Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Making All Things New"

Friends, this past week has been intriguing and inspiring, challenging and cherishing, filled with awe and touched with fear.  I do not think I am alone when I say that I met the most interesting people at our picnic on Sunday and throughout the week at Vacation Bible School. 
• Ten year olds were asking deep and theological questions during the story rotation, while teenagers, not directly affiliated with our church, waited patiently to help us tear down and clean up after our very well attended and wonderful community picnic and concert.
• Conversations happened between the members of Casa de Orecion and Bethel, invitations were offered and accepted, and relationships were built.  Not to mention the great start Casa Minnesota had last week as they gather to worship down the hall, right now, as we worship here.
• And in Pittsburgh, the 2013 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA made history by, after 5 ecclesiastical-Holy-Spirit-led-ballots, electing the first woman to become the Presiding Bishop of the entirety of the ELCA, beginning this November. 
• AND, and the same group, who did not re-elect Bishop Mark Hanson, who  (as you know) has served our church grace-fully and faithfully for the past 12 years, that same group of people cannot thank Bishop Hanson enough for his service and his leadership.  And honestly, neither can we.

It seems, that in the midst of this past week, we have been given a glimpse of things that are changing.  As we, here at Bethel, have consciously and intentionally amplified God’s grace and reached out further and further into our surrounding communities, our ministry is being noticed.  People are beginning, again, to know our name and recognize our logo.  And, and they are starting to believe that when we say all are welcome, we really do mean it!  Thanks be to God!

And on a national level, 1000+ ELCA Lutherans met in Pittsburgh this week to discern and pray together about some incredible things.  Meeting and worshiping under the banner of “Always being made new” our national church in assembly passed and approved things like
• A new social statement on criminal justice
• An immigration reform memorial
• Supported employment protection for people of all sexual orientation and gender identities.
• Elected a new Presiding Bishop and a new Secretary
• Recognized Mary, the mother of Jesus, in new and honorable ways, calling her “God-bearer” and recognizing the change she proclaimed in singing and sharing her faith in the words of the Magnificat, which we will hear later in the service.

Again, immersed in the theme “Always being made new” our church in assembly also
• Called us, all of us, to engage in voting rights reform to ensure equity and access for all eligible voters in our country
• Our national church will be intentional about writing and providing resources for pastors to minister to same-gender couples and their families

And, believe it or not, these are just the highlights of our church in assembly this past week!  God:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit has once again burst into our world to make all things new!  I look forward to sharing Bishop Svennungsen’s report from Churchwide and I encourage you to check out the news releases and minutes of the Assembly on line and in our newspapers!    http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Communication-Services/News/Releases.aspx

With you, for Christ,

Pastor Brenda

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Choosing to Respectfully Disagree

     These past two Sundays, our community has been blessed to engage in very respectful conversations about the possibility of offering same-gender weddings here at Bethel, in response to the change in Minnesota State Law.  Pastor John Hulden (who grew up here at Bethel) came from the Minneapolis Area Synod office on July 14th and on the 21st we had our own conversation.  In the midst of these conversations, we came to some realization that certain members who respectfully disagree with the idea of offering same-gender weddings were less likely to come to such meetings to voice their opinion.  However, I am thankful that one person did come to represent some dear friends who are not quite ready for such a move at Bethel.  Upon hearing the conversation that took place in a respectful, genuine and heartfelt manner, I first want to thank everyone for being willing to engage and listen and share honestly and without judgment.  Secondly, I would like to share what Pr John and I offered at the meeting as a foundation on which we are all invited to stand. 
     If we were to be truly honest and open with one another, I believe we would find few (if any) social issues that all members of Bethel completely agree upon.  There may be issues we generally agree about (i.e. poverty), however the ways by which we each go about responding to a particular social issue will likely look different and may sometimes even work against one another.  Having said that, as the Board of Administrators votes on the same-gender marriage issue tonight, I would ask that we all stop for a moment, pray for a moment and exist with one another in a moment of mission and ministry.  Whether you agree or disagree with the decision made tonight, it is important for us to look beyond any social issue and find ways to be the body of Christ TOGETHER, with and without our differences. 
     With this in mind, I would like to remind you of part of the Social Statement on Sexuality that was passed at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August of 2009.  In summary it states (italics mine):

This church recognizes that, with conviction and integrity:
• On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that same-gender sexual behavior is sinful, contrary to biblical teaching and their understanding of natural law. They believe same-gender sexual behavior carries the grave danger of unrepentant sin. They therefore conclude that the neighbor and the community are best served by calling people in same-gender sexual relationships to repentance for that behavior and to a celibate lifestyle. Such decisions are intended to be accompanied by pastoral response and community support.
• On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that homosexuality and even lifelong, monogamous, homosexual relationships reflect a broken world in which some relationships do not pattern themselves after the creation God intended. While they acknowledge that such relationships may be lived out with mutuality and care, they do not believe that the neighbor or community are best served by publicly recognizing such relationships as traditional marriage.
• On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that the scriptural witness does not address the context of sexual orientation and lifelong loving and committed relationships that we experience today. They believe that the neighbor and community are best served when same-gender relationships are honored and held to high standards and public accountability, but they do not equate these relationships with marriage. They do, however, affirm the need for community support and the role of pastoral care and may wish to surround lifelong, monogamous relationships or covenant unions with prayer.
• On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that the scriptural witness does not address the context of sexual orientation and committed relationships that we experience today. They believe that the neighbor and community are best served when same-gender relationships are lived out with lifelong and monogamous commitments that are held to the same rigorous standards, sexual ethics, and status as heterosexual marriage. They surround such couples and their lifelong commitments with prayer to live in ways that glorify God, find strength for the challenges that will be faced, and serve others. They believe same-gender couples should avail themselves of social and legal support for themselves, their children, and other dependents and seek the highest legal accountability available for their relationships.

Although at this time this church lacks consensus on this matter, it encourages all people to live out their faith in the local and global community of the baptized with profound respect for the conscience-bound belief of the neighbor. This church calls for mutual respect in relationships and for guidance that seeks the good of each individual and of the community. Regarding our life together as we live with disagreement, the people in this church will continue to accompany one another in study, prayer, discernment, pastoral care, and mutual respect. http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Statements/JTF-Human-Sexuality.aspx

     Friends, I honestly hope and pray that we can all respectfully claim our convictions and beliefs on the social issue of same-gender marriage, and honor one another as we move forward as the Body of Christ, together.  It hurts my heart to think we cannot honestly and openly engage with one another simply because we might disagree on a particular social issue.  This may come as a surprise to some, but part of my own mission and ministry is to honestly engage with those with whom I may disagree about this and other social issues.  And sometimes, we may only find a place to agree to disagree.  But most times I have learned something new, had the opportunity to deepen a relationship, and/or adjusted my own stance on an issue of life and faith.
     So I ask that we move forward, together, as we make important decisions.  I invite honest and respectful conversations around this and any other concern you may have.  And I ask that we each take the time to breathe, pray and be the Body of Christ alongside one another.  I believe this is our call and invite anyone to stop by Bethel, invite me over, or meet someplace for coffee, ice cream, or a beverage of choice should you like to talk further about this or any other social issue, question or concern.
With you, for Christ,

Pastor Brenda

651.270.4960(cell), 612.724.3693 (office), pastor@bethel-mpls.org and on facebook

On Tueday, July 23, 2013, the Bethel Board of Directors (with the support of the Bethel Mission Council and the feedback from two congregational open forums) approved that Pastor Brenda conduct same-gender weddings and that Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church provide for both opposite-gender and same-gender wedding on our property and/or in our sanctuary.  (Fees and arrangements remain as stated in our wedding policy handbook.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An update from Caleb, one of our Step-Up interns:

Caleb’s Blog

With only a mere two weeks left of working as an intern here at Bethel, I think looking back and reflecting is quite appropriate. I think it has been a very fun place to work at. I’ve found it very accepting and all the people I worked with were kind, funny, or both! They showed incredible flexibility and always knew how to put me to work, even when there wasn't much to do. Jim was a funny guy with a good grasp of his view on things. Aimee always showed that she knew what she was doing. And Pastor Brenda is a good, focused, but considerate boss. I couldn't have asked for a better jobsite this summer.


Thursday, June 20, 2013


Introducing Our STEP-UP Interns!

The City of Minneapolis runs a program called STEP-UP, which is a summer job program for Minneapolis youth ages 14-21.  The city pays youth their wages, and the youth get job experience at different companies and organizations around the city.  Bethel has two STEP-UP interns working for us this summer: Caleb and Brooklynn.  They will help out in the office, around the grounds, with custodial, with kids, and tons of other things. Welcome!

Here is Caleb's introduction of himself:
Hi, my name is Caleb Lingel-Macias. I’m 15 and I live in south Minneapolis with my mom and brother. During the school year, I go to South High. This summer I will be working as an intern, through the STEP-UP program, at the Bethel Church. I’m looking forward to working here, it seems like a fun filled place (not to mention huge) with lots to do and plenty of people to help out. I’m especially looking forward to tasks like gardening and other outdoor activities. This is my first job ever so I’m excited I can have a job I enjoy.

Caleb will also be reporting regularly about his experience at Bethel. Here is his first blog entry!
To be honest, the first impression I got was “this place is huge!” I’ve never seen a church this big, let alone one that takes up a whole city block. But after my amazement at Bethel’s size, I noticed how interestingly the building is set up. It has lots of classrooms, all with clever names (Thou Art! Studio, HolyWord theater, the list goes on). I was especially surprised that the church was built on a swamp. So while the first impression was about the size, the final impression is about the quality of what they do here which is help out the community. The people working here seem friendly, and they’re all easy to get along with. Overall, Bethel seems like a fun place to be AND a fun place to work.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


This past Friday and Saturday, Sheila, Della, Bailey, Gavin and I were blessed to spend time at the Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly in Prior Lake, participating in the business of the church.  While we were there

• we learned about newly formed congregations in Minneapolis, as well as the history of our 25 year old ELCA,
• we voted on resolutions regarding relations between our Palistinian and Israeli siblings in the middle east, as well as preventing job discrimination for our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender siblings in Minnesota and the United States,
• we listened to speakers explore our relationship with a relational God, as well as our relationship with one another and how pointing fingers of blame is counter to the will of our loving and ever present God.

In past synod assemblies, about every two hours, those gathered would “Dwell in the Word” ... that is, engage in small group Biblical conversations and large group devotions, in order to remind us who we are and whose we are as we go about doing the business of the church. 

This year, instead of Dwelling in the Word ... we  dwelled in song ... that is, about every two hours, we stopped to praise God in song ... but we did not sing hymns, instead, we experienced a vast plethora of song, including, but not limited to ~ 
• a hip hop soloist,
• a Swahili choir,
• a scene from Footloose (the musical)
• an American Sign Language Interpreting choir, and
• (I kid you not) ... and three person 2-octave bell choir! (thats 16 bells, three people and six hands to play them ... it was not only a bell choir, but it was a choreographed dance as these three women played those 16 bells)

What a blessing to experience the WORD of God in song, in music and the talents and gifts of the people of God.  And be surprised by the unexpected.

One of the things I really loved about this synod assembly, was our initial celebration of the theme and the first 25 years as the ELCA.  The theme for our synod assembly and the churchwide assembly this summer is “Always being made new!”   That is, God is always making us, as individuals, as the church, as a part of creation, God is always making us NEW.

As we celebrated from where we have come, we could not help but wonder, to where will we go in the next 25 years ... as the church!

This refrain came to my mind, over and over again these last few days ... to where will be go, as church, in the next 25 years.

It is my hope and my prayer that, in the next 25, 50, and 75 years, we, as the church, go into the surprising and the unexpected.

• That is, we open our hearts and our minds in ways that we can scarcely imagine right now. 
• That we claim our place as created co-creators in this universe that continues to be made new.
• That we recognize the ministry opportunities, challenges, and invitations that we have somehow missed in our first 25 years ... and we do something about them!
Recently, our brother in Christ, Pope Francis came under scrutiny when he shared in a homily that people are redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice and then, the Pope invited his hearers to meet ALL people, whether they believe or not, to meet ALL people at the place of doing good works.  

The world seemed surprised by the Pope’s inclusion of the atheist in the work of God, in the good works of the people. 

I have two reactions to this issue.  The first ... Way to go Pope Francis!  Sharing the unexpected in ways that challenge us, the church to look beyond ourselves and see where God is at work beyond us and without us is an incredible and surprising vision from Pope Francis!  God is at work, beyond us and without us in this world.  This world being made new!

My second reaction to this scrutiny of Pope Francis is this ... seriously???  Have we as a faithful people become so full of ourselves that we refuse to consider that God is at work in the atheist? 

If we believe in an ever-present, faithful and loving God, how on earth can we sit in our pews and stand in this pulpit without considering, proclaiming and celebrating that God is bigger than the church! And that is a really good thing!     

Friends in Christ, as I explore our two readings for this day, what I read, taste, see and celebrate, is the surprising and the unexpected!

In our reading from 1 Kings, we find King Solomon standing before the altar of the Lord, in the Temple that he built for the Lord, praying for the foreigner.  King Solomon had every reason to claim the Temple for the Chosen People of God ... every reason to exclude those who are not Israeli.  But instead, King Solomon surprises us when he says ... “O Lord, ... when the foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear  ... and do according to all the foreigner calls to you, so that all people may know your name and fear you.”
Even in the midst of completing the most magnificent Temple on earth, built to praise and glorify God, King Solomon understands that God is bigger than the church!  God intends to live within and outside the church.  God intends to be noticed by those we fail to notice ourselves.

And in our Gospel reading, Jesus is surprised by the unexpected faith of a Roman Centurion.  In effort to wrap our minds around this story ...

• The Centurion is a member of the occupying nation (Rome) in Capernaum, that is he is a leader of the army that prevents the freedom of God’s chosen people in their own land. 
• Likely, he is an unbeliever, a Gentile, because he is Roman.
• But, evidently, he is a gentle and empathic leader of the occupying nation ... because he has supported the Jews to the point of allowing them to build a synagogue. 
• So, he is not your typical Roman occupyer. 

AND, and he has listened to God’s story in such a way that he has come to believe that Jesus is someone important.  And not only important, but that Jesus is powerful.  Powerful enough to say the word, and heal his dying servant.  We have no idea if this Centurion becomes a follower of Jesus.  What is known is that the Centruion had faith that Jesus in important and powerful.
Friends, this was unheard of, and certainly a surprise in the time Jesus lived on this earth.  So much so that even Jesus proclaimed the unexpected when Jesus said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 

As King Solomon and Jesus here proclaim, it is my hope is that the church begins to understand how God is at work in this world, beyond us and without us, making things new! 

And in so understanding this truth, I pray that the next 25 years of the church includes and demands to be an active part of the surprising and the unexpected of God! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The JOY of Easter Sunday

I have been active in ministry for 12+ years ... and, as you may know, ordained for the last 10 months.  I have been a part of many Easter Sunday breakfasts and worship services. 

AND, I have never humbly enjoyed any prior Easter Sunday like I humbly enjoyed Easter Sunday, 2013. 

What a complete blessing to lead God's people in the celebration of the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus the Christ! 

This is a joy that made my heart dance. 
This is a joy that inspired several "happy dances."
This is a joy that is pure gift and light.
This is a joy that will forever be a part of this child of God.

And I thank God for being so persistent with my call to ordained ministry.

I thank Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church for calling me into such ministry.

I thank my family and friends who encouraged me, cried with me, prayed with me, stood along side me, screamed with me, loved me, and celebrated with me. 

It is for such a time as this ~ the truth that resurrection is real ~ that I find myself reflective, prayerful, blessed, and humbled.

God is so very good!

With you, for Christ,

Pastor Brenda L. Froisland

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why Lent?

Here is poem that I wrote this morning while attmepting to write a sermon.  Certainly, it became my sermon.

Why Lent? 

Why gather this night to begin?

From where have we come?

To where goes our sin?


These are the questions

within soul and community,

and from without ...

from the world, in all sincerity.


Why Lent?

Why gather to be ashened and blamed?

Why come together

To be left in our shame?


These are the feeling

with which we leave

repenting, reflecting

what is it I believe?


Together, we remember

We are not god

Together, we remember

We come from sod


Remember, you are dust,

And to dust you return

Ashes from this Wednesday

Are from which we will learn


God is the one

who breathed life into us

God is the one

in whom we shall trust


Why Lent?

Why reflect on the lives we are given?

Why take the time

When our time is so slim, and


Why?   because God

That’s right, Gods the One

God is the One who

has given God’s Son


To save us from dust

The dust we become

To give us new breath

When earth life is done


We gather this day

to be saved from ourselves

We gather this day

to put sin on the shelves


To listen to God

to sit, and to pray

To recognize our lives

but frail, in dismay


This story begins

With reflection, our sin

To the God who will love us

From without and within


Why Lent?

Why time to reflect and to wonder?

Because God.  Because Jesus.

Because we surrender.


Surrender to God

Whats out of control

Give it to God

Who gives peace to our soul


For we are dust

And to dust we return

The end of the story

We have yet to learn


God is our maker

Our creator, our breath

God is our Savior

And puts dying, to death


So we gather this night

To be ashened and claimed

To remember God’s story

In death, God remains


In life, and in death

We all are One,

One in the love of

God’s only Son

by Brenda L. Froisland.  Permission to use with appropriate credit.