Keeping In Touch
February 22, 2021
In Search of a Rubber Chicken
Minnesota congregation seeks creative ways to bring Presbyterian Giving Catalog ‘noisy offering’ online
by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service
February 9, 2021

LOUISVILLE — As creative as online worship can get these days, there’s sadly no digital substitute for the clinking, clanking sound of coins in a metal pail.

Or the squawk of the occasional chicken.

Such has been one of the unique challenges facing the Rev. Galen Smith, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Worthington, Minnesota, during the COVID-19 pandemic in his effort to keep the congregation’s “noisy offerings” going in continued support of the Presbyterian Giving Catalog.

Smith described Westminster’s “noisy offering” as the time in worship following the children’s moment on the fourth or last Sunday of the month when the church’s young people would carry metal pails up and down the aisles inviting members of the congregation to donate whatever loose change they had in their pockets. Afterwards the money collected would be directed to a local or national mission project.

A couple of years ago, . . . Read the rest of the article.

Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
Minnesota Valleys
Small Church Residency Program

The Vision
To provide designated pastors for congregations ready for transformation. Learn more.

The Personnel Committee is pleased to report that CRE Kathy Terpstra has been hired for the Gap Executive Presbyter position. She has served a number of churches in our presbytery and has also served in the Synod and in GA on a national Mission committee. We are extremely happy to have her on board.
Presbytery of Missouri River Valley
Missouri Monday Morning in Presbytery
Presbyterian Tech Talk

"A new Facebook Group for all topics "Tech" in Presbyterian churches has been created by one of the technology geeks at Presbyterian Church of the Master. From live streaming to Wi-Fi, computer networks to Worship video screens, the group hopes to encourage Presbyterians throughout the denomination to share their best practices, assist each other with tech issues, share media assets, and promote the growth of technology within our churches. Please share this message with the technology people in your congregation. To join, search for "Presbyterian Tech Talk" in Facebook or click the following link:
Formation for Mission: Dipping into the Well of PC(USA) Resources
The Academy
A Spring Learning Opportunity for Presbyterians
March 13 - 14, 2021

This weekend class offers participants the opportunity to learn more about the breadth and depth of resources available for Presbyterian church leaders. This course provides the opportunity to interact with a number of national staff people for the PC(USA) and to become acquainted with the resources their offices offer to aid and further the ministry of local congregations.

Who should consider taking this class?
  • Anyone who wants to grow in their faith and understanding of being Presbyterian
  • Session members and Deacons
  • Committee chairs
  • Commissioned Pastors seeking a helpful continuing education opportunity
  • Those who might be called to be commissioned pastors

What will this class involve?
Through a series of interactive panel discussions with national staff for the PC(USA), participants will dip deep into the well of resources for:
  • Understanding and engaging the Matthew 25 initiative of the denomination and its focus on building congregational vitality, eradicating system poverty and dismantling structural racism.
  • Forming lifelong disciples who are grounded in the reformed tradition and equipped for evangelism, equipped to be peacemakers and witnesses to the world, and who engage the reformed tradition to work towards justice and equity for all God's people.
  • The Presbyterian Publishing House will share new resources for faith formation of all ages and participants will explore a variety of resources and how they can be used in local congregations.
  • This class will meet by Zoom on Saturday 9:00-5:00 and Sunday 9:00-3:00 CT.

What is the cost?
  • $125 for participants from partner presbyteries.
  • $150 for participants from non-partner presbyteries.
  • For those interested in the whole series of 11 classes in the Academy, there is a discount.

Who is sponsoring this?
This is a class offered through The Academy, a series of classes for church members designed to deepen faith as participants encounter Christ in a new way. For those who are called or a exploring a call to become a Commissioned Pastor, this is a program that can help that happen. The Synod of Lakes and Prairies and the Presbyteries of Minnesota Valleys, North Central Iowa, Northern Waters and Prospect Hill and the current sponsors of the Academy.

To register or find out more information go to:
Want to see what colonized theological education looks like? Look around
Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart, Co-Moderator of the 224th General Assembly (left), the Rev. Matthew Wesley Williams (center), and the Rev. Gregory Bentley, Co-Moderator of the 224th General Assembly (right).
Co-Moderators take up the issue in latest broadcast of ‘Good Medicine’
Rick Jones | Office of the General Assembly - February 11, 2021


Back in 1971, three young scholars were commissioned to do a study of seminary-trained African American pastors on the South Side of Chicago. The pastors were asked to what extent their education prepared them for ministry in the Black community and church. Their answer: not at all.

“The pastors were saying they were formed in an educational process that debilitated them in terms of serving the needs and thinking theologically in ways that speak to our people or theological miseducation,” said the Rev. Dr. Matthew Wesley Williams. “Colonized theological education either reinforces the social and power relations established by colonialism or it disrupts them.”

Williams is president of the Interdenominational Theological Center, a historically Black ecumenical graduate theological school located in the heart of Atlanta. He appeared as a guest on this month’s broadcast of “Good Medicine” with the Rev. Gregory Bentley and Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart, Co-Moderators of the 224th General Assembly (2020).

Williams is recognized for his work in the field of theological education and has built national programs and partnerships among top-level leaders to advance opportunities for institutional change, faculty development, doctoral education, leadership formation, young adult vocational discernment, diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education.

Colonized theological education, according to Williams, grafts people into an “intellectual lineage” that makes them more suitable to reinforce the colonial kinds of structures, power relations and social order that the enterprise and theological education of America has been compatible with for 200 years. He adds that the consequences of this formula are endless. Read the rest of the article.
Unbound centering people with disabilities during Lent
‘Disabling Lent’ devotional features reflections from people with disabilities and allies
by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

An Ash Wednesday reflection by the Rev. Letiah Fraser of Kansas City, Missouri, leads off “Disabling Lent: An Anti-Ableist Lenten Devotional” published by Unbound: An Interactive Journal on Christian Social Justice. (Photo courtesy of Unbound)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Unbound: An Interactive Journal on Christian Social Justice has launched a new tradition of amplifying the voices of under-heard communities with its Lenten and Advent devotionals.

Last year, devotions from the LGBTQIA+ community were highlighted in a Lenten devotional in collaboration with More Light Presbyterians. This past Advent season, the voices of people who are Black and identify as women and non-binary were featured, and a consistent thread through both were perspectives on familiar scriptures and stories from people in marginalized communities.

Disabling Lent: An Anti-Ableist Lenten Devotional” features devotions from people in the disabled community and allies every Sunday in Lent and every day during Holy Week, including Palm Sunday and Easter. There are text and audio versions of each devotion. The series started Ash Wednesday with a confession-as-reflection from Rev. Letiah Fraser of Kansas City, Missouri.

“In what ways are people with disabilities a part of the liturgy of the Church, your church?” Fraser wrote. “In what ways have you left us out? Now that you are aware, what are you going to practically do about it? This kind of confession that is awakened is ongoing and it is long, hard work. It may take the whole forty-day Lenten journey, or more realistically, it may take a lifetime.”

As the Season of Lent begins, Presbyterian News Service asked Unbound Managing Editor the Rev. Lee Catoe about the devotional and what readers can look forward to on this journey. Read the rest of the article.
University of Dubuque purchases land for education, resource center
University’s partnership with the property’s previous owners goes back to a flying squirrel
by Stacey Ortman, University Relations | Special to Presbyterian News Service

(Photo by Eric Nie Photography)

DUBUQUE, Iowa — The University of Dubuque announced late last year it has purchased 121 acres of unglaciated land in northeast Iowa to be used as an education and research center that will enhance the experiences of generations of students.

The university is also home to the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, an ecumenical seminary of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The institution currently known as the University of Dubuque was founded by the Rev. Adrian Van Vliet, who was pastor of the German Presbyterian Church, now known as the First Presbyterian Church of Dubuque, in 1852 to train ministers to serve the influx of immigrants to the upper Midwest.

Wolter Woods and Prairies is located near Sherrill, Iowa, about 25 minutes from the main campus. Mostly woodlands, the property consists of three-quarters of a mile of land with limestone bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River as well as a river bottom with a spring-fed creek, 20 acres of reintroduced native Iowa prairie, and a sustainable garden. There is also a home on the land.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property that is uniquely located on the river over the bluffs. All the different constituencies that make up the University of Dubuque will benefit by this. Read the rest of the article.
Embodied Loneliness – Loneliness Hurts
This is the second in a 4-part series on loneliness. Find part 1 here.

“I feel it in my stomach. It hurts – like a physical pain.” Matthew, who is middle aged and lives alone, described the acute pain of loneliness. Over recent years, I’ve taken to asking my therapy clients where in their body they experience their emotions. At first, I was a bit skeptical. Although I believe we are embodied creatures and that emotions affect us physically – especially feelings related to stress, such as anxiety and fear with a pounding heart in the moment and heart disease across time – would people be able to pinpoint the subtler effects of less edge-of-the-seat emotions? The answer has been a resounding yes. One woman tells me that her grief resides in her throat; another woman connects her worry with tension in her neck and head; a man describes his anger and frustration at work with gripping tightness in his chest. The same appears true for positive emotions. Perhaps you, too, have felt a lightness in your step as the ice melts and the sun breaks through on a spring day. Or a deep peace throughout your body – even down to your soul – on a long summer evening.

During this pandemic, LeaderWise therapists and consultants have heard many people describe their isolation and loneliness in striking terms. Although people had been lonely before, this new turn of loneliness feels even more intense. It goes deep to their core and it feels like something rooted in their being – like it is physical and deep within.

The science of loneliness backs up the reality of peoples’ experience. Almost 20 years ago, researchers created a mock video game in which participants thought they were playing two other people in passing a ball back and forth – and then they were unexpectedly excluded. Their realtime brain scans showed that the emotions that accompanied this act of social exclusion lit up the same circuits as physical pain 1. Another study found a similar result of emotional pain being experienced as physical pain in the brain when researchers flashed recently jilted lovers pictures of their ex 2. On a happier note, a third group of researchers found that acetaminophen, or Tylenol, actually took the edge off emotional pain for participants who had recently suffered a broken heart 3. Recently, using meta-analysis (a statistical procedure that analyzes the results of several previous studies), researchers have called into question that emotional and physical pain are the same. In fact, the pain of social rejection was found to be far more complex, involving more aspects of the brain – as it consistently pulled in circuitry related to relationships and memory, too 4. You still feel loneliness as pain – but perhaps in a more profound way than a stubbed toe.

The long-term physical toll of loneliness is real, too. We now have decades worth of data that show people who are lonely are at greater risk of premature death – on average about a 26% increase 5. Although we often associate the harmful effects of loneliness with older adults, recent research has found the greatest bump in death statistics to be with middle-age adults. There is a much stronger connection between loneliness and mortality for those in their middle years than for any other age group 6. Before death, too, loneliness takes its largest toll on middle age adults – again more than any other age group – in contributing to day-to-day health problems, both physical and emotional. One hypothesis is that middle-aged people – and younger – may experience the health effects of loneliness more acutely than older adults because it’s less expected. Many of us, rightly or wrongly, picture older people as lonely, sitting by themselves – isolated – on evenings or weekends. If we’re younger, though, we might assume we should have a more active social life. Consequently, we feel more alone and lonely when friends or family don’t call, which further fuels emotional pain and physical consequences, ultimately contributing to premature death.

In a letter to the Lancet, a leading medical journal, John and Stephanie Cacioppo, well-known loneliness researchers, made a moving plea to medical professionals to learn to recognize loneliness and take it seriously 7. They noted that 1 in 3 of us feel lonely at this very moment – and almost 10% of us are at serious risk for experiencing loneliness’ lasting consequences. Their call is to take loneliness seriously as a public health threat – to no longer trivialize or stigmatize it. Loneliness can take a significant health toll and even be deadly. Yes, the pain you feel with loneliness is real.

The Cacioppos further noted that loneliness is highly treatable. Research has demonstrated several effective treatments, with counseling being foremost among them. Just as you would pay attention to a persistent pain in a part of your body and seek medical assistance, why wouldn’t you do so with the pervasive pain of loneliness? There is no need to suffer alone. You can start feeling better soon, even today, by reaching out for help. In the age of telehealth, help – by reaching out to a counselor – is truly only a phone call (or a mouse click) away.

 1 Eisenberger, N., et al. (2003). Does rejection hurt? An fMRI study of social exclusion. Science.
 2 Kross, E. et al. (2011). Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain. PNAS.
 3 DeWall, N., et al. (2010). Acetaminophen reduces social pain: behavioral and neural evidence. Psychological Science.
 4 Cacioppo, S., et al. (2013). A quantitative meta-analysis of functional imaging studies of social rejection. Scientific Reports.
 5 Holt-Lunstadt, J., et al. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: A meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science.
 6 Holt-Lunstadt, J., et al. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: A meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science.
 7 Cacioppo, J., & Cacioppo, S. (2018). The growing problem of loneliness. Lancet.
2021 Lenten devotions
from the Presbyterian Outlook

The six-week Lenten journey is an opportunity to take on a new spiritual discipline. This year, congregations are invited to pray with Scripture as a way of discerning God’s movement in our personal lives and in the life of the world around us.
Throughout the season of Lent, these daily devotions will guide readers to pray with one passage from Scripture each day and prompt them to reflect on what it discloses about movement toward God and movement away from God in their lives. These devotions written by Roger Gench, Presbyterian pastor and author, will guide congregations in this daily practice of praying with Scripture.
These devotions are available as a downloadable set of weekly PDFs that start with Ash Wednesday and will guide the congregation's journey through Holy Week. They have been designed to be emailed to the congregation (or can be printed and distributed). Additionally, small groups, sessions, staffs or Sunday school classes can use them to explore the daily prayer practices and discuss their experiences together.
Full set of Lenten devotions — $20/congregation
Immediate download after ordering
One Great Hour of Sharing
February 17 - April 4, 2021

For over 70 years, One Great Hour of Sharing has provided Presbyterians a way to share God’s love with our neighbors in need around the world.

The three programs supported by One Great Hour of Sharing - Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, and Self-Development of People - all work in different ways to serve individuals and communities in need. From initial disaster response to ongoing community development, their work fits together to provide people with safety, sustenance, and hope.
Order Eco-Palms by March 5!
  • Approximately 300 million palm fronds are consumed in the United States annually.
  • A congregation of 1,250 members orders approximately 700 fronds for Palm Sunday services.
  • Eco-palms are purchased directly from harvesters at five to six times the normal payment per frond.
  • Your purchase of eco-palms helps improve standards of living and protect forests.
Presby Women Logo

February 2021

Save the Date!
June 16-19, 2022
Synod Gathering
Hilton Garden Inn, Sioux City, Iowa

40th Annual Rural Ministry Conference, March 8, 2021
We live in a deeply divided society with divisions along political, social, cultural, urban/rural lines. This conference will be helpful for pastors who see these divisions in their communities and congregations and are looking for ways to minister to all people.

Keynote Speaker Rev. Dr. Tex Sample will explore this division by looking at a key demographic, cultural traditionalists. Cultural traditionalists are the largest demographic in rural America and one of the largest in the country. This demographic is not limited by age, gender, or denomination.

Rev. Dr. Richard J. Shaffer Jr., former Assistant Professor of Ministry and Associate Dean at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, will be leading the Rural Ministry Conference Bible Study. Register here.

2021 Woods Lecture
featuring Dr. Emerson Powery of Messiah University! On Monday, March 22, 2021, Dr. Powery will be preaching during our morning chapel service, facilitating an afternoon workshop, and presenting during the evening lecture. All of the events are free and open to the public. Zoom links will be provided to registered participants. Register here.
Beware of Fraudulent Emails
Many pastors, churches, presbytery and synod personnel continue to be victims of fake/fraudulent email requests.

Email Spoofing is a technique used to trick us into thinking a message came from a person or entity we know or can trust. Scammers know we are more likely to open these emails.

The emails may say:
  • the person is on a trip and has had their money and documents stolen and ask you for help
  • the person is soliciting money or gift cards for a good cause (and you cannot reach them because they are in a meeting).
Steps to follow:
  • Never send anything of value in response to an email or text request for money or gift cards.
  • If the person mentioned is ever in trouble, they will directly contact someone for assistance, not send a general email.
  • Let the person know you've received the email or text.
Also do NOT:
  • directly transfer money to an account
  • click on a link to authenticate your information
  • Be suspicious of emails that have a spelling mistake in the sender's address.
  • Call your bank or credit card company and report the email.
  • Be suspicious of emails that create a sense of urgency or danger.
  • Emails promising something that sounds too good to be true - are likely a scam.

Synod of Lakes and Prairies staff will never email or text asking you to send money or purchase gift cards for an emergency need.
Thank you to the Presbytery of Donegal for sharing this information.
Scholarships Available

Clergy Confab Groups

Each Clergy Confab group will be composed of 5 or 6 clergy and lay pastors and will be facilitated by a skilled LeaderWise staff member. These groups are a unique experience and opportunity – they are not spiritual direction, therapy, or coaching groups. Rather, they are groups to connect you with others serving in ministry in a safe, trusting setting where you can learn from each other and bring your challenges and successes.

Each group will have a particular area of emphasis within ministry and will meet for eight 75-minutes sessions, at a rhythm of once a month. Sessions will be held via Zoom. The areas of emphasis are: Women in Ministry; Rural Ministry; Change; Retirement; and General Ministry.

The cost for each 75-minute session is $50, for a total of $400 for all eight sessions. Groups will begin meeting once a minimum of five people have registered.

For pastors or CPs in the Omaha Presbytery Seminary Foundation 13-state region, a limited number of $200 scholarships are available for the 8 session participation. Please complete this form  to apply for a scholarship. 

Accepting Apollos Applications, Transcripts and References
 January 15 through April 15, 2021

Apollos Scholarship applications are accepted from students who are members of a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation, under the care of a Presbytery as a Candidate or Inquirer, and are enrolled full-time in one of the ten theological institutions of PC(USA).

The Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary Board of Trustees began the Apollos Program in 1954. The first scholarship was awarded directly to seminarian James H. Costen. The mission of the Omaha Presbyterian Seminary Foundation is to seek, develop, and support excellence in Christian leadership through the Presbyterian Church (USA). The Foundation’s Apollos Program promotes this important task by providing opportunities for financial support to selected students, who are under the care of their presbyteries so that the Church might more effectively carry out its mission.

The Apollos Scholarship program has undergone changes for the 2020 awards. To be more effective with financial assistance in this ever-changing atmosphere, the five Named Scholarship awards have increased from $3,000 per semester to $4,000 and the lesser scholarships have been eliminated.

Katie Cannon
Katie Cannon Scholarship

The Presbyterian Mission Agency has created a scholarship to honor the name and legacy of The Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, a pioneer and legend in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Women’s Ministry Fund (E049991) supports Presbyterian women of color, clergywomen, college women, and other women with opportunities for leadership and spiritual development as well as mission opportunities in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Up to $1,500 will be awarded for expenses for a leadership development event in the United States for qualifying applicants.

Individuals must complete a scholarship application and provide supporting documentation to be eligible for funding. Applications will be reviewed by a staff team in the Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries ministry area. The deadline for applications is June 1. Scholarships will be announced and disbursed by July 31.

  • Following the awarding of the scholarships, award recipients must submit a report to Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries detailing how the scholarship was used.

  • The awardee must submit this report before she is eligible to apply for another scholarship.
The Ministry Lab is developing cohort groups to support leaders engaged with innovative ministries: peers and colleagues who can affirm, inspire, and inform one another as congregational life continues to transform.

Help us shape these groups to best serve you: please fill out our five-question survey (the link is now open to all!) to inform their creation. Your invitation is coming soon!
The Lombard Mennonite Peace Center will offer in-person attendance in the Chicago area for its Mediation Skills Training Institute for Church Leaders (MSTI) on August 2-6, 2021. If in the interests of safety they must revert to an online format, LMPC will offer registrants a refund or full credit towards another session of MSTI. Openings still remain for the sessions of MSTI in March, May, and June, all of which will be conducted online via Zoom. For more information please consult this detailed MSTI Brochure. Register now at no risk for the workshop a previous attendee described as “the Golden Globe winner of conflict resolution programs!” For online registration go to For more information contact LMPC at 630-627-0507 or 

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has several openings for which we are seeking qualified candidates looking for a call working at the national level.

from the editor

A recipe for Scones (*rhymes with 'gone').

I'll grant you that Lent is not the usual time of year we associate with sharing recipes, but we are certainly in an unusual time. So, let's just go with it.

Scones are simple to make and will put a smile on the faces of anyone you share them with.

2 cups flour**
2 Tablespoons sugar (you can add less or omit)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, cut up
2/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk (regular milk also works)
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles course crumbs.
With a fork or whisk, beat together the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until the mixture comes together.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough gently 5 to 6 times. The dough will still be rather wet.
Gently form the dough into an 8 inch round disk.
Transfer the dough to the cookie sheet.
With a sharp floured knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges. Do not separate the wedges.
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve the scones warm with butter and jam. These are best on the first day, but if there are leftovers - slice the scone in half like a roll and reheat it in the toaster.

**For gluten free scones substitute with rice flour.

*The pronunciation of scone is oft debated. In the UK and Ireland the pronunciation most likely reflects where you are from. The pronunciation rhyming with 'gone' is most often found in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England. The pronunciation rhyming with 'cone' is most often found in the middle of England and the Republic of Ireland.
Presbyteries and churches share your news with the Synod.

Are you doing something in your presbytery or synod from which others might learn? You have a standing invitation to send Tricia Dykers-Koenig articles to share.