Pastor’s Notes

March’s “From the Pastor”: In Attendance

Dear friends in Christ,

Attend is a word with renewed meaning for me lately. Many of you know that I’ve been part of the Ecumenical Center for Clergy Spiritual Renewal through Holy Wisdom Monastery in Madison, Wisconsin for the past eight months. As part of that renewal, we are encouraged to write a “rule” for our lives, just as Benedict wrote a rule to order the lives of the brothers and sisters who lived in his communities. That original rule was a list of principles that still forms the foundation for Benedictine monasteries everywhere, but we were given freedom to make our rule whatever we felt it needed to be.

After a lot of reflection, I settled on ATTEND as my rule. Just the one word. “Attend” reminds me to show up for my life, to be fully in attendance and to do the work necessary to be fully present in mind and heart as well as body. “Attend” also reminds me to stop and pay holy attention to what is happening inside me as well as what God might be doing in me, through me and around me. And “attend” also reminds me to serve and care for others, as a doctor or nurse might attend a patient.

This Lent I invite you to “attend” with me. Not only in terms of attending worship (as worthy a discipline as that is!) but also to attend to your own soul and what God might be doing deep within you, and to be attentive to ways you might attend to others.

A Personal Prayer Concern

I don’t ask for your prayers very often as there are so many needs out there, but I need to do so now. My family is in need of prayer as my father Mike has recently been re-diagnosed with cancer after being in remission from prostate cancer for nearly ten years.

It is a bit of a mystery now as the doctors are still doing tests to find out where this new cancer originated. Spots on his liver and lung have been biopsied, but genetically they do not look like prostate, liver, or lung cancer. They know it is not in his brain or his bones (thanks be to God!) but have not yet discovered the source. Please pray for them to find out soon so he can begin treatment. And please pray for my mom Sue as she is having a much more difficult time with this than my dad is!

What does this mean for St. Peter’s? For now, we are still waiting and seeing what tests reveal. I may be taking more trips to Seattle to see Mom and Dad and may need to reschedule appointments or meetings here depending on surgery dates and treatment. Our Commissioned Lay Ministers are aware of the situation and ready to jump in and help wherever needed. Thank you for your understanding in this challenging time.

Notes for Worship during Lent

Let me share some context with you about our Lenten worship this year. We will be focusing on the Psalms each Sunday. This is a piece of our worship tradition that often gets overlooked, but they are the original hymnal of the Bible. These are the words that were sung by the Israelites and the Jews as they engaged in worship. The Psalms also include poems written to express the joy or anguish of a particular individual, with a sometimes shocking honesty.

Lent is a time when we set aside the many masks that we wear and seek greater honesty with God and with ourselves. Maybe the Psalms can be a helpful guide for this soul-searching. In them we find every human emotion and every type of relationship with God. It is a refreshingly REAL collection of poetry!

The Psalms assigned for Lent this year focus on what it means to trust God, so you will see that theme woven in our Sunday services. Usually we speak the Psalm responsively at the 9:00 service and omit it entirely from the 11:15. For Lent at both services we will be speaking it responsively AND using a contemporary sung refrain to recapture some of the original context of singing these texts. If you would like to read ahead, the psalms for the rest of Lent are: Psalm 121, Psalm 95, Psalm 46, Psalm 130, and for April 5 there are two: Psalm 118 and Psalm 31.

For our Wednesday noon Lenten worship services, we will be hearing the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a German theologian and pastor who is best known for his works Discipleship and Life Together, written in the context of Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer was executed 75 years ago this spring for being part of a plot to assassinate Hitler (which failed). These worship services are a brief (under an hour) Communion service held in the fellowship hall around the tables. Everyone is welcome. (Please let Sandy Spies know if you plan to come for lunch with the Seniors at 11:30 am to ensure there is enough food.)

Finally, a letter went out recently to members and friends of St. Peter’s inviting you to join in our mission giving for Lent. It includes an offering envelope for those who like to make an “all at once” gift for Lent. We also have coin boxes available at church with Bible verses and prayers for Lent (turn the box inside out and they also work for Easter!). Please feel free to pick one up.

What Does God Have in Mind for Us?

St. Peter’s is beginning the process of developing a strategic mission plan (including some attention to stewardship) for the future. We are looking for a small team of people to guide this process who are thoughtful, prayerful, reflective, and might have some of the skills needed to help frame and share the story of St. Peter’s with the world. This is something that needs to be done every 5-10 years to help a congregation stay healthy and on track with God’s mission. It would not be an ongoing commitment year after year.

If you want to know more or know someone who might be a good fit, please contact me ASAP and we can chat more. I already have one person who is interested in serving, but we need a few more. Please pray and think about whether this might be something to which God is calling you.

A Housekeeping Issue:

Finally, as we go to press this month, the news headlines are all about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). We do our best to remain calm, pray for those who are affected and wash our hands frequently. My plan is to have us continue to pass the peace in worship, but remember there are ways to do that with minimal contact (fist bumps, elbow bumps, flashing the “peace sign” or other gracious gestures). If you are ill or compromised, we all understand if you choose not to attend worship just in case. Please let us know so that we can hold you in prayer.

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie Yahns

February’s “From the Pastor”: The Good and Bad News about Stillness

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Dear friends in Christ,

I’m writing to you from Holy Wisdom Monastery in Wisconsin once more. I traveled here in preparation for the second gathering of the Ecumenical Center for Clergy Spiritual Renewal. The agenda focuses on immersion in Benedictine spiritual practices alongside my cohort of pastors from a variety of different Christian traditions. The program continues for another year, but that year will focus on ways to participate in the life of the monastery and these spiritual practices remotely. The vision is to create a “monastery without walls” that stretches across the continent. (That means in a way, St. Peter’s becomes part of the monastery!)

An integral piece of life at the monastery is stillness, that is, actively NOT doing something. Not pulling out your phone, not jumping to the next thing on your to-do list, not running around. It’s not unlike mindfulness, which is a very hot thing right now, but not a new invention. It’s an odd sensation at first—there is so little stillness in our world—and can make you feel a little twitchy. But after you settle in, it is soothing and peaceful. It feels like a blanket that envelops you, or a chair that holds you and supports you. Being here now in winter heightens that sensation even more, as the snow drapes everything with a visual stillness.

This time, I noticed myself shifting into stillness a little early, leaving behind the “get everything done NOW” mentality I am usually in before I travel somewhere. Traveling is more interesting if you are still enough to notice the people, places and things around you. For one flight I sat next to a young man who could not stop jiggling his knee for the entire two and a half hours. He was a nice guy, but stillness was not his thing, and of course when you are sitting next to someone on an airplane in economy, their every movement touches your body somehow. Every time he fidgeted, he brushed, poked, or jiggled my side, my arm, my leg…you get the picture. (I mean no offense to those who have a habit of knee jiggling. I’m sure he wasn’t doing this on purpose.)

It got me thinking about the effect we have on the people with whom we share our lives. Maybe our own stillness, or lack thereof, has a similar effect. If you’re fidgety or anxious or doing the mental or emotional equivalent of jiggling your knee nonstop, your friends, family, co-workers, and church family are going to feel poked, brushed or jiggled as well. Human beings are way more empathetic than we realize! Our state of being affects many more people than just ourselves.

With that in mind, what if we all carved out some time for stillness? Before you laugh sarcastically and think “yeah right,” keep in mind that nobody does stillness perfectly and nobody does it all the time. But what if we carved out thirty seconds, sixty seconds, two minutes, five minutes, or even a whopping ten minutes to be present to ourselves, process what is going on outside us and inside us, and send THOSE vibes out into the world? The world already has plenty of nervous energy bouncing off its walls, energy that can magnify and twist simple interactions into things that hurt and destroy. It doesn’t need us to amplify that energy.

It is only when we pause for a moment of stillness that we are capable of remembering and really knowing that God is God, and we are not. We periodically need to re-center ourselves in this truth, which is both a wake-up call (we can’t do it all) and incredibly good news (that is God’s job, not ours).

As we head towards the beginning of Lent at the end of this month, I’m thinking about this truth for us, and trying to prepare by being still for a change and remembering who holds all of us, and all of our days, safely in His hands forever. Maybe the best preparation for this time of year is to stop trying to do it all, and focus on following Jesus, who has done it all for us and for this world that He loves so much.

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie Yahns

January’s “From the Pastor”: Fresh Starts Are Real

Dear friends in Christ,

The beginning of a new year is a time for fresh starts, which is why many folks decide to make New Year’s resolutions and set goals for the year to come. It seems like often these goals center around the following topics:

  • Health (losing weight, eating healthy, quitting smoking, etc.)
  • Getting organized
  • Financial matters (saving more, paying off debt, etc.)

I read recently about a network of churches in Chicago, led by the United Church of Christ, that helped people have a “fresh start” by wiping out 5.3 million dollars of medical debt for nearly six thousand families. And the kicker is, they did it by only raising $38,000! Yes, that’s still a lot of money, but for every one dollar that was raised, they wiped out $142 of medical debt. Take a minute and let that sink in!

They did it by working with a non-profit called RIP Medical Debt to purchase debt the same way that debt collectors do. When health care companies are not able to collect on medical debt, they sell it at a steep discount to debt buyers, who then attempt to collect as much as they can to make a profit. Using donations, RIP Medical Debt does the same thing, but instead of trying to collect on the debt and make money, they forgive it.

How does that actually work? Plenty of families are one health crisis away from serious financial hardship. Hospitals don’t give you a price list when you walk in—you don’t know the cost of the treatment you will need until after you receive it, when you get the bill. And most of the time, you don’t plan ahead to have a medical emergency. As a result, two-thirds of bankruptcies in the United States result from medical debt. RIP Medical Debt does their homework to help determine which families will benefit most by having a debt forgiven,
including household size and income, whether a family’s debt exceeds their assets, and whether a family’s debt is more than 5% of their annual income.

The effects are impressive: increased credit scores, expanding people’s housing options, giving them more job possibilities, and rejuvenating local economies. Studies are being done to find out more about the mental, emotional, and spiritual effects of forgiving medical debt. It really can be that “fresh start” that we all long for, leveling the playing field, a springboard from which deep, long-lasting change can occur. And this is true no matter where you live, no matter your race, gender, sexuality or political party. Medical debt can happen to anyone, but more importantly, we all need real-life experiences of God’s grace. We all need a clean slate, a fresh start.

That “fresh start” even includes the founders of RIP Medical Debt, two guys who had worked in debt buying and collections for years. They’d been working the other side of the equation…calling up people and hounding them to pay their debts. It’s a business that can easily cross the line to harassment. Five years ago, they had a change of heart, closed their collection agencies and started RIP Medical Debt. One even went to his pastor and his church friends and asked if starting this non-profit would be doing the right thing. “Now I think I did the right thing,” he says.

So what’s their New Year’s resolution? To reach their goal of forgiving a billion dollars of medical debt. They’re almost there—as of early December, they had wiped out over $964 million. This New Year will bring a lot of fresh starts, a lot of clean slates, to a lot of people.

As you consider what your New Year’s resolutions might be, I hope you find a fresh start and a way to help others also experience that fresh start, that expression of God’s grace in our lives. It doesn’t have to be forgiving millions of dollars of debt. It can be as simple (and as deep) as forgiving your friend, your family member, your neighbor, even forgiving yourself. We need to hear words of grace from each other, no matter what time of year it is.

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie Yahns

December’s “From the Pastor”: Found Family

Three years ago, a story hit the news that was different from 95% of the news you see out there. Maybe you saw it then, but let’s remember it now. Wanda Dench, a grandma in Mesa, Arizona, sent a text message to someone she thought was her grandson, asking if he would be coming to Thanksgiving dinner. What she didn’t know was that she’d mistyped the number, and her text went to 20-year-old Jamal Hinton of Phoenix.

Jamal quickly figured out the text was from a grandma, but he thought, “When did my grandma learn to text?” So he asked her to send a selfie so he would know who this other person was. When her photo came through, it was clear it was some grandma other than his! (Dench is white and Hinton’s grandma is African-American.)

Even after they realized the mix-up, Hinton jokingly asked if he could still get a plate at Thanksgiving dinner. Dench’s response was, “Of course you can. That’s what grandmas do…feed every one.”

Full stop for a minute. How cool is that?! And how true! We know something about that, because that’s what St. Peter’s does too…we feed every one.

Hinton was a little hesitant to go to a stranger’s Thanksgiving dinner, but once he actually met Dench and her husband in person, he saw what kind people they were and decided to go spend the time with her and her family. It turned out to be one of the best things he ever did.

Fast forward to today. Hinton has spent every Thanksgiving at Dench’s house since then, and he always posts a selfie with the two of them on social media (which then promptly goes viral). Last year, he brought his girlfriend Mikaela along. What did they all do together? Sat around the table and talked about their lives for a couple of hours, just telling stories and enjoying being together. Last year, she gave him the board game Monopoly, and this year he plans to bring it so they can all play together.

Hinton and Mikaela are planning to move into their own apartment the day before Thanksgiving this year, so they will probably head over to Dench’s house again, but one day they would like to return the favor and host Dench and her husband for a change. Next year, he says.

As you welcome people to your table this Thanksgiving and Christmas, think of the parable of Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench. They could have let fear and prejudice divide them, but instead they took the time to meet, to listen to each other, to connect on a deeper human level by sharing a meal and sharing their lives. This is the kind of thing that can change and heal the world.

This coming month we will prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord Jesus. Just as he came unexpectedly more than two thousand years ago, he comes unexpectedly today, through people who might be different from us, and those whom we would least expect. Let us open our homes, our tables, our minds, and our hearts to the ways Christ comes among us every day.

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie

November’s “From the Pastor”: Doing Thanksgiving

Last month I wrote to you about the importance of taking care of ALL the gifts God has given us. As we head into November, our Stewardship Month, I’m really excited to share more about what we have in store this year. I’m excited to think about the big picture of stewardship and well-being—not just the nitty gritty of “how we will use our money” but also “God has given us so much—how will I care for it?

I’m excited to announce that our guest speakers for November will be:

  • Kara Kaplan, a licensed mental health counselor, on caring for your emotional, mental, and relational well-being (November 3)
  • David Williams of Thrivent, on caring for your financial well-being (November 10)
  • Kathy Haldenwang, on what it really means to care for your physical well-being
  • Pastor Jeff Kane, on caring for your vocational well-being

(If you received the stewardship letter in the mail, you may notice that one of these names has changed. Dr. Dematteo sadly needed to withdraw as her husband is dealing with some serious health issues. Fortunately Ms. Kaplan was glad to come in her stead. Also, Kathy and Jeff will be speaking on November 17 and 24—we are still finalizing who will be on which date.)

Caring faithfully for what God has given us can be an ongoing struggle. Plenty of other voices, within and without, expect other things from us and can throw us out of balance or take advantage of any unwellness we might have. Careful, sustainable, planned stewardship allows us to keep focused on what God asks us to do. Maybe you’ve seen the commercial for Fidelity Investments, where people have a green arrow that guides them through life, steering them away from pitfalls and putting them on the path to reaching their goals. God has an arrow to guide us too! It’s called the Holy Spirit, nudging us to stay on course, calling us back when we wander. However, this arrow is about way more than just finances though—it’s about everything we have, how we care for it, and the way we live.

As we head toward the day of Thanksgiving later this month, let’s think of this stewardship time as a time of thanksgiving also. Saying “thank you” to God for everything we have is hugely important, of course. But one of the deepest ways to demonstrate you are thankful by your actions is to take care of those gifts. To use them as part of joining God’s mission to heal and reconcile the whole world. If someone says, “Thank you for that amazing gift!” and then throws it away, or puts it on a shelf and never uses it, you start to wonder how much it really meant to them.

Of course, I hope you’ll participate in Stewardship Month in whatever capacity you are able, whether that’s simply attending worship and listening to what our guest speakers have to say, giving us feedback about what else you might find helpful on these various topics, prayerfully making a financial commitment to St. Peter’s for 2020, or something else. But most of all, I hope this month gives you the tools to live a more balanced, more healthy life and to know true well-being and wholeness in all these various areas. St. Peter’s is blessed when its people are blessed, and vice versa.

I hope you all have a very special Thanksgiving and know in your heart that you are a beloved and blessed child of God, no matter what.

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie

October’s “From the Pastor”: Balancing on the Wheel

Dear friends in Christ,

When life gets really busy, I find myself feeling out of balance. Almost like a spinning top that isn’t formed correctly. Tops that aren’t balanced can be kept spinning if you keep forcing them, but eventually they topple over. This is when I fantasize about finding that perfectly balanced state where you don’t have to exhaust yourself making every little thing happen and trying to keep up.

I suppose we will never find that state, because none of us is perfectly formed! But in order to keep doing the work God has given me, I need to be mindful of how the top is spinning. I need to be aware of what’s going on before I crash and burn. I need to be ready to care for the body, the mind, the heart, and the spirit that God has given me.

This is true for all of us. We all have important work to do in this life that was given to us by God. And in order to do it, we need to be mindful of our state of well-being in all things. Obviously we can’t always keep the top spinning. Sometimes we will tip over and need a little help to get going again. But if we crash too often, it starts to keep us from doing what God wants us to do.

Our stewardship focus this year is “Whole Life Stewardship—A Balancing Act.” It’s based on a concept from Portico, our benefits provider, called the Wholeness Wheel. In the wheel there are several different types of well-being:

  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Vocational
  • Intellectual
  • Social/Interpersonal

Surrounding them all is Spiritual Well-Being, which can and should keep them all integrated.

Stewardship is not just about giving money to church. It’s about caring for everything that God has given us, and putting it to use in ways that reflect God’s love for all people in Jesus Christ. So for our stewardship time this year, we will have some of the things you are already familiar with. Cards to estimate your 2020 giving. Charts. Letters. Temple Talks.

However, this year we will cast a wider net in talking about many different kinds of stewardship. For each Sunday in November, we will be welcoming a guest speaker for a short Temple Talk and a more in-depth presentation during coffee hour on four of these areas of well-being. We will also be offering opportunities to go deeper in each of these areas. Time set aside to care more intentionally for your well-being. We will depend on your feedback and suggestions to bring you these opportunities at times when you can participate.

You may be skeptical at this point, thinking “OK, but where’s the catch? When are you going to remind me to give to St. Peter’s?” I think most of us already know it’s important to give to the church. Without your consistent financial support, St. Peter’s could not exist or function as a congregation, and we can always improve in that area, it’s true. We could do some amazing work for Christ if there were no worries about money. But even though stewardship includes money, it’s about much more than money. It’s about taking care of what God has given us. In a word: everything.

Members, regular attenders, those who make use of offering envelopes, keep an eye out for a letter in the mail from me later this month with more info and materials. If you’d like to join that group, please let me or Paula Bishop know. Either way, everyone, please join us in November to explore ways to keep your wheels balanced and spinning.

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie Yahns

September’s “From the Pastor”: Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary

Dear friends in Christ,

Last month, almost a thousand voting members from ELCA congregations all around the country and Caribbean gathered in Milwaukee for the Churchwide Assembly. This gathering happens once every three years and is the highest legislative body in our denomination.

The assembly accomplished a variety of tasks, which are listed later in the Chatter, but I want to focus on one specific action that later became the topic of a brief panel discussion on Fox News. The assembly voted to adopt a memorial (a suggestion from another synod) to designate the ELCA a “sanctuary church body.”

What does this mean? The commenters on Fox News weren’t quite sure, and to be fair, I don’t think most of us know what this actually means. Here’s some language (borrowed from the ELCA) that I have found helpful: Being a “sanctuary church body” means that walking alongside immigrants and refugees is a matter of faith. (now back to my own pondering) This means it is not a matter of politics. Jesus taught us to welcome the widow, the orphan, and the alien, as do the Hebrew Scriptures, and we are called to do this every day, not just on Sunday.

Of course, this brings up a bunch more questions. Although I think we could probably all agree that the immigration system in our country is broken, we probably have a range of different thoughts about how to fix it.  Before you start envisioning me in a mug shot, don’t worry: being a “sanctuary church body” does not mean we are going to start engaging in any illegal actions. (Fox News was a little confused about that issue.)

Being a sanctuary church looks different for different congregations and for different individuals. Our faith calls us to love our neighbors, and that’s what this is really about. How do we best love our neighbors who are in vulnerable situations? The ELCA already does this in lots of ways. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services works to resettle and support those who are coming to make their homes here, as well as making sure those applying for asylum understand how to do so according to law. The ELCA advocates for those being detained to be housed and treated humanely, and for families to not be separated. We (the ELCA) also support a program called AMMPARO, which accompanies minors who are fleeing violence in their home countries.  Addressing the root causes of migration is crucial as well. The ELCA does that by supporting microenterprise programs in Central America that keep minors out of gangs and help them start their own businesses and rebuild their communities. But there is always more to be done.

Remember, the Lutheran church historically is a church of immigrants and refugees—Germans, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, and others. After World War II, one in six Lutherans was either displaced or was a refugee. And now our church is more diverse than ever—on a normal Sunday, ELCA congregations worship in over thirty languages. Becoming a “sanctuary church body” flows from this heritage and from the teachings of Jesus.

The conversation about this term “sanctuary church body” is going to continue. The assembly called for a study to be done across the ELCA to further explore what this could mean. And the conversation can happen here too. If you would like to talk further, or would like more resources to explore as you think about this matter, please reach out to me directly. I’m glad to share the resources I’ve found and meet for conversation.

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie Yahns

August’s “From the Pastor”: What’s the Word?

Dear friends in Christ,

As you page through this issue of the Chatter, you may notice a few changes. We (Council along with me and Kathy P in the office) are working to trim down and redesign the content of the Chatter for a variety of reasons. One reason, of course, is good stewardship, both of our natural resources (paper and energy) as well as our financial resources (postage, materials, employee time). The cost of printing and mailing the Chatter is not exorbitant, but those pages do add up! If we can save a few nickels and dimes here and there, it helps us use our resources wisely.

The second reason, and in some ways the deeper, more philosophical reason, has to do with how we promote good communication flow at St. Peter’s. Communication is like the blood that connects all the different parts of the congregation and beyond it in the whole body of Christ. That’s why our weekly email is called “The Pulse.” It brings necessary information that helps each part of the body to grow, to be healthier, and to be more connected as part of the whole.

Our world today is filled with unnecessary information. We are swimming in it, and sometimes we drown trying to sort out what is needed and what is not. The church is called to be different from the culture around us in what we say—not to just spit out soundbytes and “spin.” As your pastor, I’m sure there are times when I sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher (sorry!). But my goal is to give you necessary information, and to speak God’s truth that gives our lives meaning and purpose through the Holy Spirit. In fact, that’s what the Spirit calls all of us as Christians to do.

Likewise, we strive to make the Chatter a communication vehicle that builds up the body of Christ, helps it be healthier and more connected, and speaks the truth that gives our lives meaning: the truth that God created us, loves us, and has called us to be partners in healing the whole world with the love of Jesus. This truth goes deeper than a Tweet or a soundbyte—so some of this communication will be in-depth, reflective material to chew on and ponder. At the same time, I realize our brains are bombarded with information, which means we need to be thoughtful and strategic in our communications.

With that in mind, some of what was formerly in the Chatter has now been relocated, or will be relocated to our new website very shortly. Other things have been shortened, and we’ll be continuing to refine this process as we go. If you are missing something in particular, please reach out and ask and we’ll be glad to let you know where to find it. If you are not already getting the Pulse emails, you may want to sign up by emailing me at, as some things will be shifting to that avenue of communication.

Thanks for understanding as we work to be good stewards and proclaim the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ to each other and to the world!

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie Yahns

July’s “From the Pastor”: A Different Kind of Monastery

Dear friends in Christ,

I write this to you as I am preparing to embark on my eleven days away for continuing education and spiritual renewal at the Holy Wisdom monastery near Madison, Wisconsin. This is where the Ecumenical Center for Clergy Spiritual Renewal is located. Thank you again for your patience during my time away.

Some of you are probably wondering why a “monastery” would be willing to house me and a few dozen colleagues from churches around the country for this program. After all, monasteries are Catholic and monks live there, right??

Holy Wisdom Monastery is different. It’s home to a variety of different faith communities who take their inspiration from Benedictine monastic spirituality. A group of Benedictine sisters live, work, and pray there and welcome other single women to experience community there, either for a finite period of time or to make vows and join the order in their shared life. There is also a congregation that gathers for ecumenical worship (across Christian denominations) on Sundays and an “oblate community”–a group of men and women that gather together in prayer, work, leisure and study to grow spiritually and incorporate Benedictine spirituality into their lives.

So that’s all great, right, but what IS Benedictine spirituality? Benedict was a monk who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries C.E./A.D. As a young man, he witnessed the sacking of Rome by the Goth invaders and the chaos that surrounded his troubled world. Little did he know that he would have a part in helping Europe emerge from this chapter into a new age. He created a rule of life centered around the values of obedience, humility, moderation, simplicity, and the common good. Monks who followed the Rule of Benedict devoted roughly equal amount of their days to prayer, work, and study in order to benefit the entire monastic community as well as the individual soul. In fact, this pattern became the template on which many other monastic orders built their way of life.

Modern-day Benedictine orders are based on the Benedictine values of beauty, balance, simplicity, justice, silence and respect for all creation. Our time at Holy Wisdom will be spent in prayer and conversation, listening and study and worship, but we will also be working in the “savanah” (I’m not quite sure what to expect there) and doing manual labor to care for the land on which the monastery is located. Hospitality is one of their highest values, as it is for many monastic orders, and so they welcome spiritual retreatants and pilgrims of all kinds. There’s a lot more to read on their website if you are interested:

Personally, I am going there with one main goal: to listen to God. I love what we do here together at St. Peter’s, and I love that so much of it involves creating words through writing and speaking (I do love good words). However, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in doing the words that I forget to make time and space to listen.  I realize that I am blessed, honored, and privileged to have this time to go and listen and be spiritually renewed, and I’m very grateful to all of you and to the Lilly Foundation for making it possible. I look forward to sharing more with you about the experience when I return.

I pray that all of us who need this refreshment would receive it in some way! This is what God meant when God rested on the seventh day. The word “Sabbath” simply means to STOP. May we all find a way to STOP for even just a few seconds today, and listen to the voice of God.

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie Yahns

June’s “From the Pastor”: Expanding Our Expectations

Dear friends in Christ,

Have you ever notice that when someone is telling a story-based joke, you just have a feeling that on the third time through, something funny is about to happen?

Jokes are one example of using repetition and augmentation to build suspense and dramatic effect. When someone starts telling a joke, they are telling you a story, describing something that happened. Then the same thing in the joke happens again, and you start to get the idea of what situation to expect. But then the third time through, something unexpected happens in the story…hopefully something that is also funny. I find myself calling this “augmentation,” although I am sure there is probably an official word for it somewhere, given by those who study and analyze humor as a cultural phenomenon. After a while you start to expect the punch line on the third time through, but if it’s a good joke you haven’t heard before, its content will still surprise you.

Repetition and augmentation are used in the Bible as well. The clearest example is the story of Jesus rising from the dead on the third day. But there are others. The gospel of John sets up the story of Jesus as fitting within the story of creation. When John tells the story of Jesus’ resurrection, he makes sure we know it happened on the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath. Any person familiar with Genesis would know to expect six days of creation and one day of rest, a total of seven days that make up the week. But John follows it up with the unexpected eighth day when, like the FIRST day, a completely new creation begins, this time through the resurrection. You might have thought you knew what to expect, but God says, surprise!

Have I lost you already? Hopefully not!

The Day of Pentecost follows a similar pattern. The season of Easter is sometimes called a “week of weeks”–seven days times seven weeks for a total of 49 days when we are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. In those days, “seven times seven” meant “a whole bunch,” kind of like “forty days and forty nights” meant “a really long time.” But then Pentecost comes on the fiftieth day, and suddenly everything is changed AGAIN. The Holy Spirit comes down on the believers that are gathered in Jerusalem, and suddenly they are all speaking the languages of the Jewish diaspora, all over the Roman Empire, sharing the good news of Jesus. Something totally unprecedented has happened, and the world will never be the same.

God has a pattern of acting outside our frameworks of thought (three times through, seven days in a week, “seven times seven”) to do something new, begin a new creation, open a new chapter of the story. Whenever you see numbers highlighted in Scripture, pay attention to what they mean. Often they are more than just numbers! Sometimes they are describing the established framework that God is breaking or expanding or transforming by doing a new thing.

Together in Christ,
Pastor Katie Yahns