402 Days

By Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
April 15, 2021
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. 

Council member Mary Hanson Busch was happy with the outcome. “This was a great idea. People came! They embraced the weather and the parking rules. We had a few technical difficulties, but each week it’s going to improve.

Michael Busch nodded and smiled. “I was so buoyed by this! It was great! It’s been fun to recognize faces through the masks. It’s just so good to see these faces again!”

Sue Gilles articulated what so many felt. “I’m so excited to be here,” she said. “It’s easy to get out of the habit of ‘attending church’ when it’s online. It can feel like watching a YouTube video at times. So I’m happy to be back, especially for my kids.”   

The service also provided an opportunity for the church to welcome in person our Youth Director Casey Fremstad, who started last summer. An abundance of honking and clapping followed Pastor Alicia’s recognition of Casey who began in May 2020. Casey also joined vocalist Toby Thietje and guitarist Tim Price for the closing song,“The Blessing.”

“It was so wonderful to see everyone and respond in worship together,” said Fremstad. “It was good to be back with people and singing live again,” said Thietje. Price agreed. “It was a great night!” Other hymns included “Precious Lord,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Graves into Gardens.” 

HTLC was happy to welcome 17 new families who joined during the past year. Derrick Hongerholt and his family joined last November. I asked him how it feels to worship in person after viewing the services online. “It was odd to join while online,” he said. “We visited Holy Trinity several times before the pandemic, so I’m glad to be back. I like that we’re trying to do this. It’s that sense of community we all need.”

Katie Holets and her family also joined last year. “It’s so nice to hear the singing and to see the actual feedback of people… Even if someone is smiling through the mask, their eyes light up. We need that. We need to see each other to acknowledge we’re all in this together. There’s a sense of camaraderie that we’ve been missing.”

Wednesday Night Outdoor services will continue weekly at 6 pm in the church parking lot. Follow this link to register each week. Masks, sanitizer, communion bread/juice, uplifting music, and messages of hope will be provided.


New Faces Join Online Easter Service

By Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
April 2, 2021

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.)

Each member will read a verse or two of the Easter Gospel, and these recordings will be interspersed with readings from Confirmation students. 

“One person got choked up reading her verse because of the power of what she heard and the power of what was in it,” says Pastor Diane. 

Each member stressed how grateful they felt to be included. “Everyone said ‘Thank you for letting me be a part of this.’ And these are not people who are used to being recorded. God Bless them for doing this!” she says laughing.

The pandemic has been difficult for those in senior living homes. When most locations were forced to close their doors to outside visitors in March 2020, Pastor Diane resorted to making phone calls and writing cards to stay connected. However, some members have difficulty with sight or hearing, so each person requires different forms of communication. 

A year later, everyone in senior living on the visitation list has had vaccines and P. Diane is able to see them at least once a month for an hour. “We talk, pray together, have communion together, laugh and cry. I’ve gotten to know many of them well so I can ask about their families, what keeps them going.” 

Diane Goulson became HTLC’s Visitation Pastor in September 2019. In that role, she visits our members who are homebound, sick, dealing with cancer, struggling with grief, and anyone with health issues. She is also the staff support for the Grief Support Group and a member of the Amazing Grays, HTLC’s close-knit group of retirees. 

A cancer survivor herself, Pastor Diane was diagnosed in October 2018 with Pancreatic Cancer, Stage 1. As of August 2019, she is officially in remission.

“My visits are supposed to be for their benefit,” she says. “But I have to admit, sometimes I walk out of there and think ‘That was all for me.’ I get to hear such wonderful stories that humble me and keep me in awe of people that our society sees as vulnerable and weak. But I hear stories of strength and hope and trust that they have in their faith. It’s such a gift.”

Thank you to Elaine Blomquist, Arlene Hilding, Jane Hines, and Mary Lou Most and Lorraine Clemmer for being a part of our Easter service and Pastor Diane for facilitating this! 


HTLC Invited to Luther Seminary Learning Initiative

By Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
March 4, 2021

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.”

“We want to teach people how to see God in their everyday lives,” says Dr. Michael Binder, Associate Director of the program, on a Zoom call with the HTLC team. The program is based on the book “The Congregation in a Secular Age,” by Dr. Andrew Root, Director. Root writes in the book he feels there are fewer sacred elements in our modern churches due to the constant push for innovation. He challenges congregations to redefine change and how they can continue to enrich lives.

Each congregation is represented by a group of three to five people. The team representing Holy Trinity includes leader Luke Friendshuh, Pastor Ben Hilding, Children Youth and Family Director Casey Fremstad, and Communications Specialist Rose Fife.

“While we have a team of people representing Holy Trinity, this will be a project where the whole congregation will be invited to participate,” says Pastor Ben. “We look forward to the learning and discerning we get to do together!”

Team leader Luke Friendshuh is optimistic for this process. “I hope that we can increase people’s awareness of God’s presence in our lives and in the world. Open their eyes to see the joy, love, goodness, beauty, peace that comes with this increased awareness. GOD is here. The church isn’t just a community or a way to help those in need. It helps us connect with God–which helps us align our wills with God and allows the love of God to flow through us. This the gift that Jesus gave us – the ability to connect with God through the Holy Spirit. It is given to us, but we only fully benefit when we actually OPEN the gift.”

The group will meet bi-monthly and complete assignments such as interviewing people about their faith. (Get ready, everyone! You know I love to hear your stories.) With access to training and webinars, they will also meet with the teams from the other congregations every few months through a video call. Originally set up as an in-person event, the program had to be reimaged due to COVID-19. But additional Zoom time on a Saturday morning does not seem to have deterred this group.

I am very excited to be a part of this learning process and experience to better understand the church in the secular age,” says HTLC representative Casey Fremstad. “I think that this is an important conversation that all congregations will need to be engaging in at some point in the very near future. In our current context, people not only have the option to ignore the existence of God, but for many, the presence of God simply never even crosses their mind. In secular settings, people are finding meaning in experiences that are not religious and therefore do not even consider God. Especially in a world of digital ministry how do we reclaim the sacred and recognize holy transformation in our lives today? I look forward to embarking on this journey with this highly intelligent and gifted team!”

A three-year process, the first year will focus on learning from the Luther Seminary directors. Experience and Reflection are the themes of the second and third years, respectively.

Pastor Ben looks forward to this time and how we can grow as a congregation. “We are honored to have been asked to participate in this Lilly Grant-funded initiative, and I’m excited to learn from these other selected congregations and colleges, as well as the seminary faculty throughout this process.”


52.5 Years of Music… and Laughing 

By Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
February 11, 2021

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). 

In the Beginning

From the age of twelve, Rita played three services at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Le Center, Minnesota every week. “I played for the 8 am, 10 am, and 11:30 am service every week for $4 a service. I had to open a bank account!”

Her teacher, Audrey Palmquist, sat next to her on the organ bench while Rita played the prelude and a hymn. “She was my idol,” Rita said. “I took off on my piano playing when I started lessons with her.” In addition to teaching private music lessons, Ms. Palmquist was the school choir director and the church organist. She is also credited with teaching Rita how to sing and play the piano simultaneously. “She made me sing along with the hymns so I would get the breaths in the right place.” 

Growing up in a musical family, Rita always knew she wanted to be a musician. “Music was big on both sides of my family so we all took lessons, we all learned the organ. My grandmother was an organist, both of my sisters played it.” Rita began piano lessons in the second grade, but her music skills really improved a few years later when she learned to read music for the school band.

“I just played piano by ear. My older sister would play my songs for me. I’d listen to her and then just imitate the sound. Once I joined Band, I learned my notes, and I took off.”

Learning a musical instrument takes years of discipline, dedication, even sacrifice. This can be difficult on a young person whose friends are on sports teams or active in drama. “I used to sit [at the piano] and cry. I didn’t want to be practicing piano!” But her parents encouraged her to keep going, telling her she would appreciate it some day. “You’ve got to get over those humps. I’m thankful now!” she says laughing. 

Half a Century of Changes

Fifty-two and a half years later, Rita has been a front row witness to the evolution of the modern worship service. “We’re getting away from the hymnals and going toward contemporary [worship songs]. The music we use has more to do with reading chord symbols and less reading music. Thankfully, there are [internet] sites out there with the melody and chord symbols written out.”

In addition, there are now fewer requests for the organ and a decline in church weddings. “I used to play a wedding almost every weekend. Now.. not as many. And even if an organ is at the church, [the couple] request a piano.”

An accomplished organist in high demand, Rita has played the challenging instrument all over the Cities, throughout Minnesota universities and has even played for a funeral at Fort Snelling. “Every organ is different,” she says. “So every situation is a nightmare. You don’t know what you’re getting into.” 

The organ is a complicated instrument that requires not only the use of both hands, but both feet to play the notes. In addition, the organist is required to pull different “stops” to create different sounds with their hands while pushing pedals with their feet… when they’re not otherwise playing notes. 

But the Greatest of These Is COVID-19

Leading worship during COVID-19 has led to the greatest changes so far.

“If I had known we were going to be in online worship this long, I would have purchased a decent program,” Rita laments. She uses Audacity to edit her recordings (and often mine). This doesn’t include Autotune (a feature on some programs that brings the recording to the correct pitch), so she will often record multiple times if a note is out of tune or a word is incorrect. 

“At some point, you have to just let it go,” she says with her characteristic laugh. 

From beginning to end, a typical song can take seven to eight hours to prepare. “I always research what’s out there on YouTube. Then I print music, arrange an accompaniment, record piano, record vocals, record harmony.. And then redo the vocals!” she laughs again. (Sometimes there’s a cat involved.)

Other pieces, much larger in scope, require more time to complete. “Be Thou My Vision” took about 20 hours,” she says. This project involved a virtual choir and required members of the HTLC choir to record and send in audio and video recordings to be included. This piece, along with many others, are available on the HTLC YouTube page.  

Rita says the biggest challenge is finding music requested that does not have a written score as writing a part by ear can take many additional hours. “I usually just want to sit down and play the piece. That is the most frustrating part.” 

The pandemic has brought out some positive aspects: involvement from new faces. “A lot of people in the church have contributed that we never would have heard from. That’s been great!” Several members not previously known to sing, play instruments, or read publicly have contributed videos of hymns and Bible readings. 

Still Loves What She Does

So how long will our Worship Leader continue to accompany services, online or in person? “I’ll do this as long as I can in my life,” Rita says. “I still love what I’m doing. It’s fun for me yet. So I’ll keep doing it.”

Holy Trinity has been producing online worship services for almost a full year. Rita looks forward to the transition back to in-person services. “It’s going to be weird to have people in the room, singing with us! But I love what we have going at Holy Trinity!” 

We are lucky to have you, Rita Sapp! Thank you for your 52.5 years of music, singing and, of course, the Rita Laugh!

Experiencing Isolation Together:
How an online class changes lives
by Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
January 8. 2021
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. 

One of the keynote speakers from last year’s congregation meetings, Dr. Johnson is the founder of the Milkweed Group, a nonprofit that offers retreats for a wide range of audiences. His passion is helping others to determine their vocation and calling, purpose, and leadership development. 

The purpose of the group was to provide a calm during these difficult times. “I hoped this would be an opportunity for people to come together in a safe space where they could hold and care for each other in really challenging times around things that matter.” Dr. Johnson told me. 

Each session, offered every other week from mid-September to mid-December, began with a reminder that everything discussed in the 90-minute class was private and not to be repeated outside of the class. George Winn felt this confidentiality was respected at all times. “I was concerned about it being private, but I don’t think there’s one person in that group that would disclose one thing that was talked about,” he said. 

For many, the class fulfilled the need of being with others in a difficult time. “This class went above and beyond my expectations!” Deb Miller said.  [My husband Tim and I] looked forward to it every time. “We would have continued if the course were still going.”

Maggie Arko signed up to take the class because she wanted to meet people at Holy Trinity.  “Part of the reason I went to the class is because physical distancing is different from social distancing and social distancing you have to work at,” says Maggie. She and her husband attended for a while several years ago, but then began to travel for most of the year. They officially joined last year and were looking forward to getting to know more of the congregation when the pandemic began. 

“This class supported what was happening in my life; the relationships I took for granted became much more important. I began to appreciate the relationships I had with friends and family. I came to really appreciate how important it is to talk to people and have people listen to me every once in a while.”

Online Format Changes Retreat

Like many, Dr. Johnson has had innumerable meetings through Zoom. However, he had not facilitated a workshop online. “I had to pay better attention to the group dynamics and the pacing through the screen,” he told me (yep, on a Zoom call). “I felt more purposeful about how I was managing time. Each session was scheduled for 90 minutes and I felt like I needed to attend to how those minutes lived out on the screen.”

Mikki Hubert appreciated the online format. A natural introvert, she usually has to make herself speak up. “The Zoom experience made me not so afraid to express what I felt!” New to taking classes online, Mikki didn’t feel the format was challenging. “If you just look at the directions, it wasn’t hard to follow the directions.”

Age Doesn’t Matter in a Pandemic

Meg Schoenbauer, a 19-year-old college student and the youngest member by several years, found it interesting to be in a class with people in different stages of life. “We’re all going through the same struggles with the pandemic.” A 2020 high school graduate, Schoenbauer missed her senior prom and class graduation due to the pandemic. “We’re all missing certain life milestones we wished we weren’t, we’re all missing time with family.”

Schoenbauer also learned “no matter how old you are, everyone is trying to figure things out. Just because they are older and wiser, doesn’t mean they have a better handle on the pandemic.” 

George Winn agrees. “I’m older, I’ve lived through World War II, Vietnam, Polio vaccinations…. But age difference didn’t matter much in this class. Everyone is experiencing isolation like never before, everyone is reacting differently.”

Winn felt the participants learned to be more empathetic and to understand each other better. “We felt free to express ourselves and no one made judgmental comments. All people really need is someone to listen to them.”
Class Offers Life-Changing Ideas

Many felt the class changed them. For Meg Schoenbauer, that meant changing her environment. “One of the readings was about roots, and that made me re-evaluate my setting. It caused me to move and improve my own situation,” she said. “I don’t have to just get through this. I can put myself in a better situation that’s better for me.”

Tim Miller was impressed with how this changed the group dynamics outside of the class. “People dropped things off at the house for Christmas. These small groups have made us more tender toward each other. These little acts of kindness are much more likely to continue,” he said.

Small Groups at Holy Trinity

One noticeable difference for Dr. Johnson was the proportion of men to women in the Holy Trinity group. “I noticed there was a little more gender diversity, a more evenly mixed group of men and women. But more men can always get involved.”

Tim Miller agrees. “I think that engaging men more will help with relationships and help men with men. Men doing men’s things, having coffee in the morning, Bible studies together…. Small group ministry has a place at Holy Trinity. It will be interesting to see how it evolves when we’re all back together.”

Fun Ideas during a Quarantine HOliday
by Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
December 23, 2020
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!

A Door in the Wall of Grief:
Stories of Hope during COVID
by Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
December 19, 2020
Death is always difficult, but losing a loved one during a global pandemic adds layers of complications. This fall several members of Holy Trinity passed away, leading families and the staff to pioneer new formats for memorial services.

Dennis Jasperson felt he was losing his wife Dorothy to Parkinson’s disease for many years. He was still surprised when she passed away in October 2020. “It was a shock when she died. I went [to see her] on the last day that Praha Village allowed visitors,” he said over the phone. After quarantining for 10 days before, he was finally able to be with her for an hour and a half.

“That was the first time since March that we’d been in the same room.” For seven months, Jasperson was only able to visit his wife through a window at Praha Village or send her daily notes through the mail. “I knew I was taking a chance visiting her, but…. it was a highly valued time.”

The next day, Praha Village tested everyone for COVID. Dennis received a call a few hours later that Dorothy had tested positive for the disease and within a few days, her condition worsened. She was sent to a hospital in Minneapolis.

Not able to be with her in person, Dennis called as often as he was allowed. “It was very hard on her. She was crying all the time. After a few days we were finally able to go and see her, but by then she wasn’t conscious.” Dennis takes a moment to breathe. “She passed away the next morning,” he says quietly and the heartbreaking reality of his story hits me. “We talk about our faith… This has been the greatest test I can ever have.”

Humanity is trying to reconfigure life within the restrictions of COVID-19. But funerals have brought very specific challenges: How do we say ‘Good-bye’ to a loved one if we are not allowed to be with them? How do we celebrate their lives when attendance at funerals are limited? And how do we physically comfort friends and family when six feet apart is required?

“Preparing for the funeral was so different because we couldn’t have our relatives present,” Dennis tells me after a pause. “I was so appreciative of the [members of the] church. The drive-by was so meaningful and supportive.”

Sometime during the planning for his wife’s funeral, Dennis realized he wasn’t just adjusting to the loss of his wife, he was ill. After the funeral, he was tested and diagnosed with COVID-19. “I couldn’t grieve for a while. I was so sick that I couldn’t think about anything but getting well.”

Dennis suffered a high fever and chills for two and a half weeks, but he credits his friends with keeping him going. “The Amazing Grays group has been so good. When I got sick, they made sure I had plenty to eat. They’ve been so supportive with cards and food.” He admits he still doesn’t feel “back to normal,” a month later.

In the end, Dennis was relieved the in-person funeral was small. “Preparing for the funeral was so different because we couldn’t have our relatives present. I regret we couldn’t have a church service for Dorothy. She has a large extended family and I know there are many people who couldn’t come. But I wouldn’t have had the strength for a large funeral. I was starting to feel very sick, and I don’t think I could have done it.”

Dennis continues to have hope for the future. “I’m having a tough time, but there’s always a door in the wall of grief. That door is the future; we have to look forward to that!” he tells me. “Life really is short. I’ve learned over the past years how important relationships are. I’m going to continue building those relationships.

When Sharon Gillingham passed away this fall, it was left to her son, Todd Gillingham, and his siblings to plan the memorial service. Thankfully, a previous connection with the Hilding family made it easier.

“It was a blessing to have people like Pastors Ben and Alicia [Hilding] to fall back on. We thought, ‘A death has occurred, now what? Especially in this environment where we cannot mourn or grieve or celebrate life as we could before. Mom died in MN. We live in WI. How is this going to work?”’

Together Pastor Ben, Visitation Pastor Diane Goulson, and Todd and his siblings planned the virtual service. A family effort, one of Sharron’s sons played the clarinet, the other read Scripture, one granddaughter sang, another granddaughter read a poem, a few grandsons played jazz guitar, and Todd played the piano. Later, Pastor Diane led the family in a private interment. “It was nice to have that connection with the pastors. Both Diane and Ben knew [our mother].”

Watching the memorial service online with his wife and sons, Gillingham was surprised at how much he appreciated the new format. “My siblings and I thought this might be hard, but we knew it was worth it. Mom was worth it,” Gillingham says. The family now has a 33-minute video commemorating the life of their mother they can see anytime. “It’s not about us. It’s a keepsake we’ll always have.”

Joanne Reemts was astonished at the outpouring of love for her husband Jim at his passing in October.

“I always thought I was biased because he was my husband, but I was surprised. All the cards I got about his smile, his attitude, and his laugh,” she tells me over the phone. “He was German, he had his faults,” she deadpans, “but he was a great guy!”

Jim had heart issues and in May 2020, suffered a minor stroke. “That was my first experience with COVID,” Joanne says. “I had to leave him at the door of the Emergency Room and pick him up later.” Due to the pandemic, only patients were allowed into the emergency room.

Jim and Joanne had a difficult summer with Jim’s health declining quickly, but they relied on their faith for strength. Five times this spring, she drove him to the Emergency Room in Minneapolis, left him at the door, and drove home alone. “I just came home and prayed. I always knew he was in good hands. I never knew how many COVID cases the hospital had or where they were in relation to him, but I never felt unsafe having him in the hospital. It was just the idea that I couldn’t be with him when he was in the ER.” By the afternoon, usually several hours later, a bed in the hospital was found and Joanne could drive back to be with him.

After several hospital visits, the doctors decided the heart medication was causing his kidneys to fail and the next step was dialysis. “That was really hard on him. It wasn’t doing what it was supposed to for him,” Joanne says. “He told me, ‘This is not living,’ so we took him off dialysis.” Jim was able to spend his remaining time at home on hospice, surrounded by his wife and kids. He lived eight more days.

Joanne appreciated the small, quiet memorial service for Jim in October. “We both agreed we couldn’t have handled [planning] a large funeral. We thought our COVID funeral was actually nice.”

Like Dennis, Joanne also credits the Amazing Grays group for helping her during this process. “I miss them. I look forward to a time we can get together again.”


Hidden Blessing of Online Worship

by Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
November 29, 2020

Barb Warner knows her favorite service (so far). “I loved the confirmation videos! We got to see each kid and got to know them more than if we’d been in church,” she said. “And the kids can keep those videos forever.”

A few days before Sunday, March 15, Pastors Alicia and Ben made the announcement: We were switching to virtual worship for a few weeks until the coronavirus settled down and we could return to normal. That Sunday, Pastor Ben spoke to an oddly still sanctuary, the musicians played for a congregation on the other side of the screen, and Ministry Coordinator Karen Taylor streamed it on her phone, using a music stand to keep it steady. The global pandemic that was about to upend all of our lives had arrived in Minnesota. 

At the time, most of us thought we would be back to “normal” soon. But we have a new normal now: an online worship that began with a small, humbled team has grown to many more. And that new normal has revealed many hidden blessings. 

Watching the online services on our Facebook page on Sunday mornings, Barb says, “I love to see the comments as the service happens. It’s really nice to know someone else is watching with you,” she says. “I live alone; it’s just my dog and me and this online service connects me.”

A retired special education teacher, Barb wanted to get more involved, despite the pandemic. She now teaches the 1st-4th graders Children’s Ministry on Zoom Wednesday nights. “Doing things like this really helps.” 

The true benefit of online services, according to Barb, is the inclusivity. “I like that you can still be included even if you’re sick or traveling. When I was sick before, I just missed the service. Now, I’m still connected. I’m grateful for this church.” 

New parents Allie and Frank Wergin find watching online an easier option with their 6 month old baby, Jack.

“There are a lot of positives about watching the service online, but especially with having a little baby,” Allie says. “He can be fussy at 9 a.m., so it would be a challenge to be there in person. Sometimes we are still in our jammies if the baby had a bad night. The flexibility is helpful.”

The Wergins joined Holy Trinity in August. As many people join churches to be a part of a larger community of faith, I asked Allie if they were feeling connected. “We are a new family, so not having that face-to-face interaction makes it a challenge. But we’re getting to know some of the members by watching the online worship,” she said.

Barb and Bob Gullickson tune in on Sunday mornings. “We watch every week. I still think, ‘It’s Sunday, we have worship.’ Now, of course, I can cuddle with my dog, but I like keeping this part the same,” says Barb. 

“Of course we miss everyone, but we like watching the commentary [on Facebook] and the creativity the staff has come up with to pique our interest,” says Barb. “The music is fabulous! Having a blended style is great because something speaks to everyone that way. ”

Bob appreciates the Pastors’ sermons. “Without the services on the screen, we wouldn’t be able to hear the sermons. Especially during these tough times, it’s important,” he said. “They are so relevant, the positive aspects of diversity in the church… you hear these messages and they make you think.” 

Barb also appreciates how new leaders of the church are coming forward to share their gifts. “I love that Pastor Diane is more a part of our church and we love to see everyone’s faces! Especially the new, talented people who have been hiding.” 

Holy Trinity is grateful for all our members and friends. We pray you have a reflective and healthy Advent.