11:30am Worship Prayground

Dear friends,

This past summer, we tried a new thing in the 11:30am contemporary worship service called a “Prayground.” In an effort to engage children in worship, we set up a small area towards the front of the sanctuary with quiet activities for children to engage with during the worship service. By and large, this worked very well throughout the summer with just a few little hiccups along the way.

This past Sunday we recognize the “Prayground” did not work as well. Please know that we not only recognize the need for children to experience worship, but we also recognize that other worshipers need to be able to hear and concentrate on what the preacher is teaching so that they too may experience God’s grace in and through worship.

Please know that we will be working to make some changes in the weeks ahead to try and find the right balance for children, youth, and adults in our 11:30am contemporary worship, and we invite you, the congregation to help be a pro-active and positive part of the conversation with us.

Thank you so very much for you grace and patience as we try to do a new thing to grow disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and to be a welcoming family joyfully sharing God’s light.

Andy Bartel, Lead Pastor
Emily Carroll, Pastor of Discipleship & Justice
Erynne Devore, Director of Children & Family Ministries
Robbie Brawner, Director of Youth & Family Ministries

Making A Difference in Kids' Lives

Dear St. John Congregation – The Fall Outreach is complete. Backpacks and college kick-start packages were sponsored, and items purchased, scores of socks, under-garments and tennis shoes were procured, all were blessed at last week’s service and all were delivered this week!

The deliveries to Kids Corp (Head Start), Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Child Welfare Academy were all met with enthusiastic smiles and much appreciation for the gifts! While there were stories at each, I wanted to share with you the impact of your generosity learned during my conversation with Amanda Metivier, the Associate Director in the Office of Youth Empowerment & Education and Training Voucher Program at the Child Welfare Academy.

Amanda herself grew up in the foster system in Alaska. When she aged out, she found a way to attend college, believing this was her ticket to a successful life. She thought she could help others like herself. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in social work and later earned her Master’s degree.

In one of her first assignments, she was to pick up a foster student ready to attend UAA. She pulled up to the home and the girl emerged with nothing but a backpack. No bedding. No other linens. No clothes. No ‘stuff’. Can you imagine? Best I can recall, Natalie & I rented two GMC Yukons to move our daughter to school her freshman year! We had tons of stuff! But this girl had nothing. Amanda took the student to her own home where they gathered up Amanda’s extra sheets, pillows and towels in an attempt to get her started. Fast forward to today and imagine the joy on the face of this year’s college-bound foster students when they receive their college kick-start package from St. John! 

By helping this one student, so began Amanda’s commitment to working with foster youth and better assimilating them as they transitioned to college. The State previously attempted to help these college-bound fosters. Amanda petitioned the State to let her organization do this work and she received increased funding to support her efforts. To say that Amanda has a passion for this work is an understatement. Many of the foster students don’t have anyone to accompany them to college orientation. Enter Amanda – she will accompany them, so they don’t journey alone to such an important event. Amanda doesn’t vacation during holidays as some of the foster youth have no home to return to and many don’t have a family with whom to share a holiday meal. I think about our joy when Sarah comes home for the holidays and my heart is heavy knowing there are students with no home where they can return. For Amanda, getting the foster student to college is only the beginning of the relationship. May God bless her and her students.

St. John – we didn’t just provide ‘stuff’ for this Fall Outreach Mission. We marked a path in the wilderness. We created an opportunity. We made change possible. And we supported the efforts of dedicated people like Amanda who are working hard to do the right thing.

Thank you, St. John, for supporting the Child Welfare Academy, Kids Corp and Big Brothers Big Sisters. You made a difference! God bless St. John!!

In Him, Rick & Natalie

Pastor Andy & Continuing Education

Dear St John family,

For my clergy continuing education requirements, I have elected to enter a one year, twenty-one credit graduate program in Non-profit Church Leadership offered through a partnership between the Lilly Grant Foundation, Dakota Wesleyan University, and the Dakotas/Minnesota Area of the United Methodist Church. This program will require travel to South Dakota three times in the course of the year, with the remainder of the work completed on line and here at St John. Courses are focused on Stewarding Finances, Stewarding Human Resources (governance, personnel, and volunteer management), Stewarding Vision (strategy design, implementation, and evaluation), and Stewarding Community (communications and community outreach). There are two applied projects that will directly impact St John (and my grade!) Upon completion of this certificate program, I have the option to complete 15 more credits (online) to earn a Masters of Business Administration with a focus in Non-Profit leadership, if I so choose. If you’re curious to hear more, just ask me. In the meantime, I ask for your prayers that God would help me to grow through this program, so that I have some new tools and skills to help lead us into the NEXT five years of ministry together.


Pastor Andy

Alaska United Methodist Conference Action on UMC Next Aspirational Commitments






SJ: Alaska United Methodist Conference Action on UMC Next Aspirational Commitments

It was great to get your message about the Great Plains affirmation of the UMC Next aspirational commitments to an inclusive way forward, and I want you to know that almost simultaneously we here in Alaska were making the same commitment yesterday at our annual conference.  Here is a copy of our resolution.  It's important to note that, like Kansas and Nebraska, Alaska is a solidly Republican majority state.  In addition, it is solidly identified by and committed to exploration for and production of oil and natural gas.  So, our commitment to full inclusion of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers is, I think, at least as remarkable as is yours in Great Plains.  I hope you will consider mentioning this in a future newsletter.

Adopted by the Alaska United Methodist Conference on Saturday, 01Jun19 by a margin of 90%:


The Alaska United Methodist Conference affirms the four commitments that came forth from the UMC Next meeting at the Kansas City United Methodist Church of the Resurrection on May 20-22:

We believe these commitments are essential to a hope-filled future for the global Methodist movement as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world:

  1. We long to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in Scripture and informed by tradition, experience, and reason as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness

  2. We commit to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.

  3. We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation.

  4. We will work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons. We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together.



UM Next : News Update (No. 2)

21 May 2019

My dearest siblings in Jesus Christ,

Greetings once again from Kansas, where we have completed Day Two of UMNext. We began at 8:30am(CDT) this morning with worship. Our text was Ezekiel 37, the Valley of the Dry Bones, where God breathes new life into the seemingly dead.

Our conveners then led us with the questions from the story of Esther and Mordecai, “If not now, when? If not us, who?” to help us enter into this good, holy, and hard work together.

The day was split between three potential paths forward. We spent time in our table groups considering 1) Dissolution - negotiating an amicable division of denominational assets into two or more denominations, 2) Disaffiliation - each local church leaving the denomination with the potential of possibly affiliating with some other organization in the days ahead, and 3) Stay. Build Community. Resist. Reform. - keeping all things the same and continuing to resist the laws and structures of the UMC that constrain us from being in full communion and ministry with LGBTQ+ persons.

As I alluded to yesterday, my table group for discussion is very diverse. I was sitting with (they gave me permission to share with you) Bonnie, a lay woman from Chelmsford MA (my high school alma mater’s arch rival!), Matthew, an out queer clergyman from the Western Jurisdiction, Anna, a Korean-American clergy woman serving in one of our sister conferences of the Greater Northwest episcopal area, Roland, an Indian-American staff member of the General Board of Global Ministries, Mike Slaughter, retired pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC and author of many books like Christmas is not Your Birthday, and finally J.J. (of General Conference fame) a young gay man about to graduate college and definitively called to be a pastor in the Wesleyan Methodist tradition. (My sincerest apologies if I have not described folks in the manner they might describe themselves).

Karen, Tina, Debbie, Carlo, and Charley likewise had their own mixes of people from across the denomination in their table groups of discussion.

At my table, we were not all of one mind of our path forward. After three sessions of considering each option separately, in a fourth session we elected to focus on and discuss the option of Dissolution, allowing the denomination to die and give birth to new iterations of Wesleyan Methodism. (Other table groups had the same opportunity to choose one of these three paths forward for further discussion and feedback in the fourth session).

While it is clear, there are other options forward besides these three, these are the three the convening team decided we would explore here in Kansas City. After visiting with so many people of different persuasions, both here, and in the Alaska Conference, and beyond, I truly believe our best path forward, minimizing fighting, freeing one another to be fully in ministry and mission to the world, we must find a way to gracefully release one another, pray God’s blessings over each other, and go our separate ways, seeking dissolution and forming new denominations for all parties.

And even though this seems clear to me, it is not the same conviction all people have reached. Indeed, there is a significant number of people here who believe we must stay and resist.

I believe tomorrow we will learn that UMNext will not proceed with one option, but that we might continue to explore and pursue multiple avenues simultaneously. I invite you to join me in praying that God would make the path straight and clear for the direction God is calling us, and that God might close the paths not intended for us, and that we, as followers of Jesus, might have the eyes and ears to see and hear God’s leading so that we might follow in the Spirit’s stead, and not the path of our own choosing.

This is my prayer for us St John, not only at this hour, but always: that we might follow in the Spirit’s stead, and not the path of our own preference or choosing. By the grace of God may it be so.

I am committed to walking this path with you St John. I love you, and I thank God that I am with you for just such a time as this.

Tomorrow noon is the end of our time here, and I will be flying home to return to you on late Wednesday. I am looking forward to the days, weeks, and months ahead as we talk, as we wrestle, and as we discern our path forward together.

All grace and peace,

Pastor Andy on behalf of the Alaska delegation

Karen Shields, Tina Racy, Debbie Pintsch, Charley Brower, and Carlo Rapanut