The Valley Bridge

 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 December 1-7
Harrison Presbyterian Church of rural Spicer
Pastors: Galen and Marcia Sylvester
Clerk of Session: Dennis Peterson
Elders: Sandy Christianson, Alan Dietz, Arlyss Engelson, Jim Nelson, Kenneth Dahlberg
Prayer Concerns:
  • Prayers of thanks and gratitude for all farmers as they celebrate the completion of the harvest.
  • For all congregations currently seeking God’s guidance as they call a pastor to walk in ministry with them.
  • For all those who find themselves alone or lonely during the holiday season.
  • For the homebound and those living in care facilities or at home.
  • We pray for our longtime and ongoing ministry partners, Zion Irving Lutheran Church.

We continue to look for ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community, congregation and in the world. In partnership with Zion Irving we made 10 adult size fleece blankets for the Rice Hospital Cancer Center. Plans are to do children and infant sized blankets for those seeking aide at the The Link- a community ministry with a mission of "Creating a community where neighbors share the love of God through service to each other". Confirmation students held a collection of paper products and non-perishable food items this year. The Harrison Presbyterian Women just finished baking Christmas cookies for homebound members and neighbors.

The congregations of Harrison and Zion worked jointly to create wooden crosses and symbols of the cross during Lent and Advent Manger and Stocking Devotion kits as they continue to grow in faith.

The Harrison session is currently exploring congregational identity and mission using Peter Steinke’s book Preparing Your Congregation for a New Day . This year long process will seek to discern what God is doing and what God wants to do in our congregation and community.
Happy Holy Conversations and Holy Eating
The holidays are special in our house. Meals are prepared with care, and the more people around the table, the happier we are. My family is large, and from childhood, the holidays were celebrated with grateful hearts and full stomachs. Over the years, Thanksgiving has evolved as I have learned more about the stories of First People. Today, I share with you an expert from the NPR radio show, On Being (Speaking of Faith).

“I am of Native American ancestry; I am a storyteller and dancer. There is an ancient belief held by many First Nations people in which the act of taking and eating food is a kind of covenant between two beings. There is a transmutation that takes place when the act of eating is done consciously and spiritually, a recognition that one form of life gives itself to another as an act of the most basic form of communion. What is eaten is reborn as the flesh of another. Many Native hunters are mindful of this sacred relationship and thank the animal they kill for giving its life so that they may feed their families. Prayers are said to thank the plants for providing food for us. There is an acknowledgment of the circle, the most basic symbol of native spirituality. The grasses grow, and the hooved ones eat. We take a hooved one, and we eat; we die, and our bodies return to the soil, and so the circle is completed and goes on.”

Eating together is a spiritual act. When people come together, and stories are told, Christ sits among us. A meal prepared in love is gift enough. Seeing relatives and friends restores the soul. Holidays are times to give thanks and remember. For some, the holiday will be a reminder of loved ones that have gone on. The empty chair will be a reminder that our special someone is no longer with us. We extend special prayers to those who continue to grieve the death of a loved one. May you find the comfort of Christ this holiday season. Celtic Christians believed to find God in the ordinary events of life, love, eating, working, playing. also to perceive that time and place do not separate us from what we ordinarily do not see and sense. The ancient Celts believed t hat the other world was always close to us and became apparent in the “thin times” and “thin places” in which the veil that usually obscured them was lifted. We call this the invisible church.

As you gather at table, make time to share the good news of God’s presence and intervention in your life. The best way to give thanks is to recall the actions of God. Often in Scripture, we are reminded not to forget God. Do not forget God when troubles end. Always remember to give thanks because God is our provider. In God, we live move and have our very being.

Prayers for a wonderful holiday!

Grace and Peace,
Minnesota Valleys Presbytery office will be closed for Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 28 and Friday, November 29.
Upcoming Webinar
Join the next webinar zoom on Monday, December 16, at 1:00 p.m. with Gerald Liu for part two of Preaching in Times of Transition, with a Focus on Advent
Gerald C. Liu is assistant professor of worship and preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his BA in Music at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, his Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (during which time he was also a theological fellow at Georg-August Universität in Göttingen, Germany), and his PhD from Vanderbilt University with a concentration in homiletics and liturgics. He has previously served as a British Methodist Minister in Nottingham, England before becoming ordained in the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church. Currently he volunteers as a minister in residence at Church of the Village, a United Methodist congregation in Manhattan. His classes and publications explore curiosities about the arts as theological resources and phenomena, Asian American identity, multicultural worship, and the production of believable public Christian witness.

Join Rev. Liu in a discussion about how the biblical canon can shape weekly preaching into an arc of messages rooted in the ever-expanding call to new identities in Christ, adaptive living, and welcoming all people for the glory of God.

Contact Karen Lange to register.
Committee on Representation wants you to help us be the best presbytery we can be!

We have been busy these last few weeks finding folks to serve the presbytery on several commissions, and we are still looking for:

Commission on Presbytery Life
1 ruling elder to serve a one-year term

Committee on Congregational Nurture
1 ruling elder to serve a three-year term
1 ruling elder to serve a one-year term

General Assembly
1 ruling elder to serve as an alternate

Please, if you feel called, or know of someone who would be great on one of these commissions, contact Audrey Knuth at 507-830-0520 or David Lick at 414-334-9385.
Prayer List

  • For the family of Marie Fischer, Crosslake Presbyterian Church
  • For the family of Sara McKay, Union Presbyterian Church of Saint Peter
  • For Rev. Michael Roys, pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Winnebago
  • For Rev. Elaine and Kent Boyd at First Presbyterian Church of Amboy
  • Sue Thompson, Clerk of Session at First Presbyterian Church, Maynard
  • Rev. Araceli Itzep from the Occidente Presbytery; surgery scheduled for Oct 23
  • For Beatriz (Betty/Beti) Cifuentes, the treasurer of the Partnership Committee, who is beginning chemotherapy.
  • For the "Men in the Mirror" program. Men from Occidente that MVP supported financially to attend the classes a couple of years ago are going to share the information they gained with different churches in the eastern and central parts of Guatemala. They, along with the chaplains of the national Presbyterian church, will also be training Christian policemen in what they learned from "Men in the Mirror."
Leadership Training for Elders, Deacons, and those serving on Presbytery Commissions

On Saturday January 11, 2020 at the First Presbyterian Church, Willmar we will be hosting a training event for Ruling Elders, Deacons and Presbytery Commission and committee members. Registration will start at 9:30. The morning will start with devotions and a plenary on 2020 Leadership by the Rev. Corey Schlosser-Hall, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of NW Coast. Following lunch, which is provided, Presbytery Commission and Committees will meet to set 2020 goals, meeting dates and other business. At the same time Ruling Elder training led by Stated Clerk Pam Prouty and Deacon training led by the Rev. Leanne Thompson will be held. The day will end by 4:00 p.m. Plan to attend and bring a car full. This event has had positive feedback for the past two years.
Transformation Testimonies Sought

We are preparing the reporting for the Transformation Going Beyond Change Initiative grants. Please think about how you have been using the information gleaned from these events and email Karen or SanDawna a short testimony about how you have benefited.
2020 Per Capita

$41.45 Total
$27.00 for Presbytery
 $8.95 for GA
 $5.50 for Synod

What Is Per Capita? link

2020 Compensation Policy link

2020 Per Capita Apportionment and Mission Pledge Form link
Luverne PW Celebrated Mission Sunday

Submitted by Linda Gulden and Gloria Rust
Luverne Presbyterian Women celebrated Mission Sunday on November 17 with a display of donations for the St. Frances House, Southwest Youth Services, Southwest Crisis Center, and Southwest Health and Human Services – WIC program. Part of the service included emphasis on the Thank Offering.

After the service, a meal of homemade soup, French bread, and desserts was held in the social hall. A freewill donation was received which will be divided among the recipients of the other donations and our local PW to help us fulfill our PW Purpose of supporting the mission of the church worldwide.
Synod Executive Elona Street Stewart to run for General Assembly Moderator in 2020
We are happy to announce that the Synod of Lakes and Prairies Executive Elona Street-Stewart intends to stand for moderator of the 224th General Assembly (2020). The election will happen on Saturday, June 20, the first day of the Assembly, which takes place in Baltimore.
Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart is the first Native American to serve as a synod executive in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). An active church leader at the national level since 1980, Street-Stewart chaired the Council on Church and Race, the Advocacy Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns and was a member of the Relocation Committee of General Assembly Agencies following reunion of the northern and southern branches of what today is the PC(USA). She also received the denomination’s Women of Faith Award during the 219th General Assembly in 2010.
Worship and Sacraments
A Winter Learning Opportunity for Presbyterians

Join an online group to learn the basic theological understandings of worship and sacraments in the Presbyterian Church (USA). This course will be facilitated by Rev. Elaine Boyd, pastor in Amboy, MN.
Who should consider this?
  • Anyone who wants to grow in their faith and understanding of being Presbyterian
  • Worship Committee members
  • Church musicians
  • Commissioned Pastors/Ruling Elders
  • Those who might be called to be commissioned pastors/ruling elders

What will this involve?
  • Some reading and reflecting
  • Opportunities to talk with pastors about their practices around basic elements of worship including special services such as weddings, funerals and baptisms – how do they prepare? What does preparation entail?
  • Two “class meetings” online – one in early January and one toward the end of February
  • Access to mini-lessons on worship and the Reformed Theology that informs worship

What is the cost?
  • $150 plus some books. For those interested in the whole series of 11 classes in the Academy, there is a discount.

Who is sponsoring this?
  • This is a class offered through The Academy, a series of classes for church members designed to deepen faith as participants encounter Christ in a new way. For those who are called or are exploring a call to become a Commissioned Pastor, this is a program that can help that happen. 
  • The Synod of Lakes and Prairies and the Presbyteries of Minnesota Valleys, North Central Iowa and Prospect Hill are the current sponsors of the Academy.

How do I register?
Christmas Open House
Presbytery of
Minnesota Valleys
4055 Abbott Dr
Willmar, MN

Thursday, December 19
11:30 - 2:00
Unto Us a Child Is Born and
Unto Us a Son Is Given!
Join your colleagues and friends for a presbytery-wide lunch, Christmas music and a special time of being together. And if you'd like to bring your guitar, flute, horn, kazoo--whatever--and play some carols with us--all the better! Looking forward to seeing you on December 19th!
Advent Resources
From the Presbyterian Outlook:
Bulletin Inserts: Are you looking for theologically sound, inspiring and affordable Advent devotions for the congregation? 

The Presbyterian Outlook has you covered. Download the PDF, print as many as you need and insert them into your weekly worship bulletin. Written by Outlook editor Jill Duffield, each week includes a reflection, daily Scripture readings, suggestions for living out the Bible reading and a short prayer for each day. 

Hymns for Advent and Christmas: Beloved Presbyterian hymn writer, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, has composed hymns set to familiar Christmas tunes and well-loved hymn melodies. Hymns for each Sunday of Advent and Christmas use the lectionary Scriptures to enhance your worship.

And, " The Candle of Hope " follows the themes of each of the Sundays in Advent (Hope, Peace, Love and Joy). If you light Advent candles as part of your worship during the season, this hymn is ideal!

Interested in a Communications Workshop?
Can your congregation say yes to these statements?
  • Our church has a clear and concise goal in mind for its communications.
  • Our church maximizes the use of its social media platforms.
  • Our church’s website is easy to navigate and tells the congregation’s story
If you’re not sure about your congregation’ s responses to any of these statements, you may want to schedule a communications workshop in 2020.

The presbytery is considering an in-person or webinar for this. If interested, please contact Karen .
Safety Checklist

The end of the year is a great time to think about church safety. Here is a handy checklist from Church Mutual:
Webinar Zoom for Churches in Transition
Executive Presbyter SanDawna Ashley will lead two Zoom webinars for PNCs and churches in transition on the following dates:
Monday, January 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, January 7 at 10:00 a.m.
Who should attend:
PNCs, Session members, and COL liaisons
Contact  Karen Lange  to register.
Pastoral Leadership Opportunities

First Presbyterian Church, Ashby  - Pastor, yoked parish
Ministry Information Form -  12363.ABO

First Presbyterian Church, Fulda  - Solo Pastor
  Ministry Information Form -  03782.AD1

Faith Presbyterian Church, Silver Lake - Solo Pastor
Ministry Information Form -  03851.AC3

Hope Presbyterian Church, Spicer  - Solo Pastor
  Ministry Information Form -  09565.ADO

The Ministry Information Forms for these opportunities are posted on the Church Leadership Connection web site --
You are invited
The First Presbyterian Church of Willmar was formally organized on August 11, 1870 ... which means we are celebrating our 150th anniversary in 2020! To celebrate the past 150 years of faithful service to the Lord and our community, we invite you and your family to join us in a special anniversary worship service on Sunday, August 9 at 10:00 am followed by a banquet at the Willmar Community Center.
If you plan to attend the banquet, please RSVP no later than July 7 with your name and head count by calling the church office at 320-235-1263 or sending an email to

In addition to the special worship, we are hosting an ice cream social from 2:00-4:00 pm the day before, on Saturday, August 8 at our church (312 6th Street SW, Willmar). This will be an opportunity to visit and catch up with old and new friends.

We would love to have you join us in praising the Lord for all the He has done and is going to do in the future. Watch the church website for additional details on both of these events. We're looking forward to celebrating with you!

Pastors Scott and Leanne Thompson
First Presbyterian Church of Willmar
312 6th Street SW, Willmar MN 56201
Congregations can get up to $50k to help their pastors find renewal: Applications available for the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program

from the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program | Special to Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Congregations seeking renewal for their pastor are invited to apply for the  Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program  at  Christian Theological Seminary  in Indianapolis, Indiana.

According to a news release from the program, congregations may apply for grants of up to $50,000 to underwrite a renewal program for their pastor and for the pastor’s family. Up to $15,000 of the funds are available to the congregation to help cover costs for ministerial supply while the pastor is away.

Through its religion grantmaking, Lilly Endowment, an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation, seeks to deepen and enrich the lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

To this end, National and Indiana Clergy Renewal Programs provide an opportunity for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection. Renewal periods are not vacations but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for drinking again from God’s life-giving waters and for regaining enthusiasm and creativity for ministry.

Details and application materials for the 2020 programs are now available. In the 2020 Lilly Endowment  National Clergy Renewal Program  and the 2020 Lilly Endowment  Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations , eligible congregations will be able to apply for grants of up to $50,000 each to support a renewal program for their pastor. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used for congregational expenses associated with the renewal program.

There is no cost for congregations or pastors to apply; the deadline is April 1, 2020. Congregations will be notified as to whether their proposals are to be funded or not by the end of August 2020. Activities funded by a 2020 grant in the clergy renewal programs may begin anytime in 2021. Learn more by clicking  here .
From the Presbyterian Historical Society

Preserve vital church records for free at the Presbyterian Historical Society. Order digital copies at a PC(USA) discount. Join our Church Membership Program and receive further digitization savings. Find out more at, email or call 215-627-1852