Epistle #5 – Encouragement from Mom

As we have been queuing up our series of EPISTLES TO ST PAUL I reached out to my mother to ask if she would be willing to offer up a letter to us all. (An honorary member of the St. Paul community, if you will!) Some of you have met mom, as she was with us last fall for Thanksgiving and delighted in attending worship with us at St. Paul.

By way of introduction, I want you to know that while the church, Sunday School, etc. were all certainly formative in the lives of my brothers, sisters and I (six of us total, three boys and three girls…”Here’s a story… ) I would have to say that it is probably mom, who most specifically helped all six of us to know and love Jesus during the earliest stages of our lives. In fact, the single thing that I am most grateful for in all of life, is the legacy of the Christian faith that she and dad instilled within us, to pass on to our children and grandchildren.

Though I am now far beyond the stage of needing mom to kiss my knee when I fall down in order to make it better, I still find that she has words and wisdom that I occasionally count on and am blessed with at this stage in life, in the midst of pandemonium or otherwise.  Thus I am grateful that she was happy to send this note our way.

Oh, and by the way, today is her 87th birthday. 

Pastor Brian Mortenson



Dear people of God, St.Paulites in Winterset, Iowa,

Grace to you and peace!
I write to you from Maple Grove, Minnesota where we too find ourselves in the indescribable situation of dealing with the coronavirus. It’s a wake-up call to be sure. We are challenged to make sense of it and adjust not only our way of life… but our way of thinking as well.  What are our needs and what are our priorities? What should we do and not do?  How might we as Christians act and interact?

A 7 AM trip to Target last week was interesting. I was out of milk, short on eggs and hoped to get a thermometer as I discovered the battery in my rarely used one had died.  The store had just opened but a fair number of customers were milling around.  I was startled to see entire aisles void of their usual offerings. I found that one lone digital thermometer had survived – $20. No thanks! (Should have kept the cheap glass/mercury one that I turned in years ago when they were deemed too dangerous.)

OK … might as well pick up a package of toilet tissue if available, but I was  met by an empty-handed fellow who shook his head, smiled and said, “No   luck.” As I continued past the empty shelves, I looked up and lo and behold!!! Top shelf, at the very end and pushed back was a six mega roll pack of Charmin ultra soft. My brand even!!! Sadly way, way out of reach for my vertically challenged self.

A gentleman had just turned the corner so I caught his attention and asked, “Sir, would you be able to reach that for me?” There was an audible gasp, knowing he had missed his opportunity but without hesitation, handed the “treasure“ to me with the comment, “Lucky you!” Another man nearby observed this and stated that he too had not seen the solitary package.

Like my Texas daughter texted me lately, “Who knew that toilet paper would become the gold standard?” And a local cartoonist showed a Brinks armored truck with one guard standing by while another was wheeling a cart of Charmin toward its purchaser.

Next I opted for a dozen Eggland’s best cage free brown eggs as no white ones were in sight. Hoping for a bag of salad mix, I found my “reacher” man pondering over the lettuce and spinach, his cart blocking my path. I waited patiently and when he finally realized I was there he exclaimed, “Oh, why didn’t you yell at me?”  I replied, “No, there’s way too much of that these days.” “You’re right”, he agreed.

One final encounter. We were both headed to the checkout lanes. He was slightly ahead and paused at the first one that looked promising. He gestured me in and proceeded to another that was further down the line.  Now … this nice man could have grabbed the Charmin and run.  He could have remained silent or ignored my presence at the salad display. This stranger could rightly have taken the first open checkout lane.

I may never see or recognize this person again, but he gave me some happy moments during these unhappy times.

May God bless you with such moments today and in the days to come.

Juliette Mortenson

Church office phone:  515-462-4270
Church office email:  StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies:  605-351-0867



Epistle #4 – Friday updates – Next weeks Epistles, worship, blood drive & other news

1) Thank you for reading EPISTLES TO ST PAUL!   Next week there will be some interesting reading, to include a message from our Call Committee Chair, Ann Bartelt who will bring encouragement to us all, as well as a committee update. Also, special guest Epistle writer, my mother!

This  EPISTLES TO ST PAUL series is a new venture for us of course, and we are very interested in your feedback and suggestions on how we can use this tool as a vehicle to help maintain our sense of Christian community in a challenging world. I shared with someone today that I surely must have missed that day in class at Seminary when they taught us how to pastor a congregation during a pandemic. I should see if Amazon has that book available. In the meantime (and this most certainly is a mean time) please feel free to share thoughts to the office email address, care of Meisha Sible, our Office Manager, at: stpaullutheranchurch@hotmail.com or to me at stpaulpastor1941@gmail.com.

2) Thank you for the nice response to our EPISTLE #2 of last week. A number of you provided encouragement and offered volunteer support to make certain that our communications reach will extend to all of those who don’t have electronic access, by providing front door delivery of hard copies. If there is someone that you have this concern for, don’t hesitate to let us know their name, and we will follow up to insure that they either do have proper access electronically, or that they will be added to the “special delivery” listing.

3) Worship Services.   We now know of course, that it will be an extended time before we will be able to come together as a congregation for worship once again. The risks are too great, and we want to protect everyone from the possibility of getting sick until public health officials declare it to be safe, with all of this behind us. In the meantime (there is that word again!) we want to encourage you to find an online worship opportunity if you have access to do so. You will find encouragement, support and meaning in this opportunity to participate in a worship experience. Not to mention, respect and honor the Lord’s Sabbath in this way!

We here at St. Paul are not currently equipped with the technology or other resources required to provide an online worship experience of the scope or quality that would be most meaningful.  But we do want to encourage you, whether as an individual, a couple or as a family, to worship in this way.

One option that I would encourage you to consider is to worship via Lutheran Church Of Hope‘s online streaming worship service. ( www.lutheranchurchofhope.org ),  Some of you are aware that a number  of our St. Paul leaders have met with representatives from Hope to consider possible partnership with them on certain ministries (at this time, specific to children and youth program activities). Thus there may be some sense of relationship or intrigue there for some of you. Others of you may be aware of, or have historic relationship with other churches that provide worship alternatives as well. In seeking out this opportunity, I would encourage you to seek out options that provide a good sense of “as if you were there“, during this important time. It’s one thing to offer a reflection, or a devotional type of message. But that is not the same as a worship experience. Let us continue to worship during this time of seeking and wondering and waiting.  In this day of media savvy-ness (on the part of some!) and amazing technology, we are blessed to have this opportunity provided by others until we can gather together again here at 1120 N. Eighth Street in Winterset!

4) Blood Drive.   The previously scheduled blood drive set for this coming Tuesday, March 24th remains on, as scheduled. However, no St. Paul volunteers for hosting, providing refreshments, etc will be participating! The need for blood donations is as critical as ever. LifeServe Blood Center has ramped up their preparation and cleaning process and protocols so that if you are scheduled to come and donate blood, you are encouraged to continue to plan on donating if you are comfortable doing so. However, once again, the LifeServe staff team will manage all activities of set up, and operational flow of the day, with no volunteer involvement of our membership, for everyones safety. Thank you!

5) Financial Upheaval.  Some of you have suddenly found yourselves to be in disrupted, unexpected economic circumstances that are frightening and cause great instability in your personal situation. To you we wish to extend love and prayers, and more than that, needed resources. As you know, St. Paul has always been a leadership church in this region as relates to providing support for our community supportive services of CRISP, Matura, and others. We intend to continue to assist these important community agencies as they carry out our love and generosity in and through their supportive distribution services for so many in need.

In order for St. Paul to continue providing this support, we are entirely dependent upon the ongoing, or perhaps even “upgraded” generosity from those of us whose situation continues to allow for our giving to take place. We will remain dependent upon weekly offerings in order to pay our bills and fund all of our ministry operating expenses, and ask during this time that you who are able would send your offerings or make your contribution online through the churches website.

6) Public health information resources.  As we all know, there are loads of articles and sources of information available out there providing information and direction.  It is hard to know for certain what is reputable, not to mention the most current information available.  Some of our members who are health care professionals have provided guidance in identifying qualified resources that we can count on.  We will soon post these resource links on our website.  Look for “COVID-19 Resources”.

7) Please be reminded of this: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35; 37-39

Peace and love, in Jesus –
Pastor Brian Mortenson

Church office phone:  515-462-4270
Church office email:  StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies:  605-351-0867



Epistle #3 – Where is God?

During these interesting and frightful days, many of you may find yourselves asking this question: “Where is God?”

I do too.

Given the fact that I wear the yoke of responsibility as the spiritual shepherd of our St. Paul flock, I decided this week to build a 60-foot scaffolding structure inside the Chapel/Church tower here at Saint Paul Lutheran, in order to provide the answer for us all. “Never fear, I will find God!”

It was an arduous climb, at best. But I figured it would be so worth it to bring you an update and hopefully some answers.  Certainly with such a great vantage point I would be able to find God. What’s more, as many of you claim with pride, we know that Winterset is located right smack in the center of “God’s Country”. (Which would technically make God an Iowan, I suppose.)  Thus, this surely would make it more likely that one would have opportunity to see exactly where God might be hiding; or at least to observe if God can be seen heading our direction.  So finally, standing on top of the highest scaffolding platform, I was able to gaze outwards through the windows in every direction across the Iowa prairie.…looking for God.

I am kidding about the scaffolding climb and elevated 360-degree visual search, of course. (The good news there, is that we’ve got a painting crew hard at work, and many of our walls will be brighter, fresher and more lovely in the Lord’s house when we all are able to come together once again! 🙂

I am not, however, joking about our search for God. During this past week, in a time of intentional social isolation and the moratorium on the gatherings of people, I have come to a realization about my own personal faith. What I have discovered, is this: I am accustomed to “seeing God” and understanding God’s presence through people of faith. And of course, the most profound time of seeing and being with people of faith, is uniquely on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, etc. when “the church” comes together.

I know God through the folks who come to the Lord’s Table in humility and brokenness, and then go back to their pews with a new spring in their step.  I know and see God through the people who sing God’s praise together and pray together and do ministry projects together. I know and love God through the gathering of the 16 seventh and eighth graders and our team of four adult volunteers in our confirmation class, and in and through the great gathering of our grade school children and all of the adult volunteers who normally convene every Wednesday night to learn and sing and laugh and be together in Jesus name!

Where I most profoundly receive my regular diet of “seeing God” is at God’s house, through you. Yes, of course there are all sorts of other intentional and powerful moments as well. But the congregating of our congregation is where I tend to find encouragement and inspiration in God’s love and presence with God’s people together.

And now, we have suspended worship services. We are not meeting together for an indefinite period of time. It feels so weird. There is a sense of lost equilibrium. This is the case even for those for whom “coming to church” is an occasional or sporadic thing. How strange it feels to not have the option of being together right now.

Did you ever imagine that during your lifetime the coming together for worship on Sunday morning would not be available to you?

Perhaps some of us can relate to the feelings of the young child, crying out from the darkness of his bedroom one night. He was unable to fall asleep even though parents assured him that he did not need them to come into his room, because “God is with you! There is no need to be afraid” they called out in assurance to him, “because God is right there, present with you!” In response, following an extended pause, the boy’s voice called out once again: “But I want someone in here with some skin and bones on!”

I want to offer a challenge and invitation to you to see the opportunity to grow in your faith in new ways, given our circumstances. Especially if the craziness of these times provides you with more time than is the norm.

  1. Spending time with God’s Word. If you don’t have a particular reading plan, you might start with the Gospel of Luke. The pace is not so important as is the opportunity to be thoughtful and focused in your reading. Perhaps you might wish to set a goal of four or five chapters per day. As you may recall, Luke is also the author of the book of Acts, which brings us through the earliest history of the Christian church. I believe that as we are reminded of the historic beginnings of how Christ’s church gathered and grew and ministered and loved, that we might be inspired in our own approach as we will soon (hopefully) be able to start coming together, face to face, once again.
  2. Pray. Seek God’s revelation to you in new and different ways during these days. Know through prayer of God’s presence with you, and of guidance through the Spirit. And pray for those who are afraid, isolated, in panic mode with how to provide care for their children who do not have school, or are suddenly faced with a new economic reality of not knowing how they will pay their bills with an unexpected turn of events related to income flow. And pray for those who are sick, and for those who have lost loved ones, globally to the virus. And for those who are putting themselves at risk, in order to serve and protect the rest of us.

Peace to you all, in Jesus Christ. The One who promises, and keeps His promise, to never leave you nor forsake you.

Pastor Brian Mortenson

Church office phone:  515-462-4270
Church office email:  StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies:  605-351-0867



Epistle #1

Dearest friends,
I write today, in the midst of an extraordinary global pandemic shut-down, in order to introduce the first of a series of communications which we will call “Epistles to St. Paul”.  This series of Epistles will begin today, March 18, 2020 and will conclude on that day in which we shall meet gathered in community in the physical presence of one another in worship on Sunday morning! (The date for this, of course, remains to be determined.)

This word epistle simply means “a letter”. We are accustomed to hearing about and learning from the biblical Epistles FROM St. Paul. (These written to the Christian communities in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, etc.) These epistles offer encouragement, support, direction, exhortation and news “updates” from the apostle Paul for life as Christian people in the midst of community, specific to that community.

Likewise, these present day epistles will also include words of encouragement, support, direction, exhortation and news updates.  However, these letters will be TO St. Paul. St. Paul the community, (which is currently the “virtual” community,) of our congregation, St. Paul Lutheran Church, of Winterset, Iowa.

Please look around you.  Is there anything of your normal day to day existence that does not feel totally “up in the air“ these days?  Because of how fluid our current environment, we do not have a fixed schedule for this plan.  Epistles will be sent out as needed, or as deemed beneficial. Some will be coming from me, your intentional interim pastor, and some will be coming from other Saint Paul church family members, including lay leadership.

Bottom line? We wish to make certain that we do not define Christian community with the shortsighted vision that it solely means those who come together physically on Sunday morning for worship. During these days, we see great need and opportunity to nurture this community of faith.  And yet we cannot be together.  But by being intentional in our communication and doing the very best we can connectivity-wise, we can be the church.

These are unprecedented times and circumstances, with unforeseeable outcomes. Accompanying these times and factors are a gamut of emotions, sufferings, challenges and yes… opportunities!  Let’s process these things, to the degree possible, together.

I look forward to sharing more thoughts on these things in the Epistles to come!

In the meantime, remember and relish the peace that only God can give. I pray today for you all, that amazing peacefulness in your heart and mind that is so profound that it even passes our own capacity to understand it.  And it comes from Jesus our Lord.

More to come very soon!
In Christs love,
Brian Mortenson, Interim Pastor

Church office phone:  515-462-4270
Church office email:  StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies:  605-351-0867


Other Announcements pertaining to St. Paul

Blood Drive  |  Tuesday, March 24 ● 1:00 – 7:00 pm

Life Serve Blood Bank will be here March 24th from 1pm until 7 pm.  We always need cookie bakers and volunteers to help at the canteen. This is a very busy Blood Bank and we can always use more help. Its a fun afternoon visiting with members of our community who come to donate blood.

Covid-19 Common Sense

Common sense things you can do to remain healthy and protect those around you.

  1. Regular hand washing. with soap and water or alcohol solution.
  2. Stay home if you are sick.
  3. Cover your mouth with your upper arm if you cough or sneeze.
  4. Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  5. Clean and disinfect all surfaces that are often touched.
  6. We will be temporarily suspending passing the peace at both worship services.
  7. Be sure you have a flu shot. Do it for the herd.

Charles W. & Lois H. Taylor Scholarship

A reminder that the Charles W. & Lois H. Taylor Scholarship application forms are now available.  Only residents of Madison County, Iowa who are also graduates of a high school or equivalent located in Madison County are eligible to apply for financial assistance to attend any accredited technical school, community college, college, university, graduate or professional school.”

Contact:   First Christian Church
103 W. Green Street, Winterset

Deadline to submit applications is May 1, 2020

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