Access Lift Project Announced

Earlier this year, St. Mary’s 35-year-old platform lift finally failed. The loss of the lift has made access to our undercroft level fellowship rooms and restrooms difficult, dangerous or impossible for many members of our community. Because the lift is so old, and because we installed that lift before the Americans with Disabilities Act codes, it cannot be repaired.

The Vestry explored alternatives to replacing the lift, but it became apparent that a lift was the only practical solution to maintaining full access for all to the undercroft. After months of prayerful deliberation, the Vestry has determined that we must replace the lift to respect the dignity and full inclusion of all members and guests of St. Mary’s.

The estimate we received to install a new platform lift is $39,727, which was competitive with other vendors. We currently have $21,500 available for the Access Lift Project. We have $10,000 available in the Building Fund and $7000 in grants from the Episcopal Church in Minnesota plus a $1000 gift from Bishop Craig Loya. We have also received commitments for another $3500 from two parishioners.

With more than half the funds needed already on hand, we are proceeding with the Access Lift Project. We are relying on the generosity of the members and friends of St. Mary’s to help us complete this major capital improvement to our beloved church.

Won’t you make a gift to ensure that all persons are fully included in every aspect of the prayer life and fellowship of our faith community?

You can make a one-time gift by check or by selecting the “Building Fund (Access Lift Project)” option at our online giving site, or you can make monthly contributions to the project over a period of time.

Your gift will make sure St. Mary’s remains “a house of prayer for all people.”

Isaiah 56:7

Thank you!

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The Holy Trinity: Unity in Diversity

The Rt. Rev. Craig Loya

To confess God as Trinity reminds us that the heart of the universe is a relationship, a loving unity in the midst of diversity. As I’ve said many times, the Trinity reminds us that God’s essence is unity without uniformity and difference without division. That’s an amazing thing to claim about the nature of reality.

The wild diversity of humanity, and indeed the whole creation, is part of how we bear the image of God. To confess God as Trinity means that we can know and experience something closer to God’s very heart when we are forming kinship across lines of difference, when we are loving one another across all our diversity without the need to resolve or eliminate how we are different. We are called to build Beloved Community not because it is a nice thing to do, but because it is how we draw nearer to God.

The Rt. Rev. Craig Loya, X Bishop of Minnesota

Remembering My Friend, Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Fr. Scott Monson with “The Arch” – 2002

I have many fond memories of serving as Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s personal assistant in 2002 when he was in residence at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. Sure, it was fun to meet and work with many world leaders and international journalists, but those experiences did not reveal the depth of Father’s intense and abiding faith in God that I came to cherish.

The most precious moments came during our daily celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, often with just the two of us present. We shared an intimate, holy connection with each other and with the Divine. Father spoke often of the “messy relationship” between the humanity and divinity of Christ: We are always trying to pull Jesus down into the mud even as he is lifting us up toward the glories of heaven. Together we prayed for an end to endemic disease, selfish violence and loveless cruelty. And we prayed that Christ would lift us up along with the poor and hungry and lonely and forgotten—all of us so profoundly in need of God’s grace and mercy.

It is fitting that Father should leave this temporal realm as we celebrate God’s most wonderful gift of the Word made flesh—eternal Love Incarnate. Perhaps that “messy relationship” is what binds him and us so closely to the heart of God.

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Desmond. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. May the angels rise to greet him and dance with him in joyful bliss. Amen.

Jesus does not prefer political parties; Jesus does choose sides


Recently, we were appalled to learn that the former chair of the Hastings school board and her family were forced to move to another city following vicious social media attacks--attacks originated by adults--against one of her children. The attacks were launched in an attempt to unseat the mother from the school board.

When Bishop Craig Loya learned of this story, he was moved to respond with a powerful and compassionate op-ed letter to the Hastings Star Gazette. We commend his letter to you as a witness to the power of Christ's unremitting love in the face of unwarranted abuse and cruelty against one of God's beloved children.
Opinion letter published December 10, 2021 in the Hastings Star Gazette

I was saddened to hear recently from the Episcopal congregations in your community, St. Luke’s on Vermillion Street and St. Mary’s in Afton, that Hastings has recently become the latest flashpoint in the painful and highly charged division that characterizes so much of our public life these days.

I was heartbroken to learn that at the center of the controversy was a child and that child’s treatment at the hands of adults in the community.

I have the honor of serving as the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. In that role I am called, first and foremost, to follow and emulate the One who came not to be served but to serve; to, with God’s help, reflect and embody the love of Jesus in a world that is starving for it.

I know that many in our country believe, with good reason, that those who call themselves Christian are aligned first and foremost with the powerful, with white nationalism, with anti-democratic movements in our midst, with intolerance, and with violence.

The Episcopal Church has its own sinful history of perpetuating oppression. However, as a follower of Jesus, my allegiance is always to those whom Jesus came to love and to serve. Make no mistake: while Jesus does not prefer political parties, Jesus does choose sides.

The politics of Jesus are about embracing the poor, loving our enemies, feeding the hungry, lifting up the oppressed, reforming the unjust structures in society, seeking good for the other instead of insisting on our own way, disregarding the boundaries of social exclusion, calling out our own self-interested hypocrisy and that of our religious and civic leaders, making room at the center for those who have been pushed to the margins. Those are the things that Jesus actually did. These are the marks of what it means to be his followers in the world.

The Episcopal way of following Jesus is unequivocal in affirming that all of God’s children, including our trans siblings and including those with whom we ardently disagree, are beloved, accepted, worthy of dignity and welcome to fully participate in the life of the church.

We as a people are better when our churches, and all our public spaces, both affirm and reflect the wonderful diversity of humanity, which together more fully reflects the very image of God.

The Rt. Rev. Craig W. Loya, X Bishop, Episcopal Church in Minnesota

Don’t count out small, rural churches

Studies show small, rural churches can still thrive if they focus on the needs of their community.

• Small, rural churches can still thrive if they focus on the needs of their community.

 • Fixation on youth, contributions and attendance can be counterproductive.

 • Rural churches have a better chance if they work from a sense of possibility rather than fear.

Read more…

Mainline Protestantism Rises As Evangelicalism Declines

The percentage of white mainline Protestants in the general population is HIGHER than the percentage of white evangelicals.

I don’t have the exact numbers at hand, but I am fairly certain that there hasn’t been a time since 1980 when the percentage of white mainline Protestants in the general population was HIGHER than the percentage of white evangelicals. That’s at least four decades – maybe longer. But this is a genuine shift away from white evangelicalism toward mainline Protestantism. | Diana Butler Bass

Read more…

Worship on Wednesday

Fr. Scott is hosting Wednesday Morning Worship and Kaffeeklatsch at 9:30 each week.

Fr. Scott is hosting Wednesday Morning Worship and Kaffeeklatsch at 9:30 each week. We’ll gather for a simple service of Holy Communion followed by coffee and conversation. Topics will include current events, Bible study, local happenings, or anything else we decide to bring up. Stop by and join us when you can!

Bishop Loya to Visit June 20th

The Rt. Rev. Craig Loya, Bishop of Minnesota

Bishop Craig Loya will visit St. Mary’s on Sunday, June 20th. Bring your lawn chair for a special baptismal liturgy in the Memorial Garden at 9:30 AM to welcome him. The Bishop will host a town hall style conversation at a reception following the service. Join us to give Bishop Craig a genuine St. Mary’s welcome!

St. Mary’s Is Open!

We are following a plan to safely reopen our doors and worship in person.

Welcome back to indoor worship!

We are following a plan to safely reopen our doors and worship in person. Our first priority remains the spiritual and physical wellbeing of our parish community. We are confident that, as Bishop Craig Loya has said, we are “learning to negotiate risk with love.”

Masks are recommended for all worshipers regardless of vaccination status. We encourage worshipers to use personal discretion and to respect the space and choices of those around them. People who are sick or have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 should stay home.

We recognize that everyone is not yet ready to resume indoor activities. For those choosing to stay safe at home or are otherwise unable to attend, we will continue to livestream the service on our YouTube Channel each Sunday.

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