Valley Bridge Newsletter
January 12, 2016
Fellowship of Prayer & Church of the Week for January 17: Federated Church of Fergus Falls

Rev. Doug Dent, Pastor
Karen Anderson, Director of Christian Education 
Connie Seltz, Parish Nurse
Elizabeth Hatling, Secretary
Adam Baker, Bookkeeper
Carol Andstrom, Organist
Karen Hauck, Choir Director
Doris Enderson, Handbell Choir Director
Maren Hatling, Praise Band Director
Jordan Schiefert, Timothy Fellow (intern), Peter Konrad, Maintenance
Chris Torkkola, Custodian

Prayer Concerns: 
  Guatemala Mission trip (Feb 13-20)
  Staffing changes
  Cancer patients
  Confirmation students (Feb. 24th)

The Word from Rick: A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
What would Christian unity look like? To be honest, I don’t know. We have come a long way in the journey, but we still seem to travel in our own little denominational worlds, and in some places still deny access to such essentials of our faith as the Table. In our own Presbyterian world, unity is elusive, and on the bigger stage unity among Christians seems even more so!

There is so much that seems to divide us, and yet there is so much that we hold in common with Christians in other places. One must wonder: What would it look like if we united and built strength around those things upon which we agree? What would it look like if we stopped sniping at those whose brand and practice of Christianity does not match our brand and our practices? What would it look like if we saw the ways that our ministry efforts complemented, rather than competed with, the ministries of others? Is it possible to find unity amidst our diversities and celebrate the uniqueness that resides within the Body of Christ? I don’t know, but I believe that it is the responsibility of each one of us to take meaningful steps in the direction of finding that unity – and that it be a unity that is not on our terms or definition of what that means, but the unity that Christ intended for his followers to have.

Next Monday, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25) begins. Started in 1908, by people who believed that Christian Unity was a possibility, this week of prayer is sponsored by the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. 

Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of the Lord (cf. 1 Peter 2:9) has been selected as the 2016 theme and it finds its origins in the First Letter of Peter. The relationship between baptism and proclamation, and the calling shared by all the baptized to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord was inspired by two verses in that letter. 

I would like to encourage the congregations of the Presbytery of Minnesota Valley to join with other Christians around the world in praying for the unity of Christians and the Body of Christ around the world. To assist your congregations, I am sharing a very brief guide to prayer and reflection at the end of this e-mail. Please take time to use it and to share it with others in ways that would be useful to them.

In addition, I would invite all people of our presbytery, particularly those of you who live close to Redwood Falls, to attend a special ecumenical worship gathering on Sunday, January 24 at First Presbyterian Church, Redwood Falls. The service will start at 2:00 p.m. and will feature our Synod Executive, Elona Street Stewart, as the preacher. Clergy members of the presbytery are invited to join in a processional – robes are optional – that will begin the afternoon’s worship. 

Please join me in praying for the unity of Christ’s people and Christ’s Church. 

Grace and Peace to you all,

Rick
On the Road with Rick in January and February
  • January 24 – Preach at First PC, Jackson
  • January 24 – Ecumenical Worship Celebration – “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” – First PC, Redwood Falls
  • January 26-27 – Synod COM/CPM Retreat – Buffalo
  • January 27—31 – Association of Presbyterian Church Educators Annual Gathering – Chicago
  • February 6 – Presbytery Meeting at First PC, Willmar
  • February 7 – Preach at Ebenezer PC, Renville
  • February 14 – Preach at First PC, Holland
  • February 20 – Orientation for Presbytery’s Commission and Committee Members – First PC, Redwood Falls
Triennium Update
Registration has official begun. Local church contacts have received the information needed to start the process of getting participants registered. Please try to complete your congregation’s registrations by February 1!! Completed registrations, along with a $250 per person payment, can be sent to the Presbytery Office. Questions can be directed to Rick Carus or Pam Prouty!
Seeking a Recording Clerk
With Virginia's retirement, a recording clerk is being sought.  This person will record the minutes for each Presbytery meeting under the guidance of the Stated Clerk and will be paid $150/meeting as well as mileage at the IRS rate.  There is a laptop available for use at the Presbytery meetings. If you are interested in the position or would like a job description, please contact Stated Clerk Pam Prouty at pam@minnesotavalleys.org or the Presbytery office.
Elder and Deacon Resources
It's the time of year for Presbyterians to seek resources for new ruling elders and deacons. Here is a helpful link for  Ruling Elders: http://oga.pcusa.org/section/mid-council-ministries/ruling-elders/
A 2008 article in the Presbyterian Outlook about the role of Deacons:  http://pres-outlook.org/2008/08/the-presbyterian-deacon/
Synod School 2016
Synod School ads designed to promote this summer's longstanding annual event at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, have been posted to the synod's website. Synod School draws more than 550 participants each year to the weeklong ministry that offers mind-stretching courses, worship and fellowship amid time for fun and reflection. Synod School 2016 runs July 24-29, and is a leadership development ministry of the synod with support from the Omaha Presbyterian Seminary Foundation. In addition to the ads, information about this year's convocation speaker, John Bell, and worship leaders can by found at " Synod School ."
Spring Classes at UDTS
There's still time to register for two online continuing education classes this winter and spring for ministers and commissioned ruling elders at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. "The Christian Imagination: Exploring Faith in Literature," taught by Timothy Slemmons, runs February 8 through March 13, and "The Brain, The Body and Spiritual Disciplines," taught by Susan Forshey, runs March 28 through May 1. Registration information is available from Bridgett Boone by telephone at 563.589.3691 or by email at bboone@dbq.edu.
Winter Retreats at the Lakeshore Center
The Lakeshore Center at Okoboji, one of five Presbyterian-related camp and conference centers in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, is planning a number of events in the winter months - a Scrapbook Retreat Jan. 15-17; a Business 360 Retreat, featuring teacher, mentor, coach Jim Rieffenberger, Jan. 20; and a Crafters Delight Feb. 4-7. Details are at "Lakeshore Center."
Presbyterian Mission Yearbook Online!
As of January 1, 2016, the 120-year old "Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study" went exclusively online. A Presbyterian Mission Agency press release issued in August said, "This move broadens the reach of the book's audience by sharing its inspiring content in a timelier manner and also demonstrates good stewardship of church resources." Over the past 15 years, as readership of the publication declined, the cost per book increased dramatically. In 2000, 79,108 units of the printed "Mission Yearbook" were sold at a single-copy unit cost of $7.50. That same year, bulk orders of over 100 copies sold to churches and other institutions at a cost of $3.50 per copy. The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "Mission Yearbook."
Observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
In observance of The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place January 18-25, 2016, all congregations within the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys are invited to join together with other Christians across south-central Minnesota for a Service of Word and Prayer at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 24, 2016.

This year’s service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Redwood Falls and will be led by pastors from the Redwood Falls community, along with representatives of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA, the Diocese of New Ulm, and the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys. Elona Street Stewart, the Synod Executive for our Synod of Lakes and Prairies will be the preacher for this event.

There will be a time for fellowship following the afternoon’s worship time. We encourage the participation of our congregations, especially those close to Redwood Falls. Please mark this date on your calendars and plan now to join us for this time of worship together.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: January 18-25, 2016

An Invitation for Our Congregations to Join in a Week of Prayer and Reflection
The following Daily Scripture and Prayer Guide, which has been created by the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute (A Ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement), has been created use by individuals and congregations across denominational lines during the week of January 18-25. It is offered to our congregations in the hope that Presbyterians in west-central and southwestern Minnesota will join in a week of prayer and reflection, with and for Christian brothers and sisters wherever they may be.

  Daily Scripture & Prayer Guide

  DAY ONE: Monday, January 18 -- Let the stone be rolled away
  • Ezekiel 37:12-14, “I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.”
  • Psalm 71:18b-23, “Your power and your righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens.”
  • Romans 8:15-21, “We suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”
  • Matthew 28:1-10, “He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”
Meditation
  In our world today there is much grief and pain; wounds inflicted which are difficult to forgive. All of this is like the large stone which covered the mouth of Jesus’ tomb. Wounds such as these imprison us in a spiritual grave.
  But if, in our suffering, our pain is united to his pain, then the story does not end here, locked in our graves. The earthquake of the Lord’s resurrection is the earth-shaking event that opens our graves and frees us from the pain and bitterness that hold us in isolation from one another. This is the mighty act of the Lord: his love, which shakes the earth, which rolls away the stones, which frees us, and calls us out into the morning of a new day. Here, at this new dawn we are re-united with our brothers and sisters who have been imprisoned and hurting too; and like Mary Magdalene we must “go quickly” from this great moment of joy to tell others what the. Lord has done

Prayer
  Lord Jesus, you have always loved us from the beginning, and you have shown the depth of your love in dying for us on the cross and thereby sharing our sufferings and wounds. At this moment, we lay all the obstacles that separate us from your love at the foot of your cross. Roll back the stones which imprison us. Awaken us to your resurrection morning. There may we meet the brothers and sisters from whom we are separated. Amen.

    DAY TWO, Tuesday, January 19 -- Called to be Messengers of Joy
  • Isaiah 61:1-4, “The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.”
  • Psalm 133, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”
  • Philippians 2:1-5, “Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
  • John 15:9-12, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
Meditation
  The joy of the Gospel calls Christians to live the prophecy of Isaiah: “The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has appointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.” We long for Good News to mend our broken hearts and to release us from all that binds us and makes us captive.
  When we are saddened by our own suffering, we may lack the vigor to proclaim the joy that comes from Jesus. Nevertheless, even when we feel unable to give anything to anyone, by bearing witness to the little that we have, Jesus multiplies it in us and in the people around us.
  In the Gospel Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” and “love one another as I have loved you.” It is in this way that we discover his joy in us, so that our joy may be complete. This mutual love and mutual joy is at the heart of our prayer for unity. As the psalmist says, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”

Prayer
  God of love, look upon our willingness to serve you despite our spiritual poverty and limited abilities. Fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts with your presence. Fill our broken hearts with your healing love so that we may love as you have loved us. Grant us the gift of unity so that we may serve you with joy and share your love with all. This we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


DAY THREE: Wednesday, January 20 -- The Witness of Fellowship
  • Jeremiah 31:10-13, “They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion.”
  • Psalm 122, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you.”
  • 1 John 4:16b-21, “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars.”
  • John 17:20-23, “That they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me.”
Meditation 
  Division among Christians is an obstacle to evangelization. The world cannot believe that we are Jesus’ disciples while our love for one other is incomplete. We feel the pain of this division when we cannot receive together the body and blood of Christ at the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity.
  The source of our joy is our common life in Christ. To live our life of fellowship every day is to welcome, love, serve, pray and witness with Christians from diverse traditions. It is the pearl of great value given to us by the Holy Spirit.
  The night before his death, Jesus prayed for unity and love among us. Today we raise our hands and pray with Jesus for Christian unity. We pray for the bishops, ministers and members of all churches. We pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us all on this path of unity. 

Prayer
  Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, we pray to you for the unity of Christians according to your will, according to your means. May your Spirit enable us to experience the suffering caused by division, to see our sin and to hope beyond all hope. Amen.


DAY FOUR: Thursday, January 21 -- A Priestly People Called to Proclaim the Gospel
  • Genesis 17:1-8, “Your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.”
  • Psalm 145:8-12, “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
  • Romans 10:14-15, “And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?”
  • Matthew 13:3-9, “Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Meditation 
  In today’s world more than ever, words flood into our homes: no longer just from our conversations, but from television, radio and now from social media. These words have the power to build up and to knock down. Much of this ocean of words seems meaningless; diversion rather than nourishment.
  One could drown in such an ocean where there is no meaning to grasp. But we have heard a saving Word; it has been thrown to us as a lifeline. It calls us into communion, and draws us into unity with others who have heard it too. Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s people.
  More than this, we are a priestly people. United with others who have received his Word, our words are no longer mere drops lost in the ocean. Now we have a powerful Word to speak. United we can speak it powerfully; Yeshua—God saves. 

Prayer 
  Lord Jesus, you said that everyone will know that we are your disciples if there is love among us. Strengthened by your grace, may we work tirelessly for the visible unity of your Church, so that the Good News that we are called to proclaim will be seen in all our words and deeds. Amen.


DAY FIVE: Friday, January 22 -- The Fellowship of the Apostles
  • Isaiah 56:6-8, “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
  • Psalm 24, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?”
  • Acts 2:37-42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
  • John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.”
Meditation
  Jesus’ commandment to love one another is not theoretical. Our communion of love with one another becomes concrete when we gather together intentionally as Christ’s disciples, to share fellowship and prayer in the power of the Spirit.
  The more that Christians, especially their leaders, encounter Christ together in humility and patience, the more prejudice diminishes, the more we discover Christ in one another, and the more we become authentic witnesses to the Kingdom of God.
  At times ecumenism can seem very complicated. Yet joyful fellowship, a shared meal and common prayer and praise are ways of apostolic simplicity. In these we obey the commandment to love one another, and proclaim our Amen to Christ’s prayer for unity. 

Prayer
  God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may you give to all Christians, and especially to those entrusted with leadership in your Church, the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that with the eyes of our hearts we may see the hope to which you have called us: one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above and through all and in all. Amen.


DAY SIX: Saturday, January 23 -- Listen to this Dream
  • Genesis 37:5-8, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed.”
  • Psalm 126, “We were like those who dream.”
  • Romans 12: 9-13, “Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
  • John 21:25, “The world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
Meditation
  Joseph has a dream, which is a message from God. However, when Joseph shares his dream with his brothers they react with anger and violence because the dream implies that they must bow down before him. Ultimately famine drives the brothers to Egypt and they do bow before Joseph, but rather than the abasement and dishonor they fear, it is a moment of reconciliation and grace.
  Jesus, like Joseph, unfolds to us a vision, a message about the life of his Father’s kingdom. It is a vision of unity. But like Joseph’s brothers, we are often upset, angered and fearful of the vision and what it seems to imply. It demands that we submit and bow to the will of God. We fear it because we fear what we might lose. But the vision is not about loss. Rather, it is about regaining brothers and sisters we had lost, the reuniting of a family.
  We have written many ecumenical texts, but the vision of Christian unity is not captured in agreed statements alone, important though these are. The unity God desires for us, the vision he puts before us, far exceeds anything we can express in words or contain in books. The vision must take flesh in our lives and in the prayer and mission that we share with our brothers and sisters. Most of all it is realized in the love we show for one another. 

Prayer
  Heavenly Father, grant us humility to hear your voice, to receive your call, and to share your dream for the unity of the Church. Help us to be awake to the pain of disunity. Where division has left us with hearts of stone, may the fire of your Holy Spirit inflame our hearts and inspire us with the vision of being one in Christ, as he is one with you, so that the world may believe that you have sent him. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.


DAY SEVEN: Sunday, January 24 -- Hospitality for Prayer
  • Isaiah 62:6-7, “Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent.”
  • Psalm 100, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness.”
  • 1 Peter 4:7b-10, “Be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.”
  • John 4:4-14, “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
Meditation
  As long as God’s people are divided, and Christians are estranged from one another, we are like Jesus in Samaria, strangers in a foreign land, without safety, without refreshment and without a place of rest.
  The people of Israel longed for a place of safety where they could worship the Lord. Isaiah tells us of the Lord’s mighty act; he posted sentinels on the walls of Jerusalem so that his people could worship him in safety day and night.
  In the Week of Prayer our churches and chapels become places of safety, rest and refreshment for people to join in prayer. The challenge from this week is to create more places and protected times of prayer, because as we pray together, we become one people. 

Prayer
  Lord Jesus, you asked your apostles to stay awake with you and to pray with you. May we offer the world protected times and spaces in which to find refreshment and peace, so that praying together with other Christians we may come to know you more deeply. Amen.


DAY EIGHT: Monday, January 25 -- Hearts Burning for Unity
  • Isaiah 52:7-9, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news.”
  • Psalm 30, “You have turned my mourning into dancing.”
  • Colossians 1:27-29, “How great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you.”
  • Luke 24:13-36, “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”
Meditation
  The disappointed disciples who leave Jerusalem for Emmaus have lost their hope that Jesus was the Messiah and walk away from their community. It is a journey of separation and isolation.
  By contrast, they return to Jerusalem full of hope with a Gospel message on their lips. It is this resurrection message that drives them back into the heart of the community and into a communion of fellowship.
  So often Christians try to evangelize with a competitive spirit, hoping to fill their own churches. Ambition overrides the desire for others to hear the life-giving message of the Gospel. True evangelism is a journey from Emmaus to Jerusalem, a journey from isolation into unity. 

Prayer
  Lord Jesus, you have made our hearts burn within us, and have sent us back upon the road towards our brothers and sisters, with the Gospel message on our lips. Help us to see that hope and obedience to your commands always lead to the greater unity of your people. Amen.
Contact
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
4055 Abbott Drive
  Willmar, MN 56201
The Presbytery calendar can be found at the bottom left corner on the home page of our website.