June 11, 2024 – Staff Update

Andy Pokel

is joining Spirit Garage as the new Music & Creative Director. Andy is currently pursuing a graduate degree at Luther Seminary, where he also serves as Musician in Residence, and is working towards ordination in the ELCA as a deacon.

He grew up in Neenah, Wisc., and studied K-12 Vocal Music Education at St. Olaf College. After graduating, Andy toured with Missoula Children’s Theater for two years, then began his career in education. For a decade, Andy taught music, theater and special education.

Welcome Andy!

Dr. J. Aaron McDermid

will be joining us this fall as the Bethlehem Chorale & Men’s Choir Director. Most recently, he served as a choral scholar at St. James’ Episcopal in Los Angeles and a studio teacher at the West Coast Music Academy.

He received his DMA in Choral Conducting from the University of Arizona, an MM in Conducting from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Concordia College in Moorhead.

Welcome Aaron!

June 4, 2024 – Why We Give This Way

Are you at the cabin on Sundays? Did you leave your offering on the kitchen table—again!?

Here’s how several fellow members found a way to ensure their offering still made it to church.

Here are three ways you can set up your recurring gift:

May 28, 2024 – Picnic with Pastor Chris

Please join me for a Picnic on the Lawn hosted by our amazing Stewardship Team. I am excited to extend a heartfelt invitation to two events in our sweet spot: being together, sharing food, and having good conversations.

A picnic-style meal will be served from 5:30–6:30 pm on (MPLS) Wednesday, Jun 5 and (MTKA) Wednesday, Jul 17, followed by a short presentation from 6:30–7:30 pm.

These picnics will be an excellent opportunity to gather in an informal setting, allowing me to meet more of you personally and share about my first four months at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities. I am eager to connect with each of you, hear your stories, and discuss the journey we have embarked on together.

In addition to enjoying great food and company, I am looking forward to the upcoming fall and the months ahead. I will share my hopes and dreams for our congregation and invite all of you to re-engage and get excited for the promising next chapter in our ministry together.

Please bring your families and friends, and let’s make these picnics a time of community, connection and celebration. I look forward to seeing you there!

Pastor Chris ([email protected])

May 21, 2024 – Summer Fun for Children, Youth and Families

The Bethlehem council sets priorities to help guide the ministry of the church. There are three in total: strengthen our spiritual vitality, connect relationally in deeper ways, and ensure financial sustainability. The Children, Youth and Family Ministry team takes these priorities seriously, and so we have some fun new ministry opportunities this summer:

Church Family in the Park starts tonight, May 21 from 6:00–7:00 pm! Once a month families or grandparents and grandkids with kids ages newborn–Grade 5 can meet me (Pastor Heather) at Lyndale Farmstead Park (about three blocks away from the Minneapolis campus). There will be time to play with church friends, pizza and outdoor craft projects.

Can’t make the first one? No worries! There are three other dates throughout the summer: Jun 11, Jul 23 and Aug 27.


Summer Stretch—no, it’s not yoga! It is a way for middle and high school students to stretch out summer with service, learning, and fellowship. Students in Grades 6–12, Pastor Heather and Jayn on Wednesdays this summer. We will serve together in the morning and have fun together in the afternoons. Here is the tentative schedule:

  • Jul 10 – Tying Blankets & Grand Slam
  • Jul 17 – Lutheran Social Services, Luther Seminary, Muskego Church Tour
  • Jul 24 – Lakewood Cemetery Tour & Lake Harriet Beach
  • Jul 31 – Sculpture Garden & Basilica Visit Aug 7 – Art Project, Walker Methodist Walker Place visit & Feed My Starving Children
  • Aug 14 – Valleyfair: There is a fee involved that covers a t-shirt, transportation, Grand Slam, and Valleyfair. We do need people to register in advance.

At each of these connection points, we hope children, youth, and families will go deeper in faith, connect with old friends while making new ones, and use our gifts to serve others.

Any questions? Just ask!
Pastor Heather ([email protected])

May 14, 2024 – Choir Finale

From Mark Paisar, Director of Music

Every Sunday morning when we gather together for worship, we join our voices together as one to give thanks and praise to God. In doing so, we are calling upon the words that we hear from Ephesians 5:19–20: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When we sing together and experience the beauty of music together, we open our hearts and minds to experience the beauty and love of God. Such moments of beauty are filled with holy and transformative potential that calls us forward in our journey to live more fully as beloved children of God.

Choir Finale (1080x1080 px)

Throughout this program year, we truly have been blessed to experience the joy and beauty of music, and we can certainly give thanks to all of the incredible musicians in all of the ensembles here at Bethlehem who make that music possible.

I hope you will join us for the Choir Finale concert this Wednesday, May 15, 6:30 pm in the sanctuary at the Minneapolis campus and via Livestream. We will take a moment that evening to highlight the musicianship and leadership of our children and youth ensembles here at Bethlehem. We will give thanks for the beautiful music that they have offered up in worship this year, and we will recognize their musical leadership that they share with this congregation.

Please join us as we give thanks for the KinderChoir, Cherub Choir, Choristers, Youth Choir, and Youth Handbell Ensemble. All are invited to join us for this evening of music and root beer floats!

May 7, 2024 – Mental Health Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness month, a time to promote the importance of mental health and its impact on all Americans. We are facing a mental health crisis in our communities. One in five adults have a mental health illness; one in 20 have serious mental illness; 17 percent of our youth (ages 6–17) experience a mental disorder; and every 11 minutes there is a suicide (NAMI). These troubling numbers show that mental well-being matters for all ages, and it also is a call to action!

At Bethlehem, we have a Mental Health and Addiction Ministry (MHAM) that offers programs and resources throughout the year. This Wednesday, May 8 at 6:45 pm, MHAM is offering a presentation on loneliness. This program will focus on caring and loving yourself so you can better care for others. The speaker is Sherri Herman, MA, psychotherapist and spiritual coach. Come have dinner at 5:30-6:30 pm and then join us in Harrisville.

On Thursday, May 9 at 8:00 am, Mental Health Connect, a collaborative ministry of Bethlehem, will be holding its annual fundraiser celebrating 10 years of working with faith communities to increase awareness of mental health by education and navigation.

To learn more about either of these two ministries, contact Heidi Peterson ([email protected]) at Minnetonka or Diane Waarvik ([email protected]) at Minneapolis.

April 30, 2024 – Christian Nationalism 101 with Angela Denker

It’s not too late to sign up to join Interim Associate Pastor Angela Denker for the first of her two-part series course on Christian nationalism, which begins tomorrow at the Minneapolis campus at 6:30 pm.

Pastor Angela is the author of the award-winning book, “Red State Christians: A journey into White Christian nationalism and the wreckage it leaves behind.” She has appeared on CNN, BBC, SkyNews and NPR to explain Christian nationalism to international audiences, and she has published pieces in the Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and Fortune Magazine.

Part One of this series will work to provide a definition of Christian nationalism, especially related to current scholarship, as well as its theological and historical background, and help attendees to understand how the Lutheran theology of the cross contradicts the dangerous and heretical assumptions of Christian nationalism. We’ll also do a deep study of John 18 and use it to explain how Jesus provides a powerful example of how to conduct conversation and discern when dialogue is helpful, verses when dialogue partners aren’t willing to engage faithfully.

Part Two of the series will be held next Wednesday, May 8, same time and place. Attendees can attend just one part of the series if that’s what works for their schedule.

Pastor Angela will have a limited number of books for sale and signing; cost is $20, payable by cash, check or Venmo. You can also learn more about Christian nationalism at her Substack.

April 23, 2024 – Commissioning of Bethlehem Care Ministers

Diane Waarvik, Director of Congregational Care

Many people who are at home are lonely or are in a life transition such as loss of a loved one, illness or disability. Bethlehem Care Ministers reach out to them with love and care.

Recently, one of Bethlehem’s Care Ministers visited a member just before he died. The minister prayed with and read scripture to the member and his family. The minister also served communion, which was the last time the member took communion. The member’s wife said this was a meaningful time that fulfilled one of her husband’s wishes: that he be read scripture before he died. The care minister described the time as sacred and meaningful as well.

Additionally, new friendships are being formed between a Bethlehem Care Minister couple, who have been reaching out and visiting a couple, developing a caring relationship.

Bethlehem Care Ministers are members who have been trained to visit members in their homes, nursing homes, hospices and care facilities. We are excited to have 25 Care Ministers to commission on Sunday! Our team has grown from 4–5 ministers and will now be able to reach out to many more members and take them communion, deliver care packages, and share conversations and love from Bethlehem.

Join us this Sunday, April 28 as we install our newest Care Ministers at all services and celebrate this important ministry of Bethlehem with us.

April 16, 2024 – Wednesday Dinners and Education Series

Join us for dinner at the Minneapolis campus on Wednesday nights this spring! A meal together offers a different pace for conversation and quality time with multiple generations.

While this meal is for those who are already on site for music and youth ministry events, it is also for folks who miss feasting together as a congregation or who want to connect. Bring your small group or come to meet new folks!

We’ll eat in the Commons and Gallery between 5:30–6:30 pm. Menus will be vegetarian forward and cost $10 per adult and $8 per child (with a cap for families of 4 or more).

This week’s menu is: Build-your-own Asian rice and veggie bowls with tofu or chicken. We ask that you register in advance so we can practice good stewardship and hospitality each week.

If you’d like to help volunteer before, during, or after dinner one of these weeks, please let Pastor Meta ([email protected]) know and she can get you connected to the leadership team. Many hands make light work!

Education events begin at 6:30 pm in Langemo and welcome youth and students as well as adults.

This week, meet our synod’s climate justice organizer and share ideas about saving energy and care for creation at Sharing Our Energy Stories.

April 24 is Ask the Pastor, an opportunity to get to know Pastor Chris Enstad better. If you want to give Pastor Chris some time to think about your question(s), submit questions by email in advance.

May 1 and 8 welcomes our Interim Associate Pastor Angela Denker, whose writing and research will help us learn how to define and challenge Christian Nationalism.

On May 8 we also have an event from the Mental Health & Addiction Ministry designed to help cultivate a warm, loving and compassionate relationship with yourself so that you can have the same with others: How to Transform Loneliness into Connection

Details available at each link.

This is a season for being curious and building new connections at Bethlehem. We hope to see you on Wednesdays this spring!

April 9, 2024 – Welcome, New Members!

This Sunday we welcome 11 households into membership at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities! We’ll celebrate at all services (online and at both campuses). Join us in giving thanks for these siblings in Christ.

In the spirit of new names and faces, please introduce yourself to someone you don’t already know this Sunday. Whether you have been part of Bethlehem for days or decades, your presence and participation help make each gathering in this community special.

Think about it! Every worship service includes different combinations of people in the room and online together, unique hopes and fears, a variety of songs and prayer requests, a changing world, deaths and new births—we are resurrection every time.

The services on Sunday will invite all of us to renew our commitment to God and this community. I hope you’ll spark another connection this week and be reminded that we are still Becoming Together.

April 2, 2024 – Thank You, Volunteers!

Dear Bethlehem Church Family,

As we journey through the season of Easter, celebrating the joy and renewal that the Resurrected Life brings, we find a profound connection to the spirit of National Volunteer Month. This season, we recognize and sincerely appreciate our volunteers, whose selfless contributions reflect the transformative power of living out the Resurrection in our daily lives.

The Resurrected Life invites us to experience renewal and to share that gift with others. In the same spirit, our volunteers embody this call through their dedication and service, becoming beacons of hope and agents of change within our community and beyond. The 50 Days of Easter give us time to reflect on the Resurrection message of new beginnings and consider how we might use our giftedness to serve one another.

We extend heartfelt gratitude to our volunteers for their tireless efforts and invite every member to explore how they can participate in this resurrected life of service. Whether through small acts of kindness or more significant commitments of time and talent, your contributions make a substantial impact.

May this Easter season inspire us all to live more fully in the light of the Resurrected Christ, sharing love, hope, and renewal with the world. Together, let us celebrate our new life and the countless ways to share it with others.

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Pastor Chris

March 26, 2024 – You’re invited to Easter at Bethlehem

Dear Members and Friends of Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities,

As we move into this sacred space of Holy Week and Easter, I extend a heartfelt invitation to you and your loved ones to join us in a time of reflection, renewal and rejoicing.

Holy Week offers us a path to walk alongside Jesus Christ, from His triumphant entry into Jerusalem through the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, His crucifixion on Good Friday, and His glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. These experiences are not just observances of historical events, but an invitation to experience the depth of God’s love, the cost of grace, and the joy of our salvation. Each service is a step on our journey towards a deeper understanding and experience of Resurrected Life.

This is a time for us to come together, across all our expressions, to support one another in our spiritual journeys and to renew our commitment to live out the teachings of Christ in our daily lives.

Please join us for these holy observances. Draw near in faith, with open hearts, ready to be transformed by the power of His story, which is also our story.

May this Holy Week and Easter be a timeless blessing for you and your family as we celebrate the foundation of our faith and the promise of our hope.

Pastor Chris Enstad

March 19, 2024 – Baptismal Promise No. 5

Nurture them in faith and prayer

Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

During Lent, we’re unpacking the promises made in baptism.

When my first-born was a toddler, she surprised me one day when we were in the bathroom. She looked under the sink and asked, “Mommy, what’s that?” I crouched down to see a gap between the wall tile and pipe that I had never noticed. While I pondered how to explain to a young child that the person who installed the tile hadn’t cut the squares to fit nicely around the round pipe, she quickly shrugged her shoulders and said, “God made it that way.” Astonished, I wondered how she came up with that explanation. Then I realized that prayers at mealtime and bedtime, storybooks and interactions at church had already begun to give her a framework for understanding life in the world.

When a child is brought to the font for baptism, parents and sponsor make a series of promises: to live with, bring, teach, place in their hands, and nurture them, and the congregation promises to support them, SO THAT… (and this is the fun part) the child will learn to trust God and care for others and the world God made.

In the end, it’s the Spirit that inspires faith. We humans get to be a loving and forgiving presence in their lives, we get to steep them in story about God who comes to us in Jesus, and we find meaning and purpose together. In baptism we say out loud that God loves and claims them as a precious child, and that will never end.

When have you felt supported by your church community? When have you been challenged to see things in another way?

John 15:4–17
Matthew 5:16
Ephesians 2:8–10
Colossians 1:9–10
Romans 12:9–13
Galatians 5:22–23

“Think about this wonder: A mature fruit-bearing tree never ‘decided’ to grow. Neither did it make a heroic effort to mature and bear fruit. The tree simply receives—the sunshine, rain, soil, and fertilizer. Then it does what it is gifted to do. It bears fruit!”
—Dan Erlander

Lenten Devotionals:
The devotional has weekly questions and scripture readings to get you thinking about the promises made in baptism. Use them for quiet time or conversation prompts with others. Available via download.

March 12, 2024 – Baptismal Promise No. 4

Place In Their Hands the Holy Scriptures

Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

During Lent, we’re unpacking the promises made in baptism.

When a new Christian is baptized, we welcome them to worship and our life together, and we promise to help them learn the stories and practices of faith so they can live out their calling to care for each other and the world God made. Interestingly enough, parents and sponsors don’t simply promise to teach them stories that have been passed on from generation to generation; they agree to place the Bible in their hands, and the congregation creates a ritual to fulfill that promise when kids are in third grade. One year, a boy named Sam came forward to receive his Bible and quickly returned to his seat where he asked his mom with bated breath, “Ok, where are the plagues?!”

One of my favorite teachers, Anna Carter Florence, writes about her own experience of receiving a third grade Bible some decades ago and being impatient with learning the mechanics of navigating a book that’s more like a library than a single volume. She knew there were great stories in the Bible, and she could tell that her Sunday school teacher was moved by Scripture, but for her, the process of learning how to read the Bible was dull, and she found the Bible boring. She convinced her parents to let her drop out of Sunday school and sit in the car to read “The Story Bible,” by Pearl S. Buck, while the rest of the family was in Sunday school. That winter, the Bible came alive for her. She “just needed to hear it in a form she recognized, with the freedom to imagine it in her own voice.” (She recently wrote “A is for Alabaster” to help people catch a glimpse of how reading the Bible could be.)

For me, the Bible first came alive through music. There were camp songs like, “Beloved, let us love one another…1 John 4:7 and 8!” and Psalm 34:1–4, “I will bless the Lord at all times, God’s praise shall continually be in my mouth….” But even more moving was a puppet show that paired the song, “Desperado,” with the story of the Prodigal Son. “Wow,” I remember thinking, “there might be something to this Bible after all!”

Tell about a time when the word of God came alive for you. Do you have a favorite reading from the Bible?

Psalm 78:1–6
Luke 2:41–51
Acts 8:26–40
Colossians 3:16–17
Psalm 119:105
John 1:1–4

“The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”
—Martin Luther

Lenten Devotionals:
The devotional has weekly questions and scripture readings to get you thinking about the promises made in baptism. Use them for quiet time or conversation prompts with others. Available via download.

March 5, 2024 – Baptismal Promise No. 3

Teach them the Lord’s, the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments

During Lent, we’re unpacking the promises made in baptism.

There’s a Latin saying, ‘lex orandi, lex credendi’ (the law of prayer, the law of belief), that points to the relationship between worship and belief: what we pray informs what we believe, and what we believe inspires what we pray; the two are interwoven. When I first learned to talk about theology, I realized that my own beliefs had been shaped by what I’d experienced in worship from the time I was little. My understanding of God recognized there’s something bigger than me who created all that exists, a saving God who came to us in human form and whose power is made known in weakness, and a Spirit who comes alongside guiding me, as close as my breath and as powerful as the wind. That God doesn’t watch from a distance but invites me and all people into relationship through prayer.

When a new Christian is baptized, we make promises to help them grow in faith, including teaching them the prayer, the creed and the commandments. These teachings don’t come with a test to pass, a mark to achieve, or a box to check. They’re tools that help us learn to trust God so we can live into our calling to care for each other and the world God made and to work for justice and peace. We help fulfill those promises every time we worship together. How fun it is on Wednesday nights in Lent to sing Evening Prayer with voices young and old!

Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

What do you talk to God about when you pray? How have the creed and commandments influenced what you believe or the way you live?

Matthew 6:5–15
Philippians 4:4–7
Deuteronomy 5:6–21
Deuteronomy 6:4–9
Matthew 22:34–40
John 13:3–5, 34–35

“Baptism is a call to set out on a moral adventure in the name of Christ, but all Christians travel this path of discipleship hobbling and stumbling.” —Thomas G. Long

Lenten Devotionals:
The devotional has weekly questions and scripture readings to get you thinking about the promises made in baptism. Use them for quiet time or conversation prompts with others. Available via download.

February 27, 2024 – Baptismal Promise No. 2

Bring them to hear the Word and share the Supper

Believe it or not, when I was in sixth grade, we had homework for Sunday School. On Saturday nights, I’d take a bath, and my mom would set my hair in pink foam curlers. Then I’d sit under the hairdryer and work on my homework for Sunday morning. (There’s even an embarrassing photo to prove it.) The next day, we’d go to church and Sunday School.

Much has changed since then. I received my first communion when I was in eighth grade, for example, while my kids were preschoolers when they began to commune. But fundamental things with ancient roots remain the same. Christians gather for worship—most often on Sunday—and the Word is read and preached and sung, and the sacraments are celebrated. And what was promised by God in baptism is named again in communion and revealed in Scripture:

“You are a precious child of God. I will always love you. I will be with you, loving you and forgiving you all the days of your life.”

We make promises in baptism, it’s true, but our promises are always based on the promises of God. Baptism is a gift of grace, and it’s a gift to share!

God’s blessings as we journey through Lent.

Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

What do you experience when you receive communion?

Luke 4:16–21
Luke 24:28–35
Matthew 26:26–30
1 Corinthians 10:16–17
1 Corinthians 11:23–26
2 Corinthians 5:17–19

“We don’t have a God who says, ‘Gotcha’. We have a God who picks us up, dusts us off and says, ‘Go try again.’” —Desmund Tutu

Lenten Devotionals:
The devotional has weekly questions and scripture readings to get you thinking about the promises made in baptism. Use them for quiet time or conversation prompts with others. Available via download.

February 20, 2024 – Baptismal Promise No. 1

Live together among God’s faithful people

When our kids were little, Dave and I were asked to be sponsors for the third child of some family friends in Nebraska. We were honored to be asked and vowed to do our best, even though we lived 400 miles away. The day of the baptism, we met with the pastor so he could instruct us about our responsibilities as parents and sponsors. (We were no doubt a pedagogical challenge with five unruly preschoolers and four adults who thought they knew it all.) Then we gathered around the font with the congregation, and we spoke aloud some promises to Clara—the promise that she is God’s beloved child and that will never change, as well as our promises to help her grow in faith with the support of a community. Truth be told, Clara’s parents and faith community have had the deepest impact on her faith, even as we pray for her from afar.

During Lent, we invite you to think about the promises we make in baptism. Each Tuesday, we’ll pass along some scripture readings and a question or two to get you thinking. (You can download all the questions and readings.) On Wednesdays in worship, we’ll take a deeper dive and explore the promises made in baptism. We’d love to widen the conversation. You are welcome to share your insights to the questions.

God’s blessings as we journey through this Lenten Season.

Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

Tell a story about someone who helped you see Jesus. Who is someone you are mentoring in faith now?

Ephesians 1:17–19
2 Timothy 1:5–7
Galatians 3:27–28
1 Corinthians 12:4–13
Colossians 3:12–15
John 1:12–13

“Grace is when you aren’t striving or controlling or trying to change or manipulate or make something happen. Grace is when you find yourself carried along when all that’s left to do is receive. Grace is when you know you’re loved, exactly as you are. Grace is an entirely different way of experiencing life.” —Rob Bell

February 13, 2024 – Join us on Ash Wednesday

As we embark on the sacred journey of Lent, marked by reflection, patience and hopefulness, I invite you to join us for our Ash Wednesday services. Lent, derived from the Latin word “forty,” symbolizes a period of 40 days, mirroring the biblical stories of waiting while trusting God’s promises—a time for deep introspection and renewal of faith.

On Ash Wednesday, Christians across denominations and around the globe gather to observe the beginning of Lent, a season of spiritual significance. As we receive the imposition of ashes, we are invited to contemplate the promises we make to God, to ourselves, and to one another in our baptism. We will reflect on the steadfast love and faithfulness bestowed upon us by the God who makes and keeps promises over these next 40 days.

Throughout history, the number 40 has signaled a season of waiting and preparation, leading to transformation and renewal. Just as Moses waited 40 days on Mount Sinai, Jesus endured 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, and Noah persevered through 40 days and nights of rain, we too are called to wait on God’s promises with patience and hope.

My prayer for you is that you would join with your siblings in Christ as we embark on this Lenten journey together, seeking a deeper understanding of God’s promises and our lives lived in response. May this Ash Wednesday mark, for you and for us, a time of spiritual renewal and recommitment to living out God’s love in our lives and community.

Pastor Chris Enstad

February 6, 2024 – Keeping Up

from Cas Stoll, Director of Service, Engagement and Fun for Youth and Young Adults

Keeping up with the way the world changes can feel intimidating at times. Even as the youth director, I always ask my youth what certain new and “hip” words or trends mean!

When it comes to understanding gender and gender identity, there are quite a few new terms that have popped up in recent years, and they can often be confusing. Supporting folks who identify as LGBTQIA+ doesn’t mean you have to know everything all the time, but it can sometimes be helpful to have a safe space to ask questions and sort out all of the different terminology.

This is why we are inviting people of all ages to come and learn more about what it means to be transgender, non-binary, gender-non-conforming, or genderfluid.

We know that many of you know folks who identify as trans, non-binary, or gender-non-confirming (and of course we’ll talk about what all of those terms mean!). Some of you may not know a person who identifies that way by name, but perhaps you are looking to better understand and support the LGBTQIA+ community at large.

This class is the perfect opportunity to learn the difference between gender and sexuality, the basics of gender identity, how to use people’s correct pronouns and more.

We will be hosting the event in Iverson Hall at the Minneapolis Campus, following the 10:30 am service this Sunday, February 11. Lunch is provided. While registration is not required to participate, we do ask that you register in advance to help us adequately plan for lunch. Register here.

January 30, 2024 – Bethlehem Day of Service

The quilters have been quilting and the knitters knitting. The bandage prep team has been ‘ripping and stripping’ sheets to be rolled by the ‘holy rollers’. Boxes of towels and Vaseline are being delivered. It’s almost time for Bethlehem’s Day of Service!

On Saturday, February 10, people from all three expressions of Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities will gather at the Minneapolis campus to learn more about local and global outreach partners and to put our hands to use to “help the hands that heal.”

Lisa Johnson, church council president and long-term volunteer with Starfish Ministries, will share stories about this collaborative effort between Bethlehem and Judson Baptist which provides assistance to families experiencing short-term financial crises. After collecting a “noisy offering” for Starfish, we’ll head to the lower level to assemble newborn and hospice kits, roll bandages, and more to support the work of Global Health Ministries (GHM).

This year’s hospice kits are going to Phebe Hospital in Liberia. After two civil wars, supplies are scarce and needs at Phebe are especially critical. GHM recently learned that the kits we send not only support hospice patients but are also distributed to hospital employees when money for salaries is not available.

If you’d like to donate items for kits, the shopping lists are here. Priority items include bath towels, petroleum jelly, kitchen-style rubber gloves, and Ivory bar soap.

The day begins with coffee and ends with lunch. Friends and family are welcome to join you. Check-in begins at 9:30 am. The 10:00 am program will be livestreamed. We hope to see you there!

Learn More and Register

January 23, 2024 – Welcome, Pastor Chris!

Dear Bethlehem Family,

It is with great joy that I introduce myself as your new Lead Pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities. As I step into this role, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to serve such a dynamic and spirit-filled community.

I will be delivering my first sermon at the Minneapolis campus this Sunday, February 4 and I will be at the Minnetonka campus on February 18. I eagerly anticipate this moment as an opportunity to connect with you, the heart and soul of our church. I would be delighted to see you there.

Bethlehem has had a rich history of faith and community service. Our church is a place where relationships are nurtured, faith is deepened, and we engage in the work of God’s vision for a healed world. This vision is built on the principles of being known, challenged, changed, and sent—values I wholeheartedly embrace and hope to reflect in my ministry among you.

As we embark on this journey together, I invite you to share your stories, your hopes, and your dreams with me. Your insights are invaluable as we collectively strive to understand and enact God’s mission in our community. I am here to listen, to learn, and to lead with a heart open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Let us walk this path together with faith, hope, and love, trusting in God’s guidance and the strength of our community. I look forward to meeting and getting to know each of you, and to the many ways we will grow and serve together in Christ’s love.

Pastor Chris Enstad

SAVE THE DATE: Pastor Chris’ installation will be held on Sunday, March 10 at 3:00 pm at the Minnetonka campus and via Livestream.

January 16, 2024 – Let’s Walk Together

We received an email from one of our key Outreach partners, Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, about the opening of a new supportive housing building, Bimosedaa (Ojibwe for “let’s walk together”). Located in downtown Minneapolis, Bimosedaa offers 48 homes with culturally relevant support services tailored toward members of the Native American community.

Many Bimosedaa residents have experienced extended periods of homelessness and we want to support them in setting up their new home. Donations for the following items are needed. All items should be new. Gift cards to Target are also helpful for purchasing specific items.

  • Twin extra-long sheets and twin-size comforters
  • Pillows
  • Cleaning items (paper towels, dish soap, sponges, disinfectant spray or wipes, toilet brush and plunger, etc)
  • Kitchen items (one pot, plates and cups, silverware, utensils, can opener)

Items can be dropped off at either campus by January 19. Contact Lisa Johnson with any questions.

Another way to get involved is to join Pastor Meta and other Beacon Action Team Members at Beacon’s Congregational Convening on Thursday, January 18. You’ll assemble with hundreds of Beacon community members to learn all about Beacon’s proposed interventions and legislative campaigns in 2024, and identify actions to help increase access to affordable housing. RSVP directly with Beacon. Contact Pastor Meta with any questions.

January 9, 2024 – Building a Future with Hope

Capital Campaign Leadership Team

Join us on Sunday, January 14 in worship to celebrate “Building a Future with Hope.” This capital campaign was launched in Fall 2020 with a goal of raising $2 million to support our ministries here at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities as well as the needs of our neighbors and our mission partners across the globe.

As of December 31, 2023, “Building a Future with Hope” has raised over $1.5 million. More importantly, we have far exceeded our goal to increase the number of Bethlehem households participating in this capital campaign.

As the campaign comes to a close, we are excited to share our final results and the tremendous impact your generosity has had. During worship at both campuses, we will be sharing stories related to our ministries and outreach partnerships. We will also have refreshments to thank you all for your faithful generosity and prayerful support.

Your Capital Campaign Leadership Team has worked closely with the Church Council and congregational leaders to determine the best way to meet our financial obligations without the need for ongoing capital campaigns. Integrating expenses previously paid through capital campaigns into the General Fund (operating budget) will allow for a more comprehensive picture of Bethlehem’s finances. The “All In” 2024 annual appeal was designed to ensure these expenses are covered through donations to the General Fund.

It’s still possible to make a 2024 commitment! When you set up recurring automated donations or return a pledge card, you ensure the continuation of the ministries important to you: high-quality worship music, children’s programming, and the strong support of our outreach partners. The budgeting process is informed by the total amounts pledged, so every pledge counts! Click here to make a 2024 commitment.

January 4, 2024 – Staffing Update from Children, Youth and Family Team

Dear Congregation,

With a grateful heart for the work Cas Stoll has done at Bethlehem, please read their news below. Cas writes:

Dear Bethlehem, 

I hope you all had a wonderful (and maybe even restful?) holiday! I am writing to give you all some fairly big news about my next steps personally and professionally. 

My Diaconal Internship is going really well so far, and I’m very close to finishing up my MDIV degree at Luther! That being said, after a lot of prayer and discernment, I’ve been feeling like I need some extended space and time to plan and rest this spring, before deciding on what comes next after graduation. 

In order to take that time of space and rest, I will be resigning from my position as Director of Service, Engagement and Fun in early March (my last day will be March 1st). This is fairly normal for internship candidates – and although it was not something I anticipated doing when I started internship, it now feels like the right step personally and professionally. 

This was a very difficult decision to make and of course comes with some very mixed feelings. I am excited to take some time to be able to discern my next steps professionally and vocationally, but am also deeply sad to be leaving this wonderful community. You all have been a bright spot in my life these past 16 or so months, and I’m taking lots of fond memories with me into this next season of life! 

I know Bethlehem as a community is embracing a lot of change in these next few months, and so I want to say that I will be working closely with my Children Youth and Family colleagues to make this transition as smooth as possible for everyone. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out via email or my office line. Truly wishing you all the best, 

Deep thanks for everything.  

Cascade Stoll 

Please join the Children, Youth, and Family team on Sunday, February 25 at 10 am at the Minneapolis campus in Harrisville to celebrate Cas, their work, and what comes next for them!

Any questions? Just ask!

Pastor Heather

January 2, 2024 – ABCs of the Old and New Testament

From Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

Welcome to 2024! Are you someone who likes to greet the new year with a resolution? Have you come up with a good one for this year? I admire people who set out to read a book every week or walk 1,000 miles in a year, but inspiration doesn’t always line up with the calendar, and I’m usually most successful if I bite off small chunks or have an accountability partner to keep me on track. Here’s an idea that checks all the boxes: several groups are beginning new studies in the next couple of weeks, and you’re invited to join one or more!

I’ll be leading a conversation on Anna Carter Florence’s new book, “A is for Alabaster,” on Wednesdays at 6:30 pm in Minneapolis. I’ve titled the conversation, “ABCs of the Old and New Testament,” because the book has short reflections from A-to-Z on 52 stories of scripture.

The author is a wonderful storyteller who provides fresh ways of looking at characters and themes, as well as context. Whether you’re new to the Bible or have been reading it your whole life, she hopes we’ll find encouragement for setting off on an adventure of finding God in the stories.

Read more and register here.

Check out the other offerings on our events webpage and see if one catches your interest. If you’re more into conversation while sharing a meal around a table or while doing good on behalf of others, there are opportunities for that, too. It’s a new year; why not connect with others and grow in faith!

December 26, 2023 – Godspeed Pastor Vern

From Council President Lisa Johnson

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”  1 Peter 5:1-4 


Pastor Vern,

On December 31, 2023, you will conclude 22 months of leadership and ministry at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities. During this time, you have earned your crown of glory: you have exemplified eagerness to serve, provided shepherdly oversight and breathed spiritual hope into our flock. As Interim Pastor, you were always intended to “love us and leave us”, so to speak. Yet, this does not make your departure any less difficult. 

You will be missed greatly for many reasons, and the impact of your love, care and spiritual guidance will remain for the span of time. 

You came to us during a period of uncertainty. At that time, I don’t know that we fully understood how valuable this time of transition would be. Your presence brought healing and hope through your many gifts of leadership, counsel, ministry and humility. 

You coached the important work of the Transition Team through listening and discernment to clarify the expertise, abilities and focus needed in a new Lead Pastor. 

You nourished our spiritual thirst through your sermons; You bring the Word to life through a combination of gentleness and provocation to illustrate God’s boundless love – for us and for those in need of God’s vision for a healed world. You instilled important practices during worship; engaging congregants to recite and embrace our mission statement. and sharing how our financial contributions support the operations and ministries of our campuses. 

You encouraged us to connect more deeply through conversations; the Can We Talk series facilitated constructive listening and reflection around some difficult topics which allowed us to build compassion with each other as we “disagreed without being disagreeable” as you were fond of saying.

You reached out to individuals experiencing disillusionment, illness, uncertainty or loneliness. You are a master at bringing comfort, solace and, when needed, a smile, a laugh or some commiseration. 

You encouraged our Council and our staff to broaden our perspectives about leadership and to expand the involvement of the laity. You have been engaged, involved, collaborative – and candid when we needed it. You have demonstrated servant leadership by posing hard questions without a personal agenda and providing space and support for lay leadership to discuss, debate and discern the path forward. You shared your ‘rolodex” of contacts to bring in external expertise in evaluating how we think about sustaining our ministry through stewardship. 

We honor you for your tireless perseverance in serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ through our congregation. We thank God for the deep compassion, generosity of spirit, and vision for God’s justice you have shared with our flock. 

As one Council member shared, you have been a gift to Bethlehem and its members for many reasons. You are: 

You bring a graciousness to your interactions, your sermons and amid potentially polarizing conversations and difficult Council decisions 

You have helped us to move forward, to talk and connect more deeply with one another, you encourage lay leadership and we are now in a better place as a congregation. 

În a good way. Whether it is the little zingers in your sermons, growing a beard and acting out BIble characters, or your red sneakers, you bring a smile and a laugh that helps pull us together. 

Your sermons are relatable with touching examples that teach and inspire us to be better people amid our own struggles.“ 

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” 2 Corinthians 9:15

Your leadership, vision and guidance has left an indelible mark on all of us. We are truly grateful for all you’ve done over these past two years. You showed up in a big way when we needed it most. 

Thank you for choosing us.

Please join us Sunday, December 31 at the Minneapolis campus to celebrate Pastor Vern during worship and enjoy cake afterwards in the gallery. If you cannot attend in-person, you’re also welcome to send him an email to express your gratitude and say farewell.

December 19,2023 – You’re invited to Christmas at Bethlehem Twin Cities!

“I’ll be home for Christmas,” or so we sing in the old song, “you can count on me.” In so many ways, the Christmas season brings out a strong hope and longing that we will be together with loved ones; that we will laugh and sing and tell stories, gather around tables of love, and maybe light a candle or two to chase away the darkness.

We hope you can join us at Bethlehem this Christmas. We will sing familiar carols, listen to an old and trustworthy story, gather around a table of love, and illumine the room with the warm glow of candles. And we hope it will feel like home.

Thursday, December 21
7:00 pm – Minnetonka
7:00 pm – Minneapolis & Livestream

Sunday, December 24
10:00 am, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 10:00 pm – Minneapolis & Livestream
4:00 PM – Minnetonka
4:00 PM – Spirit Garage

Monday, December 25
9:30 am – Minnetonka
10:30 am – Minneapolis & Livestream

Christmas services will include carols and communion. Come 15 minutes early for beautiful prelude music.

Sunday, December 31
9:30 am – Minnetonka
10:30 am – Minneapolis & Livestream

Bulletins | Resources for Families

All Minneapolis services will be livestreamed.


December 14, 2023 – 2024 All In Budget Outlook

Dear Bethlehem Members and Friends,

Thank you for your generous commitment to Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities (BLCTC). Because of you, Bethlehem provides meaningful worship, engaging youth programs, connections for seniors, and a robust outreach ministry. As we have communicated throughout the 2024 All In appeal, we anticipate the combined operating and capital budget for 2024 to be $3.6 million.

Remarkably, we already have $1.59 million in total pledges for 2024 from 268 families. 58% of these families have increased their combined operating and capital fund giving over their 2022 giving! This is an incredible demonstration of optimism and will be instrumental in establishing our financial stability as we welcome Chris Enstad as Lead Pastor of our Bethlehem community.

Based on the overall giving to BLCTC, which includes unpledged giving, we feel that it’s essential that we secure pledges totaling $1.8 million to continue providing the ministries we do. Having committed gifts, established through pledging, increases our financial stability, and allows the ministry we treasure to continue faithfully.

If you have not yet made a pledge for 2024 it’s not too late, there are multiple ways to complete your pledge:

  • Click on this link and scroll down to the appropriate Pledge button:
  • Log onto Realm and complete the simple pledge form
  • Fill out a hard copy of the pledge card (sent to your home, or found at the welcome desk at both the Minneapolis and Minnetonka Campuses)

As always, if you need assistance, please contact Sara Kleckner (skleckner@bethlehem-church.org or 612-312-3402).

Please note: If you contribute via automated giving but have not pledged, please consider recording your pledge in addition to your automated giving schedule. Also, if you are over 70 1/2, consider maximizing your gift by making a Qualified Charitable Distribution from your IRA. More information can be found in the Give section of the BLCTC website.

You make Bethlehem the strong, vibrant, and generous community that it is.


Lisa Johnson, Council President

Joe McRae, Treasurer

Joanna Engstrom, Stewardship Chair

December 5, 2023 – Alternative Gift Fair

From Whitney Stofflet, Marketing and Communications Manager

Buying Christmas presents for people can be hard. And anxiety-inducing! Gifts are one of the ways we show people we care during the Christmas season. I always try to get things for people that I think they’ll use, but really, how many more candles does your co-worker really need? (sorry Angie & Leah!)

Instead of buying something that ends up in someone’s closet, consider getting them a gift from the Alternative Gift Fair this year.

At the Alternative Gift Fair, you’ll find a variety of meaningful gifts for your loved ones that feature Bethlehem’s Outreach Partners and the work they do in the Twin Cities and all over the world. Here are a few items featured in this year’s Alternative Gift Fair:

  • Through HMCHA, you can help a family in Ethiopia with the gift of a lamb, which will help to provide nutrition and income for the family throughout the year.
  • Through Starfish, you can help to assist our neighbors in need who are experiencing financial crises.
  • Through LPGM, you can help girls in Guatemala stay in school where they learn to grow and cook with native crops, set personal goals, and sustainably care for the cloud forest.
  • Through Beacon, you can help to provide a family with a Holiday meal or help to set up new residents with kitchen cleaning supplies.
  • Help to collect funds to create Winter Care Packs for Our Savior’s Community Services that that congregation will assemble in January. Each Winter Care Pack will go to people experiencing homelessness and is a wonderful way to spread hope and comfort this winter.

The Alternative Gift Fair will be tabling this Sunday at both the Minneapolis and Minnetonka campuses following worship. You can also make your purchases online through December 14.

Purchase Online

November 28, 2023 – Advent Is My Favorite Season

By Pastor Heather Roth Johnson

Advent is my favorite season of the church year. I love everything about it: the blue paraments, lighting the candles of the advent wreath, and the greens. Advent is the season of waiting, anticipation, and wonder. So if you are looking for churchy ways to boost your Advent mood, join Bethlehem in a couple of different ways this month.

Join Pastor Meta for a Sunday evening book study of Barbara Brown Taylor’s, “Learning to Walk in the Dark.” Her stories braid together astronomy, chemistry, theology, sociology and more to wonder about and expand our relationship with night and darkness. There’s still time to purchase or borrow the book before the first of three digital gatherings this Sunday evening. Learn more and register online.

Sunday, December 3 at 2:00 pm, Minneapolis ECHO kids will share the “God Is So Good” Christmas Program. The kids have been working hard at making backdrops, writing prayers, learning lines, and singing. New this year! Music will be offered in a variety of ways: prelude music by kids, offering music by students, children’s choirs will sing, and the new youth bells ensemble will play. The offering will go to Toys for Tots.

Sunday, December 10 during the 9:30 am worship service, Minnetonka families and friends will join in together for a “Pop-Up Christmas Program!” We will wear hats, tell the Christmas story, and close with the song “12 Days of Christmas!” This will make your advent merry and bright. Then we’ll gather in fellowship hall to sing a few Advent carols and decorate ornaments. This event is for all ages and no registration is required. You are welcome to bring a plate of your favorite holiday treats to share or just show up—there will be more than enough.

Wednesday, December 13 at 6:30 pm, Minneapolis confirmation students will be caroling in the East Harriet neighborhood and return to the Minneapolis campus after for cookies and cocoa. If you would like to join a group, feel free to join in!

Celebrating Sandy Jackson

Over the last 10 years many of you have gotten to know our accountant, Sandy Jackson. Sandy has been such an integral part of the Bethlehem back office with her cheerful service to the church.

Sandy is retiring early in 2024. We couldn’t be happier for Sandy and for her husband Rick as she looks forward to this new and exciting chapter.

Of course Sandy’s new and exciting chapter means we at Bethlehem have had to conduct a search. There is and can only ever be one Sandy, but in working with our Personnel Committee and Church Council we put together a revised position description and conducted a search.

Please join us in celebrating Sandy and thanking her for her service—whenever you see her next, or feel free to drop by the office or to send her an email ([email protected]) or card.

Bethlehem was blessed with a number of excellent candidates. We extended an offer of our accountant position to Walt Ullrich, and he has accepted. Walt will be starting with us on December 5. Luckily Sandy and Walt will get a chance to do some training together before Sandy’s retirement.

Please join us in welcoming Walt to the staff. Walt has 18 years of experience in accounting and bookkeeping. His interests include reading, photography, decoupage and animal welfare, along with basketball, football and tennis.

November 21, 2023 – Thanksgiving Eve at Bethlehem

From Pastor Vern Christopherson

This time of year, I often find myself humming a familiar Thanksgiving hymn:

We praise you, O God, our redeemer, creator;
In grateful devotion our tribute we bring.
We lay it before you; we kneel and adore you;
We bless your holy name; glad praises we sing.

Sound familiar? If I really want to date myself, the first line of this hymn that we sung when I was growing up started with the words, “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing…”

Gather with Bethlehem to give thanks to God in worship and community on Thanksgiving Eve, November 22.

Thanksgiving (1080x1080 px)

The Minnetonka campus will have a bonfire, liturgy and pie irons starting at 4:30 pm. An ingathering of food will be received for ICA Food Shelf.

The Minneapolis campus will have traditional worship starting at 7:00 pm, followed by Pie Fest. In worship, we will bring our tribute and lay it before God, our creator and redeemer, even as we kneel and adore our faithful and generous God. Our Thanksgiving offering is designated for Community Emergency Services, and we will also bring sacks of groceries to the altar as we remember and reach out to those who could use a helping hand. For those looking ahead to Advent, signed copies of Pastor Meta’s new book, “Ordinary Blessings for the Christmas Season,” will be available for purchase at a discount during Pie Fest.

Join us this Thanksgiving Eve. Giving thanks is good for our souls. Together we bless and praise God’s holy name.

November 16, 2023 – What’s Coming Up at Bethlehem

Friends at Bethlehem,

We are entering a new chapter in Bethlehem’s story. We have issued a call to a senior pastor candidate – Chris Enstad of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin. The exciting news is that Pastor Chris has said yes!

These transitions take time, of course. This week Pastor Chris has had the unenviable task of letting his congregation know. Next he’ll have to work out the details with his family. Then he’ll need to begin saying lots and lots of heart-tugging goodbyes. And that’s to say nothing of packing up and finding a new place to live. Be on the lookout for a formal letter of acceptance from Pastor Chris coming soon, and for more information about a start date in mid-January.

Because many of you have been asking, a word about next steps for me. I will continue my interim work at Bethlehem through the end of December, with my last Sunday being December 31. The last 21 months have been a positive and uplifting time for me, and hopefully they’ve been some of the same for you. What happens next on my end, I don’t know, perhaps another interim. These opportunities have a way of arriving when a person is least expecting them.

With Commitment Sunday coming up on November 19, we will be entering yet another chapter in Bethlehem’s story. Having a yes from Pastor Chris provides a real shot in the arm for our efforts.  By now you’ve likely heard about our All In appeal. We’re combining our annual giving and our capital campaign giving into a single appeal. It’s part of a concerted effort to simplify our budgeting process and to make it easier for the congregation to understand how much it costs to do ministry in and through Bethlehem.

Undoubtedly this integrated appeal will stretch us. We’ve got some strong goals for 2024.  We want to strengthen our spiritual vitality, to connect relationally in deeper ways, and to ensure financial sustainability in the process. Part of that sustainability will involve increasing our annual budget by $400,000 to cover both our mortgage and maintenance costs. Hopefully your personal pledges will be able to include some combination of both your previous annual and capital giving, but everyone will need to prayerfully consider how much they are able to give at this time.

To date, the news has definitely been very encouraging. We have received 97 lead pledges totaling $646,000. On average, people have been increasing their commitment to the previous year’s annual and capital appeals by 20%. Please consider joining in the generosity of these lead givers. These gifts will go a long way toward helping us solidify our budget for 2024 and beyond.

If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to read through the All In appeal materials. The information is very helpful, and hopefully will answer any of your questions. I’ll be praying for you as we enter into these transformative chapters in Bethlehem’s story.

Grateful for all your support in and through Bethlehem,

Pastor Vern

November 14, 2023 – ‘All In’ Commitment Sunday

From Pastor Vern Christopherson

Commitment Sunday is coming up soon. I hope you’ll be able to join us on Sunday, November 19. I encourage you to bring your pledge card and take part in our processional offering as you share your commitment to God’s work in and through Bethlehem for 2024.

In anticipation of that day, please take a few minutes to watch this video. You’ll hear from our congregation president, Lisa Johnson, about our priorities for the coming year; from Bill and Kathy Fredell about the strength of our gatherings at Bethlehem; and from our treasurer, Joe McRae, about his and Nancy’s plans to make a pledge to our ‘All In’ Appeal.

There is also one final cottage gathering this week on Thursday where you will have the opportunity to connect with other members, discuss next year’s priorities, hear how your support is making a difference, and consider how you might invest in Bethlehem’s mission and ministry in 2024.

November 7, 2023 – Cottage Meetings: It’s not too late!

From Pastor Vern Christopherson

We’ve had a number of cottage meetings over the past month related to our upcoming “All In” Commitment Appeal for 2024. Considering our busy schedules, however, it’s been a bit challenging to get people together at the same time and place.

The gatherings that worked have been helpful and encouraging:

  • we connected with other Bethlehem members
  • we discussed next year’s priorities and funding needs
  • we took a closer look at the pie chart in the appeal brochure
  • we considered how we might invest in Bethlehem’s ministry, especially as we end our capital campaign and move into an integrated appeal

Again, it’s not too late! We’re offering three more of these gatherings in the coming week.

Thursday, November 9
(7500 York Ave S) 1:00–2:30 pm
(MTKA) 6:30–8:00 pm

Thursday, November 16
(MPLS) 6:30–8:00 pm

These 90-minute gatherings will be informative and inspiring. We’ll answer questions and talk about things at Bethlehem that are important to us.

No need to sign up in advance. Just come!

October 31, 2023 – All Saints Sunday

From Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

Last year on the day after All Saints Sunday, some of my extended family members gathered for a sacred task at the small country cemetery in southwestern Minnesota where ancestors on my dad’s side of the family are buried. My second-cousin, Steve, who lived in Texas had arranged for his cremains to be interred in the family cemetery, and a small grave had been dug. Distant cousins who had never met Steve, along with close cousins who had loved him since childhood, set about our work. We lay a rose on the resting place of each ancestor, and then we formed a circle around the place where Steve’s remains would rest. “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” From nutrient-rich, life-giving humus (earth) came the human, and to earth he was returned. We passed the shovel from one person to the next as we completed our humble, yet holy, task of burying him.

Afterwards, we drove to the farm and set a long table to share a feast. We told stories of our beloved now gone. My aunt told us how sad she was when her aunt Ruth moved to Missouri to be close to children and grandchildren. Ruth’s granddaughter told us how happy she was when her grandma moved close to them. I imagine our homecoming in heaven is a bit like that. Those left behind grieve the absence of loved ones who travel on, while a welcoming party beyond imagination greets their arrival.

This Sunday is All Saints Sunday when we celebrate the body of Christ that transcends time and space and remember the baptized people of God, both living and dead. We’ll speak the names of those who died in Christ this past year, and a candle will be lit for each newly baptized child of God. When we gather for the feast at the Lord’s table, first communion students will receive the meal for the first time. It’s a gift of grace—being loved and fed as a child of God in this life and the next.

On Sunday, there will be an opportunity to light candles in remembrance of loved ones, and in a space not far from the sanctuary (the narthex in Minnetonka, and small chapel in Minneapolis), we’ll create a “gallery of saints” with photos of saints whose baptism is now complete. You are welcome to bring photos and add them to the gallery. In worship, we’ll sing and pray together, give thanks for our life in Christ, and support those among us who are grieving loss.

We’ll also have a meet-and-greet with Chris Enstad, the candidate to be our next lead pastor, and his wife, Carrie. We hope to see you in church! For those who are unable to be there in person, we’ll catch you online.

Peace to you as we give thanks for the saints,

Pastor Kris

October 24, 2023 – Reformation Sunday: Wear Red!

From Pastors Meta Herrick Carlson and Heather Roth Johnson

Confirmation Stoles (1080x1080 px)

You are invited to wear red at worship on Sunday to honor the Holy Spirit’s reforming work in the body of Christ. Here’s what’s happening at both campuses:

The Affirmation of Baptism Service will take place at 1:00 pm this Sunday, October 29, and we have around 40 students who will affirm their faith. Red is the color of the day, and each student will receive a red scarf stole to mark the day. Thank you to all who knitted, crocheted, or weaved these gifts. The love from this church for our students is obvious in how you show up for them. One student wrote this in their faith statement on how they receive your love: “This church is one of the most accepting places I’ve ever been. God wants all of us to love one another and treat each other the way we would like to be treated. I think everyone in this church really embodies that.”

It’s a Bible Jubilee! The Sanctuary and Narthex will be filled with different translations and story bibles that have been sitting on shelves and in cabinets at church. They are yours to take home, share with a friend, or leave in a lending library where they just might come alive!

Until the Protestant Reformation began in 1517, most Christians could not read or did not have access to the scriptures in the language they spoke at home. It was a radical idea, translating bibles and putting them into the hands of people so everyone could explore, ask questions, push back, and wonder together instead of being told what to think about the Living Word. Every time you open a Bible and engage the scripture with others, you participate in the reformation story!

October 17, 2023 – Mental Health Awareness Events

From Diane Waarvik, director of Congregational Care Ministries

October is World Mental Health Awareness month. Mental health awareness is the ongoing effort to reduce the stigma around mental illness and mental health conditions by sharing our personal experiences. Often, because of misconceptions about mental health and mental fitness, people often suffer in silence and their conditions go untreated.

We want to look at mental health in a positive way. How do we care for our mental health? Music, diet, reading, quiet time, yoga and friends are some of the ways we care for our mental health.

Bethlehem’s Mental Health and Addiction Ministry has two events coming up this month:

The first is a Prayer and Healing Service on Tuesday, October 24, 7:00 pm, Minneapolis & Livestream. This service will focus on mental health and also on those living with a mental illness. We are all living in a world where we witness or experience pain, loss and hardships. This will be a service where we offer music, a message and prayer. Led by Rev. Hannah Campbell Gustafson, director of Mental Health Connect. All are welcome!

The second is a Live Concert on Friday, October 27, 5:45 pm, Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Community. The concert will feature David Lohman and Jen Burleigh Bentz. Both of these musicians are amazing artists and well known in the music world. The concert is a fundraiser for Mental Health Connect, a collaborative ministry of 33 faith communities. Please join us for a very enjoyable evening of music.

October 10, 2023 – 2024 Commitment Appeal: “All In”

From Pastor Vern Christopherson

We’re in the middle of our stewardship season. Our theme is All In. We’ll be encouraging people to think and pray about what it might mean for them to be all in when it comes to Bethlehem’s ministry and mission.

This year’s effort will take a bit longer—Commitment Sunday is November 19—because we’re doing an Integrated Appeal. In a nutshell, we’re folding our capital appeal efforts into our annual appeal. The goal is to have one appeal for you to support, and to make the stewardship process a little simpler.

Very soon we will be sending our donors an update on how much they’ve given to this year’s annual appeal. And if you’ve been able to contribute to the 2020 Building a Future with Hope Campaign, you’ll be getting an update on that as well. Thank you so much for your generosity. Just a reminder, our current capital campaign is coming to an end this October.

You’ve likely been hearing about cottage meetings. We’re inviting folks to gather in small groups, to discuss our connections with Bethlehem, to hear about our ministry priorities for 2024, and to answer any questions you might have. If for some reason you don’t get in invitation to a cottage meeting by the end of October, be sure to call the church office and we’ll get you on the list.

No doubt, these are exciting times for Bethlehem. The Call Committee is getting much closer to nominating a candidate as our next Lead Pastor. Your effort to support the work of Bethlehem will be instrumental in leading us into the future.

October 3, 2023 – Installation of Cas Stoll as Deacon Intern

From Pastor Heather Roth Johnson

About 18 months ago, I wrote up a job description for a Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Both Ryan Currens and I shared the job description on many different websites, and we received zero applications. After giving the job description some thought, Ryan and I gave it a facelift, and changed the title to Director of Service, Engagement, and Fun (for Youth and Young Adults). This time we got 8 excellent applicants and landed with the best one, Cas Stoll. Cas has worked hard to rebuild a youth group and young adult ministry that has fun at its center (because we want our students to have fun at church), be engaged with the Bible, and share in the work of service. It’s exciting to see this work flourish again!

Cas is also a student at Luther Seminary in St Paul, and they hope to be ordained as a deacon in the church. As pastors, we are called to Word and Sacrament, but deacons serve a different role. They are called to Word and Service. Here is how Cas sums up the ministry of being a deacon; they said, “Being a deacon is having one foot inside the church – preaching, leading, and teaching – and the other foot outside the church – serving, supporting, and caring for the community.”

Cas Stoll

Cas started their deacon internship here at Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities on September 1, and it will run through March 1, 2024. As a deacon intern, Cas will get to continue their work with youth and young adults as well as preach, visit some of our homebound seniors, and work on a special internship project.

Cas will be installed as Deacon Intern this Sunday, October 8 at the Minneapolis campus at both services and on Sunday, October 15 at 9:30 am in Minnetonka. We hope you will join us in celebrating Cas as Bethlehem’s new diaconal intern!

Thank you so much to everyone serving on their internship committee, including Nate Gabel (chair), Joann Ortendahl-Lucas, Sharon DeVries, Carrie Johnson, and Becca Totzke.

September 26, 2023 – Blessing of the Animals

From Pastor Meta Herrick Carlson

St. Francis of Assisi is remembered for his great love of nature and animals. He called all of God’s creatures his brothers and sisters, delighted by all they have to teach us about life. Until a few years ago, I did not consider myself “an animal person”. I’d never had a pet and didn’t want one, either. I appreciated the way other people loved their pets but couldn’t imagine caring that much about an animal. When I would say “never” about getting a dog, my kids were not deterred. And, as it always happens with my “never” statements, one day it was overruled by love.

These days I am an embarrassment to Old Meta, proudly dressing our three-year-old pit bull (Marshall, pictured) in cheesy sweaters and letting him get away with more than all three of my children combined. Marshall adds the best kind of chaos to our lives and I’m so glad I didn’t stick to my “never”. I have a better sense of what St. Francis was talking about and a deeper appreciation for my own identity as a beloved creature of God.

meta-blessing-animals (Marshall)

On Sunday, October 8, the Minnetonka campus worship service will be pet-friendly. The service will be a little shorter than it usually is and will include a Blessing of the Animals. If your pet would do well in a space with other animals, people and organ music, please bring them along! We just ask that they be leashed or crated.

The Minnetonka campus will have water bowls in the hallways and treats for them at coffee hour. If, like Marshall, your pet would fare better staying home, bring a picture of them or their favorite toy to bless. We’ll also have prayer cards you can take with you if you’d like to bless your pet at home.

We’ve “never” done this before. And, since I used that word again, I suppose that means we had better give it a try and see what we learn about love.

September 19, 2023 – Open Streets Lyndale

Pump up those bike tires or strap on your rollerblades—it’s almost time for Open Streets!

Since its inception in 2011, Open Streets Lyndale has been a highly anticipated community event in Minneapolis. Organized by Our Streets Minneapolis, Lyndale Avenue (from 22nd Street to just past the Minneapolis campus building at 42nd Street) is closed to traffic, transforming into a safe and welcoming space for biking, walking, community-building and play.

Each year, hundreds of unique participants fill the streets: neighborhood organizations, small businesses, local entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, campaigns, and nonprofits.

This year Open Streets Lyndale will be held on Sunday, October 8 from 11:00 am to 4:30 pm.

The stretch of Lyndale Avenue beside Bethlehem’s Minneapolis campus will once again feature a petting zoo with over 40 animals, sweet and savory delectables from Minnesota Nice Cream and Que Tal Street Eats, music from Spirit Garage bands, and much more. We invite you to come enjoy the fun!

Volunteers play a crucial role in making this event a success, and your help is greatly appreciated. If you’re interested in getting involved, you can easily sign-up to volunteer online, or reach out to Whitney Stofflet ([email protected]) for more information or any questions you may have.

Overall, Open Streets Lyndale offers a little something for everyone. From the car-free environment that encourages people to walk and bike, to the petting zoo, food trucks and live music, it’s an event that has become a beloved tradition in the community. So mark your calendars, gather your friends and family, and get ready to experience the magic of Open Streets Lyndale at Bethlehem’s Minneapolis campus.

September 12, 2023 – Building a Future Together with Hope: Emerson Village

Message from Pastor Meta Herrick Carlson

This congregation has been passionate about housing for a long time. Bethlehem works with several organizations and movements toward a future where every neighbor has a safe and affordable place to call home.

More often than not, this audacious goal can feel overwhelming or far off in the distance. But the actions we take together with Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative and our other partners are rooted in God’s values and tap into collective power that makes a big difference. A key ingredient in working for justice and liberation is JOY. When there’s a win, we come together and celebrate!

When you give to Bethlehem’s “Building a Future Together with Hope” Capital Campaign, a portion of your gift goes to building Emerson Village with Beacon, 40 safe and deeply affordable homes in North Minneapolis.

After years of public and private fundraising, community conversations, city council meetings, and more, it’s time to celebrate and break ground at Emerson Village!

We invite you to join us for the Emerson Village Groundbreaking Celebration on Thursday, September 21, 4:00-5:30 pm, Church of the Ascension, 1723 Bryant Ave. N. Please register in advance.

Learn more about Emerson Village here.

Thank you for your financial giving and community building that is making Emerson Village a reality. If you or someone you know is new to Beacon Housing and the work we share with the Interfaith Collaborative, this joyful event will be a great way to learn more. Spread the word and hope to see you at the groundbreaking!

September 5, 2023 – Celebration Sunday

Message from Pastor Vern Christopherson

We hope you make plans to join us this Sunday, September 10 for Celebration Sunday! After a summer with time away or vacation plans or sabbath rest, this is a time in the church to gather for celebratory worship and the start of fall programming.

Our sermon series for September is Radical Welcome. As we live into our new welcome statement at Bethlehem, we focus on the opportunity to welcome others into our midst, both the new and returning.

This week we’ll hear about a young mother who gave birth to Moses. Because the Hebrew slaves were a threat to Pharaoh, so were their children. Moses’ mother made a papyrus basket for little Moses, and placed him among the reeds of the Nile. Both Pharaoh’s daughter and Moses’ big sister found him there, and together they showed radical compassion for this new baby boy.

As we gather for Celebration Sunday at Bethlehem, we will be holding up a number of ways for children and adults to feel compassion and welcome here. Here are a few of them:

  • children and youth ministries are starting;
  • music ministries and choirs are beginning to rehearse;
  • Bible studies and small groups are organizing;
  • a special Campfire Church is happening on September 15;
  • and a second chance at Prayer Ground is beginning this month.

We’d love to have you be a part of things. Please know that you are welcome here!


August 29, 2023 – Childlike Wonder and Curiosity

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week: Pastor Heather talks about childlike wonder and curiosity.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?” Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

August 22, 2023 – Power and Authority

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week: Bethlehem’s Director of Music, Mark Paisar, muses on power and authority.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?” Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

August 15, 2023 – Hearing God’s Voice

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week: Dan Ruth, executive director of Bethlehem’s Outreach Partner, Lutheran Partners in Global Ministries, talks about where and from whom we can hear the voice of God.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?” Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

August 8, 2023 – Sowing Seeds

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week: Pastor Kris talks about sowing seeds with imagination and extravagance.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?” Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

August 1, 2023 – Challenging Expectations

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week: Pastor Holly from Spirit Garage talks about challenging expectations.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?” Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

July 25, 2023 – What it means to be family.

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week: Interim Associate Pastor Hans Lee talks about what it means to be family.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word. Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?” Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

July 18, 2023 – “Fear and Salvation”

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week: Pastor Kris talks about fear and salvation.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word. Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?” Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

July 11, 2023 – “Welcome and Rest”

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week: Emily Stoll, Director of Service, Engagement and Fun, talks about welcome and rest.


Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?”

July 4, 2023 – “What moves us to justice and mercy?”

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week: Bethlehem member Betsy Hoium asks what moves us to justice and mercy.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?”

June 27, 2023 – “What It Takes to Welcome”

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week:  Emily Stoll, Bethlehem’s director of Service, Engagement and Fun, talks about what it takes to welcome.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?”

June 20, 2023 – “The Hidden Parts of Ourselves”

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week:  Anni Coyle, music director at Spirit Garage, sings a prayer for the hidden parts of ourselves.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?”

June 13, 2023 – “How Do We Show Up and Try”

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week:  Council Member Elizabeth Appel talks about showing up and not overthinking things.

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?”

June 6, 2023 – “Getting It Right”

Come along with us, “Here and Now.” Encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today.

This week:  Pastor Heather talks about Matthew, perseverance, and “Getting It Right”

Throughout this summer, you will find weekly videos that get you thinking about our weekly message in new ways. We will hear a variety of voices who will make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word.

Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?”

May 30, 2023: Here and Now

This summer at Bethlehem, we will practice remembering that preachers and teachers are not the only ones who can be inspired to speak and make meaning of what we are hearing around the living word. Your experiences, doubts, wisdom and curiosities are faithful and shape your unique lens for encountering the holy ordinary and asking questions like, “What does this mean, and why does this matter, here and now?”

Come along with us for our new sermon series, “Here and Now,” which invites you to encounter scripture and signs, and then wonder aloud about how God is still speaking today. Weekly texts will be framed by questions that inspire us to make connections. And weekly videos will get you thinking about old stories in new ways.

This week’s Message Theme – Old metrics and tools are not always able to measure and hold a new thing.

This week’s Text – Matthew 9:14-17

May 23, 2023 – Sacred Sites Tour: Dakota Land

From Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

Last week, I went to the Festival of Homiletics in downtown Minneapolis, a preaching conference that draws more than a thousand people in-person and almost as many online to hear and learn from some of the best preachers in the country. There were wonderful moments throughout the week; one of the most memorable was being welcomed to open worship and the communion table by two Native American pastors, Dr. Kelly Sherman Conroy (Oglala Lakota) and the Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs (Mohican).

We were a diverse group gathered: descendants of enslaved Africans and European immigrants, Asian Americans and Canadian citizens, Indigenous people whose ancestors have lived in this region for thousands of years, and more. It was deeply meaningful to be welcomed by people whose families have lived here the longest. While I know many things about my Norwegian ancestors who came to a particular place in Minnesota 150 years ago, I know very little about the people who preceded them.

On Sunday afternoon, June 11, members and friends of Bethlehem are invited to participate in a Sacred Sites Tour to learn about Minnesota history from a Native perspective through storytelling and experiencing the sites in silence, meditation and reflection. The tour is part of Healing Minnesota Stories, an effort sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches to create understanding and healing between Native American and non-Native people, and begins at Church of St. Peter in St. Paul.

Participants will auto caravan to sites located around the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, known by the Dakota people as Bdote, or “meeting place of rivers”:

  • Fort Snelling State Park
  • Dakota Internment Camp following the The Dakota-U.S. War
  • Pilot Knob Hill, a traditional burial ground

The group is limited to 50 people, so we encourage you to register soon.

I participated in a Sacred Sites Tour last summer and look forward to experiencing it again to absorb even more stories and information. You can learn more and register here.

Read More & Register

May 16, 2023 – Pastor Meta’s Sabbatical Send-off

From Pastor Vern Christopherson

As you may know, Pastor Meta will be on Sabbatical this summer. We wish her a summer filled with discovering, learning and adventure!

Pastor Meta shared a lively list of her sabbatical plans in her latest edition of West Word. In case you missed it, the list includes co-hosting a trip to Israel and Palestine; a visit to Turkey; a road trip with family to Skagway, Alaska; some good books to read; and, of course, a life-giving change of pace along the way.

You are invited to join in this Sunday, May 21 at the Minnetonka campus 9:30 am worship where there will be a blessing and send-off for Pastor Meta. And following worship, the good folks at the Minnetonka campus will be hosting a celebratory breakfast in her honor. Everyone is invited to attend. Register by May 17, available here or by calling the Minnetonka campus church office (952-935-3419).

In her absence, Pastor Hans Lee will be helping with preaching, worship leadership and some occasional pastoral care.

Pastor Hans has served as a pastor in the Minneapolis Area Synod for more than 25 years, at three congregations: Our Saviour’s in Minneapolis, Christ the King in Bloomington, and Calvary in Minneapolis. He has also served as an interim pastor in three congregations. Hans is a graduate of Luther College and Luther Seminary. He and his wife, Nancy Nickerson Lee, have three adult sons: Danny, Larry and Marcus, and also two grandchildren. Pastor Hans says that he is “looking forward to being among the Bethlehem community this summer!”

Pastor Hans Lee

May 9, 2023 – Ending Well: Planning for End-of-Life

From Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

“For everything there is a season…”

One of my favorite children’s books, “More” by I.C. Springman and Brian Lies, is about a magpie who finds cool stuff and brings it to its nest. There’s a marble, and then a coin and a Lego. Pretty soon, there’s a key and a watch and a pearl necklace, a bolt and a stamp and a spool of thread. All of it is useful, at least to someone, but it doesn’t take long before the accumulation of things is overwhelming. With the help of some friendly mice, the bird begins to empty the nest, until eventually it’s just enough.

It dawns on me that for us humans, we spend the first part of our lives getting ready to leave our parent(s)’ nest, and then we begin to build a nest of our own. Eventually—whether we accumulate more than we need or just the right amount of stuff—the things we have will no longer be useful to us, and someone will need to help empty our nest, perhaps when we are ill or after we have died. We know that things will go most smoothly if we make our wishes known ahead of time. We might also ask, what would we like our loved ones to know about what mattered to us in this life? How will we tell them?

Last summer, a member of Bethlehem and I met to plan her mom’s funeral, and she brought along her mom’s LBW (the green hymnal that precedes the red one). Her mom had been a piano teacher, so her LBW was an obvious place to record her favorite things—hymns, Bible passages and a blessing that had been meaningful to her. When it came time to plan her funeral, this beloved matriarch had given us a road map.

Next Tuesday, we’ll begin a two-part series about end-of-life planning that will be held on May 16 and 23. We’ll look at legal and financial matters, as well as health care directives and funeral arrangements. We’ll ask the question, what would you like your legacy to be? Whether you are well on your way planning or are just beginning, you are welcome to attend one or both of these sessions. Register and learn more here.

May 2, 2023 – Mental Health Awareness Month

From Diane Waarvik, Director of Congregational Care Ministries

Mental Health Month was established in 1949 to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in Americans’ lives, and to celebrate recovery from mental illness. May is observed nationally as Mental Health Awareness Month. It provides an opportunity to learn more about this challenge to the well-being of persons of all ages and identify ways to address those in need of help. Mental health is essential for a person’s overall health.

To kick off Mental Health Month, Bethlehem’s Mental Health and Addiction Ministry is having Reverend Dr. Ed Treat, CEO of the Center of Addiction and Faith, and member of the Mental Health Connect board, speak on Tuesday, May 2 at 7:00 pm. His topic is the  Role of Faith in Addiction Recovery. This engaging presentation will explore the extent of the addiction problem in Minnesota; recognize who is most vulnerable to addiction; and discuss what faith communities can and should do to help its members. It will be hosted in the Minneapolis campus sanctuary and also live streamed.

In addition, on Thursday, May 11 at 8:00 am, Mental Health Connect’s annual breakfast fundraiser, Stories of Hope, will be held at Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church. Mental Health Connect provides community-based resources, support and education to improve access to mental health services and to connect individuals and families with the services they need.

For more information on either event, or to get involved with the Mental Health and Addiction Ministry, contact Diane Waarvik at 612-701-4604.

April 25, 2023 – Volunteer Appreciation

From Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

April is ‘national volunteer appreciation month’ when the culture around us recognizes the value of people coming together to create community. The church celebrates its volunteers, too, and is grateful for the many ways people share their gifts and passions, their willingness to serve, and their desire to grow that help knit our community together. It’s part of how we work together as the body of Christ.

Speaking of bodies, thanks to all who use their…

  • Hands to count or pour or sweep; to play an instrument; type, or beautify our spaces;
  • Eyes to notice and welcome;
  • Arms to wield a hammer or hoe, offer a hug, or beckon another come in;
  • Feet to walk alongside another;
  • Voice to read or sing or make a phone call;
  • Mind to organize or remember or take notice;
  • Ears to listen;
  • Heart to show compassion.

Whether you share your gifts in worship, help form faith in others, deepen relationships with those around, extend mercy beyond ourselves, or serve wherever needed, thank you for being part of this community and sharing in the work of God’s vision for a healed world.

Thank You

There are ‘thank you’ boards at each campus where you can write a message of thanks for volunteers and read notes of gratitude from the congregation. Check it out some time this month!

April 18, 2023 – Summer Fun and Adventure

From Pastor Heather Roth Johnson

Summer IS happening for children, youth, families, and more! And it is coming SOON! Check out these fun events:

Looking for summer fun and adventures for you and your family? Join us for Vacation Bible School in Minneapolis and Minnetonka. Between these two options, you can sign-up for the traditional model, a family style in the evenings, or once a month after worship. Check out the Children, Youth and Family Summer webpage here. We love volunteers, too!

Can’t make it to VBS? Join Pastor Heather for a few evenings in the summer for Family Scrappy Art and Bible Fun. We meet outside in the evenings on Wednesdays, July 26 and August 23 from 6:00–7:00 pm. We will do art that you don’t normally do at home! Register here.

All students, entering grades 6–8 in the fall are invited to gather for the Summer Brunch Bunch on Sunday mornings for muffins, juice and time together. This starts June 4 on Sundays between services from 9:50–10:25 am in the Viking Room (third floor) at the Minneapolis campus. Students can also join Jayn for Friday Hangouts in Minneapolis starting Friday, June 30. They’ll have pizza plus a variety of activities, service projects, time together, and maybe a field trip or two. Learn more here.

Bethlehem Youth are traveling to Salt Lake City from July 15–23 for a Service Learning Trip! We are glad to be partnering with Service Learning Camps to craft an experience tailored to our group’s unique interests. There is still room available! More information and registration can be found here.

This summer, women of all ages (over the age of 18) are invited to join Pastor Heather on a Boundary Waters Canoe Trip. The trip is from Friday, August 4 to Monday, August 7. As a group, we will spend 4 days/3 nights canoeing and camping in the BWCA. All equipment, food and a trained guide are included in the cost. The deadline to register is May 15. Check out more information and register here.

April 11, 2023 – The Physicality of Faith: Easter Small Group & Walking Groups

Christ is Risen, Alleluia! This spring we’ll hear scripture stories about life after death, paying attention the physicality of faith and the way Jesus and the disciples embody the resurrection. This is a season for paying attention to our emotions and breath, our bodies and movements. Sometimes we forget that faith is not only spiritual or intellectual. We can practice our faith by eating and walking together, journaling and breathing together. We can practice our faith by having challenging conversations that make us uncomfortable and curious. We can practice our faith by noticing the physical world around us in more detail.

If you didn’t pick up a printed copy of the study guide for the Easter season on Sunday, you can access a digital one here. Get together with your small group this season or join a Monday evening conversation. Register for the Embodied Journaling class with Ellie Roscher or find a walking group that works with your weekday schedule. May your body know deep compassion during this season of Easter, your gentle attention a witness to the resurrection and to the physicality of faith in Jesus.


April 4, 2023 – The Three Days

From Pastor Vern Christopherson

When evening comes this Thursday, the bell will toll three times and mark the beginning of the Three Days. This is the holiest portion of our faith story. I hope you will make every opportunity to join in our storytelling from Matthew. If you can’t make it in person, consider streaming our worship. Many of the worship events come directly out of the biblical story.

Maundy Thursday, April 6
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus gathers with his disciples for a Seder Meal, remembering the Exodus from Egypt. Before the night is over, he will have knelt and washed his disciples’ feet, encouraging them to do the same in serving others.

After the foot washing, Jesus takes bread and wine from the Seder Meal, and transforms it into a meal to remember his suffering and death. We will share this meal. Then afterwards, we have an opportunity to wash our hands and be reminded of our need to serve.

Minneapolis – 7:00 pm
Minnetonka – 7:00 pm

Minneapolis – 7:00 pm
Minnetonka – 7:00 pm
Livestream – 7:00 pm

Maundy Thursday (1080 × 1080 px) (1)

Good Friday, April 7
On Good Friday, we will hear the story of Jesus’ final day. The congregation will participate in the story telling. We will feel the sting of betrayal by Judas and denial by Peter. We’ll hear Jesus stand trial before Jewish authorities for the uproar he caused in the temple.

And we’ll hear him facing the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who alone has the power to sentence him to death. A large crowd will gather for the trial. We will be in that crowd, even crying out for him to be crucified. Near the close of the service, we will come to the cross with our sins and struggles, freely admitting our need for forgiveness.

Minneapolis – 7:00 pm
Minnetonka – 7:00 pm
Livestream – 7:00 pm

Easter Sunday, April 9
Matthew tells us that only a few women were present when Joseph of Arimathea tended to Jesus. The body was wrapped in a linen cloth and laid in a rock-hewn tomb. The next day was the sabbath, a day of rest. Undoubtedly for Jesus’ followers, it was also a day to grieve. Matthew mentions that the Jewish authorities went to Pilate, asking him to place a guard at the tomb because Jesus himself had said that after three days, he would rise.

Can the fear and joy of Easter be far behind? Join us again for the greatest story ever told. You don’t want to miss it!

Minneapolis – 6:00, 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00 am
Minnetonka – 9:30 am
Livestream – 6:00 am and 9:30 am


March 28, 2023- Maundy Thursday Soup Supper

From Pastor Heather Roth Johnson

One thing I can tell you about Jesus is that he loved to eat. There are several stories of Jesus eating with sinners, tax collectors and the disciples. If I had to guess his favorite food, I would pick bread. Jesus loved bread. With five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus fed a crowd of more than 5,000 people. Jesus reveals himself to us as, “I am the bread of life.” At the Last Supper, Jesus shared bread and wine with his best friends as a way of recognizing and remembering him.

Maundy Thursday Soup Dinner 2022

This Maundy Thursday, April 6 at both campuses, you will get a chance to break bread together for soup supper at 6:00 pm, before the 7:00 pm worship service. Here are the menus:

  • Minneapolis: Chicken Noodle Soup, Squash Soup, Bread, Salad & Cookies
  • Minnetonka: Ham & Wild Rice Soup, Fresh Veggies, Bread, & Dessert

We all know that food is important to our well-being and health, but so is being together. We all long to belong, to feel welcomed, and need other people in our lives. Good food is best eaten in good company. That’s who we are together—good company. Here are a few other reasons why we should eat together:

  • Sharing meals gives us a chance for fellowship, conversation and getting to know each other better.
  • It’s a physical embodiment of a key part of Jesus’ ministry.
  • Research has clearly shown that sharing meals can greatly boost our wellbeing.
  • Gathering for a meal with your church family is an earthly representation of the heavenly banquet imagery.
  • It’s good to catch up with each other!

Don’t forget to add Maundy Thursday Dinner to your calendar. Bring a friend with you. Please register so we can best plan for you:


March 21, 2023 – Extending the Communion Table

From Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

This past Sunday, I said a prayer of thanks as I walked down the aisle to introduce a newly baptized child to the congregation, and again when I handed communion kits to the Home Communion Ministers. During the COVID shutdown, we paused or adapted nearly every aspect of how we come together as a community, including how we celebrate the sacraments. While we have resumed or reimagined many things, the heart of what we do hasn’t changed.

In baptism, we name promises made by God to the newest member of the congregation, and we make promises of our own, as well, committing to help them grow in faith. Parents and sponsors agree to bring their children to the holy supper, for example.

To help them prepare, we’re offering a First Communion class for families this Sunday, 11:30 am–1:00 pm, Minneapolis campus. If your child(ren) are not yet communing, we hope you’ll join us. Learn more and register here. For families that would rather participate from home we do have an independent study online Google Classroom.

First Communion at Bethlehem

For over a decade we’ve been extending the communion table to people not able to come to worship through Lay Eucharistic Ministry or, as we now call it, Home Communion Ministry. As part of the communion liturgy, we send trained members to deliver consecrated elements to members who are not physically present as an extension of Sunday worship. The benefits are twofold: those receiving communion at home are able to participate in the body of Christ, and those who have gathered publicly recognize their oneness with those who are absent. We are delighted to have resumed this ministry.

Of course, we discovered during the pandemic that livestream worship is a meaningful way to participate in public worship, and we can even share the meal using bread and wine or crackers and juice from home. Yet, the gift of one another’s presence is a blessing, so we have resumed Home Communion Ministry for those unable to be present. If you or someone you know would like to receive communion at home or in a care facility, or if you would like to deliver communion, please email Pastor Kris to explore the options.

Happy spring!

March 14, 2023 – Prayer Partners for Families

From Pastor Heather Roth Johnson

Maybe you know this, but we have a team of people working on “All Things Kids in Worship” at the Minneapolis campus. One team member mentioned a really great idea about how her work does a “coffee connection” every month. The goal of the “coffee connection” is to help people connect to others in the workplace they don’t know. She wondered if this idea could be something that could work at church—not necessarily the coffee part—but connecting young families to older adults in the congregation.

Intergenerational ministry is at the core of what it means to be the church. Psalm 78 shares that we as God’s people are called to pass down God’s story to the younger generations. It’s one of the most important reasons to connect with people outside your friend group at church.

But here are a few more reasons why intergenerational relationships at church are so important:

  • Strength – Intergenerational relationships build a stronger community and strengthens us as the body of Christ.
  • Connectivity – Being together and being known reduces isolation and loneliness in people.
  • Purpose – Praying for one another gives us purpose in our relationships and a responsibility to follow up with them.
  • Valued – Bethlehem values its people at all ages and stages of life.

After Easter, the Children, Youth and Family team hopes to engage in this intergenerational ministry connecting our young families with older adults in the congregation through prayer partners. Please know that being a prayer partner does not ask you to be physically alone with the children, but that you become a familiar name and face who sees and supports them when they are in person at program events and in worship.

Here is the prayer partner commitment::

  • Praying for the family weekly from Easter Sunday to Celebration Sunday 2023.
  • Send monthly postcards to the family (postcards can be picked up at church).
  • A Summer Bingo Card of activities to do together or apart.
  • Join the Ice Cream Social Event for prayer partners and families on Wednesday, August 23 at 6:30 pm at the Minneapolis campus.

Families are busy during the month of May as the school year wraps up. Summer is a different beast in Minnesota with camps, vacation and just being outside. Your friendship and prayerful support would create another tie to the community and a new connection that meets them where they are.

If you are interested in becoming a prayer partner, please email Pastor Meta (Minnetonka campus) or Pastor Heather (Minneapolis campus).

March 7, 2023 – FoodShare Month

From Pastor Meta Herrick Carlson

March is Minnesota FoodShare Month, a campaign that brings together businesses and organizations to support the work of more than 300 food share programs across the state. Organizations like ICA and CES are helping neighbors get the resources they need to be safe and successful. By addressing food insecurity with their clients, they can also offer support for finding employment, housing, and other community resources.

Last year, food shelves across Minnesota saw a dramatic increase in first-time visitors and are serving more households than ever before. ICA staff says that some long-time donors have become clients in recent months, a good reminder that we’re all created to be generous and we’re all in need of support from our community sometimes.

There are collection sites for canned and boxed goods at both of Bethlehem’s campuses, or you can give a financial gift online. Your donations can make all the difference for someone trying to decide if they can afford rent, gas, prescriptions, and groceries in any given week.

It’s a simple way to practice our faith: living like God’s abundance is real and sharing what we have so everyone has enough.

February 28, 2023 – Love Beyond Measure

From Pastor Meta Herrick Carlson

Yesterday I sent my kids off to school for the first time in more than a week. It was back to a morning structured by all kinds of metrics: three lunches, two permission slips, one science project, four hair braids and six rain boots. We measured time by hollering: Ten Minutes! Two Minutes! Let’s Go!

This season we hear stories from scripture about how the God of heaven measures some things differently than humans on earth: success, time, wealth, mercy and justice to name a few. As we move through Lent toward the cross, we remember that Jesus showed us what Love Beyond Measure looks, sounds, smells, tastes and feels like. In Christ, we have everything we need to Love Beyond Measure, too.

Join us for Wednesday Lenten Services at 7:00 pm in-person at both campuses and online. The livestream will move back and forth between our two campuses each week for evening prayer, featuring both sanctuaries over the course of the season. There will be a different guest ensemble each week.

Invite your senses to find Love Beyond Measure this season. Soup and hearty sides will be served at the Minnetonka campus every Wednesday from 6:00-6:50 pm before worship. This week the menu is Zuppa Tuscana, Caesar salad, bread, dessert. The daily lent devotional highlights all kinds of stories and scripture verses that invite us to pay attention to God’s measures.

The logistics of parenting and daily life mean I will keep counting backpacks and traffic delays, but the gifts of this season will ask me to measure with hugs when they get home, music playlists while I wait, and deep breaths that give thanks for all the ways I know Love Beyond Measure.

February 21, 2023 – Bethlehem Annual Meeting

From Pastor Vern Christopherson

Bethlehem’s Annual Meeting is scheduled for this coming Sunday at 11:30 am at the Minneapolis campus in the Sanctuary. Granola bars and snacks for those who might need sustenance. will be available in the Gallery. As worship ends, we will pause for a few minutes, welcome additional attendees, and then continue with the meeting.

Annual Meeting 2022 (1080 x 1080 px) (2)

The main portion of the meeting will involve many of the regular items of business: the president’s report, the treasurer’s report, an update on the Capital Campaign and from both the Bethlehem Foundation, and the election of council members.

In addition to these regular items, we will have a discussion about the Church Council’s new welcome statement. And we will get an update on where we stand in the formation of a Call Committee. Handheld mics will be available throughout for any in-person attendees who want to ask questions.

The Annual Meeting will be livestreamed.

Online participants will have an option to submit questions and participate in polls as they happen. We will also make every attempt to accommodate those asking questions online. Please remember that there is about a 60 second delay, so the Q & A and the polls will be a little behind what you see on the screen.

This is an important week in the interim at Bethlehem. Bishop Ann Svennungsen presented a report on the Ministry Site Profile on February 20. If you were unable to attend, you can watch the Livestream here. In the midst of this, we’ll be gathering to make decisions on how we will operate in the coming year. As I see it, God has been doing lots of good work in and through the people of Bethlehem. Thanks for the part you have played in it!

February 14, 2023 – Love Beyond Measure

From Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

On Sunday, Pastor Meta announced that we were in the third trimester of winter, and some of us began to flip through our calendars counting the months. Could it be true, we wondered? The days have begun to lengthen, and some of us (though not all of us) feel a need to be done with winter. We’re coming close to Lent, the season that takes its name from the word ‘lengthen’, the season of the church year when we get ready for Easter.

Next Wednesday, February 22, is Ash Wednesday. We’ll gather for worship and mark our foreheads with ashes, acknowledging that one day we will die and return to the earth. Clear-eyed that God is God and we are not, we’ll begin a 40-day journey to return to God. With the sign of the life-giving cross on our foreheads, we’ll remember that in baptism, we’ve been washed in God’s mercy and forgiveness, and following Jesus, we’ll strive to bear the fruits of mercy and justice in the world.

Ash Wednesday worship begins at 7:00 pm at both campuses and on livestream. We’ll also have a family blessing at 5:45 pm in Minneapolis and on livestream. New this year, you are welcome to stop by the Minnetonka or Minneapolis campuses between noon–1:00 pm to receive ashes-to-go and a blessing.

Throughout Lent, we’ll gather at both campuses and on livestream on Wednesdays at 7:00 pm for worship using Holden Evening Prayer. Guest musicians will join us. Keep an eye out for a Lent devotional resource for all ages. Our Lenten theme is, “Love Beyond Measure.”

…which reminds me, Happy Valentine’s Day! May your hearts be warmed by love today.

February 7, 2023 – Day of Service

From Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

Looking for a meaningful way to connect with others and make a difference in the world? There are several hands-on opportunities in the coming week, and we hope you’ll find one that calls your name.

This Saturday, February 11, people of all ages from all Bethlehem campuses with gather in Minneapolis for Day of Service 2023—a morning of service projects and community building, followed by a delicious lunch. Come at 9:00 am for check-in, coffee and treats. Friends are always welcome!

We’ll begin by learning about My Very Own Bed, a local organization that provides beds for children whose families have recently transitioned from homelessness to a place of their own, and we’ll support them with a ‘noisy offering,’ as well as dream kits that include a children’s book and blanket. High school students will tie blankets for the kits.

Saturday participants are invited to donate a children’s book or two, and add to the collection begun by ECHO Sunday School kids. Meg Hobday from My Very Own Bed will be our keynote speaker. We’ll also hear updates on our connection with young women in Guatemala through Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry.

Then we’ll head downstairs to roll bandages and assemble newborn and hospice kits to be distributed by our international mission partner, Global Health Ministries. We’ll also assemble ‘Days for Girls’ kits with menstrual supplies for young women in the U.S. If you want to take a break, you’re welcome to experience ‘healing touch.’ The morning concludes with lunch.

Hosted by women in Minneapolis, this event is open to all (not just women and girls!), and we’re pleased that folks from Spirit Garage, Minnetonka and Minneapolis have already registered.

Learn more and reigster here.

Want to see what happens to the newborn and hospice kits packed at Day of Service 2023 when they leave church? SALT (Seniors Active in Life Together) will volunteer at Global Health Ministries in Fridley on Monday, February 13, 10:00 am–Noon. Learn more.

Inclined to support hungry people instead? Families and people of all ages are welcome to volunteer at CES Food Shelf in Minneapolis on Saturday, February 11, 10:00 am–Noon. Learn more.

These are just a few of the ways we’re “becoming together and sharing in the work of God’s vision for a healed world.” Financial contributions can be made toward any of these efforts through Realm.

Thanks for being part of Bethlehem Lutheran Church Twin Cities!

January 31, 2023 – Projects of Change

From Emily Stoll, Director of Service, Engagement and Fun

There’s nothing quite like the Rocky Mountains to make you feel small. Seeing a giant, pristine white-capped mountain stare down at you from thousands of feet into a wide blue sky is something you don’t easily forget—and something that comes to mind when I hear the passage about faith like a mustard seed.

I’m not much of a gardener—but I do know how small seeds are—a hundred or so fitting easily in the palm of a hand. And yet, Jesus promises us that faith the size of a tiny little seed is all we need to move one of those pristine peaks.

This is partly why the Capital Campaign has set aside $25,000 to give away as “seeds” for projects of change in your neighborhood. We know that each of you have community spaces outside of Bethlehem that you pour your time, love and talents into. We are hoping that together, with the love you have for your neighborhoods, and these small seed grants, we can affect a mountain of change.

Projects can be as simple as handing out granola bars to a passerby, or as big as hosting a fundraiser dinner for a specific cause. A Bethlehem staff member would work with you to develop your project and see it through to the end. There’s no formal application process, no experience necessary. Just a willingness to see what a tiny bit of seed money can do in your neighborhood. Who knows, maybe it’ll even move mountains.

For more information or to sign-up to do a project, please email Emily Stoll.

January 24, 2023 – We Are Many Voices

From Mark Paisar, Director of Music

“And so, with all the choirs of angels, with the church on earth and the hosts of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn…”

When we hear these words in worship, our voices prepare to burst forth in song as we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord.” This moment in worship is a powerful reminder that we are all part of a larger choir of believers. One that stretches through time and space. It is a choir that connects us with the saints that have come before us, those with whom we gather now, and those that come after us. It reminds us that although we are many voices, we are in fact one in the body of Christ.

Taking part in this choir can have transformative potential that calls us forward in our journeys to live more fully as members of the body of Christ. This is why the Choral Scholarship Program was created. By inviting college-aged adults into the music ministry here at the church, we are hoping to cultivate an awareness and appreciation for how music ministry and the church, in general, can be a meaningful part of their lives after graduation.

Starting this past September, we have welcomed three choral scholars into the music ministry here at Bethlehem. Chris, Danny, and Richard participated in the Chancel Choir at the Minnetonka campus during the fall semester. During this spring semester, we are delighted to welcome Chris and Richard as they continue in this program with the Bethlehem Chorale.

A special thank you to the Bethlehem Foundation for funding this year’s choral scholarship program. This grant was given in memory and honor of Dick Dronen.

choral scholars spring 2023

January 17, 2023 – What Connects Us?

From Pastor Heather Roth Johnson

Church is a unique experience. I mean, where else can you find a 3-year-old sitting next to a 93-year-old? I was reminded on Sunday, while baptizing babies, that what connects the generations at church together isn’t age. But it’s God’s love that tethers us to each other. Baptism is an act of that love.

(Keep scrolling down because I have an invitation for you at the bottom.)

Being a part of God’s family is a gift found in baptism. This public event promises the child that they are loved by the congregation, and to the parents that they don’t need to shoulder this responsibility alone. This is why families of Bethlehem love these promises, and you are a part of their child’s faith journey.

Check out what they had to say:

  • The congregation makes kids feel welcomed: “I love how we see kids in worship, we get grounded when Jesus says, ‘Let the children come.’” (Linae)
  • You as the congregation understand that “they cannot learn to be the church without being in church.” (Sherry)
  • Because you know how important children are to the church, and you are “more than tolerant of them when they are fussy toddlers and moody teenagers.” (Annie)
  • Our church offers “space to grow, learn and make mistakes, and you offer them a space at the table.” (Laura)
  • As parents and caregivers, the congregation can be “an additional support system for parents and for kids, and that you will love these children just the way they are.” (Katie)
  • The church is a “trusted ally, someone kids can talk to when they have awkward questions about faith and life. And we promised to love and support each child in their walk of faith.” (Deb & Mike)

That’s it. We welcome kids in worship, because of how YOU love, and that’s what Bethlehem does so well, love.

Here’s the Invitation: The Children, Youth and Family staff is creating a team to lean into our congregational promise to love these children and students even more. We are looking for a few more team members of all ages, from 3–93, to be a part of this important work we promise to do. This team will make considerations on “all things kids” in worship such as the prayer ground, pew partners for the newly baptized, or pew information on how to connect with families of little ones.

If you are interested in being on this team, please contact Pastor Heather.

January 10, 2022 – Do One New Thing

From Pastor Heather Roth Johnson

During the pandemic, my son worked at Eric’s Bike Shop in Roseville as a bike mechanic. Noah’s college classes had moved online, and his job became increasingly busy. He told us stories about how people who had never ridden a bike before were buying bikes right off the saleroom floor, or how the store had to close down for a few days just so the mechanics could keep up with bike repairs.

What I noticed from his stories was that people were willing to do new things! (My new thing was to learn how to knit because I already had a bike.) Doing new things is good for the brain, it puts fear in the backseat, gives you a shot of dopamine, and marks time in a different way.

Maybe you have noticed that the church is doing some new things? Check out these new things you can do, and the best part? Anyone can join in. Do one new thing this Epiphany season. It’s good for the soul, and it’s good for the community.

Dinner Church & Story Swap

Can’t make it to church on Sunday mornings? Join Pastor Heather for dinner church on Sunday evenings. Our first meeting is on Sunday, January 15, 5:30–6:30 pm, Minneapolis campus.

Epiphany is the season of light, so we will light some candles, eat some warm food, and share in community. We will meet for give Sunday nights, and you can choose which nights work for you! Any questions? Just ask Pastor Heather. Register here.

Across Generations: Dine n’ Discuss

Youth and congregational members are invited to bring someone they care about from a different generation for these round-table lunch events. We’ll meet once monthly, and our first meeting is on Sunday, January 22, 11:30 am, Minneapolis campus Gallery.

We’ll talk about all kinds of silly things, like K-Pop and T-Swift, and more serious things, like church traditions, race, the environment, and gender and sexuality. Come to laugh, converse and connect across generations. Lunch is included. Any questions? Contact Emily Stoll. Register here.

Across Generations: Technology Help Night!

Join the youth group on Wednesday, January 25, 6:30 pm, Minneapolis campus Sanctuary for a night of technology help. Bethlehem youth will be present to answer questions and help troubleshoot any tech questions people may have.

Feel free to bring smartphones, tablets, remotes or other devices. Any questions? Contact Emily Stoll. Register here.

January 3, 2023 – Twelfth Night Bonfire

From Pastor Meta Herrick Carlson

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing Advent and Christmas a little bit backwards. Try as I might, it’s hard to wait and wonder at a slower place in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The church calendar is full, and there are plenty of opportunities for shopping, parties, winter sports, music concerts, family, friends, and good food. December is full!

And then something happens on Christmas Day. Technically, the season of Christmas is just beginning, but we finally hunker down and rest for the last few days of the year. There are fewer emails and deadlines and pressing engagements. There’s a deep, collective breath before New Year Resolutions and the hustle comes calling again.

In my blessing “For a New Year” in “Ordinary Blessings,” I write, “Perhaps this year’s resolve is to heal who I already am. My person does not need fixing or replacing so much as mending and gentle attention.” We are a few days into 2023 and this is a good time to remember that you are already loved and enough. You don’t have to be someone else to be worthy and here.

I hope the gentle pace of the Christmas season can remain with you for a few more days, that you still have access to that deep, collective breath. And then, when you’re ready, cut a bough from your tree or garland for the Twelfth Night Bonfire on Thursday, January 5 at the Minnetonka campus. It’s a farewell to Christmas celebration, with cozy drinks and all the songs we want to sing one more time before Epiphany dawns.

December 27, 2022 – Capital Campaign Update

By The Capital Campaign Committee

The third and final year of this Capital Campaign is underway. We want to thank you for your continued generosity. Your participation and contributions have had a great impact within our own community and across the globe.

  • Bethlehem Twin Cities continues to have mortgage payments paid as well as building projects completed thanks to the money set aside for these important things. Is the sanctuary feeling extra cozy? The new HVAC units are a wonderful thing, right?
  • Thanks to funds provided to Mental Health Connect, they have been able to fully staff their Navigation phone line/email as well as hire a Navigator Lead position who can help support staff and develop training around important and relevant topics.
  • Beacon continues to take steps forward with the exciting Emerson Village build in North Minneapolis. Public funding is nearly all secured, land use has been granted, and building will begin in 2023! Click here for an inspiring video from Beacon.
  • The family housing units at The Ejeda Hospital in Madagascar have not yet been constructed but we are happy to hear that the funds we have already disbursed could possibly fund the full project. We anticipate learning more when Global Health Ministries staff are able to visit the site in 2023.
  • Starfish Ministries has been a very important resource to so many, especially over the past two years. As we face recession and the end of many subsidies/programs created in 2020/2021, the need for this resource is growing substantially. The funds committed by the Capital Campaign are intended to sustain Starfish in these three years.
  • Capital campaign funds have made a big difference at Parktown School and the boarding home at Melpattambakkam (MKM) in India, replacing a roof at MKM and much more. Click here for more details and here for pictures.
  • This winter we are excited to involve our young adults in reaching out to our community with a portion of the funds set aside for neighborhood restoration.

As we enter into the last nine months of this “Building a Future with Hope” campaign, we are HOPEful that we will reach our goal of $2 million dollars. $1.52 million are currently committed from 337 households. Remember:

  • There is no perfect time to “jump in” and no minimum gift requirement.
  • The challenge from the Bethlehem Foundation remains for anyone who has not participated in a Capital Campaign before. They will add an additional $300 contribution to any gift, of any size.

December 20, 2022 – You’re invited to Christmas at Bethlehem Twin Cities!

staff-christmas2 card

Wishing you joy this season…
Merry Christmas from the Bethlehem Staff!

We invite you to join us for Christmas worship at Bethlehem, either in person or online. We’ll join in festive music, listen to the timeless Christmas story, and gather around the table for Christ’s love and forgiveness.

Christmas Worship Times

DECEMBER 20 — Longest Night Service of Hope & Healing
(MTKA) 7:00 pm
(MPLS & Livestream) 7:00 pm 
DECEMBER 24 — Christmas Eve Worship
(MTKA) 4:00 pm
(MPLS & Livestream) 10:00 am3:005:00 & 10:00 pm 
(Spirit Garage) 8:00 pm
DECEMBER 25 — Christmas Day Worship
(MTKA) 9:30 am
(MPLS & Livestream) 10:30 am

Services on Christmas will include carols and communion. Come 15 minutes early for beautiful prelude music. We look forward to the warmth of candlelight on Christmas Eve during the singing of “Silent Night.” All Minneapolis services will be livestreamed.

December 13, 2022 – The Longest Night

From Pastor Kris Tostengard Michel

It’s the third week of Advent, and I’ve been waiting and watching and wondering, trying not to get too carried away by Christmas preparations before Advent has had its season. There are concerts and parties to attend, cards to write, and thoughtful gestures to make. It’s a complicated season with cultural expectations of happiness dwelling alongside Advent longing. Sometimes sadness sneaks up and overshadows joyful anticipation.

The holidays can be difficult for those experiencing grief. The death of a loved one or loss of a job, estranged relationships or physical distance, unfulfilled hopes for what might have been are especially painful. Sometimes the holidays stir up grief we thought was long settled. We might feel exposed and out of place, or equally painful, invisible. It’s hard to participate in the usual celebrations.

Next week, just before the winter solstice when night is longest, we’ll gather for worship on both campuses, with the explicit invitation to bring your whole self. Using the liturgy of Holden Evening Prayer, we’ll sing with Mary in response to the angel’s surprising announcement. We’ll light candles to acknowledge our prayers and longing in the midst of darkness. And we’ll feast on the heavenly meal in which God still comes to us, even now.

Whether you are experiencing pain or loss this season or simply want to be part of the body of Christ that comes together for worship, please join us for The Longest Night: A Christmas Service of Hope & Healing on Tuesday, December 20, 7:00 pm, in Minneapolis or Minnetonka.

Longest Night 2022

December 6, 2022 – The Call at Christmas

From Pastor Meta Herrick Carlson

Perhaps you’ve heard about the work we share with Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. It’s a movement of more than 100 congregations of varied faiths and sizes working together toward a common vision: that everyone would have a home. The Minnetonka campus goes way back—more than 30 years—with Beacon’s Families Moving Forward (FMF) program. Congregations in the collaborative take turns hosting families experiencing homelessness while they are waiting for a place to call home.

Before the pandemic, congregations prepared to host by turning Sunday school classrooms into cozy bedrooms, making meals and stocking the kitchen. For now, families stay in hotel rooms and volunteers bring the groceries and meals each day. Because congregations and volunteers have adapted, the FMF program continues to provide emergency shelter and stability for families nearly home!

The Minneapolis campus started hosting in December a few years ago. Beacon was having a hard time finding churches to host during Christmas and the synagogues in the collaborative couldn’t do it alone. Volunteers from Bethlehem recognized that our name was enough reason to say YES. This is the call at Christmas—to make more room and extend welcome. That’s where Jesus shows up.

When you shop at the Alternative Gift Fair this weekend, look for ways to support the work we share with Beacon. You can gift a Welcome Home Laundry Basket to a new resident at Great River Landing, filled with the household supplies we all need to take care of our space.

And you can gift in support of Families Moving Forward, providing meals and safe shelter for a family. I can’t think of a better gift this time of year!