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One Last Team

When the New Prague 9th grade boys’ basketball team was without a coach this fall, Superintendent Tim Dittberner was asked by Laura Meyer, parent of 9th grade athlete, Alex, if he would help coach.
“Only if the school referendum passes”, Dittberner replied. 
Well, that didn’t happen.
Two weeks after the referendum vote, the head coach for the 9th grade boys’ basketball team (a non-teacher from Burnsville), didn’t make it past the first practice. Once again, the team was without a coach, and again, Superintendent Dittberner was asked to step in. This time he said yes.
Why this time? “Things happen for a reason. Our school board fully supported this decision. I am very grateful that I can do something I love and make a difference,” Dittberner explains.
It’s not the first time Mr. Dittberner stepped onto the coaching spotlight. After graduating from Gustavus with a degree in Health and Physical Education, he’s spent over forty years as an educator, principal, coach, and administrator. According to, Coach Dittberner had five teams (Le Sueur, South St. Paul, and New Prague) qualify for the boys’ state basketball tournament in eighteen years as a head coach. “We won the state championship in 1986 at Le Sueur. There are current Holy Trinity members who were students of mine at that time,” he adds.
For the last twenty years of his career, Mr. Dittberner has been a part of the New Prague Area School District. First, as Middle School Principal (2003 – 2013), and assistant and head coach of boys’ high school basketball team (2009 – 2011 seasons). In 2009, Coach Dittberner began as an assistant coach with his sons on the team when the head coach, Jeff Gravon, passed away unexpectedly from a long bout with cancer. “The funeral was held at HTLC and was a very trying experience for the team,” Dittberner reflects.
The 2009 team pulled together to make it to the state tournament, and again in 2011 under Coach Dittberner’s leadership. He retired from coaching in 2011 to watch his daughter, Annie, play her final years of high school basketball. In 2013, Mr. Dittberner moved into the superintendent’s chair, and last month, announced his plan to retire at the end of this school year. 
With an overall coaching record of 242-200, how did the 9th grade athletes respond to Mr. Dittberner putting on his coach whistle one last time?
“They are really nice kids that come from good families – I can coach them hard – they embrace high expectations and know that I care about them getting better as a person and basketball player. They want to be coached,” he responds.
Having the district superintendent as your basketball coach comes with an added perk. “They do get the inside scoop on the possibility of a snow day,” Coach Dittberner reports.
Recently, 9th grade boys’ basketball assistant coach, Mike Bartusek took a photo of Coach Dittberner with all of the players from Holy Trinity.
Is it hard to coach athletes from your church?
“I don’t favor – but I do know all their parents. I’m probably a little harder on them than some of the other players. HTLC does grow them tall! I remember the church service when they were confirmed and thought, ‘Boy, some of them are pretty lanky and tall – good basketball builds.’ You can’t coach height!”, Coach replies.
Thank you, Tim Dittberner, for making a difference in the lives of the 9th grade boys’ basketball team this season, and for your positive influence on the New Prague Area School District over the last twenty years!
Above photo: left to right – Myles Tietz, Adam Lee, Jack Kahnke, Coach Tim Dittberner, Alex Meyer, Tyler Flicek.
Photo credit: Mike Bartusek.
Written by Karen Taylor, Communication Manager
January 12, 2023


Generosity Overflows

There’s no doubt that middle school students cherish their Winter Break. No school, no strict schedule to follow, and the ability to enjoy Minnesota’s beautiful winter season. Despite having no church commitments during winter break, the 7th grade Group 3 winners of the Confirmation Giving Challenge spent their time serving others at Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) in Chanhassen, MN.

Holy Trinity is a generous congregation and gives away 10% of its annual income. The Mission Outreach team determines how the congregational tithe is gifted. Highlighted in the “CYF Happenings” section of the November 18, 2022 HTLConnections, the 7th grade Group 3 Confirmation students earned $1000 from the Mission Outreach team in the annual “Confirmation Giving Challenge”. The team was impressed with the students’ commitment to hand-delivering the $1000 donation and volunteer at FMSC to pack meal kits.

Smack dab in the middle of winter break, the 7th grade Group 3 students invited their Confirmation friends to join them on Wednesday, Dec. 28. Confirmation mentor Jamie Sticha comments, “We extended an open invitation to our Confirmation friends and had a group of 16. What an awesome way to share God’s love from one generation to the next!”
7th grade Group 3 researched several charities before settling on FMSC, an idea brought forward by Jacob Bisek. The students were impressed with their global reach and the idea of helping kids their own age. Jamie states, “we learned over 6,000 kids die every day around the world from hunger-related causes and that really moved the students.”

Jamie’s commitment to Children, Youth & Family (CYF) Ministry spans over a decade. “Sarah Becher and I led the Sunday School program for a few years after the split, and I was a member of the CYF Committee. I led my middle son’s confirmation small group for three years, and now I’m leading my youngest son’s small group. It’s such an awesome experience to be part of a young person’s faith formation. It’s another way for me to be connected to my kids, too! I usually learn something every week!”

Ron Solheim stepped up this fall to be a confirmation mentor to his grandson’s group. He adds, “This was the team responsible for all of this happening. They took the initiative to compete for the donation money from Mission and Outreach but also felt the need for personal involvement on their part and to invite others from the congregation to join them. It is a very meaningful experience to go to Feed My Starving Children and pack meals that will feed others all over the world.”

Jamie was impressed with Ron’s dedication to the confirmation students. She recalls, “he actually drove to FMSC to let them know we were presenting their organization and to get additional information about their mission. They let him bring back a food pack & hair nets to add to our presentation. The students have great respect for him, and I absolutely LOVE partnering with Ron!”

With the help of dozens of other volunteers, 26,784 meals were packed during the almost two-hour shift. This effort will feed 73 children for a year. Holy Trinity’s contribution of $1000 was matched by FMSC “to produce meals to feed 8,333 children for one day,” Ron states.

Overall, the students enjoyed working together and trying different jobs. According to Jamie, the students shared that the experience ended up being more fun than they expected and they felt God working through them.

Thank you, Jamie Sticha, Ron Solheim, 7th grade Confirmation Group 3 (and friends), and HTLC Mission Outreach team for your generosity and for making a difference in the lives of others! 
Photo Credit: Gina Fadden
Written by Karen Taylor, Communication Manager
January 5, 2023


Getting Ready With Scraps of Love

Over two thousand years ago, a young couple was getting ready for their life to be turned upside down. The birth of their God-given son was imminent. On the road to an unfamiliar place with a deranged King hunting them, life was not easy. No family to help, no room for them in local hotels, nothing but what they could carry on their donkey. In their own season of Advent, they had to get ready. On a cold winter’s night, Jesus was born, and his mother wrapped him snuggly with strips of cloth tied together. But let’s face reality, it was not an ideal birthing experience.
God At Work
For over 50 years, a dedicated group of women have been sewing bits of cloth together into warm, cozy quilts. For decades, the quilts have been donated to LeSueur County families. If Jesus had been born in rural New Prague, there’s no doubt his family would have received one of these quilts before he was born. Mostly likely sewn by the Holy Trinity Sewing Group and hand-delivered by Holy Trinity’s Santa Anonymous Angel, LuAnn Leach.
LuAnn is instrumental in bridging the gap between Holy Trinity and Le Sueur County families with her years of service to Santa Anonymous. (Read “More Than Just A Tree” to learn more.) Years ago, God was at work as LuAnn and Carol Fehler crossed paths at the Holy Trinity Christmas Tea. Carol inquired if LuAnn could help get the quilts to families who need them. This year, LuAnn collected 25 quilts from the Holy Trinity Sewing Group, and 50 fleece blankets created by members of Holy Trinity. LuAnn and Carol make quite the team as LuAnn replies, “Carol introduced me to another quilt group, New Prague Prairie Quilters Club, and they donated 25 quilts to Santa Anonymous. My car is packed with quilts!”
Over the years, LuAnn has heard countless stories from parents who without Santa Anonymous, would not have had presents under their tree. One of her favorite stories is from a mom of three teenage sons who wrote a thank you about her sons’ favorite gift.

A quilt. Yes, even teenage boys appreciate quilts made with love. 
Due to the pandemic, quilters were not meeting and in 2020, the Santa Anonymous program limited quilts to one per family. This year, the Santa Anonymous program is serving 228 family units. Le Sueur County Santa Anonymous Coordinator Cindy W. reports that the Santa Anonymous program is 100% volunteer run and she is thankful for not only the volunteers like LuAnn, but also all of the area churches that make quilts and blankets for families at Christmas. “This year, every child who wants a blanket or quilt is able to receive one,” Cindy reports.
Traditions Don’t Fade
Ironically, only two members of the Sewing Group are members of Holy Trinity. “We have three Carols, a Lois and a Julie,” laughs Sewing Group coordinator, Carol Fehler. “Only Lois [Newman] and I are actual members.”
Lois recalls, “My husband, Lennie, and I joined Holy Trinity soon after the church moved to its current building [in 1978]. The sewing group existed, and I started sewing with the group soon after becoming a member.”
Old Holy Trinity Church directories show remnants of past members and events, such as the Used-A-Bit Sale and Antique Show with Carol’s familiar face as the common thread. Together with Lois and fellow Sewing Group members Carol Janish, Carol Jones and Julie Latzke, they meet for two hours twice a month to create quilts with donated fabric. Carol F. cuts fabric into 5” squares in her home and returns them to the next meeting. Carol Janish also works on the quilts outside of the Sewing Group meetings. Carol Fehler admires Carol Janish’s ability to piece random squares into beautiful patterns. “She has such an eye for color! I could never do that part,” Carol F. states. Carol Janish brings the completed quilt top to the meeting, and other members take it from there. Each member has their role, and they make as many quilts as possible. Lois states, “We never know how many quilts we’ll make in a year. There’s never a set goal. We just make as many as we can do.”
When asked why she quilts, Carol answers “because people need them. It’s always been a tradition at Holy Trinity.” In fact, Carol not only sews with the Sewing Group at Holy Trinity, she sews with the Prairie Quilters based out of Friedens Lutheran Church once a month, and recently started attending a group that meets at the Prior Lake Library once a week. “It’s fun to get together with people and do your various crafts.” Carol is excited that the annual Prairie Quilters Club Quilt Show will be at Holy Trinity in April. “The entire church will be filled with quilts. Some of them are so beautiful they look like works of art!” she exclaims.
As both Carol and Lois explain, as they get older, they can’t move like they did as younger quilters. Lois chuckles at a small wall hanging in the Holy Trinity quilt closet, “Old quilters never die. They just go to pieces.” Arthritic fingers and spines make quilting difficult, no matter how much they enjoy it. “There’s only five of us left”, Lois explains. “At some point, someone else has to take over.”
Faithfully, the Sewing Group keeps the tradition going and gets ready for another year of sewing donated scraps of fabric into beautiful quilts fit for a King. The Holy Trinity Sewing Group invites anyone interested in learning to quilt to their meetings on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month at 9 am. No skill necessary! Fabric donations are always appreciated.
Thank you, Holy Trinity Sewing Group, for working behind the scenes to share God’s love for all people from one generation to the next!
Written by Karen Taylor, HTLC Communications Manager
November 22, 2022



Music + Worship + Time for Stillness = A fresh start to the week. That’s the magic formula for the newest worship service at Holy Trinity. Geared towards high school youth and older, this monthly, youth-infused service, called Compline, debuts on Sunday, October 16 from 6 – 8 pm in the Sanctuary. 
Dating back to the 4th century, Compline (pronounced KOM-plin) is the Night Prayer of the church as it is the final service of the day. Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther ensured the Compline Service remained as he reformed other liturgical formats. However, modern Lutheran churches abandoned the eight services of the Divine Office, and typically hold one type of service per week. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) relies on hymnals to guide worshippers in various service types and liturgies. The Compline service appears on pages 154 – 160 of the Lutheran Book of Worship (green hymnal c.1978) and on pages 320 – 327 in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship (red hymnal c. 2006). 
Yep. This “new” Compline service at Holy Trinity isn’t new at all.
Director of Children, Youth & Family Ministry Lauren Petersen explains, It is very much different from Sunday and Wednesday worship in that it is not really a service, but more of a time to just come and be. No bulletins, no communion, no 15-minute sermon, and no offering. Lights will be dimmed with slides to show lyrics for everyone to sing along if they’d like.” Compline starts at 6 pm, however, the first hour is a time purely for fellowship. Lights will dim at 7 pm as the Compline service begins and attendees are invited to transition to a reflective state of mind. 9th grade confirmation students received a sneak peek at Compline during their retreat last month, which included a short message, beautiful music, and a time for reflection. Lauren continues, This is majority student-led, and hope it to be inviting for people high school age and older, but of course, all are welcome to come as long as everyone is mindful of the space.”  Music will vary month to month as will the student-led message. It will be completely different from sermons heard during Sunday/Wednesday worship.
Compline can be a compelling experience as the music affords people time to focus on their relationship with God. Lauren states, “For some people, it is easier to go to that reflective state, and for some people, it just feels weird to be still and see where their thoughts take them. In recognition that not everyone worships in the same way, this service is an invitation to those people who want more of a reflective time with God.” If you have concerns about finding space that works for you during Compline, please contact Lauren at

Who is that?

Rumors around New Prague will tell anyone listening that Holy Trinity is the “one with the good music”. There’s no denying Holy Trinity is blessed with talent, and the pandemic brought some new faces to the forefront, including Jackie Mackenthun. Recently, Jackie stepped in for staff musicians to sing a song she covered in 2021. Standing next to Jackie was a teenager, providing harmonies like a skilled professional. Necks craned to see “who is that?” 
In front of the congregation, in a country she had entered less than four weeks prior, was German exchange student Marisa Doddo. “Singing in general has always been a part of my life. [Ever] since I could sing, I did,” Marisa explains. Staying with the Mackenthun family for a year, Marisa was comfortable attending and singing in worship. Host Mom Jackie explains that German schools do not have music or sports as a part of their programming, so one way for people to immerse themselves in music is through the church. However, according to Marisa, most Germans do not attend church. “It’s not a thing out of responsibility or tradition there,” she says. Marisa and her family attend a Baptist church, Credo Kirche, with multiple campuses, and a big focus on music and youth. Jackie adds, “I think she is really missing [her church] right now. They do week-long lock-ins called ‘wohnwoche’ where the kids ‘just be’ at church – live at church, sleep at church, do school from church, and have a lot of fun activities.”
As compared to Holy Trinity, Marisa reports that Credo Kirche has more modern elements in the service and it is more “active” as a whole. (Click here to watch a 30 sec. video of a typical worship service). In general, she thinks that Americans are friendlier than Germans, except for the people at Credo Kirche. “We have about 100 people in our youth church, and it is the place where I feel most at home. It’s the most non-toxic place with open-hearted people and you feel welcome there.”

Just Be

Just be. 
In fellowship with others. 
With the lyrics to beautiful music. 
In a calm, peaceful environment. 
Just be.
Letting God work wonders and not requiring an explanation. (Like how does a talented teenager from Martin Luther’s birthplace show up in rural Minnesota in time to help lead a new, youth-inspired, music-filled worship service?) 
Yes, Marisa will be one of the students leading Compline through her singing talents, feeling right at home in a new country. A country, in her eyes, filled with overly sweet food that can sit on a shelf for months, closets stuffed with unworn clothes, and houses with rooms dedicated solely to storing more overly sweet food. This Sunday at 6 pm, join in the youth-led worship experience at the first Compline service.
To read more about Marisa and her journey with the Mackenthun family, check out Jackie’s blog,
Written by Karen Taylor, Communications Manager
October 13, 2022


Community Gathering For All

At the “Embracing Diversity” book study last week, Dr. Darrell Jodock commented on a great concern for public health: that is, the effects of isolation. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have missed our community’s summer signature event for two years in a row. But this year, RibFest is back.
In the Beginning

It started in 2016 as the brainchild of then HTLC council member, Jeremy Torgerson, as a way to bring people together and show people what Holy Trinity is about.  That first year was a huge learning curve for the organizers, who included Torgerson, Lona Rookaird, Darcey Schoenebeck, and HTLC Ministry Coordinator, Karen Taylor. The inaugural RibFest was located in the south parking lot, and included a dunk tank (where you could dunk your Pastor or favorite Council Member), a bouncy house, a variety of adult beverages, and background music from Tim Price. 

Change of Scenery

In a move to gain more public exposure, 2018’s RibFest was re-positioned to the north side of Holy Trinity. It had morphed into a staff-led event with volunteer support, and the move to the front yard proved to be a smart one. With more visibility to the community, there was a good mix of HTLC members and non-members enjoying great music, a variety of beverages, delicious food and fun family activities. 
Four years of RibFest experience gave the staff the confidence to dream big with their 2019 event. To capitalize on the temporary fence that surrounded the front yard, a Blessing of the Pets event was introduced the Wednesday evening before RibFest. Bright yellow yard signs were scattered around the community to inform people that RibFest was coming. And Holy Trinity started participating in Czech Out New Prague the night before RibFest to promote all good things that come from Holy Trinity, including RibFest. Again, it was a HUGE success with more non-HTLC members than members attending!
And then the world stopped.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, community events were stalled and postponed. Summer simply didn’t feel the same.
A Fresh Start

Fresh off a year of Strategic Plan 2.0 visioning, Holy Trinity is set to have the biggest and best RibFest the community has ever seen. This year, Giesenbrau Bier Co. is providing their craft beer and root beer. It’s not only a great partnership, it also eliminates the process and cost of a temporary liquor license. Community music legend, Little Chicago, will be providing music with over fifteen musicians. Their covers of 60’s & 70’s hit music is sure to get people dancing in the grass. 
Little Chicago All 2 DL 2021One significant change this year is the elimination of the pulled pork sandwich option. As the name of the event indicates, RibFest will only be serving ribs for the main meal ticket. One thing that hasn’t changed since 2016 is the price of the meal tickets. Rib Meal is still $15 and includes ribs, coleslaw, baked beans, mini ear of sweet corn, dinner roll, dessert and bottled water. Hot Dog Meal remains $5 and includes, hot dog with bun, chips, dessert and bottled water. HTLC Hospitality Coordinator, Donna Galvin and her team of kitchen volunteers will prepare and provide all of the food.

Another thing that hasn’t changed since the beginning of RibFest is the fact that this is a FREE community event. There is no charge to attend. Some people stop by to listen to some music and have a beverage before making the choice to eat a meal. However, this year, food will only be served between 5 – 7 pm, so music lovers will have to make their decision early. Meal tickets are sold at the gated entrance of the front yard (near door 1 of the building). For volunteers, it’s the best gig all year!

There’s New Kid at the Party

Holy Trinity’s Executive Council Team was brainstorming about how to make RibFest “bigger and better”, and how to raise money for all of the new Strategic Plan 2.0 initiatives. Council President, Jackie Mackenthun, shares, “I’ve been to a lot of silent auctions and think they are a lot of fun. We have around 30 items so far and would love some more.” She says the biggest ticket item donated so far is from the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. Jackie hopes to see some donations for a family game night, day at the beach or a “gym rat” basket. “Holy Trinity has so many great teams and projects going on! The primary focus of the Silent Auction is to help raise money for the Strategic 2.0 initiatives, but so many other groups will indirectly benefit as a result of all of these ideas. Peace Garden, Racial Justice Team, Endowment Fund, and Youth Groups. So many great things to be excited for!”
Written by Karen A. Taylor, Web Manager
July 13, 2022


Brown Bags From Heaven

Hungriest summer on record. Those words hit Holy Trinity’s Hospitality Coordinator, Donna Galvin, at her core, and she felt called to do something about it. “My passion is feeding people!” she states confidently. With the help of a grant from Holy Trinity’s Endowment Fund, Donna is on a mission to feed as many kids as possible this summer. 
Feeding the Hungry
Donna Galvin has been the Hospitality Coordinator at Holy Trinity since 2016, and feeding people is her specialty. New members are introduced to Donna’s deliciousness during their New Member Orientation, Donna and her Hospitality Team regularly provide home cooked meals before our Wednesday Evening worship services, and Donna even created a special recipe for homemade communion bread during the pandemic for our First Communicants – a tradition that continues today! However, her partnership with New Prague’s food shelf, The Peace Center, started in 2018 during Vacation Bible School. Donna compiled meals in brown lunch bags for kids who were home alone during the summer break. “It was a one time thing, but I always wanted to do it again on a larger scale”, Donna reports. 
Fast forward through the busyness of life, throw in a global pandemic, and the voice in Donna’s head to do something grew louder.
Hungriest Summer on Record
This spring, Donna participated in a webinar from Second Harvest Heartland called, “Summer Food Service Program 101 and How to be a Summer Meals Champion”. It was just the kick start Donna needed. “That was the first time I heard the phrase ‘Hungriest Summer on Record’ and I knew I had to do something,” Donna replies. The lingering impact of the pandemic, cost of food rising 16%, and schools eliminating their summer food program contribute to the “hungriest summer on record” claim. She quickly filled out the Holy Trinity Endowment Grant Request Form to request funds to make her dream a reality. 
Endowment Committee member Dan Popple stated, “Endowment was impressed with the passion exhibited by Donna to identify and fill a need in the local community in an area where the Holy Trinity Hospitality Team could apply their resources and skills to help. The effort to connect with the New Prague Peace Center to define this specific gap leading into the summer months generated interest from our group to assist.  We look forward to their efforts leading to a positive impact.”
Donna  was awarded a $1000 grant, and she didn’t waste any time assembling her team to get to work.
Manna Bags
What is manna? Manna is the food that dropped from heaven that prevented Moses and the Israelites from starving in the desert (Exodus 16:14–36). Donna creatively named these brown paper bags filled with easy to prepare,  shelf-stable breakfast and lunch items, “Manna Bags”.  Donna’s Hospitality Team shopped for items for their Manna Bags at Sam’s Club to stretch their Endowment grant funds. “Our goal is to make deliveries to the Peace Center every 2-3 weeks throughout the summer,” Donna reports. After recovering from a long day of shopping, Donna heard a familiar voice speaking on the TV news. It was Second Harvest Heartland’s CEO, Allison O’Toole, who directed the webinar Donna attended earlier in the spring, and again, Donna heard the words “hungriest summer on record”. 
“Inflation, sky-high consumer prices, gas prices, people’s rent payments are going up at a time when their wages aren’t following necessarily — especially for those lower-wage workers — [and] supply chain issues are putting pressure on all ends of the system,” O’Toole added about the reasons behind the expected demand.  
Less than a  week after watching the news story, Donna and her team gathered their items, and turned the Holy Trinity kitchen into a massive assembly line. Volunteers Trudy Wegman, Patsy Schuster, and Judy Schuster (Patsy’s sister-in-law) assisted Donna to pack the Manna Bags to the top. Each Manna Bag held a packet of instant oatmeal, a fruit granola bar, a juice box, a piece of fresh fruit, Easy Mac or Ramen Noodles, Goldfish crackers, fruit snacks and a small bag of cookies. 
80 Manna Bags were delivered to the Peace Center on Wednesday, June 15. As with all donations, the Peace Center weighed them, and the bags contained 106 lbs. of food. The Peace Center volunteers quickly arranged the Manna Bags at the front entrance and estimated they would be gone by the end of the week.  
More Manna
If you’d like to contribute to the next batch of Manna Bags, Donna suggests the following items: applesauce cups, 100% juice boxes, breakfast bars, and pop-top canned Spaghetti O’s (with or without meatballs). Donations can be dropped off with Donna on Sunday mornings after worship in the kitchen, or with Jamie in the church office during business hours. Keep your ears open in worship as Donna may schedule her next Manna Bag packing session after Sunday morning worship and seek more volunteers.
Written by Karen Taylor, Web Manager
June 23, 2022


The Little Free Pantry That Could

A woman takes a package of diapers for her crying infant. A young student rides his bike to pick out some food for his family. Small, wooden shelters on the south side of Holy Trinity’s building are making a big impact in our community.

The original Little Free Pantry

A Little Free Pantry is Born
Holy Trinity’s Free Little Food Pantry was built in 2018 by Facilities Manager, Jon Bergquist at the request of the eight person Mission Outreach Team. The idea was brought to the team as a member had seen it in another town. “The Little Free Pantry is an emergency pantry, not a food shelf,” reports Liz Nelson, HTLC’s Pantry Coordinator. The pantry serves many purposes – for those who want to give and for those who need to receive. “The location of the pantry gives the users anonymity and privacy.” Liz also volunteers her time at the New Prague Peace Center and says, “there can be unintentional stigma on users of the Peace Center. People like the anonymity of the Little Free Pantries.”
One More 

The Little Free Pantry for household items

Liz Nelson fills the Little Free Food Pantry

In 2019, Holy Trinity unveiled its new Vision, Mission and Values and with that, came a renewed energy to the Mission Outreach Team. The team is responsible for overseeing the generosity of the congregation which includes giving away 10% (a tithe) of all church offerings. The team decides which organizations will receive funds based on requests they accept. After the first Little Free Pantry was built, it was evident that one was not enough, so an additional pantry was built to hold household items, such as personal hygiene items, diapers, and household supplies. While the Mission Outreach team accepts many donations of food and household items, they also use part of the congregational tithe to purchase non-perishable items. “Winter is always a problem as we are limited to items that can handle the freezing temperatures. Because of the weather, it is necessary for us to purchase more items in the winter months to keep the pantry filled,” states Liz. Any donated food/item that is not tolerant of the weather conditions is held in the Mission Outreach storage room and put out at the appropriate time by Liz or the team of volunteers.
Abundant Blessings

Brody D., one of many Confirmation students committed to serving New Prague families, fills the pantry earlier this month.

Liz Nelson is no stranger to spending time at a church. For over twenty years, she was the Director of Early Childhood Ministry at St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran in Plymouth. Fresh off her retirement in 2018, she joined the HTLC Mission Outreach Team and became the Little Free Pantry Coordinator. Rain, snow or shine, she checks on the pantries three times a week and spends up to an hour each visit organizing donations or restocking the pantry. The biggest blessing she has witnessed is “meeting the needs of many families. The needs for many families are huge and the ones I’ve met are so grateful. Some of the families have shared their stories with me, and it’s unbelievable the many challenges they face.” Liz isn’t the only volunteer who tends to the Little Free Pantry. Mary Eagen breaks up large packs of diapers and repackages them into smaller bags of 4-6 diapers. Confirmation students also serve as Little Free Pantry volunteers and stock the pantry with items they purchase. “It’s great to see the kids get involved and learn about serving families in our community,” Liz reflects.
To learn more about the Holy Trinity Mission Outreach Team or donations requested for the Little Free Pantry, visit
Written by Karen Taylor, HTLC Web Manager
May 25, 2022


Tying It All Together

There are moments in a church when seemingly random events are tied together by the arrival of something new and everything “clicks”. Holy Trinity is having one of those moments.
April, a month that welcomed Holy Week, embraced spring (come on, Minnesota!), and celebrated Holy Trinity’s Strategic 2.0 final recommendations titled New Life, has one more event on the calendar. Breaking ground for a community garden, named The Peace Garden, on Thursday, April 28, 9 am. Coincidentally, the appearance of three traveling mosaic panels in Holy Trinity’s narthex beautifully ties all of these occasions together.

Broken to Beautiful

Mosaics have been around for over 4000 years, using shards of broken tiles, glass and mirrors to create decorative art pieces. According to the artist statement, “These three panels were commissioned for the 2019 Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly. They were created by the Semilla Center for Healing and the Arts at St. Paul’s Lutheran in south Minneapolis. Semilla (Sah-MEE-yah) means ‘seed’ in Spanish, and the center works to plant seeds of hope by teaching and creating public art that can help make the community healthier, safer and more beautiful.
“The panel ‘Feed the World’ is our call to end world hunger. The images reflect the Three Sisters that native peoples planted together: corn, beans and squash. It is a planting that naturally calls to cooperation. As in nature, we are all one; we are all in this world together.
“The panel “Love the Earth” shows native flowers of Minnesota, which attract pollinators needed for life: butterflies, bees, hummingbirds. Under the earth, you can see a different kind of pollinator: bugs and animals that help create the soil that nourishes all of us.
“The middle panel was done by attendees of the assembly, under the direction of Pr. Luisa Cabello Hansel, Artistic Director of Semilla and co-pastor at St. Paul’s. It shows the unity of the church with our Creator, the creation and one another.”
Fate or Foresight
According to the Semilla Center, the mosaics have been on display at nearly a dozen area congregations over the last 3 years. This number would’ve been more if not for the pandemic. Pastor Ben requested these panels to reside at Holy Trinity in April to connect all of the events of April (New Life Huddle, Holy Week and Peace Garden groundbreaking). So perhaps it wasn’t fate, but the foresight of our forward-thinking Pastor Ben!
If you haven’t seen these stunning panels in person, don’t wait any longer! They’re moving onto another church at the end of this month. Find them on display in the narthex by the Welcome Center (Jamie’s old office).
The Garden and the Town
Last October, former HTLC Communications Specialist Rose Fife, wrote a blog introducing the Peace Garden titled, The Garden and the Town. Months of planning have led to the partnership between Holy Trinity, New Prague Rotary Club, The Peace Center, The NPHS Green Team, Boy Scout Troop 323, Praha Village and Nick Slavik to build and maintain the Peace Garden. All are welcome to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Peace Garden on Thursday, April 28, 9 am at Holy Trinity’s south parking lot.
For more information about volunteering or sponsorship of the Peace Garden, please visit
Written by Karen A. Taylor, Web Manager
April 20, 2022


Learning to Step Up

In the middle of Lent, with a theme of “Full to the Brim”, six Holy Trinity high school students stepped out of their comfort zone and stepped up to a dynamic leadership experience at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. Most students navigating through any high school have their cups overflowing – homework, teacher and parent expectations, sports, extracurricular activities, peer relationships and sometimes, just trying to get from one class to the next through crowded hallways is a chore. Besides a day off from New Prague High School, the students came away with much more.
Throughout the years, Gustavus Adolphus College Association of Congregations (GACAC) has conducted a leadership seminar specifically geared towards high school students. Pastor Alicia Hilding states, “It was great to travel with a small group of high school students to learn about ourselves, our faith, our values, and principles of leadership while immersed in an ELCA College experience. We shared the day with other high school students from across the state and learned from some incredible leaders and people of faith at Gustavus: Dr. Kathi Tunheim (Vice President for Mission, Strategy, and Innovation), Dr. Doug Thompson (Vice President for Equity and Inclusion), and Rev. Grady St. Dennis (Director of Church Relations and College Chaplain). At the end of the day, each of our students stood in front of the group and shared how they would hope to implement one thing into their leadership when they go back home.”
Based on the comments from the Holy Trinity students, the Step Up Leadership Conference was a success. Avery N. said that she enjoyed it and would recommend it to her friends. “I really liked Dr. Thompson – he was funny and easy to relate to. It was a good experience talking to people I don’t know and getting out of my comfort zone.” Another favorite of Avery’s was playing games in the car on the way home (Thanks, Lauren!)
Taylor H. stated she would attend this leadership session again because, “The sessions were eye opening and informative. Lessons learned from the sessions could be implemented immediately. It was a fun experience to try something new and learn about topics that aren’t taught in the school day.”
Carson S. replied that he enjoyed the “personal” activities. “We were given a list of leadership traits and we had to circle what we thought our five best leadership qualities were . I also like spending the whole day on a college campus and eating lunch in the Gustavus cafeteria – whatever we wanted for free! I would recommend this experience to others because it was fun and different from a normal routine.”
Ella H. summed up her experience by saying, “The Step Up Day looked into leadership and how everyone plays an important part. It also shows the importance of a community because we each have a role to play. No one can do it all! I would definitely recommend it!”
Isaiah P. recalls his day by stating, “I was able to hear the stories of different people and how they have used their experiences to become a leader. They shared the steps to becoming a leader and we did many activities learning about what makes a leader.”
Emmy W. had this to say about her day, “Step Up gave me the opportunity to learn about being a leader, not just in church, but in any setting. I would definitely recommend it. I got to talk with some interesting people, learned a lot about myself and had a lot of fun. I am glad I got the opportunity to spend some time learning about something that will benefit me forever.”
Not only did these students enjoy a day away from high school, they are some of the key members of the Holy Trinity High School Youth Group. Lauren Petersen, new Director of Children, Youth & Family Ministries accompanied Pastor Alicia and the students to the Step Up Leadership Day, and is working hard to kick-start a strong high school program at Holy Trinity. In fact, the group recently chose a new name to represent themselves – “Agape”. Agape (ah-gah-pay) comes from the Greek word that means unconditional and enduring love for all from God. Lauren states, “Being able to listen to what these individuals had to say and share with the rest of the group was extremely rewarding. Every person is a leader in their own way and we all can benefit from listening to each other. This experience was really eye opening for me to better understand what leadership means to those students. That will most definitely help us figure out where to start as we begin a new chapter with Agape and see a glimpse of what it could potentially grow into. We have amazing youth and I’m excited to see where this will take us!”
Agape is open to all high school and college-age students and meets on Wednesday nights. All students are invited to eat supper together at 5 pm, worship together at 6 pm and end their evening with Agape from 6:45 – 8:00 pm.
Written by Karen A. Taylor, Web Manager
March 31, 2022


The Beat Goes On

Audre Johnson has a magnet on her refrigerator with Winston Churchill’s quote “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” If anyone knows about trips through hell, it’s Audre.
The focus of our Lent Sermon Series, Full to the Brim, this week is “Even in the Desert”. Sermons and small groups discussions center around how our lives can be full to the brim with faith, grace, generosity and love. 
But what if you’re in hell? 
Keep Going
Over the past 20 years, Audre lost two children to suicide, battled cancer, watched her grandchildren become orphans, and most recently, became a widow after 57 years of marriage. Grief knocks on her door, but Audre doesn’t let it stay for long. “You have to stay positive, because going into the darkness isn’t a good thing,” she says. Audre has a way of turning her grief into something positive. After her son, Jesse, died in 2002, Audre became an advocate for organ donation and speaks to high school driver’s training students about its importance. She’s also generous with donations to HTLC as the Johnson home was always full of music, thanks to Audre’s late husband, Bob. 
Bob Johnson’s lifelong love of playing the drums started when he was in the elementary school band in Dassel, MN. In high school, Bob and some friends formed a band and they played in Dassel’s first public dance in the late 1950’s. Bob met his future wife, Audre, in the 2nd grade, but sparks didn’t fly until high school when they revised a homecoming skit together during their sophomore year. Audre shares memories of proms and High School band where she admits with a laugh, “I only played the French Horn so I could be with Bob in the marching band.”
Bob and Audre graduated in 1962 and married after Audre completed her nursing degree in 1964. Bob worked in the carpentry trade, but always had time for his band in North Minneapolis. Although playing the drums was never his full-time career, Bob’s band always loved playing for family celebrations. Audre recalls, “Bob LOVED music! If he wasn’t listening to it in his garage, he was watching music programs on AXIS TV. The Carpenters were his favorite group and he loved the sound of the Beatles.” Bob had a great ear for identifying performers for music in general, a trait he passed along to his kids. Bob’s original 1963 drum set sits in the Johnson home where their grandkids and great-grandkids love to play on Grandpa’s drums.
The Beat Goes On
Audre’s latest gift to Holy Trinity is a drum shield, in memory of Bob. Why a drum shield? “Bob and I listen to online worship services. He loved the contemporary music of HTLC especially when Lex Lammers had a great drum part.” Bob understood the importance of balancing the sound of the instruments in a small setting and how the drums can easily overwhelm the rest of the voices and instruments. The drum shield will improve the cohesiveness of the HTLC Worship Team, especially when mixing the sound for in-person worship and livestreaming.
The past year has been especially hard for Audre. Her daughter, Nicole, encouraged her to journal her thoughts and family stories as a way to cope with her latest loss. “I’ve always been a talker, so writing is completely new to me. Someday, my grandkids may want to read my journal to understand why things in their lives happened the way they did.”
Audre Johnson has experienced more than her fair share of grief over the past 20 years. Yet she isn’t drowning in the depths of hell. For Audre, the beat goes on – her faith, her grace, her generosity and her love for others keeps her moving forward. 
Written by Karen A. Taylor, Web Manager
March 1, 2022


Welcome, Lauren!

A new face will soon be walking the halls of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Lauren Petersen joins the Holy Trinity staff on February 22 as Director of Children, Youth & Family (CYF) Ministry. 
Lauren comes with a Therapeutic Recreation background, but Pastor Alicia Hilding encouraged her to apply for the position. The Holy Trinity CYF Hiring Team was not solely looking for qualified candidates with a degree in Youth Ministry. NPAS Human Resource Specialist, Cassie Olson, lent her expertise and encouraged the team to widen their search to include applicants with a variety of life experiences and backgrounds. It paid off.
Lauren states, “The opportunity came out of the blue for me and immediately I felt connected and pulled to the position and everything it has to offer. What called me to be a part of this team and community was the idea of being able to use my degree and personal experiences of growing up and finding out what my faith meant to me. I am passionate about creating an environment for everyone where they can come and just be. A place where they want to be and choose to be. I am really looking forward to simply connecting with people. Whether that is through programs, chit chat in the hallways, or out and about in the community. I love connecting with others and building new relationships.”
Dennis Jasperson, CYF Hiring Team member, was impressed with Lauren from the start. “She is young, energetic and has some excellent experiences working with young people. A believer in our “All are Welcome” philosophy, she will bring a fresh perspective to our youth program!”
Olson adds, “Lauren’s parents came from different faith backgrounds and as a family, they found a church that worked for all of them. Being involved with her own church as a youth helped Lauren to grow in self-confidence. I loved learning that about Lauren’s story!”

Pastor Alicia & Pastor Ben serving at Bethel Lutheran in Hudson, WI (2013).

Lauren grew up attending Bethel Lutheran in Hudson, WI where Pastors Ben and Alicia Hilding were serving in their first call after completing seminary. Lauren recalls, “Pastor Ben and Pastor Alicia were my Pastors when I was in High School and my family has stayed in touch with them throughout the years. Fun fact: I also had Mr. Hilding (Pastor Ben’s Dad) as my math teacher in High School!”
Pastor Ben Hilding summarizes the excitement of Lauren’s arrival. “Our vision at Holy Trinity is to share God’s love for all people from one generation to the next. It’s surreal to think that Lauren, who we first met about 10 years ago when she was in high school, will now be passing on the Christian faith to our children. She’s exactly who we want for the job. We’re so honored and overjoyed to welcome Lauren to this community and to the mission we share.”
Now that we understand how Lauren came to Holy Trinity, let’s get to know Lauren a little better!
Give us a brief introduction to you, your family and your background – Hello Everyone! My name is   Lauren and I am beyond excited to start at Holy Trinity. I am a part of a wonderful family of four (mom, dad, and an older sister). I was blessed with my first niece this past August. We have two dogs, Tootsi and Avenna. Tootsi is 15 and Avenna is 2, both are Westies. I have been in a relationship with someone for almost 5 years now, I am sure some of you will meet him and the rest of my family someday. I am originally from Hudson, WI, and currently living in White Bear Lake, MN. I went to UW Eau Claire for my first two years of college and transferred to UW LaCrosse where I received my Bachelors in Therapeutic Recreation.”
Describe your faith journey – “My faith journey has definitely had its ups and downs with many questions along the way. I have realized I may not have all the answers to the questions I have, but in asking those questions I have grown stronger and more comfortable in my faith over the years. I truly think this position came to me at the perfect time. Before this year, I didn’t think this was an option in my career.”
If I were to take a food bribe –  “It would for sure be for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, ramen, or potatoes (classic mashed potatoes).”
Any hidden talents you can’t wait to share with the children, youth & families of HTLC – “I love anything to do with music, so I play a couple instruments and sing a bit for fun. I like to think of myself as a crafty person, I crochet at a very basic level and like to do art projects that sometimes turn out pretty neat!”
What did you do to “survive” the lockdown during the early days of the pandemic? “When I was stuck inside I played a lot of guitar and did many craft projects. I also binge watched a lot of TV shows on Netflix. When I could be outside with the warmer weather, I’d take the dogs for walks and kayak as often as I could.”
Tell us your favorite games to play – “Boggle and Cribbage”
Do you follow any sports team? “My partner is a HUGE football fan and we always watch the Vikings play. I don’t quite understand everything that happens throughout the game, but I’m working on it!”
Written by Karen Taylor, Web Manager
February 17, 2022


Share the Love

Imagine Holy Trinity had a beautiful rose bush that produced the most luscious roses ever seen. And no matter how many roses are pruned to make bouquets, the bush always grows more roses. As elementary as it sounds, Holy Trinity does have a beautiful rose bush in the form of the Endowment Fund. The Endowment Fund (rose bush) is a perpetual gift that only gives out the annual distribution (bouquets) each year. $9865 was given to various ministry partners that support the mission of the Endowment Team in 2021. This month, between February 4 – 14, you’re invited to Share the Love. For the cost of a dozen roses or a fancy box of chocolates, the Endowment Team invites you to donate $25 to the Endowment Fund in honor of a friend or loved one.

Years of Giving


For the past 24 years, the Endowment Committee has met quarterly to review grant applications and discern which organizations receive a bouquet of roses (funds from the Endowment). According to the Mission Statement of the Endowment Committee, “distributions benefit the areas of evangelism, missions, youth ministry, local benevolence, and special needs of the church.” Committee Member, Joanna Hansen, was looking for ways to volunteer and discovered the Endowment Team was the perfect fit. “I struggled with how to [volunteer at HTLC] while balancing a full time career where I do a fair amount of travelling along with being a busy hockey mom. While I knew nothing about Endowment initially, I quickly learned this was something I simply wanted to be a part of,” Hansen recalls.
Newly-elected Endowment Team member, Gary Eagen, is no stranger to Holy Trinity or the Endowment Committee. Gary and his wife, Mary, have been members since 1970 and he served on the Endowment Committee 10 years ago. “It’s my way of giving to an institution that has given me guidance in my journey of life,” states Eagen.
Another rookie on the Endowment Team, Adam Cornell has a sweet history with Holy Trinity as he married his wife, Lindsey, in the sanctuary 15 years ago. “We came back to Holy Trinity [three years ago] for a place where we could grow in faith, with people that have shared values and be part of the local community. I volunteered for the Endowment Committee to connect with other Holy Trinity members and learn about the local/greater community needs. I wanted to know more about the Endowment, how it’s funded, how funds are distributed, who’s requesting funding and who/how funding is approved.”

The Gift that Keeps on Giving


Endowment Fund donations do not go into HTLC’s operating accounts. Instead, they are invested with the St. Paul Foundation. The Endowment Fund’s “rose bush” grows in three ways. Organic Growth – the fund is conservatively invested in the financial markets and experiences growth with the markets. Contributions from an Estate Plan – donors designate money directly to the Endowment Fund or through the church’s gift policy. Contributions from Active Donors – contributions are accepted from church and community members who are looking to donate funds beyond the church and its traditional operating budget. Since the Endowment Committee only gives away the annual distribution from the fund, the larger the rose bush, the more bouquets it can give away.
Share the Love
6 months of Community Table Thank You.jpThe uniqueness of the Endowment Fund makes gift giving reach beyond the walls of Holy Trinity, whether is local or nationally. In the past year, Endowment gifts supported HTLC’s Thanksgiving Meal-in-a-bag Giveaway and purchased hymnals and binders for Mala Strana worship services. Gifts even made it all the way to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in New Orleans to support their Community Table program. New Committee Member, Dean Podratz states that the Endowment fund “might be more personal to some” with the ability to designate fund appropriation.
Why should you donate $25 to the Share the Love Campaign? Hansen sums it up, “As a Committee, we find ourselves having to be conservative when approving requests, especially in the beginning of the year (to make sure we have enough funds to last the duration of the year). We want to be sure we have enough funds to support Thanksgiving meals, in addition to any needs that may come in during the holidays. The Share the Love campaign gives everyone the opportunity to help grow the Endowment Fund, so we can continue to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes in that fits the Endowment Fund mission.”
New Committee Team member, Dan Popple, likes the idea of contributing through the Share the Love Campaign as “it combines visibility to the Endowment while simultaneously providing a simple mechanism to grow the fund. As more people learn their contributions will continue providing valuable support for worthy causes for generations through the returns from the fund, it will create additional interest and excitement on what we can accomplish.”
Help us Share the Love! As you learn more about the Share the Love Campaign from Adam Cornell this week in worship, please consider donating to the Share the Love Campaign between now and February 14. For the cost of a dozen roses or a box of Valentine’s chocolates, you can make a positive impact for generations to come.
Written by Karen Taylor, Web Manager
February 2, 2022


Fresh Look Welcomes All

Holy Trinity installed a new digital sign this past week. A project sparked by the love of Dennis Jasperson for his late wife and his church. As a long-time member, Jasperson wanted to find a way for his late wife Dorothy to remain a part of Holy Trinity. A way she can continue to welcome people to the church she loved. 

“When we did the church visits [in February 2020], I came to the realization all these churches that were doing well had electronic signs. I knew there was talk in the past about this and I thought it would be a good time to bring it up,” says Jasperson, holding his steaming cup of coffee on a warm August morning. “I wanted to contribute, get it started, and hope that people would support it.” 

So, in spring 2021, he and his family made a sizable donation in her name toward the construction of a new digital sign. It is important to them, however, that the sign reflects the vision of the congregation. “I didn’t want it to be a sign that I was saying what size or shape. I want it to be whatever the people want.”

Holy Trinity responded by inviting the congregation to a series of open meetings led by council member Mark Walser. From there, a committee formed to make Dennis’ hope a reality. 

This was an important project for Walser whose kids enjoyed playing with Dorothy. After researching several companies who make electronic signs, he invited two of them to give a presentation to the committee. Walser was clear about wanting the input of the congregation. “I don’t want to spend people’s money without the support of the congregation.” The source of the sign was also important. “This is a quality sign, manufactured in the U.S, with design controlled in the U.S.” 

For Jasperson, the sign is more than a communication tool. “It’s not about being boastful. It’s about letting people know what we’re about. There’s a place for them here. They are welcome and maybe we can provide what they’re looking for.” 

A special congregational meeting was held in-person and via Zoom on September 12. After a presentation by Walser and a tearfilled speech by Jasperson, the vote to purchase the sign quickly passed. Employing a “Pixels to Panels” sponsorship campaign, Holy Trinity had enough funds to make the down payment which ensured the installation of the sign before Christmas by the end of September. Less than two weeks later, the digital sign was fully funded. Surprised by the speed of the fundraising efforts, congregational member Pat Remfert summarized, “We have a lot of passionate, committed and giving people in our congregation.” 

While the new sign was in production, Facilities Manager Jon Bergquist and congregational member George Winn disassembled the old sign. Bergquist commented, “The letters sat on a plastic rail. The old sign was so warped, the letters would either fall off or fall through the rail. Letters were constantly crooked or missing – it was definitely time for a new sign.” Deutsch Construction finished the demolition of the brick base while Stasney Electric disconnected the electricity.
Installation of the new sign was completed the week of December 13 and the new sign will be dedicated on Wednesday, December 22 at 4:45 pm. All are welcome to attend! 
With this sign, Jasperson knows a part of Dorothy is still present. “I feel like Dorothy is inviting people to church. That’s why I did it.”
Written by Rose M. Fife and Karen A. Taylor
Photo Credits: George Winn, Pastor Ben Hilding, Gina Fadden
December 16, 2021



 Some people say this double rainbow was Dorothy Jasperson giving her sign of approval. Tell us what you think in the comments!


More Than A Tree

The six-foot artificial evergreen tree in the Fellowship Hall holds more than paper tags. It’s a symbol of hope for families in need to receive Christmas gifts for their children and an opportunity for families to volunteer and discover “the reason for the season”. Now in its 29th year, the Holy Trinity Sharing Tree is a mission with a strong history that continues today, thanks to an army of Christmas Angels.
In the Beginning
Deep in the Holy Trinity archives, Office Manager Jamie Bisek discovered the Sharing Tree began in 1992 under the direction of the Christian Life & Growth Team, led by Sue Harris. When Mary Hanson-Busch joined Holy Trinity in 1993, she was drawn to the generosity of the group. “Seeing so many people coming together to sponsor local families is gratifying.” Busch recalls the Sunday School offering being used to purchase winter gear and the Sharing Tree tags had toy ideas for the Santa Anonymous program. “Sue would bring in all of the snowsuits for the Sunday School to see what was bought.”
Busch eventually took over the Sharing Tree Coordinator position after Harris moved, a job that took many volunteers and hours. Initially working with both Scott and Le Sueur county agencies to find families in need, Holy Trinity’s Sharing Tree was sponsoring over 300 families. Busch remembers, “We would pile all of the items over the collection [period] and spend one full day, with many helpers, matching and sorting gifts. Volunteers got the [gift] bags to the sites each county had.” Shortly after that season, Holy Trinity worked solely with the Le Sueur County Adopt-a-Family and Santa Anonymous agencies.
LuAnn Leach’s involvement with Le Sueur County Santa Anonymous stems back to its inception in 1977 where they served 165 elementary aged children. At its height in the late 1980’s, Santa Anonymous provided gifts for almost 1000 children a year. Leech reports, “Since 2012, we have worked closely with Adopt-A-Family to avoid duplication of gifts; they focus on clothing and Santa Anonymous on toys. We now serve about 240 families with about 580 children. Typically, 85-90 families per year are ‘new’, so we know Le Sueur county residents continue to struggle economically.”
In recent years, Holy Trinity supported Le Sueur County families through the Santa Anonymous program, led by Leach and the Sharing Tree, coordinated by Busch and Julie Popple. The Sharing Tree evolved to meet the needs of the county, and narrowed its focus to the Adopt-a-Family program to collect clothing and winter gear.
This year, the efforts of all three women are combining and Holy Trinity is partnering with Le Sueur County Santa Anonymous to provide toys for families.

Christmas Angels

Lydia & Ellen Popple ~ 2004

The Sharing Tree’s volunteer-driven mission runs like a well-oiled machine, thanks to angels (in human form) Busch, Popple and Leach. Popple’s connection goes back to 2004 as she was looking for ways to get more involved at church with her two young children. She recalls, “From the time our daughters were 3 and 1, they helped me pack the bags with clothes and toys and eventually became old enough to actually be helpful. Our project time together was a perfect opportunity to share with the girls that everyone experiences times of need and opportunities for generous giving. The Sharing Tree project serves as our annual reminder to respond with faith in scarcity and abundance. It continues to be one of our favorite parts of the Christmas season.”
Leach also has fond memories of her children helping her shop for Santa Anonymous gifts. “My 2nd daughter was 3-weeks-old, in an infant seat, with me at the first [Santa Anonymous] shop. My three kids grew up helping [me] shop and now I have grandchildren [helping me]. Understanding the true meaning of Christmas, as well as experiencing gratitude and humility, are lifelong behaviors I hope for in my family.”
The Empty Tree



When the Sharing Tree pops up in mid-November, the tags are often gone by Thanksgiving (as was the case in 2018 and 2019). The empty tree not only signifies the generosity that is woven into the fabric of Holy Trinity, but also and more importantly, families in need will have Christmas presents for their children. Leach consistently hears the phrase “without these gifts, we would not have Christmas” as she delivers Santa Anonymous gifts. After taking a hiatus in 2020*, the Sharing Tree returned with 35 tags. Each tag has two gift ideas for one child. One tag remains with a week to go before Thanksgiving.
Let all that you do be done in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). Thank you, Holy Trinity, for your continued support of the Sharing Tree!
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the church building, the Sharing Tree team set up an outdoor, drop-off collection site in 2020 for winter coats for the Le Sueur County Adopt-a-Family program.
Written by Karen A. Taylor, HTLC Web Manager
November 18, 2021


All are Welcome

Holy Trinity to Continue Annual Thanksgiving Meal

The car turns into the parking lot, slowing as the driver spies the line of vehicles winding around the perimeter, groups of people dropping bags into trunks. It is unusually busy for a Sunday afternoon and, not wanting to disturb, they edge along the side. They are hopeful the Little Free Pantry has a few items left so they angle in that direction. Suddenly a blonde woman with a friendly smile and a wave approaches them. “Would you like a free Thanksgiving dinner?” she calls out. 
“They were so surprised!” says Donna Galvin, HTLC Hospitality Coordinator. “And we had a few meals to spare.” 
A variation on our annual tradition of a community Thanksgiving Dinner (started by Audre Johnson in 2010), Holy Trinity is again hosting a free Thanksgiving Meal-in-a-Bag Giveaway on Sunday, November 21, 1-3 pm. Anyone interested in a meal is invited to call Donna Galvin (952-486-3242) to reserve one. Each bag will feed four to six people and include turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, dinner rolls, a vegetable, and a pie. 

Unflappable Donna

Galvin knows her life’s vocation. “Feeding other people is what makes me happy!” she says, laughing. “And to be able to give back to the community, it makes it all worthwhile.”
With her passion for food, it’s no surprise that Galvin and the Hospitality Team were able to adjust in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic. They altered the format from a traditional meal served in Fellowship Hall to a sign-up/drive-through. But Galvin was not phased. “I thought it went fabulous! I think it went really well,” she says of the pandemic-friendly twist. 
This same group of alternately feisty (you know who you are), and helpful people weathered many challenges with the pandemic. They served Sunday morning coffee and even hosted Wednesday night dinners in the parking lot, hauling meals and beverages outside in chilly, windy, or stiflingly hot days. This also did not bother Galvin.
“I rather enjoyed being outside. I told the pastors, ‘30 below is my limit,’” says our stalwart Galvin. “But yes, I am looking forward to being back inside.” (Wednesday night dinners and Sunday morning coffee will be indoors beginning Wed., Nov. 17.)

Legacy of the Endowment Fund

The Thanksgiving meal is funded by the Holy Trinity Endowment Fund and a Thrivent Action Grant. “It is the elected Endowment Team’s joy to encourage, receive, and administer gifts to this fund (invested with the Saint Paul Foundation) in a way that honors God and aligns with the vision,” says Pastor Alicia Hilding, a member of the Endowment Team. “[We] enthusiastically supported Donna and the Hospitality Team’s application, believing HTLC’s Thanksgiving Meal is a great example of the ministry this fund was designed to support.”
Every year, the Endowment Team invites new groups to apply for funding generated by the investment. Their mission is evident in their bylaws. “The purpose of this fund is to enhance the outreach of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Past recipients include the School Supply Drive; Hope House; Faith, Recovery, and Music; and His Haven Ranch. 
“The beauty of the Endowment Fund is that it creates a legacy of giving through Holy Trinity Church, year after year, generation after generation, long after the original donation was made,” says Jed Trachte, Endowment Team Chair. 
So who is invited to sign up for a Thanksgiving Meal-in-a-Bag? “Anyone in the community [and surrounding communities],” says Galvin. “We welcome everybody. It’s my job to be with people, to feed people.”
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
November 11, 2021


The Garden and the Town

Once upon a time, a community worked together to plant a garden so their neighbors in need could have fresh vegetables.
In New Prague this is not a fairy tale. This is becoming a reality.
The idea occurred to Matt Goldade while on a bike ride. How could he help the Peace Center, the local food shelf, to offer more fresh fruits and vegetables?
“I had just read an article about food shelves needing fresh foods,” he says. “And I thought, ‘Why can’t we do something to provide healthier food? Why should they have to eat canned food all the time?’”
Goldade had just joined Holy Trinity with his wife and daughters and thought of the unused land around the church building. Aware of the Small Town Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), and a member of the Rotary Club of New Prague, he wanted to do something.
“Everything in my head kept snowballing. I knew about the grant and I thought, ‘What can New Prague do?’”
After calling the pastors to see if they could secure space for a garden, he contacted Rita Goggins, Volunteer Services Coordinator at the Peace Center, to verify they had the room for more produce. Then he presented his idea and the SMIF grant to the New Prague Rotary Club.

The Idea of Community

Jessica Dohm, President of the Rotary Club, was excited from the beginning. “Things move forward because of communities,” she says. “If it were one person trying to do this one big project on their own, it would probably be doomed to failure. But if a bunch of people just come together and give a little bit of time, you can do really great, impactful things. To me, that’s the whole idea of community.” 
Dohm called Praha Village Senior Living and asked if the residents would be interested in planting or maintaining the garden. The answer was a resounding “Yes!”

Last summer, Rotary was awarded the full grant of $10,000 for a Peace Garden from SMIF. Along with Rotary’s $2500 donation, they have a sizable head start on raising money for the plants and lumber. The Peace Garden, named after the Peace Center, will be built and maintained by members of the community to help those in need have better access to healthier options.

“This is small-town living at its best,” says HTLC Pastor Ben Hilding, also in the Rotary Club. “The Rotary principle motto is ‘Service above Self.’”

Pastor Ben is also impressed with the different organizations getting involved. The Boy Scouts offered service hours to help. The City of New Prague gave advice, support, and feedback on the location. The Green Team at New Prague High School expressed interest in collaborating. And local businessman Nick Slavik agreed to help with the build and coordination of the project.


The Peace Center


“In a sentence? I can’t wait!” says Rita Goggins, Volunteer Services Coordinator of the Peace Center. “I’m excited the community has come together to think of us. It’s so helpful when they are behind us.”

Goggins and the volunteers at the Peace Center, supported by the Mayo Clinic, strive to provide their clients with the healthiest food possible. “We want to provide year-round the best possible food,” she says. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a need and a want. This will make it easier to provide the best food possible. And I love the community piece, the relationships.”

The Peace Center recently restructured their space to allow for more produce. In the past, they relied solely on grocery store donations, some of which are understandably a few days old. The additional carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes will be appreciated by those in need.

God is in the Details

The Peace Garden will be planted in Spring 2022, in the southeast corner of the parking lot in front of the trees. (For those directionally-challenged like me, that’s to the right of the Prayer Garden.) The beds will be elevated to make it easier on volunteers, especially those at Praha Village. All food grown will go to providing the clients of the Peace Center with healthier options.

The Rotary Club of New Prague will be driving the project, but anyone can get involved. You do not have to be a member of New Prague Rotary, Holy Trinity, Praha Village, or the Boy Scouts to get involved.

How Can I Help?

“If people are interested in participating on any level, the planning of the garden, the building, the planting, maintaining, harvesting… all of that we need help with,” says Dohm. “But I don’t want to solicit people’s assistance and make them feel it’s long-term. You can even help for an hour.” Email Dohm ( to offer your services, sign up for the Garden Committee, or to ask questions.

The price of lumber rose significantly last year so donations are also appreciated. “Donations will go towards making it more accessible for those at Praha Village, making it a more personal space.” says Goldade. The New Prague Rotary Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), so all donations are tax deductible. Checks can be made to the New Prague Rotary Foundation and mailed to PO Box 92, New Prague, MN 56071. “We’re even working on getting Venmo!” says Dohm.


The End

“We are so grateful to HTLC for the gift of the land usage in order to initiate this project,” says Dohm. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t even have been a remote possibility.”

Goldade is now on the board of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, but he does not participate in the grant committees. It is his job, along with many others, to make people aware of these available grants. He remains passionate about helping his neighbors, his community.

“Just because you don’t have a lot of money in your pockets doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the same ability to eat healthy,” says Matt.
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
October 21, 2021


From Dolls to Meals

HTLC Member Honors Parents With Gifts for Children

Every year, 3.1 million children die from malnutrition.
Every day, 66 million children go to school hungry.
Around the world, 99 million children under five years old were considered underweight as of 2013.

These staggering facts led HTLC member Sande Schoenecker to make a memorial gift in honor of her parents for the continued purchase of cuddle+kind dolls.

Schoenecker and her four siblings grew up in Jackson, MN, and learned early to donate to charitable causes. “It was important to our parents that we always tithe,” she says. “I still remember them telling us about budgeting. The very first thing they did was write a check to the church and other charitable organizations. They gave. That came first.”
Schoenecker’s father, a former high school Language Arts teacher and coach, passed away in March 2020 after heart surgery. Her mother was a secretary for an insurance company and now suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. She entered a Good Samaritan home in Sioux Falls, SD, in October 2019. “My dad went every day to visit her.”

The Joy of Giving

“My father was able to leave money for his five children,” Schoenecker says. “When we received it, I encouraged my siblings to follow our parents’ example and tithe the money. It was a really fun thing to do! I got to think about where I wanted this money to go.”

Schoenecker, a retired special education then elementary teacher, is devoted to the care of children and made the gift intentionally. “This is a way of communicating to the family and child the meaning behind the doll as part of our response is to serve the poor, the needy, and the hungry.”

Why Do We Give Dolls?

HTLC began giving the dolls to children at baptism, along with a prayer shawl, several years ago. For every doll purchased, cuddle+kind provides 10 meals to children in need through partnerships with multiple humanitarian agencies around the world. The agencies are sensitive to the needs of the community and provide aid in a manner they feel is best.

Jen and Derek Woodgate founded cuddle+kind in September 2015 after watching a documentary about the impact of hunger on developing children around the world. To date, they have given over 7.5 million meals to kids in need in 66 countries. Their goal is to provide 1 million meals each year. The Woodgates are particularly interested in helping female children.

According to their website,“Empowering girls is the key to healthier communities. Girls with more education have fewer children, have them later in life and are better prepared to care for and educate them. Studies have shown that a woman’s education contributed to 43% of the reduction in child malnutrition over time.”

The handmade dolls themselves also provide income for women in Peru. “We are proud to support over 750 artisans with sustainable, equitable, fair trade employment. We ensure that rural working mothers have access to flexible hours and are paid fairly for their work. This allows our knitters to care for their families, plan for their futures and for many, it brings meaningful change to their lives.”

For Schoenecker, choosing to give through the church was a simple decision. “This is why I love the ELCA church. The ELCA church is one of service to others. It’s important that you are Christian. But it goes way beyond being Christian. It’s the service, the faith, and how you treat others.”
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
October 14, 2021


What’s a Huddle?

We are a congregation intent on welcoming the stranger.
We want to lighten burdens through inspiring worship.
We want to help those who cannot buy bread for their children.
We want to provide a safe haven for groups to meet and share their struggles.
And we want to teach the next generation (and everyone), that God loves them.
How do we achieve this? We huddle.
“Does everyone know a huddle is a congregational dinner?” Pat Remfert asked me. “Dinner and a meeting! That’s how we do huddles,” he says. Remfert is the Chair of the new Strategic Plan 2.0 and the MC for Sunday’s event.
Holy Trinity is hosting a congregational dinner and meeting (“It’s a Huddle!”) on Sunday, October 3, 4-6 pm, to announce the details of the Strategic Plan 2.0. (Click here to RSVP. All are welcome!)
The last congregational huddle was March 2020, a week before COVID arrived in Minnesota and forced us to close our doors for 15 months. This time, the dinner will be held outside (look for the big tent) to follow CDC guidelines, and will include keynote speaker Pastor Blair Anderson. (Yep, the same Pastor Blair who facilitated our first Strategic Plan.) And, like the past Huddles, there will be entertainment. (Cheers for the choir singing again!)
Earlier this year, five teams with respective team leads were formed to cover crucial areas of the church. They are:
Welcome: Jamie Sticha
Worship: Christa Smith
Respond: Matthew Goldade
Children, Youth, and Family (CYF): Jay Schoenebeck
Facilities: Jackie Lee

These teams will meet every two to four weeks to learn from various speakers and brainstorm ideas for the future. They will also meet monthly with the pastors to update them. Their final recommendations will be presented to the congregation in April/May 2022.

Remfert enjoys seeing new sides of people. “I’m always amazed to see the hidden skill sets that people have. We just have to let them use them. I hear people and think, ‘I didn’t know you knew how to do that!’ That’s how we make progress.”

Strat Plan 2.0 a close cousin to 1.0

CYF Team Lead Jay Schoenebeck feels the Strategic Plan 2.0 is strongly connected to the first. “I don’t consider them separate. A lot of those stakeholders who were involved in the 1.0 Plan came up with successful initiatives we are currently using,” he says. “We have to look at the good things that came from this Digital Reformation. All the changes that came like remote learning, Zooming for meetings. Outside factors influence how we do things. This is a natural time to look at ministries and make sure they align.”

Facilities Team Lead Jackie Lee feels it will be crucial to work with the other teams. “It’s not only the building [that is our focus] but I think that it’ll be important for us to listen to the other Strategic 2.0 teams, such as the Worship and CYF teams. They may have ideas that will require us to circle back on our thoughts.”

Lee is interested in determining how the Facilities Team can support the mission of the church. “I’m most excited how we as a facilities team can go back to the Vision, Mission and Values statement that was completed for the Vision 2020 and see exactly how facilities lie in helping live out that vision. Because if you read the Vision, Mission and Values statement there is no direct mention of facilities, but it is intertwined in all of them.”

“Being a welcoming church to ALL, no matter what, is very important to me,” says Welcome Team Lead Jamie Sticha. Her process: “We will meet to ground ourselves in the Mission / Vision / Values, honor the Strategic Plan 1.0, interview people who represent what it means to be welcoming and come up with a few recommendations for the church to consider.”

Chair Pat Remfert is excited about this process. “This is fun work! This is not figuring out how to close the church! This is figuring out how to do the Vision 2020. If we skip a generation, we’re done. It’s up to us to make sure we have the energy to ‘share God’s love to all people from one generation to the next.’”

Here are a few questions we’ve been getting:

How are we funding this?

In July, we announced we received the reKindle Congregational Development Program grant of $15,000 from Columbia Theological Seminary.

Will I be asked to volunteer?

Only if you want to. “We really try to work hard at being open, transparent. We’re trying to engage as many people in the congregation as we could to understand their skill sets. Get their ideas.” says Remfert. But volunteering will be voluntary, not “voluntold.”

Why should I come to the Huddle?

“Information helps us make informed decisions,” says Remfert. And Donna, Hospitality Coordinator, will be cooking.

See you on Sunday!
Written by Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
September 30, 2021


The Gift of Welcome

Holy Trinity now sports a pair of stylish chairs, a small conference table, and a safe railing in front of the new office wing thanks to a memorial gift from Ron Soheim and family.

Ron and his late wife Linda Solheim were married for 47 and a half years. “From the time we said ‘I do,’ we were married for 17,397 days.”

He remembers seeing her and wanting to know her name, if she was single. He bought her a coffee and asked her to dinner. “The first time we went out was August 12. Our first date was at Barnacle Bar at Frontier Dinner Theater (now Chanhassen Dinner Theatre) on August 12. We were engaged by August 24. Twelve days later. My pastor met her and said ‘You two are truly soulmates. You are meant to be together.’”

Ron and Linda moved from Chanhassen to New Prague on June 2, 2021 to be closer to family. But they also moved so Ron would have help with Linda’s care.

“Linda went into hospice care on March 1, 2021. I was her primary caregiver. I assured her she would never have to leave home, that I would always be with her.” When their sons and daughters-in-law, Jeff and Shari Solheim, Brad and Andrea Solheim, became concerned the role was becoming too much for their father, they suggested moving to Praha Village. “Linda loved it here [at Praha]. She said ‘We should have done this sooner.’”

An Amazing Memory

The couple made plans to attend and join Holy Trinity. “Both of us were looking forward to being members of HTLC. She just didn’t make it. She passed away at least six months before we thought she would.”

Linda passed away the day after Father’s Day. “The morning of June 21, the most beautiful person left this life with me to become my most amazing memory.”

Ron treasures his life with his wife. “Our life together of 47.5 years was amazing. Linda had Lupus for 38 years. She was struggling with that all the time. Most of the time she had it under control, but for the last 15 years, she also had one of the rarest forms of cancer. She was a fighter.”

Despite being new to the community, Ron chose to have Linda’s funeral at Holy Trinity thanks to a phone call of sympathy. “The night that Linda passed, Jeff got a phone call from Pastor Alicia. She was extending her sympathies on Mother’s passing. She wanted us to know that if we wanted to have a service at Holy Trinity, we were more than welcome to.” Two days later, the family met with the pastors and Office Manager Jamie Bisek to plan the service.

Someone Else in Control

“When we were planning the service, we didn’t have to do much,” says Ron. “Things just fell into place. Someone else was in control.” Partway through the meeting, Jamie showed the Solheim family into the sanctuary. Ron looked up at the screen in amazement. “I wanted the hymn ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ for the funeral. Jamie was showing us some options and there on the screen were the words for the hymn ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’” The hymn was scheduled for the upcoming Sunday service, but happened to be on the screen at the time of their meeting.

As many churches are limiting the number of attendees, the Solheims were grateful to find a church that would allow a funeral big enough for their family. “Holy Trinity was so welcoming to both myself and my family that I proceeded to join the church. They were so welcoming to us having a service there.”

A Memorial For Linda

After a few weeks after Linda’s passing, Ron began to spend more time at Holy Trinity and noticed a few details. “I just saw some needs. So I asked Pastor Ben and Jamie where there might be a need, a memorial fitting of Linda.” Eventually an outside railing, stained glass-style chairs, and a small conference table were purchased as a memorial to Linda from her family.

“Linda would have liked that, having railings for me, especially,” Ron says. I can hear the smile in his voice. “And she would have loved those chairs. She liked bright colors, and pretty things like those chairs.”

Now, thanks to a loving gift from a family, the entrance is safer. The lobby is bright and welcoming with the new chairs. And there is a small, intimate room with comfortable seating to meet, potentially with another grieving family.

Ron knows his wife will always be with him. “All 17,397 days that we were married, I believe every day we told each other ‘I love you.’ Love never dies. Love is for always.”
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
September 2, 2021


It’s a Sign

Dennis Jasperson wanted to find a way for his late wife Dorothy to remain a part of Holy Trinity. A way she can continue to welcome people to the church she loved.

“When we did the church visits [in February 2020], I came to the realization all these churches that were doing well had electronic signs. I knew there was talk in the past about this and I thought it would be a good time to bring it up,” says Jasperson, holding his steaming cup of coffee on a warm August morning. “I wanted to contribute, get it started, and hope that people would support it.”

So, in spring 2021, he and his family made a sizable donation in her name toward the construction of a new digital sign. It is important to them, however, that the sign reflects the vision of the congregation. “I didn’t want it to be a sign that I was saying what size or shape. I want it to be whatever the people want.”

The Sign Team

Holy Trinity responded by inviting the congregation to a series of open meetings led by council member Mark Walser. From there, a committee formed to make Dennis’ hope a reality. Together, members Jed Becher, Dirk Berger, Allen and Donna Gulbransen, Dennis Jasperson, Pat Remfert, Tim Thorp, and George Winn along with council member Mark Walser, Office Manager Jamie Bisek, Facility Manager Jon Bergquist, and Pastor Ben Hilding met four times and voted to recommend to the church council a sign of 5 ft. by 10 ft. with 8 mm pixels.

Signs are important to this committee. Says team member George Winn, “I always judge restaurants by their bathrooms and I judge churches by their signs.” The sign will be constructed by Think Digital, a sign company in Edina, and will cost $85,000.

The recommendation was approved by the council and will require a vote by the congregation to purchase the sign and raise the remaining funds. From the Jasperson memorial gift and some long-term investments, nearly half the money has been raised.

Half A Sign

“In short, we have paid for one side of the sign and are looking to raise funds for the other,” says Pastor Alicia. “This is a project everyone can get involved with. You can purchase a pixel for 66 cents, or go as far as a panel. We’d love to have 100% participation.” (See breakdown below.)

This is an important project for council member Mark Walser whose kids enjoyed playing with Dorothy. Walser researched several companies who make electronic signs and invited two of them to give a presentation to the committee. But he’s clear about wanting the input of the congregation. “I don’t want to spend people’s money without the support of the congregation.” The source of the sign is also important to Walser. “This is a quality sign, manufactured in the U.S, with design controlled in the U.S.”

Digital signs are an effective way to welcome and inform people. Sign company Think Digital estimates 9000-9700 cars pass by Holy Trinity daily. If the average car contains 1.5 people, that is at least 13,5000 views each day.

You Are Welcome Here

For Jasperson, the sign is more than a communication tool. “It’s not about being boastful. It’s about letting people know what we’re about. There’s a place for them here. They are welcome and maybe we can provide what they’re looking for.”
With this sign, Jasperson knows a part of Dorothy is still present. “I feel like Dorothy is inviting people to church. That’s why I did it.”
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
August 26, 2021
Options for Sponsorship (Goal to raise one side = 50 panels):
1 panel: $858
1/2 panel: $429
1/4 panel: $214.50
1 pixel (1,296 pixels in a panel): $0.66
Please mail your sponsorship to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1300 Main St. E., New Prague, MN 56071 and indicate “Digital Sign” in the memo line. Thank you!