Loaves & Fishes Service Day

Several St. Stephen’s parishioner families join in the Loaves & Fishes ministry at Woodlake Lutheran in Richfield last Friday, October 15, serving 60+ dinner guests a meal of potato and turkey soup, balsamic roasted veggies, and cheesy bread.

The Bizal, Case, Cruz and Kent families had a great time working and serving together – Look for communications in coming months for the next opportunity for you and your family to serve!

Loaves and Fishes (L&F) has been serving hot meals to those in need throughout seven counties in Minnesota since 1982 and St. Stephen’s has served with L&F for many years.

Parishioners Join in Back-to-School Picnic

Returning to school is an exhilarating time for most children. But for families experiencing housing instability, this time of year can be a daunting experience.

This August, St. Stephen’s parishioners, along with volunteers from 5 partner congregations, were fortunate to join in a joyous back-to-school picnic that celebrated families who have “graduated” from Beacon’s Families Moving Forward (FMF) shelter program into stable housing.

The picnic was a great opportunity for the FMF staff, volunteers and families, some of whom are now a part of FMF’s Keys to Success program in which St. Stephen’s participates, to reconnect while being treated to a barbecue dinner. Along with games, face painting and health and wellness information, each child received a backpack which they eagerly filled with new school supplies donated by two of the sponsoring congregations.

Our parishioners, Kris Newcomer, Cathy Cella, John Ellingboe, Janet Hecht and Lisa Taylor had a great time joining in the celebration with all the families, staff and partner volunteers from Westminster Presbyterian, Valley Community Presbyterian, Colonial Church, and Trinity Lutheran.
A special thanks to two of our newest members, Janet and Stephen Hecht, for donating the backpacks!

White Earth Trip – Perspectives From Our Rice Lake Partners

This July, 28 youth and adults headed north for a 1 week mission trip at White Earth Indian Reservation. The mission team served in several ways with the people of Rice Lake. One team built a raised platform and beautiful communion rail for the Episcopal church while the other team led a camp and activities at the Boys & Girls club doing crafts, games, and stories along with serving lunch for about 50 kids every day. (See the photo gallery below.)

Below we share a letter from the Rice Lake leaders, who have served as our partners for four years, sharing their perspectives and thanks for the team’s work.

Dear Saints of St. Stephens,

When I was a kid…the most fun thing we did early in the summer was a week of what we called “day camp”!  It made our summers for sure!  I still see the faces of the saints who helped to put it on, though I suspect most are now running a camp in heaven. 

My point?  I can tell you that I see the same expressions in the faces of the mission group from St. Stephen’s and the same sheer delight in the faces of our Rice Lake kids!
Our Church family from Edina truly continues to make a deep and lasting impression of love and fun and caring in our hearts.

“The Summer Fun Days” is always anticipated anxiously by our Rez kids and it seems a perfect example the gospel … to me… it is like seeing Jesus in shorts and t-shirt… running around a gym shooting hoops with our kids or sitting with them in a quiet moment and communicating care and  connectedness  even without words.  The visit of the chair of the local council with extra treats and t shirts for us to give away is additional evidence of your impact.

Then the Christ as Carpenter always emerges in the ministry of the dedicated work crew, who this year brought a communion rail to St. Philip’s.  It is simply incredible to see.

I took one of our Elders to see it yesterday for the first time.  On my arm, he stood near the rail for a long moment saying nothing, then reaching to squeeze my hand he said softly, “Oh Jackie…to receive the meal of Jesus at the rail made by the carpenter’s crew is a holy thing.  “The Carpenter’s Crew…I like that”, I said.   “Tell them will you?”… “Yes, I promise I will”.  The Elder said no more to me on the way back to his small house, but the blessing was clear and loud.

So, this note of thanks is from your Family in Rice Lake, and St. Philip’s.  You have family here…you have touched our community, and please know the Rice Lake Community stands with arms open in gratitude and enduring relationship.

Chi Miigwetch, Jackie Bernacchi+, Al Fox Sr. Warden

We look forward to the 5 anniversary year in 2018!!

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Local Hero in Our Pews

Annie Schilling

Annie Schilling

You’ve probably driven by Frank Tupa Park, located on Eden Avenue in Edina, many times on your way to or from Jerry’s, Perkins, or Starbucks. But you may not know about the amazing work of one of your fellow parishioners in bringing to life the historical buildings of the park. The City of Edina recently recognized Annie Schilling as one of 64 Hometown Heroes who pride themselves with making the city a great place for living, learning, raising families and doing business. Read all about Annie’s accomplishment below.

In a side note, in 1935 the Grange Hall, one of the historical buildings that sits in the park, was moved for the construction of our parish. It’s a small world indeed.

The following story is reprinted from: http://edinamn.gov/

Edina’s oldest surviving public building, a modest one-room schoolhouse, operated continuously from 1864 all the way to 1958. However, in its “heyday” around the turn of the century, Cahill School saw only a fraction of the traffic that passed through its doors in 2016. Cahill’s successful reinvention as a fieldtrip favorite owes much to the efforts of historical reenactors like “head schoolmarm” Annie Schilling.

Schilling took the reins as program director for Historic Cahill School more than 18 months ago after learning of the unique opportunity from a friend serving on the Board of the Edina Historical Society.

We’d volunteered together for many years at a children’s music camp in northern Minnesota,” Schilling explained. “She knew that I was quite creative and worked well with children.

Indeed, Schilling took to her new schoolmarm duties with alacrity. “Essentially, we see ourselves as historians – and continually stretch ourselves to learn regional history that we can apply to our teachings,” she said.

Helpfully, Cahill School itself is bursting at the seams with history. Built nearly a quarter century before the formal incorporation of the Village of Edina in 1888, this clapboard structure has doubled as a Catholic church, hosted innumerable community meetings, and even witnessed weddings. Originally sited at the corner of West 70th Street and Cahill Road, the City restored the schoolhouse in 1969 and relocated it to its present location at Frank Tupa Park.

Schilling’s curriculum freezes the schoolhouse circa 1900. Schoolchildren today learn about the past by doing: attending “class” in vintage desks equipped with chalk slates and learning turn-of-the-century games and songs. On average, Cahill draws about 3,000 children from across the Twin Cities over any given school year.

We also offer summer camps,” Schilling added. These include Homestead 101, “which teaches children the ‘ins and outs’ of setting down roots in rural Minnesota in the mid-1800s.” Churning butter, sewing, doing laundry and gardening are all covered in this course, which is as hands on as they come. Given the popularity of the sewing component, Schilling’s team is also experimenting with a week-long sewing camp.

In another extension to the traditional field trip model, Schilling is piloting an innovative program called “Marm-on-the-Go,” which brings 30- to 60-minute presentations to the classroom – in lieu of an on-site field trip. At the same time, Schilling is also partnering with staff at the Edina Senior Center to bring Cahill programming to entirely new audiences.

Schilling’s drive is fueled by the intrinsic rewards of the job. “There is nothing better than looking at the faces of the schoolchildren listening to you, and knowing that they are wrapped around your finger as they listen to the amazing stories we call history!

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A Summer Filled with Holy Moments

Summer in Minnesota is short. “Summer Fridays”, when the office clears out at noon, are in full swing. Most of us are spending all the time we can soaking up the weather, time at the cabin, or in the garden, right?

Adam Estrem

Adam Estrem

Adam Estrem’s summer has been very different this year.  As many of you know, Adam, our Director of Youth and Hospitality, is currently on sabbatical in an intensive, 400 hour Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program which is a requirement for his ordination.

I had the chance to catch-up with Adam recently to talk about his experiences in a pioneering chaplaincy opportunity at the Children’s Residential Treatment Center (CRTC), in Minneapolis. The CRTC, a Volunteers of America site, provides intensive residential treatment for severely emotionally disturbed children and adolescents who suffer primary psychiatric challenges. Adam is the center’s first CPE chaplain.

We work with kids from all over the state. Many have been in and out of hospitals, out patients programs” explains Adam. “For some, this is a last resort. A last hope before institutionalization.”  It’s been a “thrown off the cliff” kind of learning curve for Adam as “it’s hard to really prepare for something like this. I didn’t fully know what to expect. I’m the first chaplain so, with the support of the staff, I’ve been figuring things out as I go.

Much of Adam’s work is about being present. Really present. Eye to eye with kids who are suffering from disorders that are hard, scary, and uncomfortable to discuss.

Adam’s a guy who rolls up his sleeves and that’s the attitude he’s bringing to this work. He felt called to stay behind with kids who are unable or unwilling to leave the facility for daily afternoon outings. His presence, which might at first appear easy – playing games, doing art projects, and talking – IS his ministry. It’s in these seemingly calm times that anything can happen.

I’ve learned how consuming mental illness can be. Some of the actions that mental illness produces, in the simple moments like playing a game, are extreme. And at times, violent.  Looking these kids in the eye, showing love to them in those circumstances isn’t easy. And, in a place like this, the need is never ending.

On Friday nights, Adam developed and leads a spirituality group which, while rewarding, poses its own challenges. “As a chaplain for all the residents, I can’t focus on Christian values alone. While some kids identify as Christians, others don’t. I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to center our talks on the common values in religions.” Finding the unifying threads has enabled Estrem to help the kids “realize that just because they are here, in a rough patch in their lives, doesn’t mean that they can’t be good to others. That other people aren’t in need.”

Packing survival kits

Packing survival kits

The message resonated strongly with the kids.

They led a service project and made survival kits and blankets which they delivered to The Bridge for Youth“, a program providing services to homeless youth in Minnesota. While Adam worked with kids on the project, he’s quick to point out “they planned it all. They made the pitch to the staff, gave me shopping lists and made it all happen. It was amazing. All the kids, even those unable to leave the facility for those afternoon outings chose to participate.

Adam’s just now grasping some of what he’s learned this summer.

When I went in, I thought I would come out the other side being able to talk to everyone about a topic like suicide. How we could fix it, like I’d

Delivery to The Bridge

Delivery to The Bridge

have all these answers. But I’ve realized how complicated it is. I have way more questions than I did when I started. But I’m not afraid to ask them now or have the discussion.“

Adam’s had a lot of support through this journey. Weekly he gathers with other CPE participants in an inter-denominational group for an all-day opportunity to share challenges and support. The group also shared collective experiences including a trip to White Earth, and chaplaincy opportunities at hospitals and Stillwater prison.

While it’s been an atypical summer for Adam, it’s been one filled with amazing moments.

A time that stands out was a day when I sat on the floor with a girl going through intake. She was so nervous. Crying, hyperventilating, scared, lost. At the same time this young man, a resident, was being discharged. He saw what was happening and came over. Took her hand, looked her in the eye and said ‘I was you 8 months ago. If I can do it, you can. Just keep going. It’s worth it.’  It was a moment of pure holiness. There have been a lot of those. ”

Adam finishes up his sabbatical soon and looks forward to being back with his church family.

What I’m bringing back here is a much deeper understanding of mental illness and how easy it is for anyone to reach that dark place. Being immersed with these kids day after day, I’m so comfortable talking about uncomfortable things now.

Adam will be bringing that first-hand experience back to our parish soon. Classes with his ordination cohort resume August 5 and he will be back at church August 14.

I’m excited for another great program year. I’m so grateful that I was able to take this time but I’m ready to get back!”

A Place to Call Home

Collaboration of congregations provides housing for once-homeless young adults                    

4,080 youth and young adults are homeless and on their own on any given night in Minnesota; 200-300 of whom are in the southwest suburbs. For youth and young adults, the path out of homelessness is a long and perilous one.

These are the facts that astounded St. Stephen’s parishioners attending a meeting hosted by Edina Community Lutheran Church (ECLC)  in 2013. The purpose of the meeting was a discussion on homelessness in the southwest suburbs and it sparked a calling in our parish that culminated this week with the opening of the 66 West Apartments in Edina.

In 2014, St. Stephen’s was invited by ECLC to join with Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative and 3 other congregations in a project to provide stable, safe housing for young adults in Edina. Since that time, our church family, along with ECLC, Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer and Richfield United Methodist Church, have rallied around 66 West.

“The power of this collaboration of congregations has been amazing” said Jackie Sullivan, a St. Stephen’s parishioner who serves as the parish representative on the 66 West Task Force and on the Beacon Board of Directors. “The public testimony of people from the collaborative was noted by the city officials who ultimately gave approval for the project.” But the work didn’t stop there.

“The way our parish has supported this project has also been wonderful,” remembered Sullivan “it was a very proud moment when I stood in front of the parish to announce the city approval of the project to the rousing applause of all.” Since then, congregations in the collaborative have raised funds, lovingly made quilts, and most recently, gathered household goods. All with a goal of giving these young adults a helping hand as they lift themselves onto a new life path.

This week, several St. Stephen’s parishioners served at 66 West as residents moved into their new homes. “The residents were clearly excited, but also trying to take it all in” said parishioner, Mary Tomback. Dale’s Closet, an on-site room containing all of the items collected to help residents stock their apartments, was overflowing with options. “Several of the residents were clearly surprised by the opportunity to select new housewares” said Tomback, “we were so honored to be able to help them choose items for their new homes. The quilts, in particular, were greatly appreciated.”

Today we want to offer a BIG THANK YOU to the parish for all the support of 66 West. New opportunities to serve the residents will be shared in the future. For now, on-going prayers while the residents settle in are welcomed and encouraged. If you have questions or a calling to serve, contact Jackie Sullivan or Mary Tomback.

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