The Valley Bridge
The weekly newsletter from the
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
January 24, 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 are 8:00 - 5:00 Monday - Friday
Congregation of the week of January 28 - February 3
First Presbyterian Church of Brainerd
Mark Ford, Pastor
Lynn Olson, Clerk of Session, Choir 
Dan Olson, Church Organist
Martha Look, Office Staff
First Presbyterian Church has welcomed New Pathways, a program for homeless family, into our facility. New Pathways has taken over the lower level Sunday school rooms, renovating one room to include shower, laundry and kitchenette facilities. We also host an AA group and are in discussion with other groups that may be able to use space within the building.
In cooperation with two Lutheran churches, we had our first meeting of Brewing Theology, meeting in one of the local brew pubs. Brewing Theology is a place where anyone can come together to discuss their spiritual life. Around 20 people attended the inaugural event.
Prayers for Pastor Mark, whose father recently died. Prayers for Vern Maxa and George Buchin, both honorably retired pastors.

We would also pray for good health for all in the congregation during this time of year. Prayers for our session retreat and for our annual congregational meeting that they might be a time of discernment to seek God's will for the church.
The Week of Christian Unity

Heads of Communion from the Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Minnesota Council of Churches gathered on January 21st at Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar in celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Deb Hess and I represented the presbytery in the service. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began in 1908 as the Octave of Christian Unity and focused on prayer. Today the Body of Christ around the globe stops to recognize our unity in Christ Jesus in January of each year. This year's theme focused on Your Right Hand, O Lord, Glorious in Power (Exodus 15:6).

The theme of power is an interesting subject for the Church universal. Power implies political and social authority. For years, the Church admittedly boasted about its capacity to influence government, shape norms, name "insiders and outsiders", and will loyalty. Today, the Church continues in this role in the lives of individuals and communities, however with less influence than in recent years. On Sunday, Bishop Jon Anderson preached about our shared power and our capacity to address injustice, poverty, and division. If a poll was taken on how each of the denominations gathered would address these common concerns, we could have potentially broken the very unity we gathered to represent. Nonetheless, the goal of the joint worship service was not to change each other's minds about our individual approaches to addressing societal illness. We gathered to acknowledge our interdependence upon the Spirit to bring us together as siblings of one Christian family...broken, wounded and redeemed. 

On a micro Christian level, let us grapple with what does it mean to be unified as members of the Body of Christ. First, it means we are members of the larger Christian community. I like to think of us as one part of the body which expresses its particular faith through the Reformed Tradition. Second, we are redeemed by the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Christ. Third, we are the called and sent out disciples of Christ Jesus commissioned to join in the ministry of proclaiming God's love and the year of the Lord's favor. As Presbyterians, the foundations of our polity reminds us that unity is a gift from God.

Unity is not the same as uniformity. Uniformity is same thinking and same acting.  Whereas, unity honors difference, often expressed in varying approaches, values, and understandings. It is much more difficult to stand with one another when these primary issues are at odds with one another. How do grace, love, and peace inform your understanding of unity? What does it mean to you to be reconciled to Christ and one another? Recently, I was reminded of an old joke, "we better start practicing Christian Unity down here or we are in for a big surprise up there." 

Our witness to the world is marked by how we live in relationship with one another.  I Peter 4:8 says "Love covers a multitude of sins."  As we fulfill the call to mutual forbearance, God will grant us the grace to stay in relationship in spite of hurt, misunderstandings and personal convictions.

Let us join in prayer:

Lord, you created us in your own image. Forgive us when we do not respect our nature and the world that you gave us.  Jesus, you invite us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Forgive us when we fail to be holy, to be people of integrity and to respect human rights and dignity.  Lord of life, of peace and of justice, forgive us when we transmit the culture of death, of war and of injustice, and fail to build a civilization of love.  Merciful God, fill us with your grace and holiness. Make us apostles of love wherever we go. This we pray through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Prayer Concern:

Please keep our former executive presbyter Rick Carus in prayer. He is being treated for pancreatitis at a rehab center:
Select Specialty Hospital
Room 201: Rick Carus
1111 West Kimberly Road
Davenport IA 52806

Cards or emails only for now, please no visitors.
Helpful Resources for committees and congregations:
Pilot Toolkit for Vital Congregations:
30 Years of Presbyterian Women Survey:
Revised Advisory Handbook for Preparation for Ministry
The new edition of the Advisory Handbook for Preparation for Ministry reflects amendments to the Book of Order approved by the presbyteries in 2017.

The Book of Order (PDF)

The Book of Confessions (PDF)
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.
2018 Presbytery Meetings

Saturday, February 3 at Hope Presbyterian Church of Spicer
Tuesday, May 22 at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church of Renville (tentative)
Tuesday, August 21 at First Presbyterian Church of Brainerd (tentative)
Saturday, November 3 at First Presbyterian Church of Dawson

Presbytery Packet, Part 1
Presbytery Packet, Part 2
Rules, Motions, Motion Form

Please let me know your attendance plans for the stated meeting in Spicer by Monday, January 29. Email
Owar travels with Central Baptist, Sioux Falls, to Ethiopia

Submitted by Peter Mann

Reverend Owar Ojulu was visiting one of his parishioners in a Sioux Falls hospital recently when the doctor suggested they pray. Now, as shown in this picture, Owar is boarding a flight to Ethiopia to serve as a guide and interpreter for Central Baptist church in Sioux Falls. The church was initiating a global outreach program in the fields of health and education for a village there.

We look forward to learning more about the trip and experience. No doubt Hope Christian Ministry in Worthington and the Baptist church may have some cultural exchanges in the months to come. Owar was able to secure time off from his weekday job as Nobles County Community Outreach worker.
2018 Lenten Devotional - Jesus and the Prophets - Order from the presbytery office now

There is a potent connection between Jesus and the prophets. The prophets communicated the word of God; Jesus is the Word of God. The prophets predicted the coming of the prince of peace; Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Not only did Jesus continue the prophetic ministry, he is the fulfillment of the prophetic mission.

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, PC(USA) pastor, board trustee for Union Presbyterian Seminary and director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., has assembled a collection of challenging daily reflections, Scripture and prayers to help us on our Lenten journey. The Lenten Devotional features oil paintings by Steven Burgess, an artist from upstate New York who is a member of First United Presbyterian Church in Salem, N.Y.

The 2018 Lenten Devotional is perfect for congregations, families and individuals.

If our presbytery's pre-order reaches 100 copies, your congregation's cost for these devotionals will be $2.25 per copy through the presbytery office. The deadline to order is Monday, January 29. Please call or email your order to Karen at the presbytery office: 320-235-7910 or .
Calling all Elders and Deacons!

On Saturday, February 24 from 10:00 - 3:00 p.m., officer training will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, Redwood Falls 235 East 4th Street). Deb DeMeester, Director of Leadership at the Synod of Lakes and Prairies will offer a keynote about leadership in 2018. Then after lunch clerks of sessions, deacons and ruling elders will have their own sessions led by Lynn Olson, Galen Smith and Pamela Prouty. Worship will also be part of the day. This training is for active and inactive church officers as well as anyone who wants to learn more about leadership in the local church.  Please RSVP to Karen Lange at the Presbytery office at, so lunch can be planned accordingly.
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 --
2018 Per Capita is $40.13

$27.00 for Presbytery
   5.40 for Synod
   7.73 for GA
$40.13 Total
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.
Washington Island Forum

The Washington Island Forum is a 40 year tradition and is sponsored by the Wisconsin Council of Churches and The Christian Century magazine. It is four and one half days of worship, workshops, discussion, and contemplation in an ecumenical retreat setting on Washington Island, just north of Door County Wisconsin. The week begins with a welcome and opening picnic Monday afternoon at Trinity Lutheran Church. Tuesday through Thursday enjoy morning prayer and workshop sessions at the Trueblood Performing Arts Center (TPAC) and optional afternoon discussion groups. Friday begins with a Eucharist, a final workshop and discussion, with departure at noon.

This year's presenter is Anna Carter Florence with the theme "Reading the Verbs: Finding the Script in the Scripture". She is Professor of Preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

In the past we have had participants from all four corners of the country and many places in between attend. More information can be found on our web site at:
We have a couple workshops coming up at United Theological Seminary with renowned playwright Christina Ham that might be of interest to your clergy and/or congregations. More information can be at the links below.
Six New Things
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