Lifetimes: April 2022

Lifetimes Newsletter

From the Staff

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen

A recent article by Leon Rodrigues in the Luther Seminary e-newsletter describes the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s “Ubuntu Theology.” Archbishop Tutu was widely respected around the world for his work to attain peace and reconciliation in South Africa. According to Rodrigues, “Ubuntu is a cultural concept evident in Tutu’s theological practices and writings because it so deeply points to the practice of community and inclusion. He describes it as ‘my humanity is bound up in yours.’”

As we begin to consider the Easter good news, we will celebrate this month, it could be boiled down to those few words. Jesus’ death and resurrection is not simply good news for each individual person, it Is a communal proclamation that “my humanity is bound up in yours.” We minimize the power of the resurrection when we make it about an individual’s forgiveness of sins. The Apostle Paul uses this language in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”

Did you hear? In Christ’s resurrection, God was “reconciling the world” and then entrusting us with the message of reconciliation.

My humanity is bound up in yours.

Our Easter Sermon series is “Be… Alive!” What we invite you to consider throughout this season is not just how Jesus makes you alive, but how your life enhances the lives of others.

If my humanity is bound up in yours, then…

  • My actions have an effect on others’ lives.
  • My life is connected to Ukranian refugees abroad as well as homeless lives locally.
  • My giving connects with what others in need may receive.
  • My acts of kindness alter my relationship with others for the better.
  • My deeds of love create possibilities of community where only division was known.

This is the life God has entrusted to us.  This is what it means to “Be… Alive!”

Peace. Kai

From the Council

Wyatt Stahl, Congregation President

Our March church council meeting was held the day after many of the council members helped serve coffee, lemonade and treats after each service on Sunday morning.  We have been waiting two years for the simple blessing of being able to gather outside the worship spaces and share time with each other.  That, in and of itself, truly felt like a miracle.

Before COVID surprised us and changed virtually everything, our congregation began a significant program of faith formation.  The program changes were made with the intention of helping build households where members are readily sharing their lives of faith with one another and asking the challenging questions about how to walk in our faith in our daily lives. This spring will begin an evaluation of how this faith formation work has progressed, what worked well and what may need adjusting.

Our congregation has been very generous this year, and we continually monitor the finances so if adjustments are necessary, we can respond in a timely fashion. The financial report is below.

We have several capital projects that will begin this year including work on the parking lot and the water intrusion repair project. The parking lot project will begin with fixing the two problems – water runoff and handicapped parking close to the building. If you would like to support this project, you are invited to give online or send a check with a note in the memo for “parking lot.” The water intrusion repair project is finalizing the costs. If you would like to support this project, you are invited to give online or send a check with a note in the memo for “water intrusion.” Both of these projects are planned for completion this summer.

Lent and Holy Week Prayer Practices

Experience a time of quiet meditation, prayer and reflection during Holy Week and Lent at Incarnation. Pray around the cross in the Chapel, walk a labyrinth in the Fireside Room, or view illuminations from The Saint John’s Bible in the Chapel and Fireside Room. Stop in Monday-Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m. (with a few exceptions when the Chapel is reserved for groups and on Fridays). Instructions for walking the labyrinth are available. And, for those who are not comfortable with in-person worship yet, these prayer stations are another way to be present to God in this season.

Holy Week Worship

April 10: Palm Sunday
8:45 and 10:15 a.m., both in Sanctuary, both livestreamed
Nursery provided.
April 14: Maundy Thursday
7:00 p.m., Sanctuary, livestreamed
Nursery provided.
April 15: Good Friday
11:00 a.m. Family worship, Incarnation Hall, NOT livestreamed
7:00 p.m., Sanctuary, livestreamed
April 17: Easter Sunday
8:00, 9:15, 10:30 a.m.; all in Sanctuary, all livestreamed
Nursery provided at all services.

Rutter’s Gloria to be Presented

The Senior Choir has been hard at work preparing to present the Gloria by John Rutter in April. This three-movement work is both energetic and devotional and will be an inspiring way to experience a celebratory worship service. The choir will travel to Path of Grace in Maplewood on Palm Sunday, April 10, and will be at Incarnation on April 24 for one service at 10:00 a.m. The combination of many voices along with Copper Street Brass, timpani, and organ is a musical offering that you won’t want to miss. Invite your friends!

A Note from Becky Benson, Director of Engagement & Service

Beloved Incarnation Siblings in Christ,

After nearly 21 years, I will be leaving my Incarnation staff role on April 29 to enter a new chapter: retirement. While I love the ministries we have shared and each of you as companions in these ministries, it’s time for me to move to this next phase with my husband, Mark, who has been retired since summer 2020.

The Bensons (who were new neighbors of former Incarnation Senior Pastor Gary and Mary Ann Anderson) stepped into membership of Incarnation in the fall of 1993, when Natalie was not yet two and Audrey was on the way. And then, in June of 2001, through an invitation I never dreamed would be extended, I joined the Incarnation staff as the part-time “Evangelism Coordinator” after a 17-year career with Honeywell. I didn’t know ANYTHING about serving in a church staff role, but I guess loving God and loving people was enough to get me started. From then until now, you and the Holy Spirit have formed me into the leader I am today, as I’ve had the privilege of inviting others to engage in service. There has been no greater joy than to come along side you, extend the invitation to join our communal work of making a better world, for you to say YES and then for us to do this work, side by side. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to use my strengths in such life-giving ways over these last 20+ years; you also walked with me in care and love, celebrating many joys and comforting me through some pain. You raised my children and created a beautiful faith home for my family, a community with whom we have shared meaningful ministry.

Incarnation, you are RICH with many gifts, ideas, creativity, energy, resources, faithfulness and deep passion for God’s communal calling. I have every confidence that wonderful ministry will continue to take place as you step faithfully into the future. You will be in my constant prayers.

During the summer, I will not worship with the Incarnation community or engage directly as a part of Incarnation ministry, in order that space may be created for new leadership, whatever shape that takes. I hope to ease back slowly this fall as an Incarnation community member.

What’s immediately next for me? I’m not exactly sure, though I have a deep longing to use my gifts to engage in relationship and in a spirit of accompaniment with those locally whose lives are different from mine. The who and in what ways are not clear right now but I am sure God will point me in the right direction.

We will have a chance to celebrate the ministry we have shared together before the end of April, though the details are not known right now. Stay tuned. Until then, our shared work will continue as we, filled by God’s grace, feed the hungry in heart, body, mind and spirit.

With love and gratitude,
(email Becky directly here)

Apostles Library Book Review by Jo Zschomler

 They Are Us: Lutheran and Immigration  by Ralston Deffenbaugh and Stephen Bouman

They Are Us: Lutheran and Immigration is certainly a timely book for 2021 when issues of immigration and numbers of immigrants and refugees admitted to the United States are topics for discussion at dinner tables as well as in the halls of Congress. This second edition of the book brings readers up to date with the ELCA AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities) program, too, as well as asking the all- important question of “what’s next?”

The authors, Ralston Deffenbaugh and Stephen Bouman, come with a vast amount of background in immigration work. Deffenbaugh was a director of LIRS (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service), as well as doing human rights work for the Lutheran World Federation. Bouman has served as pastor, synodical bishop and Executive Director of Domestic Mission for the ELCA. He has also been on the board of LIRS.

The authors propose that the church, from congregation to churchwide, work to transform the present polarization and fear and lead to real change. As they share stories and hopes of immigrants and refugees, they help us understand our ministries as part of God’s love and hospitality for everyone.

Growing through Loss

This six-week series provides an opportunity to obtain information and support for a variety of loss and grief issues. Each session begins with an educational presentation by a professional from the community (also live-streamed on YouTube), followed by small groups facilitated by leaders who understand the grieving process. Registration takes place each evening before the program. Each session is complete in itself; attend any or all sessions. The next series begins on Thursday, April 21 and continues for six Thursdays at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in New Brighton. For more information, call 763-755-5335 or visit This series is offered through the North Suburban Grief Support Coalition.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church
835 2nd Ave. N.W., New Brighton, MN 55112  651-633-8333

“In This Together” Mosaic on Display

 As part of the May annual Offering of Letters effort and to help focus our attention on ending hunger and caring for God’s creation, Incarnation has arranged to borrow a three-part mosaic display from the Minneapolis Area Synod. This special display will be with us during the month of May.

The panels were commissioned for the 2019 Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly and created by the Semilla Center for Healing and the Arts. One panel is “Feed the World”, our call to end world hunger. A second panel, “Love the Earth” shows native Minnesota plants and creatures. The middle panel was put together by those attending the 2019 assembly under the direction of the Semilla Center, showing the unity of the church with out Creator, the creation and one another.

Please take time to look carefully at the mosaic – – but no touching please as the glass is both sharp and fragile.  Read the artist statement nearby and learn more about the Semilla Center for Healing and the Arts.  Semilla (“seed” in Spanish) works to plant seeds of hope by teaching the creating public art that can help make the community healthier, safer and more beautiful.  The Hunger Awareness and Advocacy group is quite sure you will agree.

Summer Student Intern Announcement – Summer 2022

Have you ever thought about becoming a leader in a church or other non-profit organization? Would you like to discover your strengths and discern a little more about your calling in the world? Do you have a unique gift you can offer the Incarnation community as we move forward? If so, the summer intern program may be for you.

Who Can Apply:

  • Young adults over the age of 18.
  • People, inside our community or community extended, who may be thinking about a career in public ministry.
  • People who have specific skills that can push us forward in our ministry.
  • We are hoping for three interns.

What is the Timeline:

  • Internships begin June 1 and run for 6-8 weeks depending on your availability.

 Paid or Unpaid?

  • Thanks to an ongoing grant from our Endowment Team, each intern will receive $300/wk for 15-20 hours of work.

What Will I do?

  • Each intern will be assigned a mentor.
  • Weekly meeting with pastors, other interns, and mentors to discover strengths and build team.
  • Weekly one to one meeting with mentor.
  • Focused work in one ministry area based on your strengths and/or expand your ministry knowledge with multiple ministry experiences.

Interested? Email Pastor Kai Nilsen at for initial conversation.

Our vision at Incarnation is “A world filled with God’s love and grace.” For that vision to be realized we need developing leaders who are filled with God’s love and grace. Maybe that leader is you!

Hey parents, Sunday, April 24 ILC Kid’s will be at 10:00 a.m. There is only ONE worship service that day at 10:00 a.m. and so ILC Kid’s is moving to that time as well. Thank you for your flexibility. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Rebecca Christiansen at

Kairos Opportunities

Illuminating Holy Week with The Saint John’s Bible
Zoom, April 11, 7-8:30 p.m.

The purpose of The Saint John’s Bible is to ignite the spiritual imagination of people of all faith journeys around the world through the illuminations. The Saint John’s Bible Action Group – Grant Rykken, Connie Aram, Jan Ginn, Martie Martin, Deb Rykken, Denise Floe–will share their experiences as a small group extensively what drew studying and sharing the St. John’s Bible

They will present an overview and history of The Saint John’s Bible, and then practice the process of Visio Divina using four illuminations associated with Holy Week to ignite the spiritual imagination of the participants.

Let the Sun Shine in: Climate Change at a Crossroads
In Person, Fireside Room, Incarnation, April 25 and May 2, 7-8:30 p.m.

Join Pastor Luther Dale as he probes how, why, where, how much, and how fast the climate is changing and the impacts on health, economics, national security and the well-being of our youth.  He will highlight the outcomes and commitments of the 2021 Glasgow Summit, as well as the barriers to progress. He will also detail specific goals and actions of businesses, government, churches, and individuals needed to ensure a sustainable future for all God’s creatures.

Former pastor at Incarnation Lutheran Church, he is a long-time advocate for the value of God’s creation and has worked on a variety of environmental issues, including climate change.  A long-time active volunteer leader in both the state and national Sierra Club, he is recipient of the Sierra Club’s  William E. Colby Award.

Social and Racial Justice Opportunities

Uncommon Threads: Quilting as a Way to Transcend Boundaries 

Join the Center of Leadership and Neighborhood Engagement as they convene part two to hear Joseph Mallard and Janet Hagberg’s stories of quilting as a pathway to relationship which transcends boundaries of race and culture.  Share in your own conversations about how your passions and hobbies might be a vehicle for building relationships across these same boundaries in our lives. April 14 from 7:00–8:30 p.m. over zoom. Learn more and register for each evening here. Listen to part one here.

Come Together for Racial Justice – April Online Gathering

Join the online community conversation centered in BIPOC voices and leadership with others, Come Together for Racial Justice on April 21 from 7:00–8:30 p.m. Hosted by Incarnation’s partner, the Center for Leadership and Neighborhood Engagement this month’s gathering will feature Richard Webb and Kelly Schumacher Fuller of CLNE as they discuss the book immersion experience they’ve hosted on Waking Up White. Learn more and register here. Former gatherings have been recorded and are found here.

2022 Offering of Letters “Hunger for Justice – – Filling Hunger Needs Through Advocacy”    

As Christians, we are called to seek justice, care for those experiencing hunger and poverty, and embrace our Creator’s vision of hope, love and peace.  We are called to embody it in public as we commit to live in solidarity with those who are made vulnerable by the inequities that drive hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

As the world slowly moves from pandemic to endemic, we are left with more hunger than before Covid-19 became a part of our lives.  Even before that time, hunger was increasing around the world after 30 years of falling hunger rates.  Today there are 811 million people in the world who are facing extreme hunger, erasing years of progress in ending hunger.  The war in Ukraine and millions of refugees in Eastern Europe will only add to the number.  In the United States 1 of 6 children are at risk of hunger right now.

We do know that ending hunger is not simply a matter of filling tummies.  We need to fill those tummies with healthy food that provides the proper nutrition.  For the youngest children, those between conception and age two, that is especially crucial to bodily and mental growth and lifelong health.  Special care must be paid to maternal health during those years, too; mothers’ health affects children’s health – and the future of their families, communities, countries, and our world.

Bread for the World has urged an Offering of Letters annually as we advocate as citizens urging our elected senators and representatives to support legislation that works to end hunger, both domestically and internationally.  Hunger is not really a political issue; it is a moral issue.  And hunger is certainly not a partisan issue.  People of faith who hold values which include care of all people can and should speak out to help in working for an end to hunger.

The Hunger Awareness and Advocacy group will be staffing a table on Sunday morning, May 1 for Incarnation’s 2022 Offering of Letters.  Information and materials will be available to aid you in contacting your federal officials asking them to support programs in the U.S., especially for children, and to increase funding for global nutrition.  Stop by and be a part of our advocacy together with letters, emails, tweets, and beyond.

Sample letters are available at:
(global ask)
(domestic ask)

Ways to Serve and Donate

Minnesota FoodShare, through April 11, 2021

Minnesota FoodShare, the largest grassroots fundraiser and food drive in the state, aims to restock food shelves statewide, including the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf. Drop off physical donations at Incarnation anytime the building is open, or bring them directly to the food shelf. Because of supply chain issues the following items are in particular need at this time: Breakfast foods, lunch items, tomato products, household cleaning and personal hygiene items. You may also make financial donations on behalf of the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf through Incarnation’s online giving site. A portion of all donations made – financial and physical – will be matched by Minnesota FoodShare. Learn more here.

Mats Continue to be Made

Thanks to Jo Zschmoler for her latest mat!
A new mat was given to this great duo.

In early March, 13 mats and some pillows were delivered to The Listening House in St. Paul to be given to those experiencing homelessness.
They are claimed right away, as evidenced by the photo to the right. Thank you for bringing in plastic bags of all shapes, sizes and colors so mats can be crocheted or knit into mats. Please continue to support this by bringing in bags. If you want to learn how to make “plarn” or how to crochet, we need you! Please contact Danette Griffith at

Two Habitat for Humanity Projects for Holy Hammers

This year the Holy Hammers, a coalition of 15 area churches, will be working on two Habitat for Humanity home building projects. The first will be to finish construction of a new single-family home at 1297 Woodbridge St. in St. Paul from April 25 to May 20. The second project is a rehab of an existing home at 564 State St. in St. Paul from May 23 to July 1. Both projects offer a variety of opportunities to refresh your current remodeling and construction skills and to learn new ones. As usual, the added benefit of this work is great social interaction, physical activity and mental stimulation. After two years of bringing our own lunches, the churches will be providing lunches for the volunteers again this year. If you want to volunteer for construction or as a food provider, or if you want more information, please contact Jim Fruehling at 651-335-3554 or You are encouraged to sign up early because each workday has a limited number of volunteer spots.

FMSC Coon Rapids March Meal Packing Results and April Packing Reservations 

On March 15 and 16, members of the Incarnation community joined together to pack meals at the FMSC permanent site in Coon Rapids. Together, they helped pack over 42,000 meals which will feed 116 kids for one year. If you are interested in joining us to support this ministry partner, the next Incarnation shifts are April 19 from 7:00-8:45 p.m. and April 20 from 2:00-3:45 p.m. Click here for more information and sign up. All are welcome and the need for this food around the world is great. Thank you for your service!

17th Annual Every Family Needs a Home Breakfast for Solid Ground 

Every Family Needs a Home is an inspiring morning of community and philanthropy. This one-hour event on May 4 from 8:00–9:00 a.m. is free to attend and will include a morning of fellowship, a personal testimony by a program participant, and a Call for Giving. Attend the event live at Jimmy’s Conference Center in Vadnais, or virtually. Register directly here, indicating “Incarnation” in your registration if you’d like to be seated with others of Incarnation. 

Among the Congregation- March

SYMPATHY TO: Corey Husu and family on the death of his mother

It is through your generous gifts that we are able to help ministries here at Incarnation and around the world.