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 January 19-25
Westminster Presbyterian Church of Worthington
LeRoy Ennenga, Clerk of Session
Evelyn Anderson, Cindy Ira-Smith, Co-moderators Board of Deacons
Nancy Hofstee, Darlene Rautenkranz, Accompanists
Malidia Heredia, Jeff Nelson, Custodians
Holly McCuen, Financial Secretary
Diana Vallego, Administrative Assistant
Galen Smith, Pastor

Westminster was organized in 1873 with the stated intent of “bringing about the Kingdom of Christ in our midst.” We continue in that calling as we share God’s love in Worthington and the world. We live this out serving the Worthington area through partnerships with Love INC and Manna Food Pantry and through worship, Bible Study and fellowship among our members. We ask your prayers as we accept Jesus’ call in Matthew 25 to do for the least of these seeking ways to address congregational vitality and systemic poverty in one of the most culturally diverse communities in Minnesota.
In the Muck
According to Church tradition, there are three causes of evil: the world, the flesh and the devil. Some years ago, I preached a sermon modeled after the pictorial maxim the “Three Monkeys.” The figures originate from the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan. However, as with many maxims, others date the teaching as far back as the 8th century. The famous figure shows three monkeys in which each covers their eyes, ears and mouth. Many see this as a sign of self-regulation where a person makes the conscience decision to separate himself or herself from wrong that is seen, heard, or spoken. Thus, being a good citizen of the earth is to remove oneself from the ugly things of life.
In essence, the goal is staying out of the muck. Living this way is believed to keep us safe. We keep our hands clean and ultimately appear to be neutral in the matters of society.

Our hands may appear to be clean, but are we still culpable? Does our choice of not seeing, hearing or speaking mirror the actions of Pontius Pilate? Society considered Jesus a rebel. He did not play it safe or diminish the reality of evil around him. Rather, He called evil out. At times, the Gospel stories sound like news reports. For example, Pilate mingles the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices. John the Baptist beheaded by a deranged king. Jesus entered into the muck. His direct action of righteous indignation, speaking out, breaking ceremonial customs and church law became the witness that God was present with the people. If we follow the example of Christ, personal or political safety are not signs of Christian virtues. Consider the text “to save one’s life you must lose your life ” and “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Scripture never gives the impression that society or the government has an interest in justice. Scripture leads us to understand that society profits by injustice. In every century, going above the law, abusing power, greed, playing by a different set of rules, climbing the corporate ladder at any cost, oppressing the underdog for sport, heavy taxation, slavery, restricting services, having disposable people, war, violence, prejudice, and partiality have all been the product of the fabric of society. The world runs through systems, and all systems have some problems. Although, justice has never been a primary concern of the world, it nonetheless should be for the Church. We are given spiritual gifts for the common good…wisdom, knowledge, the gifts of healing, tongues, discernment of spirits, and interpretation. These gifts are manifested to edify the church and also to assist the Church in being agents of social change. Dr. King said, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Additionally, King said “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” These quotes deal with the actions of people.

I pray the next time you see the Three Monkeys statue, you might consider the multiple meanings it communicates.

Finally, the Franciscan Benediction
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and the exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace. May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy. And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

Stir Us Lord,
Committee on Representation wants you to help us be the best presbytery we can be!

We have been busy these last few weeks finding folks to serve the presbytery on several commissions, and we are still looking for:

Committee on Congregational Nurture
1 ruling elder to serve a three-year term
1 ruling elder to serve a two-year term
1 ruling elder to serve a one-year term

General Assembly
1 ruling elder to serve as an alternate

Please, if you feel called, or know of someone who would be great on one of these commissions, contact Audrey Knuth at 507-830-0520 or David Lick at 414-334-9385.
Prayer List

  • For Rev. Bob Bartlett, First Presbyterian Churches of Brewster & Round Lake
  • For Dave Hollis, First Presbyterian Church of Slayton, hip replacement
  • For the family of Sue Thompson, First Presbyterian Church, Maynard
  • For the family of Marie Fischer, Crosslake Presbyterian Church
  • For the family of Sara McKay, Union Presbyterian Church of Saint Peter
  • 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; surgery scheduled for Oct 23
  • For Beatriz (Betty/Beti) 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."
Refugee Resettlement

To date, 42 governors across the U.S. have issued consent to Refugee Resettlement. Minnesota’s governor Governor Tim Walz has issued consent for the State. Twenty-two counties also voted for consent. The affirming counties Blue Earth, Brown, Clay, Dakota, Dodge, Goodhue, Hennepin, Kandiyohi, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pipestone, Pope, Ramsey, Rice, Sherburne, Steele, Washington, Watowan. Other counties have upcoming public hearings.

Regardless of your political position on the issue, take time to understand the issues and use your voice to communicate with officials. Taking action on this issue is one way to live our commitment to Matthew 25 to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor.
Leadership Training Highlights

Saturday, January 11 was a very busy and productive day at the First Presbyterian Church in Willmar. At the registration table, each person picked up their "star" word - an inspirational word for the day or week ... or year! Entering the sanctuary, we were greeted with some lovely music from John McKay at the piano. Gordy Pennertz, commissioned pastor at the Litchfield church, preached about using our gifts in service, even if we feel unworthy ... God qualifies the called! Plenary speaker Corey Schlosser-Hall, executive presbyter at the Presbytery of the Northwest Coast, led the group in a discussion of organizational communications and collaborative ministry. We also learned several new handshakes, just ask anyone who was there for a demonstration! Presbytery Moderator Anna Williamson shared the Presbytery Planning Team's vision for the four stated presbytery meetings in 2020. The Willmar church served a delicious and nutritious lunch, and we were well nourished for the rest of our afternoon's activities. Four commissions and one committee met for their first time in 2020 and planned out their year. Stated Clerk Pamela Prouty led training for elders, and Leanne Thompson and Jody Loseth led training for Deacons on communication and dementia. We ended the afternoon in the sanctuary for closing worship where our hands were anointed for service. Thanks to the folks at the Willmar church for hosting - we had a great day!
Corey Schlosser-Hall and SanDawna Ashley
Gordy Pennertz
One of the new handshakes we learned
Jody Loseth led training for the deacons
Some of the elders in discussion
David Lick and Anna Williamson anoint hands for service
Order Lenten Devotionals through the presbytery office
Presbyterians Today invites you to experience the power of God working in community with its newest devotional , “Becoming a Beloved Community: A Matthew 25 Journey to the Cross.”

The devotional begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, and concludes on Easter Sunday, April 12. Every day, a Scripture reading, short reflection and closing prayer tell the powerful story of how God’s love in action is changing lives. Also featured in the devotional are ancient and modern mosaics depicting the life of Jesus.
Readers are invited to pause and ponder the reflection question that accompanies each picture. The mosaics underscore how each person’s action, gift, prayer and desire for a better world are necessary — and beautiful — pieces in the picture of God’s kingdom here on Earth.

“Beloved Community” is a term that was first coined by 20th-century American philosopher  Josiah Royce . However, it was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  who popularized it , using “beloved community” often in speeches and sermons to illustrate God’s kingdom as truly a kin-dom. For King, a beloved community was not an idealized utopia, but rather an attainable society based on justice, equal opportunity for all and selfless love of one another. In his eyes, a community became “beloved” when every human in that community had his or her basic needs met.

The devotional itself is a reflection of a beloved community, featuring varied stories from ordained ministers, chaplains, lay pastors and ruling elders. These men and women, from different walks of life, belong to the  Presbytery of the Pacific , which has begun a three-year process of anti-racism work, says the Rev. Heidi Worthen Gamble, mission catalyst.

“We are proud to be one of the most diverse presbyteries in the PC(USA), which makes our discussions very rich and complex. We also embrace that we are an immigrant presbytery and have been deeply engaged in the ecumenical Matthew 25 movement in Southern California, developing a faith-rooted voice for justice on immigration,” Gamble said. “When I was approached by Presbyterians Today with the idea of featuring a few pastors from Pacific Presbytery to write a Lenten devotional on beloved community and  Matthew 25 , I saw it as a great opportunity.”

What Gamble didn’t foresee was the excitement in participating in the devotional.
“The response was overwhelming,” she said. “It is with great joy that Pacific Presbytery shares with you 19 writers reflecting on what it means to become the beloved community.”

The Rev. Paul Kang is one of the writers who participated in the Lenten devotional.
A solo pastor of  Korean Presbyterian Hosanna Church  in Los Angeles, Kang wrote, “I was excited that the Lenten Devotional 2020 invited me, whose English is a second language, to share the love, justice and peace of the beloved community.”

For the  Rev. Neema Cyrus-Franklin , the stated clerk and communications director for the Presbytery of the Pacific, writing for Presbyterians Today’s 2020 Lenten devotional was an opportunity “to grow together as the beloved community” by “facing our fears, prejudices and our flawed understandings, so that in Christ, wrongs may be righted, hearts may be changed and we might live together in peace.”

You can order through the presbytery office for a discount. If our presbytery's pre-order reaches 100 copies, we will place the order and your congregation's cost for these devotionals will be $2.40 per copy through the presbytery office. The deadline to order is Monday, January 27. Please call or email your order to Karen at the presbytery office: 320-235-7910 or
The Ministry Lab welcomes new leader, looks to the future
The Ministry Lab—an ecumenical organization that serves United Methodist, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian churches in Minnesota—has hired a new executive director to resource and engage congregations and leaders around innovative practices and fresh approaches to faith formation.

Rev. Emily Meyer (left), an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), began the position in mid-December. She succeeds Lizabeth Bougie, who retired after nearly eight years in the position.
“I look forward to doing consulting and finding out what congregations are doing and ways that I can encourage them to try new things,” said Meyer, who was ordained in 1998. “I hope that this can be a place where we tackle the big questions and come up with hopeful, gracious responses to the challenges the church is facing right now.”

As she steps into her new role, Meyer is seeking feedback about the interests and needs of the constituencies she will serve. Whether or not you’ve ever engaged with The Ministry Lab, she invites you to take this brief survey to let her know how she can best resource you.

All Minnesota United Methodist clergy, staff, and lay leaders have access to The Ministry Lab’s wide variety of resources and free consultation through their apportioned dollars. Its hours recently changed (partly in hopes of accommodating more lay people) and are Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and by appointment.

“Our board is so grateful for Lizabeth Bougie and the ways in which she has capably and creatively resourced congregations and leaders through her dedicated service to The Ministry Lab,” said Christa Meland, president of The Ministry Lab’s board of directors and director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. “We are also excited about the passion and skills that Emily Meyer brings to this position, and we look forward to working with her to bring to life our vision to make The Ministry Lab a place for church leaders to dream, explore, innovate, discover new ideas, and make ministry come alive in their unique contexts.”

Meyer has pastored several churches, including First Lutheran Church in Akeley, St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Bloomington, and Fullness of Good Lutheran Church at Holden Village in Chelan, Washington. More recently, she spent two years as pastor of life-long faith formation at Peace Lutheran Church in Plymouth and founded and led a cooperative Confirmation program. Through the program, called Confirmation Reformation, Meyer created an extensive curriculum for and led youth from 10 different congregations, thus allowing those with smaller numbers to still offer a dynamic learning and faith-building Confirmation experience.

Meyer is passionate about inter-generational approaches to faith formation and connecting worship, education, and mission together through a broad and holistic understanding of faith formation.

The Ministry Lab, formerly known as the Resource Center for Churches, last June changed its name and moved into United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in St. Paul through a dynamic new partnership with that organization. Church leaders can consult with Meyer, who brings an understanding of changing ministry contexts and knowledge of current, outstanding resources, digital and traditional. They also have access to United’s Spencer Library and the collection of The Ministry Lab.

As she looks ahead, Meyer also hopes to lead monthly workshops for congregational leaders in partnership with United and has even floated the idea of taking The Ministry Lab on the road during the summer to engage congregations in Greater Minnesota. Ultimately, she wants The Ministry Lab to be a place for church leaders to discover new ideas and obtain the confidence and tools to try new things as they work to remain vibrant and relevant in a changing world.

“I hope to help congregations do things on purpose and do them well in their particular context,” she said. “That doesn’t mean it has to be shiny or professional. It does mean using the resources you’ve got to the best of your ability.”

In the coming months, The Ministry Lab’s board of directors will assemble a 20- to 30-person advisory board consisting of members of each denomination that it serves. The advisory board’s role will be to give input that helps determine the future direction of The Ministry Lab, ensure that it meets the needs of its constituents, and identity new resourcing opportunities.

The Ministry Lab will host an open house at United Theological Seminary (767 Eustis St., Suite 140) on Tuesday, Feb. 4 from 1 to 3 p.m. All are invited to come learn more and meet Meyer. Obtain directions and parking information  here .

Consultations with Meyer can be conducted by phone, email ( ), or video conference—and physical resources can still be mailed to churches unable to obtain them directly from The Ministry Lab.
Public Theology for the Common Good
Led by Phil Tom
Tuesday, March 24
Hope Presbyterian Church
7730 North Shore Drive, Spicer
$15 for Presbyterians
$25 for others

"Public theology is the Christian engagement and dialogue within the church and especially with the larger society. It seeks the welfare of the state and a fair society for all by engaging issues of common interest to build the common good. This is Christian theology that talks with society, not just to society." (Wikipedia)
The reality is that many congregations are disconnected from their communities. In our workshop, we will explore how the tool of faith-based community organizing can help your congregation to learn how to connect with and to serve your community.

Phil currently serves as Executive Director for the International Council of Community Churches, and as a consultant to The Riverside Church in New York City. He has served in the following capacities: the PCUSA General Assembly for 10 years as Associate for Urban Ministry Office, and 3 years as Associate for the Small Church Ministry Office (urban, rural, suburban); Co-Director of McCormick Theological Seminary Church and Community Ministry Project; pastored for 27 years with congregations in Chicago, St. Paul, MN, Indianapolis, IN and New York City; and as Director of the White House Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Office in the U.S. Department of Labor in the Obama Administration.

To register, email Karen Lange
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!
Transformation Testimonies Sought

We are preparing the reporting for the Transformation Going Beyond Change Initiative grants. Please think about how you have been using the information gleaned from these events and email Karen or SanDawna a short testimony about how you have benefited.
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
2020 Per Capita

$41.45 Total
$27.00 for Presbytery
 $8.95 for GA
 $5.50 for Synod

What Is Per Capita? link

2020 Compensation Policy link

2020 Per Capita Apportionment and Mission Pledge Form link Please send to the presbytery office by January 31, if possible.
Interested in a Communications Workshop?
Can your congregation say yes to these statements?
  • Our church has a clear and concise goal in mind for its communications.
  • Our church maximizes the use of its social media platforms.
  • Our church’s website is easy to navigate and tells the congregation’s story
If you’re not sure about your congregation’ s responses to any of these statements, you may want to schedule a communications workshop in 2020.

The presbytery is considering an in-person or webinar for this. If interested, please contact Karen .
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

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 --
Do you remember?

The Cambria Presbyterian Church is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year!  On December 2,1919 the Cambria Presbyterian Church was organized and it became a part of the Bethel and Horeb parish. As we celebrate we would like to recognize the small churches around us which helped us along the way.  We are in search of people who remember the Jerusalem Presbyterian Church, the Bethel Presbyterian Church, the Horeb Presbyterian Church, the Salem Welsh Congregational Church, the Carmel Presbyterian Church, and the Salem Townline Church and have a connection.  All of these churches were located in rural Judson, Lake Crystal, Cambria, and New Ulm. We would like to hear your stories and see your pictures if you have them. Please email Penny Johnson at or call 507-947-3955 if you have questions or contributions.