State of the Church – June 2018

Okay, it’s time for some words of encouragement. I want everyone to get in the game, to play a key role, to…participate.

As I write about the state of the church, I not only look at where we are, but also where we want to be. What our future will look like, and what activities we are able to undertake, depends on the funding we have available. Which brings me to my message of participation.

We kicked off our “all in” campaign at the beginning of April. This campaign covers the next three years, and it will provide the funding for our capital projects and for the majority of our benevolence programs. As you might expect, we need to have a clear expectation of what the total amount raised will be before we can fully establish our priorities and commit to significant capital spending and benevolence amounts.

As the name implies, we are hoping for full participation with the all in campaign. I hope that every member of our congregation sees value in the improvements we are continually making to our church, and feels the emotional rewards from all of the lives we touch through our community support and benevolence programs. There is truly “something for everyone” in this campaign; our ministry and educational programs and the community groups we host will benefit from our improved facilities, and many of our benevolence partners rely on our support.

Now, I don’t mean we expect you to jeopardize your retirement, deplete your kids’ college fund or give up your family’s summer trip to participate. Every gift, regardless of amount, is greatly appreciated, and you can schedule your payment over time to make it even easier. I’m hoping my note today merely nudges you to do what you’ve been intending but have been procrastinating, and that today you become a participant.

Our hope is that everyone finds their reason to participate, and as a group we are all in!

Mike Kasprick,

Council President

State of the Church – May 2018

STATE OF THE CHURCH

This month I’m not writing about what is new and newsworthy within our own walls, but rather about an affiliated organization with whom we’ve had a very long-running relationship. Mount Calvary has been a corporate member of Luther Park, (Danbury, WI) dating back to the beginning of the camp in 1958, and the camp has played an important role, not only for the church’s ministry efforts, but also on a personal level for many families in our congregation.

Luther Park might hold a special place in your heart and bring back pleasant memories if you attended a summer camp session, or perhaps your kids have spent time there and reported back that it had a positive impact on them. Or maybe you visited as part of an adult retreat, or just time spent at the camp as a volunteer with like-minded members of our church. Whatever brought you in contact with Luther Park, I’m sure you’ll agree that the camp fills a unique and very valuable role in helping Mount Calvary achieve our overall ministry efforts.

Last year Luther Park took a significant step toward meeting the needs of a broader group of “campers” as they began construction of phase one of their new Bethel Family and Adult Retreat Center. While their existing cabins are well-suited to the needs of the kids attending summer camp, they recognized the need for new spaces to better meet the needs of adults, families, and those with limited physical abilities. The new retreat center adds comfortable, new, group meeting spaces, hotel-style rooms and fully-accessible facilities and is scheduled for a grand opening in Fall 2018. Importantly, Mount Calvary has been a contributor to the retreat center and looks forward to the expanded uses it will provide.

If you’re thinking “this sounds great—how can I help bring it to fruition?,” here are a couple of ideas:
Completion of the interior of the retreat center will rely on volunteers, so if you have appropriate skills, or perhaps just some extra time and a desire to help, your assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Donations are being sought for some of the final details such as furnishings, landscaping, etc.

Some additional and more general information about Luther Park that you should be aware of:

Registration is now open for youth summer camp at Luther Park! You can get information and register at lutherparkdanbury.com. As part of Mount Calvary’s “Serve to the Max” month, Luther Park is having a volunteer workday to get the camp “summer ready” on April 28. If you can’t make that date, watch for the announcement of additional weekend dates in May.

Finally, as many of you know, Joel Legred (yes, Pastor Brenda’s Joel) is the Executive Director of Luther Park. If you have any questions or would like to join one of the volunteer weekends, you can contact Joel by phone at 612-987-6628 or by email at jlegred@lutherpark.com.

Mike Kasprick
Council President

Radical Hospitality

Up until about a year ago, I can honestly say I had never heard the following two words used together: radical, and hospitality. Yet, when they were combined in our strategic plan it made absolute sense! Our fourth strategic initiative, focused on inclusion, states “We seek to develop radical hospitality.”

Taking a quick look at how these words are commonly defined, it seems almost too obvious that they belong together;

Radical: very different from the usual or traditional.

Hospitality: offering a generous and friendly welcome.

Mount Calvary has a history of pursuing new paths and setting new standards, so why not with hospitality and inclusion too? Why should we simply settle for the same old way things have always been done? We choose to do it differently and better!

And so, as there are families in our local community who have nowhere to go, and need a temporary home to help them stabilize and get back on their feet, we will offer an extraordinary and generous welcome. This is why we participate in Families Moving Forward (FMF).
Does it make a difference? Absolutely! All of the families we hosted last year were able to move into their own housing within a month of our hosting week. This is a great experience for all those who are involved … the families we host, and the Mount Calvary volunteers. It inspires hope and smiles, and lives are changed.

Mount Calvary is one of about 80 congregations participating in the Families Moving Forward program. During the day, participating families work with FMF staff to address their specific needs, from seeking employment to locating housing, so they can regain stability in their lives. In the evening, the families return to the church where they find a warm meal and a welcoming place to sleep.

Our next hosting week is scheduled for March 18-25, and we can definitely use your help! Please contact Chris Anderson with any questions or to volunteer. You can reach Chris at chris.anderson@mountcalvary.org or 952-474-8893.

STATE OF THE CHURCH

While the messages in this column sometimes stray from what the title suggests, as we approach the start of a new year I feel it is important to take a good look at the current state of our church. I only have space here to give a brief summary of a few key elements, but the picture I see is very positive.

Financial
Our current financial position is healthy, and our outlook remains strong. We are fortunate to have a congregation that is not only able to give, but that also recognizes the importance of supporting all of our efforts, ranging from church operations to capital improvements and to our ministry programs. Pledged and non-pledged giving, which primarily funds our day-to-day operations, met our goals for the past year, and our current pledge drive indicates that we are on track to repeat this in 2018. Unfortunately, Mission Forward, our most recent capital campaign, fell slightly short of its goal so we had to defer some of our planned improvements to a future campaign to maintain the integrity of our budget. I would like to say “thank you” to everyone for their generosity!

Pastoral Staffing
With the installation of Pastor Aaron Werner in January, we are now fully staffed in this key area. Very importantly, the quality of our pastoral staff is one of the great strengths of Mount Calvary; we are truly blessed to have such a qualified and talented group of pastors that complement each other so well.

Ministry Partnerships
We have made a significant difference in the lives of people over the past year! Our congregation has provided assistance to a wide range of local and global efforts, many of which provide critical resources for recipients. Just a few that come to mind are Families Moving Forward, Many Hands-Many Meals, and Gethsemane Lutheran Church. If we measure the state of our church, at least in part by the service we provide and the positive impact we have on others, then we are in a very good state.

Of course, one of the most important measures of the state of our church is whether we are meeting the needs and expectations of our members. Based on the survey of our congregation that we reported to you in 2016, we heard a resounding “yes.” But since this is of such importance, let’s not wait for the next survey to hear from you. Please feel free to send me your thoughts, comments and questions any time regarding the state of our church. 

Let’s Show We Care

The past couple of weeks have reminded me that we have so many people who need our thoughts and prayers, and who need us to show that we truly care about them. Some are people very close to us, some are acquaintances, and some are total strangers … but all provide us with good reasons to stop and think about those around us, and to understand and care.

Nationally, there was the recent news about the tragedy at a church in Texas that affected an entire community. Locally, a friend and colleague let me know about a family member who had encountered a life threatening health issue. Hitting closer to home personally, I recently moved my mother to a memory care unit from her independent living apartment due to the advancing state of her condition.

Each of these events will bring about changes in the lives of those who are impacted. And while change is inevitable, and in fact it is often the necessary catalyst that brings good things into our lives, sometimes change seems distinctly biased toward negative outcomes such as the situations described above. In these times let’s remember that caring does matter, and let’s do our best to support those who have been affected. A hug, a phone call, a squeeze of someone’s hand, a prayer … they can all be so very helpful, and show that we care.

For those who have been paying attention to our recent introduction of Mount Calvary’s four Pillars (I expect that includes everyone!), expressing that we care about others is the “what we do,” and the “why we do it” is … Love. Seems like a really good reason to let those around us know we care.

Not to minimize the importance of the message above, but there are a couple of additional changes that we should all care about (these are examples of good changes!). Our construction projects for the remodel of our restrooms and the expansion of our parking lot have been completed! Take a minute or two the next time you are at church to see our newly remodeled restrooms in the atrium near the main entrance. They are not only more accessible and functional, but they are also beautiful! And the completion of our parking lot expansion not only adds some very necessary parking spaces, but we now have a much more direct path to Kowalski’s to grab those all-important donuts and treats after Sunday services.

See you in the bakery department soon!

Mike Kasprick
Council President

Linked in Prayer

As we set aside time for daily prayer, we can notice how our God nourishes, strengthens, loves and forgives us. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Through silence, reading scripture, prayer, we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Here are a couple suggestions for the Advent season. Mary’s Magnificant: Luke 1: 46-55 and Zechariah’s prophecy when he was filled with the Holy Spirit: Luke 1:68-79. Read in entirety, then select a phrase to meditate on a few times during the day. At the end of the day, ask the Holy Spirit what enriching messaging God is speaking into your heart through the passage. Blessings to you as you read, listen and commune with God.

Mary’s Song of Praise – Magnificant
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Laurie Erickson

WHO WAS BILL NILSEN?

WHO WAS BILL NILSEN?
This is a departure from the typical monthly activities at your Foundation. We are installing a stone bench, small altar and planters in front of the Columbarium. The plan is to make the area more spiritual. We are also hosting an informal dinner for members of the Tartu Academy in Estonia. It is scheduled for October 9. Look for details in the bulletin.

The headline is about history that I think we should all know. It is about Bill Nilsen, a member of the Excelsior Lutheran Church before the name change and before the sanctuary (now Heritage Hall) was built. Bill, along with his family, which includes Corrine Peterson, his daughter, came to Excelsior as Superintendent of the Excelsior School District in 1943.

The challenge back then was how to expand the curriculum to meet the growing and changing needs of the students, who numbered only about 100 students per class. Post-war requirements for advanced mathematics, science, and better world understanding all called for curriculum change. Finding more students to create a critical mass was the only answer. So, with School Board encouragement, Mr. Nilsen began discussions with the neighboring districts.
Six years later, under his leadership, six small independent school districts (Clear Springs, Deephaven, Excelsior, Groveland, Minnewashta and Tonka Bay) consolidated into one larger system, the Minnetonka District #276, with Bill Nilsen as its first Superintendent until his retirement in 1968.

The radical notion of consolidation was new to Minnesota, and the Minnetonka School District #276 was its pioneer in our area. At that time there were over 4000 school districts in the state of Minnesota.
Moreover, high school sports, like today, were a powerful magnet in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Small high schools played one another on an even-keel basis. The Excelsior High School Basketball team won the State Championship shortly before the merger conversations started, further making a new route into the future an uphill battle.
The climate for consolidation was highly political, and emotions were very evident. How could this possibly work? Mr. Nilsen and his School Board sold the idea of focusing on what is best for the kids. They stressed the future of our community and placed emphasis on teaching and learning. This attitude prevailed and on March 15, 1949 the voters agreed by 89 percent. It is important to note that this decision was not just a philosophical one. Land had to be purchased, buildings built, bonds sold, tax levies managed. The high school, two junior highs (middle schools now) each with a swimming pool, and an additional elementary school were built to create the present-day Minnetonka School District. All present elementary schools today were built or remodeled during Mr. Nilsen’s Superintendency.

Thankfully, through careful planning and far-sightedness, area citizens were open to conversation, dialogue, and eventual decision-making on the best interests of the whole regarding the education of youth. Their vision, tenacity and entrepreneurship in those early days paved the way for the ongoing commitment and what was best for the kids. It became a model for other school district consolidations that followed in Minnesota.

Bill’s leadership skills prevailed at the newly formed Mount Calvary as well. I got to know him after his retirement. By then, Dr. Don Draayer was the superintendent and the school district continued to grow and prosper. Bill was active on the Gifts and Memorials Committee, the forerunner of the Foundation. His visionary thinking was instrumental throughout the church. The newer stained-glass windows in the sanctuary, the ones depicting communion, baptism and the Holy Spirit descending upon Mount Calvary were a project of his committee. Later, he was instrumental in the installation of our wonderful pipe organ. That committee consisted of many members, mostly musicians, that led that movement.

Remember, in the early years of the Foundation, when we were trying to build the principal endowment fund, there were no grants to be given. Bill’s hallmark was that money for capital improvements had to be raised ahead of time. Bill was a master at fundraising. We have much to be thankful for because of Bill.

Information submitted by Ross McGlasson, Don Draayer, & Corinne (Nilsen) Peterson: 2017

PASSING OF THE PRESIDENT’S TORCH

Hello! While I appreciate having this opportunity to introduce myself to the Mount Calvary congregation, I also need to say a goodbye…to Doug Affinito as the outgoing Council President. Thankfully, Doug will still be on our Council so we’re not losing his wisdom, leadership and sharp sense of humor! Thanks, Doug, for all the time and effort you have contributed over the past three years as you led our Council with such skill and passion!

As I was preparing this message, I was also delivering my daughter to Northwestern University near Chicago to start her first year of college. Another goodbye that I had to face, and admittedly a bit harder than my goodbye to Doug (I think Doug will understand). I began to realize that we face many “goodbyes” on a fairly regular basis, but thankfully there is typically another “hello” in close proximity. With my daughter, I get to say hello to a young woman who is now beginning a great new journey of independence, growth and excitement. Similarly, as we say goodbye to Doug, I now have the opportunity to say hello to many more of you in my new role as your Council President.

I am truly excited about this transition! Having been on the Council for the past couple of years, I have not only gained respect for our leadership team and the great job they’ve done guiding our church through some significant initiatives such as the Mission Forward implementation, I’ve also seen firsthand the strength of the strategic path that has been established for the years ahead. Mount Calvary really is unique. It has a personality that stands alone! As you heard from Doug last month, we explored the “why are we,” which resulted in a set of four defining Pillars: Grace, Inclusion, Love and Service. These Pillars are unique to our church and they provide the guidance and justification…the “why”…for everything we do. The programs range from our support for local families via programs such as Families Moving Forward, to underscoring the reasons for our commitment to global partnerships in areas such as Haiti and Nigeria. You will be hearing more about these Pillars in the near future, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, please find me before or after an upcoming service and say Hello!

EPIPHANY GALLERY UPDATE

Summer brought over twenty young artists to the gallery through our Summer Arts Camp. Through our art projects, we explored words and ideas that engage us in what our relationship with God means to us and to others. Seeing the children work with color, line, shape, and imagery using paint, canvas, metal, and clay in a way that is so natural to them is seeing the Holy Spirit in motion!

September begins a new theme for Mount Calvary and an opportunity for Epiphany Gallery to invite artists to share work and create space for us to see whatever we may see in their work. We begin “God’s Stories Written on the World,” with artist Sonja Hutchinson, a watercolor artist and Signature Member of the Minnesota Watercolor Society. She has been painting in watercolor since 2001 upon an invitation from an artist friend to join her class. (Right here is a good place to insert that everyone starts somewhere! If you have a fancy to create art, start anywhere – this is your invitation!)

Sonja’s story goes, “I started painting the things that I love…creating a gallery of family and friends. In the process, I discovered joy in capturing the essence of characters that form our community, the personality of places in our environment and the things that enrich our days.”

Sonja describes, “painting in watercolor is where spontaneity and intention collide.” She uses positive and negative space seamlessly showing us that there really is no negative space in art. That space is an integral part of the composition. She fills that space with movement and color creating wondrous places for the viewer to wander. We look forward to seeing the stories within Sonja’s paintings! Her work will be on exhibit in the Epiphany Gallery the first week of September. Sonja is a celebrated watercolor artist in the Twin Cities and we are honored to have her work in the gallery!

Going back to the seed that was planted earlier in this article about YOU creating art…look for a Call for Art in the October Caller! We are reaching out to our congregation to bring together “God’s Stories Written on the World,” through your art! Creators of visual art: be thinking about what you may have to contribute, details to come!

WHY ARE WE?

My first Caller letter asked: “Who is Mount Calvary and what makes us unique?” Back then, I proposed Mount Calvary is an enrichment center focused on Spiritual, Community, and Personal growth. My three years as Council President demonstrated Mount Calvary is this and much more.

Today I offer my last Caller letter as your Council President. Lots of water has flowed down Minnehaha Creek since you entrusted me with this mantle. On Sunday, September 24, 11:45am, at the Congregational meeting, the flag will transfer to Vice President Mike Kasprick.

Much has happened at Mount Calvary over these years. Our pastors led us through nearly 600 worship services. We baptized many children of Christ, confirmed a record number of youth, hitched a bunch, and said too many goodbyes. We called and installed Pastor Aaron after seven years of Pastor Doug’s leadership. We established a Pastoral Transition Plan as preparation for Pastor Dave’s inevitable final curtain.

Our Preschool is fully-enrolled and financially self-supporting after adopting a new extended services model.

Thanks to the generosity of our members, the Mission Forward capital campaign expanded our hug-of-hospitality with more convenient restrooms, an accommodating parking lot, tighter Preschool security, and an improved web presence. We also distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to vital mission partners. We welcomed Kowalski’s as a neighbor and Mount Calvary cafeteria.

Church leaders made a concerted effort to be more visible and responsive. A comprehensive congregational survey confirmed members are engaged and see Mount Calvary as a vital part of their lives, also revealing several areas for improvement. After incorporating staff ideas and Council wisdom, your Council adopted a multi-year strategic plan to tackle the challenges and opportunities.

Despite these accomplishments, the Council still wrestled with my original query. The breakthrough came two months ago when we realized the question was not “Who are we?” but “Why are we?”. That discussion led us to four defining Pillars:

  • GRACE: God Seeks Us
  • INCLUSION: God Includes Everyone
  • LOVE: God Expects Us to Care and Love Everyone
  • SERVICE: God Challenges Us to Serve

I will leave it to the capable hands of my successor to share the ‘what’ and ‘how’ actions we choose to further this journey.