HTLChronicles

 
Like what you’re reading?
Click the Facebook “Share” button at the bottom of each story to spread the word about life at Holy Trinity.
 

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!


Read more...

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
 

2018

2019

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

Read more...

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

Read more...

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 (admin@newpraguerotary.com) 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

Read more...

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

Read more...

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

Read more...

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

Read more...

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!

Read more...

Dignity for Children

HTLC Hosts 3rd Annual School Supplies Giveaway

No child wants to stand apart from their peers for what they do not have. Every child deserves to feel the support of their community.

Holy Trinity will hold our third annual School Supplies Giveaway on Monday, August, 9, 6-8 p.m. Hosted by the Missions/Outreach Team and supported by a grant from the Endowment Fund, $5,000 is allocated to buy K-5 school supplies. The items will be distributed in pre-packed bags and delivered drive-through-style in the parking lot in front of the new wing.

Linnea Hautman, Missions Team School Liaison, is leading the giveaway this year. As a retired teacher, I really do not want to see any student in need or any student who stands apart because they do not have school supplies,” she told me over the phone.

Hautman recalls going through the garbage at the end of the school year when she was teaching to collect the unused pens, pencils, and notebooks. She then provided these items for her students in summer school so no one would be embarrassed to not have them. “I always tried to be sure there wasn’t a need. I wanted to make it so no one would have an issue.”
 
 

Where It Began

Our first Giveaway was in August 2019 BC (Before COVID). We filled a large room with volunteers and guests, all in close proximity and not a mask in sight. Seems so foreign now, doesn’t it? We had guests who were struggling with a job loss, the expense of healthcare, or the general upheaval of trying to make a life in a new country.
 
 
In order to keep guests and volunteers safe, we opted for a drive-through last year. (Watch that fun video here.)We were not able to interact as much, but this format had its benefits: it allowed the guests some privacy as they could stay in their cars.
 

 

Open to All

Aligned with Holy Trinity’s motto “All are welcome,” the Giveaway is again open to any family, not just those registered in the New Prague Area School District. While there are some experiencing a need in this area, there is greater need elsewhere.

The percentage of children eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, a benchmark often used to determine need in school, averages 11.87% among the three NPAS elementary schools. In surrounding communities, the number is as high as 40.4%, according to the Minnesota Department of Education pdf “Public School List with Percentage of Free and Reduced-Price Eligible Students.”
 
 
This open invitation is also important as consumer prices are rising in many sectors. One study by KPMG found many parents expect to pay more for school supplies this year, estimating close to $270 per child. For families who are already feeling the hardship of COVID, it is especially important that we are welcoming.
 

 

New Prague Tradition

This is not a new idea in New Prague. Many local businesses collect donations from the public and deliver them to the schools before the first day of school. Then, when kids arrive without enough pencils or folders, they are sent to the office to pick them up. In front of the other kids.

The current format was an idea by Amy Hennen, social worker at Falcon Ridge Elementary in New Prague. When I asked her several years ago how Holy Trinity could help the schools, she shared the process of getting school supplies to everyone. After watching how difficult it is for the kids to be singled out in this way, she knew it would be easier for them to walk into school with a full backpack. Just like the other children.

Missions Team member and retired elementary teacher, Sande Schoenecker, also appreciates this format. “I personally have seen the humble faces of students who have started the school year without their own supplies. I’ve listened to parents who shyly told me they hoped to be able to get supplies over the weekend or by the next week. Most often they couldn’t afford them. I was very grateful for donations given by our church directly to the school social workers, so I could have the supplies for those students. When we first discussed a school supply drive where families could receive supplies before school started, I was eager to help. This provides dignity for kids and parents!”

 
Fellow Missions Team member Liz Nelson is also excited to volunteer. “This event reaches out to the community and provides students with a positive beginning to the school year. It says Holy Trinity cares about students and their success!”
 
 

School Supply Donations Welcome

The congregation is welcome to contribute school supplies. A collection cart will be outside the sanctuary on Sunday mornings and in the office during the week. All donations need to be in by Wednesday, August 4. Please stick to the items requested commonly by the schools.
 
Written by Rose Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
July 22, 2021

Read more...

Game For Change

HTLC Awarded Grant for Thriving Initiatives

What does it look like to share God’s love?

As Christians we throw out terms like this regularly. But thanks to a newly-awarded grant, we have the opportunity to think, pray, and plan together for what this really looks like.

Holy Trinity was recently awarded the reKindle Congregational Development Program grant of $15,000 from Columbia Theological Seminary. With over 60 applications, HTLC was one of only eight congregations chosen.

Awarded by the Lilly Endowment, a private philanthropic group funded by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, the grant is part of the Thriving Congregations Initiatives. Along with the grant, the program also includes a three-day workshop in Georgia and will focus on helping congregations to grow in the modern world.

“Across seminaries, across synods, across various denominational bodies, Lilly is investing money into experimentation and how to have thriving congregations,” says co-Pastor Ben Hilding. “They’ve changed the landscape of the church in North America. Most of the things that invest in vision, imagination, and creativity in ministry are somehow funded by Lilly.”

Approved by the Church Council, Strategic Plan 2.0 may experience a name change when the time comes, but the goal is to continue the work of the first Strategic Plan. This version will adopt five initiatives: Welcome; Worship; Respond; Children, Youth, and Family; and Facilities. It will also include two congregation-wide meetings and dinners, termed “Huddles.”

Lay Leader Pat Remfert is looking forward to meeting in person again. “After the pandemic, and what we’ve gone through in this church, we need a project to be the glue that brings us focused and back together on growing this church.”

 

Huddled in 2020

Holy Trinity first held a series of four Huddles in 2019 and early 2020. Titled “Looking Inward,” “Looking Backward,” “Looking Outward,” and “Looking Forward,” they were held to determine our priorities, remember our history, decide how best we can help our community, and envision the future. The last meeting was perfectly-timed on Sunday, March 1, 2020, a week before COVID came to Minnesota and the church was forced to close.

Undeterred by the stall of the pandemic, the Vision Team utilized online platforms to finish the process and create a Final 2020 Vision Report. “We had so much momentum [before COVID] that it took us over the finish line,” says Remfert.“This was moving! Because of all the work and involvement of the congregation, that helped us to get it over the finish line.” To continue that momentum after the pandemic, the pastors found the grant and applied.

Where It All Began

The initial Strategic Plan was started in 2014 when the congregation commissioned Kairos and Associates to help determine our core values and mission. We held focus groups, participated in individual interviews, and answered surveys. At the end of that process, the church voted on eight core initiative areas: Worship, Operations, Shared Ministry, Mission, Hospitality, Stewardship, Spiritually Alive, and Youth Ministry.

This time, the premise will be based on a formula from “Leading Change,” a book by Harvard professor John Kotter.

  1. Create a vision
  2. Determine the strategies to the vision
  3. Decide plans to enact strategies
  4. Determine budget

What’s Next?

 

The first Strategic Plan 2.0 Huddle will be Fall 2021. At this meeting, the team members will be introduced to the congregation along with more information about the five initiatives. The second Huddle will be Spring 2022 and the final reports will be presented.

“This is our window to implement the vision into actionable items,” says Hilding. “If we don’t do the necessary thinking of reflecting and praying, I think we’ll miss out on a great opportunity to listen to God’s calling for us now. This is a strategic window to do that, to both reflect and pray, but also to take the next necessary steps as a result of the Vision process.”

Each team will be responsible for determining the benchmarks to meet their goals. “For example,” says Remfert, “the Welcome Team will be responsible for deciding how we become a more welcoming church.” But each team will be intentional in listening to the congregation. “This will be the work of the congregation, not a select few,” says Hilding. “The Visions Team’s role was to foster congregational discernment in the same way this will foster congregational discernment.”
 
 
What Would it Look Like?

The teams are encouraged to dream big. “You can only create so much energy for small initiatives,” says Hilding. “We want to be thinking big enough that people can be inspired. What can the church do? What would it look like if we actually did share God’s love for all people? What do we have to do differently?”

Hilding is looking forward to the next round of Huddles.
 
“During COVID, caution has been the primary word. Care and love have been our primary concerns. For me, it’s time to open the doors to serve and to make a difference and that’s exciting. Game on!”
 
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communication Specialist
July 8, 2021

Read more...

In Her Element

HTLC Staff Member Transfers to Working Remotely Permanently

Karen Taylor radiates joy as she tells me about ripping up walls and tearing apart wooden structures. Through the Zoom video, behind her I can see a stripped ceiling and evidence of other house projects on their new home on Lake Zumbro.

“It was time to downsize,” says Taylor of the New Prague home she shared with her husband, Dr. Rob Taylor, and their two sons, Joe and John. The Taylors recently sold their home when their sons graduated this spring (Joe from UND and John from NPAS), and found they did not have time to mow their 10 acres or plow a long driveway full of snow, formerly the boys’ responsibility.

But she’s not leaving HTLC! This Sunday, June 27, will be Ministry Coordinator Karen Taylor’s last service before she transfers to remote work and her new official title as Web Manager.

There was another reason for the move. “We really miss living on water,” says Taylor of their shared dream to live on a lake. “Even in our early marriage, before we had kids,we lived in towns near the water and we really love it. It’s always been our dream to live on water.”

Taylor feels it is important to stress that Dr. Taylor is not leaving his practice at Mayo Clinic in Montgomery/New Prague. “That is [Dr. Taylor’s] big worry, because that relationship between doctor and patient is sacred. He does not want people to worry he is leaving.” Dr. Taylor will be commuting from both his father-in-law’s home in Faribault and the Taylor’s new home on Lake Zumbro.

 

Dream Realized

 

Taylor’s passion for building and home design became evident early in her life. “Maybe it was an innate thing. I like to fix

Karen builds a treehouse for her kids with the help of her dad, John

houses and do projects. Whenever I have control of the remote, I am watching HGTV!” she says, laughing. “For the last 20+ years I have been waiting for this house that I can literally get my hands on,” she says, flexing her fingers. “And this is the house!” 

Likely it will not just be her home that Taylor fixes. ”I totally missed my calling. My degree is in occupational therapy. Then we had kids and I changed my focus to them. But if I could go back in time and pick another college degree, it would be construction management!” she says, looking gleeful. “We’ll see.. It might be a side hustle.”

To facilitate the construction process on the Lake Zumbro house while in New Prague, Taylor had cameras and a wi-fi lock installed. From her phone she is able to manage the work and then lock the door when people leave. (How cool is that?!?)

 

COVID Changes Everything

 

As in many organizations, COVID left some lasting changes. “My job, prior to COVID, was 80% hands-on at church… organizing volunteers, making sure things ran smoothly during worship services, and learning the soundboard. It was virtually eliminated with COVID.”

When COVID hit last March, the staff shuffled duties to accommodate the new remote working style. Taylor now creates the weekly e-newsletter “HTLConnections,” and manages the website, a job she has particularly enjoyed. “I’m so glad pastors let me dive into that! The website is the first place many people go when looking at HTLC.”

 

HTLC Online Staff

 

Taylor joins Angela Schoenbauer, Video Production Coordinator, and Michael Lunder, Digital Children’s Choir Director, in working remotely from outside the New Prague area. “I won’t be the only staff person doing this. It’s kinda cool that we have this technology that allows us to do this.”

Despite the new projects and joy they bring her, Taylor knows it will be difficult to leave. “I will miss Holy Trinity. It was good to see everyone’s faces when we opened up.”

Benefits of Online Service

Like many, Taylor appreciates many aspects of the online service, but the best part for her is the ability to actually participate in worship. As the “boots-on-the-ground-person,” Taylor is usually adjusting the soundboard, checking the microphones, and making sure the volunteers know where to go. With this new opportunity, she will continue to watch and be with us virtually.

“I didn’t want to quit Holy Trinity, so I was so happy the pastors offered me this option. I love my co-workers. The team is amazing! I love being a part of that. The people, the talent, the pastors… as long as you will have me, I will stay a part of the team.”

Karen and the Taylor family, you will be missed! And we are so happy you are following your calling!

Written by Rose Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
June 24, 2021

Read more...

Welcome, Michael Lunder!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith Journey

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

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

Mentored by the Thietjes

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

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

Family Tragedy

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

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

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

Tell Me 5 Things that Describe You

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Written by Rose Fife, HTLC Communication Specialist


Read more...

The Cobbled Path Forward

HTLC’s Racial Justice Team Has Big Plans for Fall

 
 
Your life experience in the United States, even in Minnesota, is dependent upon the color of your skin.  

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

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

Truth in Minnesota

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

 
After the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA asked all churches to form a Racial Justice Team if they did not already have one. To support those churches, they published a guide for helping congregations to become more racially-aware. Team members Jen Sayler, Linnea Hautman, Liz Nelson, Sande Schoenecker, Meg Schoenbauer, Casey Fremstad, Wendy Mathiowetz, and Jon Bergquist now meet once a month.
 
 

Called to Serve

 
The team spent the year intentionally learning and determining their plan. “The goal of this team is to educate ourselves and our church community about racial justice,” says member Meg Schoenbauer. An upcoming sophomore in college, Shoenbauer joined the team because she felt she could no longer be silent. “I spent much of high school biting my tongue to hold back sharing my opinion, but I have found a community at Holy Trinity where I feel like I can share my beliefs and be respected and listened to.” Other members of the RJT shared their motivation for joining in the January 17 online service. (Their segment begins at 22:30.)
 
 
 

Defining ‘Systemic Racism’

 
The term ‘systemic racism’ can be a lot to grasp and Horejsi knows some people may not understand. “It means the system, whatever system it is, has done things historically that we do not pay attention to because we don’t have to. When you learn those things, you realize there’s a lot of work to do to figure out why people are feeling this way.” She says the way forward will be difficult. “It’s uncomfortable. I hate uncomfortable conversations, but sometimes it has to be uncomfortable.”
 
 

Plans for the Fall

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

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

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

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

So, What Have You Been Doing?

The group has been deliberate about taking the year to educate themselves in order to be ready for HTLC’s reopening. “This isn’t an outside-the-church group, this is a church group. We want to make sure that what we’re doing isn’t our personal agenda, it’s what works best for HTLC at this time,” says Horejsi. 
 
The Racial Justice Team meets on the second Monday of every month, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Email Melissa Horejsi with questions or to join the Racial Justice Team. 
 
Written by Rose Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist

Read more...

The Father’s Calling


Tim Price feels he is finally heeding God’s plan for his life.
 
“God got real tired of me ghosting his phone calls,” he told me during a recent interview. “I think we all have callings and I think we all have opportunities to do things God wants us to do. I’m very fortunate that this has become a no-brainer for me.”
 
Guitarist Tim Price announced his resignation from the Holy Trinity staff to work full-time with his nonprofit ministry, Faith, Recovery & Music. “The idea is to be a presentation ministry where we go to different churches, teen centers, treatment facilities, prisons…wherever we can bring our testimony. It’s all based on the faith and forgiveness of Christ. We share our personal stories and we do that through words and a whole lotta music.”
 
A recovering addict with 27 years of sobriety, Tim first envisioned the ministry in January 2019. The first presentation, “Duct Tape and Grace,” was held at HTLC the following August and on June 9, 2020, Faith, Recovery & Music (FRM) became an official nonprofit.
 
 

Turning Fear Into a Challenge

 
Tim, wife Alyce, and their sons Jeffrey and Daniel moved from Atlanta, GA to New Prague in June 2015 and joined HTLC in August. Tim credits co-Pastor Ben’s encouragement with helping him to overcome his fears of singing, telling his story, and leading Wednesday Night Summer Worship. 
 
“In order for this ministry to work, I had to get over a lot of fear,” Tim said. “But the thing that’s made it less fearful is I truly feel it’s a calling. That has turned every fear into a challenge and an obstacle not to be stopped, but to endure and overcome through the grace and strength of Christ.”
 
Tim admits he did not feel comfortable at first. “I feel God has really blessed me by asking me to do this…which wasn’t really the feeling at first.” Formerly a partner in a music ministry in Atlanta, GA, Tim didn’t feel ready. “I didn’t feel I was the person to do it because of how broken I was. I realized that’s why God calls on us: because we’re broken. Because we can share our flaws. In recovery, there are a lot of things we keep in our head and it becomes a tremendous weight. You gotta get it out!”
 
 

 

Sometimes You Just Gotta Play…

 
Faith, Recovery & Music also includes a lot of music in their presentations. “For me personally, and I know for a lot of people, music can touch the soul when words fail,” Tim said.
 
FRM was just getting started when COVID hit and, like most churches and organizations, they had to adjust. “God showed us how to create an online presence. Now we have a website and a private Facebook group with a big group of supporters. The biggest response we’ve had online is our podcast.” 
 
 

His Father’s Legacy

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

Leap of Faith

 
 
Leaving Holy Trinity’s staff was a Leap of Faith, Tim will always have memories of favorite services. “Hands down, Christmas Eve every year was my favorite service to play! I love the services when we could all be there. You have that warm, Christmas-y feeling. Late night Christmas Eve services have always been a favorite, but even more so at Holy Trinity. I get a little va-klempt.” he says, laughing.
 
Tim has also enjoyed getting to know the people of HTLC through their musical preferences.
 
“My favorite thing about HTLC is hands-down the people. What I’ve loved about being in the band is getting to hear what all the people really love in terms of the music. I’ve learned a lot about people by the music they like. I gravitate to that. But the greatest thing about that was the band was always able to accommodate those requests! Holy Trinity changed my life. I’ve learned so much.”
 
 

Time is a Valuable Asset

 
More than ever, Tim feels now is the right time to move forward with his plan. “I’m 55 years old and time for this ministry to flourish has become my most valuable asset. I look at my life… I look at the years I toured, my faith, my recovery and what I’ve done my entire life and it just becomes a no-brainer: Faith, Recovery, and Music.”
 
Tim’s last service will be Wednesday, May 26, 6 pm, in the HTLC parking lot where he will be joined with the rest of the HTLC Band for the first time since our last in-person service on March 15, 2020. 
 
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
May 19, 2021

Read more...

Your Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper

Vaccination Volunteer Shares His Story

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

Dr. Timothy Miller is making people cry.

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

“I’ve seen both men and women with tears of joy,” he says. “These are not sad tears. They say, ‘Now I can go see my grandma I haven’t been able to see.’ They tell me their uncle or dad has died of COVID and they realize this is the path forward.”

Dr. Miller volunteers twice a week, 10-11 hours each day, administering COVID-19 vaccines at the Canterbury Park in Shakopee for Scott County Health. After he and his wife Deb received the Moderna vaccines, he signed up to volunteer at the beginning of February, wanting to return the responsibility of care.

“With my wife and myself, vaccination was emotionally very freeing. We still have to be careful because a lot of the population hasn’t been immunized,” he says. And he wants to protect that population. Recently retired, Dr. Miller maintains his medical license and is double-boarded in both family medicine and emergency medicine. In practice for 40 years, he worked at Mayo Clinic in New Prague. He and wife Deb, are longtime and active members of Holy Trinity.
 
 
Can you still transmit the virus after you have been vaccinated?
 

Medical opinions differ, but Dr. Miller believes the vaccinated can still transmit the virus to those who have not yet received it. “The vaccinations do not preclude having the virus in you, but it makes you less likely to experience the effects of the virus. Most of it can be dealt with by your own antibody production, but the data in terms of how much you are spreading is very inconclusive.” He advocates continuing to wear a mask indoors if in a large group, not able to social distance, or when a private business requires it.

To date, 41% of adults in the US have received the first dose of the vaccine with 26.7% reporting full vaccination. But the coronavirus has been a hotspot for discussion in the US. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 has been politicized and weaponized,” says Dr. Miller. COVID does not respect race, gender, creed, age, or any other factor. It’s just a virus and it does what viruses do very well. And yet, it is so subject to misuse for anxiety and control.”
 
Dr. Miller has other advice for those receiving the vaccine. On the day of your appointment, “wear a shirt where you can expose the top of your arm, preferably loose-fitting clothing. Then, you’ll get a vaccine card from the CDC. This is a government document. Hold on to this and bring it back for the second vaccine. Keep it with your travel documents. Do not laminate it because you will likely need to add to it. And I would not post [a picture of your vaccine card] on Facebook or anywhere else.” (So just aim for that band-aid or your glowingly happy face.)
 
 
Any advice on dealing with the side effects?
 
“Do not be afraid to use Tylenol or Advil. But the main thing is fluids. The brain is 70% water, so if your brain gets dry, one of the things it will do is tell you you’re nauseated, you have a headache, and you’re achy.”
 
Dr. Miller recommends 100-120 ounces of water (12.5-15 8 oz. glasses) over a 24-hour period and taking Tylenol, Advil, or Aleve as directed on the container. “My advice: Don’t wait to find out how you’re going to feel. Drink like a fish. And I mean water!” he laughs.
 
Other side effects can include low-grade fever, nausea, headache, and fatigue. “Some have more symptoms the first time, some have more the second. But few are really laid low. It depends on age and whether or not you’ve had COVID.” The CDC recommends calling your doctor if symptoms do not stop after a few days.
 
What about the COVID variants?

Reports of the coronavirus variants, particularly the B.1.1.7 as it travels across the US, are also worrying for many. Dr. Miller still believes vaccination is the key to getting ahead of the pandemic. “[The variant] is not a problem if you’ve been vaccinated. The likelihood of COVID being a really terrible disease is 2.5%, but for those people, it’s 100% [terrible]. And if they survive, they are weak, ill, and coughing for months.” 

In the meantime, Dr. Miller will continue volunteering and giving out the vaccine.

“One woman asked me why I signed up to give vaccinations. I told her: ‘We are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. This is not just about you. There are other people. And this is why I recommend the vaccination.’ Let’s care about one another.'”
 

To register for the vaccination waiting list, follow these links:

 

Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist

April 22, 2021


Read more...

402 Days

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

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

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

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.
 
 
 

Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist   

Photos by Gina Fadden, HTLC Graphic Designer

April 15, 2021

Read more...

New Faces Join Online Easter Service

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

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

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 Pastor 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! 
 
 
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
April 2, 2021

Read more...

Luther Learning Initiative

HTLC Invited to Luther Seminary Learning Initiative

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

“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.”
 
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
March 2, 2021

Read more...

52.5 Years of Music…and Laughing

Rita Sapp was twelve years old when she first accompanied a worship service. 
 
“It was so scary! Those first years were tough because I had to practice so much to be ready,” Rita tells me over a Zoom call. “My piano teacher assigned two hymns each week along with the usual music (like Bach) to learn, so there was a lot of practicing.” 
 
A few years ago, I asked Holy Trinity’s Worship Leader how long she had been accompanying worship services. Rita paused briefly to think about it, guessed it must be approaching 50 years, and we moved on. I made a mental note to somehow commemorate this milestone, but life proceeded to get in the way.
 
Then, during a recent staff meeting, Rita discussed her process for arranging, recording, and editing a song for the online worship service. I marveled at how different this process is from when she began (now 52.5 years later).
 
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!
 
 
 
 
 
Written by Rose M. Fife,  HTLC Communications Specialist
February 11, 2021
 

Read more...

Experiencing Isolation Together

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

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


Read more...