SYNOD NEWS AND EVENTS - December 12, 2018
Stay Connected.    Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   Visit our blog

Synod Vice President Transition Coming
As we approach our 2019 Assembly, Gwen Arneson will share some reflections on being our synod's Vice President. Gwen has announced she will not be available for another term. We hope her reflections will help people imagine who might serve in this call.
Click here to read Reflections of a Synod Vice President - Part 1
Reflections of a Synod Vice President - Part 2
+ Gwen Arneson
 One of the top five strengths revealed to me after taking the StrengthsFinders survey a few years ago was that I am a "Learner." This quality has been put to great use over the course of my time as a Synod Vice President. I have had the privilege to learn about our synod, the ELCA, a variety of social statements, mission support, companion and domestic partner synods, Roberts Rules of Order, capital campaigns and funding initiatives, AMPARRO, personnel policies and interviewing techniques, disaster relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Synod and Churchwide Assemblies, ecumenical relationships, and so very much more! My eyes have been opened and my mind and heart have been filled. I count it all as a joy and an honor to have been a recipient of such opportunities.

I've been known to say that I don't mind going to meetings - if they accomplish something fruitful and have a purpose! Not everyone shares this sentiment, as I'm well aware! Over these many years, I've participated in A LOT of meetings that were productive, life-giving, energizing, sometimes emotionally draining for the weight of the topics discussed, and have always come away blessed by the people around the table. As a vice president, one might expect to be a part of many meetings.

My vice president colleagues across the country have taught me more than I could have imagined about leadership and challenges, friendship and compassion, encouragement and accountability. Together we have learned "at the feet" of ELCA attorneys, Churchwide officers, leadership of the various ministries and partners, and from one another. We share best practices from our varying contexts and experiences. We ask questions of one another in order to grow in our capacity to serve. The vice presidents have had the privilege of hearing about changes taking place in seminary education, and of sharing in the joy of the recipients of scholarships at the Fund for Leaders banquet in Chicago. We meet at a concurrent time with the Conference of Bishops every two or three years, allowing conversation to take place among the 65 bishops and vice presidents. From the perspective of all the vice presidents, these conversations are rich and helpful. All this being noted, however, it is fair to say that each vice president serves in a unique context that is not duplicated elsewhere in the ELCA.

As a voting member, I have seen the Churchwide expression of this denomination at work during several Churchwide Assemblies under the leadership of three Presiding Bishops: the Reverends H. George Anderson, Mark Hanson, and Elizabeth Eaton. I witnessed the elections of Bp. Hanson and Bp. Eaton. To have been "in the room" for worship, deliberation, debate, demonstrations, speakers, communal observance of landmark decisions and achievements, and elections at Churchwide Assembly is a powerful memory I will treasure. There were many, many holy moments for me in those times.

As a side note, I would add that I have also served on the ELCA Nominating Committee during my time as a vice president. I want you to know that the care with which that committee does their work of identifying and considering nominees for every ballot at Churchwide Assembly is impressive. It is important work and once again, folks from across this denomination gather to accomplish the tasks before them with great collegiality and careful attention to details. Click here to read more.

+Bishop Jon V. Anderson
This is a great time of year to engage in the faith practice of inviting. In fact, every time of year is a great time to invite people to bring their questions, life experiences, and explore more deeply a relationship with the community of Jesus.

In my recent blog post I lifted up four doors you might invite people though.
The door of fellowship, the door of worship experience and now, this week, the door of service together...

Many people find inviting people to join them in serving is the best doorway. This service for the sake of people in the area or for people far away gives people a chance to experience community and also to love their neighbors in multiple ways. We often think of inviting people outside of a relationship with a community of faith. There are always people inside the community of faith who are open to an invitation to go deeper. They are thankful to be remembered and invited to help. Their spirituality may be one that sings praises to God best with their hands as they care for others. Service experiences become times God invites them to grow deeper in faith, hope and love.

We have an inviting God and an inviting Lord Jesus. God invites us through God's Spirit to grow deeper in our relationship to God and the community that bears Christ's name. When you are inviting it is as simple Luther said, "as one beggar telling another where to find bread." We all need to be evangelized again and again as we dance or slog through life. We need to hear the good news that God is for us, with us and inviting us deeper in faith, hope and love.

Where is God inviting you to grow?

Who is God inviting you to imagine joining you?

Click here to read the whole article or wait for
next week to learn more about inviting doors.

+Bishop Jon V. Anderson 
We are thankful to receive a second grant to build sustainability in this dimension of ministry -- Thanks for your help in the first grant's work of raising understanding and resources. Again we will be asked to raise a $250K to receive $250K to address the "economic challenges of pastors and deepen financial literacy" Thanks for your participation and invitations. We will need generous congregations and individuals (who give small, medium and large gifts) to reach our goal. This grant begins in Feb. 2019. We are still finishing the work of our first grant. Thanks to all who have led in that work.

Lilly Foundation Economic Challenges Initiative Gives Major Grant to the Southwestern Minnesota Synod and New Jersey Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

For Immediate Release

Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded grants of $250,000 to both the Southwestern Minnesota Synod and the New Jersey Synod of the ELCA to sustain the work they have been doing as part of Lilly Endowment Inc.'s National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. The initiative supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they address the financial and economic struggles that can impair the ability of pastors to lead congregations effectively.

The two synods, with diverse rural and urban settings, had been selected three years ago to work on major challenges facing both congregations and pastors. These issues include large post-seminary educational loans facing new pastors, inadequate retirement resources facing older pastors, and crisis medical expenses.

The partnership has been fruitful. Now with these new grants, the two synods will continue to address their particular contexts with educational strategies to knock down the silence about money and increase pastors' and lay leaders' competency in addressing financial challenges and opportunities. Secondly, both will continue to give grants to address specific economic challenges facing pastors.

The Southwestern Minnesota Synod will use the Lilly grant to strengthen current programs they have found effective and explore new programs to enhance financial literacy among congregational lay leaders and pastors.

The second phase comes with a new title, God's Gifts of Grace: Ministerial Excellence Fund. This work will continue to be a part of the larger synodical work to "Develop Servant Leaders" as emphasized in the synod's funding initiative Embrace God's Mission + Equip God's People.

The grant calls for the people of the Synod to raise $250,000 in order to receive a matching $250,000 for this Ministerial Excellence Fund (as part of the total $500,000 grant).

"We are profoundly grateful to receive this grant that will allow us to sustain our educational work and continue to give transformational gifts to address the financial challenges of our pastors. Thank you to our local donors, both individuals and congregations, who have helped us free our leaders from economic challenges to better lead. We also thank our director for this project, Pastor Andrew Hermodson-Olsen, and the team of lay and clergy leaders who have overseen this project in the past and those who will help in the future," said Bishop Jon Anderson of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod.

Lilly Endowment has committed millions of dollars to this national initiative. The Endowment has awarded grants to a variety of Christian traditions, including Baptist, Catholic, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of God, Episcopal, Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed and Wesleyan churches, as well as non-denominational, and historic African-American Christian communities. Recipients also include denominational pension and benefits boards, local and regional denomination judicatories.

Each program is customized to the needs of pastoral leaders in each religious tradition, but the programs have much in common as they:
  • provide incentives for clergy to take part in personal finance education
  • offer low- or no-cost financial planning and counseling
  • offer incentives for pastors to better fund their retirement savings programs
  • help pastors create emergency funds
  • develop strategies that help young pastors pay down or eliminate educational debt
  • create new scholarships so that seminarians borrow less while in school
"Pastors, especially those just beginning in ministry, accept low salaries as part of their commitment to God and to church. Many enter ministry with significant debt from their undergraduate and seminary years and often have little financial resiliency when financial emergencies arise," said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. "These organizations understand the importance of the financial wellbeing of pastors and the implications for the congregations they serve."

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family - J.K. Lilly, Sr., and sons J.K., Jr., and Eli - through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education, and community development. Lilly Endowment's religion grant-making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.
Grant Deadline Approaches
+Pr. Andy Hermodson-Olsen, Director of the Lilly Project
Rostered ministers actively under call in our synod are reminded of the upcoming deadline for the Ministerial Excellence Fund's Grant for the Reduction of Student Educational Loans.  Please apply online before the 
December 14 deadline!

This is the third year the MEF has offered this grant and we have been able to give grants nearing $3,000 to eligible applicants. The grant is for educational loans you have from either college or seminary. We desire that as many who are eligible will apply and receive this grant made possible by the donations of congregations, individuals, and the Lilly Endowment Inc. 
If you are a pastor trained in the TEEM program, a special letter will be sent to you in a few days which will give you an opportunity to also apply for a grant from this fund. 
The Ministerial Excellence Fund has three grants available, go to, and click on Grants under the Rostered Ministers tab menu to see if you're eligible.
Qualified Charitable Distribution
Here are a couple resources to follow up with Pr. Larry Strenge's Required Minimum Distribution article post last week.

Who will be your congregation's next rostered leader?

Who will serve as pulpit supply for your congregation?

How will the sons and daughters of your congregation who have the
gifts to preach and lead receive the training they need to do both?

Advent Appeal 2018
We invite you to address these questions through your financial gifts to the Advent Appeal! With your gift we will provide financial resources for training, background checks, and colleague programs to make sure those who hear God's call to preach and lead communities in worship in Southwestern Minnesota can do this ministry without placing all of the financial burden on them to answer  God's call.

Here is a picture of those who attended the most recent Lay Preachers Retreat. These events, which cost $300/person, are held three times a year to equip lay preachers for our synod.

We are known as an equipping synod, but we need your help to make sure no one with the gifts to preach and lead worship are left out because of their lack of financial support to prepare them for service.

Here are two ways you can give:
Send your financial support today! Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar by a $10,000 gift from Bethel Lutheran Church Endowment Fund in Willmar if it is received by December 31st.
  • Mail your gift to SW MN Synod, ELCA, PO Box 499, Redwood Falls, MN 56283. Checks are made out to the SW MN Synod with Advent Gift in the memo.
  • And/or make a commitment to give at least $10 monthly for all of 2019 by signing up for a recurring direct payment (ACH debit) through the synod's online giving. Our Savior's Lutheran Church Endowment Fund in Montevideo has promised a gift of $5,000 when at least 50 people sign up for a recurring gift. Go to and click on Online Giving. (Reminder: the synod pays a service fee for all credit card transactions, checking/savings account transactions are free!) If you need help setting up a recurring gift, please call the synod office, 507-637-3904 or click here for step by step pictures with instructions.
Let us as the people of God use our gifts to support the gifts of others.

Thank you for your willingness to share your gifts through this Advent Appeal to continue the ministry of your synod's Embrace God's Mission + Equip God's People Funding Initiative.
Contact Update
Rev. Stephen Cook, Synod Minister
Cell: 320-310-8851
Direct Office Number: 507-627-9046
We ask that you all use this email for synod business:
Important 2019 Assembly Dates:
  • Resolutions Deadline will be April 8, 2019.
  • SW MN Synod Assembly will be June 7-8, 2019 in Redwood Falls, MN.
Synod Events
Below is a list of all the upcoming synod events. Visit the synod events webpage for more information.
February 2, 2019
Trinity, Truman
Kvitseid, Milan
Kandiyohi, Kandiyohi

Equipping Congregations Day
February 23, 2019
Willmar, MN
Registration Open!

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