- Devene Matthews, Michelle Chiezah, Valerie Matthews, Blair Pogue, Birdie Carter.
The Story of Israel: Part 3 of God's 5 Act Play  
 By Valerie Matthews


Act Three is the story of Abram and his willingness to obey and follow God's promise. God told Abram: "Leave your country, your family, and your father's home for a land that I will show you". (Genesis 12:1). God Chose Abram to be the father of many nations, including Israel. He had a close relationship with God, and God promised him many blessings and that he would be a blessing to others. Abram and Sarai left everything they knew and loved so they could fulfill God's purpose not only for themselves but for others.


After graduating from college in Jamaica I started my teaching career. I taught in the high school where I attended as a student. I loved my alma mater and the staff and students. It was very fulfilling to be giving back to my community in meaningful ways through education. I also had a desire to study abroad but it was not very easy to obtain a student visa. However, I trusted that if God wants me to go abroad then He will supply my needs.


A Leap of Faith

Like Abram and Sarai, I took a leap of faith and ventured into the unknown trusting in God's promise. I left everything I knew and loved -- my parents, eight siblings, sixteen nieces and nephews and a host of extended family. I left the faith community that nurtured me from infancy and a High School of students that I mentored and tutored. My island home Jamaica, where the sun shines even when it's raining to St Paul, Minnesota where I heard it is cold... no idea of the below zeros beforehand. Yes, I had seen snow on Christmas cards my uncle sent us from England. This was a very scary feeling.  I was going to a foreign land all alone.  I remembered sitting under a mango tree in the backyard talking with my mom about leaving. My mom looked me in the eye and said, "God has a plan and He will guide you, go in faith" Those words were very compelling and I dried my tears and we prayed. My leaps of faith and God's promises to me were fulfilled in many ways:


I completed graduate level education at the University of Minnesota through scholarships and grants and entered a new field of education -- Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), a discipline in teaching which I had no knowledge existed (talk about a learning curve).  One of my academic advisors encouraged me to obtain a Minnesota teaching license in this area -- she said to me, "I think you would be good in this program" (parents and young children learning together). I truly believe that God spoke to my advisor and I did accept her encouragement. I have had the opportunity to serve very diverse groups of families over the years in Minneapolis Public School (ECFE) in North Minneapolis and working with women and children in one of the Northside Homeless Shelters.  I know that I was placed on the Northside of Minneapolis for a purpose and I am grateful to God for all these blessings and that I can serve a community and families through education and foster positive relationships. (Please keep in perspective that I was on study leave from my high school and my plan was to return to my work). God had another plan! God's plan for me was to share my gifts in North Minneapolis.  


My work with families and especially young children is a vocation and I would not trade this for anything else. Through God's bountiful blessings I can make a difference in the lives of parents and their children's future. I learn so much from families each day, which impacts my life and is very humbling to walk alongside them. One parent told me that her three-year-old son Mohammed Jama (Somali) told his dad that Valerie is Valerie Jama.   His mother had to explain to dad who the son was referring to. Like Abram I even had a name change. Over the years many parents have said to me that their children would say "we are going to Valerie's school." I am not quite sure why preschoolers would think this way, but to me that's a blessing to hear their thoughts.


A faith community was important for me even before I arrived in Minnesota and the late Rev. C. I. Wright, my parish rector wrote a letter of introduction for me. I found St. Matthews and handed the letter to the Rev. Lyn Lawyer, who was the deacon serving at St. Matthews. This faith community has been a huge blessing to me and Devene.

As the years went by I was joined by my nieces Karen and Devene -- their love and relationship are gifts that I could not have cherished more. It was also God's blessings that led them to Minnesota.  


Throughout biblical history God has chosen certain people to do certain things. Like Abraham, I have learned and have been blessed so very much in a land (United States of America a land of promise) I never knew, but took a leap of faith and trusted God's promise to His children.


Click Here to read more about God's 5 Act Play 

A New Ministry for Phil Boelter 


Dear Friends of St. Matthew's:


The Rev. Phillip Boelter has been called to be the part time Vicar of Gethsemane Episcopal Church in Minneapolis. Please join me and St. Matthew's Vestry and Staff in congratulating him on this exciting ministry opportunity.  Phil will be joining Gethsemane beginning Palm Sunday, March 29th.  His duties will include regular office hours at Gethsemane on Wednesday and Friday. He will also continue to maintain a part-time commitment to the ministry of fiscal consulting with his current clients.

We have been blessed to have Phillip Boelter with us since June 2013. During his time at St. Matthew's Phillip served as the Priest-in-Charge during my sabbatical, worked with leaders to continue our Men's Retreat, and with Gary Johnson, raised up a Way of Jesus group for business leaders. He also led worship, preached, taught the Faith Forum and 6th-7th grade Sunday School class, worked with the Care Team, provided pastoral care, and played guitar for the evening service.


Phillip has been a wonderful priest and co-collaborator with me, the staff, and other lay leaders. He is also a lot of fun to work with. His energy and sense of humor is contagious.  A party to say "thank you" and "God bless" to Phil is planned for  

Sunday, March 29 at 6:30 pm, in place of the Sunday night dinner. Rosa Uy will be making stir fried rice, and you are encouraged to bring appetizers and desserts to share.

We look forward to working with Phillip and Gethsemane in the days ahead, and consider Gethsemane to be both fortunate and blessed.

With gratitude,


In the Faith Forum: Learning about Racial Reconciliation with Dr. McKinney

Just a reminder - this Sunday March 8, from 9:15 - 10:15 am in the Parish Hall, Dr. Karen McKinney, Associate Professor at Bethel University, will help us learn more about racism and reconciliation. Dr. McKinney will lead us through a couple of simulations, followed by reflection, so that we can engage in intergenerational and experiential learning. 
The activities are designed for adults and students in 6th grade on up. These sessions will take place in lieu of regular Sunday School and Adult Formation offerings, and are part of the J2A program. We are hopeful that the maximum number of children, young adults, and adults can participate in these important learning exercises and reflections. One hoped-for outcome is a deeper understanding of how the reconciliation of people across lines of difference (including race, class, and gender) is a critical part of God's vision for human flourishing. An rsvp to Blair Pogue at rector@stmatthewsmn.org is not required but would be extremely helpful for planning purposes.
High Commitment Social Justice Discernment Team
By Blair Pogue

The St. Matthew's High Commitment Discernment Team (henceforth HCDT) had their first meeting on Sunday, March 1. After a powerful time of dwelling in Isaiah 58:6-14, group members introduced themselves and shared why they wish to participate in this endeavor.  We talked about putting together a group covenant, and began to work on a process that will help us seek the congregation's feedback and communicate with them regularly. Vestry member Judy Johnson put a lot of time and thought into a draft process including documents for summarizing and evaluating site visits.


We revisited the major pockets of energy that have been present at St. Matthew's for more than a decade, and those that have arisen more recently. They include education/mentoring, children, two-way relationships, lessening the opportunity gap and homelessness, racial reconciliation, and systemic "upstream" solutions. There is a strong desire in our congregation for a social justice ministry that gives people who are willing and able the tools to move out of poverty and homelessness.


Our final task was a decision to send an email to the people of St. Matthew's right away asking for their ideas as to organizations and individuals HCDT members should consider as they discern who to visit and interview. There will be a HCDT table at church this coming Sunday, March 8 after both services for those who want to learn more about this process, or share ideas for potential ministry partners.  Team members include: Laura Bathke, Birdie Carter, Arun and Cecilia Caspram, Terese Lewis, Valerie Matthews, Tina Maynor, Judy Niemi Johnson, Ann Nerland, Blair Pogue, Joseph and Christabella Shalita, Elaine Tarone, and Lisa Wiens Heinsohn. 

Sunday Evening Service    

By Lisa Wiens Heinsohn


After experimenting in Epiphany with switching the order of dinner and service, and after getting feedback from most current and past attenders, the Sunday Evening Leadership team has unanimously agreed to keep the current Sunday evening schedule -- service of night prayer + eucharist at 5:30, followed by dinner at 6:30.  The flow of the evening is more natural and allows more substantive conversations during the dinner; the earlier service time allows for more people to attend, including younger children; and the logistics are easier for most of the leaders concerned. Thanks to all who generously provided their input in this process!

Generous Spirit Food Shelf Drive  


The Generous Spirit Food Drive benefits the Department of Indian Work food shelf - located at the St. Paul Area Council of Churches office on Summit Ave.  Parishioner Bruce Nerland has offered to be the contact person and will deliver our donations at the end of the month. Donation boxes will be located in the parish hall. You can contribute food items or make a financial donation. This Food Drive lasts the entire month of March and is part of the Minnesota Foodshare Campaign.


High priority items include:

  • Dry goods: white rice, brown rice, wild rice, navy beans, pinto beans, crackers, pancake mix, flour, baking powder, yeast, sugar, baking soda, iodized salt, macaroni, spaghetti, macaroni & cheese, unflavored oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, breakfast cereals.
  • Canned & bottled: navy beans, pinto beans, baked beans, spaghetti sauce, vegetable oil, syrup, canned tuna, chicken, spam, ham, corned beef and beef stew, stewed, diced, whole and puree tomatoes, applesauce, orange, apple, cranberry, pineapple and tomato juice, peanut butter, jam.
  • Personal care & household: toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes.
A Warm Thank You for Cold Weather Gear  


Dear Members of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church,


Thank you for your recent gift of mittens and hats to Mississippi Creative Arts Magnet School in St. Paul.


I am a reading tutor at this school and shared with Marilyn Grantham that there was a need for hats and mittens for Pre-K students.  Many 4-year old children come to school without hats and mittens.  Marilyn helped me choose a large selection of accessories.  Now, there are many happy children, wearing the beautiful knitted caps and feeling warm in the mittens and gloves which you offered. 


Thank you for your generosity and kindness,

Lois Anderson, Tutor with the Minnesota Reading Corps 

Lenten Reflection: The Disease of Being Busy


An intriguing story by Omid Savi for the On Being website offers wisdom and reflection for our overscheduled lives.  It is an important  reminder, especially during the season of Lent.  He wonders: "How do we enable each other to pause and reflect together and ask how our hearts are doing?"


Do you have a favorite prayer, poem or link you would like to share?  Please send them to: Tidings@stmatthewsmn.org 
Looking Ahead: Calendar Highlights
  • March 8 & 15: Faith Forum with Dr. Karen McKinney, 9:15am in the parish hall.  Open to Grades 6 through adult.
  • March 10: JRLC Day on the Hill
  • March 13: Music in the Park Concerts in the Parish Hall, 6:00 and 7:15pm
  • March 14: Novel Faith Book Group, Silence by Shusaku Endo, 7:00
  • March 19: South African Book/Movie Group, "Tsotsi"
  • March 24: Racial Reconciliation with Dr. Ruben Rivera, 7:00
  • March 29: Dinner celebrating Phil Boelter, 6:30pm
Please share your news and photos with us: tidings@stmatthewsmn.org

Visit our website for the prayer list, calendar and sermons