Welcome, Michael Lunder!

This month, New Prague alum Michael Lunder will join the Holy Trinity staff as the new Digital Children’s Choir Director. 

“I’m super excited!” says Lunder. “I know I’m going to be learning a lot and having fun along the way. I can’t wait!”

While the pandemic initially forced us to close our doors and move to an online format in March 2020, it was apparent there were many benefits to the services. And adorable children singing worship songs was certainly one of them! Lunder will help to choose music appropriate for the kids, teach them virtually, and then edit the music and videos shown in both the online and in-person services. 

An avid performer, Lunder has spent his adult life teaching music to kids. He toured for five and a half years with the Young Americans, a nonprofit that seeks to “inspire the world through music.” Traveling to over 14 counties, he taught kids about music, dance, gymnastics, choreography, and musical theatre. 

Lunder first appeared on our online service last December, singing with Choir Director Toby Thietje, NPHS Choir Director Nicole Thietje, and Minneapolis vocalist Jordan Leggett after telling the Thietjes he would like to help in any way needed. When Pastor Ben Hilding created this position, Lunder was thrilled. “When I was presented with an opportunity to [teach] virtually, I jumped on it!”

After touring professionally on national tours, Lunder became accustomed to living out of a suitcase. “Moving is second nature for me, I’m quite nomadic. But with this virtual option, we can schedule things with the kids that work for everybody. It’s more accessible for them and for me.”

Faith Journey

Lunder was baptized and confirmed at Holy Trinity, but did not attend regularly. Growing up, his family went to church on Christmas and Easter, but faith was not a focus in their household. “I didn’t grow up in the church, I grew up church-adjacent.”

While on a performance tour a few years ago, Lunder’s roommate asked him to go to church with her. “I went to this non-denominal church in Southern California. We walked in during worship and I was just flooded. I felt the Holy Spirit, felt the Holy Ghost, I completely fell in love with Christ at that point!” Lunder then made it a point to attend churches while on tour.  

Mentored by the Thietjes

Lunder credits one person in particular for guiding him. “Toby’s mother [Addy Thietje] is the reason I perform. She took my hand and led me down the right path many times.” After forgetting to sign up for show choir or the musical, Ms. Thietje would find him and encourage him to do so. “Thank God she did because I would not be here without her…or the whole Thietje family, honestly.” 

Nicole Thietje, Lunder’s choir director in high school, was also a mentor and helped to steer his path. “I had a secret internal calling to become a performer. It was something I loved, but back then it was not big for guys to be doing choir or musicals. I didn’t really believe in myself, but the Thietjes saw something.”
 

Family Tragedy

As the fifth of six children, Lunder was seven years old when his younger brother, Kyle was diagnosed with cancer. After fighting bravely for two years, Kyle passed away at the age of five. The emotional toil on the family was devastating. “Financially and emotionally… everything and everyone was just drained,” says Lunder. “I grew up quickly after that.”

Not wanting to burden his parents further, Lunder made a point to bury his emotions. “I was really good at hiding my feelings. I never cried; everything was smooth sailing. And then I found music and that all went out the door!” he laughs. 

Lunder believes his life’s calling stems from his family’s tragedy. “[My brother] is the reason I still do music, and that I’m so passionate about music and teaching music to children. It’s so important because it was the first time I realized I could use it as an outlet to express the things I had gone through, the traumas of my childhood. I remember in the moment when I discovered it, it was because I was dancing for him and singing for him and I made the decision then: this is what I want to be doing. I want to be helping other people find that release and the euphoria you find when you get lost in the music.”
 
 

Tell Me 5 Things that Describe You

1. “Mischief is always in there. I like to be silly. I always say bugging people is the sixth Love Language and that’s what I LOVE to do! It shakes people out of whatever they’re going through, brightens their day.”

 

2. Snacks: I love Takis! I also love celery a lot… I know that’s bizarre. But I also really love Ice Cream. Favorite kind: Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream.

 

3. Puppies: I’ve never not had a dog in my home. I just adore them. They’re so sweet, and so smart and so talented and so fun… They’re just little balls of love!

 

4. Water: When I’m near water, I feel the energy. I have the geometrical symbol for water  (an inverted triangle) tattooed on my elbow. I’ve never been able to explain it until I was an adult. 
 
5. Music: I grew up very musically. I was always passionate about good music, but the first time I had a revelation about my connection with music was when I was 13, at a workshop for Young American Workshop, which was one of the reasons I joined them. I found out I could express myself through music. For me, before that, it was not something I could do easily. I didn’t talk about feelings; I wasn’t comfortable. To this day, music is the easiest way for me to express what I’m feeling.”

 


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The Cobbled Path Forward

HTLC’s Racial Justice Team Has Big Plans for Fall
 
Your life experience in the United States, even in Minnesota, is dependent upon the color of your skin.  

“Minnesota has one of the biggest gaps between white kids and people of color [in the school system]. The darker the skin, the worse it gets. Why are we not talking about this?” asks Melissa Horejsi, Racial Justice Team (RJT) Facilitator and Holy Trinity member. 

A teacher of the visually-impaired in the Apple Valley school district, Horejsi felt called to join the group from the beginning. “I joined because I’m white. I don’t know what I don’t know. As a teacher and someone who loves kids, and I love all kids, I have found it has been so incredibly difficult to see the level of hatred and not being comfortable with people because of how they look.”
 
Truth in Minnesota

The percentage of people of color who live below the poverty level in Minneapolis is four times higher than the rate for white people, according to the Census Bureau. And, despite our ‘Minnesota Nice,’ we have one of the worst achievement gaps in the country. 

 
After the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA asked all churches to form a Racial Justice Team if they did not already have one. To support those churches, they published a guide for helping congregations to become more racially-aware. Team members Jen Sayler, Linnea Hautman, Liz Nelson, Sande Schoenecker, Meg Schoenbauer, Casey Fremstad, Wendy Mathiowetz, and Jon Bergquist now meet once a month.
 
 
Called to Serve
 
The team spent the year intentionally learning and determining their plan. “The goal of this team is to educate ourselves and our church community about racial justice,” says member Meg Schoenbauer. An upcoming sophomore in college, Shoenbauer joined the team because she felt she could no longer be silent. “I spent much of high school biting my tongue to hold back sharing my opinion, but I have found a community at Holy Trinity where I feel like I can share my beliefs and be respected and listened to.” Other members of the RJT shared their motivation for joining in the January 17 online service. (Their segment begins at 22:30.)
 
 
Defining ‘Systemic Racism’
 
The term ‘systemic racism’ can be a lot to grasp and Horejsi knows some people may not understand. “It means the system, whatever system it is, has done things historically that we do not pay attention to because we don’t have to. When you learn those things, you realize there’s a lot of work to do to figure out why people are feeling this way.” She says the way forward will be difficult. “It’s uncomfortable. I hate uncomfortable conversations, but sometimes it has to be uncomfortable.”
 
 
Plans for the Fall

Like everyone, the team’s goals were delayed by COVID, but they have a full agenda for the fall. “Oh, we are just getting started!” says Horejsi, laughing. “This past year we have been working on the team, to see how we can best grow for the church. But we are planning on activities, book studies, podcasts, teaching sessions… lots of things!.”

One book study, done last summer, was Lenny Duncan’s Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the United States. A thoughtful and honest book, the author details how difficult it is to be a person of color in the ELCA. The staff and members of council read the book and participated in a series of online discussions, facilitated by Horejsi.

Team member Shoenbauer also looks forward to the fall and hopes to include more outreach. “I would like us as a community to be able to have difficult conversations and to listen to stories that have too often gone unheard. I know that there are great people in this community who want to be a part of the solution, so I’m hoping to do more with the congregation as a whole.”

Shoenbauer has also been instrumental in creating and maintaining the Little Free Library of Anti-Racist Books, located by the Little Free Pantries near Door 2. This library functions more as a traditional library with a lending system and a faith that people will return the books. A list of these books is available on our website, along with a synopsis of every book. 
 
So, What Have You Been Doing?

The group has been deliberate about taking the year to educate themselves in order to be ready for HTLC’s reopening. “This isn’t an outside-the-church group, this is a church group. We want to make sure that what we’re doing isn’t our personal agenda, it’s what works best for HTLC at this time,” says Horejsi. 

The Racial Justice Team meets on the second Monday of every month, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Email Melissa Horejsi with questions or to join the Racial Justice Team. 
 
Written by Rose Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist

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The Father’s Calling


Tim Price feels he is finally heeding God’s plan for his life.

“God got real tired of me ghosting his phone calls,” he told me during a recent interview. “I think we all have callings and I think we all have opportunities to do things God wants us to do. I’m very fortunate that this has become a no-brainer for me.”

Guitarist Tim Price announced his resignation from the Holy Trinity staff to work full-time with his nonprofit ministry, Faith, Recovery & Music. “The idea is to be a presentation ministry where we go to different churches, teen centers, treatment facilities, prisons…wherever we can bring our testimony. It’s all based on the faith and forgiveness of Christ. We share our personal stories and we do that through words and a whole lotta music.”

A recovering addict with 27 years of sobriety, Tim first envisioned the ministry in January 2019. The first presentation, “Duct Tape and Grace,” was held at HTLC the following August and on June 9, 2020, Faith, Recovery & Music (FRM) became an official nonprofit.
 

Turning Fear Into a Challenge

 

Tim, wife Alyce, and their sons Jeffrey and Daniel moved from Atlanta, GA to New Prague in June 2015 and joined HTLC in August. Tim credits co-Pastor Ben’s encouragement with helping him to overcome his fears of singing, telling his story, and leading Wednesday Night Summer Worship. 

“In order for this ministry to work, I had to get over a lot of fear,” Tim said. “But the thing that’s made it less fearful is I truly feel it’s a calling. That has turned every fear into a challenge and an obstacle not to be stopped, but to endure and overcome through the grace and strength of Christ.”

Tim admits he did not feel comfortable at first. “I feel God has really blessed me by asking me to do this…which wasn’t really the feeling at first.” Formerly a partner in a music ministry in Atlanta, GA, Tim didn’t feel ready. “I didn’t feel I was the person to do it because of how broken I was. I realized that’s why God calls on us: because we’re broken. Because we can share our flaws. In recovery, there are a lot of things we keep in our head and it becomes a tremendous weight. You gotta get it out!”

 

Sometimes You Just Gotta Play…

Faith, Recovery & Music also includes a lot of music in their presentations. “For me personally, and I know for a lot of people, music can touch the soul when words fail,” Tim said.

FRM was just getting started when COVID hit and, like most churches and organizations, they had to adjust. “God showed us how to create an online presence. Now we have a website and a private Facebook group with a big group of supporters. The biggest response we’ve had online is our podcast.” 

His Father’s Legacy

 

Tim’s father plays a large role in his story. Also a recovering addict, he had 32 years of sobriety when he passed away. He frequently attended Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings and handed out cards he’d had printed that read: “I’m not yet the person I want to be, but I’m not the person I used to be.” Tim inherited a large box of those cards and now does the same, handing them out at meetings and recovery presentations. 

 

Leap of Faith
 
 
Leaving Holy Trinity’s staff was a Leap of Faith, Tim will always have memories of favorite services. “Hands down, Christmas Eve every year was my favorite service to play! I love the services when we could all be there. You have that warm, Christmas-y feeling. Late night Christmas Eve services have always been a favorite, but even more so at Holy Trinity. I get a little va-klempt.” he says, laughing.

Tim has also enjoyed getting to know the people of HTLC through their musical preferences.

“My favorite thing about HTLC is hands-down the people. What I’ve loved about being in the band is getting to hear what all the people really love in terms of the music. I’ve learned a lot about people by the music they like. I gravitate to that. But the greatest thing about that was the band was always able to accommodate those requests! Holy Trinity changed my life. I’ve learned so much.”

 
Time is a Valuable Asset
 

More than ever, Tim feels now is the right time to move forward with his plan. “I’m 55 years old and time for this ministry to flourish has become my most valuable asset. I look at my life… I look at the years I toured, my faith, my recovery and what I’ve done my entire life and it just becomes a no-brainer: Faith, Recovery, and Music.”

Tim’s last service will be Wednesday, May 26, 6 pm, in the HTLC parking lot where he will be joined with the rest of the HTLC Band for the first time since our last in-person service on March 15, 2020. 
 
 
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist

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Your Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper

Vaccination Volunteer Shares His Story

Pastor Alicia and Pastor Ben receive the COVID-19
vaccine from Dr. Tim Miller under supervision of their daughters.

Dr. Timothy Miller is making people cry.

After administering the COVID-19 vaccine, he turns to every person receiving the dose and says, “I’d like to say something very personal to you. I’d like to thank you for what you have done for yourself, for your family, and for somebody you haven’t even met yet.” Inevitably, people tear up. Read more…


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402 Days

People gather for first in-person worship service at Holy Trinity in 402 days.

 
It has been 402 days since the congregation of Holy Trinity has worshiped together in person. That’s 57 weeks of online worship. Not that we’re counting. (Actually I’m not. It’s an app.)

Last Wednesday, April 14, we began our Wednesday Night Outdoor Worship Services. From our estimates, 143 people joined us from inside their cars, seated on folding chairs outside their cars, or within one of the 50 circles chalked into the parking lot. The weather was a balmy 42 degrees and the rain managed to wait until the electrical equipment was put away. Read more…


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New Faces Join Online Easter Service

Several missed and beloved faces will be joining our online Easter service this year!

In an effort to include those we haven’t seen for a while, Visitation Pastor Diane Goulson recorded a few of our members who live in senior living facilities. Elaine Blomquist, Arlene Hilding, Jane Hines, and Mary Lou Most are able to participate this year, another benefit of online worship. (Lorraine Clemmer and another member attempted, but were not up to it on the day of visitation.) Read more…


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Luther Learning Initiative

HTLC Invited to Luther Seminary Learning Initiative

This winter, Holy Trinity was one of 12 Christian churches chosen to participate in a three-year learning process led by Luther Seminary. The program, titled “Congregations in a Secular Age,” is funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment and seeks to “discover how congregations can accompany people in narrating, interpreting, and integrating their direct encounters with the living Christ.” Read more…


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52.5 Years of Music…and Laughing

Rita Sapp was twelve years old when she first accompanied a worship service. 

“It was so scary! Those first years were tough because I had to practice so much to be ready,” Rita tells me over a Zoom call. “My piano teacher assigned two hymns each week along with the usual music (like Bach) to learn, so there was a lot of practicing.” 

A few years ago, I asked Holy Trinity’s Worship Leader how long she had been accompanying worship services. Rita paused briefly to think about it, guessed it must be approaching 50 years, and we moved on. I made a mental note to somehow commemorate this milestone, but life proceeded to get in the way.

Then, during a recent staff meeting, Rita discussed her process for arranging, recording, and editing a song for the online worship service. I marveled at how different this process is from when she began (now 52.5 years later). Read more…


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Experiencing Isolation Together

How an online class changes lives
 
 
Mikki Hubert knew she would learn, but she did not expect the class to bring such calm to her life. 
 
At the end of each session, I felt this all-enveloping, calming, inner peace inside of me. This has been missing for the last few months. It really helped in these times.” 

This fall, several members of Holy Trinity participated in an online adult education class moderated by Dr. Chris Johnson. The class, titled “Sustenance for the Weary Soul,” offered seven sessions through Zoom on either Wednesday evenings or Thursday mornings. Read more…


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Quarantine Holiday Fun

Fun Ideas during a Quarantine HOliday
 
 
We canceled the big family Christmas celebration this year and for a few moments I reveled in thoughts of a quiet Christmas. Good books I’ve wanted to read all year. Dinners in front of a roaring fire. Time to spend as a family…

And then I realized this is the same family who’s been stuck with me since March. They’re sick of my jokes, know I burn most dinners, and I’m still losing at Bananagrams. (Never have I missed our family and friends more.)

Aware I needed a new plan, I texted a few people and put a request on our HTLC page.

Here are Fun Ideas during a Quarantine Holiday. 

Indoor Fun

Bailey Hinricher and her family like to play Minute-to-Win-It-Games

Angela Schoenbauer recommends baking Christmas cookies, playing board games, and watching Christmas movies with her family (and new puppy). 

Connecting Online with Socially-Distanced Family/ Friends

For family members who are new to Zoom, Amber Kahnke recommends playing board games over Zoom. (Each family will need their own board.)

Sande and Larry Schoenecker play games with family over Zoom using Jackbox 

Linnea Hautman recommends the article 11 Fun Games to Play on Zoom for lots of options and  details.

Outdoor Fun

Amber and Nate Kahnke’s family like to go downhill skiing and tubing. Read ahead before you visit Buck Hill in Burnsville.

Julie and Dan Popple’s family recommend ice skating. These outdoor rinks will open in December

Sharon Steinhoff Smith and her family enjoy the Ney Nature Center. Just 15 minutes away from Henderson, they have “446 acres of  forests, prairie, meadows, bluffs, creeks, and a variety of wildlife.” And cross-country skiing as soon as that snowstorm arrives…

Liz and Bob Nelson recommend getting outside at least once a day to combat the winter doldrums. She suggests walking under the night sky, playing various Winter Snow Games, (here are directions for Fox and Goose), and always ending the night with hot chocolate. 

Creativity Involved

To keep her family entertained, Leanne and Brian Gieseke improvised a scavenger hunt around town for her kids and their friends.

The Podratz Family likes to “ding-dong-ditch” with Christmas cookies. She writes “Take some of your homemade cookies and write a note: You’ve been ding-dong-ditched! Leave for a neighbor, friend from school or church. Put on the doorstep, ring the bell, and run like the wind!” 

Melissa Horejsi suggests going through the church directory and writing a card or letter to someone you’d like to get to know better. “Kinda like ding-dong-ditch, but through the mail.”

She also suggests trying a new type of food and doing a craft project as a family.

The Missions Team recommends knitting/crotcheting a scarf, hat, or mittens and leaving them in the Little Free Pantry. Buying self-care products and snacks also appreciated!

Jeff and Wendy Jacobson recommend supporting a local restaurant or coffee shop with take-out orders. Perhaps followed by a tour of lights!

Christmas Light Shows

Christmas is the perfect time for holiday light shows. Mary and Mike Busch recommend the Sever’s Light Show and the Minnesota Zoo light show. 

Janet Morris agrees with the Buschs and adds the light shows at Christmas in Color at Valley Fair, The Glow Holiday Festival at the state fairgrounds, and the Winter Lights 2020 at the Arboretum are worth the drive.

Becky Valek recommends the Lights at Cove  in Prior Lake.
 
Whatever your plans, the staff at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
 
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
December 23, 2020

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