The Valley Bridge

 We are congregations who seek to be a collective expression of the Body of Christ, joyfully participating in Christ's ongoing life and work. "Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing." 
(I Thessalonians 5:11)
Congregation of the Week of April 5-11
First Presbyterian Church of Dawson
Pastor: Rev. Herbert Rotunda (UCC)
Clerk of Session: Stan Menning
Session members: Dr. Thomas Hansen, Vallerie Sather, Sharilyn Bates, Jerry Shigley and Danny Lee
Like all faith communities, we feel called to witness to the oneness of God during this time of uncertainty and fear. With the loss of our "normal" routines, we feel adrift as did the disciples when the storm came upon them at sea. Now, as then, the Holy presence of Jesus brought calm to chaos to allow the disciples to continue on in life.

We look to this calm that brings the day when our children and teachers return to their schools. Even now our farmers are preparing for spring work that plants the crops that feed God's people. In September we mark 20 years of shared ministry with the Appleton UCC that has allowed each church to continue its mission and ministry.

As we enter Holy Week 2020, it will be different. What remains unchanged is God's love and guidance for how we regather when that time comes in the weeks ahead. What remains unchanged is Jesus call to each of us: Follow Me.
Lenten Prayers
Almighty God,
Lent is a time of reflection, of abnegation. In the Lent of our own making,  we  carefully choose the fast that is just  hard enough to feel accomplished, but not hard enough that we're stretched to our spiritual limits. We are reminded at this time of what it is when the fast we choose is not our own. As we are forced into the silence and reflection of quarantines, let us embrace the spiritual opportunity we have at hand: to rely fully, completely, and utterly on you , rather than our sense of self-reliance. Give us the grace to deal with whatever comes our way with a grace born of our experience of Jesus. Bring us to the knowledge of the suffering of the cross, and do not let us forget the promise of the glory of the resurrection. Amen.

Submitted by Rev. David Lick
First Presbyterian Church of Saint James
My Musings
Each year as Holy Week draws closer, the Lectionary text retells the story of Moses and Pharaoh and the duel of power (Exodus 7-8). I always read the text with the memory of the 1956 Ten Commandments movies featuring Charlton Heston in mind. In the film, the Almighty “I AM” displays power in bold earthshaking ways. The result is the God of Israel out-powers the gods of the ancient world. This play on good versus evil is a thread that continues through cinemas today, Star Wars, the Hunger Games, The Lord of the Rings, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, to name a few.
In Seminary, we were required to watch The Devil’s Advocate. I must admit this viewing frightened me to the core. As one who loves mysteries, the movie went beyond the “whodunit” effect. Evil showed itself in unexpected persons and ways. More like life, it is sometimes hard to know when something is of God and when it is not. Discerning whether an action is from God is often the big question for the Church. This is the current question in light of COVID19. How do we make sense of what’s happening? Richard Rohr suggests what we are experiencing reminds us that life is not just about us.

“It is about God. It is about a willing participation in a larger mystery. At this time, we do this by not rejecting or running from what’s happening but by accepting our current situation and asking God to be with us in it. Our lives are about allowing life to be done unto us, which is Mary’s prayer at the beginning and Jesus’ prayer at the end.” (Adam’s Return, Richard Rohr, Crossroads Publishing, 2004).
Additionally, I began today wondering about the origins of April Fools' Day. If you are curious about the origins of the day, see . It was interesting to discover the day of practical jokes goes back to 1582. In summary, the History Channel reports “people who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the target of jokes and hoaxes and were called “April fools.” 

In connecting the dots, my ponderings took me back to the Exodus reading. This is a stretch, but can you imagine Pharaoh and the magicians of Egypt laughing at Moses and Aaron as they displayed the signs of God? They were the target of jokes. The Apostle Paul shared in the Letter to the Corinthians this reality in several places (chapters 1 – 4). Preachers of the Gospel were the focus of humor and often dismissed by the wider society. In I Corinthians 1:19, he says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Resurrection is a reversal of humor. The power of God has the last laugh on death, hell, and the grave. Sunday begins our journey to the cross. We know how the story ends; we win. Christ is victorious and so are we!

Peace for the Journey,
A special presbytery meeting is being planned for May 12 at 1:00 p.m. via Zoom. The actual call for the meeting will come via email by Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
Pastors are invited to join the Zoom Discussion:
Financial implications and opportunities

On Friday, April 3 at 10:30 a.m., t he Synod of Lakes and Prairies will be hosting a virtual gathering to address financial opportunities to help congregations, camps and other church related organizations at this time of need. Among other things we will talk about the guidelines for paying for sick leave that now apply to churches and hourly workers. We will also look at the loan program designed to help pay employees in which the loans will be forgiven if the employees are still your employees at the of June. This is designed to be an opportunity to share information as well as reach out to those who are losing sleep over financial realities. 

Online worship opportunities in our presbytery

Edgerton: 10:30 Sunday mornings  Worship on church Facebook Page, and 11:30 Sunday mornings  Worship Audio Version available on church website

Ellsworth Zion, and Rushmore Emmanuel and First are worshiping using Facebook Live at 9:05 a.m. on Sunday mornings and 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday evenings during Lent. We also have a conference call set up for those who do not have Facebook set up for 3:05 p.m. on Sundays and 7:05 p.m. on Wednesdays. We are using Start Meeting for the conference calls.

Fergus Falls: our sermon available on our website ( ) and our YouTube channel ( FF Federated Church ) Friday afternoons. We will also post a devotion video in the middle of the week.

Lake Crystal: Our church is sending Worship bulletin content and sermon via email and regular mail to our membership for each Sunday.  Also just began recording a service from Sanctuary of myself and musician which can be accessed on You Tube on the Friday before the given Sunday. (trial run this week so hopefully works)   If it works we can also send to FPC Kasota.

Lismore: 9:00 Sunday mornings - Worship on church Facebook Page

Litchfield: 10:00 am Sunday mornings and Tuesday morning Bible study by Zoom. Contact Gordy Pennertz for instructions.

Luverne: 10:15 am Sunday mornings on Facebook Live. Also carried by local cable company.

Maine: Services available at 

Mankato: - archive of all resources listed below
SUNDAYS on Facebook 
10AM sermon/prayer with Pastor Lindsay
10:20 (ish) Children's Time with Bailey DeVetter
10:30 (ish) Music Selection by Ben Marti posted

Osakis: Our COVID 19 worship is accessible via our church's facebook page Osakis Presbyterian Church. 

Randall: 10:00 am Sunday worship service is on Facebook and webpage

Redwood Falls: 10:15 am worship on Facebook Live on First Presbyterian Redwood Falls page and 6:30 pm Lenten Service (same) 

Saint Cloud: Services available online at  

Saint James: Facebook Live worship @ 10:15

Slayton: Uploaded to their YouTube channel:

Spicer Hope: Facebook live at 10:00 link on Hope Presbyterian Church website Also services are uploaded there later in the day.

Willmar: Facebook Live at 10:00 am Sunday mornings
Easter Is a New Way of Life

The Stated Clerk, J. Herbert Nelson and Presbyterian Mission Agency President, Diane Givens-Moffet will hold an online Easter service from the chapel of 100 Witherspoon in Louisville for those of you who would like to be part of a national experience. Easter is a new way of life — in which we are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11) and called to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Live Streaming Information to follow.
First Fridays at Mankato is going digital on April 3
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Minnesota's "stay at home" order, we are switching things up this month!
Join us on Friday, April 3 at noon (CST) on Zoom for a FREE and INTERACTIVE presentation from Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium called "Ocean Life and Conservation: Sharks, Sea Turtles, Jellyfish, and Invertebrates."

This program is open to everyone and designed for all ages, so invite your friends, students, grandparents—anyone! Viewers will get up close and personal to ocean animals and be able to ask questions of the zoo's biologists directly, all from the comfort of home.
Pre-Register for this program on Zoom HERE (recommended) OR go to and join in with Zoom Meeting ID on day of event: 574 707 473. Read more about this program and respond to our Facebook Event  HERE
Coronavirus/COVID-19 Resources for Congregations and Members

Updated March 24, 2020 1:52 p.m. ET
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? —Psalm 27:1
Along with our brothers and sisters all around the world, we’re now coming to terms with the “new normal” brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. It is our hope and goal to equip churches and worshipers with useful information and resources during these trying times. Please check back often for updated information. If you have ideas or resources that might be of interest to the wider church, we invite you to email them to us at .

1. Livestreaming and Online Worship Resources for Congregations

There are several things to consider if you’d like to arrange digital worship for the first time, including technology, platforms and even legalities (such as music copyright laws) – plus how amenable your members would be to this kind of worship. Here are some PC(USA) and ecumenical resources to help you:

2. Digital Worship Services for Members — Listings and Resources

If you’re looking to participate in a scheduled service, there are many options available to you.

3. Worship and Sacramental Celebrations

  • The PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship has provided basic, copyright-free orders of worship for the Service for the Lord’s Day for leaders and people. These are coordinated with the liturgy in the 2013 “Glory to God” hymnal (pp. 1–13), omitting the Lord’s Supper. Worshipers who have the hymnal at home may wish to follow along in the hymnal, with leaders announcing hymn and page numbers; otherwise they may download and print the people’s version of the service. These orders of worship are also coordinated with the resources found in the 2018 “Book of Common Worship.” Leaders may use or adapt those materials or may follow the leader’s version provided here.
  • How can leaders continue to engage the Matthew 25 vision of building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty? Pastors may wish to use or adapt the sermon suggestions for A Year with Matthew for a Matthew 25 Church for online services. The preaching prompts may also be used as discussion starters for online Bible study, either through a video chat or discussion thread.
  • See two recent Advisory Opinions from the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA): Church in an Emergency/Pandemic and Communion in an Emergency/Pandemic. The PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship has offered this supplemental statement on the two advisory opinions, enumerating theological considerations and practical options.
  • For funerals, the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship sought guidance from Thomas G. Long, author of “Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral” and “The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care” (with Thomas Lynch), and provides the following guidelines based on his response. At the time of death, have a very small group of family accompany the body/ashes to the place of interment. Once people are gathering in public again, have a memorial service that begins with recounting the story of the earlier interment. The body of the deceased is honored and accompanied; concerns about public health are met; and there will one day be a time for a wider, public witness to the resurrection. See other useful information from the National Funeral Directors Association.

4. Stewardship Resources

Many congregations depend upon weekly offerings for current cashflow. Look for other ways to collect the offering:

5. Documents and Helpful Information from the PC(USA) and the U.S. Government
From the PC(USA) and its agencies:
Board of Pension updates

From the U.S. Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020) – Full text
  • Free Webinar, April 2, 2020, 11:00 a.m. CT, “Churches and the CARES Act: Helping Congregations and Employees Weather the Cash Crunch. Info and registration
  • Latest updates on the CARES Act from Tricia Dykers Koenig, PC(USA) Associate Director for Mid Council Relations

6. Responding to Community Needs

7. Pastoral Opportunities to Stay Connected With Members and Colleagues

Some ideas:
  • Children’s ministry resources, intergenerational and family ministry resources, youth and collegiate ministry resources, adult education/formation resources and more. PC(USA)’s Office of Theology, Formation & Evangelism has posted “Remote Faith Formation… For the Long Haul: A resource for faith formation ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
  • Supporting Older Adults During COVID-19, resources from PC(USA) Office of Theology, Formation & Evangelism
  • Livestream worship — conducted on Sunday morning from an empty sanctuary except for ministry staff and perhaps a musician. See Section 1 above.
  • Post prerecorded sermons or pastoral reflections on Facebook to watch on demand or to be shared on the church’s website or by email.
  • Build “phone chains” to help people stay connected and in touch, perhaps weekly.
  • Send cards regularly to vulnerable members such as people who are seniors, home- or hospital-bound, in nursing homes, college students away from home and new parents.
  • Record daily devotional videos (or audio podcasts) to share with your congregation. A pastor in Connecticut is doing this using the Presbyterians Today Lenten Devotional. There are also services of daily prayer — such as those found in the “Book of Common Worship” or “Glory to God” hymnal, or in the PC(USA) Daily Prayer app — that are good options for the order of worship when a congregation is gathering in virtual space. The primary ingredients of such services are psalms, Scripture, and prayers of thanksgiving and intercession. A sermon or meditation may be included after the reading of Scripture.
  • Some congregations are planning drive-in Palm Sunday or Easter services. People drive to the church parking lot, and the church ministers broadcast the service using a low-power FM transmitter.
  • Congregational participation: Make use of the features of your chosen media platform to provide for congregational participation through comments, posts, likes, shares, etc.
  • Do you have a plan in case the pastor is quarantined or sick?
  • Some presbyteries are hosting virtual lunchtime get-togethers via Zoom call.
  • Check out platforms to hold essential meetings and functions via video or audio conference calls, including Zoom (free and paid plans available), GoToMeeting, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, WhatsApp and Microsoft Teams. You might also consider sharing access with the groups that normally meet in your building.

8. Connect with God, Nature, Each Other and the Blessings that Sustain

It looks like we’re in this for the long haul. Be gentle with yourself and with others, and continue (or start) practices and simple joys that sustain your soul. Nurture your friendships and human connections. Pray daily and trust God.
We Are All Part of God's Kingdom
Submitted by
Rev. Mark Ford
Lakes Area Presbyterian Church
Baxter, Minnesota
Flower petals rained down upon our heads as our group of U.S. visitors walked through the gates of the Martinpur Boy’s School in Pakistan. The young men who welcomed us lined both sides of the walkway, dancing before us to the music they were playing. Young men and boys gave us layer upon layer of floral leis as we walked along. As we approach Palm Sunday, I was reminded of the welcome we received and how it may have been similar to the experience of being on that roadside when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

Quite honestly, it was an uncomfortable experience. After all, none of the seven people in our group is famous or powerful or important in a worldly sense. We were just ordinary U.S. citizens that had come to Pakistan to visit the schools of the Presbyterian Education Board (PEB). I certainly did not feel worthy of the honor and thought they were wasting this welcome on people who won’t have much impact on their lives. Perhaps Jesus wondered as he rode into Jerusalem if the people would celebrate if they really knew what was going to happen to their ‘king’.

The difference between the celebration greeting us, and the one that greeted Jesus is that the celebration that greeted us was the Pakistani way of showing welcome and honoring guests. However, it was much more about who they were as Pakistanis and as Christians than it was about us. Everyone welcomed us and was happy to see us. We represented to them that other people in the world, and especially other Christians, knew about them and they were not forgotten. After all, Christians are only three percent of the population of Pakistan. Did the Jewish people feel the same way—a forgotten people in forgotten place among the vastness of the Roman Empire?
United States Presbyterian missionaries established the schools we visited in the 1870’s, which at that time was British India (Pakistan did not become a nation until 1947), to help establish hospitals and schools for the poorest of the poor. Many of the schools that were founded by missionaries are still in existence and are operated by PEB. Located in Punjab Province, which is only slightly smaller than Minnesota, these schools seek to improve the education of both boys and girls, especially among the poor. There are nearly 6000 students in 25 schools managed by PEB. Children come to the schools from all religious backgrounds. The core values of PEB include respect, tolerance, fairness, and justice, since many of the students are followers of Islam. PEB has planned their mission not only for the education of children but to build better relationships between people of faith.

As I have sheltered-in-place here in Minnesota, I keep in contact with Pakistani friends. Like us, they are sheltering in place, but many of the Christians in Pakistan work as day laborers. This means that if they are not working, they do not make any money. While many lived in poverty before, the response to the Covid-19 virus is making it even more difficult. PEB relies on minimal tuition from the families of students and support from donors to continue operation, but is still trying to support families affected by the shutdown. The school system is striving to continue to pay their teachers and provide support for economically challenged students, but relies on partners around the world to help them achieve their goals.

We are fortunate here in Brainerd and the Lakes Area that so many resources are being made available to support students to continue to eat and learn. While we are learning to live in our current reality, let us not forget our brothers and sisters around the world and continue to support the mission or church and secular organizations around the world. (If you would like more information, go to ) I encourage everyone to find a world mission to support so the blessings we often take for granted can be used to help people survive everywhere.

This Palm Sunday, as we remember the celebration of Jesus riding into Jerusalem, we now celebrate that we are a part of God’s kingdom—a kingdom that spans the globe and makes us brothers and sisters to people and Christians everywhere. Join in the celebration with joy and thanksgiving!
Samuel Martin, great-grandson of missionary the Rev. Doc. Samuel Martin, speaks to students at Martinpur Christian Boy’s School. As an honored guest, he was presented with the leis.
Harub Akbar, a student at the Martinpur Girl’s School, is the recipient of an educational scholarship from Lakes Area Presbyterian Church. She is pictured here with Rev. Mark Ford, who visited her school in November of 2019.
The May 12 Stated Presbytery Meeting has been canceled.
Prayer List

  • From Rev. Steve Boots: For Betty’s recovery.
  • For Rev. Mark Chamberlain, retired pastor, Willmar
  • For Rev. Bob Bartlett, First Presbyterian Churches of Brewster & Round Lake
  • For Rev. Michael Roys, retired pastor, Winnebago
  • For Rev. Elaine and Kent Boyd at First Presbyterian Church of Amboy
  • Rev. Araceli Itzep from the Occidente Presbytery
  • For Bety Cifuentes, the treasurer of the Partnership Committee, who is beginning chemotherapy
  • For the "Men in the Mirror" program. Men from Occidente that MVP supported financially to attend the classes a couple of years ago are going to share the information they gained with different churches in the eastern and central parts of Guatemala. They, along with the chaplains of the national Presbyterian church, will also be training Christian policemen in what they learned from "Men in the Mirror."
April Ordination Anniversaries
“But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim Him?”  (Romans 10:14 NRSV)
We recognize April ordination anniversaries of the following ministers. Thank you for your service to the Church.

Aaron Alfred - April 25, 1993 - 27 years
Doug Dent - April 4, 2001 - 19 years
Herb Rotunda - April 21, 2002 - 18 years
Presbyterian Women: Opportunity is Knocking at Your Heart

Our PW Presbyterian Women are hoping to have some more women join our Coordinating Team. We usually meet twice a year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. We also have a Spring Gathering, a day for all MN Valley Presbyterian Women to meet together for fellowship, food, fun, interesting speakers, SERRV vendors, and much more, usually in June. With the virus this year it is very possible that our Spring Gathering will become a Fall Gathering!

Our CT has members that have been on this team for many years and would like some new faces, ideas, etc. We do need a Treasurer, if you enjoy working with numbers. This might be just the thing for you! We have committees too: Communications, Mission/Issues, Search. Please consider this opportunity as we continue to fulfill the Presbyterian Women Purpose

If you have any questions or concerns about this opportunity, please contact me at:
Gloria Rust, Moderator
H) 507-283-4975
C) 507-227-7393

Blessings to all as we work together to praise God, knowing that all things are in his hands!
Transformation Going Beyond Change Survey

We have created a survey to help us understand benefits and insights gained from our Transformation Going Beyond Change events over the past year. Will you please take a moment and answer the question in the survey we have linked?
Four Students from Dubuque Seminary Looking for Summer Internship

Are you open to serving as a ministry learning site? If so, students from Dubuque Seminary are looking for summer placements. Congregations will provide housing and a monthly stipend. Summer internships are paid at the rate of $1,000 a month. The work-week includes 40 hours, Sunday and mid-week worship leadership, mission engagement and mentor conversations. Students will receive training in pastoral ministry, sit on the session with voice, participate in the presbytery, be assigned to a presbytery commission, engage in community outreach, and participate in the presbytery transformation training. Additionally, interns will receive a mentor.
A successful internship will include a learning experience that prepares new leaders to serve the church with a greater sense of vocational clarity. Interns will gain cultural competence, develop skill in adaptive leadership, and grow in their pastoral identity.

For More Information:
Rev. Dr. SanDawna Gaulman Ashley
Executive Presbyter
An Invitation to Spiritual Leaders

This is your invitation to submit a short video of yourself offering a meditation of your favorite passage from the Bible for the Presbytery YouTube channel. If you are interested, please contact Steve Tyykila ( or Andy Davis ( ). We'll give you more parameters and information, but we are looking for informal (not from the pulpit), personal, short (less than five minutes) videos on your favorite passage that you can record from your phone or computer. Thanks!
Pastor Cohort Groups

We are creating pastor cohort groups for interested pastors. Each group will meet monthly via Zoom. The format will include prayer, a book study, case studies, special speakers, cross-pollination of resources and active listening. Interested? Email SanDawna
Executive Search

The Search Committee for the Iowa Tri-Presbyteries Leadership Team is actively seeking candidates who might consider a call to serve the presbyteries of Des Moines, North Central Iowa and Prospect Hill as one of their three executives. If you or someone you know may be interested in such a position or interested in learning more, please connect them with the search website:  Letters of interest are being received until April 24.  
Pastoral Leadership Opportunities

First Presbyterian Church, Ashby  - Pastor, yoked parish
Ministry Information Form -  12363.ABO

First Presbyterian Church, Fulda  - Solo Pastor
Ministry Information Form -  03782.AD1

First Presbyterian Church, Lake Crystal - Pastor, yoked parish
Ministry Information Form - 03709.AB0

Maine Presbyterian Church, rural Underwood - Solo Pastor
Ministry Information Form - 03870.AB0

Faith Presbyterian Church, Silver Lake  - Solo Pastor
Ministry Information Form -   03851.AC3

Hope Presbyterian Church, Spicer  - Solo Pastor
Ministry Information Form -  09565.ADO

First Presbyterian Church, Winnebago - Interim Pastor

Ministry opportunities are posted on the Church Leadership Connection website --