World AIDS Day remembrance

Remembering Uncle John on World AIDS Day

The following was written by seminary intern Claire Klein in memory of her uncle.

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. It has been a special day for my family as we take the day to remember my uncle, the Rev. Dr. John Klein. As some of you may know, my dad is a UCC minister, as was his dad before him. Although my dad followed in the “family business” after an attempt as a high school drama teacher, it was really my Uncle John—my dad’s triplet brother—that wanted to be a minister. As a child, Uncle John would arrange his siblings in rows in front of him and preach to them. I cannot attest to the quality of his sermons at the time, but I know that Uncle John felt certain about what he would be when he grew up.

My uncle graduated from Princeton Seminary at a time when the world was still understanding what it meant to be a gay man. He went on to earn a doctorate of ministry degree from Chicago Theological Seminary and then received a call from a small church in southern Wisconsin. He helped the United Church of Christ find their open and affirming footing.

All of these memories, however, are echoes of stories that I heard from my parents or from paging through photo albums or watching home movies. You see, my Uncle John contracted HIV, which developed into AIDS as he fought cancer. He died when I was 6 years old.

My parents tell me that when Uncle John was in the hospital, his congregation would call his hospital room from the sanctuary on Sunday morning and pass the phone around so everyone could check in with each other. I heard that my Uncle John was much more of a theater nerd than a football player. I was told that Uncle John played the French horn—like me. These memories are not my own, though. The disease of AIDS robbed me from making my own memories with Uncle John.

As I am concluding my seminary journey, I’ve often found myself trying to piece together Uncle John’s history with others around me. My ears perk up when a professor mentions a time or place that may have overlapped with him. I’m curious about how we might have bonded over Tillich or pastoral care approaches or UCC polity and history. The mustached smiling man from the home movies seems more like a missing member of my family than ever before.

On this World AIDS Day, may there be more memories made together – instead of families passing on stories in the past tense. I thank churches like Falcon Heights Church and others in the UCC who have continually supported and welcomed LGBTQIA people.

“Bethlehem Inn” Dec. 16

On Dec. 16, come be a guest at the Bethlehem Inn, run by Eli and his wife, Sarah. A cast of characters ages 4 to much, much older will retell the old Christmas story in  song and movement during 10:30 a.m. worship.

Accommodations in Bethlehem are hard to find due to the census, but Eli has managed to hire a rambunctious group of younger workers to assist in making your stay comfortable.

Oh, don’t mind the pounding on the door, the complaining about taxes, the strangers sleeping in the stable, a fiery star (or is it a dragon?) overhead, and a ragtag group of sheepherders with an alarming story to tell. Follow the Christmas Star right to the Bethlehem Inn and maybe you will find a room, but wait…come quietly. There’s a baby sleeping…hush!

Hear “Messiah” choruses Dec. 9

Our Chancel Choir will present Christmas selections from Handel’s “Messiah” during 10:30 a.m. worshipMessiah flyer on Sunday, Dec. 9.

Joel Johnson will conduct the 52-voice choir and a professional orchestra accompanying the chorus. The performance is free and open to the public. Bring a friend and share the joy of music at Falcon Heights Church! Space is limited, so come early. We will provide early-grade child care and activities in the Gathering Room and preschool care in the Nursery.

The backstory of “Messiah”

“Messiah” has been performed in all sorts of forms and arrangements, both the Christmas portion and the Easter portion. But what’s even more inspiring is the backstory of how Handel came to compose it, and what was going on in his life at the time. (Credit to the version told by Biblical scholar Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.)

In the early 18th century, battles raged in the church over “sacred” and “secular” music. Discouraged by the situation in Italy, Handel moved to Germany and then to England in 1712.

By 1727, he had become a naturalized British citizen and had an up-and-down relationship with King George. This, along with his less-than-stellar business acumen, landed him on the financial rocks several times during his career composing and producing operas.

He had a stroke at 52 in the spring of 1737, which paralyzed his dominant right arm and blurred his vision. He could no longer perform as a keyboardist or conductor. In 1740, he got out of the opera business, depressed and deep in debt.

Handel’s inspiration

Shortly thereafter, he received a libretto of lyrics composed by Charles Jennens. It consisted entirely of portions of Scripture, mostly the Old Testament. It spoke so deeply to Handel that he decided he had to compose an oratorio based on the libretto. There are lots of versions of “Messiah’s” composition story, but all of them agree that he composed it in a very short period during the summer of 1741. He seems to have had a mystical experience when he came to the “Hallelujah” chorus.

That chorus actually is the conclusion of the second (Easter) part of “Messiah.” But it usually concludes performances of the Christmas portion of the oratorio’s first part, as we will hear it on Dec. 9.

When it premiered during Easter 1742, Methodist founder John Wesley was among the first to hear it. H was unimpressed: “There were some parts that were affecting, but I doubt it has staying power,” he was heard to say.

While “Messiah” was not an instant success, it quickly became very popular and was soon seen as a classic. And throughout the rest of his life, Handel kept modifying it to suit the needs of the singers and instrumentalists he was working with. He never foresaw it becoming the most-performed classical work of all time.


Human Rights Day Dec. 10

Falcon Heights Church will host the annual Human Rights Day event sponsored by the city of Falcon Heights’ Community Engagement Commission. This year’s theme will be discrimination in housing. The event will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10.

State Rep. Alice Hausman and Tim Thompson of the Housing Justice Center will give presentations.

Have you ever found a house that you loved in a great neighborhood with good schools and a beautiful park? But you were told to live somewhere else due to your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or family status? Fair housing is your right!

If you have any questions about the event, please call Falcon Heights City Hall
651-792-7600 or email

Personality colors and holiday stress

Women’s Fellowship will host a special program and catered holiday lunch Friday, Dec. 7. The program starts at 10:15 a.m. in the Gathering Room with a short business meeting. Zachary Schroeder will lead us in a program designed to help each of us make the most of our natural personality styles. Zach (Sue and Doug Nelson’s grandson) explains:

“The holidays are just around the corner and with those come the guarantee of one thing. Not stuffing, not turkey or ham, not presents underneath a bedazzled houseplant. No, it’s family drama! Come to Women’s Fellowship where I, as the Nelson prodigal grandson, will lead a workshop in Personality Colors, a system designed by giving intuitive language for distinct personality types to help you navigate the busyness and stress we often put ourselves through during a holiday season. It is simpler than Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram, so come, bring a friend (or even two two) for an affirming and rip-roaring good time.”

Community Thanksgiving Eve service

Falcon Heights Church, New Life Presbyterian Church and Como Park Lutheran Church will have a joint Thanksgiving Eve service at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, at New Life Church, 965 Larpenteur Ave. W., Roseville.

Members of the three church choirs will sing in a combined choir (rehearsal is from 6 to 6:45 p.m.), and there will be readers from the participating churches. A pie and ice cream social will follow the service. Don’t miss this opportunity to give thanks in community with friends from the Falcon Heights-Roseville-Como area.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Since Nov. 20 is International Transgender Day of Remembrance, we will mark TDOR in our Nov. 18 worship service.

TDOR began in the late 1990s to commemorate the life of an African-American trans woman named Rita Hester who was brutally murdered in Boston in 1998. Her death came just weeks after the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming had roused a huge discussion on hate crimes against gay people, yet Rita’s murder garnered no such response. Her murder and the lack of media attention to her death drove a candlelight vigil to begin in San Francisco the next year.

While we acknowledge that violence happens for many unjust reasons, on Trans Day of Remembrance we honor the lives of those who were victims of violence because of their gender identity and gender expression. Due to the widespread ignorance and erasure of the experiences of trans people, this day is an important opportunity for us to intentionally bear witness to the hardships of the trans community.

The Nov. 18 service will also celebrate the gifts that trans and non-binary people are in the family of God, and look forward to the day when equal rights and safety come to their lives.

Get acquainted Oct. 28

Join us for a “get acquainted” event for all ages at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, after worship. Our Adult and Intergenerational Ministry Team is hosting a special coffee time that will allow us to sit and talk with others we may not know as well.

You will take a card as you enter the Gathering Room that will direct you to a particular table. Questions will be provided at the tables for each person to answer. Have a treat, learn about others, and have some fun!

All Saints Sunday Nov. 4

On All Saints Sunday, Nov. 4, you are invited to bring a photo or memento of someone who is a saint in your life.

This may be a loved one who has passed away, a friend who shows support, or an international leader who has inspired you.

We will include saints who have gone before us and saints who are living examples to us today. We will be sharing our saints with each other during Open Space during Nov. 4 worship.

Teens and “The Talk”

The Talk posterSt. Anthony Park UCC is hosting four free workshops to help parents of teenagers with “The Talk.” They have invited parents from Falcon Heights Church to take part. You’ll get tips on how to start these conversations about gender, consent, online safety and more.

The series is a springboard for the Our Whole Lives (OWL) sexuality and faith training for 10th through 12th graders. The two churches are hoping to get a cohort of young UCCers to go through OWL beginning in 2019. Please consider your teens’ involvement and come to these informative sessions.

  • When: Sundays, Sept. 23 and 30 and Oct. 7 and 14, from 3 to 5 p.m.
  • Where: St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ, 2129 Commonwealth Ave., St. Paul, in the church’s downstairs
    Childcare provided

Family Tree Clinic and SAPUCC are partnering to bring this event to the neighborhood. Parents who attend all four sessions receive a $25 gift card. Every parent also gets resources. Please RSVP to

If you know of other families who might benefit from this free introductory event, please share this announcement with them. Questions? Talk to Rev. Rick.