The Valley Bridge
The weekly newsletter from the
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
October 19, 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 October 23-29
Westminster Presbyterian Church of Worthington

Church Leadership:
Galen Smith, Pastor
Krista Petersen, Youth Director
LeRoy Enenga, Clerk of Session
Diana Vallego, Administrative Assistant
Holly McCuen, Finance Secretary
Darlene Rautenkranz, organist
Nancy Hofstee, Choir Director & Organist
Our prayer concerns include:
Health issues for a number of members of the congregation.
All who are working to bring in the harvest - farmers, truck drivers, elevator workers
Wisdom as we prepare to vote in the upcoming elections
Hope Christian Ministry & Rev. Owar Ojulu
Continuing discernment from the New Beginnings process
Seasonal mission projects - Operation Christmas Child and Worthington Christmas Baskets
Ongoing mission projects Love INC (In the Name of Christ) and Manna Food Pantry.
The Word from Rick: A Hopeful Weekend

On Saturday, a vision that began to stir inside the heart and mind of Pastor Scott Prouty last spring came into focus and became reality as over 120 people gathered at First Presbyterian Church in Redwood Falls to share in the adventure of "Building Interfaith Bridges."
Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the National Director of the Islamic Society of North America was the keynote speaker for Saturday's event, and in the afternoon he was joined by five other religious leaders, from both the Muslim and Christian faith community, who bought some of their wisdom and experiences into the conversation. As I listened, there was an abundance of information shared with us, and I confess that I do not multi-task very well. I find that when I try to write notes while listening to a speaker, I tend to get focused on the writing and miss some truly important information.
Fortunately, my wife, Sue, has the gift of taking notes and listening intently at the same time. She recorded a number of important things that Dr. Syeed shared with us. Much of what he said to us was intended to help us understand the origins of the Muslim faith and the journey of the Islamic community over the centuries. I discovered that there was a great deal that I did not know about Islam; and with Sue's notes, I want to share it with you all.
Dr. Syeed began by saying, "
The world is reshaping itself. We need to educate ourselves about 'the other'", and then proceeded to share these things with us, so that we might gain insights into the Muslim faith and its relationship with Christianity:
  • "570 years after Jesus was born, Mohammed was born in Mecca. . . when he was 40, he heard the voice of Gabriel giving a prophesy about his destiny as a prophet. He went to his wife's cousin, an 80-year-old man and a Christian who told him he felt his vision was true and was in the spirit of Abraham . . . Thus, the first person to confirm the validity of the prophet's destiny was a Christian!
  • As Mohammed spoke his message and gained followers, there was tribal dissent, and many of his followers were persecuted. The King of Ethiopia was a Christian, who gave sanctuary to the prophet and his followers. The Muslims found safety in a Christian community.
  • In Medina, the followers were looking for a sense of community, dignity, love . . . the "Charter of Medina" created unity between the followers and non-Muslims. The Koran, with 114 chapters, teaches that other faiths should be recognized and respected.
  • As the Muslim faith became more dominant, it became a political empire. The Roman Empire and the Muslim Empire were both seeking power.
  • In 1095, as Muslims were in Spain, India, etc. Pope Pius declared Muslims the Anti-Christ, and declared that it was the duty of every Christian to invade the Muslim Empire. For 225 years, the Crusades spread throughout the world. Priests cursed the Jews and Muslims every week in worship, yet the Muslims could not curse Jesus and be a true Muslim.  
  • In 1963, 10,000 bishops convened at the Vatican to discuss how to address the worldwide Muslim population, since they are part of the Abrahamic faith!  Also the Vatican taught that an anti-Semitic attitude can't be justified. The Catholics recognized the equal footing of all faiths, and taught that Muslims are also people of faith.
  • Today, Muslims are a diverse group, from all over the world. Some countries have laws which govern their people which may not necessarily be the same tradition and spirit as that found in the Koran (for example, the role of women in Saudi Arabia). Just as we cannot use one blanket statement to categorize all Christians around the world, neither can we do the same with Muslims.
  • Regardless of what country Muslims are living in, they need to face problems together and find common ground.  In the past, America has been a model of working together and showing the world religious unity was possible, in response to extremism.
  • After 1400 years, all Muslims -- and all people -- need to hear the message that all people are of the same faith roots.   People need to take a stand against deviation of the faith and misinterpretation.
The insights that Dr. Syeed shared in the morning launched us into the afternoon, as he and the other participants shared how we might build interfaith connections and to live out our faith in light of the great diversity that is all around us. Participants came with many questions, and the time was not sufficient for every question to be fully answered. Again, a few thoughts to ponder:
  • How do we go about building bridges?
    • Commit to being a bridge-builder - step out and greet people - get to know them.
    • In addressing people in poverty, use established groups or colleges, health care systems, translation services, and culturally respectful services.
  • What are some common misconceptions about Muslims?  
    • "Muslims have only recently come to the US".  
      • In reality, when the explorers from Spain sailed to the New World, some of their crew members were Muslims (Moors).
      • Thomas Jefferson celebrated Ramadan in the White House, to honor his slaves' religious traditions.
      • The "Mother Mosque" in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was established in 1934.
      • There were Muslims in Minnesota in the 1800's, including Syrian immigrants.
  •  Muslims need the opportunity to talk and disagree, and that need for discussion and debate has not always been possible in other countries.
    • There are 57 countries in the world where Muslims are the majority.
    • Islam's vision gives humans dignity, but church and state must be kept separate (unlike Saudi Arabia). Otherwise the church and religion can become distorted - for example, when Saudi Arabia printed many copies of the Koran which listed the distorted message that Jews and Christians had gone astray.
  • About the Koran
    • The Koran connects God with humans. It needs to be correctly translated and shared with Muslims overseas so they have the true message.  
    • When policies are made that exclude part of the community, that affects the ideology that is moved forward.
    • When an American pastor threatened to burn the Koran, he may not have known that along with verses in the Koran, a translation of verses from the Bible is also included on that page.
  • Final Thoughts:
    • All people need to have accurate information about Islam to fight fear and distrust.
    • Muslims travelling overseas and sharing ideas can show that Muslims can be successful - an image that is not always correctly portrayed.
As you can see, a great deal of information was shared and thoughts expressed. Obviously, not all of the questions got answered, and neither did all of our speakers get to say everything that they needed, or wanted to say, but some seeds were planted and the first pieces of the bridge have been put into place. We pray that the seeds planted were helpful and hopeful, and that the conversation will continue. Thanks to Pastor Scott Prouty, Dr. Syeed, our guests, the folks at First Presbyterian Church in Redwood Falls, and everyone who came together to make the weekend happen!

Grace and Peace,
Opportunities to Serve in the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys

The Committee on Representation, which serves as the Nominating Committee will be finishing its work this week. We still have some places where we are seeking individuals who would be willing to step forward and share their gifts and energies with us.
These are some of the needs that we still have:
  • The Commission on Leadership
    • 1 Ruling Elder
    • 1 Teaching Elder
  • The Commission on Presbytery Operations
    • 1 person, either a Ruling Elder or Teaching Elder with an interest in Finance
  • The Commission on Congregational Transformation and Development
    • 1 Ruling Elder
    • 1 Teaching Elder
If you believe that God might be calling you to serve in one of these roles, or if you have someone in your congregation who might be just the person we are looking, please share that information with us, immediately. Our Chairperson, Rev. Bill Yueill, would love to hear from you. He can be reached at .
On the Road with Rick
October 23 - Preach at Hope Presbyterian Church, Spicer
October 30 - Preach at Maine Presbyterian Church
November 5 - Presbytery Meeting at Union Presbyterian Church, Saint Peter
November 6 - Preach at First Presbyterian Church, Osakis
November 13 - Preach at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, Rushmore and Zion Presbyterian Church, Ellsworth
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
Scenes from the Road

There have been a number of pictures from "Building Interfaith Bridges" already posted on the presbytery's Facebook page, and others will appear in other places. These pictures are from Sunday morning worship at the First Presbyterian Church in Redwood Falls. Dr. Sayyid Syeed brought the morning's message - a continuation of the weekend's theme.

News from Chris Conlin in Burundi

Thank you and the Commission on Congregational Transformation and Development for supporting my teaching mission to Burundi. I arrived in Bujumbura Sunday night after 25 hours traveling. Have been staying with one of the missionaries here - the American dean of the medical school at Hope Africa University (Espoir D'Afrique Universitae).

Bujumbura is a large capital city in this developing country. People everywhere, no stop lights, no lanes - fortunately I'm not driving. As my host said, "Driving would not bless you." It is a very young country - over half are 16 or younger.

Lots of things to get used to - sleeping under a bed net, not speaking the language (they speak French and Kirundi), just how to change the money, getting around, where to buy water. It seems pretty safe, but in light of the coup attempt last year, the government is somewhat suspicious. Lots of pick-ups with soldiers carrying AK47s driving around town.

I will be teaching a class of 78 medical students beginning next Tuesday - nervous but trusting that God is in this trip. 

Please keep this country, the school and the medical missionaries here in your prayers (as well as myself). I will be here until December 4.

Send my sincere thanks to the Commission for their generous support of the translation help, I also bought a computer projector for the school - they had 6 but all were broken so it will be much appreciated.

In the peace of Christ,
Chris Conlin
A Pastoral Concern

Nearly a month ago, Sawyer and Knox, the twin sons of Jason and Annalisa Cunningham, made their debut after a most difficult and perilous 34+ week journey. Jason is the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Luverne, and an active presbyter in this presbytery. The journey of the past ten months, now, has involved a myriad of physician visits, highly specialized surgeries, countless ultrasounds, and regular journeys to Sioux Falls, and even Denver. All of this has brought exceptional financial stress on the Cunningham family, creating needs that has stretched beyond what insurance, the support of the congregation, and assistance from the presbytery and synod have been able to provide. To that end, a pastor colleague of the Cunningham's have started a " Gofundme" effort in support of the Cunningham twins.
Many of you continue to ask how the twins are doing, and what you can do to support the family. In answer to the second part of the question, I would invite members of the presbytery to share in the "GoFundMe" effort. Here is the information:
Please keep the Cunningham family in your prayers!

You are invited to a breakfast fundraiser on November 13. See flyer.

Needed: Recording Clerk on November 5

A Recording Clerk is needed to take minutes during the Stated Presbytery Meeting on November 5 in Saint Peter. Job description link, including remuneration info. Interested? Contact Pam Prouty - or 507-627-5486.
Ministry Opportunities

The First Presbyterian Church of Osakis is seeking a Pastor to lead them as they live out the visions that have been generated by their New Beginning conversations. They are very much open to the possibility of being served by a bi-vocational pastor. 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.AC4. For more information, please contact PNC Chairperson, Shari Maloney, at 320.859.3098 or by e-mail -

The First Presbyterian Church of Randall is currently developing its Ministry Information Form in preparation for a pastoral search, it should be ready in the next week or so. Details are on their way.

Useful Link for Church Treasurers: 
TODAY IS THE DEADLINE to order your Presbyterians Today 2016 Advent Calendar: A Journey of Memories

Advent is a time of remembering. In the weeks before Christmas, we watch, wait, and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. We read Scriptures and practice church traditions that have been around for 2,000 years. This year's devotional is a journey of memories-of so many sights, smells, tastes, and sounds that point to the promise of God in Jesus Christ. These are the daily incarnations of our faith. When does a touch remind us of Jesus? Can a candle bring God's hope to a dark room? Can a smell take us to a holy place?

Sue Washburn-pastor and editor of Presbyterians Today-has put together a collection of daily reflections and prayers to help us experience the joy and wonder of Christ's birth with the senses God has given us.

Susan Blank's exquisite handmade quilts add to the beauty and remembrances in this year's Advent Calendar.

Perfect for congregations, families, and individuals, A Journey of Memories provides a Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer for each day of Advent.

Order copies for your congregation now to ensure delivery before Advent. 

Your congregation is invited to order these Advent Calendars at $1.50 per copy through the presbytery office. The deadline to order is TODAY!! Please call or email Karen at the presbytery office: 320-235-7910 or
Worship Chairs for Sale

Submitted by Steve Tyykila

The Canby ministerial association's after school program was recently given the building and contents of an LCMC church that dissolved. Included in that was a wooden lector stand/pulpit, communion table, and baptismal font we want to give away. We also have 80 almost new worship chairs that hook together, many of them with racks for Bibles and hymnbooks. We would like to sell them for $40 apiece.  Link to pictures

Interested? Contact Pastor Levi Bollerus, Our Savior's Lutheran Church, 507-223-7072.
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