Church building remains closed for now

The Falcon Heights Church building will remain closed until specific safety benchmarks can be met in the church and the wider community.

Earlier this month, the Executive Board endorsed the report from a COVID-19 Short-Term Working Group that incorporates three principles:

  • Our responsibility as a Christian community to care for one another
  • Recognition of churches’ role as “superspreaders” of the pandemic
  • Adoption of new language that more accurately reflects our situation, i.e., replacing “reopening/resuming/back to normal” with “adapting/beginning/new normal.”

In line with those principles, “the Board will only consider opening or gathering when official approval and guidelines are issued along with dates for a staged reopening of Minnesota churches, robust community testing, contact tracing and vaccine availability.”

However, our church remains live and well, and we continue to seek new ways to carry out Christ’s ministry in our community and our world. If we can’t be in the building, we have outdoor spaces we can use and share with our neighbors. We will also continue to use and, we hope, expand our use of online platforms such as Zoom and Facebook Premiere. In fact, we want to encourage entrepreneurs in the congregation to initiate new online small-group gatherings and activities. The working group’s report includes a Google Docs spreadsheet for sharing ideas.

Giving in the time of COVID-19

In the time of COVID-19, giving your volunteer time or sharing tangible goods can be difficult or impossible. However, your community still needs your financial support. Here are some ways to donate that will make a real difference for our church’s mission.

Give to our church

Your generosity matters now more than ever to help Falcon Heights Church fulfill our mission in new ways during this crisis. In addition to checks and electronic funds transfer (EFT), you can also give electronically:

  • By text. Text “Give” to 651-240-6681 (without the quotation marks). You will receive a response with a link to set up your donation and payment information. Select the account where you want the donation to go (plate, pledge, food shelf, etc.) and enter either your bank routing information or credit card number. (In case of a mistake, text “Refund” within 15 minutes to reverse the transaction. To modify your giving account information, text “Edit” to the same number, 651-240-6681.
  • Via our new eGiving portal. Visit the portal HERE and follow the directions. You will also find donation buttons at the top of the FHC home page and in the footer area at the bottom of each page on our website.

Once you set up your information, your donations are linked to your annual giving statement.

Give to The Sheridan Story

We’re no longer able to give cereal and snacks to Falcon Heights Elementary students via The Sheridan Story, but you can give money to the program to help feed families this summer. You can also donate garden produce throughout the summer.

Give to Holy Hammers-Habitat for Humanity

The pandemic has halted work for now on our 2020 Holy Hammers build and we’re waiting for word on what happens next. However, your financial donations are still needed. Text your donation or visit the eGiving portal as described above. You will be able to select Holy Hammers-Habitat for Humanity as the recipient of your gift.

Give to the Department of Indian Work food shelf

DIW is no longer able to accept donations of food during the COVID-19 crisis. But it continues to need money to buy food for the people it serves.

You can use the online giving methods above (specify “food shelf” — your donation will go to DIW), or visit the Interfaith Action website HERE. At that site, click the “DONATE” button at the top and follow the instructions on the donation page. You will be able to specify the Department of Indian Work food shelf as the recipient of your gift.

 

 

Covid-19 community resources

Hotlines

The Minnesota Department of Health has established two public hotlines about the COVID-19 virus. Both lines are available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • For health questions, call 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.
  • For community mitigation questions (schools, child care, business), call 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504.

Information

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Minnesota Department of Health
Ramsey County
Unemployment information

Resources and assistance

Ramsey County basic need resources for COVID-19
Ideas for restaurant and grocery delivery
United Way (Referrals and emergency assistance)
A map of local food shelves and other food resources
A map of places for children to get a free meal
A list of restaurants and programs offering food to families in need
A document from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) with answers to common questions, with a focus on mental health
Zoom training webinars (Zoom is becoming a common tool for online conversations and meetings)

Other local news

  • Lunds and Byerly’s is asking shoppers to please reserve 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. store hours for individuals most at risk of being compromised by COVID-19, for example, the elderly and people with respiratory issues or other immune system challenges. Learn more here.
  • Both Roseville and St. Paul School Districts will be providing breakfast and lunch for students who need meals. Students and families should be receiving an email regarding this, but if you are aware of families who may not have access to this information, please spread the word. Each district has specific information on their websites regarding meal locations and deliveries. We thank the school districts and our partner, The Sheridan Story, for working to ensure kids still have access to healthy meals during this time.

Inspiration and other activities

Ideas to keep kids entertained during the outbreak

If you know of any more resources that you’d like to share, please send them to office@falconheightsucc.org.

Communion for online worship

We share Holy Communion in our online services the first Sunday of the month, and we invite you to join us at home.

Before the time of the service, you will want to prepare some bread — a slice or a small loaf of any kind of bread. In some parts of the world, tortilla, rice cake or cassava are used as this element, which is defined not as a wheat product but as the most common food of the people. Let it be something that you by yourself, or with others in your house, may break and share. Prepare a cup or cups of juice — perhaps grape or cranberry — or whatever you have on hand. We believe that Jesus makes the common things holy!

Set these elements in the living room or kitchen or wherever you experience worship electronically with the FHC community. Perhaps you want to put them on a lovely cloth or fabric that reminds you of a special time or a person deeply connected with you in the communion of saints. Perhaps you will light a candle or place a flower or plant or the photograph of someone you wish to bring into the circle of faith beside the bread and the cup.

Thank you for your preparation.

Holy Hammers build suspended

Our Holy Hammers build has been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity suspended volunteer operations until after April 12 (after Easter Sunday). The Holy Hammers build for 2020 was scheduled to begin shortly after that. Obviously, in these uncertain times, the Holy Hammers build schedule is up in the air as well. We will pass along information regarding an updated schedule once we know it. But at this point, it appears unlikely that we will go forward with our original schedule. Stay tuned!

Please stay home and stay well.

Lynne Meyer, FHCUCC Holy Hammers Steering Committee

March 26, 2020

FHC’s coronavirus response

By Rev. Rick King — What a difference a week makes—along with an irresistible force like the coronavirus.

Things have been changing so fast, I want to update you on steps we’re taking at Falcon Heights Church to protect against community spread of the virus, keep us connected to God and each other, and care for those in our congregation who are in the more vulnerable groups.

Rev. Rick KingVirtuous virtual

We’re discovering that we actually can get used to using online video calling and live video streaming technology, and it doesn’t feel unnatural! One Facebook Live worship service down, who knows how many to go? We had been talking about livestreaming our Sunday service and doing some meetings via Zoom sometime in the future, but we’re up and running with these much faster thanks to COVID-19. I’ve led two Bible studies on Zoom, the Executive Board met on Zoom Tuesday night, and I’ve done two pastoral care visits on Skype. In addition, our church has a free conference call account available in addition to Zoom, where we can host a large group on a single phone call. Watch our Sunday morning live stream

Buttoned-up building

Tuesday night, the Executive Board voted to close our building to all church and community groups until at least April 6, in compliance with orders for social distancing to prevent community spread of the virus. This is subject to change, so watch the TAB newsletter and social media for further information.

Office Manager Shannon Kaiser and I are working remotely in the meantime. The best way to contact both of us is email: Shannon – office@falconheightsucc.org; Rick – revrick@falconheightsucc.org. I will be stopping by my office periodically throughout the week to check mail delivery and voicemails, but not keeping regular office hours at the church.

Online office hours

Want the comfort of a face-to-face conversation with your pastor? Need counseling, but want more than just a voice at the other end of the phone line? I will be holding office hours on the Zoom videoconferencing platform at my normal walk-in times of 1 to 3 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, so sign up for a half-hour Zoom visit HERE and you’ll be sent the link and an access code to join the call at the time. OR if you prefer, you may simply sign up for a half-hour phone call.

Other steps we’ve taken

Shannon is maintaining a list of what some of you have already offered to do for others (run errands, watch kids while you get out, help you get set up with Instacart delivery from Cub Foods, etc.), and keeping track of needs you express. Charleen Prill, Linda Owen and I, along with Lynne Bradbury and the Membership Ministry Team, are teaming up to call everyone in our database to check on how you’re doing, what you need, prayer requests, etc. And Shannon is adding to the TAB a list of suggested activities, sort of a “survival guide” during our period of confinement. Read this week’s TAB

Not your usual Holy Week and Easter

We’ll continue doing Facebook Live webcasts of our worship Service at 10:30 (links at the top of the TAB, under “This Sunday”). To make this sustainable beyond a few Sundays, we need a couple of quick learners or people experienced with Facebook Live to get orientation from Noah Keitel, who is the primary caregiver for their kids AND a website developer. We’re also looking for donations for purchase of some basic equipment for producing this each week. Noah was good enough to use his own in the early stages, but we need our own at the church.

Communion on Palm Sunday, April 5, will be virtual as well. We’ll ask you to use whatever you have on hand for the Bread and Cup, and take communion in your home or wherever you are, together. Specific Holy Week and Easter plans are still in development, but this year we are not having in-person worship for these holidays.

Stay tuned for more information about worship and other adaptations to our present circumstances. And thanks for being a loving, flexible, connected faith community!

Love,

Rev. Rick

Final Crossroads report and roadmap

This final Crossroads report will be presented at the annual congregational meeting Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020.

A year ago, the Falcon Heights Church Crossroads Team began a journey with an unknown destination. Crossroads was described as “a program and process to help your congregation answer the question “What is God calling us to do and be … TODAY?” For the first six months, we felt as though we were wandering in the wilderness, not quite sure what we should be doing or where we were going.

We used that time to explore the current landscape for faith communities. We looked at the demographics of our surrounding neighborhoods; talked with local leaders about community interests, needs and trends; and read articles and books, including “The Agile Church” by Dwight Zscheile, that gave us historical and cultural context for the declining participation in religious institutions, as well as ideas for their reinvention. And we spent a lot of time discussing what that meant for Falcon Heights Church.

Several themes emerged. First, we are unlikely to return to the high point of church membership and attendance of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. That means, with a smaller membership, we will need to focus on a smaller number of priority tasks. Second, we need to learn from the early Christian church and go out into our neighborhoods to identify and meet the needs of the people outside our doors. Third, we need to be agile and continually experiment with programs, structures and approaches to internal and external concerns in order to thrive.

Findings

Congregational Priorities – As steps along our journey, we asked the congregation in September to help us focus our efforts by giving us your ideas and then in October by telling us your priorities. The top three were Dinner for 8, small group conversations and book discussions on faith, and to hire a permanent youth minister. These and other suggestions have made it onto our recommendations reported below.

Executive Board Task Force Recommendations – Moderator Carol Holm asked a small group of executive board members to examine building repair and maintenance and staffing needs and to suggest ways to fund them, now and in the future. Their recommendations, included in the Moderator’s Annual Report, included seeking tenants to share our building space, creating a community organizer position to identify and help the church respond to external needs, and launching a capital campaign for building projects. Some of their recommendations make it on to our list as well.

Governance – As we considered the ideas generated by the “sticky note” exercise in September and building and staffing needs reviewed by the Executive Board Task Force, we realized that the current governance structure codified in our Constitution and By-laws is a hindrance to becoming a more agile church.

We need the flexibility to address new needs and experiment with new ways of doing things. The number of people needed to fill the officer, Executive Board and ministry team positions is almost half of our active membership at a time when work and child rearing demands have increased. We see a need to streamline the governance structure and to take advantage of technology to make it easier for people to get together to get the work done, and that is also reflected in our recommendations.

With that, we submit the following recommendations for your consideration.

Recommendations

Stuff we can start now (i.e., activities that are low-/no-cost and for which we have people who are interested)

  • Small group “ministries”: Dinner for 8, Bible studies; book groups studies; tweens parent group, etc., and invite community residents through social media
  • “Practicing” restructuring of governance/ministry team models
  • Begin to rebuild our relationship with our neighbors by hosting a table/display at the FH ice cream social this summer
  • Send postcards to surrounding community re: Maundy Thursday & Easter services
  • Little Free Library
  • Talk to a real estate agent re: seeking tenants for church
  • Explore alternative meeting technologies and, for Executive Board, less frequent meeting schedule
  • Measure participation across all activities (not just worship) rather than or in addition to membership

Stuff that will take more money and/or planning

  • Develop new governance model and revisit constitution and by-laws
  • Funding for Zoom/video conference technology
  • Development and maintenance of new website
  • Building modifications that might be needed for any outside partnership(s) established
  • Major building maintenance projects
  • Consider how we can turn our patio into a community asset
  • Parking lot rain gardens

Stuff that needs more discernment

  • Staffing, including permanent Faith Formation and/or community engagement position(s)
  • Prioritize major building maintenance projects and how to fund them
  • Parking lot partial sale
  • Make patio more available to the neighborhood

–Crossroads Team, January 2020

“Is Nothing Sacred?” weeknight Bible study

“Is Nothing Sacred?”, a new weeknight Bible study group, is organizing to begin in January at Falcon Heights Church. Ever wanted to read and discuss the Bible, but afraid of what you don’t know? Have you shied away from studying the scriptures because of how others interpret them? “Is Nothing Sacred?” might be for you! No prior knowledge or experience with the Bible needed. Questions? Email Rev. Rick King at revrick@falconheightsucc.org.

Sharing our space with partners

One of the priorities that arose from a recent congregational discussion was to seek opportunities for sharing our space with partners that align with our mission and vision. In 2019 we talked with a Montessori school about classroom space and with Keystone Community Services about establishing a food shelf here. Neither of those ideas proved feasible. Because of engineering requirements, we would be unable to create a large enough open space for a Montessori classroom, and recently we got word from Keystone that they lack the funding to reopen a food shelf at any location.

We have, however, started very initial communications with Spirit of St. Stephen Catholic Community. This is not a typical Catholic community! Their website (www.spiritofststephens.org/) says, “No priest. No kidding.” They are an independent Catholic community rooted in social justice. They believe in the priesthood of all people and center their worship on the Eucharist. Their ministry is based on justice, peace, inclusion, gratitude and the wisdom of the Spirit that ignites their prayer as they seek to follow the nonviolent Jesus.

The door to this potential partnership was opened because one of our members has openly talked outside of church about this priority for FHC. All of us can do the same! We’ve worked diligently over the years to maintain our building, and we can be proud of our willingness to modify spaces if necessary to establish a partnership that will help nurture our demonstration plot and further our outreach mission.

Reconsidering our governance structure

One of our challenges is the governance structure of the church and the large number of people it requires. The Crossroads Team and the Executive Board came to that conclusion as we have discussed the future of our congregation and looked at ways to continue Jesus’ ministry within the congregation, to our immediate community and to the world.

The Constitution and Bylaws require seven officers, four of whom are members of the Executive Board, which also has nine at-large members, for a total of 13 persons on the Board.  Then, the Constitution and Bylaws require that each of the standing committees and ministry teams consist of at least three members of the congregation. That comes to 49 elected positions in a membership of slightly over 100 persons.

Given the many commitments congregants have in their lives, we believe we can streamline our governance structure to better utilize our group wisdom and thrive in the future. We need a more agile structure that gives us the flexibility to meet the church’s changing needs with fewer people.

While the Executive Board and Crossroads are not yet ready to make specific recommendations for revising the Constitution and Bylaws, we can experiment over the next couple of years to discover what works better. Expect to hear more about this in the coming month. We will be looking for your forbearance, as well as your ideas, for designing a governance structure for the future.