A message from Pastor Carol Tomer, sent to Pilgrim members

September 29, 2011 by

Dear all,

It was just two weeks ago that we dedicated our new metal sanctuary roof.  And now, this Sunday, Oct. 2, we welcome the arrival of our new organ.  We will have a ritual of welcome and blessing for the organ’s arrival during our 11 am worship service.  And we also welcome back Pastor Bonnie Pene, former Pilgrim seminarian, as our preacher on this day.  And I’m going to try again (without technical difficulties this time, I hope) to make my sabbatical presentation at the 9:45 am forum.

PLEASE NOTE:  The Twin Cities Marathon will be blocking Summit Avenue on this coming Sunday morning, Oct. 2.  Please allow for extra travel time.  Use Ayd Mill Road to cross Summit.

As we look ahead to next Sunday, Oct. 9, Pilgrim’s 90th Anniversary Sunday, celebrated in the midst of this 90th anniversary season, we want to remind you of the Anniversary Potluck Meal that will follow the 11 am worship service next Sunday.  The Congregational Life and Care Committee invites you to bring a dish to share to that festive gathering.  And, they suggest, if you have a favorite recipe from the church cookbook, please bring that.

With thanksgiving for you and for the unfolding beauties of God’s handiwork in this autumn season,

Pastor Carol Tomer


About Spiritual Direction – from Pastor Diane Hooge, Pilgrim Lutheran Renewer-in-Residence

September 23, 2011 by

One of the joys of serving Pilgrim Lutheran over this summer, as one of the Renewers-in-Residence, is that it opened the door for me to explore opportunities to “hold the space” for people to do their own spiritual work.  I so appreciated having the time and space to set up a half-day retreat, and I appreciated the response of those who chose to explore Spiritual Direction work. I feel called to listen to others who are seeking to be more intentional in exploring their inner lives.   It’s out of having a listening presence that one often is enabled to discern the movement of God’s Spirit within their life.   Based on this summer’s experience, I’ve been asked if I would consider continuing the work.  After meeting with Pastor Carol, we agreed that this spiritual practice is important to continue to be made available to the Pilgrim community. I will charge the same amount as Pilgrim was paying during the sabbatical which was $50.00 a session.  I will continue the process set this summer which was to schedule appointments at Pilgrim.  You may contact me at 615-330-8111 or d.hooge@comcast.net.

A message to the Celtic and Nordic evening worship community

September 2, 2011 by

Dear friends,

Summer blessings to you all!

As September peeks its head into our calendars, so does the resumption of Celtic and Nordic evening contemplative worship at Pilgrim Lutheran Church.  On Sunday, September 11 at 6:51 pm, the Celtic service will have as its theme “Mine is the Morning: Tragedy and Beyond,” as we reflect together on 9/11 and much more.  On Sunday, September 25 at 6:51 pm, the Nordic service will have as its theme “Pausing at the Threshold,” we will welcome back as a musical guest Rocky Mjos on guitar and lute, and the service will also feature the beautiful melody of “Til Ungdommen” that was a heart song for the Norwegian people in so many of their memorial services this summer, following the shooting tragedy.  Our theme for the evening services this year is “Roads Everywhere and Signs in Our Hearts,” which is a quote from the poem Guds hjerte (“God’s Heart”) by beloved Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen.  You can hear the pilgrim echoes in this theme, as we seek the Spirit’s guidance in the journey of life.

If you would like to help with these evening contemplative services, please contact the Pilgrim office (651-699-6886, or pilgrim@pilgrimstpaul.org).  We welcome your participation as coffee hosts, ushers, readers, and helping with setting up the worship space before the service.  And, we also invite you to help spread the word of welcome to these services.  We have fliers for bulletin boards and small cards as well, that you are welcome to pick up and take around town with you.  Just stop by the office and pick up a handful, and help us be the hands and feet of welcome.

Looking ahead, here are some Sunday night/afternoon gatherings to consider:

On Sunday night, Oct. 9, at 5 pm, preceding the evening Celtic service, you are invited to a time of sharing about Iona and pilgrimage, led by those who were a part of the Pilgrim pilgrimage to Iona this past June.  Photos and video will be shared; it will be a great chance to get a taste of this holy place.

Two Sunday concerts upcoming at Pilgrim:  Some of you may recall Saana Ensemble, who were guest musicians at one of the Nordic evening services last year.  They are a Finnish vocal ensemble, and they are offering a free CD release concert at Pilgrim on Sunday, Sept. 11, at 3 pm.

And then on Sunday night, Sept. 18, at 6:51 pm, Pilgrim is hosting our “Fall Collage Concert: Rose Ensemble and friends,” which will showcase some of the musicians that regularly rehearse at Pilgrim: The Rose Ensemble, Cantara Women’s Choir, and Peggy Larson, artist-in-residence and Rocky Mjos, lute and voice.  Woven around each resident ensemble will be performances by local favorites Seven Suns Ensemble, a wonderful mix of traditional Indian and western instruments.  No tickets; it’s a free-will offering.

In this year ahead, we will be marking ten years of the Celtic contemplative service (in March, 2012), as well as Pilgrim’s 90th anniversary.  Pilgrim anniversary season festivities include:  welcoming this year’s Pilgrim theologian in residence on Sunday morning, Sept. 11, The Rev. Dr. David Anderson, a nationally recognized leader in children’s and youth ministries, who will be preaching that day on the theme of “A Christian Adult Is a Christian Parent”; dedication of Pilgrim’s new “green” metal sanctuary roof (Sunday morning, Sept. 18); a three-week series of Sunday morning forums on Lutheranism by Dr. Mary Lowe of Augsburg College (beginning Sunday morning, Sept. 25); an eleven-week Bible study survey course on Wednesdays, beginning Sept. 28, led by Pastor Harry Mueller; welcoming the delivery of the new Pilgrim organ pipes (Sunday morning, Oct. 2); Anniversary Sunday with distinguished guest preacher Pastor Ann Svennungsen (Sunday morning, Oct. 9); Reformation Sunday guest preacher Brother Mickey O’Neill McGrath, OSFS, who will also offer a forum on “Saved by Beauty,” (Sunday morning, Oct. 30); beginning to play the new Pilgrim organ (end of November); and our annual Celtic Christmas Eve service at 6:51 pm on Dec. 24.   This fall, we will also be making plans for a summer, 2012 pilgrimage to Holden Village in Washington state, as they celebrate their 50th anniversary.  This is the last summer for a few years that they are accepting guests, as they move into “work camp” mode for the next two summers, during their mine remediation work.   And this fall, you are invited to join a six-month “Circle of Trust,” (sign up by Sept. 20; info in the September Pilgrim newsletter, which you can find on-line) led by Pastor Diane Hooge, one of Pilgrim’s Renewers-in-Residence during my sabbatical.

Speaking of my sabbatical, it’s good to be back.  I look forward to telling you about it, on Sunday morning, Sept. 18, at 9:45 am, when I present “Reflections of a Grateful Pilgrim: Sabbatical Images and Tales.”

We are blessed by the Spirit among us.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Pastor Carol Tomer

From “Coach Craig” – Pilgrim Softball Season Wrap-up

August 24, 2011 by

Good morning everyone, and thanks to those who came to the game last night.  Between all 4 churches, we almost had enough people to field 2 full teams!  Hopefully this widespread attendance problem was a one-year thing and next year we will have a roster overflowing with eager ballplayers!  It was a fun year nevertheless, and I hope that everyone who participated on any level had a good time; that’s what is was supposed to be!

Special thanks to Will Goldman and Eric Smith, who I believe share the “closest-to-perfect-attendance” award this year.  Will probably won the Carol J. Tomer “closest-to-an-injury” award this year, too, for his line drive off the knee last night.  He’s totally fine, though, and cheerfully related the story to his mom and cousins last night.  Erica Kragerud-Smith gets the award for “most-times-coming-to-the-games-without-actually-playing,” but I’m told that next year she will be back with a vengeance.  Pastor Carol, Kelli Goldman, and Emi Eliason shared the “I-only-played-once-this-year” award, but I think (and hope) that Emi and Pastor Carol will both be back next year.  I have some pretty reliable inside information, though, that Kelli may never set foot on a softball field again.   Feel free to add any other awards you can think of; everyone should get a trophy in this league!

Lastly, I want to thank all of you for putting up with all my e-mails and pestering you to play each week.  Playing on this team for 3 years now has allowed me to get to know you better than I otherwise would have, and I am grateful for that.  Each of you is truly a wonderful person and I am fortunate to call you all my friends.  Coach Craig is now signing off for 9 months or so, soon to be replaced by Sunday School Teacher Craig.  I hope he doesn’t send out as many e-mails . . ..  Be sure and keep up your off-season cardio and weight-training regimens, and I’ll see you next year in Spring Training!  Coach Craig.

A message from Pastor Carol – Blessing of the Animals Service 8/21/11

August 18, 2011 by

The following message was sent to the Pilgrim community on 8/17/11:

Dear Pilgrims,

It’s good to be back among you, after my sabbatical time away.  I look forward to reconnecting with you, as we serve together in Pilgrim shared ministry and in our wider community and world.

And our world is filled with God’s creatures.  This Sunday, August 21, is our annual Blessing of the Animals service.   We gather at 9:30 am for our outdoor service on the blacktop on Prior Avenue, beside our church building.  All pets and people are welcome!

Jonathan Rundman, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and leader of worship throughout the ELCA, will be helping to lead our music on Sunday.

This year, this invitation to the Blessing of the Animals service comes with two additions:  If you have a pet who can’t make it to the worship service, because they might be too scared around the other animals or people, or can’t be present with us for some other reason, please feel welcome to bring a photo of your pet, and we will declare God’s blessing of your pet, even though they can’t be present that day.  Also, if you have a pet who has died, we invite you to bring a photo of them, and we will offer a prayer of thanksgiving for them during our time of blessing.

And don’t forget that a potluck picnic follows Sunday’s service.  You are invited to bring a dish to share and, if you can, your own plate, utensils, cup, and napkin, but we will also have some of those for you to use, if needed.  We give thanks for the Congregational Life and Care Committee, that is hosting our picnic.

See you soon!

In the grace of God,

Pastor Carol Tomer

A message from Pilgrim’s Co-Presidents

June 3, 2011 by

The following message was sent to Pilgrim members by Co-Presidents Kurt Schultz and Natalie Hokanson on June 2nd

Dear Fellow Pilgrims –

It is with sadness and thanksgiving that we share with you the news that Ralph Johnson has accepted a position with another church and will resign his position with Pilgrim effective July 31.  With Pastor Carol on sabbatical, it is our responsibility as your new Co-Presidents to share this information with you.  Ralph has blessed Pilgrim for the past five years as Music Director and Choir Director and all who have worshiped here have received the gifts of his many talents.

We will give thanks for Ralph’s service, celebrate our time together, and wish Ralph and Laurie Godspeed on Sunday, June 26 during service and coffee hour.

Please see Ralph’s letter of resignation below.

Kurt Schultz & Natalie Hokanson

May 31, 2011

Dear Pastor Carol, Vestry, and Fellow Pilgrims:

I am writing to let you know that I have been offered—and have accepted—a new position as music director and choir director at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in southwest Minneapolis, and that I will therefore be resigning from my position at Pilgrim effective July 31. The position is half-time (as is my position here), and I plan to continue filling the other half with work as a composer as well as other related activities. Although Laurie and I are sad to leave this community, with all the remarkable people and wonderful friendships we have found here, we have a strong sense of the Holy Spirit leading us in this new direction.

My 5 years here at Pilgrim have been years of growth, discovery and blessing for me, and I am grateful to all of you for sharing your time, talent, energy and love as we have journeyed together during this time. Special thanks to Pastor Carol for her vision and creativity; to Larry Wilson for our delightful musical partnership; to Pastor Harry and Pilgrim’s wonderful staff (Cathy, Chuck, Karin, Serena, Dan and Blake), who work diligently and with patient good-will to keep our ministry going, day-by-day; to the many members of the Vestry who serve so faithfully year after year; and to the whole congregation for your ongoing support and appreciation of Pilgrim’s music ministry. I am especially grateful to the Senior and Junior Choirs, who have worked so hard—and with such great grace and humor—to lead all Pilgrims in worship and song during my time here, and well before.

Laurie and I take our leave of Pilgrim with hearts full of love and gratitude for the friendship,
support and just plain fun we have been blessed to share with you. It has been a pleasure and privilege to have served God in partnership with you all.

Thanks be to God for all of you. We will pray for you. Please pray for us.

Yours in Christ,

Ralph M. Johnson, Music Director and Choir Director

March 30, 2011 by

This message has gone out to Pilgrim’s Sunday evening community from Pastor Carol Tomer:
Dear Pilgrim friends,

We are on the cusp of our last Celtic (Sunday, April 10) contemplative evening services of the 2010-2011 season.   I hope to see you in these coming days. I also want to lift up to you some of our Holy Week and other special gatherings coming up at Pilgrim.  Those highlights are listed at the end of this message. Please note that our Good Friday evening service will be contemplative in nature, as we weave together the stations of the cross, Earth Day, and the death of Jesus.

In the worship bulletins for the last Celtic service of the year, we will debut the overall theme and individual themes for the Celtic and Nordic services next year.  We are excited for this next year.  We thank you for your expressions of gratitude and for your financial support of these contemplative services.  Both forms of your support are crucial in order for us to continue to offer these services.  I want you to know that it is possible to give your financial support on-line at any time, at www.pilgrimstpaul.org

I will be going on sabbatical beginning in May and during that time, Pilgrim will welcome several “Renewers-in-Residence,” who will share their gifts with the Pilgrim community in a variety of ways.   (One of them is Pastor Bonnie Nash, who writes those incredible prayers for the Nordic contemplative services.) The overview of the shape and schedule of their sojourn will be available in these last two evening worship bulletins of the year and in other Pilgrim publications.

God’s blessings of Lent and spring (which was the original meaning of “Lent”) be with you.

Pastor Carol Tomer


April 17, 8:30 & 11 am worship — Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion — ELW Liturgy of Holy Communion, St. Olaf College Brass Quintet, Senior Choir, we begin behind the church with an outdoor procession of palms (children are invited to bring musical instruments or noisemakers for the procession), reception of new members, congregational reading of the passion story from Matthew’s Gospel

April 21, 7 pm worship — Maundy Thursday — Liturgy of Holy Communion, first communion for 2nd graders, Junior Choir, stripping of the altar, Pastor Harry Mueller preaching

April 22, 7 pm worship — Good Friday — A Contemplative Service of Music and Meditation, including the Stations of the Cross and observance of Earth Day; Senior Choir

April 24 — The Resurrection of our Lord — Festival Service of Holy Communion with trumpets, Pastor Carol Tomer preaching

8:30 AM – Easter “Sunrise Light” service (the drama of an Easter sunrise service without the early dawn darkness) — we begin outside on the church lawn on Prior, if the weather permits; Senior Choir

11:00 AM – Easter Day Festival Worship, Senior Choir, Junior Choir, Cherub Choir

May 1 — Second Sunday of Easter — Festival of Hungry Minds and Souls (on Doubting Thomas Sunday), baptism of Henry and Isabelle Bruecken (11 am), sabbatical sending ritual, Pastor Carol Tomer preaching

The gifts She, the Spirit, gives us

July 27, 2010 by

We have so many wonderful, deep thinkers in our congregation, and  David Thompson is one of them.   He offered the following reflection in June:

The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
For we do not know how to pray as we ought.
The Spirit intercedes for us, with sighs too deep for words.

As a child and young man I didn’t hear much about the Holy Spirit.
So it wasn’t until later in life that I began to appreciate this aspect of the Trinity.

I knew a lot about God the Father, the Creator,
and really got to appreciate the amazing hugeness and the intricate detailing
of what it takes to be the creator of everything.

But I never felt that parental link.
There was too much weird stuff about armies and rules
and who’s more powerful than who.

It reminds me of that saying about the Tzar.
You know, “God bless the Tzar but keep him far away from here.”

And I knew a lot about the Son. Jesus.
But I never really got chummy with him either.
Don’t get me wrong, I love him and all that,
wouldn’t want to live without him,
but it just doesn’t translate in that
“Personal Saviour” sort of way.

So, despite being a really nice Lutheran boy, I didn’t start getting personal with God until I started paying attention to the Spirit of God.

Now, there are lots of reasons why I get on so well with the Spirit, but I’ll mention only one now,
And that is that I get to call her “she”.
I can’t imagine why (ahem) but there is something about a feminine pronoun that just makes the whole idea of God more accessible to me.

And that’s a good thing too as I hope you’ll understand after I tell you about one of my meetings with God.

This particular encounter with God began 11 years ago.  11 years ago almost to this day, when my wife Lisa died.

When she died
I lost my wife.
And I also lost my mind.
And I lost what peace I had in the presence of God.

In my grief and my insanity I came to hate the Creator.
I truly wished that I had never been born.
and I held the Creator responsible for creating a world in which suffering was even possible, much less my own personal suffering.
God the Creator? Pftt. Out o’ there.

And Christ?
Christ the Redeemer hardly entered into it.
For such a long time my suffering was unendurable and seemed endless.
The notion of redemption wasn’t even a notion.
Christ? Also out o’ there.

Eventually of course, things changed.
The grief slowly became manageable.
The insanity slowly subsided.
Once again I was able to reflect on my relationship with God.

I find that I am still a bit skittish around the Creator and Redeemer,
but we are more than polite and things continue to improve.

The Spirit though is another story.
I’ve realized that she and I never had a problem through the whole episode.
She’s the Sustainer. And she———–sustained.

So She and I are tighter than ever.
She’s great company (when I can find her!).
She’s full of surprises, and sometimes is shocking.
And She leaves little gifts around for me to find and puzzle over.

Like the invitation that put me here,
 talking to you this morning.

Thank you.

The Places Our God, Where We Meet Thee

June 8, 2010 by

The following reflection was offered in Sunday’s morning worship service by Pilgrim member, Meredith Samuelson

When I was a little girl – probably about seven – my dad came home from work talking about some coworkers of his who only attended church at Christmas and Easter, and generally did not see the point of going every Sunday.

I was outraged and engaged my parents in a lengthy discussion from my limited point of view of how important it was to attend church every Sunday, and proceeded to write a letter summing up my thoughts on the matter.  My parents were not (and are not) people I would describe as immensely religious, but this episode came at a time in my life when I so loved Sunday school and Bible school, that my mother signed me up for vacation Bible school at our church AND another church.  As a seven-year-old, I knew God.

Then I got a little older and a little less interested.  As a third grader, I forced myself to listen to the sermon by writing down every single word I didn’t know, and after service asking my mom what each one meant.  My method was significantly flawed for two reasons – 1) I really only listened for words I didn’t know, and 2) my page was filled front, and sometimes back, with words I didn’t fully understand. If our pastor was using so many words that flew over my head, it was no wonder I found the sermons to be boring and disengaging, and that feeling – possibly out of habit – continued, as I got older.

So it should come as no surprise that I don’t come to church for the sermons.  What really reaches me, and grabs me, and causes me to ponder – sometimes endlessly – is the music.  From wonderful preludes, to fantastic choir pieces.  But where I feel closest to God is not in a flawless organ postlude or in a perfectly in-tune, talented choir.  I feel closest to God in the raw, unique, flaw-filled hymns being sung confidently by a full congregation.

Do you remember the Sunday school song:  Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth! Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!  Well, if I were limited to only thirty seconds up here, that song would perfectly encapsulate where I consistently find God.  How fitting, then, that our reflection topic for today comes from a fantastic hymn telling us to Lift Every Voice and Sing till earth and heaven ring.

There is something about being enveloped in sound – lovely sound made by old and young, male and female, musicians and non-musicians, those sure of their faith and those seeking answers – that no sermon or prayer or liturgy can possibly replicate.  Hymns are a communal experience with everyone contributing their voice to make music with one another.  It’s quite a unique experience for a society that celebrates hundreds of solo artists; where anyone with access to modern technology has the capacity to record and produce an album.  Popular music used to refer to music that everyone knew, but with so many genres and extensive number of artists, that definition has morphed into meaning something entirely different.  In fact, the definition of popular music changes so rapidly these days that I find myself sounding like my grandmother when I listen to the radio:  “Who is that? You call that music?!”  Hymns, then, are our most common musical denominator.

I’ll bet if I began the first line of a hymn, many of you could complete it, or at least hum the tune. Hymns like Beautiful Savior, Amazing GraceEarth and All Stars, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Lift Every Voice and Sing, are staples of our Lutheran worship services.  This is why I find church music, particularly hymns, to be so exciting.  No one can finish any line of a sermon; prayers are either prayed for us by the pastor or designated layperson, or short and pre-determined in our bulletin; and while liturgies help to set the tone for a service, they don’t provide the same opportunity for musical worship as a hymn.

I come from a family that often made music together outside of church, and married into a family that regularly pulls out the hymnal and sits down after dinner to sing when all the kids are home.  One of my favorite memories is attending Christmas Eve service and sitting in the pew with my family – my mom, dad, sister, grandma, grandpa, and three aunts.  We would sing parts for as many hymns as possible – not to show off any musical talent, but to engage in the practice of listening to each other and making the most joyful noise we knew how as a family.  As we began expanding on the possibilities when singing, others in the congregation would join in, too, almost as if they had been waiting for an invitation.  When Grandpa Shay passed away nearly seven years ago, my family carried our Christmas Eve tradition to his memorial service – finding solace in making music together, and an immense amount of comfort in those who continued singing when our own voices failed us.

So I will leave you with some food for thought.  We all come to church for different reasons, and we all find God in different ways.  Though I don’t feel God’s presence in prayer or in contemplation of the sermon, I participate in both because my contribution adds to someone else’s experience.  In turn then, others’ participation in singing hymns is a necessity for where I find God.  I’m not a church or God expert (my seven-year-old self grew out of that), but knowing that God made us and loves us, I feel confident that God doesn’t judge our voices, but instead rejoices in hearing all of our unique instruments join in praising Him or Her together.  So as we come upon hymns in our service, I ask and invite everyone to join in singing to the Lord a new song because music is one place, our God, where we meet thee.

How to write a prayer

May 7, 2010 by

A few weeks ago it was my turn, as a deacon on duty, to write prayers for the Sunday morning service.  I’d known I had to do this for weeks in advance, as all the deacons receive a schedule of the Sunday for which we are responsible for the prayers.  I had even set an alarm on my e-calendar a week in advance.

The last time I had written prayers, I read the scriptures Pastor Carol sent me at work and loved the language and message.  It had once again been late in the week, so I didn’t have time to ponder the scriptures.  Instead, I wrote my prayers at work, quickly between reviewing requests for home care nursing services. 

What I’d rather do is read the scriptures, sit quietly with the ideas, meditate, then write the prayers.  I’d like to have time to savor writing, since it is an act that helps me access emotions and insights within myself that I never realize through conversation. 

But once again, I had completely forgot to write prayers until I received Meredith’s email asking if I would read the prayers at both services, and please tell her by Thursday, so she can put it in the bulletin.

Once again, I composed prayers between reviewing requests for home care nursing services.  The resulting prayers were okay, but were so much less than my ability as a writer, were so inadequate in addressing the suffering present in the world, were so understated in the joy we experience.  I got them done in time, but kicked myself for waiting until the last minute to write prayers.  Why do I do this? 

I do it because I’m busy.  Doing what?  My job, my aerobics class, taking a friend without a car to shop for groceries, reading a severance agreement for another friend who just lost her job.  

Which of these activities should I have given up for prayers?  None.

That Sunday, I read my prayers with the imperfect language, the generic request for love to fill our hearts, the trite call to share our gifts generously. 

I could have, should have said it so much better.  I could have, should have anchored the ideas to the specifics of our nation’s struggles for healthcare and employment, but I didn’t.  I only used the language I had at hand.

When I finished the prayers and returned to my pew, Rodney Olson turned and mouthed, Thank you.  After the service, Marsha Foss told me, “Thank you for today’s prayers.” 

I realized that what I had written was enough.  There is no need for perfect language for a prayer.  It is enough to pray.