Is Slavery just our Nature?

This post comes from the champion of our Partners-in-Giving, Michael (Bear) Meyer. This Sunday is Freedom Sunday, and we’ll hear more about their work in church, but here is a word from Michael about the work:

Is slavery just our nature?

There are two things I would like for you to take away from this blog. The first is to remember every slave is a human being with a name, a story, and a dream. The second is together, with the help of anti-slavery organization, the church, and our own involvement, we can send rescue and set them free.

Here’s some history: The word “slavery” evokes thoughts of a dark period (1619-1863) in US history when the slave trade existed in the United States. Fact is, reference to slavery had been around long before. We read about it in the bible, and we know humans have been practicing slavery since the beginning of time. I guess it’s just in our nature.

Slavery is still present, if not more so, than anytime in the history of mankind. “Modern Day Slavery” is how it is referred to today.

How real is “Modern Day Slavery?” Frightfully real. It is estimated 40 million people are trapped in some form of slavery. Modern Day Slavery takes on many different forms. Forced labor is just one. Sex trafficking involving children, teens and adult women is another. A property grab leaves widows with no income and unable to support their children. Entire families forced to do manual labor in a system rigged to never allow them to pay their debt. Young boys forced into dangerous labor. And the newest addition. Cyber sex trafficking.

The question is often askedhowis slavery still being practiced today. One answer: Money. Slavery generates over $150 billion annually.

What is being done to stop Modern Day Slavery? Fortunately, a lot. International organizations, such as International Justice Mission (IJM), are mobilized and working in slavery hot spots throughout the world, including the United States.

Rescuing victims is only a small part of the solution. Helping to rehabilitate individuals or entire families by placing them in a safe environment requires medical care, housing, education and counseling. Establishing judicial systems where none exists, training, prosecution and arrests helps put an end to the perpetrators.

I am only one person, so what can I do? Actually, quite a bit.

  • Awareness of the problem is the first step, and it’s only a click away. Visit the International Justice Mission web site ( and you will find a great source of information. Knowledge is power, and the more you learn the more you will pass forward.
  • Be an anti-slavery activist. It’s easier than it sounds and very effective. Our elected officials want (and need) your input. There are countless ways to become a champion for those who do not have the ability to speak for themselves. IJM has a Minneapolis chapter. Meet with them.
  • Include Modern Day Slavery victims in your daily prayers. IJM believes in the power of prayer. In fact IJM stops operations and their entire organization spends an hour in prayer every day. Their founder, Gary Haugen, states, “The work we do is so difficult there is no way we could do it without God’s help.” The power of prayer is one reason why Spirit Garage participates in Freedom Sunday where churches around the world come together in prayer to eliminate slavery.
  • Donate to IJM, or, an organization of your choice. Spirit Garage includes IJM in our Partners In Giving program. Also, every dollar, quarter, dime, nickel and penny in the Lose Change To Loosen Chains jug helps with the rescue of someone trapped in slavery.

With your help, IJM has a plan to end slavery in our lifetime. Please consider becoming a part of the solution.

Michael Meyer

Anti-Slavery Activist









September 12

September 12

John Kerns

I know where I was on September 11, 2001, but I can’t recall what was happening on September 12.  I was probably mourning for lives lost and angry about plots executed, but what was I actually DOING?  I think there was a prayer vigil at Bethlehem Lutheran that I attended, and I’m positive I spent a lot of time in front of the TV.

Now we see clearly looking back, the airline security updates, the metal detectors at the ballpark, and the lock down drills in my 3rdgraders’ classrooms.  All these changes make things safer, shore up loose ends, maybe.  THIS is our September 12.  And beyond, of course, but what I think of September 12 literally and metaphorically is just mostly disappointment at what had to happen for us to catch up to the abilities of our enemies.  The saddened realization that our country, now more divided than ever, has to put in place the policies, mechanisms, and technologies to help, save, comfort and defend us from even ourselves.

Dropping off my wife at the airport made me think of this.  Never forget.  People post those memes as if we could somehow forget.  So many facets of our lives revolve around the events of September 11, 2011 that they become the new normal, and yes, we could overlook that cause and effect, but we don’t forget.  Do we?

There’s nothing here to sway your opinions or reinforce your views, just to get you to look closer at what it is, what it was, and what it shall be. Just, TAKE IT IN.  Keep moving.  Students are fighting to change gun laws and families are fleeing their homes in war-torn countries live in their own September 12.  Nigerian girls are being abducted en masse and our new cold war is very much alive in our own September 12.  This is depressing stuff; take it in and let’s look to what our future is going to hold.

My September 12 is full of disillusionment in our country’s leaders, but also of music.  Music with my friends, music at my church, music in front of strangers, music from my heroes. September 12 is also the day my daughter was baptized.  Maybe it’s not so bad afterall.

I present to you “September 12” by David Wilcox.  It’s a great perspective of how things were and now are. I play this song once a year.  I never forget.






All Square is Opening!

A Word from All Square’s Partners-in-Giving Champion, Maria Anderson:

On September 8th, 2018, there will be a new restaurant opening in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis.  The restaurant is All Square, which will be offering a selection of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches using local ingredients, and who can resist a grilled cheese on almost any day of the year?  But All Square is also an active nonprofit offering an educational 13-month institute available to formerly incarcerated felons that offers a paid internship and professional development, as well as training in financial literacy and personal wellness.  Participates in the program will work in the restaurant as well as attend classes.  The name All Square conveys both a message and a mission statement – that those who have offended and returned to the larger community are considered to be “all square” and to have made their restitution.  All Square was founded by Emily Hunt Turner, a civil rights attorney, and the board of directors is comprised of lawyers, activists, and people who have formerly been incarcerated.  Together they have developed a business and rehabilitation concept aimed at ending the stigma and discrimination experienced by those who have a criminal record that affects their ability to find housing, jobs and government assistance, and that may subsequently contribute to recidivism.

All Square was selected by Spirit Garage as one of three Partners in Giving for the year 2018 and will receive two financial gifts from the congregation, one mid-year and another at the year’s end.  We also hope to provide support from our congregation and our broader church family through Bethlehem Lutheran as after-church lunch customers and also by stopping by regularly in support of the restaurant and its role in the community.

As a Partner in Giving, Spirit Garage identifies a champion who can be a contact for the recipient and act as a liaison for communication, such as sharing information with members, helping to organize lunch outings, and rallying the cause.  I volunteered to be a champion for All Square because their goal is one that brings home a daily message for all of us.  Who among us has not offended in some way against another person or against a societal, religious or cultural norm?  And who among us has not needed to make restitution and be considered “all square”?  Supporting others who are in the process of remaking their lives helps all of us to build a strong community.

My professional background also made volunteering to be a champion for All Square seem natural as my work as a mental health professional in the prison system in Minnesota brought me in contact with many offenders who turned to criminal activity because they did not have jobs or who worried that they would not be able to work upon release because of their record. Lack of opportunities upon release many times contributed to recidivism.  We don’t all have employment opportunities about which we feel passionate but all of us need housing, food, and a way to obtain necessary goods and services.  Persons who have been incarcerated experience discrimination and stigma and those outcomes affect their ability to provide for themselves and their families.  We can help by welcoming and supporting an organized effort to help train and employ persons who can both benefit from these efforts and go on to become successful and contributing individuals within our community.

Eventually All Square intends to expand their rehabilitation program throughout Minnesota and the country.  We are fortunate to have an opportunity to give to All Square and support those who are remaking their lives in our own community.  Be sure to sign up for a group lunch on September 9thafter church services and taste one or more of the nine signature sandwiches (there are also vegan options), soup, fries and beer and wine. Hope to see you there!

Maria Anderson

What’s up with the Baptismal Bowl?

If you come to Spirit Garage on a regular basis, you may have noticed that a few months ago, the baptismal bowl became a permanent part of our worship space. I got a lot of questions asking, “are we having a baptism today?” 

Yes….and No…will most often be the answer! 

My belief is that baptism is a way of recognizing God’s claim on us as children of God, and a tool for this life for when you don’t feel adequate enough. I don’t believe it is about us deciding anything about God, or keeping us out of hell. I think it is about a moment when we hear God say “Yes” to us, and the Christian community around us also says “Yes.” Yes, you are a child of God; Yes, you are a part of this big Christian family. 

(For the record, I believe God says yes to you even before you are baptized, but this is a moment when we hear and experience that word of grace)

The font is out all the time because it can serve as a daily reminder of God’s “Yes” to us. So when you walk into the worship space, you can dip your fingers in that water, maybe make the sign of the cross on your forehead, say to yourself, “I am a child of God” and remember that God says yes to you. Maybe that is helpful on days when it seems like the world has said “no” to you, or on days when you can’t quite say “yes” to yourself. 

You might ask…what about the water? Last week as we were cleaning up, I asked someone to empty the font, and they looked at me…and said, “just like…outside?” Yep. Because for us, it is just water. God chooses to communicate God’s grace through the most ordinary of physical elements (water, wine, bread), with words of promise attached to those elements. But I don’t do anything magical to the water or wine or bread that makes it something different than ordinary. So it is okay to just dump it. (Though sometimes, when I do this, I remind the earth that it too is a child of God.) 

So also, that water that reminds you that you are a child of God doesn’t have to be in a baptismal font at church. It could be in your sink when you wash your face.

And you might ask…What if I’m not baptized? As I said earlier, I believe God says yes to you before or outside of baptism. But I’m also super happy to talk with anyone about being baptized, so contact me if you’re interested in or thinking about hearing and experiencing those words with the water spoken over you, and being claimed as a child of God and part of the family of God. Baptism is known as a sacrament, which basically means it is a gift of God’s grace communicated and experienced with words of promise from God attached to ordinary elements, and we do them because there was some place in the gospels where Christ said, “you should do this.” 

So yes-since a baptism is for every day, it is happening today, and if you are baptized you can remember that this promise was made over you. And no, most weeks we aren’t having a baptism. But it is part of what we are about all the time.

Have other questions about baptism? Feel free to ask me—either email me with questions or to set up a time to meet. 

Holly Johnson

Pastor at Spirit Garage 


Let’s Talk Melody

Let’s talk MELODY.  My focus on songwriting and song choice for worship is just this: “Can an average person hear this in one listen and sing it back to me?”  Maybe they have to hear it twice, maybe they need be taught it in pieces, but can a non-musician hear it and sing it?  Writing (and choosing) songs with easy-to-learn melodies can be a challenge.

The ear-worm—the most illusive of musical elements, the most crucial element, often times the most difficult element to perfect, and the one that sells the song. A friend said once, “I can ruin your day in two notes: ‘It’s been…’”  Great.  Thanks. Now I’m humming the Bare Naked Ladies all day.

Here are some more good melodies that stick in your ear and hold on tight: “All You Need Is Love”, “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, “Born in the USA”. This is a very subjective topic, but one that has been proven.  A melody that you can hear instantly and remember as you get out of your car, or leave the elevator.  That’s the ear worm.

I’ve been complimented on a few ear worms, and those are some of THE BEST compliments I’ve ever received.  “Throw me some peaces…” and “I really need a janitor in my life…” and “Baptized on New Years Eve…” have been lucky grabs for me.  I focus on this with each new song.  Making the melody work with lyrics is tricky stuff.  For more good examples of this, listen to “Julius” or “Character Zero” by Phish.

There are guides for this; I try to keep them in check when the band is in writing mode.  Don’t make large interval jumps, don’t sing higher than middle D, keep 16th notes to a minimum, match the lyrics to the movement of the notes, etc.  I could go on and on.  Typically short phrases, complete sentences, phonetically cohesive pieces work the best.  Repetition is crucial here as well.  Check out “Romans 12:1-2” by Mars Hill Church or “Go Outside” by Robbie Seay Band.

One of my heroes, Ben Folds, can do this magical lyric trick that takes a complete sentence and twists it into a melody.  Listen to “The Ascent of Stan”, or “Battle of Who Could Care Less”, or “Kylie from Connecticut” to hear this gift in action. Complex songwriting, when used strategically, can be very effective in communicating your message.  Another superb example of this is “Zavelow House” by the late Will Owsley.  Somehow he states “Not the kind of place you’d see in Better Homes & Gardens magazine, unless they did an expose on the Night of the Living Dead” into a singable melody.

At any rate, we are always trying to choose songs that are well-crafted with singable melodies.  YES is a big influence on me, and they sometimes have wonderful simple melodies that are twisted and repeated and modulated into intricate and convoluted arrangements.  Underneath a simple melody is a vast structure of prog-rock confounding most musicians ears and hands.  Listen to “Hold On” or “Heart of the Sunrise” or “I’ve Seen All Good People” to hear a singable melody wrapped in a complex instrumental.

I’d LOVE to play “Hold On” [we still might someday] but the groove is a 12/8 time signature with a few dropped bars, several different thematic segments, and many, many harmonies and descants swirling around it.  YES writes complex and difficult material, even for experienced musicians.  This is often a deal-breaker simply due to our rehearsal/time constraints/workload.

I will be the first to admit that I’ve simplified arrangements for any number of reasons.  Sometimes the bridge of a song is distracting from the larger message [“Walk” by the Foo Fighters].  Sometimes the riff of a perfect message-song is too complicated or distracting [“Go Tell Somebody” by King’s X].  Sometimes the melody is too complex, but the chords are perfect for us [“Weather You Fall” by Tracy Bonham].  If only two of these parts are accessible by everyone in the band, we may try it. However, all three pieces really drive home a worship experience that is meaningful for all involved: the band feeling confident in their playing [and enjoying that], the congregation singing along [and enjoying that], and the message being heard through song [God enjoying that].

Sometimes this feels like I’m playing the old-school arcade game “Paperboy” (please visit The Up/Down, corner of Lyndale Ave & Lake St). You have to pedal the bike, navigate the roads and obstacles, throw newspapers at each house and land it on the doorstep.  Nearly impossible, but there’s one day when the arcade is nearly empty with less distractions that you can focus and hone your skills [with a pocket-full of quarters]. THAT is the day you stop the car and listen intently to the song on the radio and say to Siri “google search X song by Y band lyrics and chords” before the earworm has burrowed into your long-term memory.

I’ve placed all these songs in a Spotify playlist you can reference here.

A Word from the Drivetrain

Dear Spirit Garage Members & Friends:

Hard to believe that 2018 is over halfway through! What a year it’s shaping up to be at Spirit Garage! We were thrilled to “officially” install Pastor Holly this summer after welcoming her as our Pastor in 2017. 

Some of our other year-to-date activities include:

1. TWO community chili cook-off’s – Longfellow and Hook & Ladder

2. Longfellow Community Council’s Pie-no-Pie resource fair 

4. Bible study at Peace Coffee 

5. Theology conversations at Sisters’ Sludge

6. Book discussions at Moon Palace books

7. Open Streets

8. May Day Parade 

9. Concerts

10. Outdoor worship at Minnehaha and Lake Harriet (coming up on 9/2!)

We don’t talk much about finances, and that is on purpose. We don’t want our friends, members or people checking out Spirit Garage for the first time to feel pressure to give. However, from time to time, it is important to point out where we’re at from a financial perspective, in order to continue the good work that Spirit Garage has been up to the past 20+ years in helping people grow in their relationship with God and each other. 

Spirit Garage is behind on our offering. Through 6/30/18, actual giving is $35,232, and our budget was $47,790. There is still time to make up our deficit! 

This is a great time to re-evaluate your offering and consider making a one-time gift, or consider beginning or increasing your regular donation, if your budget allows. If you’d like assistance or resources with budgeting, please feel free to reach out to me. 

As a reminder, you can give in the following ways:

  • Text-to-Give is remarkably easy! Send the amount you want to give to (612) 255-1603. You’ll be taken to a webpage to enter your information.  A “thank you” for your gift will be sent via text and email. At any time you can type “repeat” or a new amount and the gift will be made from your account. 
  • Electronically by visiting the Spirit Garage Donation Page to make a one-time or recurring gift
  • Send check to Spirit Garage at 4100 Lyndale Ave S., Minneapolis MN 55409
  • Come to worship, and put your cash or check into the oil cans that are passed around during announcements. 

Thank you for your partnership in growing God’s kingdom! I look forward to celebrating Spirit Garage’s 21st birthday with you in October!

Melissa Johnston

Drivetrain Team Member (leadership team) and Children’s Ministry Parent Coordinator

“For They Will Be Comforted” -from Children’s Minister, Heidi Hansen

Church nerd alert: this past Sunday I had the opportunity to join two Sunday school friends in worship at the United Church of Christ parish in my old ‘hood. So there we were all in a place two of us weren’t familiar with wondering what it might be like. I felt a little like we were seven or eight again. I think we behaved fairly well: we dressed appropriately, didn’t need to be pinched to subvert squirming, and there were no pew kneelers for me to loudly play with.

Pastor Lawrence delivered a sensitive sermon on Matthew 5:1-4 (“blessed be those that mourn for they will be comforted”), Psalm 23, with references to King David losing his beloved son.  He mentioned in his sermon that he had written a book describing some of his own losses.  I was so captivated that I bought his book after the service; of course I had it signed!

In his thought provoking and poignant autobiography, Pastor Richardson shares his cathartic and poignant autobiographical story of his life as a transgendered person of color called to Christian ministry of word and sacrament.  Raised, living, and serving in Minneapolis, he shares his story of a very troubled childhood which in some ways is reminiscent of Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called It. Despite all of the abuse and neglect he suffered at the hand of family, the church, and the larger society, he remains true to his calling to God and to himself. Pastor Richardson’s light shines on all whom he encounters.

This book is especially helpful because it clarifies aspects of LBGTQ identification and lifestyle which is probably unfamiliar to most of us living outside of that circle.  It also includes some valuable biblical commentary on the topic.

This book is an easy read and I literally could not put it down until I had finished it. I highly recommended it to everyone but most especially to those who work or worship in Christian churches and to those that work in social service type of occupations.

Richardson, Lawrence Tanner. 2018. I Know What Heaven Looks Like: A Modern Day Coming of Age Story.

Heidi S. Hansen, Spirit Garage Children’s Minister

A Word from the Drivetrain – John Lawyer

The Drivetrain is the leadership team of Spirit Garage, the group that makes things move!

Greetings from the Drive Train!

Can you believe summer is already half over?  As we steam through July (literally!) we hope you are joining in some of the summer fun we’ve been having. We’ve had worship in the park at Minnehaha Falls, the Earth Day clean-up and picnic,  and the Longfellow neighborhood walk. Coming up we have Revealed live at Carbone’s Pizza and Three on the Tree rocking it at Open Streets. And don’t forget to get your tickets to the August 17th Saints game! You can find information about these events on the calendar page.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes we are already planning for fall. The Connectors Marketing Team has been working hard on a new outreach plan, and we have a new logo and a new look in the works. We’re also reaching out to old friends as we plan our 21st Birthday/Homecoming party for this fall in October.

Summer’s moving fast, as it always does. We hope you have time to get out and enjoy it and meet this wild God of ours in the warm sunshine!  Good things are on the horizon but for now …back to the pool!

-John Lawyer

Worship Services (or NOT) the next two weeks! Things are different!

July 15- Minnehaha Falls Bandstand Worship

When: Sunday, July 15, 10:30am

Each year we hold worship at Minnehaha Falls Park. Our annual free community picnic will follow at 11:45 at the picnic tables adjacent to the bandstand. Look for Spirit Garage Signage to guide your way.

While the picnic is free, you are welcome to bring something to share! Please sign up here so that we are sure to have all our bases covered.

During lunch, CD Onofrio is going to share some music with us. CD is a musician from Niagara Falls, Canada, and Berkeley, CA and likes to travel the world sharing music. You can hear his sound here.

After lunch, take some time to enjoy the park walking and bike trails down to the falls and creek below. Bike and Cart rentals are available at Sea Salt Restaurant.

Traffic may be tricky this day, as Lake Street is supposed to be closed.


July 22-NO WORSHIP service but come out for Open Streets!


Open Streets: Lake+Minnehaha

When: Sunday, July 22, 11 AM-5 PM

Where: The Hook and Ladder, 3010 Minnehaha Ave

Art Vandalay will be playing at 12 noon; 3 on the Tree will be playing at 2pm.  Volunteers are needed to help with they day including string art & crafts table, making cotton candy, live music setup/teardown, etc. You can sign up here to help! This is a great way for us to connect with the neighborhood we call home. So if you’ve been wondering why anyone hasn’t found us hidden away in our little building for a couple hours a week….well, it’s because we need to be out in the street! This is a great time to do that. We will mostly be in between the police station and the Hook and Ladder Theater, so we should not be hard to find.

Summer always has a lot going on, because we have to be outside when we can! Here’s hoping it is not too hot. As we think about that, we’ll just remember that it has only been 3 short months since our last blizzard.

#GodisWild #soistheweather

See you in the Wilderness!

Pastor Holly

Austin Experiences by Heidi Hansen

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to participate in a three-week Spanish Language and Hispanic Ministry Intensive at the Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest in Austin, TX. It was simultaneously an amazing, insightful, and thought provoking experience. While there, we students were introduced various national, internal and external cultures: languages (linguistic dialects), histories, values, beliefs, customs, clothing, family and social organizations, foods, music, arts, religiosities (traditions, rituals, and communities), and governmental politics within many overarching Hispanic contexts.

While there I elected to stay with two families to further augment my experience.  I stayed with one family of Mexican decent in Austin and one of Columbian descent in San Antonio.  In these two locales I was also mentored by two pastors (one Anglo: Ellen Williams and one Puerto Rican: Eric Miletti) serving bilingual congregations and was able to participate in both the English and Latinx worship services. The Latinx worship services were especially engaging and spiritual using traditional Lutheran liturgy embellished with congas, maracas, and tambourines.

These experiences along with the scheduled formal presentations gave me the opportunity to learn history from a perspective other than that which I was taught growing up.  I heard how the United States of America’s politics have adversely affected and contributed toward the current crisis’ in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. I heard horrific stories of persistent racism and abuse in Texas and beyond. It was shocking to hear Enedina Vasquez, a Tejana (indigenous Texan-Mexican descent) relate how she was told to “go back to where you came from” when in fact her ancestors predated Texas’ statehood. I was sickened to hear a gentleman from Togo living in an Austin shelter retell his harrowing immigration story which included a flight to Brazil, a trek through South and Central America, questioning in Panama, rafting to Texas only to endure a 10-month detainment in a cold cell with a final release to the shelter where he was receiving legal assistance. He was ever so grateful to have just been granted a truck driving license. It was a dangerous journey wrought with violence, bribery, and occasional human kindness. Nicole Garcia shared some of her troubling experiences living as a transgendered Latinx candidate for ordained ministry and I heard a young woman named Julieta relate some of her experiences as a Dreamer.

Julieta’s story prompted me to participate in my first ever rally (United We Dream) dressed in a clergy collar where I heard immigrants, attorneys, and politicians speak and march in downtown Austin.  I was personally thanked by a couple of people for “showing up”.  They were appreciative of the church’s presence. It might serve as a reminder to all of us to show up where and when we are called. We are all the church and we are all called to share the good news and hope in Jesus.  Throughout scripture are many stories of migration: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Joseph’s brothers, Moses, Ruth, Esther, the Samaritan, and lastly Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. We are instructed in both the Hebrew and New Testaments to care for widows, children, and immigrants without qualifications. Jesus himself commands us do this in Matthew 25:31-46.

There are many great religious and secular organizations doing fine work on behalf of refugees: LIRS and Ammparo are two such ELCA affiliated organizations. Please consider how you might be of service to our neighbors however you are gifted. I want to encourage everyone to work together to eliminate suffering and walk alongside refugees to eliminate injustice and find sustainable solutions to long standing issues. There is hope.

Lapazde Jesucristo/The peace of Jesus Christ, Heidi+++Spirit Garage Children’s Minister