These past 12 months brought a ton of change. On the one hand, I am filled with gratitude! On the other, it has been a LONG time since I was this stressed out.

The one hand first. I hand my heart filled with gratitude for all the people of St. John’s I am called to serve. I have been truly in awe of your generosity of me and financial support which has allowed St. John’s Lutheran Church to keep the ministry happening despite being required to be physically distant. You have tuned in to the worship service via Facebook or our website, and you have done a remarkable job of utilizing the new Church Directory (many of you have already uploaded your own photos and updated your information). And you have come up with creative and innovative ways of staying in touch with each other during a time that it has been very difficult to do so. Here I specifically am thinking of the Calling Tree which serves the purpose of passing along timely and some times critical messages, but also so that everyone is contacted – a kind of wellness check. And for Vicky Ercolani who has vigilantly tended our website, linking our Facebook page to the website which makes our worship services so much easier to find, and adding a giving button to the website which has allowed our congregation to receive contributions from anyone anywhere! Thank you, Vicky. And for all of you for keeping your faith visible and at the fore of your minds in a time when being active in our faith could be challenging! Thank you very much!

Now when I call to mind what effect the past 12 months have had on the dedicated staff with whom I am blessed to work every day – I am simply grateful!

  •  Dave Helm continues to get blood out of the proverbial turnip out at the Chi Rho center. And whenWayzata Community Church suddenly was forced to change their plans and unable to come due to the pandemic, Dave rallied the troops anyway and got his summer staff working on facility repairs and upgrades that had been deferred for years.
  •  Dan Cherryhomes and Ann Paulson are remarkably reliable and dedicated to their work. They have accomplished literally everything asked of them: from producing wonderful communications, recording the ELCA Parochial Reports for the second year in a row, to figuring out the logistics in credit/ debit card contributions (with a huge shout-out also to Susan Zabel and Sean Stagg for that), to supervising our new custodial cleaning company and their new cleanings necessary due to the pandemic, to figuring out a new cash management system, to being sure the bills were paid, and landing the Payroll Protection Plan loan (an absolute God-send) which we fully expect to turn into a grant by mid-June.
  • Tina and Venita and the Child Care teachers have never wavered in their remarkable work – including figuring out how to remain open even through the pandemic and stay-at-home orders. I’m sure it’s already in the Child Care Report, but I still feel it needs to be mentioned that a handful of Child Care Center families continued their tuition even though their children stayed home. They just routed the checks to the church as charitable donations!
  • Joseph Sahai was so diligent keeping the building and grounds in shape, but went over the top while daily sanitizing every door handle, push-plate, and light switch until he himself contracted the virus in late May and was forced into quarantine (his return is still unknown but his health is improving).
  • Kira and Peder have been a joy to work with in the production of our online worship services every week. Even though the building was empty they still produced beautiful and passionate music for our worship services.
  • And the amazingly efficient Lisa Plowman has returned to the Bookkeeper post and brought excellence and a welcome steadiness to what has proven to be an otherwise TUMULTUOUS position!!!

    I cannot be more grateful for these remarkable and talented coworkers. But in addition to these day-to-day ‘soldiers’ who were able to trudge on despite VERY diffcult circumstances, I would be remiss if I did not also men on the work of our congregational offcers President Lori Johnson, VP Jennifer Burdick, Secretary Patrick Coveney, and Treasurer Susan Zabel who always had my back when I felt lost or a word of encouragement when I was losing my mind. One more thank you goes to Susan Zabel who THANKFULLY was in the offce nearly every day from May through March when our bookkeepers quit, resigned, were asked to quit, vanished, or failed their background check. Susan… wow! Above and beyond! Thank you. These congregational leaders were remarkable in their generosity of me and passion. To all of you I say a heartfelt Thank You!

    Playfully riffng on the year 2020 and having clear 20/20 vision, we had intended that 2019 and 2020 ‘program year’ would have been a Year of Vision—a year to bring everything into focus. I don’t know if things panned out exactly how we had imagined it, but I do think that the pandemic has caused many within our church family to rethink what is truly important to them and their family calendars. So, in that sense, perhaps things did become more 20/20 clear for each of us. And with all the changes that have come to each of you through this liminal season of the pandemic, I am excited to participate in conversations with you about our future together. No doubt we have been derailed from where we thought we were headed, but perhaps we are NOW on a different/altogether new road that might be better for us and our whole community. We’ll see!

    Yep! Much has changed since June of 2019: Just think, one year ago at this me we were starting to say our goodbyes to Director of Worship and Music Sam and Megan Grace to pursue a doctorate in conducting, and now we prepare to say farewells to Director of Worship and Music Kira Winter and her son Nash! While saying those goodbyes and hellos to our Directors of Worship and Music, we also said farewell to Amy Mihelich, our Director of Children and Family Ministries. In the early months of 2020, we welcomed Dan Cherryhomes onto the team as our Business Administrator—a HUGE lify in the administrative oversight for me, but also a huge gift to our treasurers, bookkeepers, Dave Helm and Tina Shear! And the hellos and goodbyes became nearly chaotic for the bookkeeper position from June through February as we had Stacy, Angela, Jessica, Justin (for a 2 day interim support), Pattfiy, Joe, Angela again, and nally Lisa all serve as Bookkeeper – yes all in the past 12 months. Add to that near chaos we then entered the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide executive order to Stay-At-Home. Yes, the past year has weighed heavily on all of us, and we’re not done yet. I personally am hopeful for new systems of justice, I will eventually be excited to say hello to a new staff person to fill Kira’s talented shoes, but I cannot WAIT to push COVID-19 out the door!!!

    I am hopeful for the year to come. Our world has changed because of the pandemic, social distancing, and social injustice. God will not allow us to sit back and wait for people and opportunity to come to us; we will need to be in public and known as people who work to make the world a more trustworthy place. To that end, my goals for the coming year are, that we:

    Intentionally build relationships with minority groups and people.

    • We already have a relationship with a Hispanic Congregation named The Honey Word Church which (pre-COVID) had been using our church building for worship. We’ll seek out ways to deepen that relationship.
    • I have also begun conversations with Pastor Glarushia Davis of Grace Temple Fellowship to explore ways for our two congregations to open conversation and serve the Lord together,

      Invite by extending our welcome/hospitality beyond our church’s walls to the people of our immediate neighborhood,
      Incarnate the Risen Jesus Christ by being the body of Christ and Christ’s love in human form in Tangletown,
      Inspirational in our ministry; not in the sense of getting people excited, but rather in the sense of being in-spirited and life-giving from the workings of the Holy Spirit owing through us – so that the work/ ministry and personality of our congregation is inspirational/Life-giving to and for our neighbors.

      In this era there is not a new normal. There is only new. This can cause some fear and anxiety, but knowing that God is before us and beckoning us into this new season can also be exhilarating and filled with hope. God is not done with us yet. Something new is already here and also not yet. But regardless, with God in front of us, each other alongside, and new relationships emerging, we will together walk this new way in Christ’s name.

      Still your servant in Christ,

      Pastor Mark