Youth Resource Committee Continues to Expand Impact in 2022
The Youth Resource Committee (YRC), which supports youth and young people in the community facing various financial challenges, continued to expand their impact in 2022. In terms of transportation, YRC assisted with 6 sessions of Drivers Education for Hudson High School students, donated 15 $25 gas gift cards, supported families with over $1500 in taxi vouchers, and bought a bike/helmet/lock for two students. YRC also assisted Crowning Achievements with their hygiene drive for unhoused teens and families, donating $200 of hygiene products; and participated in Operation Help’s Christmas program, supplying two children with Christmas gifts. AND the YRC’s Knit (and Crochet) a Difference Program was back and stronger than ever with 1000+ handmade winter accessories donated by year end to various organizations serving neighbors in economic need! YRC was founded through the amazing work of volunteers in the congregation and community, and continues to be supported by the generosity of First Pres and other community organizations, and wonderful volunteers from the congregation and community.
Diverse Worship Experiences Enliven Christmas Season
Once again, the First Pres family gathered in a variety of ways during the Christmas season to remember God’s holy gift of love come down to live among us in the Christ Child. On Dec. 18, we enjoyed a service of Christmas lessons and carols, with the sacred story of the season told by members of the family of faith ages 2-109! On Dec. 20, we held a Zoom-only Longest Night Worship Service, for those whose hearts are heavy during the holiday season. During our Christmas Eve worship service, we reflected on why we tell the Christmas story from generation to generation, and we shared the Bethlehem Peace light. Christmas Day, we gathered for an informal service with hymns and a poetic reading of John 1:1-5, and on January 1, we remembered how the Magi followed a star to find the Christ Child by sharing star words to guide us in our faith journeys in the year ahead!
Christmas-time Generosity Overflows
God’s love and generosity flowed through the First Pres family again this past Christmas season. More than 175 boxes of instant hot cocoa and 25+ gifts were donated for children in our area through Operation HELP’s Christmas Campaign. In addition, members and friends of First Pres donated $1850 in honor and memory of loved ones to the Deacons Benevolence Fund, which provides assistance to neighbors in the Hudson area experiencing financial need; and First Pres donated more than $550 to the Christmas Joy Offering, a special offering the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) supporting the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions, which provides critical financial support to church workers and their families, and Presbyterian-related schools and colleges equipping communities of color by providing education and leadership development while nurturing racial and ethnic heritage.
Advent & Christmas Art-making, Story-sharing, Caroling, Cocoa, & a Campfire
December 11 was a full day at First Pres, with intergenerational art and story sharing following worship, and caroling, cocoa, and a campfire in the early evening! It was a wonderful opportunity to connect across the generations around sacred story and remembrance—and the gift of sacred song—and to share the love and songs of Christmas with neighbors outside County Market and at Woodland Hill Senior Living. In addition to these great events, we’re also so grateful to those who shared intergenerational pictures and Christmas memories to enliven our Advent and Christmas worship!
Blankets & Bags Headed to Offer Comfort to Children Being Placed in Foster Care
Responding to an expressed need from our mission partner Safe Haven Foster Shoppe, in October, the Mission Committee sponsored a bag drive for empty diaper and duffle bags, which will be filled with new comfort and personal items to be given to children and teens when they are being placed in foster care. More than a dozen bags were donated. In addition, on October 23, as part of our Love in Action service Sunday, many helped to tie more than a dozen fleece blankets for the placement bags. On November 13, we blessed these items and prayed for the children who will receive them. May the bags and blankets wrap each young person in God’s love.
Expanded COVID-19 Memorial Dedicated
On Sunday, November 6, we held a brief prayer service to hang and dedicate the expansion of the “Web of Loss & Connection-A St. Croix County COVID-19 Memorial” near the labyrinth. Tragically, 74 additional St. Croix County neighbors have died since we first installed the memorial in fall 2021, and we wanted to remember them too. View pictures here.
Friendly Faces at the Library’s Trick or Treat Trail!
Pastor Lora led a great group of First Pres friends to host a table at the Hudson Area Public Library’s trick or treat trail on Oct. 29. Their welcoming presence was inclusive of all, and embodied our commitments to caring for God’s beautiful creation, building intergenerational connections, and engaging loving community through art! View pictures here!
Love in Action Sunday Offers Time for Shared Service
Sunday, October 23, was a joyful morning for the First Pres family to gather and put their “Love in Action” through shared service. Participants engaged in various service activities at home, at the church, and out in the community! Prayers were lifted, blankets were tied for children entering foster care (they’ll be distributed through Safe Haven Foster Shoppe), and LOTS of leaves were raked at 3 different yards! View pictures here.
Sewers Share God’s Love through Purses for Teens in Zambia
In September, First Pres Mission Sewers and others sewed 31 purses for teens in Zambia. The purses will be filled with feminine hygiene products (many handsewn in Zambia by local seamstresses), helping the teens have the resources they need to attend school all month long! We blessed the purses in worship on October 9 before they began their long journey. Thanks be to God for all the sewers who responded to this Sewpowerful challenge.
Lord’s Prayer Study Helps Grow Faith of All Ages
Our Lord’s Prayer Inter-generational Summer Learning Series finished up on Sunday, August 28th. Over the summer we played games, learned and had conversations, engaged in various prayer practices (including prayer rocks, prayer sticks, and prayer candles), did crafts, did a couple of service projects (including packing snack bags for the Raider Network and prepping surprises for new educators in Hudson), and learned an embodied version of the Lord’s Prayer. Thanks to all who volunteered and participated.
Littles and their Families Enjoy Storytime at the Garden
Thirty-five children, parents, and grandparents gathered August 10 for a great story time at the Give It Away Garden. Miss Sara from the Hudson Area Public Library shared two stories by Lois Ehlert, along with some great story-time songs. Afterwards, we toured the garden (which supplies fresh produce for our neighbors at the Hudson Food Cupboard), created our own rainbow garden pictures, and enjoyed popsicles. View pictures here!
Buy Nothing “Sale” Brings Community Together in Sharing
On August 13, we enjoyed a great swap of stuff in the church parking lot as the community came together for a Buy Nothing “Sale.” People with items to share (for free) and people searching items for home and hobbies came together to give items new life with new homes. We also enjoyed connecting over coffee, treats, and chalk art. Plans are already underway for another “sale” in the spring. View pictures here!
Summer Worship Series Revisits and Reframes 10 Commandments
We spent the summer of 2022 revisiting and reimagining God’s guidance commonly known as the 10 Commandments. Through words, song, and art, we looked at how these 10 words of guidance are meant to nurture thriving life for all. You can listen to Pastor Kendra’s sermons here, and view the people artwork from there series here.
Youth Mental Health First Aid Training Hosted at First Pres
Alyson Sauter (from the United Way St. Croix Valley), led several members of First Pres and others in Youth Mental Health First Aid training on August 9. It was a great time to come together and learn more about common mental health challenges for youth, and to learn a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. It takes all of us working together to ensure the health and wellness of all people, which God has always desired! View pictures from the training!
Mortgage PAID to Enliven Expanded Intergenerational Ministries & Service in the Community
Way back on March 23, 2020, we made the final mortgage payment on the church building at 1901 Vine Street! Finally (after a couple of postponed celebrations), on Sunday, June 5, 2022, we gathered to celebrate this milestone for the First Pres family with a “symbolic mortgage burning.” We gave thanks for all the saints past and present who helped us get to this point in our life of faith! We look forward, with great hope, to expanding our intergenerational ministries and service in the community using all our resources! Read more in this article by the Star Observer.
No Mow May & No Waste Box Embody Commitment to Caring for God’s Creation
Continuing our commitment to care for God’s creation, in May, we refrained from mowing the church lawn to help pollinators get a good start on their important work this year as flowering species in lawns bloom! Learn more about No Mow May! We also partnered with The Purple Tree in downtown Hudson to provide a TerraCycle No Waste Box to help people recycle “hard to recycle” things—in this case laminated paper packaging (ie. paper or cardboard with a waxy or plastic coating).
Three First Presbyterian Church Scholarships Awarded to Hudson High Grads
Congrats to the 2022 First Presbyterian Church Scholarship recipients Noah Bekemeyer, Emily Kleiber, and Kayla Jarppi! They were chosen from 30+ Hudson High School applicants to receive scholarships to support their ongoing learning and growth as they seek to serve compassionately in the world. Embodying our family of faith’s commitments to supporting young people and sharing God’s love in the world, all applications were considered and evaluated for financial need and altruistic commitments.
New Members Formally Welcomed on Pentecost
Just as the Holy Spirit added to the first followers of Christ one fateful Pentecost long ago, we rejoice that the Holy Spirit brought new siblings to our family of faith this Pentecost. We formally welcomed Steve & Joan and Vickie & Glenn (and family)! We look forward to growing in faith together!
Church Officers Gather to Imagine & Envision First Pres in Five Years
On June 4, the officers “retreated” to envision together who we think God is calling us to be in 5 years-and to plan how to get there (by God’s grace). It was wonderful, Spirit-filled day of conversation, imagination, and reflection! We look forward to deepening and expanding our commitments to meeting the needs of young people/ families in the wider Hudson community, connecting with diverse populations in the area, and more visibly embodying our core values in the years ahead!
New Class of Officers Ordained & Installed with Laying on of “Hands”/ Ribbons
On May 15, we ordained and installed a new class of ruling elders and deacons to lead the congregation. With COVID-cases surging again, we adapted the usual laying on of hands using ribbons to connect the whole congregation in a web of prayer and support for those beginning their service. We look forward to how their leadership among us will help us stretch and grow in faith and share God’s love near and far!
Holy Humor Celebrated with Joy
On May 1, we celebrated God’s gift of humor and laughter with a “Holy Humor” worship service. We joyfully threw confetti, shared jokes (including animal jokes and makes for the young and young at heart), enjoyed the “joyful feast of the people of God” (communion), and Pastor Kendra did a tribute to one of her favorite comedians, Stephen Colbert.
One Great Hour of Sharing Offering Supports Ukrainian Refugees & Many Others
We give thanks to all who contributed to the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering in April! Our congregation collected $2,760.00 in support of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (currently responding to the refugee crisis due to the war in Ukraine). Gifts to this offering each year help us share God’s love near and far!
First Pres Month of Staffing Hudson Food Cupboard Wraps Up
Once again, First Pres “staffed” with Food Cupboard with volunteers throughout the month of April to ensure clients in need of food were able to select the food items that would best meet their needs. Volunteers provided a friendly greeting for all clients, and assisted as they filled their grocery cart with food and helped carry items to their cars. Thanks as always for your wonderful volunteer efforts and support of the Hudson Food Cupboard year-round with donations of most needed food items.
Young Adults Blessed with Surprise Care Packages
The Children, Youth, and Intergenerational Ministry Team pulled together some wonderful care packages for the young adults in our congregation this past month! Boxes filled with homemade treats, notes of love, and others surprises were mailed far and wide in mid-April and greeted with gratitude by our young people growing and beginning to make their own way in the wider world!
Worship & Upcycled Crafting Remind All of God’s Call to Care for Creation
On April 24, two days after Earth Day, we remembered God’s call to care for creation with a special worship service, including scripture, poetry (listen here to “The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson and “Beginners” by Denise Levertov), and special music (listen here to “Earth Anthem” by Sami Stidham and “Look at the World” by John Rutter, with beautiful images of creation). Then following worship, we gathered to “upcycle” plastic bottles into flowers to decorate the fence around the Give It Away Garden.
Holy Week & Easter Celebrated with Spirit-filled Worship
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the First Pres family gathered both in the Sanctuary and on Zoom to remember Jesus’ final week with his disciples, his death, and his resurrection. We began the week on Palm Sunday with palms waving as we reflected on how we are “Held by a God who Leads Us in the Ways of Peace.” On Maundy Thursday, we remembered together at table Jesus’ care and love, and then reflected on Jesus final hours and death at the hands of the empire in scripture, silence, and song. And on Easter, we celebrated with a full-house in the sanctuary and on Zoom, and even with some confetti!
Lent Opens with Prayer, Art-Making, and Devotional Resources
Our Lenten observance began this year with prayer stations and ashes offered on Ash Wednesday. Participants were invited to embody their prayers through planting, candles, drawing, and quiet reflection. Click here to view pictures or the prayer stations. Following worship on the first Sunday of Lent, all enjoyed intergenerational art making based on our Lenten theme “Held by God” (view pictures here). And throughout Lent, all were invited to quiet reflection with scripture and the poetry of Mary Oliver and to prayer, by creating prayer chains with names of members of the church family.
First Pres One of Many Community Partners for “Rights of the Child Community Forum”
In February, the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, presented the Rights of the Child Community Forum, an exploration of the rights that a living child has or should have in the world today. First Pres was among the many community partners for this event, with many in our family of faith participating in hopes of sparking deeper action to support children in the St. Croix Valley. Pastor Kendra also served as one of the small group facilitators. Click here to view a recording of the plenary presentations. The forum as inspired by an exhibition of paintings and digitally designed posters by artist Moira Villiard titled “Doublethink: Rights of the Child,” on display at the Phipps in early 2022.
Mission Committee Visits Safe Haven Foster Shoppe
In February, the Mission Committee visited Safe Haven Foster Shoppe‘s center of operations. Safe Haven, one of many local organizations our congregation supports, preps backpacks of new clothes & personal items for children placed in foster care. With the help of the generous congregation, First Pres built 2 bags for them in February and plan to help with their August back to school campaign. Click here to learn more and view photos of the visit.
All Invited To Another Year of Reflection With Star Gifts/ Words
Once again, in celebration of Epiphany, First Pres members and friends were invited to take a star gift/ word to guide their reflection in the coming year. Reflection questions will be shared each month on Facebook @FPCHudsonWI, and in the church e-newsletter. These stars and the season of Epiphany invite us to look, look again, and look harder for God appearing right in our midst, moving the world towards God’s dream of justice, peace, and love for all. Read more about the call of Epiphany in Pastor Kendra’s latest column for the Star-Observer Newspaper. Star gifts for all are available in the church office throughout the year.
Sacred Christmas Worship Enjoyed In-Person and on Zoom
With great help as ever from our amazing staff and tech team, the First Pres family marked the season of Christmas with a Longest Night Gathering on Dec. 21 (holding space for grief and loss amid the “festive” season), Candlelight Worship on Christmas Eve, Christmas poetry (and pjs) for worship on Dec. 26, and a blessed Epiphany celebration on Jan. 2 (amid -20 degree weather). We had worshippers in-person and on Zoom for all our gatherings, enjoying the blessing of connection by God’s Spirit as we celebrated once again Christ’s birth among us!
Caroling, Cookies, & Hot Cocoa Warm Spirits
On December 12, we took our Christmas carols and congregational singing outside (for safety) and into the community (to share God’s love and joy). Fun was had for all with a night of caroling in the community (at County Market and Woodland Hills Senior Living), followed by singing, cookies, and cocoa around the fire on the church patio! View pictures here!
Christmas Pageant Brings Joy to All
On Dec. 12, our worship included a wonderful reader’s theatre-style retelling of the Christmas story by ages 2-108! Written by our own Pastor Lora Burge, it was a blessed opportunity to reflect on what all the characters of the Christmas drama experienced and felt. You can watch the pageant here, and you can view selected pictures here.
Pastor Kendra Serves as Panelist for Library Event
Monday, Dec. 6, Pastor Kendra was honored to serve as a panelist for the Hudson Area Library’s “Ministerial Voices in the Valley” event. Kendra shared her thoughts on life and faith in general, during the pandemic, and amid the political and social divisions of our time. Listen to her and her fellow panelists share their thoughts here!
Operation HELP Gift Giving & Hot Cocoa
The First Pres family joined again this year with other area groups to help all our neighbors have a warm and cheerful holiday season. It was a blessing to see our congregation share God’s love by donating gifts for other families and more than 200 boxes of hot cocoa for Operation HELP’s Christmas campaign.
“Homes” Created for Reflection during Advent
Home is both a metaphor and a place in the stories of the Advent and Christmas season. As a church family, we will be wrestling with the idea of home throughout the season as part of our “Close to Home” Advent Series, from Sanctified Art. So, as part of our Advent preparations, we made little ‘homes’ for use as a tool for spiritual practices and reflection in preparation for Christmas. View pictures here.
On All Saints Sunday, November 7, 2021, we lit candles in remembrance of the 7 members and friends of the congregation (Bev Benedict, Dick Grekoff, Nick Whitney, Joan Kvam, Betty Lee, Lee Myhre, Donna Datwyler) who this year came to rest in God’s presence; in remembrance of all our loved ones who rest in God’s presence; and in remembrance of the 86 people in our county, more than 750,000 people in our country, and more than 5,000,000 people worldwide who have died from COVID-19 to date and rest now in God’s eternal care. May all the saints who have gone before us rest from their labors, and may God grant peace to all our mourn.
St. Croix County COVID-19 Memorial Installed Near Labyrinth
To remember those who have died, the losses and challenges we’ve all experienced, and connections which sustain us, we created a memorial art installation called “Web of Loss & Connection.” It began at our Pray and Play event on September 19, and it was a blessing to share this opportunity for reflection at the Spirit of the St. Croix Art Festival. The memorial is on display near the labyrinth, on the northeast corner of the First Presbyterian Church parking lot (1901 Vine Street, Hudson). Visitors are welcome during daylight hours. View photos!
“Pray and Play” Fun for All Ages
Sunday, Sept. 19, Pastor Lora (our Family-Intergenerational Ministries Coordinator) led us in a wonderful time of prayer and play! We worshiped, served, and played together all while reconnecting as a community of faith! View photos!
Blessing for the Start of a New School Year
August 29, as students, teachers, and staff in area schools returned to classrooms, we offered a special blessings and prayer for all of them (and the tools of their efforts—including backpacks) in worship. We also mailing a backpack tag to all the students in our family of faith so they have a visual sign of God’s blessing as they learn and growth throughout the year.
First Pres Featured in Star Observer
Continuing their emphasis on local journalism, the Star Observer featured a profile of our family of faith in their July 29, 2021, edition. We extend our gratitude to the paper for helping us tell the story of how we are seeking to share God’s love and grow in faith!
Globe Art Installation Hung in Sanctuary
In the fall 2019, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2020, we began recreating a globe to celebrate God’s presence in the world. During the year, each wedge provided a new opportunity for prayerful reflection on God’s presence in and call upon our lives. The globe was finally hung in mid-July 2021, with gratitude to Gopher Stage Lighting for installing our art lift (in March 2020) in memory of Gloria Voskuil. Check out pictures and more details!
Welcoming the Rev. Lora Burge, Family-Intergenerational Ministries Coordinator
We are thrilled to announce that the Rev. Lora Burge will be joining the First Pres staff beginning July 22, as our Family-Intergenerational Ministry Coordinator. In this role, Lora will coordinate (1) opportunities for young people and their families to grow in faith and share God’s love and (2) opportunities for the entire congregation to be in ministry to and with young people and their families. Read Lora’s bio.
Outdoor Worship Brings Family of Faith Together After Months Apart
On June 13, members and friends of the First Pres family had a lovely time gathering on the lawn/ via Zoom to worship, sing, and pray together (the first time physically gathered in 15 months)! It was a blessing for all! What a blessing for all! Check out pics here!
Give It Away Garden Gets Grant from Hudson Home & Garden Club
The Give It Away Garden got an upgrade this spring thanks to a grant from the Hudson Home and Garden Club and wonderful volunteers. The wood to make the raised beds was rotting (after several years of use), so grant money was used to purchase cement block to install more permanent raised garden beds. We look forward to the great harvest these upgraded beds will yield, as we grow fresh produce for neighbors who visit the Hudson Food Shelf and clients of the St. Croix County Women, Infant, Child (WIC) Program.
Three First Presbyterian Church Scholarships Awarded in 2021
Scholarship recipients Lauren Loken, Zeina Battah, and Trueli Thor (2021 graduates from Hudson High School) were selected from a pool of more than 70 applicants. Each will receive a $1000 scholarship to support their continued learning. These scholarships are just one more way that we share God’s love, encouraging and empowering young people in our community to grow and use their gifts in communities near and far.
Celebrating God’s gift of the Holy Spirit which upholds us amid life’s ups and downs, we hosted a drop-in Pentecost Party on May 23. First Pres members and friends came by to help fill the last wedge of our “world” (started pre-pandemic) with Spirit sightings from the last year! It was great to see everyone and get a glimpse of how the Holy Spirit has been at work in people’s lives!
More Than 600 Pairs of Shoes Saved from Landfills
As an extension of our ongoing efforts to care for God’s beautiful creation (Earth), this spring we collected over 600 pairs of shoes to be given a second home (thus, saving them from filling up landfills). We are grateful for our partnership with the National Honor Society at Hudson High School and the Hudson Y which helped make this possible!
Anti-Racism Study & Discernment Looks to Coming Year
After engaging in a 21-Day Racial Justice Challenge last summer, a documentary discussion series this past fall, and a study of Ibram Kendi’s How to Be An Antiracist this spring, members and friends of First Pres are now discerning what is the next faithful step we can take together seeking the racial justice God has always desired. We remain committed to humble learning (as a white-majority congregation) as well was faithful action in solidarity with our siblings of color.
April at the Hudson Food Shelf
Per tradition, volunteers from First Pres once again staffed the Hudson Food Shelf throughout the month of April ensuring neighbors in need received food staples. Observing COVID-19 safety protocols, volunteers carried food to clients as they arrived for pick up, and restocked shelves as needed thereafter.
Holy Humor Sunday
The Second Sunday of Easter we celebrated the unbridled joy of the good news of Christ’s resurrection with a bit of “holy humor,” a tradition extending to some of the earliest Christian theologians who noted that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. Easter was “God’s supreme joke played on death.” So the Sunday after Easter became a “bright Sunday” filled with joy and laughter as people played jokes on each other, sang, danced, told jokes and had fun. We enjoyed a ridiculous skit by the staff “Teaching God to Zoom,” a delightful medley of “15 Hymns in A Minute,” and jokes by First Pres’s own Rich Jordahl!
Joyful Easter Celebration
We celebrated Easter joyfully this year with worship leadership of all ages and many delightful Easter proclamations! We began with the joyful proclamations at the empty “tomb”—Christ is risen! We shared Luke’s telling of the first Easter morning with many voices! And Pastor Kendra reminded us, that if our hearts are still tender after the last year (filled with trauma), it’s okay to receive the good news of Easter slowly and gently!
Virtual Palm Parade
Our 2021 Palm Sunday celebrations began with a wonderful “virtual” palm parade! It was great to see so many friendly faces joyfully waving their eco-palms! Check out the parade, which includes First Pres family and friends from age 1-108!
“Grief & Goodness” Prayer Wall
As part of our Lenten worship series on “Grief and Goodness Intertwined,” we were blessed to have First Pres member and artist Richard Ward create a prayer wall for the First Pres family and wider community. The wall stood along Vine Street throughout lent for people to share both their prayers of grief/ lament and gratitude for goodness. Early on Easter morning, the prayer wall was transformed with a flower cross to celebrate how Christ’s rising offers new life and transformation to all (watch a time lapse of the transformation here).
Conversations about Grief and Goodness
We were blessed to hear reflections on “Grief and Goodness Intertwined” from various members and friends of First Pres throughout Lent! Pastor Kendra talked with Gay Ward, Josh Heikkila (Presbyterian Church U.S.A. Mission Co-Worker in West Africa), Karen Morgan, Peg Gagnon (Executive Director of BRIDGE for Community Life), & Will Beachey! Thanks to all who shared their powerful reflections.
“Our Dreams” Luminary Walk
We began 2021 (and ended the Christmas season) by lighting up Vine Street in front of the church with luminaries. On January 3, during the early evening hours, we were blessed to share luminaries decorated with words and images detailing “our dreams” for the world. We celebrated how Christ’s light illumines our dreams and lights the way toward all God’s dreams.
Sharing God’s Love at Christmas
The First Pres family was once again honored to be able to help make Christmas a bit more joyful for neighbors in the region through Operation HELP’s Christmas Champaign and Safe Haven Foster Shoppe’s special Christmas gift drive. In addition to shopping for gifts selected by the children/ families, First Pres also collected hot cocoa to spread warm holiday cheer to families as well.
Grant Awarded for Sanctuary Upgrades to Support Permanent Virtual Worship Option
One unanticipated blessing of moving to virtual only worship (due to COVID-19) has been worshiping with members of our church family who have previously been unable to worship in person: the permanently homebound, those who have been hospitalized, and/or who have moved to other parts of the country (seasonally or permanently). Whenever we are able to return safely to worship in-person, we do not want to lose these life-giving connections.
Accordingly, we are planning for an ongoing hybrid worship experience, where those worshipping in the sanctuary would be able to see and interact with those worshipping via Zoom, and those worshipping remotely via Zoom would be able to see and interact with siblings in Christ gathered in the sanctuary.
We are thankful for a Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area Congregational Development Grant which will help us upgrade some technology in the sanctuary to make this a seamless worship experience for all.
2020 Give It Away Garden Harvest
Moving forward in faith, despite the uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Give It Away garden was planted last spring, and recently put to bed for the winter, but in the interim, yielded 80+ pounds of veggies (green beans, swish chard, squash, zucchini, cabbage, onions, and more) for neighbors visiting the Hudson Food Shelf. Many thanks to all who helped tend the garden (while maintaining physical distance and masking as needed) and to local gardeners who donated plants!
New Trees and Shrubs Planted in Care of God’s Creation
This fall, several new trees and indigenous shrubs were planted on the west side of the church property as part of our continuing efforts to care for God’s creation. Gifts made in memory of Jim Franz and funds from our 2019 peacekeeping offering were used to offset the cost of these plantings. We are grateful for this opportunity to honor and remember Jim’s life and love and help make peace with creation which God has entrusted to our care.
Celebrating 30 Years of Service to the First Pres Family
In late August, we were blessed to celebrate Jody Branson’s 30 years of service (and counting) as First Pres’s Director of Music and Liturgical Arts. We were blessed to share special words of thanks, recorded by members and friends of First Pres (past and present), with Jody, as well as a special “burning bush” stepping stone for her garden, sharing some of the many ways her gifts help point us toward God’s presence and calling!
Book Club Meets with Author Jim Guhl
The FPC Book Club continues to gather on the fourth Monday of each month at 1:00pm even during these challenging days of COVID-19 physical distancing. In June, they took a break from Zoom and gathered at outside (physically distanced with masks) to discuss Eleven Miles to Oshkosh with gather Jim Guhl. New participants always welcome! Check out current and recent reads here!
At Home Vacation Bible School 2020
Over the summer, children and families participated in Compassion Camp, an “At Home” Vacation Bible School journey. Children and families explored together (over 5 weeks) what it means to have compassion for others, ourselves, and the world as God desires! Thanks to all the members and friends of the First Pres family who prepared activities, recorded Bible stories, prayers, and more. Check out these great photos from First Pres Compassion Camp!
21 Day Racial Justice Challenge
In late-July 2020, following God’s call to seek to break all bonds of injustice, members and friends of First Pres participated in the 21 Day Racial Justice Challenge put together by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The materials in this challenge offer a bit of the history (particularly the history in the church) that has supported systemic racism and how/ why we as the church are called to anti-racism work. Participants gathered twice via Zoom to discuss learnings and how we might all continue the lifelong work of dismantling racism and nurturing the justice God desires.
Handwriting (and/or Illustrating) the Gospel of Mark
People have copied holy texts for centuries as a spiritual discipline. In monasteries, monks spent large parts of their days copying sacred scripture, lettering the text, illuminating it with illustrations, and commenting on its meaning. Writers share that writing has had a healing, liberating, centering effect. It connects us across time, and allows us to become part of a community.
As a way to connect (non-digitally) during the COVID-19 pandemic, members and friends of First Pres are copying the Gospel of Mark, using individuals’ handwriting or calligraphy. Individuals of all ages (and families together) are copying a chapter each. Contributors are also adding personal commentary and illustrations or artistic interpretations to their passage (as desired). Sign up here to handwrite and/or illustrate a chapter. Check out the detailed instructions here.
We are compiling submissions to share the wider church family (along with reflections on the scared discipline of copying scripture).
Lord’s Prayer Summer Worship Series
From June 14-August 2, 2020, we journeyed in worship through Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 6:7-13). Each week, we invited everyone to record the word(s) that best convey the deep meaning behind the phrase/ petition on which we were reflecting that week. All the while, Barb Beachey and Jody Branson prepared posters to center our worship for the week! Check out their posters which are beautiful works of liturgical art in our Facebook album. May these sacred words center us all in daily prayer!
Kids Connection at Home
Through the generosity of our amazing volunteers, Kids Connection has continued at home during physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every couple of weeks, packets with Bible stories and at home activities (all ready to go straight out of the envelope) have been mailed to families with young children offering families opportunities to grow in faith together supported by the love and prayers of the wider First Pres family.
Prayer Signs During COVID-19 Pandemic
In spring 2020, seeking to share God’s love and messages of care with our community, we launched a prayer sign ministry, asking members and friends of First Pres to make signs to place along Vine St. These great handmade signs lift up some of our many prayers for our community and for the world during this challenging times! View all the signs in our Facebook album.
April Volunteers at Hudson Food Shelf
Throughout the month of April, volunteers from First Pres came together to staff the Hudson Food Shelf (as the church family does each April). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the operating procedures were modified to reduce the risk of exposure to volunteers and clients alike. But still the faithful work of sharing food with those who might otherwise go without continued. We give thanks to all who served and to Maggie Wooley in particular, our Hudson Food Shelf board representative, for keeping us organized and for helping to lead the food shelf ministry year round.
Creation Care Virtual Worship Service in Observance of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day
On April 19, we gathered for a wonderful Care of Creation Virtual Worship Service. It was a wonderful day to celebrate God’s gift of creation and call ourselves to ever more faithful and intentional action to care for God’s creation and participate in God’s ongoing work of re-creation. Highlights of the service included beautiful music from special guest musician John Mueller and First Pres youth Sami Stidham, two musical and video reflections on the wonders of creation (one set to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and one set to Rutter’s “Look at the World”), and the reading of the poems “Remember” by Joy Harjo and “Work Song” by Wendell Berry. May we all recommit ourselves to the sacred work of caring for the earth and all of creation!
Hudson Area Backpack Program Spring Food Distributions from First Pres
While we worship, study, and gather remotely to continue living out our mission to share God’s love and grow in faith, we are so honored and blessed to offer our building as a space for the Hudson Area Backpack Program to continue their faithful work of feeding families in the community who might otherwise go without food during these difficult days! Check out this awesome video of volunteers receiving and repacking food for distribution on April 22.
Virtual Holy Week
With COVID-19 continuing to spread globally and locally, Holy Week 2020 was a Holy Week unlike any other. The First Pres family gathered for worship on Zoom all week (as we are throughout this time of physically distancing). On Palm Sunday, we waved “palm” branches found around our homes, lifted up our cries of “Hosanna” (“God save us!/God saves!”), and shared communion virtually for the first time. On Maundy Thursday, we shared communion once more, reflected on the sacred service of foot/handwashing, and read the scriptures narrating Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, and execution while extinguishing candles together. And on Easter, we gathered proclaiming that where there is solidarity, there is resurrection—God will bring life from death!
Homeless Care Kits Assembled
On March 1, all ages gathered to assemble 25 homeless care kits for distribution in the community. Cinch sacks were filled with reusable water bottles, hand warmers, lip balm, socks, bandages, handiwipes, travel toothbrushes, toothpaste and more. Members then took the bags to distribute to people in the community whenever they encountered someone in need. The activity sparked conversation across age groups about the challenges people who are homeless face and how we can help make God’s dream of a safe home a reality for all people.
End of Life Speaker Series
This winter, various speakers invited us into deeper reflection about planning for the end of life, and how we can give a final blessing to our loved ones upon our death.
- January 26, 2020-Mike O’Connell, owner of
O’Connell Family Funeral Homes, offered tips on how start “The Talk Of A Lifetime”
- February 3, 2020-Pastor Kendra Grams, offered info on planning memorial services and other details to consider before death
- February 16, 2020-Roy Sjoberg, Senior Partner/Owner of Sjoberg & Tebelius Attorneys at Law, will discuss health care directives, powers of attorney, probate avoidance, and trusts.
- February 23, 2020-Erin M. Flug-Geissler, Patient Services Advisor at Adoray Home Health & Hospice explored the difference between hospice and palliative care and the benefits of both to patient, family, and caregivers.
African Mural Displayed
In November 2019, we had the honor of hosting a four panel mural from Hudson artist Liz Malanaphy. Liz guided the students at the Children of Africa Hope Mission School in Nairobi, Kenya, through the process of painting the murals this past summer. The mural depicts the natural environment of the Kenyan students. As Liz shares, the joy with which the students painted, the natural earth of the outdoor courtyard where they painted, and their artistic talent are all evident in the panels.
Grant Received in Celebration of Congregation’s Support of St. Croix County WIC Program
In January 2020, First Pres received a $500 grant from the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area Congregational Vitality Committee in appreciate for our commitment to the St. Croix County Public Health Women, Infant, and Child (WIC) Program. Since 2013, we have hosted monthly WIC clinics. In the summer months, we share fresh produce from our Give It Away Garden. In the winter months, handmade winter accessories from the Youth Resource Committee are always available for families to take as needed. In 2018, we began providing children’s books for the families, and late in 2019, we began collecting non-gender specific toys and other birthday items to help families celebrate birthdays with their children as desired.
We are honored by this grant and plan to use it to purchase Spanish language children’s books to share with families who visit through the WIC program and to purchase additional supplies as needed for homeless care kits which members of the congregation will distribute to neighbors in need throughout the region.
Youth Resource Committee Receives Grant for Taxi Vouchers
On Tuesday, Dec. 10, St. Croix Electric Cooperative Finance & Administration Manager Tonya Gullixson (holding check on left) visited the Hudson Youth Resource Committee (YRC) at First Pres to present a Commitment to Community grant check – the first since the group became recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in September. The funds will be used to fund taxi vouchers to assist at-risk youth and their families in the Hudson area with transportation to school, doctors appointments, work, and more. Committee members present included (from left) First Pres Pastor Rev. Dr. Kendra Grams, Ken Wooley, Maggie Wooley, YRC Secretary Deanne DeGraff, YMCA in Hudson Youth Development Program Manager and YRC Committee Chairperson Alyson Sauter, Hudson High School Social Worker Julie Johnson and YRC Treasurer Jeanne Schmidt. We celebrate the dedication and service of all the members of the Youth Resource Committee, from First Pres and the wider community, and join the Youth Resource Committee in thanking the St. Croix Electric Cooperative for their support!
Blue Christmas Worship Service
On December 11, 2019, we were honored to partner with Bethel Lutheran Church to host a Blue Christmas Worship Service for those who might not feel “cheery” this season for any number of reasons, including loss, illness, or other life transitions. Read more about the service in this Star Observer article. Thanks to Bethel Lutheran Church for their collaboration, guest harpist Grace Cross for her lovely special music, and all who attended to offer one another God’s love and peace in the form of caring community.
Earth Care Speaker Series
This fall, we’ve been blessed to learn from various members of our wider community about how we can be more intentional in caring for God’s beautiful creation.
- Kate Marnach of Tare Market shared great tips on reducing waste. She shares some of the great tips she shared with us on her blog post “The Best Way to Begin Your Zero Journey.”
- Kris Poston, the St. Croix County Recycling Specialist, answered many of our questions about what is and is not recyclable in Hudson, commended this A-Z Recycling & Disposal Guide to us, and reminded us of the importance not only of recycling, but also of rethinking what we purchase and reusing, repurposing, and repairing what we can to further reduce waste.
- Kent Johnson, a retired environmental specialist with the Metropolitan Council, explained how we can help protect our waterways, offering these 10 things we can all do to help keep area waters clean.
- Melissa May, a member of First Presbyterian Church of Stillwater, Minnesota, shared about their congregation’s journey to becoming an Earth Care Congregation and their ongoing work to care for creation.
Senior Luncheon 2019
On September 12, the Deacons lovingly hosted the annual Senior Luncheon for members and friends of the congregation age 75 or older. More than 30 seniors attended. In addition to a delicious homemade lunch, attendees enjoyed a brief program which included pop-culture trivia from the decades of their youth, highlights of First Pres’ history, and several songs on the accordion by our own Dale Schmidt!
Service for Healing and Wholeness
On May 28, we held a special service for healing and wholeness at Lakefront Park. We gathered to sing and pray together for healing and wholeness for ourselves, for our neighbors, for our communities, and for our world. As part of the worship service, we tied prayer ribbons to create a river of prayers for healing and wholeness. Following this special worship service, we placed the river of prayers in front of the church, along the Vine Street sidewalk, so that people from the wider community could add their prayers as well.
In July, twenty-two youth and adults from the community (including a couple from our own congregation) traveled to Bozeman, MT, to serve with Habitat for Humanity, as part of Networks Youth Ministry’s MISHPack service trip. They laid sod, constructed saw horses, and helped with reorganizing and restocking supplies at the ReStore. Following their week of service, they spend 2.5 days hiking and camping in the Spanish Peaks. All enjoyed a week of exploring God’s call on their lives and God’s beautiful creation. Check out this video summarizing their trip!
St. Croix County “Friend of Public Health”
Every year as part of National Public Health Week, St. Croix County Public Health chooses a “Friend of Public Health” who has made a difference in the well-being and health of residents of St. Croix County. In April 2019, St. Croix County Public Health chose First Pres as their 2019 Friend of Public Health and hosted an appreciation luncheon at the St. Croix Services Center in New Richmond.
It is our honor to host monthly Public Health and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinics for the community. Over the years, we’ve sought to strengthen this partnership by knitting winter caps for WIC infants and sharing fresh veggies from the Give It Away Garden. This past year, one of our own youth led an effort to collect children’s books to share with the WIC children.
We look forward to this continued partnership as we seek God’s dream of a world where all people have easy and affordable access to nutritious food and timely healthcare.
The first weekend of May 2019, more than twenty women from First Pres gathered for a long weekend retreat in Farmington, Wisconsin. The theme of the weekend was “Women Helping Women.” Activities included worship, songs around the campfire, Bible study, yoga, an introduction to the healing practice of Qigong, games, card making, and a service project—tying blankets to be distributed to children entering foster care by our mission partners at Safe Haven Foster Shoppe. There was also lots of time for fun and fellowship! Most notably the group gathered for a game of human foosball, with the ensuing hilarity inspiring Pastor Kendra’s article on play for the Hudson Star Observer.
Youth Resource Committee
The Youth Resource Committee of Hudson began in August 2014 with members of First Pres, the local YMCA, Hudson School District and Youth Action Hudson (YAH) targeting unique, unmet needs to youth under 18 years old that do not have family support. The committee’s mission is to provide support and resources to at-risk and homeless youth throughout the greater Hudson area. They work closely with school social workers to identify the needs of students.
This summer the committee achieved a long-held goal to become their own 501(c)(3) which allow them to apply for various grants and other funds to deepen and expand their work in the greater Hudson area. The committee provides post-secondary education scholarships for at-risk students, collects and distributes handmade winter accessories to all in need (launching this annual effort with a “Knit a Difference” casting on party each September), and regularly provides haircut, clothing, and taxi vouchers to youth in need. The committee looks forward to supporting other needs as they arise.
Hosting Bridge Summer Day Program
We were honored to host part of Bridge for Community Life’s summer day program again this summer. Sharing our building with our neighbors at Bridge is always a joy for all. It was a blessing to see them building community over games, conversation, and outings into the wider community.
We are thankful for all the ways that we get to partner with Bridge throughout the year as well as they live out their mission to provide community-based life skills training, employment services and social and recreational programs for youth and adults with disabilities in the St. Croix Valley. Throughout the year, it’s a blessing to have our neighbors from the Bridge come and assist with various needs around the church from cleaning to filled backpacks with food for the Hudson Backpack Program. We also love seeing how much our Bridge neighbors enjoy their annual Valentine’s Dance, Come See Santa event and many other special events held at the church.
Summer Backpack Program 2019
During the summer months, the Hudson Backpack Program hosted five separate food distributions, providing grocery carts full of food to more than 60 families in the Hudson area. Grant funds were used to purchase the food through Second Harvest, and members of the congregation and the wider community assisted with the sorting and distribution of the food. New this year, families were able to choose many of the foods that would best meet their families’ needs. Thanks to all who assisted with the program!
Vacation Bible School 2019
In partnership with Mr. Zion Lutheran Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, we were happy to host Vacation Bible School again this year. Mt. Zion hosted as 3 year olds through 6th graders grew in faith (while having lots of fun) exploring what it means to be Transformed Comm-unity! The week of fun included singing, crafts, games and more as children explored what it means to follow Christ’s example in our daily living! Our older youth volunteered, enjoying the energy and enthusiasm of the children learning and growing in Christian faith. And a highlight from our children who participated was learning to sing “Father Abraham” (and the accompanying actions)!
Centering Prayer Workshop Leads to Weekly Centering Prayer Gathering
In March 2019, special guest Tom Eberle, Director of the Living School at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, led an introductory centering prayer workshop at First Pres. The workshop, with 40+ attendees from across the Twin Cities Metro area, introduced the ancient practice of centering prayer and provided time for participants to practice centering prayer. Centering prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to experience God’s presence within us.
Following the introductory workshop, a small group has continued to meet weekly (at 11:00am most Wednesdays) to practice centering prayer and learn more about centering prayer and other contemplative practices which nurture Christian faith and service.
Mental Health First Aid Training
In partnership with the Hudson Y and the United Way of the St. Croix Valley, we were honored to host Mental Health First Aid training in late February 2019 for 28 members of the congregation and wider community. Participants learned the:
- Risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns
- Strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations
- Where to turn for help
- Non-judgmental communication and listening skills
- A 5-step action plan to help someone developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or in an emotional crisis
Participants reported using their learnings immediately to help others and work toward the world as God desires—a world in which all people have the resources and support to nurture and stain mental wellness.