Stories

Graduate Emily surrounded by pastors and kids throwing confetti and blowing horns

Special Graduation Blessings

Celebrating our children and young people as they grow is one of the greatest joys we have as a church family. Accordingly, on May 26, it was a great gift to celebrate the many graduates in our extended First Presbyterian Church family and to celebrate one special graduate in particular—our own Emily Van Ausdal! With confetti, noise makers, cake and a beautiful blanket from the church family, we wrapped Emily in blessings for her continued adventures!

 

Joyful and Prayerful Welcome of New Class of Church Officers

God gifts all people for service and part of the joy of the church is affirming people’s God-given gifts and praying for them as they take on the mantel of leadership in our family of faith. Per our annual tradition, on May 19, we held our service of ordination and installation for our new class of deacons and elders who are entrusted with the leadership of our family of faith. It was a wonderful time to come together in faith to ask God’s particular blessing and leading to be with our officers, but also to affirm our commitment to support them and follow where they lead. Thank you all for your service!

 

Congregation gathers around new officers with hands of prayer for all as pastor readers ordination-installation prayer
Chalkboard sign reads "Graduation Party-Fiesta de Graducion" with arrow and graduation balloon

Collaboration with Local Schools Continues to Grow

We had another wonderful year of collaboration with our local schools. For the second year in a row, we were able to support the Prairie Pals mentoring program and Hudson Prairie Elementary, helping to double the size of the program from the inaugural year. It was a joy to end the year with our second annual ice cream social. Moreover, it was a blessing to expand our collaboration to the English Language Learners (ELL) program at Hudson High School, providing numerous volunteers to tutor students and helping to host a graduation party for senior students in the ELL program.

 

Three 2024 Scholarship Awarded to Hudson Grads

May 1 was a joyous day as we got to award First Presbyterian Church scholarships to three deserving Hudson High School students! After a review of many qualified candidates, the 2024 scholarships (of $1000 each) were given to Sophia Slavsky, Hope Pedersen, and Deysi Samantha Rodriquez Romas to support their post-secondary education. These scholarships are made possible by the generosity of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church!

 

Scholarship presenters shake hands with 2024 First Presbyterian Church scholarship recipients as they cross stage
people in conversation in front of recycling box

Celebrating and Caring for God’s Beauitful Creation as a Family of Faith and in the Wider Community

On April 20, we were blessed to collaborate with others in our region as a Bronze sponsor of Earth Fest in River Falls, and had so much fun meeting folks from the region while making seed balls and sharing details of our TerraCycle recycling boxes. The following day, we were blessed to gather for our annual Creation Care Worship, with special guest musician John Mueller, interfaith inspirations for Care of Creation shared by Pastor Kendra, and a special post-worship presentation on Antarctica by Bill and Elaine McClure. View pictures.

Easter Joy includes Collaborative Garden, Guest Trumpet, Egg Hunt and more!

Once again, we celebrated the great good news of God’s gift of new life with joy on Easter Sunday, blessed by a special “garden” made from the donations of many in the congregation, special music from our guest musician Adeline Goeltl on trumpet, a wonderful choir anthem, reflections on the “Astonishingly Good News to Take in Slowly” by Pastor Kendra, and an egg hunt for the young (and young at heart) following worship. View pictures.

trumpet player in background with potted flowers and candles in foreground
Choir director at center of room with people seated at round tables and communion elements in foreground

Holy Week Nurtures Sacred Remembrance through Sacred Ritual

Once again, we marked the holy week of remembrance of Jesus’ last days, arrest, and death with special worship experiences for all. Palm Sunday kicked off with a palm processional led by our Jubilate Ringers and reflections on “Letting God…to Embrace Renewal” by Pastor Kendra. Then, on Maundy Thursday, we gathered for dinner, communion, and holy remembrance of Jesus’ last meal, arrest, and execution through sacred readings and song.

Educational Event Explores Christian Understandings of “Jesus Saves”

Sunday, March 10, after worship, Pastor Kendra led an educational event exploring various historical and current understandings of what it means to say that “Jesus saves.” Across time, there has been (and continues to be) a diversity of ways to explore the topic, reminding us that there is always room for growth and learning in our faith journeys.

TEXT: What do we mean by Jesus saves
People gathered around circular table with large plastic tub of empty pill bottles

Empty Pill Bottles Cleaned for Reuse to Distribute Medications in Underserved Areas

Sunday, February 25 following worship, many hands made light work as we washed two large tubs of empty pill bottles for reuse distributing medications to underserved areas through Matthew 25 Ministries.  Young and old came together to remove any remaining label residue, wash and dry the bottles. Mission Committee is now packaging them up for shipment. Meanwhile, more have already been collected, so we look forward to making this “cleaning party” a quarterly event.

Coldest Night of the Year Walk Raises Funds and Awareness for Mission Partners

First Pres had a strong team of walkers for Hudson’s first ever “Coldest Night of the Year” walk along the river on February 24. The fact that it was probably the “warmest” Coldest Night of the Year we’ll ever see helped to bring out over 200 walkers to raise over $61,000 for Operation HELP, Our Neighbors’ Place, Inc., Grace Place Salvation Army, and Hudson Area Backpack Program! It was a great event, organized by River Valley Charities, and we look forward to participating again!

Group gathered in front Coldest Night of the Year backdrop holding sign that says "THE First Presbys"
End of Life Planning Speaker Series

End of Life Planning Series Invites Caring Reflection by All

Over several Sundays in January and February, we welcomed speakers addressing various aspects of End of Life Planning. The Rev. Kyle Nolan from Presbyterian Foundation shared more information about legacy giving. Pastor Kendra Grams shared information on considering end of life wishes related to care, celebrations of life, and options for honoring bodily remains (including this great resource). Selena Freimark, Health & Wellbeing Educator from UW-Extension St. Croix County, invited deeper reflections on understanding grief. And friends from Adoray Home Health and Hospice shared with us their continuum of care, including home health, palliative care, and hospice.

Affirmation Rocks and Community Coversation Chalkboard Kick Off Lent

In preparation for Lent, on Sunday, February 4, all ages joined together to paint affirmation rocks for a community engagement rock garden along Vine Street. Lots of amazing designs were created to be shared with the community. And when Lent began, these rocks, along with our chalkboard, inviting reflections on feelings of connection were placed along the Vine Street sidewalk. Not even half-way through Lent, the chalkboard was nearly filled with expressions of what makes people feel connected. We celebrate this great way to be in conversation with our community and embrace the ways God nurtures us through connection and love.

People gathered around circle tables with green table clothes painting rocks
Group of fans in stands with high school senior basketball player

Celebrating Our Seniors-Basketball Edition!

In late January, Pastors Kendra and Lora, along with several others from the congregation, were blessed to be part of the cheering section for the River Falls Wildcats Girls Basketball Senior Night, which included honors for our own Emily V! As a family of faith committed to building intergenerational connections, it’s been great to watch Emily grow over the years, and we look forward to the many more amazing things she’ll do as she embarks on new life chapters in the coming months!

Joyfully Hosting StrongBodies Class in St. Croix County

This January through March we are pleased to be able to serve as the host site for St. Croix County Extension’s StrongBodies classes. These classes are designed for mid-life and older adults and include progressive resistance training, balance training, and flexibility exercises. Strength training has been shown to reduce the risk for chronic diseases. What a blessing it is to provide resources for the whole person health and wellness that God desires for all!

Group holding hand weights
Progress pride flag with various booklets about being an LGBTQ+ Ally

LGBTQ+ Ally Learning Center Featured in Church Library

Following up on our great learning session with the good folks of PFLAG River Falls last November, we’ve started off 2024 with a variety of resources in our Library for all to continue learning about how to be an ally to all of our LGBTQIA+ siblings in the congregation and in the wider community. We are always seeking to learn and grow in our practices of welcome and inclusion and are thankful for these additional resources for our individual and collective journeys!

Water Words Kick Off 2024 with Reminder of Belovedness

We kicked off 2024 with “water words” to help ground us in our belovedness throughout the year ahead. On paper water droplets, we wrote words that are somehow related to the truth and knowledge that we are loved and claimed by God forever—just as we are. And then we invited anyone who wanted a word to take one and place it where they will see it each day. We hope these water words will be just one more way we can all stay grounded in our belovedness, knowing that as we remember that we are beloved, we remember too that all are beloved. And thereby, we much more readily lead and live with compassion and kindness for ourselves and for all neighbors near and far.

paper water droplets in various shades of blue with words of belonging on dark purple background
Worshippers hold candles while seated during Christmas Eve worship

Christ’s Birth Embraced with Sacred Songs and Candlelight

Once again, the sanctuary (and Zoom room) was full for a blessed gathering on Christmas Eve, as we celebrated once again Christ’s coming into the world to nurture justice, love, hope, joy and peace! Pastor Kendra invited reflection on how Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and the people of Bethlehem made room for God, how God makes room for us, and how we can make room for others. Our service was made even more sacred by lots of special music from our choirs and guest trumpet player, by the ringing of “joy sticks” (bells) whenever JOY was heard, and by the sharing of the Peace Light, all the way from Bethlehem. Our prayers for joy and peace in a weary world continue!

Longest Night Gathering Holds Space for the Weary During the Holiday Season

On December 21, in collaboration with Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, we hosted our annual Longest Night of the Year worship service to hold sacred space for those who are particularly weary during the holiday season. It was a sacred time to make our longings made known to God through prayer and ritual, and to seek God’s comfort together. If you need a sacred pause, you can revisit the service here.

Longest Night Worship
Christmas Pageant 2023

Intergenerational Christmas Pageant Brings JOY with Mix of Puppetry, Live Action, & Sacred Songs

On Dec. 17, we were blessed to be led in worship by young and old alike, as we experienced Luke’s telling of the Christmas story! Through special music, puppetry, reader’s theatre, acting, and general laughter and fun, we joyfully embraced the story of “A Very Special Child” written by the Rev. Anna Strickland of A Sanctified Art LLC, adapted for our family of faith by our own Pastor Lora! Praise God for all the wonderful people who shared their time and talents to bless our entire community!

Christmas Generosity Overflows for Neighbors Near & Far

The First Pres family once again responded to God’s gift of the Christ Child with deep generosity this season. Bags of gifts and over 200 boxes of hot cocoa were once again shared with local neighbors through Operation HELP‘s Christmas Campaign. Numerous donations to the Christmas Joy Offering were received to support church workers in their time of financial need and students of color. Additionally, families contributed to the Deacons Benevolence Fund, which assists neighbors experiencing financial challenges, in honor or memory of loved ones. We give thanks to God for all the resources shared to help share the good news of God’s love among us!

Bags of gifts and boxes of instant hot cocoa for Operation HELP Christmas campaign
Caroling outside County Market

Cookies, Cocoa, and Caroling Warm Hearts & Spirits

On December 10, we “fueled” up on cookies and cocoa at the church, warmed up our voices, and then set out for Woodland Hill, where we sang carols in the lobby and then in the special care unit! It was a wonderful blessing to have so many residents sing along with us. Then we headed over to County Market Hudson to keep the merriment going! What a blessing to connect and share the gift of song this season! View pictures here.

Learning about Theological Education in Costa Rica

We had the pleasure of hosting Rev. Dr. Karla Koll on December 5 for a conversation about her work in Costa Rica as a PCUSA Mission Co-worker. She has served in Central America for decades. Her current appointment is to teach at the Latin American Biblical University in San Jose, Costa Rica. You can learn more about Karla and her ministry here. She and Pastor Lora met when Karla was serving and teaching in Guatemala.

Coffee conversation with Mission Co-Worker Karla Koll
Welcome Brian Ciaccio-Our new Audio-Visual Operator-Technician

Welcome Brian Ciaccio

We joyfully welcomed Brian Ciaccio to the First Pres family as our Audio-Visual Operator-Technician on Sunday, November 19. Brian is a Live Streaming Producer from St. Paul, Minnesota. With a degree from Columbia College Chicago in Television Production, he started his career by working with Oprah at Harpo Studios, American Idol, and the Lifetime Network. As he ventured into the realm of live stream production, he rose to the role of live producer and established himself as a skilled creator of both live and virtual content. Presently, Brian applies his expertise during the week as a television production technician at Hubbard Broadcasting, while also dedicating his time to creating analog video glitch art with the 100bees and playing synth keys in the local band Echoes at Midnight. His true passion lies in uniting diverse individuals to craft impactful experiences that make a tangible difference in people’s lives.

JOY-ful Advent Preparations

During our Coffee and Connections time after worship on November 19, many were engaged in a variety of JOY-ful Advent preparations! People of all ages enjoyed connecting as they make “Joy Jars” to center their reflections at home throughout the holy season of waiting for Christ’s coming. Others helped to add greetings tags to candy canes for distribution during our annual caroling in the community. And our faithful quilters were busy at work on a wonderful banner for the Advent/Christmas season. Click here to view pictures.

People decorating glass jars with gems, paint, and ribbon to make "Joy Jars."
All ages decorating small glass jars

Family Fall Fest Filled with Fun and Service

In early November, our Family Fall Fun Fest gathered our younger disciples and their families at Pastor Kendra’s house for an afternoon filled with beautiful, holy joy and creativity. Pastor Lora led us in stories and reflecting on God’s love, how we can change the world, gratitude, and how we can share our gifts with others! We even spent time creating “Joy Jars” to share our joy with older members of our congregation!

Service Sunday Brings First Pres Family Together in Support of Various Congregational Ministries

As part of our fall worship series on spiritual disciplines to nurture and grow our faith, on Sunday, October 22, we focused on the spiritual discipline of service. Accordingly, as our focus of worship, we spent time together in service. Various teams in the congregation worked together to prepare candy for distribution at the Hudson Area Public Library Trick or Treat Trail, prep card-making materials (in support of the card ministry), clean pill bottles (for reuse for medical ministries), hang the re-designed COVID-19 memorial for continued remembrance, replace wooden garden beds with cement block in the Give It Away Garden, and pray for the world! It was a great time to share in service as an entire family of faith!

puzzle art for Grow(ing) art exhibit
All Church photo with people gathering in heart shape

Senior Banquet Resumes, including Presentation on Octagon House Museum

After a pause for a few years due to pandemic precautions, the Deacons joyfully hosted a senior banquet again on October 12. Many seniors from the congregation attended, enjoying a delicious lunch, wonderful conversation, and a great presentation on the Octagon House Museum by museum director Lelia Albert. We look forward to making this an annual event again in years to come!

Towering Boxes of Diaper Blessings

We give thanks for the generosity of the First Presbyterian Church family who donated boxes upon boxes of diapers and wipes when called upon as part of our fall drive for Safe Haven Foster Shoppe. These diapers will provide much needed support to children as they transition into a new foster home.

puzzle art for Grow(ing) art exhibit
All Church photo with people gathering in heart shape

Garden Harvests Feed Neighbors

As growing season in our Give It Away Garden comes to a close, we celebrate all the fresh produce that came from the garden, through the faithful work of our many gardening volunteers! This year the garden yielded sugar snap peas, green beans, radishes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. We give thanks for the generous support of the Hudson Home & Garden Club, who provided a grant for the purchase of cement block for our remaining raised garden beds, pea fence, and cucumber trellis to allow us to grow vining cucumbers for the first time! We also celebrate that our gardeners were able to help harvest the bounty of a Hudson-area neighbor’s garden, when unexpected events prevented the homeowners from completing the harvest themselves. All this wonderful produce was shared with other neighbors through the Hudson Food Cupboard.

Knit a Difference (and Crochet Too!) Kicks Off Another Year with Annual Cast On Party

On September 26, the Youth Resource Committee, a ministry partner, kicked off another year of knitting and crocheting winter accessories for neighbors throughout the St. Croix Valley with their annual Cast On Party. Diligent knitters and crocheters from throughout the community continue to knit needed hats, scarves and mittens that are distributed through local partner agencies to people and families in need of warm winter gear. Already this fall, over 700 pieces have been distributed throughout the community!

Knitters around table for Knit a difference cast on party
All Church photo with people gathering in heart shape

New Program Year Kicks Off with Smiles & Sundaes Sunday, and a Planetarium Show

On September 10, we kicked off another year of growing in faith and sharing God’s love together with a special Sunday of shared smiles (including a post-worship all church photo) and ice cream sundaes and games on the church lawn. We also kicked off our fall worship series exploring various spiritual disciplines that nurture faith, reflecting on the spiritual discipline of “awe” and “wonder,” including a trip to the “First Presbyterian Church Planetarium.”

Grow(ing) Art Exhibit Explores Growing in Faith

This fall, as we explore spiritual disciplines that help us grow in faith, our main entry hall is filled with our Grow(ing) Faith creative display. Members of the First Pres family have shared their various creative gifts, offering us all the opportunity to pause, consider, and learn from others’ creative reflections on the themes of ‘growth’ and ‘growing in faith.’ The display will continue to grow throughout the fall, as all are invited to add their creative reflections.

puzzle art for Grow(ing) art exhibit
Sequoia sprout

Seeking to Germinate & Grow a Sequoia as Playful Embodiment of “Practicing Resurrection”

Inspired by the poetry of Wendell Berry, whose charge to “plant sequoias” and “practice resurrection” we remember each Easter season, the church staff has been working hard to germinate and grow a sequoia. Our first attempt to germinate didn’t yield any shoots, but round two did. Unfortunately, when we replanted the shoot, it did not make it. But not to be dissuaded, we found a sequoia seedling and planted it! Stay tuned to see what we learn about “practicing resurrection” along the way.

New School Year Begins with Blessings for All

Pastor Lora Burge led a wonderful “Back to School” Blessing in worship at the end of August as area students and educators prepared to return to classrooms. Pastor Kendra Grams also shared a blessing for all in the community in the Star Observer newspaper as the first day of school approached. As the new year begins, we pray God’s blessing on all, and look forward to continuing support of students in our community through the Prairie Pal Mentoring program, First Presbyterian Church Scholarship, Youth Resource Committee, and more.

Star stress ball keychains for distribution during Back to School Blessing
Community discusses digital equity

Community Conversation Seeks to Guide State Policy toward Internet for All

On August 9, members of First Pres and the wider community gathered for conversation about internet access, affordability, adoption, security and more as part of the Wisconsin Council of Churches and United Way of Wisconsin’s efforts to collect data about the needs and barriers to internet access for all (to guide state-wide planning for expanding internet/ broadband access). May we all continue to work together until everyone has the resources they need to engage with the wider world and society through the internet in ways that are meaningful for them.

Summer of Service Brings Generations Together for Projects BIG and Small

Throughout the summer months, Pastor Lora led the congregation in various opportunities to serve in Hudson and beyond. Local service included a yard cleanup and installation of the fence rainbow, hosting a booth at Valley Wide Pride, the Covid-19 memorial transformation, sorting and organizing resources from Hudson Prairie Elementary, a few go-rounds of weeding in the playground, collecting snacks for the Raider Network, tying tags on pens for new educators, and assisting with the take-down of art and decorations in the sanctuary. Praise God for all who participated in this Summer of Service!

Members sort snacks for Raider Network

Storytime at the Garden Brings Joy Across the Generations

For the second year in a row, on August 2, we were blessed to partner with the Hudson Area Public Library, for Storytime at the Garden. It was wonderful to gather with friends and neighbors of all ages, to have Ms. Sara and Ms. Julia from the Hudson Area Library read for all, and lead all in song. And afterwards, the kiddos made some great little red hens to go along with the book The Little Red Hen, which is one of the books Ms. Sara read for all.  We also enjoyed a tour of the Give It Away Garden (which provides fresh produce for the Hudson Food Cupboard), bubbles, hula hoops, stepping stones and more!

Training to Save Lives

On July 30, seven wonderful members and friends of the congregation gathered for American Heart Association Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED Training! We learned/ refreshed our knowledge and skills of how to provide first aid and life saving CPR in emergency situations. And we had a good time doing it (even with the serious topic). We also give thanks for all the first responder and healthcare professionals who provide such care each and every day! We look forward to hosting this training again in the future.

Intergenerational Service Trip a Growing and Joyful Experience for All

In July, ten members of our family of faith traveled together to Hastings, Nebraska, to serve with and learn from members of First Presbyterian Church in Hastings. We had a great time watching the Raices de mi Pueblo folkloric dancers rehearse, learning about the community garden at Hastings Middle School (including doing some “work” in the mud kitchen), exploring the Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor and Agricultural Learning, assisting with the United Harvest food distribution, packing sack lunches for Catholic Social Services, enjoying ice cream at Special Scoops, and much more! We learned a lost on our trip, and had a great time doing it. Learn more by taking a listen to our “Service Stories” shared in worship upon our return from Nebraska.

Enjoyable Day to Help House Neighbors

On June 30, a team from First Pres had a great time volunteering at St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity! Bathrooms for cleaned, caulked, and polished up with some “touch up painting.” Tile backsplash was placed with precision. Doors were hung with care and doorknobs installed (there may or may not have been a few moments when people were nearly locked in rooms while doorknobs were being installed). Beautiful butcherblock kitchen countertop was installed! We also had a great lunch delivered by some of our other First Pres family members! It was a wonderful day to work under the fabulous leadership of Dave and Jessie as we did our best to help move home construction toward completion!

Joyful Celebration of All God’s Children at First Pride Weekend in Hudson

We were so honored and happy to be part of the first ever Pride Fest in Hudson (organized by the great work of Hudson Pride Co.) on June 17! We were able to share God’s love for all by distributing homemade rainbow cookies, “beloved” temporary tattoos, and glitter blessings; and we also enjoyed making a collaborative art piece! Then, on Sunday, June 18, we continued the celebration with Pride Worship, including wisdom, musical, and artistic contributions of various queer folx!

Youth Resource Committee Recognized by Hudson School District

In at the June school board meeting, Hudson High School Social Worker Julie Johnson presented an Hudson School District “Appreciation of Service” Award to the Hudson Youth Resource Committee, and amazing volunteers and leaders Cassie McGuire, Alyson Sauter, and Jeanne Schmidt. The Youth Resource Committee, supported by volunteers from First Pres and other community organizations provides resources and guidance to homeless and at-risk youth with the intent to enhance and empower their sense of self-reliance, connection to their community, and potential of a positive future.​

Three First Presbyterian Church Scholarships Awarded to Hudson High School Graduates of the Class of 2023

On May 17, we were blessed to award three 2023 First Presbyterian Church scholarships to some amazing Hudson High School seniors. Our scholarships this year, were awarded in memory of Helen Hanken, Julie Richardson, and Mary Utley, who were committed to empowering and encouraging young people throughout their lives in various ways. The 2023 First Presbyterian Church Scholarships were awarded to Brennen Bolopue, Victoria Burger, and Elliot Fey! Congrats to all 2023 graduates and to all scholarship award winners. (In total, 114 scholarships to 79 individual seniors, worth over $160,000, were awarded to local seniors at the scholarship night!)

Second Buy Nothing Event Continues Community Sharing of Goods and Stories

On May 6, we hosted our second Buy Nothing event, building off the success of our first event last summer. Even though the weather was a bit “iffy,” we still had a good turnout. Lots of items were swapped or shared along for free, helping neighbors and keeping items out of landfills (thus caring for God’s creation too)! Plus, we had a great time conversing with neighbors and sharing stories!

Basket Drive for Raider Network Provides a Bounty

In collaboration with the Youth Resource Committee, a great variety of home goods for apartment and dorm life were donated to seniors (soon to be “graduates”) who utilize the Raider Network at Hudson High School!  Among the donations were 35 bowl cozies sewn by our Mission Sewers as a tangible sign of God’s love as they begin their next chapters in life.

Collaborations and Connections to Support the Mental Health and Wellness of All

We kicked off Mental Health Awareness Month on Tuesday, May 2, by hosting a panel and resource fair focused on the Building Blocks of Mental Health. Lots of great information was shared and commitments made to build and nurture mental wellness for all in our community. The River Channel also generously recorded the event, which you can view here. And we were able to compile a !

New Officers Ordained, Installed, and Leading with Energy, Intelligence, Imagination, and Love

On April 30, we ordained and installed the deacons and elders in the class of 2025! These new officers, along with continuing officers were quick to dive into the work ahead. On May 20, they gathered for a day long retreat to assess how we can continue growing into our vision for the future, pursing our strategic intentions to “be relevant,” to “be visible and known for our core values,” and to “reach out to diverse populations.”

Earth and Arbor Day Celebration Enjoyed by Entire Community

On Saturday, April 29, various groups from throughout the community, committed to caring for the Earth came together to have a wonderful Earth & Arbor Day Celebration at First Pres. The Fellowship Hall was filled with exhibitors sharing more about their work and opportunities to get involved. First Pres’s booth included making seed bowls and filling up our laminated paper TerraCycle zero-waste recycling box. Meanwhile, outside, the Hudson Urban Forestry Board held a demonstration tree planting. Thanks and deep appreciation go to Sustain Hudson and St. Croix County for sponsoring and coordinating the event.

Creation Care Worship Celebrates Nature in Nature

On April 23, we held our annual Creation Care Worship service at the Carpenter Nature Center’s Al & Laurie Hein Visitor Center. It was wonderful to celebrate God’s beautiful creation in creation this year, and to renew to our commitment to tending, caring for, and restoring God’s creation! 

Bible-based Jokes & Puns Lead to Laughter (& Groans) for Holy Humor Sunday

Holy Humor Sunday, on April 16, was once again filled with joy. Holy Humor Sunday builds off a tradition that extends back 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.” Our Holy Humor service this year included plenty of Bible-based jokes and puns, and an Instant Bell Choir rendition of Beethoven’s “Joyful, Joyful (Ode to Joy).”

Easter Joy Overflows in Song, Art, Eggs, Butterflies and More!

Easter Sunday at First Pres was a joyful morning of celebration complete with egg hunt, kites, treats, Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” trumpet, handbells, butterfly boxes, and more! In her Easter meditation, Pastor Kendra shared the hope that God in Christ would fill all our wings with the good news of new life, strengthening us to soar and share the good news that God’s transforming love will always have the final say! We also gave thanks to God for all those who contributed to the Deacons Benevolence Fund, helping neighbors in financial need, and to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering, which supports Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and Self-Development of People.

Holy Week Worship Provides Meaningful Reflection for All

Holy Week at First Pres was filled again with many memorable moments. On Palm Sunday, we added paper palms, naming the realities from which we need God to “save us,” to our palm processional. During the Time for Young Disciples, we heard a great book reminding us to SPEAK UP when needed. Pastor Kendra also reflected on Jesus’ example of “Protest, Prayer, and ACTION!” in her meditation. On Maundy Thursday, we gathered for dinner, communion, handwashing, and a sacred remembrance of Jesus’ arrest, trial, death, and burial.

Michael Kruger Joins Staff as Audio-Visual Operator-Technician

As our Audio-Visual Operator-Technician, Michael Kruger (he/him/his) will provide audio and visual technical support for Sunday worship services and other special services and church events. Michael brings a wealth of experience to this role including previous volunteer service supporting virtual worship options for his own family of faith, over a decade of service as Information Systems Director for the City of Hudson, and years of experience in technology for various businesses and the US Army. 

Workshop to Make Finger Labyrinths Kicks Off Lenten Creativity and Reflection

Creative spirits of all ages enjoyed making finger labyrinths following worship on Feb. 26 to kick off Lenten meditations and reflections. These labyrinths are a great resource in the winter months when our outdoor labyrinth is covered in snow. A labyrinth is meant to be a path of peace, a tool for enhancing the spiritual lives and practices of those who walk it (or in the case of finger labyrinths, those who trace it). Learn more about labyrinths HERE!

Laura Dawn Lane Joins Staff as Nursery Attendant

As our Nursery Attendant, Laura Dawn Lane (she/her/hers) will provide loving care and support to the youngest members and guests of our family of faith during worship and special events. Laura Dawn brings a wealth of experience to this role, including service as a paraprofessional in the Hudson Public Schools, as a lifeguard and children’s swim instructor at the Hudson Y, and as a community education and public library volunteer.

Mission Sewers Donate Pillowcases to Children thru Safe Haven Foster Shoppe

Our dedicated Mission Sewers (meeting to sew on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month) completed 38 handmade pillowcases for Safe Haven Foster Shoppe to distribute to children being placed in foster care! The Mission Sewers also continue work on sewing projects for Bundles of Love (providing 291 essential baby items to families in need welcoming a newborn into their lives in 2022), for Second Mile Haiti (providing 36 market bags, 12 quilts (tied and sewn), and 7 baby sun hats to be given to the women utilizing the maternity centers set up in Haiti in 2022), and for various other projects!

Benevolence Fund Continues Supporting Neighbors with Critical Financial Assistance

The Deacon’s Benevolence Fund continued providing critical assistance to neighbors in the Hudson area experiencing financial challenges in 2022! Grants made throughout the year totaled $2,815.79, providing help with utilities, help with rent, and a hotel stay for an unhoused neighbor during a blizzard. The fund is supported through generous contributions from members of the First Pres family of faith, often given in honor and memory of loved ones.

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!

Kids dressed up in costumes

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.

Saints Remembered

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.

Pentecost Party

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 WardJosh Heikkila (Presbyterian Church U.S.A. Mission Co-Worker in West Africa), Karen MorganPeg 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.

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.

MISHPack 2019

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.

Women’s Retreat

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
becomes 501(c)(3)

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.