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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Lenten Study

posted Jan 30, 2018, 7:37 AM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Jan 30, 2018, 8:17 AM ]

Countering Pharaoh’s Production-Consumption Society Today

Featuring Walter Brueggemann  

“Countering Pharaoh’s Production-Consumption Society Today” is a DVD formatted study which confronts participants with the comparison of the enslavement of the Hebrew people in Egypt to the enslavement of Americans struggling with the unending demands of the consumer society that defines us. Preacher-professor-prophet Walter Brueggemann in “Countering Pharaoh” handles a difficult subject gracefully and brings insights to the story of the Exodus that transforms its well-worn story elements into a demanding call on the lives of 21st century people of faith. 

Countering Pharaoh’s Production-Consumption Society Today "is a journey from slavery to covenant that we keep making repeatedly... [because] Pharaoh has immense power always to draw us back into slavery."Walter Brueggemann 

Walter Brueggemann is an American Old Testament scholar and theologian who is widely considered one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of the last several decades. He is an important figure in modern progressive Christianity whose work often focuses on the Hebrew prophetic tradition and sociopolitical imagination of the Church. He argues that the Church must provide a counter-narrative to the dominant forces of consumerism, militarism, and nationalism. 

Everyone Welcome

Sunday sessions 8:30 – 9:30 am

Monday Sessions 7:00 – 8:00 pm

Sunday, February 18 or Monday, February 19            The Way Out

Sunday, February 25 or Monday, Februar                  The Ten Commandments

Sunday, March 4 or Monday, March 5                            Countering Caesar

Sunday, March 11 or Monday, March 12                        An Act of Imagination

Sunday, March 18 or Mon                                         On Not Doing God Any Favors

Monday, March 26 - 7 pm                                                     Passover Celebration Meal 

Commission on a Way Forward - Council of Bishops

posted Jan 15, 2018, 8:32 PM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Jan 15, 2018, 8:32 PM by Melissa Navratil ]

by Rev. Elaine L. Shelby

At the May  2016 international Methodist General Conference, the delegates found that they deadlocked on many significant issues. As a result, the Council of Bishops proposed, and the General Conference approved the Commission on a Way Forward to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline, bylaws of the United Methodist Church, concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church. This spring the commission will present its report to the Council of Bishops.
Reconciling Ministries has been a part of Peace for many years. When I started going to Peace in 2001 it was already many years since the decision was made to be a Reconciling Community.  Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is our national organization which seeks to forward our agenda within the national United Methodist Church.  As many of you know within the United Methodist Church there is a deep divide between those who stand on the side of the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Trans-Gendered, and Queer (GLBTQ) communities and those who believe we do not deserve the right to choose whom to love.  This long-standing divide may end in the splitting our denomination.
A little history is needed to understand how serious this divide is: In 1849, the Methodist Episcopal Church, split over the issue of where people could sit in the congregation, and in 1861 they split again over slavery.  In 1930 we joined together as the Methodist Church and became the United Methodist Church in 1972, joining with the Evangelical United Brethren.  This joining makes us stronger!  We are more together than we are apart. Being part of a larger religious organization like the United Methodist Church makes us a force for good in the world, because our dollars go farther and do more.
So, what does RMN do? It mobilizes United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love. It is the primary national United Methodist advocay group with which Peace is aligned. In a recent email RMN stated: “Here are a few things you can count on. RMN is committed to the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, in both policy and in practice, throughout the whole of our beloved United Methodist Church. Period. No exceptions. You can count on that.”
You will be hearing more about the Commission on a Way Forward and the Reconciling Ministries Network for the next year and a half leading up to a special 2019 General Conference whose sole agenda will be to move on, discuss and vote on the commission’s recommendations. Reconciling Ministries Network is also looking as far ahead as General Conference 2020, while also focusing intently on each important milestone and opportunity to effect change between now and then. Below are the important milestones.

The diagram shows how, if we aggregate our funds, we can do more to help the process, with our support of the Reconciling Ministries Network, we can participate in the process of transforming the United Methodist Church by the power of God’s love as it moves toward the Special General Conference in 2019 and the upcoming General Conference in 2020, which will be here in Minneapolis, to make this newly shaped Church emerge.  Gary has given, as a church we give, and I have given.
Please look at the chart below and consider giving something, through the Reconciling Ministries Network, towards the United Methodist Church’s wholeness and peace as seeks to end this continuous wrangling. 

For more information on the Reconciling Ministries Network click here::


Property Rental/Development Brainstorming Sessions

posted Dec 1, 2017, 4:59 PM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Dec 1, 2017, 4:59 PM by Melissa Navratil ]

by Sadie Hawkins

A group of Peace Community of Faith members attended a series of meetings intended to explore the rental and/or development of property at Peace Community of Faith. A previous commission spent a great deal of time to determine that staying in our current facility would be imperative so as not to fracture the congregation. The possibilities seemed intriguing ranging from creating affordable senior housing to a coffee house on our grounds (no pun intended).
First, I’ll start off with a brief history. Our facility is, or has been, home to several entities including Boy Scout troops, pre-school, Teens driver’s education, Montessori School (current), Weight Watchers, Northern Lights Community Chorale, Moundsview High’s bi annual talent show, Twin Cities Bronze Hand Bells and yoga class.
Second, we created a Leadership Council action item to establish a Rental Task Group with the authority to research, assess and promote rental at Peace Facilities to business and community groups. The Council reserves the right to approve all rental agreements. The task force may ask the council to approve expenditures needed for its work and will always first seek resources within the congregation and associated networks.
Third, after our discussions it was determined based on our 2 ¾ acre property, it would not be financially advantageous to attempt to redevelop our property. Further, our community presence would be lost in any redevelopment and would likely result in the fracturing of our congregation
Joy Alizadeh, Sadie Hawkins, Lucy Meyer, Dave Tidball, and Pastor Gary Walpole have been a part of this initial task force. One or two of us outside of the staff members are willing to continue into the next phase pending Leadership Council approval. We will be asking a few others to participate as well. Thank you to all who have put their time and energy into our congregational concerns.

When your heart is heavy

posted Nov 27, 2017, 4:05 PM by Sue Fried   [ updated Nov 27, 2017, 4:05 PM by Melissa Navratil ]

by Rev. Cindy Gregorson

This has been a season when my heart has been heavy. I know where it comes from. I have a niece who is dealing with a life-threatening disease at too young an age. I have friends and colleagues who are walking in the muck of their own illnesses, trauma, and challenging situations. I feel the weight of what they are going through, and my heart is heavy with sorrow for what they are experiencing.

And then there is the daily news, and the unrelenting wave upon wave of human suffering: hurricanes that have left communities devastated and, on Oct. 2, a mass shooting where a simple concert outing became 10 minutes of terror and a life-and-death event. How does one hold the pain of the world without either becoming callous to it or being overwhelmed by it?

And if that were not enough, all this is occurring in the context of the free-floating anxiety that is our country and denomination right now. What will become of us? In the midst of division and debate and dueling blogs and tweets, it is easy to be caught up in the drama. We don’t know what the future will bring, and it is hard to plan and prepare when the ground is so uncertain and unpredictable.

So let me take a brief detour. One of the things I have noticed in my own life is that when I am sleep-deprived, I am more emotional, more impatient, and have less capacity to deal with challenging situations. It has occurred to me that our current times cause me to feel like I am living in a constant sleep-deprived state. How much can we bear? And without rest and respite, our resilience is depleted. And therefore, when I am dealing with the things that come along in life, like loss and illness and grief, my heavy heart is even heavier. And my cry becomes: How long, O Lord, how long?

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  –John 14 (NIV)

These words are familiar—often read at funerals. They sound nice, don’t they? But is Jesus really suggesting that we never have a heavy heart? I believe there is a fundamental difference between a heavy heart and a troubled heart. Sadness is a normal part of human existence. When we open our heart to people and the world, we make our heart vulnerable. It can get broken. It will feel the weight of grief. It will also experience the leaps of joy, and burst with love. This is what makes us human and connected and caring. It is how we find our way forward together, when we are willing to open our hearts to one another. A heavy heart is one that is willing to go to the depths and trust that God will be there in the midst of it.

A troubled heart is one that can’t ever seem to find joy or hope and is stuck in despair. It leads us to a place of fear where we are unwilling to open ourselves to the messy emotions of life, to reach out to another person, or to take risks. A troubled heart is one that no longer has any sense that God is present and can no longer see that things will ever be different than they are right now.

So what do I do when my heart is heavy and I feel like it is moving to that place where it is becoming troubled and I desperately need to connect to the peace that Jesus promises? I take a walk, preferably in the woods or by water. When I walk, I can breathe. I open my eyes to the beauty that is around me. I get connected to the long arc of God’s creation, and I remember that this—whatever this I am experiencing—is momentary and not all of the story. There is more. Way more.

Mary Oliver’s poem “When I Am Among the Trees” has become my poem.

Listen to it here:  When I Am Among the Trees https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s44u65AxMoE

It speaks to my life. We have come into the world to do this: to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine. So, my friends, in this season of heavy hearts, go easy. Be kind to yourself and one another. Go for a walk where you can be filled with the fundamental goodness of creation and life. And in the midst of incomprehensible tragedy, do not give into the darkness. Dare to shine.

Recently, when I could not bear to listen to the news anymore, felt my heart becoming overwhelmed, and felt helpless not knowing what to do that would make a difference, I packed up a blanket knitted by some faithful United Methodists who believe in God and the power of prayer and mailed it off to my niece. One small, simple thing. It may not be much, but I needed to do something. And this was the one thing I could do in that moment.

I believe this is how we shine—when we don’t give up or give in, when we do what we can do however big or small. And in so doing, our heart gets a little bit lighter, and perhaps, just perhaps, we lighten the heart of another person along the way. And we taste once again the kind peace that we know comes from God. May it be so.

Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Service Sunday October 8: 10 am – 12 pm

posted Oct 1, 2017, 6:08 PM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Oct 1, 2017, 6:08 PM by Melissa Navratil ]

As Peace was developing ways to implement our Healthy Church Initiative in cooperation with the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, our Faith and Spirituality Team explored ways to become involved in the local community. The result of that effort is a partnership with Northeast Youth and Family Services.

On Sunday, October 8th from 10 am to noon Peace will be partnering with Northeast Youth and Family Services to rake and bag leaves, pick up debris, sweep sidewalks and put away lawn furniture for area seniors who are no longer able to complete these tasks for themselves. Everyone should bring a favorite rake and work gloves. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather and to do a service project. At 10 am we will have a short worship time to send us out in service, around 10:15 we will leave to do service projects as families or in groups of 5 or 6 people. Debbi Wells, Senior Chore & Volunteer Coordinator of Northeast Youth and Family Service, will be with us for the morning and have a list of projects for us along with google maps showing us how to get to the homes of people who need our help with fall clean-up. Once you are done with the service project each team will have a brief time to share and provide feedback for possible future Service Sundays. 

Members of the Peace Community of Faith who are unable physically or for some other reason are unable to participate in the service projects will be able to visit with Debbie Wells once the service teams have left and hear about Northeast Youth and Family Service.

Come and enjoy the fun of helping others!
It will be a new and exciting experience for the Peace Community of Faith!

Travel Journal- Storm Mountain Work Trip

posted Sep 5, 2017, 7:43 PM by Melissa Navratil   [ updated Sep 5, 2017, 7:43 PM ]

by Pastor Gary Walpole (with an assist from Becky Walpole)

Sunday, July 30

11:20 am
Seven of us jumped in two cars to begin the long trip to Storm Mountain Center in the South Dakota Black Hills. Spirits are high and snacks are plentiful, electronic devices are fully charged and turned on with entertainment and games. I gave the crew some interesting things to read along the way about the native peoples of the Midwest.

statue entitled "Dignity"
6:10 pm
We stopped at the Interstate 90 rest area overlooking the Missouri River at Chamberlain, South Dakota to stretch our legs and enjoy the view. New for this trip is a 50 foot statue of a Native American woman wearing a shawl entitled Dignity. Awesome! After the rest area, we all ate supper at Pizza Hut in Chamberlain. We decide their stuffed crust pizza wasn’t all that delicious.

9:30 pm
We arrived at Storm Mountain in the dark just in time to move into our rooms, get settled in and go to bed.

Monday, July 31
Breakfast at 8 am. Storm Mountain is beautiful in the daylight! Our first work project is along the road into Storm Mountain clearing small pine trees, which grow like weeds here. Each of us worked individually to pull them out. They are very stubborn and do not want to leave the ground. After lunch, we discovered that working in pairs, one using a shovel and another pulling meant we could get twice as many cleared with half the effort in the same amount of time. Team work!

The guys tried to convince me they saw a rattle snake. They were very convincing. While pulling trees, the group began sharing tricky riddles. Fred and George were on the floor surrounded by water and glass. How did they die? Who can go through the green glass door? Matthew, our Storm Mountain supervisor, took us on a hike to the for-real gold mine along the creek. After supper Scott Jensen, director of Storm Mountain, shared his own riddle game with us. He did finally tell us how it’s done. But I’m not telling. Scott will be retiring at the end of August.

After supper, we played games and went to bed.

lowering the cross with ropes
Tuesday, August 1
After a delicious breakfast  (the camp food is really good) we began to tackle THE BIG PROJECT for the week. A church had donated a LARGE metal cross to the camp and it needed to be repainted. It is on a hill with a really steep slope. Scott and Matt thought we should use ladders to paint the cross. I vetoed that plan because I did not think it was safe. The team huddled, shared ideas and came up with a great plan;  use ropes to lower the cross and paint it. It took some doing but we got it to work. What a team! We got it down, scraped it and got the first coat of paint on it before lunch. Great job!

After lunch, we headed to Badlands National Park. It was HOT, when we got out of the cars. We were hot and paint-y. We hiked for a while and had supper in the shade. We saw antelope and prairie dogs, but the best time was playing “Hey, cow!”

I’m really tired, good night.

painting the cross

Wednesday, August 2
Today was much cooler. We got the second coat of paint on and the cross is looking really good. We finished with our work by 11 am so we were able to play games and relax. After lunch, we shared the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman. We went into Keystone for a treat and headed to Custer State Park to find the buffalo, or maybe they’re called bison. Our search was successful. They were right next to the car by the side of the road! I was so excited and scared I forgot to take any pictures.

We stopped at a picnic area by a stream. It was gorgeous. Dinner was a picnic of hot dogs, fresh fruit and veggies. We played catch, frisbee and just ran around. We got back in time to play games before going to bed. I hope we all sleep well tonight.

the painted cross is back in place
Thursday, August 3
Time to put the cross back up. I had some concerns that we would be able to do it, but it went as smooth as silk. “Team work makes the dream work,” as our team motto goes. It felt like a great accomplishment. Scott allowed us to paint a Peace sign on the back of it and we left our mark. After lunch a few of us went into Rapid City to a water park and the more adventurous hiked Storm Mountain.

Midafternoon we headed to Crazy Horse Monument. We saw some seriously awesome Native American hoop dancers. The temp reached the mid-60s.  A big difference from our time in the Badlands!

We went back into Keystone and had pizza for supper.  What a treat! We headed back to Storm Mountain in time to play a few games and begin packing up to leave in the morning.

Friday, August 4
We had breakfast at 8 am and were in the cars by 8:40 ready to hit the road. Grateful good byes were said to Matthew and Scott and the rest of the Storm Mountain staff. It was a long ride back but we were all glad to be home again.

“Team work makes the dream work!” Thanks to team members Summer Armstrong, Quintin Longe, Ava Longe, Joe Navratil, Melissa Navratil and Becky Walpole. It was a joy and a blessing to be with you.

the Storm Mountain mission team

Delegate Reflections on the 2017 Minnesota Annual Conference

posted Jul 31, 2017, 8:28 AM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Jul 31, 2017, 8:28 AM by Melissa Navratil ]

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   [ updated May 4, 2017, 6:12 PM by Melissa Navratil ]

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   [ updated Mar 31, 2017, 8:37 AM by Melissa Navratil ]

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   [ updated Nov 5, 2016, 7:52 AM by Melissa Navratil ]

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! 

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