SYNOD NEWS AND EVENTS - October 10, 2018
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Welcome our new Synod Minster,
Pastor Stephen W. Cook
We are excited to announce Pr. Steve Cook has been called to serve as the Equipping Congregations Synod Minister by the Southwestern Minnesota Synod Council. He has accepted this call to serve on your synod's ministry team. He will join the synod staff team in November.

He will serve as the synod pastor to our eastern conferences of our synod. In addition to this work of supporting congregations and leaders, he will also work with our synod's financial life, support our Equipping Congregations Board and Management and Mission Committee.

Steve grew up in Chicagoland and is a graduate of Valparaiso University and Christ Seminary - SEMINEX. Following ordination in 1979 he served in a bi-vocational congregational setting serving two small rural congregations in central Illinois. While there he worked in a residential treatment facility for adolescents and earned a Master Degree in family therapy from the University of Illinois. In 1984 he and his family moved to Brainerd MN to serve as director of The Counseling Center, under call from the AELC.

From 1992 onward Steve's focus has been on congregational ministry. He has served as co- pastor of First Lutheran Church, Little Falls and lead pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Princeton. In 2006 he became Pastor for Community Outreach & Congregational Care at Bethlehem, St Cloud. While there he helped develop the African National Ministry of the congregation.

Since 2014 he has served as an interim pastor at Our Savior's, Albany; Salem, St Cloud and Prairie Star Parish. He is now interim at First, Renville. Steve has served on the Board of Directors of LSS of Minnesota and of ISAIAH, a coalition of faith communities working on public policy for racial and economic justice. Over the years Steve has consulted with congregations and nonprofits around leadership, planning and mission focus.

Steve and Sylvia were married in 1976 and have two married sons and three grandchildren. Sylvia is a Public Health Nurse Consultant with the Minnesota Department of Health. They make their home in St Cloud which they share with Zeb, a border collie. Steve is an avid home brewer and a Certified Beer Judge.

Welcome Pr. Steve!
Notes of gratitude
As we anticipate Pastor Linda Pedersen's retirement and her departure from our staff on November 21, we invite you to share a note of gratitude, a memory, a fun story, which we will assemble into a booklet for her. Please send your emails to or handwritten notes to Attn: Maggie Berggren, SW MN Synod, PO Box 499, Redwood Falls, MN 56283.  

Cultivating Generosity in Small Town and
Rural Settings - Part 1

In today's post, pastor Larry Strenge considers stewardship leadership and rural ministry settings. His wise words, though, are relevant to all of us, urban, suburban, and rural Christians alike. I particularly appreciate how Larry's story starts with an early memory around money and giving. What are your early memories around finances? How do they still shape you today? Larry takes up these-and other-questions in the first of a two-part series.
Yours truly,
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leadership

Cultivating Generosity in Small Town and Rural Settings - Part 1
+ Rev. Larry Strenge
Giving to congregations in Small Town and Rural (STAR) congregations, especially smaller-member settings, has dramatically changed in my lifetime. Let me tell you a story to explain.

When I was a seventeen-year-old (in about 1968) my family lived in a small town, Odin, Minn. (pop. 180) where a couple of years earlier my dad had purchased the Odin Elevator. Before long my parents were active in the community and the local congregation, Zion Lutheran. Late one Sunday morning I have a vivid memory of my parents sitting at the kitchen table. They had just returned from the congregation's annual meeting and were carefully examining a sheet of paper. When I asked, "What's that?" my dad groaned. "It's the scandal sheet!" It was the published giving of every member of the congregation!

What did I learn?
As I watched and listened a deep impression was made on how "generosity" was calculated in our household. It had little to do with "blessings" or "gratitude." It had everything to do with shame and story, or better, the fear of it!

For my parents generosity was a calculated enterprise. How does one, in the story told about you, not look too haughty or too cheap? The answer. Just give enough so you fit in under the radar of people's stories and you avoid the shame talk.

Fortunately, by the time I became a pastor in 1987 this published giving practice was mostly, to use a rural image, "plowed under." The soil was turned over and made ready to be sowed with the good seed of the Gospel, seed to grow gratitude and generosity in the new beings' lives.

But as Jesus noted in his parables of Matthew 13, even when good seed is sowed, an enemy can come along and plant weeds in the field!

The enemy and the weeds of today
The enemy? Big cultural shifts! In a short post like this one, I don't have room to go into all those "cultural shifts" that brought about the state we find ourselves in today. Fear. Cynicism. You know what I'm talking about. And talk about money? Lynne Twist, in her book The Soul of Money recognizes in it the toxic myths of scarcity. The result? A dramatic cultural shift to be a "consumer culture." STAR settings are no exception! Our identity shifted from citizen to consumer. There isn't enough. More is better. That's just the way it is. These are the beliefs of this system and run deep in our souls.

The weeds? There are plenty. But let's start with this one: Pastors untrained, and thus, unwilling to talk with people about money. In this consumer culture, money talk is taboo.

So, ask yourself, "What does this all mean for us as leaders in the Church?"

For me it means we need to recognize the shift and lead a movement to reclaim the joy of generosity as a spiritual practice! It is one of the fruits of the Spirit named by Paul in the freedom the Spirit brings. (Gal. 5)

To do that, I want to invite pastors to live into what I've learned from Henri Nouwen in A Spirituality of Fundraising. He teaches "why" we stewardship leaders need to start having conversations about money. It's not to get more. That may happen. But rather, it is to invite people in these STAR settings to experience the joy of generosity. It starts by seeing these "money conversations" as a "spiritual conversation" in a market driven economy and culture.

So how does this movement happen?  Click here to read more.
Maggie Cumings memorial gifts welcome
Pastor Maggie Cumings is remembered fondly, and her family, colleagues, and friends are still mourning her loss a year ago. We are accepting monetary memorial gifts to be shared with her family - Michael, Zoe, and Leo - through November 11, 2018. Checks may be made payable to the SW MN Synod with Maggie's memorial on the memo line. There is also an online payment option at under Online giving, special givings.
Boundaries Training 
Sexual misconduct by rostered and other religious leaders is one of the most serious challenges faced by the church today. Violation of the sacred trust between church members and their leaders brings deep pain to all who are affected: victims, offenders, family members, friends, and the congregation itself. 

In response to this challenge, the Southwestern Minnesota Synod bylaws include the following provisions (S14.25.01. and S14.47.01.):

"Within twelve months of assuming office all ministers of Word and Sacrament under call shall demonstrate completion of at least six contact hours of continuing education in the prevention of sexual boundary violations." and

"Within twelve months of assuming office all ministers of Word and Service under call shall demonstrate completion of at least six contact hours of continuing education in the prevention of sexual boundary violations."

Our synod council has a continuing resolution encouraging all of our rostered leaders to have continued work on appropriate boundaries of all kinds, but especially sexual boundaries, every three years.

Our synod's Boundaries Training: 
Date: Monday, Nov. 5, 2018
Times: 8:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: Faith Lutheran, Spicer
You can attend the following events and receive credit by emailing Carla Klawitter at 
 Helpful Upcoming Events
  • Parish Nursing Course at Augustana University
    Foundations of Faith Community Nursing Course (Parish Nursing) is being offered February 2 through March 27 online, followed by two days on-site April 5 & 6, 2019. There is an opening on-site date of February 2. Both parts are required for completion. Registration deadline is January 10, 2019. Application has been made for continuing education contact hours.
    For more information, contact Paula Lubeck at
  • Being Church Today
    St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, MN is welcoming Tod Bolsinger for a conference on leadership called Being Church Today on January 24-25, 2019. He will be talking about Canoeing the Mountains as well as introducing the topic of his new book on the spirituality of leadership. We are excited and pleased to make this available to the wider church. Stay tuned for more information to come!
Assistance following Hurricane Florence
Our synod is sending financial gifts to both the North Carolina and South Carolina Synods to help with immediate needs following Hurricane Florence. We encourage you to help, too.

Monetary donations allow for the most flexibility. Donations through the South Carolina Synod will be used throughout the Carolinas for immediate need. Donations through Lutheran Disaster Response will go toward the long-term recovery stages.

To give via the North Carolina Synod website, here's the link: Click on the Donate tab at the top right of the home page.

As usual, any designated financial donations received in our office will be forwarded as directed.

The Lutheran Disaster Response is also providing assistance to the Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami and currently working on assisting those affected by Hurricane Michael. Click here for more information.
Synod Events
Below is a list of all the upcoming synod events. Visit the synod events webpage for more information.
NW/SW MN Clergy Spouse Retreat
November 2-4, 2018
Luther Crest Bible Camp, Alexandria

Boundaries Workshop
November 5, 2018
Faith Lutheran Church, Spicer, MN

Jr High Youth Gathering
November 16-17 & 17-18, 2018
Willmar Conference Center, Willmar
Registration is Open!

Equipping Congregations Day
February 23, 2019
Willmar, MN

Sr. High Youth Gathering
April 5-6, 2019
Lake Geneva Christian Center
Alexandria, MN

SW MN Synod Assembly
June 7-8, 2019
Redwood Falls, MN

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