SYNOD NEWS AND EVENTS - February 27, 2019
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Thanks for your Prayers and Support
+Bishop Jon V. Anderson 
The recent days have been a blur of walking through the approaching loss and death of my father, Virgil. His death, his funeral, supporting my mother, walking with my children and siblings has been quite a journey. Thanks for all the prayers, expressions of support, card,s and acts of kindness that have come our way. I am grateful for Pr. Ann Zastrow and Pr. John Dahlen's ministry and the ministry of my home congregation, Crow River Lutheran.

I am thankful that my dad's absence now is hard and sad. I am thankful for who he was for me and others. We have been losing him for several years to dementia, which was paired with the congestive heart failure that finally took his life.

I am thankful for the promises we know in Christ Jesus. All of us are saved by God's gracious love that claimed us in our baptism. We are also graciously guided by Christ's Spirit as we walk through our baptismal journey of many vocations and all the seasons and years of our life. We also trust that in Christ we are united to a resurrection like Jesus our Lord's. I am thankful that in the cross I know that Christ will go to the hardest of places and times to break through to us. Even the night dad was dying and the hard days before that, we trust Christ Jesus was with him and with us. That helps in this season.

This work is always an impossible possibility. I trust God will guide me in the backside of this storm forward as I live out my many callings, too. Like the deep snow, I am plowing trying to catch up. Thanks for your patience.

Senior High Youth Gathering
April 5-6, 2019
Location: Lake Geneva Christian Center, Alexandria, MN
Registration Opens March 4th @ 12:00pm and Closes March 25th @4:40 pm
Click here to download the registration packet.
The registration link will be posted on
DEM - Director for Evangelical Mission Transition
+Bishop Jon V. Anderson
We will soon post the position description for our next Director for Evangelical Mission. This is an ELCA churchwide position under the day-to-day supervision of the synod bishop. The staff member is nested in the synod staff and the midst of the synod where they serve.

No one can replace Larry. Let's be clear about that. We are very thankful for the service of Pr. Larry Strenge in the last decade of our synod's life. We will recognize his service at our coming synod assembly.

The goal is not to replace our last DEM. Our goal is to find our next DEM who will come with different gifts, experiences, and passions. Our synod is continually moving, our culture changing, and we need a person to serve the mission field that is and will be coming.

If you were to see ten DEMs, you would know that if you see one, you have seen one. They share a role but they live that role out contextually and in the particularity of a synod's mission fields and God's Church.

It is a great calling. We are seeking the person who can move forward the life of our congregations and our leaders. We are looking for someone to equip all the baptized and be a shepherd as we seek to embrace God's mission.

I invite you to talk to people who you believe may be wired right in our synod and beyond who might serve in this way. We have a number of people whose names have already been presented.
2019 Equipping Congregations Day
Thank You and Presentations
Thank you to all the people from across our synod who helped make another Equipping Congregations Day, a great day. The weather kept many attendees home, so we have posted two recorded videos of our keynote speakers, Beth Lewis and Bishop Jon Anderson. We are working on getting Ben Winchester's presentation posted soon! Click here to view and download presentations. 

Extra food went to Safe Avenues (women's shelter), Family Promise (homeless program), the Willmar Hospital Emergency Room, Willmar Police/Sheriff Station and youth participants at a local basketball tournament. All groups were very appreciative.

Online Evaluations are still available!
Click here.

A special thank you to the ECD Planning Team!
Plans are now underway for the 2020 event. Watch for the announcement of date and speakers.

(Formerly the Lilly Project)
+ Andrew Hermodson-Olsen, Lilly Project Co-Director

We have a new name!
A goal of the Lilly Project is that it will be a part of our synod's life for the long term and not something that ends after three or six years. Though the Lilly Project has become identifiable to many after three years of work, we will adopt a name that will better communicate our work. Gifts of Grace is the chosen name. This name reflects what we have heard from some who have given us feedback similar to this: "With this grant from the MEF, I feel like I have received an experience of grace."

Our byline is "Toward Financial Wellbeing," which further identifies our mission for the long term. The wellness we seek is for individuals, families, and congregations. (Some may even experience this mission for financial wellness moving out into our communities, too.)

Many are familiar with the Ministerial Excellence Fund (MEF). That name will stay the same. The MEF is a significant part of Gifts of Grace. Another aspect of Gifts of Grace is providing resources for financial literacy, financial health, and stewardship training.

The Lilly Endowment Inc. renews its work with us
We have begun a new three-year period of work with the Lilly Endowment Inc. Our first three-year term was 2016-2018. In 2018, The Lilly Endowment approached us with an offer to apply for a second three-year term so that we may further invest our gains in the life of our synod. We applied, were accepted, and will now be working with them through 2021.

With this new term comes a new infusion of money for our work with the requirement that we match the money they give us. Lilly will provide $250,000 and we will be raising another $250,000 from individual and congregational donations. Given the generosity shown 2016-2018 in raising matching funds, we know we can do this.

If you would like to support the work of Gifts of Grace and have your gift matched by the Lilly Endowment Inc., here is how you can give:
  • Mail a gift to SW MN Synod, PO Box 499, Redwood Falls, MN 56283
  • Make a one-time gift online or set up an automatic EFT payment for recurring gifts online. Please visit, click the Online Giving button under the red Quick Links
For more information or to speak with someone about a gift, please contact Southwestern Minnesota Synod at 507-637-3904.

Leadership update
Pr. Andrew Hermodson-Olsen has served as the director of the Lilly Project for the last two years, taking over for Pr. Bill Nelsen, the first director. Under a new phase of Gifts of Grace, Bishop Anderson asked Pr. Dwaine Bruns to join the leadership as a co-director with Pr. Andrew. Pr. Dwaine and Pr. Andrew will divide the duties and invite others to share in this work.

Bishop Anderson, Synod Minister Kathryn Skoglund, and Director for Evangelical Mission Larry Strenge have been deeply involved in advising and guiding the program from week to week. We thank Deb Hess, who provided wonderful administrative help for this program but has now ended her work in our synod office. The new administrative assistant is Maggie Berggren.

The Lilly Project was also guided by an Implementation Team which met every other month and offered perspective in shaping the program. We thank those who served on that team. A new team will be formed as we move into the next three-year term of Gifts of Grace.

Ministerial Excellence Fund
The Ministerial Excellence Fund has given four types of grants for rostered minister in our synod over the last three years and desires to be of help to our rostered leaders for years to come.

In January we distributed the MEF's Grant for Educational Loan Reduction. Fifty pastors received help to reduce their educational debt. This is where we have dedicated a large portion of the MEF's funds and we are getting feedback that it is making a difference. Click here to read some of the feedback we have received.
Click here to download and print to share with your congregation. 

A reminder to all active rostered ministers in our synod - The MEF Retirement Contribution Challenge Grant is open until March 31! Click here for more information.
2019 Conference Assembly Dates
  • Crow River Conference
    February 17 - Beckville, Beckville at 2 p.m.
  • Glacial Ridge Conference
    March 3 - St. Paul's, Lowry at 2 p.m.
  • Great River Conference
    March 3 - Peace, Cold Spring at 2 p.m.
  • Lac Qui Parle Conference
    Postponed to March 10 - Watson, Watson at 2 p.m.
  • Lakeland Conference 
    March 10 - Vinje, Willmar at 2 p.m.
  • Minnesota Valley Conference
    Postponed to March 10 - Bernadotte, Lafayette at 2 p.m.
  • Prairie Conference
    March 3 - Campus Religious Center at Southwest State, Marshall at 2 p.m.
  • Scenic Valley Conference
    Postponed to March 17 - Gloria Dei, Redwood Falls at 2 p.m.
  • Shetek Conference
    March 3 - Salem, Jackson at 2 p.m.
  • Watonwan Conference 
    Postponed to March 3- Trinity, Sleep Eye at 2 p.m.
Synod Events
Below is a list of all the upcoming synod events. Visit the synod events webpage for more information.
March 16, 2019
Gloria Dei Lutheran, Redwood Falls, MN

April 5-6, 2019
Lake Geneva Christian Center
Alexandria, MN
Registration Opens March 4th 
June 7-8, 2019
Redwood Falls, MN

Southwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA 
PO Box 499, Redwood Falls, MN 56283
Phone: 507-637-3904