The Valley Bridge
The weekly newsletter from the
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
February 21, 2018
 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)
Regular Presbytery Office Hours: 7:30 - 5:00
Congregation of the week of February 25 - March 3
First Presbyterian Church of Brewster
Congregational Leaders
  • Ruling Elders: Terry McNab, Richard Cross, Suzanne Busch, Lynda McNab, Steve Naumann and Richard Garmer
  • Treasurer: Jim Behrends
  • Clerk of Session: Lynda McNab
  • Christian Education: Beverly Stude
  • Groundskeepers: Rodney Plantz and Suzanne Busch
  • Custodians: The Congregation
  • Organists: Carolyn Van Houten and Vonnie Rodgers
  • Teaching Elder: Rev. Robert D. Bartlett
Prayer Concerns
  • Ken and Rainey Kluever in Assisted Living at the Ecumen Meadows in Worthington
  • The families of Carla Anderson and Judy Stern during their time of acute grief and sorrow
  • Farmers as they prepare for the end of winter and spring planting
  • Victims of tragedies
  • Traumatized youth who continue to be victimized by political parties and competing ideologies
  • Members of our church family serving in the United States Navy and in the United States Marine Corps.
  • Our sister church in Round Lake
  • The congregations participating in our shared Lenten Services
  • For another Christian "Great Awakening" within the PC(U.S.A.), the U.S.A., and every nation.
  • For Christians who are being persecuted and, too often, martyred on every continent
  • For the future of all of our rural communities and shrinking congregations
  • For the Presbytery staff and leadership
The Elephant in the Room

This morning as I was driving into work I listened to a talk show on school safety. It was unsettling to hear one mother say that she purchased bullet-proof bookbags for her children. She also taught her children to get small and place the book bag over their heads in case of an emergency on the bus, at school and any public place. Preparedness is essential to survival; I understand this. But who would ever imagine that this is what our young children need to be concerned about when they leave for school in the morning. The truth is there is no way to have an honest conversation about this without bringing up the elephant in the room ... gun control. I am well aware that this discussion will trample on someone's core beliefs around the Second Amendment right to bear arms. At a recent conference, the elephant in the picture represented things we did not want to discuss. First, everyone was asked to give the elephant a name. Second, we were asked to voice difficult topics that needed to be discussed in our ministry context but were believed to be too divisive or close to the vest. I named the elephant "Cannot Forget." I could not imagine how profound the name would be in just a few weeks. Those who have experienced gun violence will never be able to forget the senseless mass shooting at their high school. I cannot forget going to church and learning that Tony, a friend of our son Jay, was killed at a birthday party the night before. Tony was in the eighth grade and was shot in the head point-blank by another junior high school student. There were no drugs involved or being in the wrong place. The young boy who shot Tony had a crush on a young girl who liked Tony more. In this case, this young boy had poor values. He had little regard for the life of another. He should not have had access to a gun. Extenuating circumstances are always a factor when gun control is discussed. However, the real problem, in my opinion, remains what should the church say when discussing this problem?
The argumen t, from my perspective, is not about rights, but the moral question of why guns are necessary. Further, the role of religious leaders is not to answer the hard questions for others, but rather to help others discover their own answers through discernment and prayer. Religious leaders raise questions in a safe environment where the personal experiences of individuals can be honored and expressed without judgment. We assist groups in asking the why question, and the deeper question of how we arrive at this place. What can be changed in our relationships, society, systems of government that will do away with violence and injustice? How do we resolve the epidemic of devaluing human life? Do our actions assist in making known the glory of God?
The PC(USA) supports policies on Gun Control related to:
  • Limiting personal gun purchases to one per month
  • Requiring licensing, registration, and waiting periods
  • Closing the "gun show loophole" by requiring background checks for all gun buyers
  • Banning semiautomatic assault weapons, armor piercing ammunition and .50 caliber sniper rifles
  • Raising the age for handgun purchase to twenty-one
  • Eliminating the Tiahrt Amendment
  • Requiring judges and law enforcement to remove guns from situations of domestic violence

Gun Control does not preclude the legal use of personal firearms for hunting or sports-related purposes. To read more about the denomination's position on this subject, see "Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God's Call"

Lent is a time to face hard things. It is an appropriate time to raise ethical and spiritual questions about everyday realities. As you gather for worship, I hope you find time for difficult conversations. I hope that in talking things through you will develop a community that can talk with one another about subjects that would ordinarily divide. However, I hope you will discover that being vulnerable with one another we can build stronger communities. I pray that this Lenten Season you will find Christ walking among you as you discuss the events of the day.
Thanks Be to God!
What is transformation? Can you define transformation in 20 words or less?
Please take a moment and answer this question as creatively as possible. All out-of-the-box thinking is welcome. Your responses will be posted on the presbytery's website and used at the upcoming Transformation Training.
Transformation ... going beyond change
Transformation 2018 Ministry Event
Minnesota Valleys Presbytery
First Presbyterian Church, St. Cloud, Minnesota
April 5-7, 2018

Minnesota Valleys Presbytery is partnering with Midwest Initiative for Leading Transition to host a two and half day transformation training event. The event is designed for congregation teams and will focus on the complexity of leading churches through a transformation process. The faculty will address the misconceptions of the one size fits most concepts of church growth strategies. Trained in building the capacities of leaders to enter systems, coach change and resourcing various congregational systems this event will assist participants in retooling for ministry in the 21st century.

Participants can expect to return home with a greater understanding of:
  • Leading change in the 21st Century Church
  • Working within systems
  • Cultural and systemic challenges to ministry today
  • Transformation models
  • Vocational Discernment
  • Visioning for the future
Letter Writing Campaign

A great idea has come to us via James Potts, Director of Family Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. He has networked with churches across the nation to begin a Children's Letter Writing Campaign to the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. If you would like to have your children or youth ministries participate, please begin the campaign as soon as you can, gather the letters and send them to the Presbytery Center, without envelopes (one envelope for all is fine). We will give them to Rev. Willy Figueredo to hand deliver them to a guidance counselor at Stoneman Douglas. There will not be a time frame for this project in frequency or duration. However, immediate response will be beneficial for the students as they are currently in shock and in grief.

Should you have any questions, please call Sandra 954-785-2220 or email

Mail items to:
Presbytery of Tropical Florida
Attn: Sandra Figueredo
1919 SE 5th Street
Deerfield Beach FL 33441
Annual Report Forms

Pastors and Commissioned Ruling Elders, here are links to this year's annual report forms. The deadline to return them to the presbytery office is March 1.
What an educational bargain!!!

Edith Alvarez
For just $250 a year you, your family, your church, your organization could educate the child of a pastor in our sister Occidente Presbytery, Guatemala. This would include enough money to buy a uniform, a pair of shoes, books, and other school supplies and might mean the difference between a child's being able to attend school or not. Pastors in Guatemala earn very little money and are often forced to hold one or two jobs other than preaching to provide for their family. The Occidente Committee on Ministry selects which children receive scholarships based on need.

Thank you from Milton Lisandro Marroquín García, scholarship recipient,  Occidente Presbytery, 2017

Dear Brethren:
Receive a fraternal greeting and may Our God richly bless each one of you.  In this letter I wish to express my deep gratitude to you for being a part of my educational and spiritual formation.  Also, I want you to know that this past year I was blessed to pass all of my first year of middle school which will allow me to continue on to the second year.  I am enclosing the certificate from my school and a recent photograph.  Also, I would like to apply for another scholarship to help pay for my studies next year.

I am very grateful and my prayers for you will always be that God will richly bless you.
Lisandro Marroquín García
P.S. Pastor Marco Tulio García (Lisandro's father) thanks you for all of the help you give Lisandro in his studies.  


Note: The report from Lisandro's school indicates that he did pass all of his subjects in 2017.
The school year in Guatemala begins in January; in order to get the scholarship money sent in time for preparation, it needs to be sent in October. If you would like to help, money should be sent to the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys, 4055 Abbott Drive, Willmar, MN 56201 by early October. Indicate that it is for a Guatemalan scholarship. We do not reveal who the donors are to the recipients to avoid further requests for financial assistance, but we do try to provide you with a photo, academic record and thank you note of a recipient.

If you have any questions, contact me at 218-963-4812.
Mozart's Requiem to be performed in Saint Peter and New Ulm

Submitted by Sara McKay

Several members of Union Presbyterian Church in St. Peter are involved in two performances of the Mozart Requiem in March. On Sunday, March 11 at 2:30 p.m. the St. Peter Choral Society will present this rarely-heard work with professional orchestra at the Catholic Church of St. Peter, 1801 W. Broadway Avenue. One week later, March 18 at 3 p.m., there will be a second performance at the Cathedral of the Holy trinity in New Ulm, 605 N. State Street., as the final concert in the series to celebrate the J.H. Nordlie Pipe Organ restoration. Tickets are $15 at the door, but may be purchased at Swedish Kontur, St. Peter or New Ulm HyVee in advance for $12. Students are admitted free of charge.

Directed by Sara McKay, soloists are Naomi Karstad, soprano, Katha Chamberlain, alto, Roy Heilman, tenor and Michael Jorgensen, bass, with guest organists David Fienen at the St. Peter concert and Nathan Knutson at the New Ulm concert.
Steering Congregations to Formational Resources

The Commission on Congregational Transformation and Development exists to resource congregations. We have identified six critical areas: discipleship, evangelism, mission, spiritual leadership, stewardship and worship. Each area has one or two individuals who serve as point persons. The point person's goal is to steer you in the right direction toward valuable resource. Please let us know how we can come alongside of your congregation.

EvangelismAnne Veldhuisen,, 507-215-5617
Mission: Richard Lawrence, , 320-260-9639
Mission: Darlene Scherbing, , 320-292-2610
Spiritual Leadership: Tom Voigt, , 612-875-6398
Stewardship: Rick Hauge, , 507-829-5227
Worship: Darin Seaman, , 320-251-8277
Pastoral Leadership Opportunities

The following congregation within the bounds of our presbytery is currently seeking pastoral leadership:

Faith Presbyterian Church, Silver Lake - Part-time Solo Pastor
   Ministry Information Form - 03851.ACO

Randall Presbyterian Church, Randall
- Pastor
   Ministry Information Form - 03892.AC1

First Presbyterian Church, Fulda - Solo Pastor, 3/4 time
   Ministry Information Form - 03782.ADO

The Ministry Information Forms for these opportunities are posted on the Church Leadership Connection web site --
Synod School Catalog is online!

Registration opens March 1

Even though the catalog is here, registration doesn't begin until March 1. For now, however, browse the catalog to see what Synod School offers, and take a look through the class list to see what interests you. In an environment of hospitality, healing and hope, Synod School offers so much.

This year ...

We're planning 76 classes for adults, running the gamut from fun to serious, from entertaining to informative, and almost always at the same time. There will also be a full program for children and youth.

Convocation Speaker:  Jason Santos
Worship Leader:  Jana Childers
Music Leader:  Hans Peterson, Dakota Road
Artist in Residence:  Gina Penn, dancer

Link to catalog:
Live Generously. Live Happier:

Lessons from "The Generosity Project"
Saturday, March 10 from 9:00 - 2:00
Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU)/Marshall
Conference Center, Marshall, MN
Livestream Option Available

"The Generosity Project"    is designed to equip your congregation-and especially family units or single persons--- in the spiritual practice of generosity. It teaches "why" and "how to" talk about generosity, stewardship, abundance and money practices. It does this through a day filled with interactive, fun, full of laughter, faith centered lessons and practices. Begin 2018 by learning so you can bring these practices to your setting. Join us as together we learn to "live generously and live happier" 

Please register online by  clicking here
  • Registration Cost is Free! Resource materials and snack are included. The event costs are provided by the Lilly Grant and our Embrace God's Mission + Equip God's People Funding Initiative.
  • Non-SW MN Synod groups and other denominations are welcome. Lunch will not be provided. SMSU will have snacks provided but groups must pay for their own lunch at the SMSU cafeteria or other locations.
All groups are invited to make a contribution to the Funding Initiative, but not required. Send gifts to: SW MN Synod, PO Box 499, Redwood Falls, MN 56283. To make an online gift  click here.

To receive the Livestream link you must register online.
Livestream groups commit to have at least 4-6+ persons in attendance in their location and provide their own technical support at that location re: video and audio projection. 

 From Southwestern Minnesota Synod (ELCA)
  submitted by Deb Hess
Mosaic of Peace Conference

Witnessing for Peace and Wholeness in a Land called 'Holy'
A Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference in Israel/Palestine
April 29-May 12, 2018

For more information, including a sample conference schedule and information from past conferences, visit or contact the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program at 800-728-7228 x5805 or 502-569-5805.

NextChurch 2018
"The Desert in Bloom: Living, Dying, and Rising in a Wilderness Church"
Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, Baltimore, MD
February 26-28, 2018

The NEXT Church National Gathering is filled with church leaders (pastors and lay people) sharing stories of their experiences of ministry, new ideas they are trying, and honest conversations about ministry today. Creative worship centers us around God's presence. Multiple opportunities to engage in workshops and conversation about particular aspects of ministry foster new and deeper connections. We hope you will join us!

Sooner or later, our sacred stories - individual and communal -  return to the desert. Jacob. Moses. Miriam. Hagar. Jesus. The Desert Mothers and Fathers. Sometimes we retreat there. Sometimes we are driven there against our will. Sometimes it is simply where we find ourselves. Regardless, we eventually dwell in that harsh and empty place where the line between life and death grows thin. However improbably, Scripture says that this is precisely the place where God's promises begin to bloom. The prophet Isaiah wrote to a people in despair: "The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom" (35:1).

For many of us, wilderness is a metaphor. It can be understood as a spiritually renewing place to strip away distraction and re-center on God. It can represent the isolation sometimes felt in ministry and life. It can symbolize times of testing and temptation. It can suggest moving outside our comfort zones to places of uncertainty and risk, creativity and opportunity. Wilderness is also found in real places - from dying towns and blighted city neighborhoods, to the retreat spaces where we seek discernment and clarity.
Throughout Scripture and the history of the people of God, the wilderness is a place of radical change and reliance on God's unwavering care.

At the 2018 NEXT Church National Gathering, we will ask how the church can embrace a wilderness identity in pursuit of the hope, resilience, clarity, and resurrection so often found there. We'll bear witness to promises blooming in desert spaces - from the corners of Baltimore City to wide open places to sprawling suburbs to coastal towns and every other space God calls us to be present. We'll seek desert blossoms in our politics, our prayers, our pews, in each other and ourselves. We will find fellow travelers on the Holy Way.  We will embrace the wildernesses of our present moment, trusting with the prophet Isaiah that there we "shall see the glory of the Lord" (35:2).
NEXT Church Post-Gathering
Forming Generous Disciples
February 28, 2018 1:00 pm - March 1, 2018 12:00 pm

How can your church form generous people to support and engage God's mission? Gain practical tools and theological underpinnings for a successful and sustainable approach to stewardship. Explore spiritual practices that can help the people in your pews become more generous. Learn to tell your church's financial story in compelling ways. Conquer fears of talking about money.

If you would like to participate in this post-Gathering seminar, you must register for it when you register for the entire National Gathering.

This Post-Gathering is $50 due to the generous support of the Presbyterian Foundation with support from the Lilly Endowment, Inc.

Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel
Baltimore, MD 21202
Westminster Town Hall Forum:
An American Abroad in a Post-American World

Thursday, March 22 at 12:00 Noon
Westminster Presbyterian Church
1200 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis

ABOUT SUZY HANSEN: Suzy Hansen is an American journalist and editor. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she moved to Istanbul in 2007 after receiving a journalism fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs to write on Turkish politics and foreign affairs. Since then, she has traveled to Libya, Greece, Egypt, Afghanistan, Kuwait, India, Kenya, and beyond to study and reflect on socio-political issues. She is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, London Review of Books, Vogue, Bloomberg, and Businessweek. Her first book, Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World, is a memoir exploring her assumptions about American beneficence abroad, America's role in the Middle East. and its standing in the world.


Leadership and Anxiety in the Church: 

  A Family Systems Perspective 


This is one-day workshop looks at the challenges presented by the rising levels of anxiety being experienced in churches today, as well as the role that self-differentiated leadership can play in calming such anxiety. You will learn practical skills that will help you defuse anxious situations and maintain a non-anxious presence. This interdenominational workshop will be hosted by Minnetonka United Methodist Church in Minnetonka, MN (Minneapolis area) on May 16, 2018.  It is sponsored by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center in Lombard, IL.  Discounts are available for individuals and church groups who register by May 2, 2018. For more information about this workshop, click here. To register or to download a group discount coupon, click here

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): A Faith Filled Response

March 1, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
First Lutheran Church
424 S 8th St, Brainerd, MN 56401

The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) study looked at how events in our childhood influence the rest of our life. At the event, we will look at the ACE study, its implications, how we move forward, and how we can have a faith-filled response. It will be an awesome workshop. 

  • ACE Interface Presentation
  • Learn from clergy:
  • How the ACEs information has shaped my perspective on ministry
  • Lunch
  • Discussion regarding our faith communities:
  • What are we already doing to address/heal trauma and ACEs?
  • What are the biggest challenges/needs facing our community?
  • If we are to design new approaches to address ACEs, how might we build them?
  • How might we proceed in our local congregation?
Cost: $10. Lunch included.
For special dietary needs or other questions contact Lowell Johnson at
Register online at:

Submitted by Tony Oltmann
Six New Things
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