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.