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May 23, 2021: We are Church

Some years ago, I was home visiting my parents in Elk River and I went out for a run. I just happened to be running past the old St. Andrew’s church building (which was right on the corner of their property and has been since torn down). The door was open so I peeked in and workers inside were in the process of lifting up the granite altar to refurbish it and eventually move it to their new building. So I sat down watched.


I became quite emotional, for the altar was being moved, things were being cleaned out of the building and the structure was slated to be torn down.  So I watched as they lift up the altar and as I thought about what that altar has meant to me . . . it was there I received my first communion, confirmation and celebrated my first Mass as a priest. I was getting choked up.


But for me to truly understand what Church is I need to adhere to the words of what we are celebrating today:


Sing: Spirit open my heart To the joy and pain of living. As you love may I love
In receiving and in giving Spirit, open my heart.


Many of us are sad today (tomorrow) for the closing of this wonderful building. The original structure was built in 1958 with Fr. Joe Linn as Pastor.  It was later expanded exactly 40 years ago on May 24, 1981. Exactly 40 years ago!   That’s a God thing.


The list of Pastors and employee of St. Pius X and eventually as we merged in 2021 are listed in the bulletin. I am the 7th pastor. I followed

Rev. Joe A. Linn - 14 years

Rev. Nic Zimmer - 12 years

Rev. Bernie Mischke 1 year

Rev. Paul Folsom 8 years

Tony Marfori 14 years

Rev. Steve Binsfeld 1 month

I have been part of this building since 2008


439 Marriages.

1,336, Confirmations

1,794 First Communions

1,979 Baptims,


There have been countless dinners, classes, fish fries, funeral lunches, meetings, retreats, Casino night, RCIA receptions, wedding dinners, housing for the homeless.   And for many of us, to leave this building is hard, it stiffens the heart, it causes a bad feeling inside.


God, replace my stony heart with a heart that's kind and tender.
All my coldness and fear to your grace I now surrender.


Refrain: Spirit open my heart To the joy and pain of living. As you love may I love
In receiving and in giving Spirit, open my heart.

You see, I am sure that the first disciples were sad that things changed for them, that their guide and friend, Jesus was taken away from them TWICE. Once at the crucifixion, the second at the Ascension. But each time, Jesus assure the disciples that he will not leave them. Today we celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide them, and us.


And just as ALL change is tough . . . for example (to you graduates) when you first went off to school (not only for you, but your parents as well) or as you now graduate, and that might mean another change of venue . . . to college, or the military or to work a real job.   Change is hard.   . And just as we are sending many of you off, so we do the same with this building. We are sending it forward to help to become an Assisted Living Residence. And the buyers want to us to keep a presence here, so they will create a chapel.


Change is hard. Whenever there is a move, or a death. When there is a break-up or an unexpected addition. What we celebrate here today is not the end of anything . . . just a turn in the chapter, another move of experience, another opportunity for God to be known with us and in us.


For as I realized back at the St. Andrew’s Church (when the altar was being moved), “Church is not the altar. Church is not the pews, or the walls, church is not even the space that contains those fixtures. Church is much more. And even as the altar is being lifted up in my presence, I knew (deep inside) that this piece of granite is not church. It assists church, it helps us focus as church.


We are Church. We are the presence of God, we are the Body of Christ, we are the past, the present and the future. Buildings change. Some churches were destroyed like what happened to the Melrose Catholic Church a few years ago.   St. Pius and Christ Our Light Parish is not the walls, or the altar, or the cross or anything . . . it is the presence of God IN you.


You are Church. And as long as you keep breathing, and serving and showing up . . . Church is here. Church is alive.


You know, once another congregation was to leave a building and the priest asked a group of kids what is the most important furnishing in the church. One said, “The altar.” Others said, “the pulpit, or the cross.” This went on and on, until one kid piped up, “It’s the EXIT sign!”


Right on. We are to be Church . . . on the new land, or at North only for awhile. We are church to those who feel alone, feel lost and even feel the joy of celebrating this new chapter in our parish. fgBut this may be hard on some, so we want to honor your letting go process. And still we do as we have declared since our merger and especially on this Pentecost week, “We must trust the Holy Spirit.”  


May I weep with those who weep, share the joy of sister, brother.
In the welcome of Christ, may we welcome one another.


Refrain: Spirit open my heart To the joy and pain of living. As you love may I love
In receiving and in giving Spirit, open my heart.


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