Spring 2023
Come and See
by Sue Long, SWO Convention Chair
This scripture is from John 1:39. Your synod board chose this verse to welcome us back after a long period of separation and to invite us all to come and see what is happening in our synod.

This is a chance for us to participate in the business of the synod by voting for board members, voting on important resolutions, and voting on business that affects our Churchwide organization, Women of the ELCA.

We get to hear from speakers who share their experiences and inspire us spiritually. The best part for me is to reconnect with women who I have not seen for a long time and to meet new women who are stepping out to try something new in their spiritual journey.

My hope is that each church unit in our synod will send a Voting Member to the convention. If being a Voting Member is not on your bucket list, we welcome you to attend as a visitor. We would love to have a large representation of women participating.

Won’t you please “Come and See”?

For registration form and additional info, Download the Convention Packet.
Presidents' Corner
by Dawn Sargent and Becky Maier, Co-Presidents
The Board has been extremely busy with getting Committees set up for our upcoming Convention on April 22, 2023. We want to thank each and every one who has been part of the Committees and has worked so hard at keeping things moving along and notifying the Board if issues arise and what solutions are needed. These women have demonstrated amazing leadership. If you get the opportunity to work with any of them, you will understand what we are saying.
Communication has been extremely important between the Committees and the Board, and also with the rest of the women in our organization (you). As many of you know, we have been working on getting all Convention materials in electronic format. The Convention packets have been sent out electronically to everyone with an email address on file with us. Our Communications person, Kathy, has been instrumental in achieving this goal. We will be sending out the Convention booklets to all the voting members via the postal system prior to Convention and will have the printed materials available to those attending the Convention.
The Convention isn’t the only thing we have been working on. Missy, our secretary, has updated our Constitution to be in alignment with Churchwide. These changes were approved at the last Triennial Conference, so we will not need a vote at the Convention, but we want to make sure you have a copy. A link to read the Constitution is here. We will also have printed copies of this at the Convention.

Another thing we are currently working on is the proceeds from Katie’s Fund to enhance our women’s organization. We have been given $1,000 from the Fund and have decided to use the money to develop a wider base of leadership among our women to carry the organization into the future. In the last issue of Bridges, Glenda provided information on Katie’s Fund. We are also including the link here: https://www.womenoftheelca.org/blog/2122/making-the-case-for-katies-fund.
We have become cohesive in our Board, and we have worked very hard to come together. We are also at the point where we will have many changes to board members at the upcoming Convention elections. The cohesiveness will need to be in play once again after the elections, however, we have determined that the “outgoing” members will attend the first Board meeting following Convention to assist with the “incoming” members and are willing to mentor them if needed.

Since our last Convention, we have had many changes; however, we have worked through them. It has been a “team effort” with God as our leader showing us the way, as a follower pushing us through, and/or a quiet partner walking along side us.
Scholarships are available to attend Triennial Gathering!

With the Women of the ELCA Triennial Gathering coming up in Phoenix from September 21-24 of 2023, our Synodical Board would like to offer up to five $1000 scholarships to any woman in the Saint Paul Area Synod to help defray the cost of attending.

There are no other requirements, although those applicants who are first time attendees will be put at the front of the line.

Applicants need only send the following information to Becky Maier at jbmaier@hotmail.com:
  • Full name
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Church membership name and city
  • Number of Triennial Gatherings you have attended
  • Statement as to what you would like to gain by attending

The deadline for applying is August 1, 2023.
Treasurer’s Note
by Karen Seaver, Treasurer
Our Mission is to care for our neighbors. I am writing this as I close the books for January 31, 2023. We as a community of women, who are “Spirit fed, and Spirit led” have cared for our neighbors in a variety of ways. This year through the St Paul Area SWO, we have donated cash to the following neighbors:
This does not include the material offering gathered at the July SWO Convention of:
God Bless you all in you service to our neighbors.

For 2023 we still have the ongoing Resolution 22-1 to support LSS Bethany Crisis Center in Duluth and LSS Families Together Preschool East St Paul.

The material offering being collected at our 2023 Convention on April 22nd for the Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services includes: shower curtains or heavy liners and hooks; tall kitchen trash bags; brooms and dustpans; stove top or electric tea kettles; stockpots and / or gift cards from Target or Cub. Let’s see how many cars we can fill with stockpots and more.

The monetary offering will focus on refugees and the hungry, with money going to LSS Refugee Resettlement and Second Harvest Heartland. Funds can be brought to the convention or mailed to the SWO Treasurer.

#EmbraceEquity
by Karen Seaver, Treasurer
Women of the Saint Paul Area Synodical Women’s Organization (SWO) celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) each year on March 8th.
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

International Women’s Day has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911. Today, IWD belongs to all groups, collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group, or organization specific.

“The UN selects a theme of the year dedicated to the IWD. The 2023 International Women’s Day campaign theme is #Embrace Equity. Embrace is a verb meaning to willingly and enthusiastically accept and adopt. Equity isn’t just a nice-to-have. A focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society’s DNA.”

“Each one of us can actively support and embrace equity within our own sphere of influence. We can all challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias and seek out inclusion. Collective activism is what drives change.”

“When we embrace equity, we embrace diversity, and we embrace inclusion. We embrace equity to forge harmony and unity, and to help drive success for all. Equality is the goal, and equity is the means to get there. Through equity, we can reach equality.”

Strike the IWD pose. Show the world your huge embrace.

Diversity: Minnesota Council of Churches Supports Refugee Services
by Patty Todnem, Board Member
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Refugee Services has been a program of the Minnesota Council of Churches since 1984. Since that time, Refugee Services has welcomed more than 10,000 refugees from around the world to lives of freedom, hope and opportunity in Minnesota.  They offer abundant support to newcomers through four lines of service: Case Management, Immigration (legal services offered in assisting them with the initial application and maintaining a copy of their application on file), Employment, and Education to help them on the path to self-sufficiency and support them as they work toward achieving their dreams.

The primary office for Refugee Services is in Minneapolis, 122 W. Franklin Ave., #100, where new refugee arrivals are offered a wide complement of services as stated above. In 2012, an office in Mankato was established to provide a system of support for the growing refugee population. Mankato has become home to an increasing number of secondary arrivals, individuals and families who have moved to Mankato from another place in the United States, where they resettled in the past 10 years.

The MN Council of Churches Refugee Services is in partnership with Episcopal Immigration Ministries, Greater Mankato United Way, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and the Department of Human Services.

There are many opportunities for you to volunteer to make a difference in the lives of individuals who are refugees.  Financial support as well as household donations are always needed. You can call 612-230-3219 or email rsvolunteers@mnchurches.org to learn more.
What Discipleship Means to Me
by Jacque Bieber, Board Member
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Praying, encouraging and giving are three of the seven marks of discipleship. The other four are studying, worshipping, inviting and serving.  Studying was one of my favorite things when I was a young person. I just kept going to school and eventually graduated with a PhD from the University of Minnesota. Then, it was time to find my first “big people” job. I found one that had studying at its base—training and development. Studying God’s word, the Bible, is a daily activity for me, as part of my devotion. I find myself reading the short passages that accompany the devotion and often look at the verses before and after the reading to get more context for the passage. Bible study is offered at churches usually at least once a week and sometimes more often, with different topics having different approaches to studying the Bible. I think about Bible readings during workshop services and admire the lectors who are brave enough to read in front of such a large group of listeners. How much studying goes into this—looking for the right emphasis, sharing meaning with inflection, pausing when appropriate. How much more studying is needed to write a homily or perform a wedding?

Worshipping, showing reverence to God, takes on many forms in my mind. What I’m accustomed to includes Sunday worship with liturgy and homilies. This feels good to me—familiar, comfortable, inviting. When my daughter was in confirmation class, she requested that her second year be devoted to exploring worship around the Twin Cities, instead of going to confirmation class. Our understanding pastors agreed to this and our family set out to explore “worship experiences in the Twin Cities.” I came away from that with a new appreciation for the many different ways that one can show homage to God. We attended churches that covered all the Protestant options, some formal, some contemporary, some large, some small. We did not have the presence of mind to go to non-Protestant places of worship, but maybe there will be a time for this in my retirement.

As we entered churches while on this confirmation trek, often times people were at the door greeting us, words of welcome were included in the service, but the “inviting” story that rings truest for me was at my younger daughter’s experience in San Francisco. She moved to the Bay Area to get away from the cold and she had an aunt there who offered her a beautiful bedroom suite until she could get a place of her own. What she wanted on her first Christmas in California was not snow, but rather a church that sang “Silent Night” with candles at a late night service. She found a small Presbyterian church in Sausalito, and she has been there ever since! The pastor has a welcoming spirit, and the members mingle at the end of the service as if everyone knows everyone and wants to have any newcomers become part of the knowing. I have been part of their in-person services and their online, as well, and this is where I will worship this month while my daughter is on a three-week vacation and I’m looking after her house and her cat.

What about serving? The most obvious form of serving for me comes as part of worship on Sundays. There are ushers, lectors, communion assistants, people who dress the alter, musicians…the list goes on. All are there to share their gifts of service. I serve as a communion assistant, something I’ve been doing for years because my husband, who prior to his passing, saw that as a way to give as a retired minister. Seeing all the people who come before me when I’m serving wine or juice enriches my belief in the power of God. There are many ways to serve as a volunteer in any community—serving food, visiting lonely or unwell people, watching young children to give their parents a break….

There are so many ways to be a disciple. Let our studying, worshipping, inviting and serving be a part of our lives, with God’s help, on the acting and receiving end of each. 
Stewardship through SWO (Synodical Women’s Organization)
by Glenda Schnirring, Board Member
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As Lutheran Women of faith, we are all stewards of what we know intellectually, what we possess, what we are given, and how we interact with the world around us. Stewardship is a state of mind grounded in the truth that we are born in Him, and in Him we shall abide.

Your witness as a member of your congregation’s circle or unit, (as they are sometimes called) or an active purpose-minded woman whose congregation does not have an organized women’s group, is ready to be served to whatever end-recipient you select.

The needs are great. In addition to a gift to SWO and its basic operational needs, SWO treasurer, Karen Seaver, is equipped to receive your check and appropriate portions of it to other intended recipient(s). Examples would be:

  • “Katie’s Fund”, an endowment Fund within Women of the ELCA needing to be built up for future women’s opportunities in leadership.
  • “Women of the ELCA”, SWO’s parent organization, which provides training in anti-racism, domestic violence, commercial sexual exploitation, and human trafficking, along with workshops on women’s spiritual callings.
  • “Saint Paul Area Synod’s Project Hope” which along with Lutheran Social Services of MN, is vigorously working to help vulnerable families in East St. Paul through pre-school education for the children and their families, which has proven to have dramatic results already. 

Please open your stewardship spirit and allow your gifts to flow into any one of these or other causes lifted up by the ELCA’s outreach programs such as Lutheran Disaster Response. If this is your choice, such as displaced persons in Ukraine, or another great need, state it on your remitted gift to SWO and it will be forwarded promptly.

Your unit, circle or wherever women gather as in quilt-making or Bible study, will reap the harvest of a spirit which shares in its abundance.

A Stewardship Prayer for Spring

Dear Loving and Faithful God,
We bow our humble hearts before you as we watch the buds on our shrubs and trees begin to swell with new life. It is in this same awesome awareness of your power that we come to you with hearts that want to give and provide the same kind of hope and promise. We are the drivers of what our beloved Lutheran congregations and its members can allow to happen. Inspire us to be your voice in the settings we find ourselves which call for generosity beyond which has ever been witnessed. Enable us to address the overwhelming needs revealed in our everyday lives. 
In your Holy Name,
Amen
Devotion: "Fika" Break
by Karen Seaver, Treasurer
As a new transplant to the Swedish Chisago Lakes area, I find it fun to learn some of the Swedish words and customs. Today I am focusing on a Swedish word, “Fika” (Swedish pronunciation f---fffeeekah). Fika refers to coffee consumption plus a snack. But to call fika a mere “coffee break” is doing it a disservice. So what is it exactly?

Fika is a concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish “culture.” Many Swedes consider that it is essential to make time for break almost every day. It is a social affair making time for friends and colleagues to share conversation without an agenda along with a cup of coffee (or tea) and a little something to eat.

The Cup of Our Life by Joyce Rupp

"Hold the empty cup in your hands.
Look at all the room the cup has for filling.
Picture the inner part of yourself.
Notice how much room there is for filling.
Hold the cup out before you in the gesture of a beggar.
Ask God to fill you.
Arise, go and slowly pour something in your cup (coffee, tea, water).
Come back and sit down.
Receive and enjoy the contents of the cup.”

Let’s change our coffee breaks into “fika” breaks with purposeful intention to be in the conversation as we gather on Sunday, at book club and even as we gather for the Saint Paul Area SWO Convention on April 22nd. It is time to take a break from our routines or cell phones and focus on our friends. Focus on the relationship and conversation. Following the Swedish custom, let's treat our coffee breaks as “fika” breaks and see how such a small act of sharing a cup of coffee and snack is so much more with God in the act; it is a cup filled with love and grace.
Companion Synod Update - Guatemala
by Becky Maier, Guatemala Rep
One of the newest initiatives at Iglesia Lutherana Augustina de Guatemala (ILAG) is the SEED project. Individuals and communities within ILAG are learning good agricultural practices and creating gardens, where they are growing crops of onion, carrots, radishes, green beans, and cilantro. 

Currently there are 38 families involved and many of these gardening families are being led by the women of the household. They are learning to use compost rather than chemicals and are learning about soil maintenance, irrigation and harvesting. 

In addition to having fruitful crops, diets have improved and some are able to sell their products to support their families. 

Those participating need not be members of the ILAG churches – an amazing gift of the church to their communities.

Upcoming Events
What is Rachel’s Day? How to observe it?

In 1994, one woman urged her congregation, Bethel Lutheran Church on the west side of Chicago, to support children facing violence. They began by clearing a vacant lot and turning it into a garden— Rachel’s Garden. It became a place where folks—mostly mothers—could come to mourn children killed by gun violence in the past year. They also planted a white cross and flowers in remembrance of these young ones.

Two years later, the Metro Chicago Synodical Women’s Organization brought a memorial to the Third Triennial Convention (1996) of Women of the ELCA to broaden awareness of the violence children face and actions to address it. The convention passed the memorial, resolving “That ELCA women encourage their congregations to recognize the first Sunday in May each year as Rachel’s Day, based on Jeremiah 31:15–17 wherein Rachel grieved for her children, to mourn the loss of our children and to renounce the forces of evil and fear that plague our nation.”

It has been twenty-seven years since the passage of the memorial. Over this time, the violence against children has just increased. There is no place in the United States where our children are free from violence. In 2015, the women of the ELCA published a “Rachel’s Day - Women boldly standing for children” resource. https://www.womenoftheelca.org/filebin/pdf/resources/RachelsDay_2015.pdf

Encourage your church to observe Rachel’s Day on the first Sunday in May with a white rose on the altar, a note in the bulletin and weekly newsletter, and with prayers.
2023 Triennial Gathering in Phoenix

Excitement is building for the Just Love gathering as we finally meet in person with our sisters.

You can now register for the gathering and for your hotel (scroll down to Our Location) via the following link: https://www.womenoftheelca.org/new-triennial-event-page

This special in-person gathering is an opportunity to live out the message that the Rev. Angela Khabeb left us with in Minneapolis in 2017 and virtually in 2021, "Christianity is not comfortable. If you are comfortable in Jesus, you are doing it wrong."

We are different from the people we were in 2017 and 2021. Yet we know that as people of faith, we are still called to justice and love. It is up to us to carry this work forward.

See some of our photos from our last in-person event in 2017 in Minneapolis.

Robin Kieffer
Triennial Gathering Promoter
651-216-3611
2022-2023 Saint Paul Area Synodical Women's Organization
Communications
Bold Café

The January/February Gather Magazine includes a couple “Worthy” reflections from the February 2023 Café, Women of the ELCA’s online publication. The Café publication shares women’s stories or reflection of their faith journeys.

You can also get previous publications such as Faith Reflections: “Lent: A time to rehydrate” by Karen Craigo, published 01/06/2017.

In this reflection, Karen asks the question if experts say that if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, so does it work this way with the spirit, too? She knows that she frequently goes through life on automatic – getting her kids to and from school, doing her work, and doing her housework, going to church and even though she tries to make time to worship, to pray and to contemplate, she knows she’s not always fully hydrated in the spiritual sense.

Can we relate? “Don’t most of us live dry lives? We go through our days on automatic, forgetting to drink deeply of the cup that is always there for us, the cup that runs over (Psalm 23:5). We don’t realize how brittle we’re becoming. If we’re not mindful — if we forget to take a drink — one hard blow could reduce us to dust.

Lent is the season when Christians recommit. We follow the Savior on his path, even though we know where it leads.” 
(read the full reflection at https://www.boldcafe.org/lent-time-rehydrate/)

To read more reflections, sign up at BoldCafé.org to receive the Café publication in an email. Bold Café says it is for young women, but even as a grandmother I can relate to the reflections.

Submitted by Karen Seaver 
Facebook

Did you know that our Synodical Women’s Organization has a Facebook page?
Look for us at “Saint Paul Area Synodical Women’s Organization” and keep up with the happenings of our SWO.
Bridges E-Newsletter is the email communications link between the Synodical Women's Organization & its women and is published four times a year.

Articles and event listings for the Summer 2023 issue
Submit by: June 10, 2023
Email to: Kathy Frost, kathyafrost@gmail.com

Sign up to receive Bridges E-Newsletter
Contact Kathy Frost OR use the SIGN UP button on SWO Facebook page. For issues with the E-Newsletter not being received or to update your email address, please contact Kathy Frost.

Prefer a printed copy of Bridges?
Print and mail this Subscription Form to request a printed copy sent via USPS for $6.00 per year to cover printing and postage for 4 issues. For subscription questions, contact:
Karen Seaver 30325 Newlander Trail, Lindstrom, MN 55045, seaver.karen@gmail.com

Bridges E-newsletter is emailed to all churches in the Saint Paul Area Synod.
Please encourage your church to post or link it to their website,
and share with other women in your church.