Written by Amity Lantz, Youth and Family Faith Formation
The time has finally come to confirm our now 10th grade class of students. With the pandemic causing us to postpone our Rite of Confirmation service to the fall, we were gifted the opportunity to spend a few extra months with the confirmands. The resiliency, growth, commitment, and flexibility they have shown as we navigate this completely unpredictable time in our lives, is not only amazing to experience, but is a reflection of the best their generation has to offer. This time has shown what great leaders, teachers, businessmen and women, athletes, artists, scientists and much more, these young people will become in the near future. I am proud and excited to watch them continue to grow in so many different ways.
Every year we wrap up our confirmation year by asking the students to write a personal faith statement. Many chose to write a short paper summing up what confirmation has taught them about different aspects of their faith, and where they stand at that current moment in time. Here is what a few of them had to say:
“I like viewing God as someone I can talk to without judgment, so I will often pray about many things. Whenever I feel guilty or stressed, I like to pray. It always calms me down. It is also nice knowing there is someone to always cheer me on and be on my side, so I don't feel so alone. I think this is why a lot of people are religious; because the world is really scary and it's nice to have something constant to lean on.”
“I have experienced God in many ways. I experienced God when one of my cats passed away over a year ago. I had a hard time because I hadn’t lost anyone before then. I did a lot of praying in that time to help me get through. Another time I felt God is when I had to take my permit test. I was very nervous before taking the test. I prayed to God the night before asking to not be nervous and to do my best. I ended up passing the test. Later that day, I thanked God for answering my prayer. I understand the answers God gives are not always the answers I want, but I know He answers them in a way that is best for me to shape our future.”
“I believe that there is only one God, a God that will love us no matter what. I have faith in Him and that means I know He will be with me always, and I trust that He has a path for me. Although I am still learning, I know that I have faith in Him. I am happy and excited to learn and build my relationship with Him. I still have a long way to go with my faith, but I am excited to continue to learn and grow. I am especially thankful for my mentor, my grandma. She has been so important in my faith development and in my life. I would not be where I am today without her. I hope that as I grow, my faith also grows stronger and I can live a stronger Christian life.”
As an alternative to a traditional faith statement, this year we also gave our students the option to reflect on 2020 and how the different happenings have played out for them personally. We were gifted with art projects, bench building, podcast recording and many other ways the students were able to articulate and explore their feelings surrounding the past few months and how they have been affected. It was an extremely humbling experience to walk alongside the students as they contemplated who they are and how these months have impacted them in different ways.
Looking towards the future, these students are ready and prepared to make a difference in the church, their schools, their communities and our world. As we join them in affirming their baptisms, I encourage us to all take seriously our part in their journey.
“People of God, do you promise to support these sisters and brothers and pray for them in their life in Christ?”
We do, and we ask God to help and guide us.
Written by Pastor John Schwehn, Associate Pastor
Perhaps you have noticed that our worship this fall has featured one primary, Old Testament reading from scripture. Traditionally, our texts come from the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), a three-year cycle of readings that weekly assign an Old Testament reading, Psalm, Gospel, and New Testament reading. Typically, the preacher will focus on the gospel text, a story about or teaching of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
As I'm sure you have experienced by now, 2020 is just a different kind of year! As we worship together virtually at a distance, or in our small Home Grown Worship (click here for more on Home Grown Worship) circles, we will be following a different lectionary called the Narrative Lectionary (NL).
Developed by Luther Seminary faculty several years ago, the Narrative Lectionary aims to give a congregation the full sweep of the Biblical story in a single year. So, the first thing to know is that our central worship text will move sequentially through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
One of my favorite things about this lectionary cycle is that it gives us an opportunity to listen to and reflect upon stories and lessons that don't routinely appear in the RCL. The Bible is filled with so many beautiful and challenging texts, so the NL will give us an opportunity to hear some different voices that perhaps we have not listened to for a while in our corporate worship.
The Narrative Lectionary runs through a typical "program year" of a church. It begins with Genesis in September and lands us at the early church by May. Because there is only one, central text each week, the NL will give us a common story to dive into each week, whether we worship virtually from home or in a small group.
We will progress through wonderful, important lessons from the Old Testament through Advent. At Christmas, we turn to the New Testament and remain there through May. If you would like to look ahead at what we will be reading together each Sunday, you can click on this link:
Blessings to each one of you as we journey together through this sacred story in a strange time. The narratives we are living today are intimately bound up in the still unfolding story of the living God. May the Spirit continue to lead and guide us.
Written by Pastor Peter Hanson, Lead Pastor
Worship is central to our identity as followers of Christ, and is a foundational part of what binds us together as a Christian community. A hallmark of our ministry during these months of the Covid-19 Pandemic has been our online worship presence, to which we had to pivot quickly following the abrupt call to refrain from in-person gatherings in March. From that initial livestream, to editing segments pre-recorded from a variety of homes, to a “one-take” through-recording of a Sunday liturgy during the week prior, our worship has been constantly evolving. In addition, we’ve hosted midweek vespers through the summer on Zoom, held a handful of Drive-in Worship services, and met for “Pop-up Picnics Plus Prayer” when the weather cooperated. What we’ve learned through all this is that while it might be a bit more clunky or awkward than what we’re used to, worship during this strange time gives us an opportunity to feel a bit more connected, even though we are mostly separated from one another.
For these early days of fall, we are adding more opportunities to gather in smaller numbers, with what we are calling “Home Grown Worship” (HGW). Weather permitting, a variety of groups will soon be gathering in backyards or cul-de-sacs, patios and driveways, in miniature worshiping communities made up of CtK members and friends. For some, this will augment their continued online experience, while for others, this may end up being their primary worshiping community. And that’s just fine. Not all the groups will gather as long or as often as one another, nor on the same days of the week. That’s okay, too.
The idea here is to have a flexible and varied set of worship opportunities for CtK-ers, each one grown and cultivated among the group, according to the needs, the availability, and the gifts of the group itself. The CtK Worship Team—pastors, musicians, and other staff and volunteers—will provide resources each week to help groups check in with each other, hear and discuss God’s word, perhaps even to share communion (either on their own or with a visiting pastor), and then be blessed on their way again. A few pilot groups are up and running already, and others are now forming. We hope that this gives some balance between needing to stay apart and getting to be together, as well as between gathering online and in person. We expect that groups can get a least a few meetings in before the weather turns too wintery.
If you are interested in finding out more, please check out the basic HGW outline of resources on our webpage by clicking here. These will be updated frequently, adding additional songs that can be played right from the website either for listening or singing along), plus Bible readings that coordinate to the weekly lectionary, and other video and audio tools for reflection and discussion. If you’re ready to join a group—or even to form your own!—an online sign-up form can also found here.
Though we may be apart for now, we are together for good!
Written by Diane Shallue, CtK Member and Chair of the Caring for Creation Team
Today is the Feast of Saint Francis. It seems a good day for a deeper focus on caring for the earth, clean water and sustainable agriculture. I read an article in the Star Tribune on July 20 titled, “Grass Buffers Have Proven their Worth in Minnesota Farm Country.” I knew that there was a lot of resistance to the law passed in 2015 that required buffer land along waterways, but I was not aware of the end result. The law says that public waters, as defined by the Department of Natural Resources, must be buffered by permanent vegetation at least 30-feet wide, with an average of 50-feet. Public ditches, meanwhile, which typically are man-made or man-altered, require 16.5-foot buffers. I was very pleased to read that the current compliance with the law is high. Tom Gile, Resource Conservation Section Manager from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources was quoted in the article. “On public waters, our compliance is now over 99 percent statewide,’’ Gile said. “On public ditches, compliance is higher than 96 percent.” Cleaner water is one result. Another result is that the buffers provide much needed wildlife habitat in parts of Minnesota that have lost hundreds of thousands of Conservation Reserve Program set-aside acres. The members of the Caring for Creation Team were surprised at the high rate of compliance and encouraged by it.
Another discussion with the Caring for Creation Team was sustainable farming. I did an internet search and found that Minnesota has a Sustainable Farming Association. (See https://www.sfa-mn.org/.) This is what the organization says about itself. “For 30 years, we’ve quietly proven that farming differently works—for us and the environment. We run small farms, some organic, some bigger than others. We help each other clean up and grow more, row-by-row, pasture-by-pasture. We treat our animals humanely and with respect. And we know that the soil-building techniques we teach can capture carbon and fight climate change--all while increasing farmers' profitability.”
Although the Caring for Creation Team has not been meeting regularly, we still encourage members of CtK to care for creation in whatever ways they can. Recycle, reuse, and reduce use of water, production of waste, pollution of air and water, and deforestation. It seems like an overwhelming project, but God calls us to be good stewards of the gifts of creation. Step by step and little by little, we can answer God’s calling.