The Valley Bridge
The weekly newsletter from the
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
November 23, 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 November 27 - December 3
First Presbyterian Church of Brainerd

Leadership List:
  • Mark Ford, Pastor
  • Lynn Olson, Clerk of Session
  • Richard Dosh, Sexton
  • Martha Look, Office Support
Prayer Requests:
  • We are currently in discussion with the local family shelter to use the former Sunday School rooms for their day center.
  • Prayers are needed for our aging membership.
  • Prayers for the newly elected Elders and Deacons, that they would be wise and compassionate leaders.
  • Prayers for the recent national election.
  • Prayers for the upcoming Advent and Christmas preparations that what we do as a church will be a blessing to our members and our community.
Mission giving is still a priority for the church and its members, even with the limited resources. 
The Word from Rick 

As I write these words, I am looking at the calendar which says, Tuesday, November 22. My calendar is reminding me that we are two days away from Thanksgiving and that the Season of Advent is around the corner. Unfortunately, it also reminds me of where I was and what I was doing fifty-three years ago today.
I was in Ninth Grade English class in the basement of Lane Junior High School in West Allis, Wisconsin, when we got the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I knew that something bad had happened when the school counselor called our teacher out into the hall. When he returned, his usual toothy grin was replaced by a painfully serious expression, one that we had never seen. He stood in the middle of the class and shared the tragic news. He said something to the effect - "I don't know what you think about President Kennedy and that's not important. Right now, his family and our country need our prayers, and that's what's important." With that, he walked to his desk and sat down. The rest of the hour was stone cold silence . . . some of the kids just stared at the front of the room and other heads were bowed; I am certain that prayers were being offered. When the bell rang, no one moved, until our teacher went to the door, opened it, and said, "It'll be okay!"
"It'll be okay" - it wasn't much and neither was it profound, but those words went with me as I walked from that classroom into a hallway of stunned students. I trusted that my teacher knew something that I didn't at the time. It was all we had, and I was willing to give it a chance.
The fact is that nothing ever will be perfect, and sometimes the best we can hope for is that it will be okay. In this very diverse and highly opinionated world in which we live, we won't always get things to turn out our way, but somehow, things will turn out okay more often than not, and I can live with that. As we look forward, the key to life for all of us is to believe that "It'll be okay" - not because our leaders say so, but because God says so. Right now, all of our leaders, all of this nation's and the world's people, all of us need each others' prayers, as well as our best efforts to make it so; and that is what's important. That's what brings me, finally, back around to Thanksgiving and Advent.
Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. It is a starting point. It is my sincere hope and prayer that we all can enjoy the blessings of family, friends, and football, along with the feasting that so defines this day in our nation. I know that in some families and communities that may be more easily said than done because of the emotional ride that we all have been through over the past several months, but there must be a starting point. It is time for us to move forward together. I encourage us to remember where our sense of unity and community begins -- the One from whom all our blessings flow. May we turn aside from what fractures us and call upon the One that heals us. May we give abundant thanks for our Creator's gracious gifts to all of humanity, beginning with the gift of life and the undeniable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are a blessed people and it is important to live as blessed people!
Sunday is the beginning of Advent. On that day, we begin a journey to follow that brightest of stars that leads us to an amazing discovery in Bethlehem. The adventure of Advent leads each one of us to find Emmanuel, Jesus the Christ. Jesus fulfills God's promise to God's people and brings hope in the midst of our uncertainties. Jesus is the one whom God sends to assure us that "it'll be okay." I know that Advent is a busy time, but I pray that each person in every congregation will find time each day during the Advent season to reflect, pray, and to embrace the reality of Jesus Christ. Light a candle of hope; find a daily devotion for yourself and/or your family; pray for God's Peace to reign throughout all of creation!
Happy Thanksgiving and may you have a blessed Advent journey.

Grace and Peace,
On the Road with Rick
November 28 - "Hanging of the Greens" - Presbytery Office
December 4 - Preach at First Presbyterian Church, Blue Earth
December 4-10 - Winter All Staff Conference, Mercy Center, Burlingame, California
December 18 - Preach at First Presbyterian Church, Brainerd
December 24 - Christmas Eve Worship at First Presbyterian Church, Fulda
January 21 - Presbytery Orientation and Organization Gathering, First Presbyterian Church, Willmar
January 24-31 - Association of Presbyterian Church Educators Annual Event, Denver
February 4 - Presbytery Meeting, First Presbyterian Church, Saint Cloud
Occidente Prayer Partner?

Would you/your church like to participate directly in the partnership the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys has with Occidente Presbytery in Guatemala? There are 20 churches in the newly defined Occidente Presbytery and 14 of them are interested in having an MVP prayer partner. So far, nine of our churches have said they'd like to join in this venture. We need, therefore, to have five more. (It would be embarrassing to not be able to match their number....)

We ask that once a month up to five prayer requests be submitted from your congregation to your matched partner in Occidente. And once a month, you should be receiving up to five prayer requests from them. Have your elders make up a list as part of each session meeting. The requests you receive from your prayer partner can be shared in worship, with prayer chains, at session or other meetings. It will be your responsibility to arrange for translations. This could be an opportunity to reach out to Hispanic members of your church or community; check with students who are studying Spanish and/or their teacher.

We would like you to send photos of your church and members involved in activities, directories, etc. to your prayer partner with the MVP group going to Guatemala in January. If you have any questions, contact Edith at:
Edith Alvarez
22030 Gull Lake Drive
Nisswa MN 56468-2650

Thank you for your consideration of this project. If interested, contact Edith as soon as possible and get materials sent by January 15, 2017.
Come "Hang Out" with Us!

Advent is just around the corner, and that means it is time for the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys annual "Hanging of the Greens" open house! People of the presbytery, especially those living close to Willmar are invited to stop by the presbytery office on Monday, November 28 any time after 10:00 a.m. to help Karen, Pam, and Rick decorate our presbytery home for the Advent and Christmas season.
There will be holiday goodies, music, and good humor, and for all those who stop by between 12:15 and 1:00 p.m., there will be lunch - chili with the appropriate accompaniments! It will be tasty!
So, come join us as we decorate for this holy season. If you plan to come for lunch, please let us know so that we don't run short - Rick has not mastered the art of multiplying the loaves and fish! Just give Karen a call at 320.235.7910. See you on November 28!
From Mindy Vande Brake, Our Young Adult Volunteer in New York

As part my my job at the United Nations I was asked to write for the PCUSA's Mission Yearbook for Human Rights Day (December 10). I figured I would share it you you all.   

Mission Yearbook - -  Since 1892, the Mission Yearbook has been the PC(USA)'s mission devotional, featuring inspiring stories of mission and ministry at home and around the world. Starting in 2016, the Mission Yearbook moved to digital-only format. Many Presbyterians use the Mission Yearbook as a guide for daily prayer.

Human rights are our most basic need.

Yet in every village, city, and nation across the globe
Countless numbers of people
Are denied their human rights.
How can we stand by and let this happen?
We need to declare rights for all men and women
Speak out for children
Encourage the freedom of religion
Advocate for the refugees and migrants
Lift up those in poverty
Erupt in support for LGBTQ
Stand in solidarity with people of every race
Elevate the need for quality education everywhere
Raise up the rights of the disabled
Promote justice for all.
It's our responsibility to preserve and protect
Human rights for everyone.

Mindy Vande Brake, YAV with the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN
Around the Presbytery

Maine Presbyterian Church of Underwood: Exciting things are happening with Maine Presbyterian Church in Underwood. During the months of October and November, patrons of Underwood Quik Stop Cafe get free coffee on Monday mornings. They get to use our new coffee mugs while enjoying their time with friends. To celebrate the beginning of the Advent Season, we will participate in the Perham Parade of Lights on November 25th. Members of the church will ride the float or walk while singing Christmas carols and throwing candy. It is a wonderful first of many special events in December.
A New Ministry Opportunity

The Randall Presbyterian Church, Randall, Minnesota is seeking a Pastor to lead them into the next chapter of their congregation's life. If you, or someone you know, has a passion for small towns and energetic small-member congregations, please encourage them to take a look at this opportunity!
The Ministry Information Form -- MIF#: 03892.AC. -- for this opportunity is posted on the Church Leadership Connection web site --
The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary is pleased to announce that we will be offering eight online courses for Commissioned Ruling Elders in our CLP/CRE lay ministry program, scheduled from January 30 to May 10, 2017. We would appreciate it if you would pass on this information within your presbytery/church and advertise it in your newsletter or other publications.
Introduction to Old Testament - Dr. Mark Hughes
Introduction to New Testament - Rev. Grant VanderVelden
Christian Education - Dr. Susan Forshey
Pastoral Care - Dr. Beth McCaw
Reformed Theology -  Dr. Gary Eller
Introduction to Preaching - Dr. Timothy Slemmons
Presbyterian Polity - Dr. Scott Nesbitt
Reformed Worship & Sacraments - Dr. Richard Shaffer
We would also ask you to encourage anyone you may know with gifts for ministry to consider applying to our lay ministry program.  Application and course information for our CLP/CRE program can be found at and then click on "CLP/CRE Info" in the "Welcome" box under the news feed.  I have also attached our CLP/CRE flier for additional information.  The current tuition rate is $390.00 per course.
As always, current students can register by going online at   or by contacting Carla Gibbons, Distance Education Coordinator ( or call 563-589-3630 / 1-888-207-8218), to pay by credit card or check. Feel free to contact Carla or me if you have any questions. In addition, please check our continuing education website at for upcoming spring events .
Six New Things

Synod Newsletter: November 22, 2016
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