Annual Report2021: Reconnecting & Renewing
What a year!
As this church continues grappling with a world shaped by the pandemic, social in justices and political divides, we are prioritizing our “reconnecting & renewing” as one community of faith this year. What follows in this report is by no means comprehensive but a representative sampling of the many ways in which God is helping us respond faithfully into God’s promises for a hope-filled future. We especially give thanks that the delights have far outweighed the understandable disappointments, giving us glimpses of God’s even greater vision for Prince of Peace. We’re so glad we get to be the church together with you. -Pastors Peter & Betsy
Last spring Prince of Peace was invited to participate in a new Synod-led initiative called “Liberating Structures.” Along with six other congregation, we are looking at how we govern ourselves and organize our ministries. Could we be more efficient and vital if we freed ourselves from old ways of doing things? Do our constitution, bylaws and continuing resolutions provide needed structure or create obstacles to fulfilling our mission?
2021 is a year of adapting and that is true for our annual God’s Work, Our Hands event to love and serve our neighbors. This year it moved out of doors as we made cards for LSS’s Camp Noah, tied fleece blankets for Bridging, packaged laundry soap, and did clean up at Central Park.
These words about scholarship students were from a Zoom call with our partners in Bomalang’ombe and Vikongwa Tanzania. Technology has allowed us to share news and prayer requests throughout the year to strengthen our relationship. There are a lot of exciting things happening for our partners like completing building projects and a a newly paved road leading into Bomalang’ombe. They continue to pray for us and we all long for the day when we can once again meet face to face.
Every three years, 30,000 high school youth and their adult leaders from across the country gather for a week of faith formation known as the ELCA Youth Gathering. Through days spent in interactive learning, worship, Bible study, service, and fellowship, young people grow in faith and are challenged and inspired to live their faith in their daily lives. Prince of Peace is excited to send 11 high school students and 2 adult chaperones for a week of faith formation at the largest gathering of Lutheran Youth. Fundraising activities included making lefse for the Christmas Café Bake Sale.
In 2020, kids didn’t gather for Vacation Bible School. Instead we did VBS-in-a-Box as a take home activity. Summer 2021 brought the first-ever outdoor VBS. Using the big tent in the parking lot and the plentiful grassy areas, kids learned bible stories, did art projects, science experiments and played games. Besides being fun for younger kids, VBS is a great leadership opportunity for middle schoolers to do pup-pet shows, lead games, help with crafts and bond with the younger kids.
One of the first opportunities for the congregation to get together last spring was a landscaping project to revitalize the two new rain gardens. We had 5 yards of mulch dropped off by each rain garden in the driveways. A wonderful turnout by young and old with shovels and 5 gallon pails made short work of the job. This both visually dressed up the appearance and reduced the weed bed to help the native plants.
I love ringing handbells! When the pandemic shut everything down in 2020 and group ringing wasn’t feasible, I took the opportunity to try something new — solo ringing. My first 2 solos involved playing bells on the table. The next thing I tried was a ‘bell tree’ – where the bells are strung together and hit with mallets. David Johnson used his engineering talents to construct a “tree” to hang the bells from.
“Welcome to Prince of Peace, just roll down your window!” Throughout the year we continued to experiment with new ways of connecting through worship and building community together. Drive-thru ashes and communion in Lent progressed to parking lot worship on Easter, Pentecost, and then thru October. A tent and custom-printed umbrellas offered relief from the occasional drizzle and the direct sunshine for those who preferred their camp chairs and car seats as pews, and where all found a place at the table.
Early 2021 was lonely for our family. We felt isolated as we lived through the first pandemic winter. The holidays were spent outside or on Zoom, work and homeschool were indoors, and contact with our former church community was either without interaction on YouTube or uncomfortable, in-person meetings. For a variety of reasons, and under some of the hardest circumstances, we found ourselves searching for a new church. And we found Prince of Peace.
It has once again been a challenging year for the Befriender Ministry. For two years the fourteen Befrienders have not been able to come together for an in-service gathering and Befriending in person has been difficult. Instead we have written notes, made phone calls, delivered meals and prayer shawls delivered, and visited outdoors.
When Pastor Bob Bragstad visited a young couple in their new home in Roseville, to invite them to a new church plant at the local high school, I doubt anyone knew that it would become a relationship that would grow and sustain a faith for a lifetime. The relationships that grew out of their participation at Prince of Peace were the best of what a church community has to offer. My parents lived out their faith in service at church and in the community, inviting people to Prince of Peace and then being sure they walked with the new folks at church.
This year we discovered that the outdoors is a great place to reconnect and renew! From bonfires to hiking, worship to VBS, service projects and casual conversation, we experienced God’s creation and connected with one another in Covid-friendly ways. I loved hearing things like, “Hey we should do this again next year; we don’t need a pandemic to go hiking together.”
So many wonderful moments revealing all the places where God shows up!