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True Love.
This year Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day fall on the same day. It may seem an odd pairing. But in her February column for  Living Lutheran , ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton suggests we think of Ash Wednesday as a valentine from God. 
Click here to read her column in English. 
Click here to read her column in Spanish. 
Start checking off your to do list. At the beginning of every year we always ask you to share your congregation's information in many ways. These really important tasks help grow our ministry. Please take the time to fill out the following: 

Mission Support Intents
As your congregation prepares a budget for 2018, please share with us your Mission Support Intent amount for the Southwestern Minnesota Synod by  clicking here.
Deadline: ASAP

Update Your Congregational Leadership Data
The synod office uses this information for the call process, giving statements, and getting helpful resources to the correct person. 
Click here to update now.
Deadline: ASAP

Forms A & C (Parochial Reports)
Please fill out your 2017 ELCA congregation report forms A & C by 
clicking here. If you do not know your congregation ID or password please call the synod office at 507-637-3904. 
Deadline: TODAY! February 15th.

We join in prayer.
Posted yesterday, a note from Rev. Pedro Su├írez, Bishop of the Florida-Bahamas Synod - 
This Time the Shooting was Around the Corner...
My wife Aura and I were just finishing lunch with our son and his family. Tomorrow we close on our house in Deerfield Beach to continue our relocation to the Tampa area. As we we were driving around doing a few more errands, around 3 p.m., a dozen or so patrol cars zoomed by us with their sirens on, going in the opposite direction. It seemed as though something serious had happened.

Only 3 miles away, Nikolas Cruz, a young man, had shot and killed at least 17 people and injured others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Yes, another school shooting. This time in our own community.

Today is Ash Wednesday-a time to reflect. Perhaps we should not only do that reflection as individuals but as a society as well. Perhaps this reflection will lead us to repent of our systemic sins...sins that clearly bring destruction and death. We must repent of our lack of proper mental health care for our children, for not having a better system that would prevent people like Nikolas access to a gun, and for so many other systemic ways we make tragedies like this one a possibility.

As fas as I know at this point, none of the victims were members of our Lutheran congregations. However, those victims are part of our community, with families and friends that are deeply hurt tonight.

I ask you to join me in prayer.

Dear loving God,
There are so many things we don't understand about our world. We might not know how the families and friends of the victims of today's shooting are feeling. But we do care. May they feel your presence in spirit through those that are accompanying them right now.
Help us to be mindful of the pain around us and to do something about it. We pray this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Lenten Gift
As the journey of Lent begins, we are thankful to announce the gift of an anonymous donor who is willing to match gifts given to our Embrace God's Mission + Equip God's People Funding Initiative up to $10,000 between now and the end of Lent.

We are thankful for their generosity that invites people and congregations to join in generosity towards this emphasis in Lent. We appreciate every gift that moves forward our calling to equip all God's people to Deepen Congregational Vitality, Enhance Local and Global Mission, and Develop Servant Leaders.

Click here to learn more about the Embrace God's Mission + Equip God's People Funding Initiative. Click here to give now. 

'Set Free By Truth'
Ecumenical Lent devotions offered by four church leaders

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and leaders from The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada have prepared a series of Lent devotions titled "Set Free By Truth."

The devotion theme addresses truth and racial justice, reflecting on the challenges facing churches in North America today.

In her devotion for Ash Wednesday, Eaton writes, "We have been claimed in baptism, buried with Christ in a death like his, to be raised with Christ in a resurrection like his. We have already died the only death that really matters, and yet ... . We do not recognize the full humanity of others. There is not justice for all. In our fear we doubt the resurrection. This Lent, let us enter into a time and space of honest and unflinching examination."

In addition to Eaton, devotions were contributed by the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop and primate, The Episcopal Church; the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, primate, Anglican Church of Canada; and the Rev. Susan C. Johnson, national bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

The Lent devotions begin with Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and continue through Easter Sunday, April 1. Each devotion includes Scripture citations, a reflection and a prayer.

To download the Lent devotions, click here.

Recharge Reflections
Thanks to your generosity through our Embrace God's Mission + Equip God's People Funding Initiative, we were able to provide an Equip Grant of $1,163 in registration fees for a group of youth workers to attend the 2018 ReCharge event. ReCharge is a one-day multi-denominational children's and youth ministry conference that aims to inspire and equip church staff and volunteers in their efforts to share their faith with the next generation.

Here are some statements from people who attend: 
Chad Roschild, Bethel, Willmar
First off I am very grateful the Synod provided funding for our tickets. I didn't know what to expect with the invite from Jenni to attend. I went to the 2 sessions on the Middle Schoolers which were great and I learned a lot from but the one that blew me away was "Masterpiece of You". It struck me to heart. It talked about how we are loved by God from the beginning of our existence, before any ministry work. That we should love and be happy with what ever we do for the Kingdom of God. That we don't have to try to impress God with anything. We just do what comes natural. 
James Lucas, Green Lake Lutheran Ministries
Recharge showed me a new way to model confirmation which would incorporate high schoolers. Because of Recharge, I have a lot of new ideas I am excited to bring back to my congregation! 
Karen Flom, Cross of Calvary, Olivia
Thank you for sponsoring attendance at the Refresh workshop. The keynote speaker was inspiring and the breakout session informative. The three I attended were all excellent. 
The one on special needs provided practical resources for helping all children grow in Christ. She gave examples of making accommodations for disabled children within the confines of regular programing. 
Pastor Steve Olson, Our Savior's, Albany
Thanks to the early arrival of our Youth and Family Ministry associate's baby, I got tapped to take her place as the team leader for our church.  I had no idea of what to expect, but after attending, I have already put next year's Recharge event on my calendar. Recharge is truly what it's name implies a chance to recharge your Spirit through worship., your mind through a great keynote speaker and your idea bank through a host of workshops and vendor booths.  Bring a team, one person alone can not take it all because of the multitude of workshops to pick from.
Janel Skindelien, Calvary, Willmar
First, I want to thank the SWMN Synod for my ticket to the Recharge Event.  At a time of the year where I start to lose steam, it was energizing and encouraging! 
Second, I found the workshops very engaging and I wish I could have attended more!  I really enjoyed my workshops on Intergenerational Ministry and Impact Parenting.  Lisa McPherson did a nice job presenting on Intergenerational Ministry.  She reminded me that intergenerational relationships is what fosters life-long disciples and isn't that our goal?  Monty Lysne did a great job presenting Impact Parenting.  He inspired and equipped me to reach out to parents in a new and different way to remind them that they are the most important influencer in their child's faith journey.
Ashley Gilbertson, Calvary, Willmar
A highlight from recharge for me was attending two workshops on Middle School Youth.  I was particularly helped by the workshop that discussed chaos and structure, and how middle school ministry needs both.  I tend to lean towards structure, but chaos has it's own benefits.  Together they make a well rounded ministry, so knowing that, I will keep myself in check.  What you should be aiming for is organized chaos.  That's what I'm going to strive for, for the new year.
Shawnn Martin, Granite Falls, Granite Falls
Recharge was a good non-denominational event.  Really liked the opening worship.  We left at 3:00 before the second worship.  I attended 3 different workshops.  The first one had an awesome speaker full of energy and great delivery.  The second had great information but was a dry delivery.  The third was meh.  I think it was a younger speaker without the same depth and experience to draw from.  I learned the name for the group of folks between 18-28 which we are struggling with at or church like many others in the ELCA.  The name for this group is "emerging adults".  Sorry we didn't get a chance to chat during the event.  I look forward to other conferences like this one.
Synod Events
Below is a list of all the upcoming synod events. Visit the synod events webpage for more information.
March 9-10, 2018
Lake Geneva Christian Center, Alexandria

March 10, 2018
SMSU, Marshall or Livestream!

Lutheran Men in Mission Retreat
March 17, 2018
First Lutheran Church, Litchfield

Tod Bolsinger, Author
Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory
April 26, 2018
PSST Retreat...Pastoral Staff Support Time 
May 3-4, 2018
St. Andrew Village, New London 

2018 Synod Assembly 
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
Other Upcoming Events and Resources 
  • 5th Annual Pitchfork and Hay: A Theological Retreat to Give You Tools for Ministry and Nourishment to Use Them.
    Monday, March 12 - Wednesday, March 14 2018
    Presenter: Dr. Craig Nessan
    Topic: Spiritual Roots and Prophetic Proclamation: Church Leadership in Polarizing Times
    Click here for more information.
  • A.C.T. Awaken. Confront. Transform.
    April 3-5 is only the beginning.   Our #rally2endracism is the launch of a comprehensive, multi-year program to address racism in our nation.
    Click here to learn more.
  • Streaming BOLD Gathering
    Mark your calendar for April 14, 2018 for the Lutheran Men in Mission live steam event, "Ideas to Impact Your Soul & Ministry to Men"
    Click here for more information. 
  • StewardNet
    StewardNet is an ELCA resource of livestream talks and news articles. 
    Click here for more information. 

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