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 20-26
Lakes Area Presbyterian Church of Baxter
Mark Ford, Pastor
Lynn Olson, Clerk of Session
Martha Look, Administration
Richard Dosh, Maintenance Supervisor 
Marilyn Maxa, Chair of Deacons

We have recently moved from our 400 person capacity building into a 100 person capacity building across town and changed our name to Lakes Area Presbyterian Church. The transition is moving along, but brings with it new challenges. Pray that we would discern God's vision, purpose, and mission for us in this new place. Pray that God will go before us and open hearts and doors for us to be able to connect with our community.
Setting the Pace for Change

Last weekend, the presbytery officially began the second phase of a several year journey on the path toward transformation. We spent considerable time last weekend lining out the need for change. I pray that we all will remember what was taught by Deb DeMeester, Pam Prouty and Leanne Thompson. The individual commission orientations also set the tone for a productive year of ministry. The next step on the road to Transformation, Moving Beyond Change is patience. It may seem that patience, a term that usually means slow things down, does not fit with all the things we have just geared ourselves to do. However, without patience we are doomed to fail. Sustainable change takes time. The major task of leadership here is to set the pace of change, tailoring each process to the particular, cultural and individual needs of each congregation. The question is, with all we have heard and learned, how do we take this home? This is the point in a presentation that individuals gather in groups and answer this important question. How does this apply to us? And for ministry practitioners, what does contextual ministry look like for us? As you decide next steps, be patient with yourself, others and the process. Long-term answers are discovered through prayer and discernment. As mentioned on Saturday, try five things and expect that one will work. 

We are on a trajectory that leads to vital congregations, effective leaders, discipleship, faith sharing, and transformed communities and lives. Every step in this process is being faithful to Christ’s ministry. Remember that “humans and history grow slowly” (Rohr). Jesus taught about metanoeite, a Greek word often translated to mean repent. The word also means to change consciousness. Taking on new consciousness means new thinking, new habits, new speech, transformed values … all things that require time, patience, grace and the Holy Spirit.

Join the conversation and encourage others to journey with the presbytery. Next week we will begin the conversation of building hopeful human to human relationships. As you consider your community, what do you know about your neighbors? Are you comfortable relating with and talking to your neighbors? Are you troubled by the rhetoric of hate, racism, sexism and the many other “isms” in our country? What can we do about it as a church? If you want to talk about these subjects, attend the January 22 event with Samuel Son at the presbytery office. Our strategy for presbytery-wide transformation includes creating space for open conversations about world and church issues. Together we will listen for the voice of God among us.

Blessings and Peace,
Deb DeMeester
The listeners
Highlights from Deb DeMeester's Keynote at the Leadership Training on Saturday, January 12

In Canoeing the Mountains, Tod Bolsinger reflects on the experience of the Lewis and Clark Expedition as they approached the Rocky Mountains. Suddenly what they knew how to do (canoe!) would not help them as they faced the mountains. They could either stay in their canoes and die on this side of the Rockies or get out and learn to climb. Bolsinger suggests the church is at a similar place – what lies ahead is essentially unfamiliar to us and the skills/priorities and practices of the past may not be helpful as we move through this new terrain. 

Deb DeMeester, Director of Leadership Development, guided our reflections using this metaphor and the ordination question: Will you serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love?

  • Energy:
  • Reflecting on what energizes us and what gifts we bring to our calls as elders, deacons and ministers. This applies both to how we spend our time and who we conduct our meetings.
  • Reflecting on the power images in our ministry – are we trying to be a well-oiled machine, replacing parts as needed, or are we the body of Christ with an amazing variety of gifts, all of which are important to us?
  • Intelligence:
  • What do we need to learn as we move forward? What will it take to be a learning organization? Leadership is about personal development as well as growing together in order to accomplish our mission.
  • We need to ask key questions like “Whose voice isn’t being heard?” and “Who isn’t at the table?” to ensure emotional intelligence in the decisions we are making.
  • Imagination
  • Deb challenged us to try at least five new things in the coming year, recognizing that a couple won’t work, a couple will just be okay but there will hopefully be one that opens some doors and helps us move forward. We need to be willing to risk. If God is making all things new and we aren’t trying new things, why do we wonder where God is?
  • We need to learn to see new possibilities; after all, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” (Traditionally attributed to Albert Einstein)
  • Love
  • Deb reminded us that “This organization is based on fellowship and is not designed to work without trust and love.” (G-1.0102) People do not join churches to serve on committees! Caring for the people we serve and the people we serve with is critical to the success of any ministry. Take the time to do so. This will help as anxiety and conflict emerge in this new land as they surely will. 
  • Deb’s closing words: “Can we love each other enough to engage in difficult conversations? Can we love each other enough to encourage innovation and support each other when some things fail? Can we love each other enough to know that getting out of a canoe isn’t easy, and it may take a village, but knowing that ultimately we can’t stay where we are?”
Ecumenical Prayer Service Celebrates Annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Ecumenical Prayer Service Celebrates Annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at First Presbyterian Church of Willmar. Area congregations will come together for an Ecumenical Celebration of the Word of God on Sunday, January 20.

The service, which will be held as part of the area's observance of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, will take place at First Presbyterian Church of Willmar beginning at 3:00 p.m. Rev. Dr. SanDawna Gaulman Ashley, Executive Presbyter at the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys, will deliver the message. Special music will be provided by John McKay, an accomplished pianist from Saint Peter.

Begun in 1908, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated each year in cities and towns across the country and around the world.

The theme for the 2019 observance is Justice, Only Justice, You Shall Pursue (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). The theme and text for each year's observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are chosen and prepared by representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and representatives of the World Council of Churches. The international texts are developed, adapted, and published for use in the USA by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute.

The Willmar service is sponsored by the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys. The public is cordially invited.
Awakening to God’s Beauty –
A Lenten invitation to pray with art
2019 Presbyterians Today Lenten Devotional
This year’s stunning devotional invites us on a spiritual and visual pilgrimage through the holy season of Lent . . . through the final days of our Lord’s ministry . . . his passion . . . his death on the cross . . . and finally his glorious resurrection at Easter.

Relying on the powerful words of the Psalms, we peer at the heartbreaking ravages of the world through Jesus’ eyes: poverty, racism, sexism, corruption, violence and so many other social ills that afflict God’s beloved children. For those of us intent on bending the arc of history toward justice, it might be tempting to become agitated and exhausted. But with God, there is always hope.

So, through magnificent photography and a spiritual discipline called  visio divina  — praying with art — we open our eyes with new awareness and gratitude for the beauty of creation. The devotional offers a dazzling smorgasbord of soul-stirring original photographs, each with a short, guided meditation to lift our hearts and fortify us for the rest of our Lenten journey.

The text, meditations and original photography are all the loving work of the Rev. Krin Van Tatenhove, long-time Presbyterian pastor, hospice chaplain, substance abuse counselor, traveler, photographer, and amazing storyteller.
The 2019 Lenten Devotional is perfect for congregations, families and individuals.

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 28. Please call or email your order to Karen at the presbytery office: 320-235-7910 or .
Presbyterian Foundation offers free webinar series
Themes include boosting stewardship, talking about money

Susan Herman | Special to Presbyterian News Service - January 8, 2019


Rob Hagan and Karl Mattison of the Presbyterian Foundation will lead a free five-part webinar for congregations.

The  Presbyterian Foundation  is offering a series of five webinars in 2019 on engaging church givers in stewardship and money-related conversations.

Pastors, business administrators, stewardship chairs, treasurers, session clerks and others involved in the financial life of the church are invited to register. The webinars are free. Sign up for the whole series, or just topics that interest you the most.

Rob Hagan and Karl Mattison will present the webinars. Hagan is a  Ministry Relations Officer  for the Presbyterian Foundation. Mattison is the Foundation’s Vice President of Planned Giving. They have teamed up many times to educate church leaders on financial topics and say they’re excited to offer webinar participants tools for building generous, vital communities of faithful givers who want their resources to change people's lives for Jesus Christ.

Topics in the webinar series are:

Click on the links above to register for the webinars. You’ll receive an email before each webinar goes live. The webinars will begin at 10 a.m. PST/ 1 p.m. EST. Each session lasts one hour. Sessions will be recorded, so you can view them later or even share them in your own church.

Translating numbers into stories

In Sessions 1 and 2, attendees will learn how tools such as a narrative budget and stewardship calendar help reach all four types of givers: gifted givers, thoughtful givers, casual givers and reluctant givers. Many church members need someone to translate the annual budget into stories about the work of the church that the budget makes possible. To reach members who know why they are giving, but want more accessible methods, these sessions will also cover online giving tools, email campaigns, and text donations.

Session 3 will focus on setting up an endowment. This is important from a pastoral care perspective because endowments offer members an avenue to share their faith with their loved ones after they die. Endowing one's pledge also addresses the problem of having a small number of members whose giving accounts for a large percentage of the church budget.

Sessions 4 and 5 will challenge congregations to tell about the impact of their ministry through methods that can increase year-end giving. They will also address how the church can compete with all of the end of the year asks by other worthwhile charities and will reflect changes in the tax code that impact all types of giving.
Money as a spiritual discipline

Money conversations can be a challenge. However, knowing who gives money to the church and how much is important - not only because it allows leaders to manage resources effectively, but also because it allows for relationship building. Changes in giving can be a helpful indicator of spiritual needs in the congregation.

Pastors, ruling elders, trustees, and financial staff all have a role to play in annual stewardship and sharing the vision of the church so that members are continually inspired to give. Sign up for the webinar series and learn how you can nurture these vital conversations in your church.

Register now:

Susan Herman is a freelance writer and editor. She worships and volunteers on the music team at Carmichael Presbyterian Church near Sacramento, Calif.
Leadership Development and Educational  Training
All pastors and congregational leaders are invited
Hopeful Conversations About Human to Human Relationships:
Moving beyond hatemongering, fear, scarcity, and miseducation

Tuesday, January 22 - 9:30 - 3:00
Presbytery office, Willmar

Register today!

Speaker: The Rev. Samuel Son, Manager for Diversity and Reconciliation, the Presbyterian Mission Agency

Religious, community, and education leaders are invited to a conversation about human to human relationships hosted by the Minnesota Valleys Presbytery and the Presbyterian Mission Agency PC(USA). Participants can expect a safe place to dialogue around issues on how we see and hear the other. The day-long event will work to equip participants to return to their communities tooled with enhanced listening attitudes and better equipped to positively enhance relationships in our diversifying communities.
Reservation Fee: $15.00 lunch, please bring a check payable to the presbytery that day.
Location: Minnesota Valleys Presbytery office, Willmar, MN
Registration is open - email Karen at the presbytery office
Book Study: Rebuilding the Foundations
Join the Presbytery in a book study of Rebuilding the Foundations: Social Relationships in Ancient Scripture and the Contemporary Culture by John Brueggemann and Walter Brueggemann, Westminster John Knox Press. The Zoom discussion on chapters 3 and 4 will be on Thursday, Jan 24, at 11:00 am and 6:30 pm. Zoom instructions will be included in the Valley Bridge in mid-January.
2019 Presbyterian Youth Triennium
Get Ready for the 2019 Presbyterian Youth Triennium - a gathering held every three years for high school age students in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Youth from all churches (across sponsoring denominations) come together for this life changing, life giving, faith growing gathering! Five days that help form a younger generation of active Presbyterians. Five days that shape the leadership gifts and deepen the discipleship awareness for a generation who are already achieving a strong presence in this church and in this world!
Event Essentials

DATES: Monday, July 15 - Sunday, July 21 (includes travel days)
LOCATION: Purdue University - West Lafayette, IN
AUDIENCE: High School Age youth entering freshman through graduated seniors
THEME: "Here's My Heart"
REGISTRATION FEES: Anticipated Cost - $625.00 to $650.00
                (Registration fee includes all programming, food, lodging and travel)  


Congregation RSVP Forms  Are Now Due with $100 deposit per participant 
JANUARY 7: Registrations Forms Available (Presbytery Website)
FEBRUARY 4: Registrations due, along with $250.00 payment for each participant
MAY 6: Final Payment Due

Contact Mark Giese:  ∙ 320-251-8277 (church) ∙ 320-493-8272 (cell)

Pastoral Leadership Opportunities

First Presbyterian Church, Fulda - Solo Pastor, 3/4 time up to full-time
  Ministry Information Form -  03782.AD1

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

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

The Ministry Information Forms for these opportunities are posted on the Church Leadership Connection web site --
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
4055 Abbott Drive
Willmar MN 56201