SYNOD NEWS AND EVENTS - MARCH 12, 2018
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Welcome Matt Seegert
The SW MN Synod received three new candidates for call during the churchwide assignment process. We are grateful for Matt Seegert, Roger Fears, and Angela LaMoore who will come to serve in your synod. Each week we will share a little something about each assignee.

Meet Matt:

Greetings Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
My name is Matt Seegert. I grew up in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, home of the world's largest trivia contest. I received my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. During my college years, I spent summers working at Crossways Camping Ministries in Central Wisconsin where I met my wife Becky, a high school Spanish teacher. We've been married for almost four years and we're expecting our first child in August! After college, I served a year with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Oakland, California and two years in Youth and Family Ministry at Saint Andrew Lutheran Church in Wausau, Wisconsin before studying at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. I felt a call to ordained ministry at a young age, having been nurtured in my faith by my grandmother, my parents, and by the faith community at Trinity Lutheran and Redeemer Lutheran Churches in Stevens Point and Good Shepherd in Plover, WI. This call has been affirmed throughout my life and my experiences at camp, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, working in youth ministry, and studying at seminary. I love to read, sing, and play guitar and ukulele. Becky and I enjoy traveling, hiking, and exploring new places. Last July and August we walked 500 miles in 38 days on the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain. We're excited for this new adventure as we move to a new place and serve God and our neighbors alongside a community of faithful people.
Synod Assembly Registration is Open!
The online assembly registration is open, but before you register, click here to read about registration for voting participants and non-voting participants.
 
Helpful Registration Tips:
  • Friday's lunch is optional. A box lunch will be available from 12-1pm on Friday during service projects and workshops. If you intend to eat on-site for Friday lunch, you must purchase a meal ticket for $9. A brief draft schedule is posted on the assembly webpage to help you plan.
  • This year we are opening our assembly with Workshops & Service Projects! They begin at 10 am on Friday! Everyone is welcome! You do not have to be a voting member to attend! This is a great opportunity for youth groups, confirmands and your whole congregation to get a glimpse into our assembly and participate in Global & local mission projects! (Remember, if you intend to eat on-site, lunch tickets need to be purchased in advance).
  • The pre-assembly reports will be available for download from our website May 1.
  • Reports, agendas, and all other information will also be available through our Guidebook App by May 1.
  • When reserving hotel rooms please reference the SW MN Synod Assembly. We have blocked off rooms for our group until the release date posted on our assembly webpage, see the "Hotel Information" tab.
  • Save $50 per person when you register before May 18, 2018.
  • There is also a $50 discounted for voting member under 35, lay only.
Display Requests
If you would like to have a display at the assembly, you must complete the online display request form by clicking here.  The RACC offers more space for displays. This is a great opportunity for vendors  who share and support our work of the church.
The day we got hacked and what I learned.
Pr. Don Mckee, Senior Pastor at Our Savior's in Montevideo
I have always been one of those people who try and learn from each experience. Last December we were having some problems at the church with our Amazon Prime Account. 

After a long time on hold, I was told that I was not the administrator of our account anymore and that Lloyd was. We have no Lloyd employed at Our Savior's and thus began a whole day of trying to get back what others had stolen. As we searched with the help of a level three Amazon tech, we found out that our network had been hacked. Not only had they taken charge of our Amazon account, but our computers, our network and our church credit card was being used in Atlanta, Philadelphia and somewhere in China.

 We were at the time investigating a charge on our credit card for women's vitamins. They had been delivered to us and within hours a call tag was here to pick it up before we even knew who ordered them. This is the latest scam. They use a church as a drop spot for a package and then send a pick up tag to arrive the same day you get it and then the product disappears into thin air and the product is sold on the black market. The company who sent us the vitamins, never got them back and we do not know where they went, we thought it was simply a shipping error. It was a long process and a tough few days. We also found out that they had remote installed a program that was called 'Keystroke Logger' which was a program that kept track of every key we typed....so they knew our passwords for every online account we had.

We began by cleaning up our computers, Amazon directed us to a company that would clean us up and protect our network guaranteed for three years. They use a program to scramble our IP address and therefore, they cannot crack our network security. We, then checked each and every computer for any viruses and cleaned them up. Next, we cancelled our church credit cards and asked for new ones. Even as we were cleaning up the computers, hackers were trying to use our church credit card to buy things around the world.

I thought we had always been pretty tech savvy. We have about 10 computers on our network and we use at least three different virus scan programs. We added a few years ago an extra firewall to protect us and have all the latest updates installed on the computers. They figure the virus was attached to a picture that we downloaded from the internet or was attached to an email and once we opened it, we were in trouble.

Our great people who helped us told us there is really no way to stop this from happening, but to make sure you are diligent on the computer. Never open an email from someone you do not know. Never open an attachment from someone you do not know. Be aware of the latest scams and viruses out there. We have a member here who weekly sends me things to watch for on the computer. Finally, watch your credit card statements and check out any charges you do not know, no matter how small they are. They usually start small and then do bigger amounts if no one is watching. We do this each month and have for years, so we were blessed, we caught it within days of their first charges on our credit cards...
Be Safe as you can be and be diligent. If you think something is not right, it probably isn't. We have learned and now watch even more carefully, our accounts, and anything online that we do.
To All Pastors - Don't Put It Off any Longer!
Retirement Challenge Grant expires on March 31. 
Pr. Andrew Hermodson-Olsen,  Lilly Director
"The most pervasive issue for clergy across our nation is adequate retirement savings and planning."  That's one of the conclusions researchers pulled from the applications to the current Lilly Endowment initiative that we call the Lilly Project.  For a second year, Portico is incentivizing pastors to look over their retirement funds by offering wellness dollars.  The Ministerial Excellence Fund is also offering incentives for pastors to increase their retirement savings by offering free money! 
The Retirement Challenge Grant will reimburse you up to $30/month for any personal contribution you make to your retirement funds.  If the Portico Retirement Planning Tool recommended that you save more for retirement, this is a painless way to get started.  This grant is available to all pastors under call in the SW Minnesota Synod. 
You can set up the payments through the myPortico website.  Fill out the Retirement Challenge Grant application on the synod website to receive the reimbursement.  Do it soon!  The application for this grant expires at the end of this month!   
If you have questions, please call the Lilly Director, Pastor Andrew Hermodson-Olsen, 320-328-5533.  
Lutheran Marriage Encounter Enrichment
Weekend in St. Cloud
For the first time a Lutheran Marriage Encounter weekend will be held in the Southwestern Minnesota Synod, April 6-8 at the St. Cloud Holiday Inn. This marriage enrichment experience will be presented by three lay couples, plus Pastor Linda and Dave Pedersen from our synod. Married couples will listen to topics by presenters, including how to enhance communication skills, and then have the opportunity to talk in the privacy of their own room. This ministry can benefit married couples of all ages and years of marriage. Cost is $100 registration fee plus a free will offering. Pre-registration is required by March 26. Apply now at GodLovesMarriage.org where you can learn more. For information contact Peter & Phyllis McMahon at mcmahonp@comcast.net or 763-561-1575.
SW MN Synod
Care of Creation Table
Are you being interested in being a better steward of Creation? Are you interested in researching and sharing Care of Creation ideas etc.with others in the Synod? Would you regard yourself as someone who is  a 'greenie'? Are you ready to be a part of 'Care of Creation' table that shares ideas to congregations and individuals?  If you answered YES to any of these questions please contact Ian Graue at 320-262-0444 or iangraue@gmail.com.

We are called by God to "keep the earth" (Genesis 2:15). Click here for resources and educational materials to help you and your congregation grow in your own faith journey to appreciate fully and cherish creation and find different ways to engage in earth-keeping activities. 
Lutherland
Pr. Anthony and Pr. Stephanie Christoffels are leading a footsteps of Luther trip in July. They have a few spots open, and would love for others to have an opportunity to go also if they wish. Click here for an itinerary. Please share this with your congregations as well. If you have any questions, please contact Pr.  Stephanie Christoffels at 507-848-5603.
Synod Events
Below is a list of all the upcoming synod events. Visit the synod events webpage for more information.
CONFERENCE ASSEMBLY DATES:  Click here.
MARCH
March 17, 2018
First Lutheran Church, Litchfield

APRIL
ACEs: What Ministers Need to Know
April 24, 2018
SW MN Synod Office, Redwood Falls, MN


MAY
Exploring Natural Systems: Dancing Together (formerly the PSST Retreat)
May 3-4, 2018
St. Andrew Village, New London 

S AVE THE DATE
June 8-9, 2018
Redwood Falls, MN 

SW MN Synod
Women of the ELCA Convention
June 29-30, 2018
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, St. Cloud

2018 Fall Theological Conference 
October 7-9, 2018
Alexandria, MN

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