March 15, 2021
COVID-19 Restrictions
Last Friday, Governor Tim Walz announced the easing of a number of restrictions that had been in place to lessen the spread of COVID-19. The new guidance becomes effective at noon today. Occupancy limits for faith services including weddings and funerals have been removed, but capacity must still be adjusted to allow for social distancing. Restrictions have also eased for receptions, celebrations and private social gatherings, according to this snapshot from the Department of Health:
This, however, does NOT mean that worship or other activities that take place in our faith communities are “back to normal.”
Please take time to read the Governor’s Emergency Executive Order 21-11 from March 12; you’ll see such clarifications such as:
  • Masks and face coverings are still required.
  • Places of worship, funeral homes, and other venues that offer gathering space for wedding ceremonies, funeral services, or other planned services such as worship, rituals, prayer meetings, or scripture studies are strongly encouraged to offer virtual alternatives to the maximum extent possible. These venues are still required to have and follow a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in accordance with guidance available on the Stay Safe Minnesota website.
  • Congregational singing, group singing or chanting by attendees is not recommended for indoor settings. See www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/musicguide.pdf, page 6.
  • Drive-in gatherings are encouraged, following the Stay Safe Minnesota guidance.
  • Indoor social gatherings are discouraged, but gatherings up to 15 people indoors or 50 people outdoors are permitted, assuming adherence to Stay Safe Minnesota precautions.
  • Remote work is still strongly recommended. Until mid-April, employees who can work from home must work from home. Beginning April 15, employers are strongly encouraged to allow employees who can work from home to continue to do so.
 
More information may be found on the Stay Safe Minnesota website, including guidance specific to places of worship. However, please note that as of this writing, some items have not yet been updated on state websites. Be sure to check the posting date of any references to ensure you’re seeing the most current version.
One Year Later: COVID-19 Service of Remembrance
As we marked the one-year anniversary of the pandemic changing our lives, a number of congregations around our synod collaborated on a service of remembrance, which premiered on Facebook last evening. The service included readings, prayers, music and reflections. Click here to watch the recording.
Local Mission Partnership Profile:
Shobi's Table
Thank you to all who continue to support the work of Local Mission in the Saint Paul Area Synod. Our new starts and redevelopments are making beautiful connections in their communities as together we serve God.

Shobi's Table is a food truck ministry and mission development supported by the Saint Paul Area Synod. Deacon Kari Alice Olsen talks with the synod's Pastor Justin Grimm about hunger, nutrition, environmental justice, service and being beautifully connected together around one table. Listen in on their conversation:
Resolutions Due March 28!
2021 Synod Assembly
The Saint Paul Area Synod is accepting resolutions through March 28 for consideration by the Reference and Counsel Committee in advance of our 2021 Synod Assembly. Resolutions are concrete recommendations that work toward a specific action at the synod level. They may be submitted by congregations, constitutionally defined committees, conferences and the Synod Council. Memorials (recommendations for the ELCA in general) may also be submitted, but are most effective in the same year as Churchwide Assembly (happening next in 2022).  Click here to learn how to write an effective resolution.

Registration is open for this year's Synod Assembly on May 14-15. Our gathering will again be online. Discounted “early bird’ registration of $35 per person is in effect through April 16. All participants must be registered by April 27. Voting members may register themselves or a congregation may register its full group. Please check with your congregation to find out how this is being handled. The only registrants for Synod Assembly in 2021 will be Voting Members and Advisors. All other interested parties may view the proceedings on Facebook Live or the synod website. Learn more and register at https://spas-elca.org/events/synod-assembly/.
Literature Epiphanies
Pastor Amanda Simons from Gustavus Adolphus, St. Paul, formed a small group book study in response to a learning cohort invitation to engage congregation members in a deeper study of scripture.

This past fall, a small group of women from my congregation gathered weekly for six weeks to discuss the novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. We read chapters ahead of time to discuss for each week, taking it bit by bit so we could have deep conversations about the plot, characters, and geopolitical context of Mexico and the United States, particularly around the cartels and undocumented migration. We incorporated scripture, ELCA social statements and data from Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services (LIRS) into our reading and conversations.

Read Pastor Amanda's full post in our Stories of the Synod blog.
Spring Ministerium
Thursday, March 25 - 1 p.m. | Online
This year's Spring Ministerium will be a one-hour, online worship service for rostered ministers, including those who are retired, as well as interns and candidates. The service will include a blessing of vocation and prayers for rostered ministers going into Holy Week. Bishop Patricia Lull will preach. We also welcome Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter Rachel Kurtz as our featured musician. Rachel has been touring and singing for almost 20 years and has sung at the last six national youth gatherings.

Register here to receive the Zoom link.
A Message from the Presiding Bishop:
God Will Transform This Church
In her March column for Living Lutheran, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reflects on the meaning behind “evangelical” in our name and the future of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

"In the eyes of the 'nones' (the religiously unaffiliated), the ELCA gets lumped in with everyone else. Though we aren’t perfect, and some of the characteristics of church apply to us at various times, we have a theology based on a liberating gospel of Jesus Christ that is the euangelion—the good news. The “Evangelical” in our name points to the transforming love of Jesus, to reconciliation, to freedom, to grace. It’s expansive, for everyone and all creation. It doesn’t require our effort or our merit, only our trust in God’s promise."

Read Bishop Eaton's full column in English or Spanish.
Bishop's Letters to Confirmands
Looking for a special addition to your congregation’s celebration of confirmation this year? Bishop Lull will write a letter to each confirmand, welcoming them to the next chapter in their faith life. If your congregation is interested, contact Anna Marsh (anna.marsh@spas-elca.org) for more details. Please allow two to three weeks before the service of confirmation.
Called to Arise Spring Workshops
Tuesdays, March 16-23 - 6:30-8 p.m. | Online
Called to Arise stands at the intersection of racism, inequality and the environment. Enter into vital small group conversation at this intersection, based on the final four Moments of Arising videos and relevant current articles. Participate in building a map of actions to share with your own communities. Come on your own, or bring others! This is part two in the Called to Arise series, a collaboration of the EcoFaith Network NE MN Synod, the NE MN Synod Together Here Ministries, and the Saint Paul Area Synod Care of Creation Work Group. Download a flyer or register.
Navigating COVID Times Together
Tuesdays, March 16-23, 7-8 p.m. | Online
The pandemic has impacted many aspects of our lives and taken a toll on our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Now, more than ever, it is crucial to take time to focus on our mental health. During this three-part series, guest speakers talk about the challenges of sadness, grief, depression and feeling emotionally exhausted. They offer helpful tips and tricks to practice self-care and resilience for whatever lies ahead. The remaining two sessions include:
  • March 16 - I Am My Brother/Sister's Keeper: How to Recognize Depression and Help Ourselves and Others
  • March 23 - Self-Care and Recharge

To promote the health and well-being of our community, this series is a collaboration between
Easter Lutheran, Shepherd of the Valley, the Saint Paul Area Synod, and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. You must register to receive the Zoom details. Please log on to Zoom 10 minutes early so the session can start on time.

**This series is possible thanks to a mental health grant offered through the synod office. For more information about how to apply for a grant at your congregation, visit https://spas-elca.org/resources/for-leaders/mental-health-grants/.**
Day of Lament
Sunday, March 21
The Asian and Pacific Islander Association of the ELCA recently issued a statement, affirmed by the ELCA Conference of Bishops, calling on the church to declare a day of lament during Lent to express solidarity with, help in healing and support Asian American victims of violence. Sunday, March 21, has been named as the common date, though worshiping communities may choose a different date as appropriate for their context. Click here for worship resources.
Kids Can Find Anything: 
Let’s Make Sure They Don’t Find Guns
Tuesday, March 23 - 7-8:15 p.m. | Online
Guns are the number one cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. (JAMA Pediatrics, Jan. 25, 2021), but we can take action to change this shocking statistic. As adults who care about the well-being of children and families, we can work together to prevent child firearm deaths and injuries.

To find out more, join us for a presentation and discussion led by Pastor Ron Letnes and Pastor Rolf Olson of ENGAGE: Lutherans for Gun Violence Prevention, a public witness work group of the Saint Paul Area Synod. Rolf will share his survivor story and Jill Chisholm will present the Be SMART for Kids PowerPoint followed by a Q&A session. There will also be times for scripture and prayers. Together we can Be SMART and make a difference! Register here.
SPAS/MAS Youth Ministry Leader Check-In
Thursday, March 25 - 10-11:15 a.m. | Online
Join together alongside other youth directors, pastors, and leaders that make ministry possible. We'll meet on Zoom to offer a time of conversation in breakout rooms to give each other support in ideas, brainstorming, to help us as we implement our summer ministries. This meeting is hosted by the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Area Synods. Register here.
Lutherans Restoring Creation
Earth Day Worship Service
Lutherans Restoring Creation will present the ELCA community with a special online service in celebration of Earth Day. This service is intended for use on April 25 (Good Shepherd Sunday), but can be downloaded for use according to a congregation's needs. The service will feature preaching by Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, visual journeys, musical offerings, pastoral insights and inspiration from lay leaders. Register now to receive a special link with download instructions at least a week beforehand. Learn more.
Guatemala Gala
Sunday, May 2 - 7 p.m. | Online
Many congregations in our synod have partnered with the Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala (Lutheran Church of Guatemala) over the years. Through the mutual sharing of stories, songs, prayers, and worship our lives have been enriched and our faith has deepened. This year's Guatemala Gala theme is "Partners in Education" and we're raising funds to support:
  • the primary school loan repayment and continued renovations
  • scholarships for youth and adults in rural areas
  • continuing education for church leaders
Watch for more information about the celebration of this ongoing global mission relationship at the 8th annual Guatemala Gala!
Riverside Innovation Fund
Augsburg University's Riverside Innovation Hub is recruiting 12 new congregations to join them in a two-year partnership exploring the call to be and become a public church. A public church is one committed to place-based vocational discernment in the public square for the common good, seeking to participate in God's promises for life and thriving for all. Applications are due April 15. Click here for the project overview. An information session will be held on Tuesday, March 16, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Participants will hear details about the intentions behind the project, the theological framing for the work and factors to discern a congregation's participation. RSVP here.
The synod office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A limited number of staff are on-site each day. You may continue to reach all staff members by phone (651-224-4313) or by email.
EVENTS OF INTEREST
"Being Church" Online Gatherings for ELCA Leaders
Wednesdays at 1 p.m. | Online
Rostered and lay leaders are invited to a weekly gathering of topical presentations designed to provide encouragement and support for ELCA leaders. On March 17, the topic is "Growing Young: Jesus' Message" with Rachel Alley and others. Recordings of past sessions are available at www.elcacoaching.org/podcasts/media. Upcoming topics and presenters may be found at www.elcacoaching.org/.

Join the Zoom Meeting:
or by phone: +1 312 626 6799
Meeting ID: 180 439 412
Password: 648160
Addiction & Motivational Interviewing
Thursday, March 25 - 11 a.m.-12 p.m. | Online 
This free webinar is a conversation with Dr. William R. Miller, who is one of the world's leading addiction researchers and co-creator of Motivational Interviewing. Dr. Miller has dedicated his life and career to understanding how and why people change and the connections between psychology and spirituality. Join us for a conversation about this important evidence-based approach to addressing addiction. Miller's research applies to far more than just problematic behaviors but is helpful and inspirational for anyone interested in encouraging the process of personal and spiritual transformation. This webinar will be presented in interview format by the Center of Addiction & Faith. It will be co-hosted by Tim McMahan King and Pastor Ed Treat. Register here.
Emergency Preparedness Symposium
Thursday, April 22 - 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. | Online
Learn about considerations for fire safety, medical, mental health and weather emergencies in the context of faith communities. Attendees will learn who needs to be involved in emergency preparedness, faith community nurses' role in planning, and how to work with community resources such as fire, police, and emergency services. Breakout groups will allow time for participants to share about current safety practices and how to apply presentation information to their own practice. Attendees will leave with concrete resources to create emergency plans in their faith community. The symposium is sponsored by the Faith Community Nurse Network, but this program is open to all who are interested. The cost is $25 for faith community nurses and $40 for others. Learn more and register.
Other Event Reminders:
SYNOD STAFF PREACHING SCHEDULE
Pastor Justin Grimm
  • March 21 - Christ the Servant, Vadnais Heights
The Saint Paul Area Synod, which includes 110 congregations and new mission starts,
is one of 65 synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
www.spas-elca.org | 651.224.4313