The Valley Bridge
The weekly newsletter from the
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
July 13, 2016
 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 July 17-23
First Presbyterian Church of Rushmore

Elders: Arla Engelkes, Vicki Groenewold, Brenda Krull and Eunice Ailts
Deacons: Gary Ailts, Travis Ailts, Charlotte Dammer, Corrine Hausman, Dennis Frazier and Gary Wagley
Clerk of session: Eunice Ailts
Church Treasurer: Brenda Krull

Prayer Concerns:
  • Pray for families that are mourning the loss of loved ones.
  • Pray for healing for those fighting diseases and health issues.
  • Pray for elderly that are home-bound or in nursing homes
  • Thank God for a great Vacation Bible School again this year.
The Word from Rick: Searching for the Words

Here it is nearly a week after the tragic events that took place last week in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas. Like many of you all, I find that I continue to struggle with my feelings and emotions not only in relationship to what happened in those places last week, but the myriad of events over the years and decades that led up to last week's events. As I reflect on what has taken place, I cannot shake the feeling that we are living life under a large ever-intensifying cloud - a cloud that just will not dissipate.
As the leader of this presbytery, I know that I have a responsibility to say something in response to the tragedies of last week - that is what my Presbytery Leaders Formation Program faculty members told me on more than one occasion. I also know it, because my Facebook page and e-mail inbox have been flooded with letters, articles, and editorials. It seems that every leader of a major religious body in the United States, including our own Stated Clerk and Co-Moderators, has issued their thoughts and reflections on these events, and I commend them on their quick, sometimes articulate and passionate responses. But what do you say when the words just won't come?
For several days now, I have struggled with what to say. I have been prayerfully turning all of this over in my heart and mind, seeking to discern what it is that I should share with you, wanting to offer words of hope, encouragement, and faith. I have wanted to be sure that what I had to say was honest and not trite.  Like many of you, I am frustrated and angry, terribly upset by the unnecessary and tragic loss of lives. I find myself asking that same question that our biblical ancestors asked, "how long, O Lord?"
As we have seen on many occasions, words have great power and are capable of challenging the very best in us or stirring passions and feelings that are capable of great destruction. In times like these, the right words need to be spoken, and that has become so difficult in such a divided world. It seems that any word we speak in support of one individual, group, issue, or idea means that we are automatically standing in opposition to another individual, group, issue, or idea. Because of the significant lack of trust and understanding as well as an overwhelming sense of fear in our society today, every word that we say and every action that we take automatically labels us as being on "one side" or "the other." There is precious little patience and too great of an unwillingness to listen, much less to understand.
I believe that somehow it has to be possible for people holding diverse thoughts, opinions, theologies, and world-views, to find some common ground and work together for the well-being of the whole. I have to hold onto the belief that there is a significant movement of people, not only in this country, but also throughout this world, that believe that there is hope. I also believe that it is time for us to stop talking and start acting - not in some token gestures, but in ways that are a living witness and testimony to what we believe as followers of Jesus Christ.
I think that the four final words spoken by Jesus in Sunday's Gospel lesson are so very instructive - good reminders of our responsibilities in this world. He said to the teacher of the law, "Go and do likewise." We dare not pass by the hurts, the pains, the frustrations, and the challenges of life - all of life. We need to invest ourselves in the sacred obligation of bringing healing and wholeness to the world around us.
As individuals, we may not be able to change the whole world, but we have the power to begin to effect change in the sphere in which we live. Our words and our prayers are a necessary and significant first step on the journey, but our words tend to be more effective when supported by meaningful actions. The apostle John wrote these words . . . "Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him." (I John 3:18-19)
In the midst of a world in which it seems that the wheels have come off, may we not only remember what lies at the heart of our faith, but may we put it into practice in everything that we think, do, and say.
"Blessed are the peacemakers . . ."

Grace and Peace,

Another Word from Rick: Scenes from the Road

This past weekend was for me a busy, high energy weekend. This was my last weekend on the road around the presbytery before heading off to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium and then on to Synod School.
The weekend began with a trip to Worthington, where it was a joy to celebrate with the Anuak community as we celebrated Owar Ojulu's ordination on Saturday afternoon. Owar became the first Anuak pastor ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The ordination service included music from an African choir. Teaching Elder Jim Krapf preached the sermon and Teaching Elder Bonnie Sue Roys charged the new pastor. I had the privilege of offering a charge to Owar's congregation - Hope Christian Ministry, the presbytery, Westminster Church, and the Worthington community. I also had the privilege of introducing Owar's coach, the Teaching Elder Sam Atiemo, of the Presbytery of New York City. Our Synod Executive, Ruling Elder Elona Street Stewart, represented our synod. It was a wonderful celebration.
Following the worship celebration, there was a feast provided by the people of the Hope community. Unfortunately, Sue and I had to pass on the goodies, due to another commitment in the center of the presbytery.

Owar Ojulu
Jim Krapf preaching

The African Choir
Rick, Owar and Owar's coach, Sam Atiemo

On Saturday evening, we spent a spirited time in worship and fellowship with an ecumenical group of saints at the Old Log Church near Norway Lake. The Norway Lake Historical Society conducts weekly Vespers in the old church during the summer. Ruling Elder Earl Knutson of Willmar is president of the association. For a couple of summers now, he has wanted to get me to the Old Log Church, as well as to see the Knutson cabin where his great-grandparents lived. It was a delightful evening out on the prairie.
The Old Log Church
Earl Knutson showing Sue Carus some old headstones that they found on the site
The Knutson cabin

On Sunday morning, I was the guest preacher at the Randall Presbyterian Church. It seemed that the parable of the Good Samaritan was a timely message for the day. The congregation and I had a chance to reflect together and as we parted, there was a hopeful spirit among us all. This was my second visit to Randall. Keep them in your prayers as they go through a pastoral transition and seek to discern what God has in mind for their future!
Well, next week at this time, I will be fully engaged in the Youth Triennium - my 12th journey to this awesome event. In two weeks, it will be Synod School. Vacation is yet to come!
Blessings, y'all -

On the Road with Rick
July 12-13 - Lay Ac ademy Strategy Meeting, Lakeshore Center on Okoboji, Iowa
July 16-23 - Presbyterian Youth Triennium, West Lafayette, Indiana
July 24-29 - Synod School, Storm Lake, Iowa
July 31 - Preach at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Renville
August 7 - Preach at First Presbyterian Church, Randall
August 9 - Presbytery Meeting at Browns Valley
August 14 - Morning Worship at Cambria and Madelia Presbyterian Churches
August 21 - Preach at First Presbyterian Church, Willmar
Around the Presbytery

The Faith Formation Team at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Crystal is implementing PACE (Programs for Adult Christian Education) beginning Sunday, September 11 during Sunday School time. PACE will offer a wide range of programs of interest to all adults which will enlighten, encourage, empower, educate, enlarge our vision beyond the walls of our church, and expand our vision! Ideas include stories from community leaders, persons involved with other faiths, persons from the wider area with interesting, funny, heartwarming, or heartbreaking stories of life and faith. Near Veteran's Day, a panel of Vets from the area talk about their experiences, what patriotism means to them. Music: musicians sharing music and perhaps talking. Presentations by persons who have been on mission trips, history-based trips, trips to the Holy Land. Informational programs on travel opportunities, health and wellness, organic farming, the food shelf. Presentations about other cultures.

Owar Ojulu (middle) was ordained on Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Worthington. Here is the 
article in Worthington's paper, The Daily Globe. (Rick's article is above.)

Memorial Service set for 
Ruth Reid

There will be a Memorial Service for Ruth Reid, wife of Rev. Charlie Reid, on Sunday, July 31st at 2:30 p.m. at The First Presbyterian Church, Windom. Please keep Charlie and his family in your prayers.  Link to her obituary

Cards may be sent to:
Rev Charles Reid
782 Des Moines Dr
Windom MN 56101-1605

What's Next for Our YAV (Young Adult Volunter) 
Mindy Vande Brake

Well it's now July and I have a little less than a month left of my YAV year in New Orleans. I can't believe how fast this this year has gone. It feels like yesterday I was getting off that plane from orientation last August.

Well as usual I'm quite the procrastinator, so of course it took me to almost the end of my year to get my plans together! So here it is, I have been accepted back in the the YAV program for a second year. I will be serving in New York this time though! Yep, that's right-- from the Big Easy to the Big Apple!

So I'm a little (OK, a lot) nervous for my next steps, but I know I will muster up the courage. I also know that God will be walking with me too. So we will have to see if this small town girl can take on the big city of New York.

I am very excited that I do get to go home for at least a little bit in between my years of service. So if you want to catch up and hear a little more about my YAV experience, I will be back in Minnesota for almost the whole month of August. So feel free to hit me up!

Be the Light: Go Disciple Live Conference

Scholarships available from the Commission on Congregational Transformation and Development!

Board of Pensions Update

Edward Thompson, our current Board of Pensions Regional Representative, is coming to Minnesota Valleys in August. It will most likely be Edward's last visit to our area, as the board's regions are being reshaped. Later this fall, Kenneth Green will become our representative. Hopefully, he will get a chance to see us, perhaps even before the year is out!
Edward's visit will have three public portions to it, as follows:
  • Monday, August 8 - 11:00 a.m. -- Lunch and conversation with Retired Pastors and Spouses at the Green Mill in Willmar. All retired pastors should have received an invitation from the Board and RSVPs are requested. If you did not get an invitation, please contact the presbytery office!
  • Monday, August 8 - 3:00 p.m. - The 2017 Benefits Plan: Changes and Updates. There are some changes and transitional provisions coming within the Benefits Plan for 2017, and in a short report to the presbytery meeting, Edward may not have enough time to be fair to this. Pastors, church treasurers, session members, and other interested folks are invited to come to the Presbytery Office in Willmar for an unhurried conversation with Edward.
  • Tuesday, August 9 - Presbytery Meeting in Browns Valley - Edward will share news and information with the presbytery. He will also be able to chat with interested individuals.
An overview to the 2017 Benefits Plan can be found on line at the Board of Pensions web site --
Take time before August 8-9 to check it out!
Ministry Opportunities

The First Presbyterian Church Osakis is continuing its search for a Pastor to lead them as they live out the visions that have been generated by their New Beginning conversations. If you, or someone you know, has a passion for small towns and energetic small-member congregations, please encourage consideration of this opportunity!  The Ministry Information Form for this opportunity is posted on the Church Leadership Connection web site. It is MIF#: 03890.AC0. For more information, please contact PNC Chairperson, Shari Maloney, at 320.859.3098 or by e-mail - .
Camp/Synod School Scholarships Available

The Commission on Transformation and Development wants to be sure that you are aware that there are scholarships available for camps and synod school. Churches may request $75 per camper. Scholarships for $100/person are also available for Synod School.

Scholarships are also available for individuals interested in attending PC(USA)-sponsored conferences or events.

A Ken Stinson Grant is available for churches interested in sponsoring seminars or workshops pertaining to substance abuse/health.

Application is very simple. Just go to the Presbytery web page. Click on Resources. In the drop box, click on forms. Scroll down until you find Loans, Grants, Scholarships. Then click on Scholarship Application Form. Fill it out and submit it to the Presbytery office.

Camp and Synod School forms are usually approved the same day. Other scholarships will be considered at the next monthly meeting.

Planning Ahead

During the week of July 24-29, Rick Carus and Karen Lange, as well as Stated Clerk Pam Prouty, will be attending Synod School in Storm Lake, Iowa. This will be a vacation week for Karen and she will be unavailable during this time. Pam is on the Synod School Planning Team and Rick will be using this time as study leave, but also plans to do some work!
During this time, the Willmar office of the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys will be closed, but Rick will have an off-site presbytery office in Storm Lake, Monday, July 25 through Thursday, July 28 from 11:00 a.m. through 12:45 p.m. each day. We will also have a volunteer at the office daily from 10:30-11:30 a.m. This volunteer will check the mail and voice messages, answer any calls that come in during that time, and have a daily check in call with Rick, so that nothing gets lost during the week.
We hope that this arrangement will be helpful in keeping touch with, and serving our presbytery, while our staff and Stated Clerk are sharing in our of our synod's most significant ministries.
Better Together: Packing Food and Building Community

On  July 28th, at Apollo High School , a coalition of local faith-based and community organizations plans to package over  200,000 meals for local charities, food shelves and disabled veterans' support organizations. Online sign ups to serve at this event will begin in late June. In the meantime, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help purchase food packaging supplies. Financial contributions can be sent directly to  United Way of Central Minnesota at  3001 Clearwater Road, Suite 201, St. Cloud, MN 56301.   Please denote the gift is for the BETTER TOGETHER event! Congregations and individuals may also give online at . We will also accept gifts on the day of the event. Thank you for your prayers and support.
Useful Link for Church Treasurers: 
Presbytery Sign In Place

Thanks today goes to Chuck & Virginia Molitor, Al Jergenson and Richard Lange!

Log on to the New Benefits Connect Today
Beginning today, the new Benefits Connect is live -- and it's your one-stop shop for everything related to your benefits. With the new site, you can view contact and benefits information, search resources for additional information, and contact the Board -- all online.

Log on to the new Benefits Connect to
  • change password or register for the first time;
  • view contact and dependent information;
  • view service information;
  • view benefits coverage;
  • view beneficiaries (for death benefits);
  • estimate pension benefits at retirement;
  • print a letter verifying your pension amount (retired members only); and
  • access additional resources and support.
Paper Forms Needed During Transition
Our goal is to provide you with the ability to complete nearly all requests quickly and easily online through Benefits Connect. Through 2016, we will be working to reach our goal! Until then, paper forms will be needed for the following requests between now and January 2017:
  • Change contact, dependent, or beneficiary information.
  • Change direct deposit or federal tax withholding information (for retirees only).
  • Enroll for dental coverage or apply for supplemental death benefits coverage (when first eligible or after a qualifying life event).
For additional help, you can always call 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN); Member Services will continue to provide high level quality service and respond to questions and concerns.
Transformed Service Delivery: Serving More. Serving Better. Serving the Church.
The new Benefits Connect is the result of months of thoughtful design, development, and enhancement of processes and technology that support the Board's service. Experience first-hand the meaning of transformed service delivery. Log on to the new Benefits Connect today!
Questions about the Benefits Plan, your benefits, or payments?
  • Log on to Benefits Connect and check the Resources box on each page for more information.
  • Still have a question? Go to Resources & Support and submit a question online. A service representative will reply.
  • Call 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN).
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