The Valley Bridge
The weekly newsletter from the
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
June 29, 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 3-9
First Presbyterian Church of Round Lake

Rulings Elders: Linda Koning, LeAnne Meyer, Jerry Wood, Wally Habben, Patty Habeck, Bob Woodman, Heidi Ruesch, Randy Ling, and Gordon Vogelaar.
Church Treasurers: Becky DeJong and LaRae Wood
Accompanists: Becky DeJong and Brenda Vogelaar
Ministers: The People of God
Church School Teachers: Lori Morrison, Jenny Bosma and Beth DeRoo
Concerned Christians Committee (Deacons): Sue Kruger, Sandy Sather and Jon Untiedt
Memorial Committee: Shirley Geertsema, LeAnne Meyer and Mary Ann Sather
125th Anniversary Committee:  Mary Ann Sather, Lori Morrison and Pam Wendland
Grounds Upkeep: Donna Watje
Teaching Elder: Rev. Bob Bartlett
Prayer Concerns:
Farmers having to repeatedly replant due to continued rainfall
Those awaiting or recovering from surgery, including transplants
Those undergoing treatments for chronic diseases and battling cancer
Those who are mourning the loss of loved ones
Newly baptized Brothers in Christ: Isaac Rehnelt and Conner Ashler and Sister in Christ: Tenley Olson
Newlyweds: Robyn Krollfeiffer and Kayla Bartlett and soon-to-be weds: Robby Armstrong and Bridgete Muller; Dr. Jessica Vogelaar and Creighton Olcott
Class of 2016
Children out of school for summer vacation
Men and Women serving in the U.S. Armed Services
Our young men serving in law enforcement
Victims of natural disasters and people initiated terror and violence
Future of our small towns and the congregations which seek to share the gospel of salvation and to serve them
The Word from Rick: A Few Reflections from Portland

It was definitely a very full, and at times overwhelming, week for the commissioners, advisory delegates, observers, and guests that travelled to Portland for the 222nd General Assembly. In addition to an incredibly full business agenda, there were countless "special" meal gatherings hosted by a variety of groups and ministries, exhibit hall and plenary presentations, mission tours, Bible studies, four special Worship Celebrations, and other events that filled the days and nights of the 2500 registered participants.
On Sunday night, as I settled into my seat on Alaska Airlines flight 28, I began to reflect on the week and the work that was accomplished by those who had been elected to serve the church in this important time in our life as a denomination. By now, many of you have read numerous articles from the various sources that have reported upon and critiqued -- and criticized -- the work of the General Assembly. On some issues, I am sure that you probably found more information than you really needed; on others, you undoubtedly have more questions. At our next presbytery meeting, our commissioners, alternates, and observers will do their best to help unpack a few more of the actions of the Assembly and what it all means for our congregations here in Minnesota Valleys.
For me, General Assembly has two sets of highlights -- those that happened in the Assembly Hall and those that were more personal and happened out on the edges of the Assembly -- on the light rail, in the Exhibit Hall, out around the region. This week, I will share the highlights from inside the Assembly Hall. They are in no particular order:
W  The election of our first ever Co-Moderators:
For the first time in our history, we have shared moderatorial leadership. The Reverends Denise Anderson of National Capital Presbytery and Jan Edmiston of Chicago Presbytery were overwhelming elected by the body on the first evening of the Assembly. During the week, they guided the body with warmth, grace, and humor. It is our hope that, in as much as our attempts to have the previous Vice-Moderator here fell short on two occasions, we will be at the top of the list and be able to welcome Co-Moderator Denise here just as soon as possible.
W  The election of a new Stated Clerk:
By a 4:1 margin, the Assembly elected the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson as Stated Clerk. Our own Scott Prouty was part of the team that interviewed thirteen applicants for this role in the life of our church, and I know that it was a most rewarding experience for Scott and his colleagues to see the culmination of their efforts.
My wife, Sue, and I first encountered J. Herbert over 20 years ago at the Montreat Youth Conferences. We were struck by his pastor's heart and his prophetic voice. He was, and is, a dynamic presence in the pulpit, and he will bring passion and energy to his office and to the life of our denominations.
W  A Revised Directory for Worship
After several years of work and comment, the Assembly received and approved a revision of this part of our Book of Order.  The Directory has been made more concise and user-friendly -- five chapters instead of seven. Probably one of the most significant changes that we will see is that the Directory presents us with a new flexibility to welcome unbaptized inquirers to the Lord's Table, as long as the invitation to be baptized is made clear to them.
Our own Andy Davis was part of the committee that recommended the Assembly's approval. The next step is that this action of the General Assembly will come to all of the presbyteries for action over the next year.
W  The Belhar Confession:
Many people have lifted this up as the top action of the General Assembly, and it is hard to offer much disagreement. It was significant that the final action regarding this confession took place in the same city where, fifty years earlier, The Confession of 1967 was approved.
In the celebration which followed the confirmation of Belhar, one of the authors of the confession, Theologian Allan Boesak of South Africa, addressed the assembly and said, "We may not know what tomorrow may bring, but I know this: tonight, we have overcome. I know this: because of Jesus, we shall overcome. I know this: whatever may come in our world, we shall overcome."
In response to those comments, the Assembly responded by spontaneously breaking into song, singing "We Shall Overcome."
W  Fossil Fuel Divestment:
This issue provided some contentious moments. Upholding our need to be good stewards of creation and the resources that we have as God's children, this issue had theological, environmental, and financial overtones. In some of the conversations leading up to the vote, I saw another side of some of my very good friends - as they passionately lifted up their concerns.
In the end, the Assembly rejected a call for an aggressive divestment of the church's stock market holdings in two hundred corporations that produce fossil fuels and instead chose to engage a strategy which keeps the church engaged in conversations related to climate change and the part the fossil fuels play in this chance. It was the hope of the commissioners that a less confrontational strategy might produce more faithful and effective long-term changes as we seek to both care for creation and make wise use of the church's financial resources.
Just an aside, don't talk about ethanol with your fossil fuel friends . . . or your engineer son, for that matter!
W  Middle-East Concerns
The Assembly approved an amended report, "Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace." This supports a two-state solution for the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine.
The Assembly refrained from moving beyond phased divestment from Hewlett-Packard (the position of the last Assembly) to an outright boycott, continuing to work with that corporation to encourage them to do less to support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas.
W  The Future of Synods
The past two General Assemblies sought to reduce the number of synods in our denomination from 16 to 12 or less, creating even larger regional councils. From the start, there never really has been a plan for how this would be accomplished, and over the past few years, many current synods have been exploring different models of shared ministry and collaboration. In our own synod, we have experienced some really significant interaction with our neighbors in the Synods of Mid America and Lincoln Trails, and the need to merge or reconfigure boundaries has not been a big concern. Encouraged by the work of the existing synods, this year's Assembly chose to rescind the actions of the previous assembly, and leave the current synod structure intact.
W  Déjà vu all over again - What's in a Name?
The General Assembly approved an overture that, if approved by the presbyteries, will return us to using the term "minister of the word and sacrament" as the title for those ordained to what we have been calling the ordered ministry of "teaching elder." Both terms will still be used, but "minister" will now be primary, as it has been through every other era of the church's history. Related to this, the title "ruling elder commissioned to limited pastoral service" (commonly called "commissioned ruling elder") will now be called simply "commissioned pastor."

W  And, Finally:
The General Assembly was asked to issue a formal apology to LGBTQ Christians who have been marginalized by past church teachings. After much significant conversation, the Assembly declined to use the word "apology" and instead chose to speak a word of "regret" to these brothers and sisters. The commissioners felt that this was an appropriate action to take, as they wanted to provide gracious space for those who are not in agreement with the church's tolerant stance on same-sex marriage, honoring their freedom of conscience.
W  And, Really Final:
A few quotes, and some stats from the week . . .
  • o    From Alice Ridgill (Pastor, New Faith Presbyterian, West Greenwood, SC) -
    • Regarding the Presbyterian Church (USA), she said, "We may be wounded, but we will not die. This is not the time to lose hope, but to keep hope alive."
    • Regarding our witness as the people of God, "What kind of footprint will we leave behind?"
  • o    From Jerry Andrews (Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, San Diego, CA) - Preaching from II Corinthians 5:16-6:2, he reminded the Assembly, "God reconciles, not the church."
    • "The command is not 'get along,' it is 'be righted'"
    • "Reconciliation is God's work; announcing it is ours."
  • o    Statistics about the 1001 New Worship Communities (NWC) - 344 have been established, and of the 344 . . .
    • 64% of the participants are under age 40
    • 53% of the participants are racial-ethnic
    • 78% of the participants are new to the PCUSA
    • 57% of the communities meet in non-traditional settings
    • 53% of the communities are led by ordained Teaching Elders
    • 71% of our presbyteries have at least 1 NWC - ours is the Hope Christian Ministry in Worthington
  • o    And finally, General Assembly Per Capita
    • For 2017 -- $7.00
    • For 2018 -- $7.73
It was quite a week in Portland. I am sure that I missed sharing a good deal of important information, and I guess that is why we send a team of folks to General Assembly. It takes many of us to paint the complete picture. Until next time,
Grace and Peace,

On the Road with Rick
July 1 -3 - Wedding in Lincoln, Nebraska
July 9 - The Ordination of Owar Ojulu, Worthington
July 9 - Participating in the Vesper Service at the Old Log Church (Norway Lake)
July 10 - Preach at First Presbyterian Church, Randall
July 12-13 - Lay Academy 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
You are most welcome to attend!

On Saturday,  July 9th  at 1:00 p.m., ther e will be a Service of Ordination and Installation for Owar Ojulu at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Worthington. Owar is pastor for the Hope Christian Ministry which serves the Anuak-speaking community in Worthington. It is one of the PCUSA's  1001 Worshipping Communities.  The service will include music from an African choir and will be followed by a time of fellowship with food from Ethiopia.
Be the Light: Go Disciple Live Conference

Scholarships available from the Commission on Congregational Transformation and Development!

Check This Out! A New Website for Presbyterian Mission

The Presbyterian Mission Agency has rolled out a brand new website - that seems to be more user friendly - and really works!
We encourage you to check it out and use it . . . OFTEN!! The address for this new website is
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 - .
First Presbyterian Church, Mankato  is beginning a search for a well-trained intentional Interim Pastor, who will guide the congregation through its pastoral transition.  The Ministry Information Form for this position - MIF# 03792.AD0 -- is on-line at   
Ministry Opportunity - St. Cloud, MN

Seeking part-time Children's Ministry Coordinator at First Presbyterian Church, St. Cloud, MN. This individual will coordinate the ministries related to children and their families. This will include Sunday School and other educational/relational programming to children and younger families. Work hours (+/- 15 hrs/week) may vary based on availability, the time of year, and/or seasonal demands. To learn more about our Congregation, or to view a full job description, please visit:
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.

Communion Set

Do you have a portable communion set you don't need anymore? Please contact Karen Lange at the presbytery office.

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.
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