Summer 2023
President's Corner
by Becky Maier, President
It was such a good convention/gathering that we Saint Paul Area Synod women had in April. You can read about all of the opportunities throughout this edition of Bridges. Our numbers were back up to 75 in attendance and it was so good to visit with so many that we haven’t seen for some time. All the credit for such a good event goes to Sue Long, as chair of the convention committee, along with Gail Ahrens, Naomi Dorau, Linda Hayle and Debbie Lee. Karen Seaver and I represented the board on the committee. The other blessing from this convention is that we once again have a full board. The nominating committee worked hard and women stepped up and said YES! We all are blessed now with a whole group of willing and very capable women!

Speaking of capable women, we give many, many thanks to Dawn Sargent and Missy Struve for their last 7+ years serving on the board. They have served as many years as our constitution will allow and they have served well! We can plan on seeing them around in other capacities. Missy, in fact, has agreed to serve as our historian and Dawn will continue to be available in the future. We have been blessed by their service and we say thank you!!
The churchwide board has given to each Synodical Women’s Organization $1000 from Katie’s Fund to be used in one of three areas – leadership development, global connections, or living theology. (The definition of “living theology” means faith in daily life, ways in which we live out our faith as we go about our daily tasks.). In Saint Paul, we have chosen to focus on leadership development. Given that, on Thursday, June 15, synodical leaders, as well as leaders in congregations in the Saint Paul Area, gathered to celebrate the connections that have been made over the last many years. Cleone Pritchard shared some history of Women of the ELCA and helped us realize how important women’s ministry is, not only in our congregations but as a synod and as a churchwide organization. And all were so inspired by Pastor Heather Ross Johnson who shared stories of incidents in people's lives that have made them feel alive. What is it that makes you feel alive? Many thanks to all who have been leaders in our Saint Paul Area. It was so good to see everyone and celebrate our connections!
Here is hoping we all can get outdoors this summer and enjoy God’s beautiful Minnesota creation. I look forward to seeing you all this upcoming year. It is a privilege to serve as president of the Saint Paul Area Synodical Women’s Organization!
THANKS to the SWO Convention Committee!
Left to right:
Becky Maier (Board rep), Naomi Dorau,
Karen Seaver (Board rep), Gail Ahrens,
Sue Long (chair),
Linda Hayle.
Not pictured: Debbie Lee.
Installation of 2023-24 SWO Board
Lois Bylund, Churchwide Representative, installs our 2023-24 SWO Board.

Left to right: Lois Bylund,
Glenda Schnirring,
Patty Todnem,
Karen Seaver (Treasurer),
Kathy Hogenson,
Cleone Pritchard (Secretary),
Becky Maier (President), Jacque Bieber (Vice-Pres),
and Linda Hayle.

Not pictured: Virginia Coller and Nancy Todd.
Recognition of SWO Board Members Completing Service
Lois Bylund, Churchwide Representative, leads the recognition of Board Members who have completed their service.

Left to right:
Lois Bylund,
Missy Struve,
Dawn Sargent.
Treasurer’s Note
by Karen Seaver, Treasurer
Gratitude Moment:

We can make a distinction between “generosity of spirit” and simply “being generous”: Generosity of spirit is not merely something we do. It is the embodiment of who we are.

“Generosity is the predisposition to love open-handedly. Our hands matter, both literally and symbolically. In the open hand, our palms are up, and our fingers extended. A closed hand is usually a clenched fist, tightly grasping what it wants to keep or tensely preparing for battle. To be generous requires that we open our hands,” a quote from Gregory Spencer.

The Saint Paul Area Synodical Women’s Organization is so blessed with women who are “generous of spirit”. We are four months into our fiscal year, and you have given generously to the following:
  • $2,955.00 to Churchwide
  • $1,152.50 to Second Harvest Heartland (Convention Designated offering)
  • $1,152.50 to LSS Refugee Resettlement (Convention Designated offering)
  • $ 600.00 to LSS Bethany Crisis Center in Duluth (Resolution 22-1)
  • $ 500.00 to LSS Families Together Preschool (Resolution 22-1)
  • $ 500.00 to Lutheran Mideast Development Turkey Earthquake (Resolution 23-1)
  • $ 600.00 to Diocese of Iringa Tanzania (Resolution 23-3)

May we all continue to pray for these ministries and open our hands generously to support them and the people they serve.
Generosity of Spirit at the SWO Convention
by Becky Maier, President
As is always the case, the women of the Saint Paul Area Synod were most generous when it came to responding to the request for material offerings at the convention. When it all was counted what came in was: 
  • Shower curtains or heavy liners – 24
  • Hooks – 9
  • Tall kitchen trash bags – 21 boxes with varied amounts
  • Brooms and dust pans – 6
  • Stove top and electric tea kettles – 11
  • Stock pots – 10

The Cub and Target gift cards amounted to $1730. These items were all given to the Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services. They were thrilled to receive all of these gifts and say a big thank you! 

In addition, there were 25 quilts that covered many of the pews in the sanctuary. These all went to Lutheran Social Services! Together, we make a big difference in so many lives with all of these gifts!
Upcoming Events
2023 Triennial Gathering in Phoenix

We will finally meet in person with our sisters at the JUST LOVE Triennial Gathering in Phoenix!

For details and to register for the gathering and for your hotel (scroll down to Our Location), go to the following link:

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.

Also, we will be having a pre-triennial meeting at St Mark's in North St Paul on August 15th at 6:30 pm to share info on where everyone is staying, times arriving and making hat pins to share with others at the gathering.

Robin Kieffer
Triennial Gathering Promoter
Scholarships are still available to attend the Triennial Gathering!

Our Synodical Board still has three (of five total) $1000 scholarships available 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
  • 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.
by Nancy Todd, Board Member
What stewardship means to me is opening up my heart to be a vessel for God’s good news and then spreading it. To accomplish this, I need to set aside time just for God. That’s early in the morning for me, with my Bible open asking God to shine His light and speak to me through His word. I pray for Him to help me understand what He wants me to learn—then I must take action. Always remembering a listening heart is essential to receive His message.

I find that music is a way God speaks to me which opens my heart to hear His word deeply. Knowing that I’m never alone. All this comes from Him—so full of compassion, kindness and grace. Yet as strong as the wind and mighty thunderstorms. We see the great beauty He created all around us. So we need to lift our heads in praise for all He has done for us. Then encourage others to see His awesome creation.
Walk in Beauty
Convention Presenter: Pastor Bradley Schmeling
by Patty Todnem, Board Member
At the SWO Spring Convention April 22, 2023, we had the option of taking in two Learning Session Presenters.  One of the presenters I went to was “Walk in Beauty” given by Pastor Bradley Schmeling.  

Pastor Schmeling was granted a sabbatical after 10 years of service at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in which he went to Spain and walked 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago which is an ancient pilgrimage route that ends at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela where the bones of St. James are buried.  He completed this journey in 30 days, traveling 15-16 miles each day, encountering many hikers from all over the world. The route Pastor Schmeling chose started in France and ended in Santiago, following yellow arrow signs and pilgrim shells.  He shared it was the most spiritual experience he had ever had and it took about 8 days for his body to get in the rhythm of the journey.  

There were three parts to his journey:  First there were rolling hills. Second was the plateau high land consisting of flat terrain.  He had 8 days of this difficult walking.  The third was the Galicia which he compared to the vegetation of Ireland.  In this area he found it very conducive to meditation and prayer.

These are some things he shared that he learned on the journey:
- “Letting go and remembering that God is holding us and will carry us through.”
- “The physical is Spiritual and the Spiritual is physical.”
- “Nature is the first Bible.”
- “Community is a gift and a challenge.”
- “Silence opens the door.”
- “Loneliness is part of the journey.”
- “To prepare for the walk, you should do a 15 mile walk and 17 mile walk in one day.”
- “Trust that you will get what you need.” 

Often times experiences like this allows one to better understand God’s purpose of people's differences worldwide.  
We Are Called to Pursue Social Justice
by Kathy Hogenson, Board Member
The high-profile killings of people of color in recent years have shone a searing light on issues of race and social justice. The case of George Floyd hit particularly close to home for us in the ELCA’s St. Paul Synod. We absorbed the shock and horror of his murder, lived through the tumultuous period of social unrest that followed, and stood watch as our legal system pursued justice for his death.

While justice was served in the confines of our criminal justice system, the continued absence of social justice provides an ever-present source of kindling for future conflict and serves as a painful reminder of how much work remains to create a society that reflects God’s love for his children of all colors.

What is Our Responsibility as Christians to Pursue Justice?

There are more than 18 verses in the scriptures that speak to the issue of justice. For example:

  • Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
  • Matthew 25:40: “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.’”
  • Matthew 22:39: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

As individuals, congregations, and a synod we do not exist in a vacuum; we are part of the broader communities we inhabit and must use the gifts we have been blessed with to perform good works. We must always ask ourselves whether our actions reflect God’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Revisiting the book of Matthew (10:42) reassures us that no good works are too small: “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

There is no shortage of opportunities to get involved. By donating our time and talents or sharing our financial blessings, we have an opportunity to build equity in the cause of social justice. For example, my congregation puts on an outerwear coat fair each year and serves as a host and transportation provider for Path to Home, a program that provides the homeless an opportunity to feel the warmth of God’s love through the receipt of housing, meals, transportation, and employment resources by local congregations.

Learn more about the St. Paul Synod’s commitment to social justice here:
SWO New and Continuing Resolutions
by Becky Maier, President
At this 2023 convention, there were two resolutions passed for our women to consider. 

Resolution 23-1 has to do with the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. It is asking that as a group of women we contribute $3000 - $5000 over the next year to earthquake relief through Lutheran Mideast Development, who will apply all of the dollars donated to earthquake relief and none to administration.

Resolution 23-3 encourages us all together to contribute $1000 divided equally during 2023 between the Women and Family Nurture and the Diakonia departments of the Diocese of Iringa Tanzania. Each of these departments are the responsibility of women pastors in that Diocese.
In addition, there is a continuing Resolution 22-1 from 2022. This resolution asks that the women in our synod give $1000 over 2022 and 2023 to Lutheran Social Services for the Bethany House orphanage and for a therapeutic preschool on the east side of St Paul. 

The full text of all Resolutions can be read at SWO Resolutions.
Welcoming MN Newest Neighbors: The Refugee Experience
Convention Presenters: Kathryn Berger & Okunyi Agid
by Linda Hayle, Board Member
This learning session at the 2023 SWO Convention provided an actual account of what it is like to be a refugee and the difficulties associated with obtaining approval to restart your life. Outreach Specialists, Kathryn Berger and Patricia Ruiz de Somocurcio from the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC) presented an overview of refugee statistics and the process involved in bringing a refugee to Minnesota for resettlement. Okunyi Agid shared her experience as a former refugee from Ethiopia.

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee their country because of persecution, war or violence. As of June 2022, there are 25.9 million refugees in the world. However, less than 1% of the refugees are approved for resettlement. Refugees come to the U.S. on a travel loan they repay. They receive 90 days of support to become self-sufficient. After living in the US for five years, refugees take the oath of citizenship, become part of the workforce, pay taxes and fully identify as Minnesotans.

Okunyi spoke from the heart as she told her horrific story of becoming a refugee due to the conflict in Ethiopia. Her journey included 12 years in a refugee camp in Kenya with her children where she endured hardship and additional trauma. Despite her situation, she remained constant in her prayers for a better life.

Okunyi’s prayers were answered. She and her four children arrived in Minnesota in 2018. Through the services and help from the MCC, she and her family are now U.S. permanent residents. She has built a new life of freedom for herself and her children here in Minnesota. Okunyi volunteers to share her refugee story with churches and community groups as part of the Refugee Speakers Bureau.

Refugee stories are stories of justice. We have an opportunity to participate in welcoming our refugee neighbors by volunteering our time or financial support. For more information or to schedule a presentation, please contact: or 612-230-3219. The work of the MCC Refugee Services was outlined in the Spring 2023 Bridges newsletter.

*Refugee Statistics from UNHRC the UN Refugee Agency.
Left (or top): Kathryn Berger; Right (or bottom): Okunyi Agid and children
by Virginia Coller, Board Member
What does Discipleship mean to you? Women of the ELCA participants are active disciples in many ways.

a. A discipleship is a lifelong journey of living out and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.

b. Disciples are followers of Jesus who are intent on carrying out the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20) and the Great Command (Acts 1:8).

At WELCA, participants practice seven marks of discipleship: praying, studying, worshiping, inviting, encouraging, serving and giving. Whether it be making quilts and health and school kits for Lutheran World Relief or studying the Bible together, or assisting in worship, they grow in faith and share what they’ve learned with friends and neighbors.

As I look at the seven marks of discipleship, I see areas where I can improve.

1. Praying: I pray for my family, friends, myself, community and world situations, etc, but I could do more “talking to God.” I often forget to give thanks for my many blessings. Instead, I dive right into the problems and concerns that I have. I need to “take a step back” and give thanks.

2. Studying: I enjoy the monthly Gather Bible Study with my circle members and like to dig deeper into the scripture readings. It gives insight into others’ interpretations. Like, Oh I never thought of that! I need to really study the scriptures, not just skim over them.
During Pentecost, our pastor will be focusing on the Old Testament in worship and preaching. We will be reconnecting with great stories and figures from the first five books of the Old Testament. Many stories from our Sunday School days! The Old Testament God is often thought of as being angry and wrathful, while God in the New Testament is loving and kind. We tend to think of Old Testament as Law and New Testament as Gospel. In truth, there is Law and Gospel in both testaments. I look forward to learning more about the Old Testament.

3. Worshiping: To worship with other Christians warms our heart and gives us peace. It is in this time of community that we feel as though we are surrounded with the love of God and with other caring fellow Christians. As we read the scripture, sing the hymns, share the peace, listen to the pastor’s message and receive communion, we feel as though we are one. And the final sending “Go in Peace. Serve the Lord” is what discipleship is all about.

To be continued………………………………

(Credit: Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)
Updates on Saint Paul Area Synod’s Partnerships
Convention Presenters: Deanine Mann & Kirsten Levorson
by Karen Seaver, Treasurer
I love the breakout sessions at the Saint Paul Area Synodical Women’s Organization Convention. They help dissolve the distance between Lutheran communities of faith.
Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala (ILAG)
Deanine Mann shared how the Saint Paul Area Synod has been walking, zooming, receiving and visiting with congregational members from the ILAG. Currently the Guatemala church has more than 2,000 members in 18 congregations plus an elementary school, a women’s educational center and families working together program. The church members come from the margins of Guatemalan society, people of few material resources and who are predominately indigenous.

Since the pandemic has subsided, there have been many in-person Guatemalan visits including seminary students, partner congregations, etc. and the photos brought us closer to Guatemala and showed us how important this relationship is for both partners. Twelve churches within the Saint Paul Area Synod are supporting thirteen congregations and the elementary school.

Watch for a 2023 Guatemalan Gala this fall to help provide scholarships and leadership training grants. The 2022 Guatemalan Gala raised $104,000 for ILAG.
Bega Kwa Bega and Dignity for Daughters of Iringa, Tanzania
Kirsten Levorson is the Director of Bega Kwa Bega. Bega Kwa Bega is the Swahili phrase (meaning shoulder to shoulder) that we use to describe the companion synod relationship between the Saint Paul Area Synod and the Iringa Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT). The phrase describes the way in which we aspire to relate with one another – as equals and companions walking beside one another on a journey of faith. The Iringa Diocese has 142,000 members, who worship in 104 congregations that are divided into 864 preaching points. There are 64 Saint Paul Area Congregations connected with 76 churches in Tanzania. Last year there was $250,000 pledged for secondary school scholarships, which equaled 1,000 students.

As the Bega Kwa Bega partnership has matured, a network of organizations has developed alongside us. A list of Bega Kwa Bega affiliates/projects which have grown out of prayer and presence can be found at:

Some of you may have heard of “Days for Girls” in the US which make period kits for Tanzania. Bega Kwa Bega's newest affiliate – “Dignity for Daughters” of Iringa (DFD) also takes action to reduce period poverty in Tanzania. DFD strives to empower girls with the knowledge and tools to manage their periods with dignity. DFD supports local leaders to develop sewing ventures that create period kits. Your donation of $100 can provide Sexual and Reproductive Health Education for five girls and a period kit for each girl with supplies that can last 2-3 years.
A Glimpse of Katharina von Bora's "Glow", as a Reformation Woman
Convention Presenter: Lois Bylund, Churchwide Representative
by Glenda Schnirring, Board Member
Offered by Lois Bylund, SWO’s ‘23 convention Churchwide Representative was a session on the life of Katharina Luther. Ms. Bylund, provided a great brochure which is available free on the “Women of the ELCA” website, under “resources”. (See link at end of article.) The brochure is colorful and succinct and offers relevant discussion questions to the participants. It’s a perfect program piece for one hour Bible Study sessions or casual settings on retreats.

Katie Luther was a wife, mother, farmer, brewmaster, innkeeper and more; a real multi-task kind of woman of her day. She was born in eastern Germany’s Saxony, in 1499, to what was called a noble family, but not one of much wealth. Her mother died when Katie was five, prompting her father to send her to a nunnery where she was consecrated as a nun at the age of 16. The primary benefit of being raised at the nunnery was that Katie learned to read and write.

Also, while at the nunnery, the nuns become aware of the reforming teachings of Martin Luther who had preached in Grimma, a town near the nunnery. Katie and eleven other nuns decided to secretly leave the cloister and eventually got to Wittenberg, where Luther helped the nuns establish new lives. This bold act by the nuns and Luther put the nuns at great risk. Leaving the cloister in these times was punishable by death.

Jumping forward, Katie was the last of the defecting nuns to settle into a new life which became her marriage in 1525, to the former monk, Martin Luther. By now, Luther had become very controversial in his quest to reform the church of his faith which was that of a Catholic monk. Katie and Martin’s marriage was greatly frowned upon but their support of each other helped them survive the widespread ridicule and outright disdain that surrounded them.

Katie and Martin received the former Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg as a wedding gift, which is where they began their married life. Katie was a frugal but shrewd entrepreneur. She raised and bred cattle, ran a brewery, took in students and professors and managed several gardens. The Luther family grew to six children, but in addition to the family were boarders to feed. Katie managed the stables and using nursing skills she had learned from her own nunnery time, cared for many of the locally ill who would seek her help.

So much more is revealed about the bold and beloved Katie Luther, with an efficiently listed timeline of her life which makes one come away with refreshed understanding of the Reformation period.
Exposing your church gatherings through this engaging and enlightening Bible Study, plus the benefit of its discussion questions is highly recommended. 

Link to "A Bold Life of Faith: Katharina von Bora Luther":
2023-2024 Saint Paul Area Synodical Women's Organization
View Board Members, Special Roles and Cluster Leaders on our webpage at the Synod website:

Notice of Past SWO Board Member's Death
It has recently been learned that Irene Hogetvedt has died. Irene was a past member of our synodical board. She was 79 years old and is donating her body to the Anatomy Bequest Program at the University of Minnesota. There will be a private memorial service and we have no information about where cards can be sent. 

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 via the Constant Contact system.

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For those not already on our emailing list, use this link: Sign Up
For issues with the E-Newsletter not being received, contact Kathy Frost.

Update Your Profile (Contact Info)
To verify your Profile (contact info we on file for you within Constant Contact) and update it if it changes, use this link: Update Profile (also found at the bottom of all SWO emails).

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,

Articles and event listings for the Fall 2023 issue
Submit by: September 1, 2023
Email to: Kathy Frost,

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.