Advent vespers services at FHC

We are in this together

by Rev. Rick King

(The following is Rev. Rick King’s column from the Nov. 5 TAB newsletter — before the election winners were called.)

Last week’s column ended with a question: “What will you do the day after the election is decided?”

This week, we begin with a different question: How will you be the day after the election is decided?

Managing our insides is the work of hope and courage, just as co-creating the society we want, where all can thrive. They’re two halves of the same whole, and the goal of a mature spiritual life. They’re also what’s going to help us go forward after this election decision, no matter what the outcome is.

Sometimes it helps to remember what binds us, and what getting along, despite our differences, feels like. Tuesday, I saw and felt that as 10 volunteers and I welcomed voters throughout the day and thanked them for voting.

For me, being outside the church was an important reminder of each person’s humanity, and at least for the day, I could imagine people acting out of their best intentions.

I kept thinking to myself, “I don’t know how any of these people voted, even though I could guess—but I don’t want to know, at least not for today!”

Why? Because after such division and acrimony during the campaign, I was ready for a break. Yes, even me, who is so enthusiastic about having an impact on the Minnesota legislature’s agenda for 2021 and worked hard to try to sway voters toward what is possible.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited to start that next chapter, even though, at this writing, final vote-counts aren’t in yet. But the most important thing is to be prepared inwardly to adapt, adjust, and move forward with enthusiasm and courage, knowing that all of us, regardless of political party, are in this together.

Yes, when a new government is finally chosen, we will get ready to dive in and work relentlessly for what we believe God is calling us to be and do as a state and as a nation. But for me, Tuesday outside the church, greeting voters, was a glimpse into what we have in common.

I hope I don’t forget that as I pursue the agenda I’d like to see!

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. Click the “Donate” button above and follow the directions. You will also find donation buttons at the top of the 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 Every Meal (formerly The Sheridan Story)

We’re no longer able to give cereal and snacks to Falcon Heights Elementary students via this program, but you can give money to help feed kids and families.

Give to Holy Hammers-Habitat for Humanity

Our work on this year’s house-building project is done, but 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.

Updated 10/14/20

COVID-19: Where we are now

By Rev. Rick King
July 30, 2020

As we watch COVID-19 case counts surge in Southern states, we’ve been spared the worst of that here in Minnesota, so far. But that only holds as long as we keep wearing masks, physically distancing, getting tested, and monitoring any symptoms.

This is the dangerous period, when we’re all tired of how long this is going on, and are tempted not to wear a mask, just this once, or hug that person, or venture into indoor spaces we wouldn’t have entered even a month ago. God wants us to continue to care for one another in love.

The battle against community spread will be won with unheroic, consistent measures—and above all, caring for each other enough that we practice safety measures for others and not just ourselves. I’m so glad to hear and see that so many of you continue to practice love in these simple ways.

That said, each community and group is feeling its way toward carefully resuming some activities. At Falcon Heights Church, we’ve had parking lot gatherings, and recently, I polled our two Bible study groups about members’ openness to an outdoor, masked, physically-distanced gathering of 10 people or fewer. On Aug. 2, we’re holding an in-person, physically-distanced, drive-in or lawn chair Communion service in our parking lot (details in this week’s TAB). We’re hosting a concert in the parking lot Aug. 9.

Safety guidelines

We’re emphasizing the following safety guidelines:

  • All participants use face coverings. Wear a mask or meet your maker.
  • Participants (individuals or family groups) maintain 6-foot social distancing at all times.
  • If participants are staying in vehicles, the vehicles need to be parked 6 feet apart.
    If participants wish to sit outside, they must provide their own chairs and maintain distance.
  • No materials, food, or beverages will be shared.
  • The church building will remain closed, including restrooms (go before you arrive).
  • Hand sanitizer will be available for those wishing to use it.

But all of these are experiments done on a one-time basis—to see how we can practice safety procedures and be in healthy community, in person, and gain information that helps us plan for the future amid the remaining uncertainty. We’ll also continue to be a polling place in the Aug. 11 primary and the Nov. 3 general elections, and so our custodial service will resume cleaning our building the first week of August in preparation for the primary.

Not reopening yet

None of this means we’re reopening. Our church continues to do well meeting virtually, and our church’s COVID-19 Response Team and I have gotten no feedback from any of you, pushing us to reopen. So, although we’re doing some more in-person events, it’s not a trend; we don’t have a building-opening or in-person gathering date yet. Until Minnesota gets the spread under control, we can make plans for these things but not implement them.

Remember: We care for each other and our wider communities of which we are a part. We are good neighbors, and we have a responsibility to those whose lives are linked with ours. Our Stillspeaking God says so!

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.

Covid-19 community resources

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.

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 – [email protected]; Rick – [email protected] 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