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Feature Stories

The stories below are highlights from the Peace community of faith newsletter.  Each month a guest writer shares their story as they live out the Peace "Explore, Engage, Serve" journey.

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Delegate Reflections on the 2017 Minnesota Annual Conference

posted Jul 31, 2017, 8:28 AM by Penny Skildum

by Pam Jacobson and Jean Leatherman

Thank you to the Peace Community of Faith for allowing us to be your lay representatives at the 2017 Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church which was held in St Cloud in June. The theme was “Encounter the Spirit--Live Expectantly!" As representatives, we can see how the UMC operates as a connectional church throughout the world which is supported by our apportionments.

After the opening worship and meal on Tuesday, the laity and clergy broke out into separate groups. The presenter for the laity was Chuck Bell, a music & worship consultant for the United Methodist Church. Try googling him. Highlights of his presentation on worship planning included:
  • use the instruments in worship in different ways & combinations with other instruments
  • the worship committee members can be thought of as “ritual artists”-changing & thinking out of the box
  • think of worship series where the entire service connects to the whole experience
  • transitions are important to push into the next moment rather than leaving a gap
  • leaders should be over communicating
  • worship participants need to PRACTICE before the service-this includes ushers, greeters, readers, musicians etc. to keep the flow
The reassuring thing about his presentation was that Dave Tidball and Pastor Gary were already doing many of the suggestions. 

There are speakers to energize us, lead us in worship and introduce innovative ways to reach out to everyone to share how our faith traditions spread the love of God. This year there was an opportunity to attend a camp revival in the park with Rev. Junius B. Dotson and pack birthing packs to send to Africa. The packs included a plastic sheet, 2 small blankets, gloves, razor blade & string (to tie off/cut the cord) and soap. The goal was 1000 packs which was met. People in the community who were enjoying the park were invited to participate in the service and project.

Throughout the conference there are break out sessions such as “Palestine & Israel--Exploding the Myth” presented by Rev. David Schneider. The main tidbit for us was to learn that for thousands of years people in the Middle East lived side by side practicing their faiths with minimal conflict. In recent history, since 1948, the conflicts have escalated. We have more information on this topic if you are interested in it.  Another favorite session was on Native American Art & Spirituality presented by a Lakota artist. He presented a very good explanation of why the recent gallows exhibit at the Walker was offensive to native people and provided insight into native spirituality.

We also picked up 30+ information cards by general Board of Church and Society on a wide range of topics from health care, domestic violence, food justice &non-proliferation to name a few.  Faith and facts are listed on each card including what do the facts say?  what do you say (how to get involved), what does the Bible say? & what does the UMC say? We’ll be setting these out for you to review.

Lastly, we get to meet all of Gary’s minister friends & former parishioners. This leads to new Gary stories!
Check out the video below for more highlights:  https://vimeo.com/222710571

God of the Everyday

posted May 4, 2017, 6:12 PM by Sue Fried

By guest artist Bobby Jo Valentine

I always find my biggest revelations about my faith and life- and the biggest challenges, too- by looking for God in the everyday.

Growing up in a strict Baptist family, an undercurrent idea was that God was "in the temple", our church grounds, and we were to go there to then deal with "The world", which was loosely defined as everyone and everything outside our church. How comforting to discover, the more I've grown, that God is constantly showing up everywhere, when we least expect it, and often in very 'un-church-y' ways! Sunday morning is a great 'check-in', but it's the God of the beautiful Tuesday evening sunset after a long day at work where I find just as much deep inspiration. It's wonderful to hear and sing songs that are 'overtly' spiritual or full of 'Christianese' (my friendly word for a language used in church and not many other places), but our God isn't big enough until we can find God in the love song well-written, the song of pain written truthfully that meets us where we are, in any piece of poetry that talks about love, joy, or peace.

That's why I love offering my music at churches- to fill these sacred spaces with the God of the everyday, with simple poetry and music that invites people to believe in something even bigger than we can imagine or understand. The God I know and love will always be wilder, larger, more mysterious and more expansive than any box I try to make. As a community of faith, I'm so thankful that Peace Church reflects that, and I'm incredibly honored to be a part of what you're doing in the world. I hope you'll bring a friend or three out to the concert that hasn't heard me before, so they can experience the music, and thanks for giving me a little moment of your time to talk about the wonderful, sacred mystery we all get to be a part of, revealed in Jesus and carried on in our own everyday stories, song, and acts of love.

Much love and music,
Bobby Jo Valentine

My Bobby Jo Experience....

posted Mar 31, 2017, 8:37 AM by Sue Fried

by Melissa Navratil

I know myself well enough to know there are times when I just need a little inspiration.  I need to surround myself with positive like-minded people or listen to positive music when I am feeling down in the dumps. For music I usually turn to a local Christian station, but find myself quickly abandoning it when the “preaching” starts or there is talk of not being inclusive.
Bobby Jo was introduced to me by our Pastor, Gary Walpole.  Looking for new ways to share what Peace is as a community and how we can authentically reach out to others who may be looking for the same experience, Bobby Jo’s email about a concert was a serendipitous event.  I pulled up a few of Bobby Jo’s songs on YouTube and found myself loving the message behind the poetry and music.  At the concert, I found myself thoroughly entertained but not in the same way Hollywood likes to entertain.  I became intertwined and uplifted by the music.  I sat by a friend and watched her expressions and could tell he had the same effect on her.  
Bobby Jo doesn’t preach in his music, he doesn’t try to change the way you think, he only shares where he has been, what he has gone through and how no matter how many times he tries to abandon religion, God’s love has a way to draw him back.  It wasn’t until I had the pleasure of dining with Bobby Jo (along with some other concert organizers) that I began to realize what a truly inspirational person he is.  I am not comfortable sharing the personal stories I heard that night, but will say he has gone through more pain and heartache than most see in a lifetime.  Yet he remains positive and knows there is a higher power guiding him and giving him strength.  
If you would like to experience the magic of Bobby Jo’s music, please join me on May 6th at 7pm at Peace Community of Faith.  I will be in the front row.

Fall Workday -- Check!

posted Nov 5, 2016, 7:52 AM by Sue Fried

Feature Story by Jim Kaufer 

Every fall, the trustees organize a work day to complete projects, perform maintenance and make general improvements to the grounds of Peace Church. This year, on the last Saturday in October, over twenty people graciously volunteered their time and energy to the fall work day. With their efforts, many tasks were accomplished and the day proved to be a huge success. Diseased trees, affected by oak wilt, were cut down. The wood was split and stored for future use and will eventually be available for purchase. Buckthorn, which had appeared near the outdoor worship area and around the perimeter of the property, was removed and the areas treated to prevent future growth. Trees were trimmed, wood was split, and brush was turned to mulch using a commercial-sized chipper. Siding was repaired and barriers were constructed to protect our church sign lights from snow plow thrown snow. 
This might sound like a lot of hard work and not much fun. But, the fellowship time spent together, the opportunity to get acquainted with others, and the satisfaction in the work accomplished was well worth it. And, of course, the delicious lunch and dessert also provided by wonderful volunteers was a bonus!
The trustees also organize a spring work day, so if you missed this one and are interested in volunteering for upcoming projects, watch for a notice next spring. And, if you would like to become even more involved, there is a group within the church called the Peacekeepers. The Peacekeepers receive direction from the trustees to complete various maintenance items around the church. Keep an eye out for information on future projects! 

Vision Statement

posted Oct 3, 2016, 4:09 PM by Sue Fried

by Cindy Tidball

The Peace Task Force on Identity, Purpose, and Vision has been hard at work!  Thanks to all of you who made our work easier by providing your ideas at our two Listening Post Worships this summer and at Finding Our Future, a special Saturday workshop.  On September 26, members of the task force (Melissa Navratil, Chris Shorter, Cindy Tidball, and Gary Walpole) reflected, together with our coach Joy Skjegstad, on the ideas you shared with us.
Here’s our result—our vision statement for Peace Community of Faith, followed by three points about how we seek to accomplish it.  We believe that the following accurately captures the things we heard:

Peace is a progressive, multigenerational community of faith called to engage our world through the power of God’s love. We seek to accomplish this by respectfully:
  • Affirming that all people are a gift of God’s love.
  • Nurturing ourselves and inviting all into God's love and peace through eclectic worship, exploring questions of faith and addressing challenging issues of our day.
  • Inspiring hope through community action, advocacy and service, taking our faith into the world together.
It’s a daunting charge to craft such a statement by committee; we appreciate your trust in us.  If you have thoughts, insights, and/or questions, Gary would like to hear from you.

Next up in the Healthy Church Initiative work is a mapping process during which we as a community align our resources, time, and energy with our vision.  Stay tuned for details!

Peace Fantasy Football

posted Sep 5, 2016, 5:00 AM by Melissa Navratil   [ updated Sep 5, 2016, 5:01 AM ]

By Tom Randall
Each Sunday, in a scene reminiscent of the assembling of the ancient Sanhedrin, a group of Peace men gather together to reflect on the day’s message and to discuss in minute, meaningful detail those deep philosophical questions that Christians Ponder. Topics may range from how best to heave the hide of a cloven hoofed animal, to what exactly are the contextual and consequential differences between the Beatitudes and the Bud Attitudes or even whether the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself should actually apply to Aaron Rodgers. Oh, and we might occasionally talk a little football.

For four seasons now the PFL, a fantasy football league composed of Peace members, has brought together two of America’s favorite Sunday past-times. As befitting of a church league, it is never about the winning. Rather it is about camaraderie, connecting, how you play the game and actually, quite a bit about the not losing. For it has been written that he who is last shall drink first from the cup – or in this case, the dreaded Plunger trophy from which the last place finisher must consume a special beverage. And while the lack of emphasis on winning has everything to do with modeling Christian values it might also have just a little to do with the fact that the winner has to house the garish Viking’s reflecting ball trophy for the next year. In reality though, it gives us an excuse to gather several times a year and yet another avenue for fellowship at Peace.

Oh and no trash talking. Even, if for example Tim Fried were to lose by 100 points, no one would ever bring that up or make a big deal of it.

If you are interested in being part of a Fantasy Football League at Peace, please contact Gary atGary@peaceumc.com

Top 10 Reason to go to Jamaica with Pastor Gary

posted Aug 1, 2016, 1:22 PM by Melissa Navratil   [ updated Sep 5, 2016, 5:01 AM ]

by Anna Navratil

  1. You will get to know him by many names, one of the most prevalent being “Gary the Fibber” (“We’re only working until 3 - which turns out to be later...”, “We’re getting ice cream after work - oh wait, let’s buy more buckets instead...”)  Click here to see why we needed buckets.
  2. He’s been there so many times that he knows the host family, the work teams and the driver very well and you feel safe.
  3. He will ask you to keep a journal, and even though you think it may be pointless, you will end up being thankful when your parents want a play by play of every single second of the trip.
  4. You will get to know him on another level, one that allows you to blame “Grandpa Gary” for not letting you buy things from very persistent shop owners.
  5. He will run ahead in the airport to make sure you don’t miss your flight back home, even if it means injuring himself in the process.
  6. He will help you further explore your faith through studies of passages and relating them to your own life and experiences, and by providing you with steps to unleashing compassion... while moths and other various insects attack you thanks to the fluorescent light above the outdoor meeting place.
  7. He will work for a while, then leave to “supervise” and take pictures, but eventually he always comes back (and you do get some good pictures out of it).
  8. You will get very close with your mission team... since Pastor Gary kicks everyone off the wifi for hours to upload posts to the OC Ministries Jamaica Facebook page.
  9. He will make sure you have rides to everywhere you need to go (even if he wakes up in the middle of the night on the last day remembering he forgot to get a bus to the airport)... eventually.
  10. Through everything, you’ll know that you can blindly follow him because he is experienced, trustworthy and caring, and you know that you’ll always end up right where you’re supposed to be.

Why Bless Animals?

posted Jun 30, 2016, 7:43 AM by Sue Fried   [ updated Jun 30, 2016, 6:15 PM by Melissa Navratil ]

by Andrew C. Mills, DVM, MPH

Blessing of the Animals Sunday played a big part in our family making Peace our church home.  We moved to Shoreview in the summer of 1990. I was starting a residency in Veterinary Dermatology at the University of Minnesota. We had just retired after a 20 year career in the U.S. Air Force and Army Veterinary Corps. Our children were staying with relatives in Montana while we bought a house in Shoreview. Carol took the Amtrak to Montana to pick up the kids.  As she left, she suggested I “look for a church.”

In the military we had moved 9 times in 20 years all over the US and overseas. Our philosophy was wherever we moved, the first thing we did was to find a church family, for this would be our anchor in a new community. Peace Church was the closest church to our new home in Shoreview, so I went to worship the first Sunday I was on my own. When the pastor Rev. Mike Miller announced that it was “Blessing of the Animals” Sunday, I was stunned!  I called Carol and told her I had found our church! That service had been a “sign”, and I wasn’t going to look further. We have been here ever since. 

I am pleased we have continued this tradition at Peace.  We have even expanded it from a yearly event to one Sunday every month during the summer. We have moved it outdoors to accommodate horses, howling dogs, and other skittish creatures.  By blessing our pets, we acknowledge that they are part of God’s creation, and a blessing to our own lives.  For people who have no one else, pets give them someone to love and care for. Service dogs provide vital care to people with disabilities. I have seen for many pet owners, their pets are like children.

In my profession, I see animals being blessed on a daily basis. Recently our own dog Poppy had a large benign tumor removed from her flank. We were blessed by the care and compassion shown by the veterinarians and technicians that operated on her and took care of her through a difficult recovery. And we were thankful for Nature’s healing power. 

It is a privilege to have a part in taking care of our “best friends” and keeping them comfortable, happy and healthy. Animals are an important part of our lives, and it is important to honor them for what they do for us and what they give us, unconditional love. The Blessing of the Animals service is a way to recognize the special part that animals play in our lives. Consider bringing your “best friend” to church on the next Pet Sunday! 

There are two more Blessing of the Animals services this summer:  July 10 or August 14 at 9:30 am.

Affirmation vs. Confirmation- A Personal Perspective

posted May 31, 2016, 4:11 PM by Sue Fried

by Melissa Navratil

When I think of Confirmation I think of it as taking classes, completing assigned tasks and graduating with more knowledge than when I started.  The word Affirmation has a much different meaning.  I see it as lifting someone up and supporting them on their journey.  

If you look up both of these words in the dictionary you initially find very similar meanings -- the action of declaring, pledge, and endorsement, but it is in the 2nd and 3rd definitions that you see t
hat to “affirm” someone is to offer support or encouragement.  Peace has replaced Confirmation classes with Affirmation.  Stories of the Bible are still discussed. Jesus is still the one who proclaims God’s love is for everyone, but the delivery is very different.  The Affirm path develops a community, a safe place to question and explore rather than lecture and assign tasks to complete.  

While completing a continuing education class titled Education for the 21st Century, I learned that to best serve students, schools need to change their focus. It claimed schools should focus on teaching students how to learn vs. what to learn.  With advancements in technology, information is EVERYWHERE and easy to find with the right techniques.  It is these techniques that will serve our younger generations more than memorizing formulas or facts.  I believe this same kind of evolution is happening in the church.  More and more youth will no longer blindly believe text that does not make sense.  To get this generation in church, I believe creating this safe, affirming space for everyone to explore their faith is paramount.  I’m happy to say I believe Peace is on the cutting edge, but with that said we still have some work to do.

When I was young and had questions about the Bible and faith in general, I was afraid and almost ashamed.  I would have never shared my doubts with someone else. I am not only grateful Pastor Gary is supporting our youth on their own faith journey, I am humbled the Peace Community of Faith is there to support and encourage my children in exploring their faith.  

Adult Jamaica Mission Trip

posted Apr 29, 2016, 5:25 PM by Sue Fried   [ updated Apr 29, 2016, 5:35 PM ]

by Neal Meyer

On a Friday, late in January, eleven Minnesotans left the snow and cold behind for ten days of mission work in Jamaica. Our team consisted of four people from Peace UMC, including Pastor Gary, and seven from Asbury UMC in Duluth, including Pastor Cindy Rasmussen. Other than Pastor Gary, none of us had ever been in Jamaica, or at least not in rural Jamaica where we spent most of our time

So, where is Jamaica and what is it like? Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. It is located about 90 miles south of Cuba. The island is about 146 miles long and at its maximum about 51 miles wide. The area is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. The island is mountainous, so the famous Jamaican Bobsled team has some good slopes to work with. We actually rode past their training area. Of course, the weather is fabulous.

Our mission project took ten days, which covered two weekends. We left on Friday and arrived in Montego Bay. The flight was non-stop and took nearly 5 hours. From there we took a bus to Brown’s Town which was in the mountains. We stayed overnight at the manse. Okay, what is a manse? It is the house of a minister and is typically large. We found this to be true and as you will see, we became very familiar with the manse during the course of our stay. Our hosts were Pastor Earl and his wife June.

The next day, Saturday, we had breakfast (more on the food later) and then took a bus to Ocho Rios. This is a Spanish name meaning eight rivers. For a time, Spain controlled the island and it was called Santiago. The British later assumed control and named the island Jamaica. The influences of the British are seen in the language, the school system, the form of government and of course, driving on the left side of the road. Ocho Rios is a primary tourist destination and it includes the famous Dunn River Falls, which we walked up. You read that right. For dinner we dined at a local place called “Scotchies.” We then returned to Brown’s Town and went back to the manse to await the next day.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast, and then went to the local church for services. In addition to the service a health care professional, a visiting nurse, was there to talk about the Zika virus. In the evening we went to a concert at a church in Duncan, which is in another town but along the north coast. The concert was given by a youth choir, called “Youth Quake.” Typical ages of the group seemed to be in the twenties. The music and the choir’s movement with the music was spectacular. We returned to the manse to await the start of our project.

Monday morning, we were greeted by a double rainbow. As the manse sits on top of a mountain and has a wonderful view of the valley below, the vista was perfectly framed by the rainbow. Then the rain stopped, the sun came out and it was time to begin our work. We actually had two projects, one was to plant avocados and the other was to paint the manse. Remember, the manse is big, very big, with three stories. We did have some help, a local Jamaican named Dwight, took responsibility for the trim in the really high places. Regards planting the avocados, they were planted on a slope of maybe 30% or so. The ground was limestone. Fortunately, we again had some local help, a local Jamaican named Tucker, who with a pick axe, dug many holes in the limestone in which we placed the plants. Through the week, we must have planted 250 or more avocado plants. Sure hope they survive. While we took it to the wire, by the end of the week we were able to complete both projects.

Through the week our daily routine was as follows, have breakfast, plant avocados or paint, have lunch, plant avocados or paint, have supper, hold a team meeting, play games or read, then go to bed and rest for tomorrow. At various times through the day, we were able to take some walks, sometimes for considerable distance, through the neighborhood. This was fun as we were able to interact with some of the local people. Brown’s Town is an education center for the area and we saw many students, all with uniforms, going and returning from school. York Castle High School is at the base of the mountain where the manse is located. The school and property and owned by the United Methodist Church but the teachers are provided by the government.

Regards the team meeting, we always had some devotional activity, discussed the day’s activities, planned for the next day and did some serious, but well-focused exercises. One of the team members from Duluth was a physical therapist. She selected and led the exercises which proved to be very helpful.

On Wednesday, the routine varied in the afternoon as we went into the local market at Brown’s Town. This was quite interesting. Think of it as a big farmer’s market. Our driver, Sheldon, purchased some local fruit which he gave to each of us. I thought it a bit sour, but that’s ok since I sometimes bite into lime slices.

Someone coined the name “Miracle Team” for our group. Well, maybe that is why, on our last work day, we exceeded expectations with our final project. We installed a retractable clothes line. This replaced the wires that were permanently hung between side walls of a very nice porch. As we painted the inside of the porch (a beautiful job I might add) the clothes line could be retracted and the porch used for sitting.

Saturday morning, we departed to Montego Bay. We stayed at the El Greco hotel, had dinner at Margaritaville, and walked the “Hip Strip.” On Sunday, we had a service on the Doctor’s Cave Beach, swam and checked out the shops. And remember, this was February 7th, “Super Bowl Sunday” and I didn’t give it a second thought! We soon boarded the plane and departed into the sunset.

As parting remarks, we must say that the meals at the manse were superb. They were done in Jamaican style and really added to experience. We were impressed by the friendliness of the local Jamaicans. We got to know the team from Duluth and they have invited us to a reunion later this year where they plan to prepare some food “Jamaican Style.” We are thankful for Pastor Cindy’s leadership particularly during the team meetings and Sunday service. We must also be thankful for Gary’s leadership. He has led many trips to Jamaica and it really shows. Our group was so pleased, we bought him a cowboy hat!

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