as Christians, our new year’s toast would be something like “Here’s to all things being made new!” That’s the power of hope. It directs our psychological and spiritual compass towards seeing and noticing the work of God in the midst of the wearisome and upsetting.
And speaking of God’s work here in 2022, that theme of “God is building something new” continues, except the emphasis going into January and February will be bringing attention to the scaffolding of that something new. In other words, attention and detail will be given to the specific components that are required both spiritually and practically for raising up that something new. If you’ve ever been close to a construction site you know that the scaffolding put around a newly emerging structure is designed to ensure that that structure emerges with sound fitting and an integrity to the whole foundation. The scaffolding ensures the overall completion of that which is being built. The same is true for Grace UMC. Going into 2022, we will be giving direct attention to our scaffolding so that what God is building new here is bolstered by the right spiritual and practical components needed for its success. We want to be ready to be the disciples needed to help heal a broken world.
So Grace UMC, here’s to all things being made new in 2022!
Stay in Peace and Every Good,
Pastor Amanda  
Grace Notes, December 2021
Did you know the start of Advent is the start of the New Year in the Christian “rhythm-of-life” (liturgical) calendar? Advent is Christianity’s spiritual New Year! It’s the time when Christians declare boldly and paradoxically, “We turn our faces towards the revelation of Christ in the world anew and walk the journey towards the manger, where Christ’s revelation meets us in the embodiment (incarnation) of baby. A baby who’s entire purpose is to love this world in all it’s fleshy messiness and invite it back to the heart of God.  How beautiful. How poetic. How brilliant. Our hope in the end leads us to start right back at the beginning. It leads us to Emmanuel – God with us.

And boy do we need that message right now. The world seems all sorts of upside down.  We’ve been on a jarring roller coaster ride we never wanted or asked to get on and are now just getting off it and asking, “Where are you, God? What just happened? What’s going to happen next?” And so we wait and ponder these questions in our hearts. Yet, waiting seems to be all we’ve been doing for a year and a half. Waiting for a pandemic to level out enough and ALL that came with that pandemic. Waiting to gather in groups and crowds and once again embrace the joys of social life. Waiting for justice to be reflected in the trial of Derek Chauvin and the other officers in the murder of George Floyd (half of which came, half of which we are still waiting). Waiting for a better system of policing and community safety that upholds the well-being of ALL people, including black, brown, and native bodies. Waiting for political systems and governance that actually reflects and uplifts the voices of ALL it’s constituents – especially the most vulnerable and invisible - instead of serving and reflecting the wealthiest amongst us.

But the waiting of Advent is a different kind of waiting. It’s an active waiting. A waiting that determinately places Hope in the driver’s seat of that jarring roller coaster ride. A hope that invites us to return home to the incarnation of Christ within us all. A hope that invites us to see and reflect the ways in which “God with us” (Emmanuel) is making all things new. That is why the focus of our Advent worship for this year is “Coming Home”. As a church community, we are just beginning our journey of “Coming Home” again in person. We are pondering how and what Christ wants to build here within our spirits and in our physical space. We are pondering how the surrounding towns and cities will meet and know Emmanuel through who we are and what we do next. We are pondering.  And that pondering is active – pointing us forward and back to the manger. The journey of Advent is upon us, Grace Church. Let us “Come Home.” Let us trust what The Divine is calling us to be next. Let us hold tight to the promise of Emmanuel – God with us!

Please see the Grace Notes for the Advent & Christmas Schedule & Year-End Giving Reminder.

Expectantly Waiting in Hope, 
Pastor Amanda
Grace Notes, November 2021
Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries…  ~ 1 Corinthians 4:1
The month of November is an exciting time for this church. It’s an exciting time for this pastor. It’s the time we return to Grace.

With a summer and fall in the digital zone, we now move to the in-person zone. We move to worship together, in body. We move to reconnection together, in body. We move to doing ministry together, in body. And we will hold each other in grace during this re-entry time, in body.

Because as God works to build something new with us, in body, that work will require the patience and stewardship of our entire being.
Therefore, stewardship is what we lean into for this month, asking ourselves and being in prayer for the ways we are moved to contribute to that new vision which Christ is building within us.

You will be receiving a Stewardship mailing this month inviting you to participate in helping prepare this church to be a life-giving force for our new neighbors at this new time in our history.

You will be invited TO think of yourself as that “servant of Christ and that steward of God’s mysteries.” Because the Spirit is inviting us into a new future as a church.
We’d be wasting the sacrifice and service of the past if we do not build something of impact for the present day and into the future. What God is building anew with us will not look like the past. And that is the hardest reality to accept as church people who are needing to trust God with our future.

Only together can we face this challenge and discover joy once more in following the call to serve our neighbors as God’s people. And our neighbors and their needs are dif-ferent today than in the past.

The ongoing pandemic effects and the new apartment building in our parking lot will make different demands upon us as people of Christ following in his footsteps of grace.
In order to meet the demands of a world that has shifted on its axis, the Spirit requires us to implement our love and generosity in ways that will stretch us.
We need to embrace the construction zone necessary to become the Church for the new needs and demands of our community today.

November will be a focused time to commit your financial and physical resources to this construction zone vision Christ has for THIS church; as it returns to grace for the sake of the future.

Stay in Peace and Every Good,
Pastor Amanda 
Grace Notes, October 2021
It is almost unbelievable to me that I am writing this note to you with a summer and the beginning of fall in the rear-view mirror! Sitting here in my office looking out the window, what once was just the first floor skeleton of a new apartment building when I arrived is now a four-story frame of an 111 unit complex! Wow! And although at times this emerging building in our parking lot has felt intrusive, it’s mostly been impressive to see something new emerge at such a rapid rate. Much has been deconstructed simultaneously as something new is being constructed!

And I could not help but see this as a spiritual message for us as a church community: We are a people under construction. Much of our life and identity as a church has been deconstructed over these past couple of years through COVID, Racial Awakening, Toxic Political Division, and now Construction and Parking Lot Obstruction. And it’s an experience laden with pain and grief, anger and anxiety. With this deconstruction has come a rendering of our hearts and spirits: Who are we? Where is Christ asking us to follow him next? Questions that I believe can only find direction and clarity from the decision to be courageous! The world often defines courage as an act of strength, heroism, or bravery. But the spiritual path with Christ as our companion understands courage much differently. To be courageous people of faith is to embrace the path of deconstruction. To follow Jesus is to be willing to open ourselves up to becoming clay in the potters hands; to see God in the chaos lovingly molding something new out of the grief and heartache of our past.
Grace Church, we sit on the precipice with the Holy Spirit as she boldly yearns to construct something anew from our hearts, bodies, and building spaces; as she yearns to build a new church body that seeks to be agents of Christ’s healing in a broken world. This is why for the month of October, we will begin exploring through worship what it means for us to be “Courageous” followers of Jesus through the lens of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Together we will learn how courage begins in gratitude and vulnerability and helps us face challenging and new situations.
I sit here looking at the construction all around, wondering in curiosity and prayer. I invite you to wonder with me: “God, who will be our neighbors? What will be their stories? What will be their needs? How can we be their neighbors of grace? How can we become the church you need us to be for a broken and hurting world?”
October 10th (in-person):   Courage to be Gracious | Scripture: Philippians 1:2-12
October 17th (digital):        Courage to be Vulnerable | Scripture: Philippians 2:5-11
11:00 a.m. Zoom Coffee Hour
October 24th (digital):        Courage to be Last | Scripture: Philippians 2:1-5
11:00 a.m. Zoom Coffee Hour
October 31st (digital):        Courage to be First | Scripture: Philippians 3:10-16
11:00 a.m. Zoom Coffee Hour
In Courage,
Pastor Amanda
Grace Notes, September 2021
Connection. It’s something we all need. It’s basic to our overall well-being. To be in community is to be more whole. Church is that place we seek and long to feel that connection and community. To one another. To God. To our neighbor.
Covid19 has and is continuing to upend and disrupt so much of our known pathways to connection. Especially when it comes to being church together. Throw in intense construction, a new pastor and a fourth wave of Covid19, and I can only imagine how many of you here at Grace UMC are feeling a deep sense of disconnection. Frustration. Anger. Lament. I can only imagine how many of you are wondering, “are we even
church anymore?”
As your new pastor, I too feel many of those same emotions that arise from perceived Dis-connection. But we are people of faith. And Connection is core to our faith. To what gives us hope and breaths new life of possibility within us. 
With ongoing ambiguity and exposure to trauma (racial awakening, climate change effects, political disintegration, etc.), it can be difficult to notice opportunities of connection emerging in creative and unexpected ways. 
I believe this very thing is reflected in the story of the Israelites in the desert in Exodus 16. In their deep perceived dis-connection from God and the life they had known, the Israelites “hit their wall” and behaved from a place of despair instead of hope. Yet, in their despair, God responded with an act of creation and life: daily fill of sweet, flaky micro bread (manna) and quail. Upon seeing it for the first time, the Israelites response was, “What is that? We don’t recognize it? It’s not familiar.” They had a hard time recognizing the connection to life right before them because they had never considered it before. But once they tasted it, they realized it was their connection to life in what they saw only as a life-less desert! 
Connection to God and one another is there when we give ourselves permission to “see and taste” it.
Moving into our fall season with one another with the announcement of on-line worship only until October 3rd may feel like being thrust back into the desert again. I understand. But I am committed to working with the council to offer and participate in new ways of inviting us all back into connection over the next five weeks with one another and with God. Although some may feel different or outside your comfort zone, like the Israelite’s, our call in these very strange and challenging times is to see and taste connection in unexpected forms and ways! In doing so, we may then re-discover that connection has always been there waiting for us to participate.
Connection Opportunity September 12th through October 3rd
Sunday ZOOM Coffee Hour Fellowship -11:00 a.m.

Pastor Amanda will host a digital coffee hour via ZOOM for those four Sundays. Cozy up to your computer for 10:00 a.m. online worship with a cup of joe or OJ and join us afterwards on Zoom for some much needed connection. The Zoom link will be emailed and posted on the Grace UMC Facebook page each week. Just click the link and follow the prompts. 
*If you’ve never used Zoom before, click the link and watch this tutorial video.
Stepping outside of our comfort zones can feel hard and scary, but with the right tools and support, doing so may lead to some newfound life. 
In Christ,
Pastor Amanda

Grace Notes, August 2021
It is my hope you are finding moments this summer to stay cool while also enjoying the beauty our great state offers us during this season.
As Minnesotans we also understand that summer is construction season and we as a church are knees deep in it too!
As I’ve been saying recently during our in-person Sunday morning worship, we are people grounded in the Wesleyan Way. And one of the main tenants of Wesleyanism is the imperative to “Do No Harm.” With the construction here on site hitting a particular intense period and the city of Burnsville beginning their construction on the road in front of the church, it is apparent in-person worship is not going to be a viable option for part of August. The safety of all our Grace UMC folks is my utmost priority. The trenches, debris, and uneven ground render our physical space a danger for in-person Sunday mornings.
Therefore, with the approval of the Council, I made the decision to return us to online worship only for the following upcoming Sundays: August 8th, 15th, and 22nd
As was established previously, these online worship services will be available through the Grace United Methodist YouTube channel and Facebook page. They will be availa-ble early Sunday morning onward for you to watch and have that sacred time in your home with a cup of coffee and your family and furry friends (if you have them).
Although this may feel less than ideal, by going in this direction for part of the month of August, it ensures we are caring deeply for one another and embracing our “Do No Harm” spiritual practice. After all, we are tied together and resilient through the Spirit, who binds us together and lifts us up regardless of physical space or location!
I give thanks to each and every one of you for your ongoing commitment and faithful-ness to the colorful gospel and to Grace UMC. See you online!
In Christ,
Reverend Amanda Lunemann
Grace Notes, July 2021
Hello Friends in Christ
Guess what? God did something fun. God brought us together. You and Me. That alone is fun enough. But what's even more fun is that over the next couple months and first year together we will be getting to know one another at an exponential rate. The newness of it all will be both fantastic and frustrating. I guarantee it. But it will all be good. because God's got us. Both of us. We are bonded in Divine Love. And that Love will be the foundation of our starting time together.
But let's start simple. I'm Pastor Amanda. I'm a single mom to my fiercely creative and determined 12 year-old daughter, Norah. She is my world and we love having adventures together. I grew up on a hobby farm in the countryside of rural, central Minnesota, fishing with my dad and helping my mom can the bounty of the garden she raised for our family. But I am a global spirit, and have traveled all over the world, loving my time experiencing and learning about different cultures and the people in them. I love all things chicken and dream of once again having a coup of ladies in my urban backyard (this will happen, this I know). I value making and building connections with ALL kinds of people from ALL sectors of Life. Human beings fascinate me, period. So don't be surprised when I take up "office space" all over the city of Burnsville!
What about you? What are some of the simple things you want to share with me about who you are? I'm eager to listen. Eager to learn. Both your individual stories and your collective stories as a church community!
So, are you ready to have some fun this first year? I know I am. I can't wait to see how our God-shenanigans will be made manifest together as our relationship unfolds in trust, love, and care.
I'm Pastor Amanda.
I can't wait to meet you!
Grace Notes, June 2021
Thank You

Gathering my thoughts for this last Pastor’s article in Grace Notes, I think only of “thank you.”
Thank you for the welcome into the life of Grace church when Beth and I came in 2019. June 30th was our first Sunday with you. I recall how quickly we were able to pull off Vacation Bible School Week that was starting about a week later on July 7th. It was a great jump start way to get to know some of the church’s children.
The summer passed quickly and before I knew it the fellowship hall was getting reroofed, and Coming Together Sunday was happening. It was busy time with classes, groups and Wednesday youth activities. I got to experience some of our normal life and traditions with worship, sandwich making, Scout Sunday chili feed, Dinner group and so on. But that only lasted for about nine months. You know what happened then! March 15th was our last Sunday in the sanctuary for in-person worship without covid restrictions. We pivoted to recorded worship services on YouTube. I had never done that before! We learned how to do meetings on Zoom. In the summer of 2020 we were using FM radio to have Sunday services in the church parking lot. Another first for me! Then we had a few services outdoors in the backyard and a couple limited indoor services before Covid pro-tocols tightened up again. Fortunately the sale of the property and the mortgage pay off had happened in May 2020 so our finances, along with your faithful giving, kept us afloat!
Along the way we got new windows in several rooms, a new storage shed, and took care of several other up-keep and maintenance tasks. Starting in January 2021 we saw the landscape change as the work on the apartment building began.
All this is to say that I have not had a ministry season like this one. Memorable, yes! Memories of how Grace church continued to be the church and I am thankful for your support as I found myself saying “I don’t know.” This is my first pandemic too!” I dearly missed the kinds of pastoral care I would normally have been able to do, as well as our Bible study group, fellowship conversations, and seeing children on Wednesdays and Sundays. Theo and the Kangaroos could NOT replace them!
I’m grateful we got some time actually back together again. I realized how much I needed worship and preaching in person rather than with one person and a camera! So thanks for helping us all get through it.
Now I know you will bring your appreciation and adaptation skills as you begin a new normal with your new pastor, Amanda Lunemman. My role as pastor with Grace church comes to a conclusion not only with this appointment change but with my retirement. My time here, as I said, came with experiences I had nowhere else in my 41 years!
Beth and I thank you for the blessings of our time with you!
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, May 2021
This is the date that many of you have been asking about!
We are “penciling” in that day as a return to in-person worship in the sanctuary. It’s also Pentecost Sunday as we celebrate the Holy Spirit to re-empower and re-connect us!
In order to more easily accommodate our parking space limits and our need for con-tinued social distance seating we will offer two worship service times as part of our re-opening plan.
We will offer, on a very temporary transition basis, a service at 8:30 a.m. as well as our regular 10:00 a.m. We will be following COVID-19 protocols with masks and seating. We will not yet be offering any childcare, children’s classes or having a coffee and treats social time.
Our plans for how we will include music/singing are still to be determined and we will be reviewing our plan on May 17th according to the latest COVID-19 trends.
We also hope by then to have the completed internet upgrades to allow live streaming video of the service as a continued part of our worship and ministry life!
For now:
1) Mark the date, May 23rd.
2) Get vaccinated and keep praying!
3) If you have used this as an opportunity to worship elsewhere, either in person or on line, welcome back to Grace as you bring any new ideas or insights that you may have discovered!
4) Help make this in-person worship happen by offering to be a parking lot or indoor usher, reader, greeter/guide, help with video recording, sound and projection, etc. Please e-mail the office or contact pastor Rory.
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, April 2021
Sometimes all it takes is this:
The pink or yellow crocus in front of the church.
The first robin.
The first red wing black bird or mourning dove.
A sunny day with snow melting.
Even the sight of Easter candy, eggs, and bunnies in
the stores can do it.
Humming to myself “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”
Reading the story of an empty tomb.
Remembering Easter Sundays of days past.
Hearing the words “Christ is Risen!”
Or maybe, simply, a feeling of hope and future, arriving as a gift.
My prayer is that whatever it takes, it will be there for you.
Christ is risen and still rising for you, for us,
in this world today.
Resurrection is our Good News.
This is what I believe.
Sometime all it takes is this.
Grace Notes, March 2021

Somedays I feel it rumbling in the floors or vibrations on my desk. I hear the back-up beep-ing signals and the sound of diesel engines just ten feet from my window. I see rows of side dumper trunks waiting to get filled by the excavator’s big dirt bucket. I do feel like a little kid watching the big equipment work!
After the tree removal, the project turned to earth removal. I tell people we have a canyon next to us. See the back page of this publication for a picture of same. Some are surprised by how much dirt is going out and how deep things need to be. It’s not just for the two levels of underground parking beneath part of the structure. Utility work and foundations need to be down there too. I remember reading that before building something up in con-struction, you have to first go down. These apartments will be four levels high. Maybe the higher you go, the deeper you must go?
My understanding of building construction may not be accurate, but I think I know some-thing about spiritual construction work. To go up you must first go down! We speak of both spiritual height and spiritual depth! Grounding and foundation is part of our faith language as well. Lent is a time for us to go deeper, trusting that it prepares us to go higher and wider in our outreach, service and welcome to others.
As we watch the apartment construction happening next to us for about a year, this can be a very visible reminder for us to think of the new construction work of ministry that we can be doing as Grace church. Let’s go deeper as we dig into our purpose and call. Go deeper into our spiritual life in Christ. Do we need to haul awayand unload some of the things that keep us from our future? Do we also need new structures and plans?
What tools, skills and equipment do we need? In the construction project, financial invest-ments have been ventured. Architects have been at work. I meet often with the Project Superintendent here. (His last name is “Christian.”) I visit with other construction managers and notice where the dump trucks come from. I know later we will have framers, roofers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, masons, painters, decorators and landscapers, as well as marketing teams and business managers. It reminds me that our Grace church ministry development needs all of your skills as well! We look forward to working with Rev. Amanda Lunemann and the many skills she brings in the next development phase for Grace church’s future.
We continue to go deeper in Lent by our Living with Prayer worship series. Our February Administrative Board recommended online worship through March. We will have a “drive-though” Palm Sunday event for palms. Watch for details. At this point we are still planning Holy week and Easter services as online worship experiences only.
Building together in Christ,
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, February 2021
FEBRUARY 1ST ~ United Methodist pastors know about this date

It’s the due date for year-end “Table” reports. It is at least six pages of membership statistics, expense and income reports, worship attendance both in person and online, and participants in mission and small groups! It’s an effort to answer that broader question of how to measure the ministry of Grace church.

What have we done in 2020 that can be numerically reported? Our membership is 235. I don’t know what to put down for many of the report lines as Covid affected so much of this year’s participation.

Other types of reports ask us to think of how we are loving our neighbor or reaching out to a hurting world. Reflection and year-in review is an important part of our life together.  But this year, as I read the line “Reports for the year ending Dec 31,_____” that openended line for the year got me thinking of what might be the 2021 year end report? 

Could this also be not just a “year-end”, but a ”year-start report?” So instead of the yearin review, I thought about the view ahead for Grace church. Now my questions are:  “What are we starting with, and what are some new beginnings?

We get to start without a mortgage! What new things will we try? Do some things need to be left behind or changed? What are you willing to dream about as a church to reach out to others! What do you think God is calling us, you, to do next? What do we need to be praying about for our next step? Just as new beginnings are always happening in our personal lives, I am sure its true for the life of a congregation.

I can see some obvious “new” beginnings with Grace church. The new apartment construction right next to us has begun. A new pastor will be arriving! New ways of working together! I can foresee a new round of vison work and planning in the future! We will be improving our technology options for ministry.

I have no doubt we will be seeing some other new things happening. I’m not able to predict when, or in what ways, we will be able to safely return for in-person worship. It might feel like a fresh start also.

The year-end reports for 2021, 2022, 2023 have already begun! Are you ready to start? Linda gathered some quotes for the Grace notes cover. Let me add one more popularized by Martin Luther King Jr. “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Taking another step,
Pastor Rory 
Grace Notes, January 2021

Every year at this time I return to these often quoted words of Dr. Howard Thurman.
The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among others, to make music in the heart.

2020 is leaving us with a lot of work to do in 2021. In so many way we experienced being lost, broken, hungry, imprisoned, and needing to rebuild with peace. We need music in the heart!

How will this work be happening in your life? What does the work of Christmas and the work of 2021 look like for us at Grace? For now we continue to be the church at home and in our hearts. It is faithful work!

Our work is to also ask now, “what have we learned or discovered this year?” Have we changed and if so, how? Can this be a re-start, revise, reset year? We are seeing the light of a new normal with immunizations on the horizons. We will need to be rebuilding a sense of community. The reconnecting will be our work! Our work in 2021 will find us eventually regathering with live streaming as an option. We are actively pursuing better cable, internet and equipment options with a new Grace church tech team. Help support this work!

This might be a year for you to re-engage in some of our outreach and ministries, as situa-tions allow us to return for Simpson sandwich making, special donations, Lewis House and Emma Norton, Sunday school and small groups.

We know that our work of 2021 will be adapting as the apartment housing construction begins this spring. We welcome Rev. David Bard, as our interim bishop here in Minnesota, as Bishop Ough enters retirement. And yes, later this year, our denomination will return to some sort of decision making at General Conference. The work of 2021 will be with our District Superintendent, preparing for a new pastor here this this summer. Most importantly, this can be a year for us to vison a new financial and ministry future!

This will be a work of faith, hope, love and prayer. We have good work to do. It is the work of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

I am thankful for all the ways we worked together in 2020

Blessings in this New Year
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, December 2020
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome. John 1:5
Advent 2020:
This is not just about four candles in a circle in the weeks just before Christmas.
Advent is a mood and spiritual time of waiting and watching. It is about our longing, yearning, hoping, and wanting things to change for the better. It’s a time of feeling what it is that we are missing. Speaking for myself:
  • Advent 2020 is what I feel this year without our children’s Christmas programs, car-oling and choir cantata at Grace church.
  • Advent is knowing that we won’t be making ginger bread houses together. Advent this year means we are not setting up the Giving tree and having Christmas parties with Ruth Voll Circle, dinner and book groups.
  • Advent is the disappointment this year of not having Christmas Eve services gath-ered with our candles in the sanctuary, singing “Silent Night.”
  • Advent is the feeling when we grieve the losses of loved ones, jobs, businesses and classroom teaching.
  • Advent is my yearning and readiness to get back to normal or at least a predictable new normal.
  • Advent is my desire for healing, peace and wholeness after a difficult and polarized political year.
  • Advent is my heartbreak over long food shelf lines, racial disparities, and exhausted health care workers.
  • Advent is my waiting for the coming arrival of safe vaccines and immunizations.
  • It is looking for Light in the pandemic dark winter prophesied by epidemiologists.
Are you feeling this Advent 2020? Then we need to also light our Advent candles at home this year; the candles of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. These are the candles that guide us up to Christmas! God, Immanuel, is with us and Christ is born!

On Christmas Eve 2020 we will still light the candle of Christ. And in our homes, we will still be sharing the Light. For almost every Christmas Eve service I have used some version of these words from Howard Thurman:

I will light candles this Christmas, Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch, Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living, Candles that will burn all year long.

It is the first week of Advent as I write this, but I am ready for Christmas.

As we prepare for Christmas at home this year on YouTube, I look forward to saying
those words again with you. Grace Church, have your candles ready to light in heart and
home for Christmas 2020!

In the light of Jesus Christ,

Pastor Rory 
Grace Notes, November 2020
We are back to online worship only!

I am thankful for the guidance and support of our bishop here in Minnesota. In his recent email, Bishop Ough writes: “Doing no harm, acting for the common good, and protecting the most vulnerable among us is how we love our neighbor. What this means: I’m asking you to limit your in-person gatherings to ten people or fewer while wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Group gatherings have been the most significant source of the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks. We have the power to help change the trajec-tory of this pandemic.”

He also goes onto say: “Remember, the church is not closed! We will continue to be cre-ative in how we minister in these unprecedented times, and together we can make it through this pandemic. Our actions now will save lives. And isn’t that the business we are ultimately in? Salvation—life for all people!”
The summer and fall enabled us to have our drive-in and outdoor “in-person” worship services. Using Covid safety protocols we had two indoor services in October. Our in-person gatherings typically had attendance in the 20 to 30 range. Our online YouTube worship “views” are over 100 each week with some climbing much higher. I know we are reaching people who had not been previously connected to Grace church, and I hope you are finding it to be a meaningful and supportive experience. Thank you for adapting and being safe this way!

As we return to online worship only (until, further notice), I pray that you will be able to be the church at home with renewed intent. This month of November will certainly be a month of decisions, changes and adjustments in many ways! Now especially is the time for your personal spiritual centering. Develop some daily practices of gratitude and gen-erosity in this month of Thanksgiving. The most important things have not changed. You can still worship. We can still have our hearts stretched with compassion. We can still be people of hope. You are still a follower of Jesus Christ in your work roles. (I hear more of you will still be working at home until the spring.) You are still the church, in your family, in your social media activities, and in your financial choices.

This experience is reminding us once again that even though we miss the company of one another in the comfort and familiarity of our building, ultimately and most truly, you are the church. Church is people wherever we are. We are putting that into practice! Con-tinue exercising faith, hope and love as we worship together on YouTube.

Let’s increase our use of Zoom and Facebook to keep connected. Let me know if you would like to organize/facilitate some of that! Also as your personal ministry, will you take it upon yourself to keep in touch with some other church members? Looking ahead to December, remember the Grinch could not steal Christmas and neither can Covid19! The message remains the same even if it gets delivered in a different way! We have some ideas to explore!

Grateful for your steadfast support and understanding
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, October 2020
In a previous Grace Notes I wrote about all the things I had deleted, erased or crossed off on my calendar.  Finally I get to put things back on!
1)  We are phasing back into Indoor Worship!
Covid protocol worship services will be offered inside the sanctuary beginning October 18th at 10:00 a.m.
The prerecorded services on YouTube will continue to be our primary worship experience.  Participants at the indoor service will be wearing masks in the building and using designated spaced seating.  We will not have congregational singing and only a limited use of unison responses.  Your attendance will be recorded for contact tracing.  Remember, if you are showing any Covid symptoms or had recent exposure to Covid, please worship online!     
We are currently exploring the interests and options for some safe in-person children’s Sunday school.
2)  Trunk or Treat Fun on Sun., Oct. 25th at 11:15 a.m. with Covid Safety Protocols
Decorated cars will be spaced part. All persons are to be wearing protective masks and candy will be prepacked and set out by the vehicles for non-contact pick up.  Let’s have fun seeing each other! You are welcome to wear your costumes to churchl!  
3)  Virtual Consecration Sunday, October 25th
No, we won’t be having our usual consecration celebration meal but please mark your calendars to remind yourself to complete your estimate of giving or pledge for 2021.
You will receive a mailing this month with your card.  This year we hope to increase the number of households doing online-giving.  We know that this “Covid economy” will have ripple effects into the new year.  Your estimate of giving helps us plan our church life together.  While we have the opportunity to prepare a budget without the heavy burden of mortgage debt, this will be a critical year for us to catch up on areas of deferred maintenance, technology upgrades and, of course, ministry development!  Please help us get an accurate projection of your support.  Thank you for the gifts provided in 2020.
Thanks also for your understanding and adaptability as we introduced the drive-in services and outdoor worship services this summer.  We are the church in new ways!
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, September 2020
Back to School? Distance Learning!?
Hybrid Model? On-Line Classes? New Normal!
Whether you have family members in school or not, you have heard the above phrases. We are in very adaptive times. For many of you, the pandemic has also changed your work places. Some have lost jobs, reduced hours and limited capacity. Many of us are still tele-commuting. Churches too have been trying to adapt with new models in diffi-cult or stressful conditions. As the front cover proclaims - RESILIENCE!

We will still not be meeting inside for worship in September. Someone asks me just about every day when that will happen. I don’t know yet. As with many schools, we are “delaying our start.” We too have a hybrid model by using online "distance" wor-ship and our 9:00 a.m. outdoor service, either the back yard or in our vehicle, for the drive-in style when it rains. Most of us are feeling safer at home with online worship.

Some of our small groups are returning to in-person meeting in the building but follow-ing the safe gathering protocol of wearing masks and six-foot spacing. Outdoor gather-ings are still the safest and recommended for whenever possible. Our Administrative Board meetings continue to use Zoom. At this point we are planning to provide our families with children a resource for at-home learning.

But we are back to school! We will conclude our worship series Psalms for Emotional Times on September 6th. We are moving on to Jesus 101. I might call it “The Lessons of Jesus for Emotional times.” Do we need to recover some of these basics about fol-lowing Jesus Christ? Let’s start looking at his key themes and teachings. What do we see in his actions and parables? How and what do we learn about him today?

To be a disciple means to be a student! Hybrid classes are online, in your home, at your work, in your heart, and in your real world “in-person” daily actions! Have you spiritu-ally enrolled yet? Don’t skip the semester because of Covid!

A student of Jesus Christ,
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, August 2020
Linda got out the Grace Notes for August 2019, one year ago. It’s a good practice to do that as a way of preparing a newsletter. She showed me the cover with a smiley face and the title, “Why is Pastor Rory Saying WOW!?” Linda said this year we should be saying WHOA! I told her I would probably use that. One year ago I was saying “wow” as you had raised funds for the roof replacement that was in process during that newsletter printing. We had finished VBS so I noted how I was looking forward to getting to know more children and youth on Wednesday evenings. Our one worship service on Sundays was increasing our sense of attendance and community! We were waiting for progress on the property sale. We now can say the sale has been completed. The mortgage is paid off! I can’t imagine what our church financial situation would be like in this pandemic time if that had not happened. We currently have no information about the developer’s construction timeline. That seems to be another “whoa” for our own outreach and landscape timing. My “whoas” this past few months have been felt for confirmations and baptisms, memorial services, VBS, Annual Conference, General Conference and so much more.

One of the sentences in my 2109 August pastor’s notes was this: “We know it’s a time to try new things. This spirit of adaptation and experimentation is a key to any church vitality and health.” I had no idea how “prophetic” those words would be for this year! We have already adapted with worship recordings, drive-in worship, and Zoom meet-ings.

August typically points us to the September ministries that would start up: choir rehearsals for adults, children and youth, Coming Together Sunday with a special gath-ering meal, Sunday school and Wednesday activities. This year those things are “whoa” . . . slowdown . . ., not yet.

Honesty, I don’t know when we will return to in-person worship in the sanctuary.

We will continue to explore physical distance ways of worship. Some nice autumn weather can be a blessing for our outside options! Some small group activities are being phased back in. Wearing masks and social distance practices will be the stan-dard for ALL activities inside the building for quite some time. We may be wanting to “return to normal” as we turn the page to September, but the virus has no respect for a mere calendar! As you are away, this is a case where science, health trends, state and denominational guidance, mixed in with some political and economic pressures do cre-ate an uncertain and often changing situation. We will continue to use special emails to keep you updated as plans evolve.

Even with all this “whoa” talk, my impression of Grace church is still a “wow.”

Wow for your faithfulness and encouragement. “Wow” for your ongoing financial sup-port. Wow for your willingness to do no harm as we set aside our personal worship preferences for the sake of our community. Jesus gives us a path of love that cares for the sick and vulnerable. 
That’s your witness. The future is still a WOW!
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, July 2020
Would you like to do something that Jesus did? Pray what Jesus prayed, and study what Jesus studied? You can do that this summer!

Jesus was steeped in the life of the Psalms. He quoted them often. This summer we are spending time with what has been called the “prayer book of the Bible.” We are in a ser-mon series “Psalms for Emotional Times.”

In our Bible they make up 150 chapters and cover all the human emotions from joy and wonder, to despair and anger. Because they allow such honesty they are a guide to our spiritual health as a voice for the prayers of the human experience.

I hope that you are discovering recurring themes of God’s steadfast love, concern for the poor and oppressed, feelings of praise and times of soul searching and silence. The psalms would not isolate us from our current cries for justice, healing and guidance.

For several Sundays we will also turn our attention on the most familiar of them; Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.”

Today we also echo the Psalmist themes of waiting and asking “How long, O Lord?” Like many other aspects of our lives in schools and business; as a pastor, I don’t know how to plan for September as we live with the fluctuating pandemic trends! To add fur-ther uncertainty, we have not been given any construction schedules for our recently sold property and how it might impact us. The pandemic safety protocols have brought out our creativity and adaptations not only with the pre-recorded YouTube services, but now we have a 9:00 a.m. drive-in worship service. We have FM radio coverage for the park-ing lot. Thanks to everyone for your support and patience!

Finally, in this summer known for “I can’t breathe,” and wearing masks to protect us from breathing a virus on each other, I am also praying and pondering the coincidence in the last verse of the very last psalm. Psalm 150: 6 says “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”

That may not be the psalm that I will emotionally “feel” everyday, but I see its vision for all of us to be filled with the God given breath of joy and praise!

Let us all breathe together in that hope!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, June 2020
PSALMS for the Summer
Psalm 4:1 “Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.”
It’s been an emotional time. Feelings of doubt and uncertainty with the coronavirus itself. We have fears about economic prospects and how this has been reshaping our lives. We have daily political drama. Add now the unconscionable killing of George Floyd and the racial and social justice questions that demand to be heard. It raises a storm of protest, anger and pain in us. Feelings can overwhelm us looking for expression.  How long will this go on? See the top of page four for a link that can advise you in ways you can help.
Are there words to convey my soul? Do we have any scriptures to echo our humanity? The bible world is no stranger to these harsh realities and questions. Philip Yancy has a chapter on the psalms, “Spirituality in Every Key” in his book The Bible Jesus Read.
“The 150 psalms present a mosaic of spiritual therapy in process. Doubt, paranoia, giddiness, meanness, delight, hatred, joy, praise, vengefulness, betrayal – you can find it all in psalms. Such stewing of emotions, which I once saw as hopeless disarray, I now see as a sign of health…I have learned that I can rightfully bring to God whatever I feel ….” P.122.
The Psalms help us to be honest with our feelings. We can move in the conflicted desires of seeking stillness, hope and assurance while not ignoring our search for answers or signs of God’s presence in the midst of grief. In our emotions we can also see vistas of God’s mystery, grandeurs and beauty. If you are like me, this range of emotions can happen in a single day. This is why the Psalms are so powerful. They show that “feeling” too. They may seem ancient and confusing, but are rich with wisdom for our spiritual life at this time.
Let’s use them in worship to start this summer as a spiritual framework. We continue to plan options for safe worship methods and schedules. We will coordinate with the phasing plans from our bishop and state health guidelines. You will receive separate communications with those updates. As a congregation you have been so supportive during this unusual time. Thank You!
Grace and peace,
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, May 2020
Online worship only, continues toward the end of May!
I should have used a pencil!

I am still old school in the calendar world. I use a paper one. I like being able to write my notes on the date squares. Some things were written in pencil. Others were in pen.  Pencil notes can be erased. Pen notes need to get crossed out.

Today I marked off and erased some plans for May and June. Some of the things I have “crossed off” my calendar: Annual Conference in Sioux Falls, clergy meetings, major denomination events such as General Conference. You may have had to change your summer church camp plans. Baptisms and confirmation are still needing to be rescheduled and our Vacation Bible School in July needs to be kept in pencil. I can think of other plans that have changed for my family and I am sure you can too.

Today I wrote down notes about Sunday worship. Bishop Ough is asking us to suspend in-person worship through May 30th “and to spend that time carefully and prayerfully developing a plan for how to return to in-person worship in a gradual manner.” Recommendations for that plan are quite detailed and will not be a return to normal! I will be consulting with our Administrative Board so watch for updates. We may need to wear masks, stagger the seating, and not sing. It’s possible that we will have two smaller sized services with one outside and one indoors. We will need to do some work with that! 

Many of our church family are in the higher risk categories and will be encouraged to still stay at home! I support these practices as a way of witnessing to our faith. Denying our own preferences, so we can provide healthy and servant leadership in our communities, sounds like a Jesus thing to do!

Last month we were able to worship online due to the videography skills of Dave Chmielewski and our worship service helpers. Currently we are pre-recording the service on Fridays and posting it to our YouTube channel. This option that also gives us wider outreach and inclusion, so let’s see if we can provide this even after we return to in-person worship!

This might be the month for a few more of us to try Zoom or Go to Meeting. Keep those e-mail conversations going. Check on our church Facebook posts. I would be remiss as your pastor if I did not also thank you and remind you of how important it is for us pay our expenses as we continue to be not only the church online but a church with a building and a budget.

Let’s keep doing what we know how to do. Pray, share kindness, serve others, be good and safe neighbors. Enjoy the gifts of nature. Share good humor and joy.

Be the church at home as we worship in this newer way! 

Keep your pencil sharp!

Inked with Grace,
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, March 2020
Mary Oliver is a poet with eyes for the holy in such daily ways. In her collection of poems called Thirst, she writes . . .
It doesn’t have to be the blue iris,
It could be weeds in a vacant lot,
or a few small stones;
Just pay attention,
then patch a few words together and
don’t try to make them elaborate,
this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks,
and a silence in which another voice may speak.
“Pay attention...patch a few words together...don’t try to make them elaborate...this isn’t a contest...but a doorway...into thanks and silence...another voice may speak.” I want to bring that wisdom into Lent, Holy Week and Easter. Can I (can we) first just pay attention? And perhaps patch the words together:
Ashes, Palms, Bread and cup, Cross, Darkness, Waiting tomb, Silence, Life, Love
What wondrous love is this? Another voice may speak in these days of Lent.
Come and pay attention.
As I come into Lent and plan for Holy Week and Easter services, I also tell myself, “This is not a contest,” just let the words be together. I invite you to do the same.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, February 2020

Acts 2:43-47 ~ “A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and pos-sessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. Every day they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demon-strated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.”
I think measuring was one of the first human activities. How much is this? How big is that? Is this my share? What is this worth?
I bring this up because I have been working on our year-end reports for the United Methodist church. Some of the many measurements are: Total professing members at the start of the year (322) and the end of the year (240). FYI - that reduction is largely due to a deeper audit and update of our church records. What is our average worship attendance (103)? How many on-line worshipers do we have (0)? Baptisms, confirmation class, various small groups, VBS etc. I am to report age, ethnicity and gender categories.  Another reporting line asks “The number of community miniseries we offer for outreach, justice and mercy” and the estimated number of persons served by them. Some of this is hard to measure or not clearly defined. Other reports are related to finances: dollars received by pledges, number of households making pledges, capital campaigns, bequests and memorials, expenditures for programs, operating, staff, and mis-sions. In addition to this annual report, I submit on-line weekly metrics about attendance. These metrics also ask about professions of faith and testimonies of life transformation.
Still another set of annual reports is about our strategies to grow in the love of God and neighbor, reaching new people, and healing a broken world.
I really don’t mind doing these reports. But some things are just beyond measure! I quoted from Acts 2 because I see a ”measurement” of awe and wonder, sharing, caring, and generosity. I see community grow-ing, praise and worship, simplicity and demonstrating God’s goodness with all people. The church is about both quantitative and qualitative measures. Can we measure “Fruit of the Spirit” - growth in patience, grati-tude, faith, hope, and gentleness? Can I measure both the thousand-plus sandwiches we make for Simpson Shelter but also the two Sunday school kids who also wanted to start making sandwiches! I can’t imagine how to measure their experience of wanting to do that! Can I measure when someone gets an “ah-hah” moment in a Bible study? Can I measure the times when one of us listened deeply to another person, shared a prayer, or wrote an extra generous check? Can I measure the times someone changes their mind, forgives someone, or has a renewing moment of hope or felt deeply welcomed at Grace church! What do you want to measure? Maybe what we measure is what we see? Send me an e-mail and share your measurement of life at Grace church. Maybe I can find a way to count it!
In the immeasurable Grace of God in Jesus Christ,
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, January 2020

Somewhere in the Christmas season I find time to listen to some of Handel’s Messiah.
I remember an MPR program where the announcer gave some background of its inaugural performance in Dublin, Ireland. Handel had the Messiah dedicated to the Glory of God, and, along with Handel’s generous commission, this performance was to be a benefit concert for a hospital and infirmary. The income also resulted in the release of 142 debtors in prisons. They anticipated a sell-out audience, so men were advised to remove their swords and women to not wear hoops in their skirts, thus allowing more people to attend.
We also have a Wesleyan connection to Handel’s Messiah. After John Wesley heard it performed at the cathedral church in Bristol in August 1758, he wrote, "I doubt if that congregation was ever so serious at a sermon as they were during this performance. In many parts, especially several of the choruses, it exceeded my expectation."
But to my point: just as the Messiah concert was a benefit for others, our celebrations of Christmas can continue to be a benefit. We too are still doing things for the glory of God. We too, are still setting people free from what traps and imprisons them. Through our ministries we are still healing the sick and providing comfort. Just as the concert in Dublin changed social standards to make more room for others by removing swords and hoops, perhaps we too, are calling on our society to remove the symbols of war or status, rank and fashion. I hope we are also removing obstacles for people in our settings and practicing hospitality. For all people, Christmas is meant to benefit us all! The Messiah, the Christ of Christmas, has work for us to do in the familiar words of Reverend Howard Thurman:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
I think Thurman’s words can be a mission statement and guide for us as Grace church in 2020.  We may see change in our United Methodist denomination. We may see construction of a new building next to us. But our “benefit“ work of God’s love stays the same. I look forward to being with you in whatever this year brings. A new decade is upon us in many ways!
To the glory of God!
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, December 2019
Christmas Star Leads Us To God Particles

I am thinking of these phrases from a poem by Thomas Lux called “God Particles.”
“God explodes, supernovas, and down upon the
whole planet a tender rain of Him fall on every
cow, ladle, leaf, human, ax handle, swing set…
I think he wanted each of us … to have a piece of Him
though we are unqualified for even the crumb of a crumb.”
When I read his words, my own imagination went to the Christmas star, perhaps a supernova burst of light announcing the rain and the reign of God.
Christmas is our gospel poem of God coming down upon the whole planet, and in particular as a child in Bethlehem, as good news for all the earth. I like to think that in this God particle of incarnation, the word became flesh and dwelt among us in indeed!
And in the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, as Christ is born in us, as the light shines in us, we too have a tiny piece of God.
Let the Christ grow! Let the love growl! Let the peace grow! Let the light growl! Let the presence of God grow!
Welcome the God particle graced upon you!
Join us for the Children’s Christmas Pageant and the Adult Cantata as well as the Christmas Eve Family service at 4:00 p.m. and the Candlelight service at 10:00 p.m. Perhaps we will see the sign of God “in cow, ladle, leaf, human, ax handle, swing set …”
Or perhaps in bread and cookie,
candle and bow,
wreath and card,
song and verse,
child and silent night,
prayers and deeds of peace.
Particles of Immanuel.
Blessed Holy days,
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, November 2019
Living Up to Our Name!
On my first Sunday I spoke of what a great name we have for this church: Grace
I wondered what visions and dreams went into the naming. Grace is God’s gift. Grace is God’s unconditional love. Grace is for everyone. Grace is what our Good News is all about. It is our Jesus story!
Afterward I was told that the name was also chosen because it was the name of the person who donated property for the church. But that still fits who we are!
We are built on a gift from Grace! The very ground beneath our feet on Sunday morning is a reminder of someone’s generosity.
How do we live up to that name today?
We live Grace-fully!

As you read though the newsletter, “Grace Notes” you will see that graceful living is happening in weekly wor-ship, service and mission, pastoral care, small groups and community building, children and youth ministries. I see grace in the form of smiles, prayers, music, sandwiches, and conversations. I see Gods’ grace working through you every Sunday in the offering too!
During October as we continue with a sermon series on the Lord’s prayer. we will also hear some brief sto-ries of Grace Church in people’s lives. You will have an opportunity to live gracefully in your spiritual practice of prayerful giving. Our Consecration Sunday celebration is on October 27th (Followed by Trunk or Treat fun!).
When you receive your Estimate of Giving card this month I hope you will give it your prayerful considera-tion. I always invite people to stretch their faith financially at least a little bit ever year. Some of us may be turning in Estimate of Giving cards for the first time.
While I could make a very, very strong case for needing your support of the budget, it really is about living up to our name, for, and with others. Names have power to define us and shape us.
I see Grace Church in you!
Grace is what we share in the life of Jesus Christ!
Grace is the foundation of faith!
Grace is the spirit of a grateful and generous life!
Grace is amazing!
Grace is living up to our name

Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, September 2019
Coming Together Sunday
I like the sound of that!
I have heard it called many names: Rally Sunday, Kick-off Sunday, Welcome Back Sunday, Come Back Sunday, etc. For some churches it’s a day for outdoor picnics and bringing in a bouncy house, balloons, and an almost mini-carnival experience, hoping to draw attention and invite new people. It is, at least, the start of a new church program year as Sunday school classes begin and choirs start up. It can be a day for registration and sign-ups to help with projects, or events, or connecting with groups. Confirmation and Wednesday events will soon begin! See page seven for more details.
Here at Grace it has a special meaning this year. We are coming together as a church community for one ser-vice at 10:00 a.m. We had a good experience with having one service at 9:00 a.m. over the summer. I am so thankful for your openness and encouragement for this change for the good of the whole, I am especially grateful, and prayerful, for the adaptability of those who have been part of the eight o’clock worship time for so many years.
  • We are coming together to worship God!
  • We are coming together to be in larger relationship as people of faith!
  • We are coming together to be in common mission and vision!
  • We are coming together in broader outreach and care!
  • We are coming together to grow and serve others!
  • We are coming together for the sake of new people!
After busy summers, and a time of pastoral change we are coming together to be Grace church!
Let’s come together for the brunch after 10:00 a.m. worship. Invite others too!
Sunday school will also be at its usual 10:10 a.m. time. Kindly let Pastor Rory if you can help with that.
We will start a new sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer!
Worship service on the 1st started at 10:00 a.m. Why you ask? This way you get a “practice time change” in your routine before the September 8th Coming Together Sunday!
Most of all, let’s come together with our hearts in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Together with you,
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, August 2019
WOW! That’s my first impression!
When I arrived you had already met your challenging roof repair goal! The work is taking place now as this edition is being printed. I got the first impression that you are a “can-do” congregation with financial readi-ness to meet a need. That’s a Wow!
I recently got to experience an enthusiastic and dedicated Vacation Bible School team. I saw how much sup-port this congregation gave with the supplies and suppers. It was so much fun to meet some of the children of Grace, and I look forward to more times on Sunday, Wednesday nights and children’s message time. VBS was another Wow!
I have met with the Trustee for updates on the property sale, and I am looking forward to the ministry potential that will come with our new neighbors. I am eager to see how it reduces the mortgage and frees up much needed dollars for ministry. This will be one of the biggest developments in the history of Grace UMC. Can we be organized for outreach and hospitality by the time the building is done? Let’s get spiritu-ally and strategically ready this year! This opportunity is another “Wow!”
At my first Administrative Board meeting, we supported a new model for the Sunday morning experience by moving to one service at 10:00 a.m. in the fall. This follows up on the 9:00 a.m. one service we have been doing this summer. I think this is critical to our strategic readiness for growth.
1) With one service at 10:00 a.m. this year we can continue to build on the stronger attendance, and visitor potential that we have already established for that time spot.
2) Hopefully, joined by the gift of those who have been so faithful at the 8:00 a.m. service, we will get to the more critical sense of fullness in the sanctuary. This is such an important perception not only for our-selves but visitors who might be looking for a new church home or a next step of faith. First impressions are usually based on feelings!
3) One service gives us an opportunity to know one another. With separate attendance patterns between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., we didn’t have as much shared community as a church our size could uniquely offer. Let’s claim our “smaller church” niche size! Already this summer I have heard several comments of how we feel more like a congregation getting to know one another and care for one another.
4) I know it’s a big change, but Acts 2:1 of the Pentecost renewal story begins with the words, “They were all together in one place.” It became a Wow!
We also floated some conversation about possibly changing the time for Sunday school. We got some teacher and sample group input. I heard openness, but a sense of not quite ready, so I want to put that decision on hold for now. We have enough going on, and I don’t want to overwhelm us, but I still count it as a Wow!
My first impression is that Grace church is willing to take some risks in this transition time. We know it’s time to try new things. This spirit of adaptation and experimentation is a key to any church vitality and health. We will have the opportunity to check our plans at the August Administrative Board meeting. As always, I want to hear what you are thinking. Be praying!
Most of all, Beth and I have been touched by your warm welcome, kind words and hospitality. My hope and prayer is that others will be invited to worship here, meet you, feel the same spirt of gracefulness through the ministries we are sharing and they too will be saying Wow!
Just Wow!
In God’s love, the Jesus way,
Pastor Rory
Grace Notes, July 2019
I am looking forward to being with you and getting to know you!
I am looking forward to worship, prayer, and hearing how Grace Church is helping you to grow in love of God and neighbor.
I am looking forward to Bible study and would like to start a group to talk about the weekly scripture (lectionary) lessons.
I am looking forward to worshiping outdoors when the weather cooperates!
I am looking forward to sermons about what I consider basics to our spiritual life.
I am looking forward to Vacation Bible School and wondering if I will get to color my hair for a cause!
I am looking forward to planning, dreaming and listening to where God might be calling us next.
I am looking forward to the roofing project and seeing what the proposed land sale might be for our future.
I am looking forward to how we can strategically and spiritually embody our value statements: “Worship, Live, Care and Share.”
I am looking forward to carrying on the good work of all your previous pastors.
I am looking forward to you getting to know me and my family.
In these next few weeks, I hope you will stop by the office for a visit, or invite me to meet you for coffee somewhere! Send me a facebook friend request!
I hope you will call, text or email me whenever you have pastoral care needs or concerns.
I am looking forward to being the church with the people of Grace as we continue to follow in the Jesus way!
What are you looking forward to?

With prayers ahead for us all,
Pastor Rory
CONTACT INFO: or or call him at 218-330-7367
Grace Notes, June 2019

Shared at the May 19th Town Hall Meeting

The United Methodist Church held a special General Conference at the end of February to determine our stance on human sexuality and the church.  Plans that would have created more space for differ-ences in practice across the church were rejected and the “Traditional Plan” was passed.  In the wake of February’s General Conference, I invited you all to continue walking together through Lent, particularly as we awaited the ruling from Judicial Council (like the Supreme Court of the UMC) as to whether or how the decisions from General Conference would be implemented. This isn’t always the procedure following each General Conference, but every-thing voted on at February’s General Conference was referred to Judicial Council for their declaratory decision.

Our wording in the UMC is that the Book of Discipline is amended and perfected at every General Conference and “is the most current statement of how United Methodists agree to live their lives together” (BoD, v).  The Book of Discipline describes committee membership, social principles, church property guidelines, a process for responding to violations of rules, and more!  Within the BoD, we have long held two commitments:

1) All persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God and we implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.  We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.

2) The UMC does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. Self-avowed practicing homosexuals cannot be licensed or ordained for ministry and same-sex marriage is not allowed within our churches, nor are UM clergy permitted to officiate at same-sex marriages.

As a result of the 2019 General Conference, and the ruling of Judicial Council, we as a global United Methodist Church have maintained both commitments. What the Traditional Plan adds to our Book of Discipline is enhanced enforcement of our rules.  For all chargeable offenses, when a complaint is brought, it is now more difficult to dismiss those charges or seek a just resolution (a mediation process), leading to more church trials.  We also adopted a mandatory minimum penalty (the only one in the BoD) for clergy who officiate a same-sex wedding and  are found guilty at trial.

For some in our congregation and denomination, these changes are necessary to restore order, due to intentional resistance and disobedience from more progressive parts of the connection to commitment #2.  For others in our congregation and denomination, these changes and the existence of commitment #2 causes harm to LGBTQIA+  people by perpetuating the very discrimination and condemnation that we stand against in commitment #1.  In the lead up to the 2020 General Conference, efforts are being made not only to strengthen the Traditional Plan by conservatives, but also to actively resist its enforcement by progressives.

So what comes next for the denomination?  What has become clear is that we cannot continue to argue with one another, distracting from the ministry of the church, and that something fundamentally must change.  There are more and more conversations about amicable separation (one part of the church leaving), redefining what it means to be connected (keep the logo and some agencies, but create structural separation through different branches), or even dissolving the entire denomination with two or more denominations springing up out of the ashes.  This is a time of great uncertainty and a time of great possibility, but one thing is clear…The United Methodist Church as we know will be changing.

Conversations have been happening at local, Conference, national and international levels about what is next for   the denomination as a whole.  In mid-May a gathering called UM-Forward ( took place here in     Minneapolis centering around and lifting up the voices of people of color, transgender and queer individuals.  Another gathering took place at the end of May in Kansas City for centrists and progressives to begin plans         for what comes next.  Conservatives have been in conversation and had formulated plans for departure if the Traditional Plan had not passed (  From what I’m hearing, all of these groups are preparing for either a showdown or a negotiated compromise at the 2020 General Conference in May. 

What’s next for Grace UMC?  Well I don’t know exactly and Pastor Rory will be the one to lead you all through what comes next.  But I do know that every congregation has an opportunity before them that centers largely around some sort of a choice in the coming year or two.



As best as I can tell, there seem to be five possible options Grace & other congregations can take moving forward:

1. Do nothing. Grace UMC would remain a United Methodist Church (for as long as The UMC continues to exist) and uphold the Book of Discipline. This would mean Grace would not host same-sex weddings at the church and would expect that no “self-avowed practicing homosexual” would be appointed here as clergy. (Although, I do want to be clear that even though self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not allowed to be clergy according to our BoD, the UMC has ordained gay clergy serving church - some who are open about their sexuality and some who are not)

2.  Remain UMC but become a Wesleyan Covenant Association congregation. This is a movement within the church of those who seek to renew the holiness of the church and are committed to church teaching that affirms marriage is between one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union ( This is one way to publicly declare that Grace UMC is a more conservative congregation and be a part of a net-work of those churches if/when the denomination splits.

3.  Remain UMC but become a Reconciling Ministries Network congregation. This is a movement within the church of those committed to full inclusion of all people ( This is one way to publicly declare Grace UMC is committed to inclusion while remaining United Methodist. The church could create     a policy to say same-sex weddings were allowed at the church and could express its willingness to have LGBTQIA+ clergy appointed to serve here.  Currently, there are no consequences for congregations that make such a commitment, but there are for clergy who would officiate at such weddings (and the manda-tory penalty goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020 for clergy convicted at trial of officiating same-sex weddings). The Reconciling Ministries Network could also provide support if/when the denomination splits.

4.  Leave the denomination and become an independent congregation. The disaffiliation plan that passed at the 2019 General Conference allows a congregation to leave the UMC with its property from Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2023, as long as a few criteria are met first — such as paying two years’ worth of apportionments, all debts, and a 2/3 vote of professing members at a church conference (along with a few other things).  An independent congregation would have to establish its own by-laws, 501c3 status, and seek its own clergy (and determine how to credential them).  For some this may be an option; however given Grace’s current financial situation, this is not in the cards at the moment unless some significant donors step forward.

5. Wait for the results of the 2020 General Conference. At that time, there might be a formal dissolution of the denomination, a negotiated split, or the formation of new denominations. Becoming a Wesleyan Covenant Association or Reconciling Ministries Network church (options #2 or #3 above) might be inter-mediate steps in this time of waiting.

All of these options come with benefits and costs.  Not all members of Grace UMC will remain with the church, no matter which option is chosen (formally or informally).  Grace’s choice could impact our ability to attract new people, many of whom seek clarity as to the type of church they’re joining.

Many of you have let me know that you’re in a period of discernment for yourself or your family right now.  As members of this church, I encourage you to stay engaged as Grace walks into and through these difficult conver-sations and decisions.  And if you’re not a member, but you’ve been toying with the idea of membership, I would encourage you to join, bringing yourself and your voice to the table in these decisions that are ahead of Grace and every UMC right now.

The UMC is not perfect, and these are hard conversations.  But I can guarantee that no church, no denomination has figured out all the answers to all the difficult conversations.  If you are here at Grace, you’re here because Grace has been your home.  It’s been a place that’s offered you hope, support, encouragement, and connection to God.  Hold onto that.  And continue to hold on to one another.

I give thanks for the witness many of your have shared with me of your commitment to your faith and what it means for you to live faithfully.  I will continue to pray for Grace in the weeks, months and years ahead as we move through a pastoral transition this June, and into the unknown for our denominations in the years ahead.  I pray that you will reach out to one another and to the community, in order to best discern how God is leading you all forward. Thank you for sharing your life and ministry with me and my family these last two years.  We will miss you and hope the best for each of you.





Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen




Grace Notes, May 2019
New Summer Worship Schedule
Pastor Jen’s Appointment Announcement
Starting on Sunday June 2nd, join us for one worship service at 9:00 a.m. Nursery and children’s church will continue throughout the summer. When we celebrate Communion on the first Sunday of the month and at any time when the weather isn’t particularly agreeable to outdoor worship, we’ll hold worship inside in the Sanctuary. However, on beautiful days when we’re not celebrating Communion, we’ll be sure to worship out-side at the incredible outdoor worship space behind the Sanctuary.
Please feel free to bring a towel or blanket (occasionally there is a little dew left on the benches in the morn-ing), or even a camping chair if you’d like.
Why the change? With all the transitions at Grace and in the wider United Methodist denomination, what better time to come together and remind ourselves just how much more we can do together than we can apart?!? Plus, how many 8 o’clockers know the 10 o’clockers and vice-versa? This summer will be a short but meaningful time to get to know some folks who have been going to Grace for years, or maybe just started attending, but you’ve hardly ever seen.
Will the summer schedule continue into the school year? More than likely, the summer schedule will remain only for the summer and Grace will return to two worship services in the fall with Coming Together Sunday.
While my time with you is quickly coming to an end, I look forward with so much joy to worshipping with you into the summer at one combined service at 9:00 a.m. While I grieve saying goodbye so soon, I am also pleased to announce that it is the intention of Bishop Bruce Ough to appoint me as Associate Pastor of Discipleship to Centennial United Methodist Church in Roseville, Minnesota. Acting on behalf of the congre-gation, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee has affirmed the Bishop’s intention. My last Sunday as Pastor at Grace UMC will be Sunday June 16th.
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, April 2019
If you haven’t taken a walk down to the Fellowship Hall in the last few weeks, I would encourage you to do so before Good Friday on April 19th. If you journey down the west hall at Grace UMC, you’ll find a labyrinth laid out in string and tape on the floor (which will likely disappear on Good Friday as we prepare the space for Easter morning breakfast).
Throughout Lent this year we’ve been gathering together on Wednesday evenings for inter-generational activities and focusing on different prayer practices. We began by walking, coloring and/or creating labyrinths as signs and symbols of our journey of faith. A journey that is almost guaranteed to take many twists and turns throughout one’s life. At the beginning of the labyrinth one enters in to the path much as they might enter into faith, eagerly seeking to be close to God, dwelling in the center or in the heart of God. As you walk along the labyrinth path, and likewise continue in your journey of faith, eventually something hap-pens along the path and in your life of faith. The path before you turns and loops back around and in no time at all you suddenly find yourself at the outskirts of this journey, as far as possible from where you thought you were headed. But the journey continues. The path winds in, out, and around, bringing you at times closer to the center and at times farther away. Possibly my favorite thing about the labyrinth is that it is not a maze and you can’t get lost. As long as you continue to faithfully put one foot in front of the other along the path before you, you will indeed find yourself eventually stopping and resting in the center, having journeyed a long and winding path.
At the center of our labyrinth is a (now tattered and torn) piece of paper that reads “You are loved.” Though I may need to eventually, I haven’t reprinted it or replaced that tattered paper yet. In the midst of our Lenten journey through the wilderness, that crumpled-up message is a tangible reminder that no matter what life throws at us, no matter how tattered or torn apart we feel, no matter how many people have pushed us aside, God’s message of love for each of us remains.
As our Lenten journey continues for a few more weeks, I invite you to take a walk down to the Fellowship Hall to meander through the Labyrinth, and prayerfully consider how God is moving in the midst of the twists and turns of your life to remind you again and again that you are loved.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, March 2019

GENERAL CONFERENCE 2019 ~ What happened and what does it mean?
Delegates of the 2019 General Conference passed the Traditional Plan (with a vote of 438-384). This plan retains restrictions against homosexual pastors and same-sex marriage, and also seeks stricter enforcement of the Book of Discipline rules around those restrictions. Within the Traditional Plan there were seventeen different petitions or paragraphs. Prior to the Traditional Plan passing, each petition had been referred to the Judicial Council and seven were deemed constitutional while ten were deemed unconstitutional (one of which was deemed partially unconstitutional). Judicial Council will review the Traditional Plan as it was passed. Only what is deemed constitutional will become a part of our church law in the Book of Discipline. Delegates also passed petitions that secure some financial commitments of pensions for retired clergy. Finally, delegates passed a disaffiliation, or ‘exit’, plan. The original plan had previously been deemed unconstitutional. While there was an amendment, it is unclear if the amendment fixed the issue(s) with constitutionality.
What does this mean? The short answer is: We don’t really know yet. The Judicial Council will review all that was passed. Anything that they deem unconstitutional does not go into our Book of Discipline. So for now we wait.
And while we wait, we at Grace will continue to be the church. Remember, “The church is not a building. The church is not a steeple.” (and I would add the church is not an institution or governing body.) “The church is the people”. You and me. All of us together make up the church. And so we will continue to be the church at Grace, striving to unite those we touch with the grace of God and transforming lives to become the heart, hands and feet of Jesus in the world.
The decisions of General Conference have left some deeply saddened, hurt and angry, while others are feeling like The UMC took a step toward living more faithfully. However you are feeling, I invite you to pause and breathe. Stay with me and Grace and one another through Lent. Let’s journey with Christ through the wilderness, to Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and celebrate the resurrection on Easter morning together.
Let’s continue to be the church God has called us to be.
When will we know more? The Judicial Council meets again at the end of April and as soon as I know more, I’ll communicate that with you.
On Monday, March 11th, I’ll join pastors from around the Minnesota Annual Conference for an All-Clergy Gathering with Bishop Ough to discuss and debrief what took place at the 2019 General Conference.
Thank you for your commitment to Christ, to one another and to transforming the world through our mission and ministry together.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, February 2019

Grace by the Numbers
Every year at the end of January, Pastors across The United Methodist Church are responsible for submitting numbers to the Conference office. These numbers reflect and point to the ministry to which we have been called and how we have lived that out in the last year.
Here’s a look at bits and pieces of Grace UMC by the numbers from 2018.
109 is our Average Worship Attendance for Sundays in 2018 (between both 8:00 a.m. and 10:0 a.m. services). This number remained steady from 2017 to 2018. The Administrative Board has set a goal of increasing our Average Worship Attendance by 10 percent in 2019, going from 109 to 120.
12 Adult Small Group Ministries regularly engaged in mission, ministry, fellowship and/or service in 2018: Adult Choir, Adult Sunday school, Book Group, Grace Dinner Group, Friends Fellowship & Food, Mah Jong, Meals on Wheels, Men’s Breakfast, Movie Night, Prayer Shawl, Ruby’s Pantry, and Ruth Voll Circle. This long list doesn’t even include other things we do at Grace like Sandwich Sundays for Simpson Shelter, or our efforts that support 360 Communities, Lewis House, or Emma Norton!
83 adults are involved in one or more of those 12 groups at Grace!
58 children and youth (ages 0-18) are involved in one or more areas at Grace, whether that’s the Nursery, Sunday School, God’s Kids Choir, Youth Choir, Wednesday Night Activities, or Confirmation!
We have an incredible amount of participation with 141 individuals (ranging from babies to adults) regularly participating and engaging in life and faith at Grace UMC!
A few more numbers to celebrate…
$5,020 or 21 percent of our Apportionments was paid in 2018! Up from 1 percent in 2017 and 8 percent in 2016!!
$38,088 (nearly 40 percent of our goal!) was deposited into a savings account for the Re-Roofing Campaign that kicked off in the last quarter of 2018!
Submitting yearly number reports is often time consuming and can be a dreaded task on a pastor’s to-do list. However, I was thrilled to submit these numbers and am deeply humbled by having the honor of calling myself Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church. The mission and ministry we are doing together is truly trans-forming lives, and I cannot wait to see what we accomplish in 2019!
Grace & Peace
Grace Notes, January 2019

In March, Grace will be celebrating 60 years of ministry! While the actual date of our 60th ‘birthday’ is near the end of the month, we’ll be celebrating on Sunday March 3rd. It will be a Communion Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday (which is also the last Sunday before Lent) and the first Sunday following the special session of General Conference (GC), which will be held February 23-26, 2019.

We have intentionally moved up Grace’s celebration of 60 years in ministry to the Sunday following the special session of General Conference as a way of embodying and living into the understanding that our ministry continues no matter what is decided at GC.  

As a way to help us prepare for and better understand what will be taking place at General Conference in February, I hope you will join me for a four-week small group study called Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and The United Methodist Church. This study was specifically created with United Methodist Pastors and Churches in mind to help facilitate “discussions about these emotionally charged and highly divisive issues in a way that encourages openness, humility, a spirit of grace, and above all, love for fellow group members. Although diverse viewpoints provide multiple lenses through which to consider different perspectives, the study is based on Scripture from start to finish” (from's product description). We’ll meet on Sundays from 9:00-9:45am in the last room of the Sunday school wing January 20, 27 & February 17, 24. Please let Pastor Jen know if you would like the book as soon as possible.

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, December 2018

Happy New Year! Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians. Each year, Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. This year Advent starts on Sunday, December 2nd. During Advent, we await and prepare for the coming of Christ — looking back in time and celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas, and looking forward in time and anticipating Christ’s return, all while celebrating the present moment and Christ’s presence in our lives today.

By the time you’re reading this, the Anderson family has begun to pull out the ornaments and Christmas deco-rations, set out the nativity scenes and prepare the Advent candles. Beginning on December 2nd, we’ll start lighting the Advent candles, reading Scripture and running around our house to count shoes, windows, lights, chairs and a host of other items — acts that have become an Advent tradition at our house. Each day brings more of God’s Good News, a new reminder of the gifts already around us, and a new opportunity to talk about how our giving will impact the children of God around the world. For the second year, we’re sharing our Advent tradition with Grace UMC with the 2018 Change for Change Advent Calendar. Copies are available at Grace, on the table in the narthex, and ideas/instructions are printed on the back.
Will you join us as we await the birth of Christ, look forward to His coming again and celebrate the many places where God is already at work around us? Using the Advent calendar, we’ll mark the days until Christmas with a little bit of Scripture, light and change, so that we might help change the world through the gifts we give. Half of the donations collected through the Advent calendars will go to the United Methodist Committee On Relief and the other half will go Grace UMC’s Apportionments to support United Methodist ministries around the world.
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, November 2018
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. — Romans 12:12
I am overjoyed to see God at work in our midst through the life of prayer at Grace. Take a look at what’s happening and what’s ahead:
The prayer chain at Grace UMC has been reinvigorated with Laurie Sanders taking the lead and sending out regular emails that invite folks to pray for specific needs. If you would like to join your prayers with ours, or if you have something you would like lifted in prayer, please fill out a prayer request card in the red Pew Folder and drop it in the offering plate or email Laurie at
A small group of folks has begun meeting at the altar following both worship services for a time of prayer, to lift up the prayer requests of our church. We invite you to join us and see what God can do through the work of our prayers.
For four weeks, throughout Advent, we will hit pause on the ‘normal’ prayers of the people. During Advent we want to continue lifting up the joys and concerns of those within our congregation; however, for this short time, how we do that together will look a little different. Instead of offering an open mic for joys and concerns, everyone will be invited to write their prayers (what they might normally lift up during the prayers of the people or joys and concerns) on a prayer card and offer it, along with their gifts, in the offering plate. Pastor Jen will include these prayer requests as well as the offering in the offertory prayer. Following worship, each prayer request (except those marked for confidentiality) will be lifted up by the individuals gathering at the altar to pray.
Emails have gone out to several individuals and we’re working on selecting a date for a prayer walk to take place around Crystal Lake and the surrounding neighborhood(s). Watch FaceBook and the before worship announcements, or contact me, for more info.
Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, October 2018
This year we’ll be focusing not just on our financial stewardship, but our stewardship as members of the body of Christ, particularly here at Grace UMC. As we continue to pair our worship with the Sunday school cur-riculum, we’ll be invited to join God at work in the world with a focus on our presence, our financial gifts, our service and our witness. From beginning to end, we’ll wrap the month in our prayers as we listen for where God is leading each of us to take a step up in our commitment to Grace and, more importantly, to God.

Everyone will be invited to fill out two cards: an Estimate of Giving Card for 2019 to indicate your financial giving commitment for 2019, and a Membership Renewal Card to indicate your commitment to Grace with your prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness in the year ahead.

The membership renewal cards have a multifold purpose. The Administrative Board set a goal of updating our church directory. Sending a membership renewal card to all members will help us verify that we have cor-rect addresses. Everyone will receive a letter with the renewal card which will offer a ‘positive' reminder of membership to all, but especially to those who may have drifted away from the church, rather than a ‘negative’ letter being sent to inactive members. If members are asked to stop and sign a card, it may not make a huge impact on their lives, but I hope it will invite folks to pause and consider their commitment to Grace. Those who return their renewal cards will remain on the membership list. Those who do not will be placed on the inactive/unresponsive list, which will be helpful for accurate end-of-year reporting required by the Conference.

In confirmation, we recently talked about the covenant that members make as a part of the community of faith whenever individuals join a United Methodist Church. We covenant to be active participants in our faith, living lives that are patterned after Christ. Together with the wider congregation, we all join together to renew our commitment to faithfully participate in the ministries of the church by offering ourselves up in service through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. I am a firm believer that when we say ‘Yes’ to God, God shows up and does incredible work through us. I look forward to the ministry we’ll do together as we continue to transform more and more lives to become the heart, hands and feet of Christ in the world.

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, September 2018
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
” — Lamentations 3:22-23

I give thanks for God’s steadfast love and mercies that never end. It has been an incredible summer, and I cannot wait to jump into the fall with our regular activities at Grace! Here’s just a few of God’s incredible memories at Grace UMC from this summer:
  • I could be mistaken, but I believe we were able to worship outside at 8:00 a.m. every Sunday, but one, this summer (with the exception of the Sunday when we purposefully stayed inside, so we could watch the S’more for Camp video)!
  • 4 first-time VBS participants!
  • 39 households participated in donating, volunteering, and/or teaching to help make VBS happen!
  • 7 children/youth from Grace attended Camp Minnesota church camps!
  • We raised nearly $1,000 with Hair Color for a Cause to support Lewis House and our Apportionments, and Roy Koenigsberg dyed his hair pink!
  • Thousands of sandwiches were made and delivered to Simpson Shelter!
  • Grace members participated in at least one, if not two (or more) UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) Disaster Response trips!
  • Christmas in July provided a car FULL of new household items for women and children at Lewis House.
  • And I am confident that there were many, many more ways in which God’s love was exemplified through Grace UMC and its members this summer.
We’ll kick off the fall activities on Sunday September 9th with Coming Together Sunday. Whether you come to the 8:00 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. service, I hope you’ll join us between services (starting ~8:45 a.m.) as we gather together, sharing stories of our summer adventures and enjoying a brunch style potluck. Be sure to check-in with a few of our Administrative Board members who’ll be set-up at a table making sure we have up-to-date contact information for everyone.
Sunday School for children, Pre-K to 5th grade, will start on Coming Together Sunday. Middle and High school youth will be worshipping with the adults. September 12th will be our first week of Wednesday night programming with a meal starting at 5:30 p.m. And September 16th following the 10:00 a.m. worship will be Confirmation kick-off for youth (open to 6th-12th graders) and their parents.
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, August 2018
In his book, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, Frederick Buechner writes “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

We want to take this season to sharpen our focus on the mission and vision of Grace UMC and what God is calling us to be as a community of faith. …And we need your help. We want to hear from you, from ALL of you, about your deep passions and what you see in your
setting/context/community as the deep hunger and needs around you.

Please take a few minutes to pray about the needs of the community and where God might be calling you…calling us, to be. Then, respond to these questions and turn in or email your answers to the office (please include your name). Questions geared more toward kids/youth are in italics.
  1. What do we, at Grace, do well? What do you look forward to the most at Grace? Why do you like to be here?
  2. What needs to you see or hear about in the community around you? (same for kids)
  3. What could Grace do differently in order to meet a deeper need? If Grace could do anything to fix a problem in the world, what would you pick?
  4. What brings you deep gladness? What are your passions and joys in life? What are your favorite things to do?
Members of the Administrative Board will be reaching out throughout August to make sure we hear from as many voices as possible. For every ten completed questionnaires received by August 15th, Pastor Jen will draw a name and make a $5 donation in their honor to the charity of the person’s choosing.

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, July 2018
In 2014, Grace UMC underwent a change in its leadership organization, moving from multiple committees to a single Administrative Board structure. Along with this change, four Goals/Values for how we would reach our vision of “Transforming lives to become the heart, hands, and feet of Jesus in the world” were adopted as well. Those Goals/Values are:

              LIVE.              WORSHIP.               CARE.               SHARE.
In May of this year, the members present at the all Church Conference voted unanimously to sign the purchase agreement for the sale of our southern land. The next step is for the developer to take his proposal for senior housing or market rate apartments before City Council for their approval. As we eagerly await the outcome of the City Work Session (it’s looking like the proposal may get on the agenda for August) and the due diligence period, we find ourselves perfectly primed to prepare for the season of ministry ahead. And we need your input.
If all goes well with the sale of the land, we should end up with little or no debt remaining! This would free up resources, allowing us to meet our budget obligations with a little breathing room. Whether the sale of the land goes quickly and smoothly or not, God continues to call us.
In his book, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, Frederick Buechner writes “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
We want to take this season to sharpen our focus on the mission and vision of Grace UMC and what God is calling us to be as a community of faith. …And we need your help. We want to hear from you, from ALL of you, about your deep passions and what you see in your setting/context/community as the deep hunger and needs around you.
Please take a few minutes to pray about the needs of the community and where God might be calling you…calling us, to be. Then, respond to these questions and turn in or email your answers to the office (please include your name). Questions geared more toward kids/youth are in italics.
  1. What do we, at Grace, do well? What do you look forward to the most at Grace? Why do you like to be here?
  2. What needs do you see or hear about around you? (same for kids)
  3. What could Grace do differently in order to meet a deeper need? If Grace could do anything to fix a problem in the world, what would you pick?
  4. What brings you deep gladness? What are your passions and joys in life? What are your favorite things to do?
These questions will be distributed to the congregation in July. Members of the Administrative Board will be reaching out in late July or August to make sure we hear from as many voices as possible. For every ten completed questionnaires received by August 15th, Pastor Jen will draw a name and make a $5 donation in their honor to the charity of the person’s choosing.Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen

Grace & Peace,
Grace Notes, June 2018
Grace UMC on the Go!

Summer is upon us and that means many of us will be packing bags and on the go!  Wherever your travels take you this summer, be sure to pick up a GRACE UMC ON THE GO box to take with you.  Inside you’ll find a number of suggested activities to keep you engaged in your faith and connected to Grace.  Just a few of the things you’ll find inside:  Baptism Bubbles to help you remember your baptism; Sidewalk Chalk to leave a blessing or prayer behind you; weekly Scripture Readings so you can read along with us wherever you are; and (my favorite) Flat Jesus to remind you that no matter where you go, God is always with you; plus more! 

Many of the activities in the box are geared more toward our younger disciples, but everyone is welcome to participate!  Not bouncing with joy over bubbles anymore…no problem.  We’ve got a trimmed-down version for our older disciples as well.  Pick up a GRACE UMC ON THE GO bag and join us this summer as we carry our faith with us wherever we go — whatever our age! 

At the lake?  Traveling for work?  Going to grandma and grandpa’s?  Heading to the pool or the park?  Camping out?  Visiting grandkids?  Snap a picture with Flat Jesus and share it on social media with the hashtag #graceumconthego.  If there’s more kids than just your own in the picture, please be sure you have their parent’s permission to post. 

Enjoy the summer!  Relax.  Refresh.  Renew.  And remember Grace UMC on the Go! 

Grace & Peace,

Grace Notes, May 2018
“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday Christian church. Happy birthday to you!”
The Greek word pentecoste means “fiftieth day.” Pentecost is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Easter (which falls on May 20th this year). It is often referred to as the birthday of the church. Pentecost is the day when we as Christians cele-brate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and others assembled in Jerusalem. It marks the beginning of the Christian church and the proclamation of its message throughout the world. That’s why Happy Birthday is printed above and it’s why we’re throwing a birthday party. Let me officially invite you —

You’re invited: To a Pot Luck Pentecost Party (Please bring a salad, main dish, or a side. Cake will be provided for dessert)
When: Sunday May 20th at 11:00am
Where: Grace UMC in the Fellowship Hall
What to expect: Food, Fun and Games (face paint, photo station, wrapping paper station, music, tattoos and more)
Gifts: What’s a birthday party without presents?!? We’ll be collecting gifts for the Lewis House and books for Christina Huddleston Elementary School’s mobile library.
Specific gift ideas for Lewis House will be posted on the bulletin boards at Grace, in May’s bulletins and on FaceBook when we receive word from Lewis House on their most needed items.
Grace Notes, April 2018

Did you know that Easter isn’t one day, but fifty?!? In the Christian Church we celebrate the season of Easter that lasts from Easter Sunday all the way through Pentecost, which is when we celebrate the ‘birthday’ of the church and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The season of Easter is more than just an extended celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. In the early Church, Lent was a time of preparation and learning for the new converts to the faith who would be baptized on Easter Sunday. If we see Lent as a season of instruction and learning what it means to be a Christian, then the season of Easter might be likened to boot camp, where we put our learning into practice.

On's FAQs page on the topic of Easter being 50 days it states, “Today, this extended season gives us time to rejoice and experience what it means when we say Christ is risen. It’s the season when we remember our baptisms and how through this sacrament we are, according to the liturgy, “incorporated into Christ’s mighty acts of salvation.” As “Easter people,” we also celebrate and ponder the birth of the Church and the gifts of the Spirit (Pentecost), and how we are to live as faithful disciples of Christ.”

Each Sunday at 9:00 a.m. from April 8th to April 29th, I invite you to join me in conversation in the gathering area of the Narthex as we think, discuss and dream about what it means for us to live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ here at Grace UMC in Burnsville, MN.

Christ is risen indeed!

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Jen

Grace Notes, March 2018
           The World Service Fund ~ Apportionments: Helping to heal a broken world.
Throughout March we’ll be focusing our Apportionment Drive on The World Service Fund of The United Methodist Church.  The World Service fund is the primary avenue of support for the global mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church.  World Service connects our church to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination in the work of the general church agencies and other national and international programs.  Because of The World Service Fund, 100% of our giving on UMCOR (March 11th) goes directly to those in need.  
Will you consider giving an extra donation to the Apportionment Drive in March to help heal a broken world through your support of The World Service Fund?
Grace & Peace, 

Grace Notes, February 2018
This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. On the 14th, we’ll gather for a Valen-Ash Wednesday fancy dinner followed by our Ash Wednesday service that will usher us into Lent. Valentine’s Day reminds us of the love that surrounds us. Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten journey of forty weekdays (Monday through Saturday) that takes the church to the eve of Easter, where God’s love breaks through and overcomes even death. We’re reminded on Ash Wednesday of our mortality through the imposition of ashes, and we’re encour-aged us to turn away from our sin back toward God.
While it is never a bad time to focus on our relationship with God, the season of Lent invites us to reflect on our faith and put it into action. This year, you will have several opportunities to do just that through: 2018 Lenten Practices Calendar.  Daily activities based around the three pillars of Lent: Fasting, Prayer and Service.
Minnesota FoodShare food drive. Each week in Lent we’ll be collecting some of the most needed items for 360 Communities’ food shelves. Watch the bulletin, website and FaceBook for details on items requested each week.
“Surprise the World” short term DNA (Discipleship, Nurture, Accountability) groups.
Thursdays, 8:00-9:00 p.m., (Feb 15th thru April 5th) for young adults. This group will meet at Pastor Jen and Blair Anderson’s house. Please note, we have a 55lb. yellow lab.
Wednesdays 6:00-7:00 p.m., (Feb 21st thru April 11th). This group will meet at Grace UMC in the Adult Sunday School room.
Sunday sermons focusing on Jesus’ “I Am” sayings.
2018 Apportionment Drive.
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, January 2018
Do you have a New Year’s Resolution? …Grace UMC does. What’s Grace UMC’s resolution you ask? Paying our Apportionments in full. Beginning now, we’re entering into a year-long drive and focus on Apportionments.
Apportion-what? Apportionments. You’ll hear this word A LOT in 2018! A balanced budget was passed for 2018 and a piece of that is a commitment to raising and paying our 2018 Apportionments ($24,199) in full - something Grace UMC hasn’t done in over 10 years!! This is a bold and faith-filled step, and I commend the Administrative Board for leading us and stepping out in faith as they did.
Check out the insert put out by the Minnesota Annual Conference to learn more about Apportionments, where they came from, how they’re figured and a bit about what they do.
A few things to look forward to with this year-long focus:
ApportionMOment. Once a month we’ll take a few minutes in worship to highlight one aspect of the work of our Apportionment dollars. We’ll learn about Africa University, the World Service Fund, Campus and Camping Ministries, New Church Starts and our connectionalism as United Methodists, among other things.

Noisy Buckets. Bring your spare change. Each Sunday we’ll have a bucket available just outside the Sanctuary doors. On your way in or out of worship, drop in your coins. Let’s make some noise and impact the world with some God-sized change! Throughout the year, watch for some challenges that will pop up with more buckets and various names attached.
As individuals, we each have gifts that can be used for good in our homes, at work, and in our communities. As a single church, we have the resources to impact the world in incredible ways through the gifts and talents of our members. As a part of The United Methodist Church, we have the resources and framework to truly transform our world!

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, December 2017
As a kid, Christmas is a magical time. It’s filled with so much excitement and joy and wonder! But I have to say, it’s even more amazing as an adult. Getting to be the person who helps put the magic into your child’s life is remarkable. What’s even more remarkable is getting to explain to them how Christmas is an expression of God’s love that changed the world. What a wonder it is to see the joy and excitement on kids’ faces as they count down the days.
Lighting the Advent candles, reading Scripture and running around our house to count shoes, cups, beds, toilets, lights, toothbrushes and a host of other items has become a bit of an Advent tradition at our house. Each new day brings more of God’s Good News, a new reminder of the gifts already around us, and a new opportunity to talk about how our giving will impact the children of God around the world. This year, we’re bringing our Advent tradition to Grace UMC with the Change for Change AdventCalendar. Copies are available at Grace, on the table in the narthex, and ideas/instructions are printed on the back.

Will you join us as we await the birth of Christ, marking the days with a little bit of change, so that we might help change the world through the gifts we give?

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
Grace Notes, November 2017
Praying Our Way Forward
Recently, Carol Greibrok (Administrative Board Chair), Ray Walker (Lay delegate to Annual Conference) and I all attended Conversations On A Way Forward. These Conversations On A Way Forward are happening across the Dakotas and Minnesota Annual Conferences, led by Bishop Ough (and led by other Bishops in their respective Annual Conferences). These Conversations are meant to “till the soil” for continued conversations in local churches and Annual Conferences in anticipation of the Commission On A Way Forward’s recommendations that will be presented to the Council of Bishops and the special called session of General Conference in February of 2019. 
What is the Commission On A Way Forward and why are they bringing a recommendation to a called General Conference?
The United Methodist Church has been hotly debating issues surrounding human sexuality since General Conference (GC) in 1972 when the the language of “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶ 304.3) was added to the Book of Discipline. After having much the same debate at each GC since 1972, in 2016 we reached a fever pitch and The United Methodist Church was on the verge of splitting. And something historic happened. We opened ourselves up to trying something new. The members of GC turned to the Council of Bishops who have no voice or vote at GC (they merely preside), and asked for help & guidance. The Council of Bishops proposed a Commission On A Way Forward. The Vision for this Commission is below:

The Commission will design a way for being church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextual differentiation as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible. This unity will not be grounded in our conceptions of human sexuality, but in our affirmation of the Triune God who calls us to be a grace-filled and holy people in the Wesleyan tradition.
How we move forward as a church remains to be seen. Bishop Ough reminded those of us at one of the Conversations that schism is in our past. It is a part of who we are as United Methodists. He also, however, lifted up the hope that however we move forward, we might be a witness to the rest of the world.
What’s next?
I invite you to join me and the rest of the Minnesota Annual Conference in praying for the Commission On A Way Forward Sunday November 5th through Saturday November 11th. Each Annual Conference has been assigned a week to spearhead a movement of prayer surrounding the Commission On A Way Forward and their work, and November 5-11 is our week. However, don’t let that stop you from praying before the 5th or after the 11th!

Gracious and Holy God, pour out your Spirit on The United Methodist Church. Give us voice to call upon your name that you alone might be glorified. Lead us as with a mother’s tender hand. Breakthrough in all our congregations and revive our witness around the globe. Call us to the edges. Engage us in your mission. Bless and empower us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We offer you our lives and talents without excuse, delay or reserve to work through us to accomplish your kingdom purposes.

Almighty and faithful God, pour out your wisdom on the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops.  Morning by morning, awaken their ears to listen for your still small voice and to the heart-songs of one another. Morning by morning, awaken their hearts to yearn for you and your love, mercy and justice. Morning by morning, awaken their minds to seek your knowledge that surpasses all human understanding. Morning by morning, awaken their souls to receive your Holy Spirit and be formed into the image of Christ for such a time as this.
Lord God, give the Commission and the Council of Bishops the tongue of a teacher, that they may know how to sustain the weary and wary Church with a word of hope, a word of peace, a word of courage, a word that charts Your Way Forward.
I pray, trusting in your goodness, righteousness and mercy and in the powerful, life-giving name of Christ Jesus.
Prayer written by Bishop Ough
Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jen
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,
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.

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.
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.

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, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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,
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.
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
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