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 October 25-31
First Presbyterian Church of Rushmore
Clerk of Session: Charlotte Dammer
Treasurer: Brenda Krull
Ruling Elders: Gary Ailts, Travis Ailts, Charlotte Dammer, Arla Engelkes, Dennis Frazer, Corinne Hausmann, Brenda Krull, and Gary Wagley
Church Secretary: Darcey Groen
Pastor: vacant
Pray for members of our church that are healing from various conditions.
Pray for those who are grieving in our congregation and community.
Pray for a safe and productive harvest.
Pray for churches in our Presbytery who are in any kind of pastoral transition.
Pray for the Spirit to continue to lead our three congregations as we enter the second year of shared ministry between three congregations.
Pray for our sister congregations, Zion Presbyterian Church of Ellsworth and Emmanuel Presbyterian Church of Rushmore.
First, Emmanuel & Zion were shut down for a period due to the Covid virus. We now have services every other Sunday between Emmanuel and Zion. Sunday School program is starting this month.  This shared arrangement has been a blessing to all of our congregations and is another model for shared ministry.  
Lift Every Voice
The Lift Every Voice: Democracy, Voting Rights and Electoral Reformed a PC(U.S.A) paper enclosed in this brief article guides congregations in the political season. Churches should encourage members to exercise their right to vote without urging the vote for particular political parties. An acceptable message about voting during worship could include highlighting the advocacy of voting and aligning voting with Christian values (be careful to stick with the Scriptures and not political rhetoric). On Social Media, leaders can speak to their political preferences but should be aware that social media is not secure and can be easily misinterpreted. When communicating electronically, it is wise to ask yourself before posting the following:
  • Who is my audience?
  • Am I following my convictions and core values?
  • Would I say the same thing in mixed company?
  • Will my comments cause harm?

Do not fight political battles online! Be prepared to bring peace and reconciliation regardless of election results. Work to create space for large scale dialogues around the many polarities in our society. If you choose to provide political endorsements, only represent yourself and not the congregation or presbytery.

I recommend the following resources for your review:

COVID19 Update

As of yesterday, Minnesota COVID19 cases reached the red zone. The Minnesota Department of Health informed judicatories that cases are increasing across the State, and 1 out of every 6 people are infectious. Additionally, we were informed that these numbers are not sustainable. The possible hospitalizations, especially in rural communities, will make providing health care a challenge. This is a tipping point, and more restrictive measures may be necessary to stop the Community Spread of the virus.

Indoor gatherings outside of one's immediate households are highly discouraged. Current Public Health recommendations indicate a person is at high risk of exposure to the virus after 15 minutes of contact with those outside of their households. This does not mean that you should discontinue in-person worship. However, it does mean that if the current rate of Community Spread is not mitigated, more people will contract the virus, and more restrictive ordinances will be enacted.

Are you following Public Health Guidelines? Are you honoring your Reopening Preparedness Plans? How can you continue to provide worship opportunities creatively? For those who are especially vulnerable to the virus, in what ways are you ministering to these individuals? Please keep in mind that mask wearing does reduce the spread of the virus; however, not all masks provide equal protection.

Finally, as noted on the COVID19 data, the virus impacts the State and especially many of the counties in our presbytery.

I acknowledge that this is not good news. We all are praying for a cure. We are praying for the healing of our nation. Come, Lord Jesus! See the link below to Minnesota COVID19 updates.

Oct. 20 update on COVID-19 in MN: Record jump in hospital admissions; new cases climb

COVID-19 developments in Minnesota and Wisconsin -

Blessings and Peace,
Minnesota Department of Health Coronavirus Resources
Cultural, Faith, and Disability Communities COVID-19 Update:
The November 14 Stated Presbytery Meeting will be
meeting via Zoom from 10:00 am-12:00 noon.
Dear Church Leaders,

We are a small and mighty group from the Presbytery inviting you into a new possibility for ministry in your specific contexts. Knowing you are a vibrant congregation seeking pastoral leadership, we are exploring the gifts of early-in-ministry pastors who would love to come and lead and create alongside you in a “Small Church Residency.” This would mean an early-career pastor would be designated for two years at your church for transformation, regeneration, reimagining, and mutual growth in ministry. Through a generous grant from the Presbyterian Mission Agency and Minnesota Valleys Presbytery, resources would be available to come alongside you to support this new minister and help you all rise and change and grow together.

Qualifications for this ministry opportunity are attached to this email, but in short, here is what we are looking for:
  • Small and mighty churches willing and open for change
  • Resources (financial and otherwise) to support a full-time pastor call meeting Presbyterian Minimum Guidelines (potential salary assistance up to $5,000)

If you are interested in this exciting new opportunity, we will host ZOOM conversations on Thursday, November 12 at 6:30 pm and Saturday, November 21 at 9 am to answer questions and explore possibilities about what this ministry format could look like. If these aren’t an option for you, but you think your church is up for the adventure in Small Church Residency, do reach out to the presbytery, and we’ll find a way and time to enter conversation with you!

Dreaming into the next phase of ministry with you,
The Small Church Residency Task Force
Rev. SanDawna Gaulman Ashley, Executive Presbyter
Rev. Beverly Brock, First Presbyterian Church of Foley
Rev. Lindsay Conrad, First Presbyterian Church of Mankato
Rev. Randy Knuth, First Presbyterian Church of Fulda
Rev. Paul Snyder, First Presbyterian Church of Ashby
Climate Petition to Members of Congress

by Earl O. Knutson, First Presbyterian Church of Willmar

The Presbyterian Action Team (or PAT, introduced in the 9/23/20 Valley Bridge) is gathering Presbyterians’ signatures on a petition to be forwarded to members of congress in during December (virtual) lobby days. The link brings up a Google Forms document with the text of the petition and a fill-in form for signatures. The petition has a specific “ask,” namely that congress pass legislation, such as HR763, to implement a carbon fee and dividend strategy for slowing climate change. The petition should be especially valuable to the many Presbyterian members of congress.
Race and Christianity Webinar 3
Wednesday, October 28 at 11:00 AM

Join us for our final session with Sarah Ruble. Meanwhile, we are invited to watch Episodes 5-8 at in preparation for the discussion. Link:
Meeting ID: 891 4524 4121, Passcode: 599612
One tap mobile: +13126266799,,89145244121#,,,,,,0#,,599612# US (Chicago)
Dial by your location:    +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
Meeting ID: 891 4524 4121
Passcode: 599612
Find your local number:

Race and Christianity webinar 2 is on YouTube link:
Reflections from the Book Discussion:
Jesus and the Disinherited
by Howard Thurman
Submitted by Jan Prehn

Next Discussion is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov 17 at 10:00 AM
We know there are books that stand the test of time. I feel very blessed to have recently been introduced to one in our Presbytery book discussion group. Howard Thurman’s book, Jesus and the Disinherited, was first published in 1949 but he speaks as though it was written for us today as we struggle over the longstanding issues of racism, poverty, fear, hypocrisy and hatred. I highly recommend it, invite you to read it, if you haven’t already, and join in our discussion.
News from Guatemala

By Jim Krapf

On October 14, our Rev. Mark Ford and Rev. Kathy Gorman Coombs of Albany, NY co-hosted a virtual meeting of the Guatemalan Network. Participants included some 30 people from across our nation, one being a retired Guatemalan mission co-worker now in the US, plus two of our mission co-workers in Guatemala.

One of them, Leslie Vogel, shared information relevant to our scholarships for children of pastors in our sister presbytery of Occidente. She said that the education system in Guatemala was collapsing before the pandemic, but has been further disrupted by the spread of the virus and resulting restrictions. Continuing by using internet connections is challenging in two ways. Families do not always have money to must pay for access. Leslie also told the story of students needing to climb to higher elevations to get reception for their assignments and then needing to repeat the effort to submit their homework. Richard Welch, the recently retired mission co-worker, noted that educational discrepancies are increasing as wealthier families can connect their children to private schools and tutors.

During this time, your donations to scholarships can help with purchasing cell phones and internet access. Occidente’s Committee on Ministry will be making these decisions. They are anticipating that the next school year will not begin in January, but be pushed back to next March if possible by then. So please continue to make a difference with the target amount of $250 per scholarship. Your designated checks can be sent to our presbytery office.

The people ministering in Guatemala lifted up again the positive impact of “Men in the Mirror” a Christ-centered educational program to promote appropriate masculine behaviors. Pastor Mateo has recently offered this training to police chaplains across Guatemala. We have support this effort with our funds.

Leslie also reported that the coronavirus has caused many deaths including pastors. To enforce social distancing cemeteries will be closed for the upcoming traditional Day of the Dead, restricting families and neighbors from grieving together. Some people from our presbytery virtually attended the funeral for Bety Sanchez, who was a leader in women’s ministries and a gracious host and an inspiration of faith for us. She died of cancer. Her daughter Romina carries on her mother’s example of service through her work with Living Waters.

Mission Co-worker Eliane Meneges, who works with Presbyterian Women, reported that the women are meeting on line to pray for one another, to mourn together, and to encourage one another. She said that the women are seeking to make up some lost income by working from home with projects such as sewing. Thank you to those in our presbytery who donated funds for sewing machines and who offered instructions in quilting.

The pandemic has cause loss of income with people not being able to work or not being able to transport produce or animals to market. Some partnerships in the US reported that they shifted their budgeted funds from trip expenses to hunger relief. Our budget has not allowed us to do that. But you should know that your offerings to the One Great Hour of Sharing are providing relief through Presbyterian Distance Assistance. Edwin Gonzales of that agency reported that those funds are making a positive difference. Jeff Wagner of Living Waters of the World noted that clean water systems such as the ones that we have helped install remain vital for healthy conditions.

One of the US partners at the network meeting reminded us that even in these trying times our Guatemalan partners are gifting us with their prayers. AMEN!
Upcoming Virtual Journey to Guatemala - October 28 at 10am

Mission Co-Workers Eric and Betsey Moe, currently residing in Spokane, invite you to attend the next "Virtual Journey" to Guatemala on October 28 at 10am Pacific Time. The topic of this journey is "Education in Guatemala: Challenges and Changes in the Wake of COVID-19. One of the featured organizations will be La Puerta Abierta, an innovative community library and school in Santiago de Atitlán. Virtual Journeys are interactive, creative, and engaging and provide you with the unique opportunity to leave your own context for 90 minutes and learn about what God is doing in another part of the world during this time of pandemic.
You are asked to register in advance HERE. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Participants are encouraged to contribute a $10 donation to CEDEPCA's work.
To read the Moe's latest Mission Crossroads newsletter about their call to mission service, visit:
Prayer List

  • For Beverly Raske, Renville, former Interim Executive Presbyter, broken shoulder
  • For Rev. Bill Yueill, retired pastor, Zimmerman
  • For Rev. John Lindholm, retired pastor, Fergus Falls
  • For Rev. Mark Chamberlain, retired pastor, Willmar
  • For Rev. Bob Bartlett, First Presbyterian Churches of Brewster & Round Lake
  • For Rev. Michael Roys, retired pastor, Winnebago

Pray for Our Occidente Partners in Guatemala
  • For the families of the three Occidente pastors that have recently died
  • For those who have contracted the Covid virus
  • For the "Men in the Mirror" program. Men from Occidente that MVP supported financially to attend the classes are sharing 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, are training Christian policemen in what they learned from "Men in the Mirror."
Pastoral Leadership Opportunities

Zion Presbyterian Church, Ellsworth; Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, Rushmore; First Presbyterian Church, Rushmore - Interim Pastor
Ministry Information Form - 09163.AE0

First Presbyterian Church, Lake Crystal; First Presbyterian Church, Kasota - Pastor, yoked parish
Ministry Information Form - 03709.AB1

Maine Presbyterian Church, rural Underwood - Solo Pastor
Ministry Information Form - 03870.AB0

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

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

First Presbyterian Church, Winnebago - Interim Pastor
Ministry Information Form - 03811.AA1

Ministry opportunities are posted on the Church Leadership Connection website --
Tending to Ambiguous Losses in Uncertain Times
Nov. 12, 6:30-8:30pm | $20
Online Zoom Class Hosted by

Ambiguous losses are perhaps the most challenging kind of loss. When someone or something is physically absent yet psychologically present, or physically present yet psychologically absent, it’s hard to find clarity, it’s hard to make decisions, and it’s hard to grieve. The physical, emotional, economic, and relational uncertainty resulting from the current pandemic further complicates ambiguous losses. In this workshop, we’ll discuss the nature of ambiguous loss and ways to deepen our resilience in these uncertain times.
Led by Carla Dahl, Professor of Congregational and Community Care at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

For more information and to register, click here.
Listening and Empathy at Election Time

For several years I facilitated a therapy group for adolescents. One of the rules we developed was “No Discussing Politics.” Over time, the members of the group got really skilled at recognizing when these “hot button” topics would arise and would quickly remind one another of the agreement they had made to avoid these topics. Over the past few years, I imagine that many of us have implemented similar rules within our families, churches and workplaces. There is a recognition that, especially in certain groups, there may be such divergent views and beliefs that avoiding these topics may be best. Best for what, though, I’ve been wondering more and more lately? Best so that each of us can return to the “friendlier” confines of our own Facebook and Twitter feeds or preferred news sources? What if we approached some of these conversations in the spirit of understanding what is important to those who believe differently than we do and why these things are so important? In this spirit, I was reminded of a piece I wrote about a year ago and wonder if it might be a helpful topic to revisit as we anticipate the upcoming election.
The Power of Listening

One of the first skills I learned during my training as a psychologist was how to listen. As a central part of this learning, we discussed the distinctions between hearing and listening. Hearing is the unconscious act of simply perceiving sound by the ear. For those of us who are not hearing impaired, hearing just happens. Listening, on the other hand, is a conscious act. We must choose to listen because listening requires concentration and focus. And it is through listening that learning can happen. To think about it another way: We hear with our ears, we listen with our heads and our hearts.

Active listening is a key factor in the development of healthy and trusting relationships. It is not about listening in order to craft a rebuttal or to share your perspective but rather to understand more deeply. Active listening is a skill that involves focusing on what you are hearing and then reflecting that back to the speaker to be sure that you are truly comprehending what they are trying to communicate. It can be as simple as commenting: “So what I hear you saying is … Did I get that right?” This can be a powerful way to challenge our assumptions and move towards greater empathy.

All elections are significant, and this one may feel especially significant for you. There is certainly an important space for political advocacy and conversations aimed at changing hearts, minds and, ultimately, votes. Those just may not be with your in-laws, fellow church council members or supervisor at work. A willingness to listen and a desire to understand might help make these divisive times feel less-so and might open up ways of allowing us to be in community with others who believe differently than we do. The issues facing our country are too big to adopt the “No Politics” rule. However, it seems we can also no longer exist in spaces where the only options are to avoid discussing these topics or to talk past one another.

Now, I’m not guaranteeing that this strategy works with everyone. Listening is a two-way street; I’m sure you can think of a person (or many people) in your orbit who would struggle to offer you the same courtesy of listening that you might be willing to extend to them. I challenge you, though, to consider having a conversation with someone who may have a different perspective than you and who would be open to doing this (challenging) work of listening for a few moments on a socially distanced walk or Zoom call.

The power of listening can serve to deepen your understanding of their position and—more importantly—your relationship.