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Autumn Toussaint | March 7th, 2021
Address: 125 Wayzata Boulevard East
Wayzata, MN 55391
8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m. Parables and 10:45 a.m.
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You’ve probably seen George Robards hustling around WCC – he’s a member of WCC’s Building & Grounds team. George is quick with a smile and even quicker at getting things done — but he’s also one of the kindest human beings you’ll ever meet.
George has been serving on our Building & Grounds team since February 2020. In his quiet behind-the-scenes way, he gets stuff done— pretty much always with a smile. People who know him all share the same sentiments:
“George is a natural helper, a self-starter.”
“George figures out what to do next and he does it.”
“George really is as cheerful as he seems!”
Outside of work, George is a super volunteer. In addition to traveling with Bricks to Bread to Costa Rica last winter, he frequently works with Nancy Alvarado — the founder of Bricks to Bread — preparing dough and baking pretzels and bread at the brick oven in St. Louis Park. He also volunteers at Cranberry Ridge in Plymouth, preparing and serving meals to residents with other WCC members once a month. And, George serves as a staff co-liaison on the Board of Fellowship.
The Building and Grounds team, led by John Estrem, have a mission statement that they discuss often in their staff meetings: “Working together, taking care of the people and the building, with love.” The team takes time to share stories together about their work, and about their personal reflections on their team mission. John explains, “When we know and share our stories, we develop a depth of understanding and value about how and why our teammates are who they are. That’s important to how we work well together.”
We’re fortunate to have our amazing Building & Grounds team at WCC, and we’re inspired by how they lead with integrity, care, and joy. The next time you see one of them around WCC, thank them and give them a high five — if you can keep up with them!
David and Jan Tweet
Bible Study for Dummies is what got Jan and David Tweet connected to Wayzata Community Church. The preaching, outreach, music, and community care kept them here until Jan died on June 13, 2021. Though they never joined WCC, this has been their church home since they got here. These days, David can be found helping with the Rummage Sale, restoring furniture for people in need at his retirement community, or spending time with his friends. He lives a simple life these days to fulfill a promise made to Jan, because he has a bigger purpose. When Jan died, he promised not only that he would honor her wishes to give away 95% of their assets, he also promised that he would spend as little of their money as possible in order that the gifts made would have an even bigger impact. He says it feels really good to live this way.
Jan taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade for 36 years. When she died, David got phone calls from people who had her as a teacher all the way back in 1958 who had to share that she was the best teacher of their life. There are dozens and dozens of letters from students and parents who shared how she discovered their talents and improved the lives of these kids.
Jan’s lessons for the world aren’t done yet. Even now, she and David are teaching what it is to be a steward of the resources God has first given us and how to have what we accumulate in life be a blessing to ministry in perpetuity. They have set up a trust that upon David’s death will distribute their assets to the organizations that have meant so much to them over the years. They met at St. Olaf College. Jan’s passion for music and David’s lifetime as a research chemist led them to establish scholarships for music and chemistry.
Wayzata Community Church will receive a gift to benefit the music ministry here as well as the Bible Study/Faith Formation activities of the church. David’s wishes for this gift are on file with the church.
“I promised Jan I would live a simple life,” says David. With gratitude, and in her memory, he is living that promise.
Can you think of a time when you felt like you truly belonged?
I don’t mean feeling like you fit in. Can you think of a time you were able to be your authentic self, without fear of rejection? A time you were with a group of people who fully embraced you as you, without judgment or agenda. A place where you felt fully seen.
This past April, a group of 15 moms went on an overnight retreat to the Episcopal House of Prayer in Collegeville, MN. Lovingly led by Michele, Autumn and Lindy, we spent 24 hours sharing, praying, crying and laughing about our lives as parents of disabled kids. It was an experience of true belonging.
Special-needs families like ours rarely feel like we belong anywhere. We wonder what it’s like to send our kids to school, knowing what they need is already in place. We see typical kids who make friends, going to birthday parties and sleepovers with ease. We dream of being the kind of mom who can share the load with her friends, picking up each other’s kids from school, dropping our kids off for playdates, taking on an extra kid for an afternoon when something unexpected comes up. We hang on the edges of mom circles, listening to them share their “relatable” experiences, smiling and nodding while feeling increasingly unseen and alone.
This reality can be really hard.
Let me be clear: none of this is our kids’ fault. There is nothing wrong with them. They are beloved image-bearers of God, worthy of love and belonging like everyone else. As parents, the biggest obstacles we face come from living in a society that doesn’t make room for kids like ours. Everything feels like a fight: finding the much-needed support, a decent education, the people who will accept our kids exactly as they are. Many public spaces are inaccessible to our families because we simply cannot fit in. Parents often feel isolated and overwhelmed at home, unable to find the help we need because that help simply doesn’t exist. Our kids are not to be blamed, and we are not to be pitied. We just want our kids to belong, and for our communities to support our families in ways that typical families take for granted.
This retreat created a mom circle where everyone could feel seen and supported. Lindy, Michele and Autumn made us feel deeply cared for, holding space for our tender stories and our raw emotions. The sense of community was strong and the connections were powerful. We listened to each other’s stories and knew we were not alone. We belonged.
This is what the Parables Disability Ministry does best at WCC: intentionally creating a space that invites people on the margins into the heart of our community. It is a sacred space where people feel truly seen and fully loved for who they are. It is doing the work of Jesus, bringing forth the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.
Edith Perlin, the Executive Director of Edith’s House and one of our recent Dough grant recipients, brought Sean to the WCC Rummage Sale last week. Sean, who was recently hired at Edith’s House, is a young, single dad to 3-year-old Jacob. Edith helped Sean and Jacob secure affordable housing after experiencing homelessness.
Sean and Jacob have experienced significant upheaval in recent months. Jacob used to live with his mother, her sister, and her aunt in Chicago. Tragically, all three women were murdered by a vengeful ex-boyfriend, and baby Jacob was left without his caregivers. Sean immediately flew to Chicago to get his son and they returned to Minneapolis. A friend pointed him in Edith’s direction, promising that Edith could help him figure out what to do — and she did. Edith helped Sean secure a job and housing close to Sean’s sister, who helps care for Jacob while Sean’s at work.
At the Rummage Sale, Sean found a sofa, a bed for Jacob, some towels and kitchen items, clothing, and maybe the best treasure of all — sheets with Jacob’s favorite dinosaurs on them for his new bed. He also found a number of stuffed animals. “His bed will look really cool,” Sean said. “I can hardly wait for Jacob to see his new room!” It felt great seeing how our Rummage Ministry could help their little family get a solid start.
That’s what the Rummage Ministry is all about: helping individuals and families feel secure in their world, lightening the load just a bit, doing what we can to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus. This ministry, and all our ministries, would not be possible without the generous support of WCC members, who believe in our vision to inspire the world with the inclusive love of Jesus. These seemingly small experiences help create a culture of kindness and compassion.
Sean and Edith drove off that day with a full van and full hearts. When Edith’s House became one of our Dough mission partners in 2022, we couldn’t have imagined how blessed we would be by helping new friends like Sean and Jacob. God is good.
Dick’s Grill, so named in memory of our beloved Dick Reed, has been a staple at The Rummage Sale since John Estrem started it in 1993 to raise money for mission work in Haiti. Dick served on our worship music team for many years. For the past five years, the Board of Fellowship has joined in on the fun with board members serving over the two days of the Sale.
The Grill is an essential part of the Rummage Sale. People take time out of their hectic shopping day to enjoy a delicious grilled hot dog or BBQ sandwich and a cookie served by a friendly team of joyful grillers. The same core group has served at Dick’s Grill throughout the years, with some of our younger volunteers taking time away for college or jobs but often returning for a shift or two!
We are grateful to the Plymouth Von Hansen store for partnering with WCC since the beginning in support of our mission. The all-beef hot dogs and freshly baked buns they provide for sale days are a treat (and the BBQ is delicious too!)
“In the middle of the busyness of the Rummage Sale, our mission is to bring smiles to people’s faces,” John explains. “We try to be a welcome ‘oasis’ on a hot summer day where you can sit in the shade and enjoy a delicious meal. We are serving up smiles — all day long!”
Tad Dyrdahl and his wife Lorie take time off work to grill hot dogs for two days. “It’s one of my ministries,” he says. “When I came back to the church and reconnected with John and the Board of Fellowship, it became very important to me to serve this way. I love being part of the community and seeing everyone, being with my friends, and involving my family. It’s something I look forward to every year. And, of course, who doesn’t love hanging out with John Estrem?!”
Be sure and stop by Dick’s Grill while you’re at The Rummage Sale and ask the crew to sing a rousing verse or two of “Sweet Caroline’’— their signature song!
You’ve probably seen Leah Severson rolling around WCC, either at Community Meal on Wednesday nights, helping Miss Jodie as a “kid wrangler” for the children’s crafts and games activities at Music + Message or singing in the choir at the 9 a.m. service. This soon to be sixth grader with the bright smile and infectious laugh has found a place to belong at WCC. As Brené Brown writes, “belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are, it requires us to be who we are.”
“It’s wonderful to see Leah thriving in a safe, inclusive space where she is free to do her own thing,” her mom Jen says. “This is where we feel God’s presence the most.”
It was Music + Message on the lawn that compelled the Severson family to meander across the street to Wayzata Community Church on a sunny summer evening seven years ago. Ty, Jen, and Leah felt immediately welcomed by the people they met, and they were delighted when they reconnected with members they knew from Leah’s preschool experiences. Leah quickly became involved in the kindergarten choir with Autumn Toussaint, and in 2017, she was in the cast of Good Works Community Theater’s production of The Wizard of Oz. As Autumn describes it, “They followed the Yellow Brick Road — and here they are!”
People find their way to WCC from a wide variety of spiritual backgrounds. For Jen, even after beginning to attend WCC, her childhood Catholic church continued to be an important part of her faith. At first, they came to our Wednesday programs while continuing to attend Sunday worship at their Catholic church. “It was important to me that Leah stay connected to the faith my family was part of,” Jen said, “and I wanted her to have her first communion in the Catholic church, just as I did.”
When Covid hit, the Seversons stopped coming to church, as many families were forced to do. But by the Fall of 2022, they were back at WCC, attending Wednesday programs and the Community Meal. Jen says that the sense of togetherness and others seeking community spirit is what their family loves about WCC. “We love the community meal. We get to sit and talk with other families and with other generations of people, which is so important. Our family is dedicated to being here each Wednesday— Leah loves choirs and the programs she’s involved in with Miss Jodie, and I either take a Bible Study or a class, or sometimes I just go for a walk and that’s fulfilling too. The important thing is that we make intentional space to be at church and with our faith community — it’s a high priority for our family.”
On Sundays, the Seversons attend the 9:00 a.m. Contemporary service in the Sanctuary. “Leah loves both singing in the choir and attending Jodie’s programs on Sunday mornings,” Jen says. They occasionally attend the Parables service in the Chapel, as well.
Jen has also found a place to belong at WCC. She was able to get away with fourteen other women for the Parables Moms retreat, held at the gorgeous Episcopal House of Prayer this past Spring. The overnight gathering was led by Michele Ramert, Autumn Toussaint, and Rev. Lindy Purdy. They created space for quiet prayer, many hours of conversations with one another, great food, and cozy bedrooms for rest and time away from the stresses of everyday life. “I loved it,” Jen says. “I crave being back at that retreat talking with those wonderful women, and that comfortable bed! It filled my cup in the best way possible.”
No matter where your yellow brick road started, we hope you have found a place to belong at WCC.
Jake and Nan Beard are longtime members who have been involved at WCC in just about every imaginable way, but they really come alive when they’re meeting new people in Founders Hall on Sundays. Jake has a knack for making people feel right at home and for putting them at ease. Jake believes we’re at our best when we make friends with people in generations other than our own, because learning about their life experiences helps us expand our life perspectives.
“We all tend to be inhibited about talking to people if we don’t know their names,” Jake says, “But we can’t let that stop us from saying hello. It’s easy to live in our own little worlds, but we need to keep our antennae up — be attuned to people, to the world —and believe that there is something bigger than us.”
Jake is a firm believer that these interactions with people can lead to that “something bigger than us,” or what Jake likes to call God-winks — holy moments throughout the day when God’s presence is shown to us in small and not-so-small ways. He believes these are moments when we recognize that God has chosen to remain anonymous.
Early one morning recently, Jake’s daughter sent him an email encouraging him to check out these new, innovative inflatable paddleboards. Later that morning, he joined nearly fifty men who have been gathering together for breakfast once a week since World War II, and he smiled when he saw the guest speakers for that week were the founders of PaddleNorth, the company that developed the inflatable paddleboards. Jake says, “This kind of thing happens in my life all the time!” He adds, “I look for these moments every day.”
Jake is a lifelong learner. An experience with an estate attorney years ago changed the way he thought about his work, and about life in general. Jake asked him, “What do you do to stay fresh?”
Early in his career, this attorney had been asked to develop a will for a successful physician. In their meeting, he asked the doctor to outline his monetary assets. The doctor stopped him, saying, “But those are just things, assets. I want to create a will that relays my values.” This response changed the attorney’s perspective on everything, from being outcome based to being values based.
This story has relevance for WCC, Jake says.
“What are our values? What’s important? How do we view the world? What do we do to stay fresh? These are the questions we ask ourselves and others and connects us to each other. At WCC we are part of a community that invites us to be more accepting of everyone’s unique journeys. Every one of us has a different story, and each of us contributes to the foundational values of our church.”
Wayzata Community Church is fortunate to have a guy like Jake leading the way in making sure we’re not just inspiring the world with the inclusive love of Jesus, but that every single person that walks into our church not only feels included, but also feels like they belong. No matter what your story is, we want you to know that you matter. As Jake says, your unique story contributes to the foundational values of our church.
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