The Valley Bridge
The weekly newsletter from the
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
March 28, 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)
Congregation of the week of April 1-7
Zion Presbyterian Church of Ellsworth
Session Members: Twyla Schilling (Clerk of Session), Lance Becker, Mary Boom, Delores Boomgaarden, Stacey Roemen, Brian Wiertzema
Financial Secretary: Becca Dreesen
Treasurer: Michelle DeBeer
Church Secretary: Darcey Groen
Bible Study Leader: Miles Birkett
Sunday School Leaders: Becca Dreesen and Angela Jonas
Youth Leaders: Tonya Zitzloff
Pastor: Rev. Paul Snyder
Prayer Concerns:
  • Families who have lost loved ones
  • Those battling cancer and dementia
  • Those healing from surgeries
  • Prayers for the Spirit's guidance as our sister church, Emmanuel Presbyterian Church will be worshiping together with First Presbyterian in Rushmore for June and July
Doubt that leads to faith is okay

"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

I imagine others have also said; I wish could have seen the resurrected Christ with my own eyes. So often I wonder about the experience of the first disciples. They lived with Jesus, they experienced his horrible death, and they experienced his powerful resurrection. Rehearsing the story, if you were there, what side you would have taken? Would you have taken the side of the believers or the side of those who saw the mighty demonstrations of heavenly power and yet could not believe? Believing requires that we are willing to give up certainty. Belief is living with the tension of what we know best and the possibility of something that can be. Believing is like closing one's eyes and leaping, not knowing where you will land. I would imagine this is the space the disciples were in before Jesus entered the room saying "peace be with you."

We are on the other side of the story ... and we know the outcome. Jesus does not allow the believers to wander in the wilderness of speculation. Jesus makes himself known. We see this in the invitation to Thomas to place his finger in the nail marks and his hand into the spear wound. Jesus does not challenge their ability to believe. Rather, he accepts that believing, at times, can be hard. What does it take for you to believe? What level of proof is necessary? Do you require a sign, a fleece of sorts? Thomas is called the twin for a reason. We are his twin ... people of doubt and faith.

It has been well said that a faith that does not doubt is a dead faith. The mark of great faith is a great and continuous struggle to get it, keep it, share it. The early church found power and comfort in the image of a doubt-riddled Jesus praying in the Gethsemane Garden for the cup to pass from him. One of the ancient church's legends teaches that doubt increases in power as saints of God increase in saintliness.
There is a healthy doubt that leads to faith and an unhealthy doubt that leads to greater unbelief. Healthy doubt acknowledges that we are growing daily in our understanding of the things of God. We do not have all the answers. Authentic faith confesses that religion is sometimes puzzling. I call this authentic because the pretense is removed and we admit we have questions. We still need a level of proof to believe that some things are possible ... spiritual renewal, church revitalization, forgiveness, trust, unity. Some say that church would be more appealing to non-believers if we preached more sermons about our doubts and struggles to understand life.  If session meetings began with a basic understanding that the problems that we are facing require adaptive approaches that begin with discovery, we could do more ministry.

Doubt has its place, unless it does not move us forward. Immanuel Kant warned that doubt is a place of rest, not a place of residence. Doubt calls us to action, not just to agitation. There is a difference between doubting and disenchantment, between wrestling with faith and flinging faith to the winds. Some years ago, I invited a session to think theologically about the resurrection and what it might say about the future of the congregation. Here are some of the things they affirmed:
  • The future is open. Not decided ... we can be part of changing the future.
  • Each moment is filled with possibility and novelty ... unique, never entirely determined by the past.
  • Each moment, and life itself, emerges from its environment and contributes to its environment and is a web or fabric of relatedness.
  • God is present in each moment, providing possibilities, restlessness, and energy ... as well as a sense of trustworthiness.
  • God's power is relational, not unilateral, and calls us to partnership in creating the future.
  • Our vocation, wherever we find ourselves, is to bless the world. To claim our place in mending and healing the world.
I believe we can live out these principles by admitting that we are people of both doubt and faith. The doubt is to admit we only have a partial view of God's vision for the church's future. Faith here is in our affirmation that we are committed to the journey ahead knowing that we are being led to something good. We affirm today that church is not what it used to be. What individuals seek from the church is not more programs but rather experiential faith ... the type of faith that removes doubt and assists individuals in answering the big questions in life. We affirm that much of faith is a mystery. Even so, we, like Paul, want "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death." (Phil. 3:10).

As we walk this Holy Week from Jerusalem to Golgotha, we learn that there is a cycle to the Gospel. I pray that your faith will grow stronger. This unbelievable story is the foundation of our faith. We are miracle people. We believe all things are possible for those who believe. We understand that the worst that life can offer is not the determining factor of what can be.

May each of your Holy Week services reach deeply into the souls of those who gather. May Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit embolden pastors to preach the old old story. As families gather at table, may relationships be renewed and individuals reclaim the importance of living by faith.

Let it be so,
Book Discussion rescheduled for April 11

SanDawna is inviting us to read The Pleasure of God: Finding Grace in the Ordinary by J. Ellsworth Kalas. A book discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, April 11 at 1:00 p.m. by Zoom. Readers, let Karen ( know your email address, and she will email out a link to the scheduled Zoom discussion. If you are new to Zoom and would like to practice getting on a Zoom conference, Karen can set up a practice for you, just let her know.
What is transformation? Can you define transformation in 20 words or less?
Please take a moment and answer this question as creatively as possible. All out-of-the-box thinking is welcome. Your responses will be posted on the presbytery's website and used at the upcoming Transformation Training.
Transformation 2018 Ministry Event
Location: First Presbyterian Church, St. Cloud, Minnesota
April 5-7, 2018

Please register TODAY! Hotels are filling fast due to a hockey tournament in Saint Cloud, so make your lodging reservations now. You may choose to let  Karen know your attendance plans by email, and send your $60 to the presbytery office (4055 Abbott Drive, Willmar MN 56201).
Info needed:
City/State/Zip Code
Email Address
Special needs, including dietary
Workshop Choices for
Thursday Afternoon
Thursday Evening
Friday Morning
Friday Afternoon 1
Friday Afternoon 2

The cost for registration is $60, which includes lunch on Thursday and Friday, dinner on Thursday and breakfast on Saturday -- a fantastic deal! Pastors are asked to bring a group of folks from their congregation.

Minnesota Valleys Presbytery is partnering with Midwest Initiative for Leading Transition to host a two and half day transformation training event. The event is designed for congregation teams and will focus on the complexity of leading churches through a transformation process. The faculty will address the misconceptions of the one size fits most concepts of church growth strategies. Trained in building the capacities of leaders to enter systems, coach change and resourcing various congregational systems this event will assist participants in retooling for ministry in the 21st century.

Participants can expect to return home with a greater understanding of:
  • Leading change in the 21st Century Church
  • Working within systems
  • Cultural and systemic challenges to ministry today
  • Transformation models
  • Vocational Discernment
  • Visioning for the future
Call to Prayer

On May 3rd at Noon our nation will pause to observe The National Day of Prayer. The tradition goes back to 1952 when President Harry S. Truman signed the bill into law the joint resolution of the United States Congress. This year's theme is "Pray for America - Unity" based upon Ephesians 4:3 "Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Join the presbytery in a Zoom prayer gathering led by moderator Stan Menning. Zoom instructions will be posted closer to the date. Mark your calendars now to participate in this powerful time of intercession and thanksgiving.

Attention Clerks!
Since we have been snowed out twice, we have decided to have clerk training in June! Hopefully it won't be snowed out! :)  Clerk training will be held on Thursday, June 7 from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. at the presbytery office. Lynn Olson, clerk extraordinaire, will lead training; and following the training we will have the annual record review.  I'm excited about all the clerks coming together in one place for training, record review and fellowship. I hope that most of you will be able to make this work. If you have questions/concerns, please contact Stated Clerk Pam Prouty.
Grants Available from FPC Madelia

The Mission Redevelopment Committee of First Presbyterian Church, Madelia is seeking applications to receive grants. Qualifying projects may include:
  • Development, formation, or redevelopment of Presbyterian churches
  • Evangelism or recruitment of new members
  • New building construction
  • Renovations or capital improvements
  • Presbyterian sponsored mission projects
A written letter of application describing the project and the amount of grant being requested should be submitted to the Mission Redevelopment Committee and postmarked by May 1, 2018. Grants will be selected and distributed by May 31, 2018.
Mission Redevelopment Committee
PO Box 156
Madelia MN 56062
Thank you from Gerson Obed Cárcamo de León
Scholarship recipient,  Occidente Presbytery 2017

San Felipe, Retalhuleu
December, 2017
Brethren, my desire for you is that God blesses you very richly.

Just to let you know, I am doing well now through the grace of God, though in October they operated on my right tear duct. Thanks to God, all is well now.

I would like to share with you that I did well in my studies this year. In 2018 I will be in the first year of high school.

Thank you very much for the economic help that you are sending me. It is very valuable for me as it is used for my studies as far as it goes. With it, my parents buy me what I need for school.

May God repay you for this help.

Good-bye. See you soon.
Gerson Obed Cárcamo de León

Note: The report from Gerson's school indicates that he did pass all of his subjects in 2017.
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.

DiscipleshipAnne Veldhuisen,, 507-215-5617
Evangelism: Randy Knuth,, 712-540-8243
Evangelism :  Darlene Scherbing,, 320-292-2610
Mission: Richard Lawrence, , 320-260-9639
Mission: Kathy Terpstra,, 320-815-8158
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:

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

Randall Presbyterian Church, Randall
- Pastor
   Ministry Information Form - 03892.AC1

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

The Ministry Information Forms for these opportunities are posted on the Church Leadership Connection web site --
National Call-In Day for Refugees
  Call Your Members of Congress Today!
TELL CONGRESS to Hold the Administration Accountable to Resettling at Least 45,000 Refugees in FY 2018
Background:  We live in a time with an unprecedented 65 million people displaced around the world, including 22.5 million refugees - the highest number in recorded history. With global need at its highest, the Trump administration has reversed our nation's history as a world leader in refugee protection and resettlement, setting an all-time low refugee admissions goal for fiscal year 2018 at 45,000. What's worse, the administration is only on track to resettle 20,000 refugees this year, not even meeting their own goal.

By March 31st, the halfway point for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, the administration will have resettled less than 10,000 refugees. This amounts to a broken promise to tens of thousands of refugees who face the most rigorous security vetting and medical screening process of any traveler to the United States. Resettlement is reserved only for refugees who cannot return to their home countries or rebuild their lives in the country where they first fled. While families remain separated and refugees wait - at times in very unsafe conditions - the administration has imposed a series of bans to dismantle the refugee resettlement program. We have a moral responsibility to hold the administration accountable to resettling at least 45,000 refugees this fiscal year, and to urge them to set the admissions goal for FY19 for at least 75,000.
TELL CONGRESS to Hold the Administration Accountable to Resettling at Least 45,000 Refugees in FY 2018
Click Here  or Call (866) 961-4293*
*Please call 3 times to connect with your Representative and both of your Senators

Sample Script : "I'm your constituent from [CITY/TOWN], and I urge you to support the U.S. refugee resettlement program. I strongly oppose President Trump's all-time low cap on refugee admissions, as well as his continued Muslim and refugee bans. I urge you to do everything in your power to see that the administration resettle at least the 45,000 refugees they have set as the cap for 2018 and urge the administration to commit to resettling at least 75,000 in 2019. Resettlement is a core American legacy that allows refugees to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. My community welcomes refugees, and I urge you to reflect the best of our nation by supporting the refugee resettlement program."
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