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!


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!


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.

It’s All About the Why

“It’s not what you do, it’s why you do it that matters.”

This is the message of a TED talk Council member Steve Benson shared at our May meeting. In the video, Simon Sinek observed how companies that market an aspiration or outcome are more successful than those promoting a product. (

I was wishing Mr. Sinek’s video had preceded this recent conversation with a friend in Atlanta:

ME: Starting around July 1st, Mount Calvary is finally upgrading the parking lot and restrooms. Parishioners will have to put up with construction dust and alternate facilities until it’s done in 6-8 weeks. But at least there are no porta-potties.

HE: Seriously?

ME: You betcha. We have amazingly generous members, a talented finance committee, and a Leadership team who knows how to work the City permit process.

HE: I know Jesus was born in a stable, but don’t you think bathrooms and a car park is taking the stall concept a bit too far?

ME: (long pause). So how about them Twins?

HE: Don’t you mean Braves?

Not one of my better exchanges. Perhaps I would have been more successful explaining why these Mission Forward investments are so important.

Mount Calvary is an open and welcoming congregation. That message of accommodation demands a place for everyone, including within our parking lot. We want to welcome congregants to a church, not a bank. We wish to uplift the spirit without a Sunday demolition derby. We strive to strengthen our Kowalski/Oppidan partnership with simplified lot sharing. We long to be a better neighbor offering improved parking facilities to Excelsior visitors. We seek to enrich our invitation to community groups enjoying our building.

Likewise, we want everyone that enters our facility to feel comfortable and safe. It is bad enough that regulars must trek to the restroom. Consider the quest required of infrequent visitors. Also, by eliminating traffic through the preschool, we enable improved security for our kids.

As with all construction projects, July and August will be a bit challenging. Please accept our apologies if your favorite parking space is a crater or your restroom journey is a bit elongated. We appreciate your patience as we work to extend Mount Calvary’s warm embrace.

Questions? Write me at

Doug Affinito,
Council President


I wanted to write on the idea of “Selah” today, but the topic felt familiar so I checked back in my files and found a previous “Selah” message dated April 2013. Well, to keep my message fresh, yet keep my intentions for today’s message intact, I added “Part 2” to spice things up!

Selah is a word found in some of the Psalms of the Old Testament. I first noticed it in one of my favorites, Psalm 46. There have been many debates and studies about what the word means, but the general consensus is that the word is not directly translatable and doesn’t have a clear definition. But one generally accepted idea is that the word indicates a pause in the verse, a time of instruction possibly saying, hear this. The interpretation of the word that I like best came from a musician friend of mine; to pause and consider….

So I write to you today to join me in a Fit Spirit Exercise of Selah. I’m going to take some time this summer to pause and consider some changes in my ministry work. After 10 years of providing spiritual care to cops, firefighters and medics throughout Minnesota, I’ve decided to bring my work closer to home. I’m going to narrow my scope of services and start focusing on agencies within Hennepin County. That also includes more direct care work in the Excelsior area.

Part of the ministry I’m going to spend some time considering is the idea of this spiritual fitness exercise. I currently use a pretty random approach to writing these exercises. I’ve given a lot of consideration to creating a more systematic approach to spiritual exercise, and with the help of one of my pastoral mentors, I think I’ve got a good plan. But I want to work out the kinks over the summer. So, I’m going to take the next couple months off from my random Fit Spirit writing, and be back in the fall. Enjoy your summer and don’t forget to Selah!

Take Care,­­
Pastor Dan Carlson


If you sing the praises of an unsung hero, is that hero still unsung? Semantics aside, this month I would like to share an ode to Mount Calvary’s amazing staff.

Our church has approximately 4,000 energetic and involved members. Behind the scenes a paid staff, hovering around 25 ordained and lay individuals, work tirelessly to meet the daily needs and expectations of our diverse congregation and world community. That’s like running a 4000-passenger cruise ship with a crew of 25.

To pull this off requires an extraordinary level of skill, experience, dedication, and commitment to our Christian mission; attributes that apply to our entire Mount Calvary team. Where else can you find a group of nationally recognized experts with a long aggregate tenure providing leading edge programs that get results?

The fruits of their labors surround us every time we walk through Mount Calvary’s doors. We are greeted by a warm, inviting worship space reconfigured daily to service the ever-changing needs of our members and the surrounding community. Parishioners crowd the pews to participate in music-filled worship services worth experiencing. The halls ring with the sound of youth seeking Mount Calvary as a peer destination. People of all ages congregate to learn, socialize, and feel God. Our neighbors down the block and on the other side of the world feel the love. We seek Mount Calvary as a place of worship as well as a home for preschool students, aspiring musicians, and the hungry across the world. We freely give of our time, talent, and treasure because we have confidence those resources will be effectively managed and expended.

I take keen satisfaction in watching masters at work; everything seems so effortless and often invisible. For the performer, this is usually a mark of pride. The risk is that the required time, effort, and skill go unrecognized.

So, I would encourage you to reach out to Mount Calvary’s backstage crew and let them know you appreciate what they do for us. Help them understand how their efforts impact you and your family. Sing their praises. But don’t go overboard. These are, after all, Minnesota Lutherans. We don’t want to embarrass them.

If you prefer, send your thoughts to I will be sure to pass them on.

Doug Affinito,
Council President

New Season of Litchicks

As one season comes to an end, another begins. So it is with LitChicks. We are pleased to announce our selections for our 2017-2018 season. Some of these books have a wait list at the library, so make your requests soon!

July 13, 2017
Still Life With Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen (a love story, romantic comedy of manners)

September 14, 2017
Faithful by Alice Hoffman (a young woman’s struggle to find her way after a tragic accident)

November 9, 2017
Homegoing by Yaa Gyaasi (follows the lives of 2 Ghanaian half sisters and their descendants, from slavery to contemporary America)

January 11, 2018
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick (widower embarks on life-changing adventure)

March 8, 2018
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2 sisters in WWII France)

May 10, 2018
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (courtroom drama explores race and prejudice)

LitChicks is a fun and easy book club for women. We meet every other month on the second Thursday from 7:00-8:30pm in the Fireside Room. Anyone is welcome to come to any meeting, and no commitment is needed—just come when you can. More information is under our listing in the Small Groups section of the Mount Calvary website.
Men’s Ministry Stadium Tour!