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 November 1-7
Grace First Parish - Russell
Grace First Parish of Russell is a congregation formed from First Presbyterian and Grace Lutheran churches. We have been without a pastor for two years. Services are led by various supply pastors. On top of COVID being an issue for attendance, not having a regular pastor is also an issue for attendance. Our congregation needs normalcy back in their lives as well as spiritual guidance. Our council is committed and dedicated. Our council chairperson is David Hook, and Hilary Buchert is the clerk. We have done some remodeling to the front entrance of the church to widen the entryway and also some new landscaping. Confirmation for 10 students in grades 6, 7, and 8 has recently begun their weekly classes for the school year. Through a local organization, Grace First members sponsor two area families at Christmas through a Giving Tree.
We have a large, active Sunday School with about 35 children. We were not able to have VBS this last summer due to COVID but we are back in Sunday School now following COVID guidelines. The Sunday School plans on doing a lot of fun projects and learning about God as well as learning how to give or make people feel good and loved.

Our ladies group would’ve had their 125th Annual Election Day Turkey Dinner, which usually serves between 300-400 people each year. But with COVID they were not able to. This has always been a big night for donations and making money for our church and we are not able to have it this year. Rachel Circle usually has a Holiday Bazaar but again will not be able to have that to make money for our church either due to COVID. Last year the donations from the ladies' group and the Bazaar totaled $2125.00. Rachel Circle collected school supplies this fall for 22 kits for Lutheran World Relief. During the winter, several of the ladies meet to sew Prayer Quilts for members of the church or community who are ill or suffer personal tragedies. Several quilts were donated last spring to Lutheran World Relief and each year a quilt is made and donated to the Shetek Quilt Auction.
Finding pastors to serve small congregations in small rural communities is a difficult task. We ask for your prayers that God will send us a pastor to help us continue to serve him here in Russell, Minnesota.
The November 14 Stated Presbytery Meeting will be
meeting via Zoom from 10:00 am-12:00 noon.
Conversations about Christianity and Racism

Sarah Ruble led the presbytery in three conversations about Christianity and Racism. Today was the last conversation. I encourage you to review the episodes listed at Episode Eight (below), for me, helped me to understand our current situation in the United States. Today one participant referenced “history’s competing true stories.” Another person spoke about “consensus history.”  I believe we learned that we need to know much as we seek to understand the past and plan toward a better future.  Please take the time to review the Christianity and Racism series. I believe you will find them enlightening. Yesterday the question was posed on the Southern Kansas Presbytery website “who will the Church be after the election?” This is an important question. I hope we will find the time to have a family conversation on the subject. For those with access to Netflix or another movie, streaming the movie "Same Kind of Different as Me," we will discuss the film on November 17 at 10:00 a.m.
If you have not already done so, go vote. Pray for our country.

Grace and Peace,

Below is Episode 8 from Sarah's website.
Below is our Race and Christianity discussion from October 28
Congregational Meetings during Covid

By Pamela Prouty, Stated Clerk

The time of year for Congregational Meetings is upon us, and I have had several calls about how to do this during COVID.

First of all, it’s important that the congregational bylaws state that holding a congregational meeting electronically is allowed. The VB has an article which I wrote about the language for electronic meetings; the link for that article is here

Along with your bylaws stating an electronic meeting is authorized, it’s also important to adopt additional rules pertaining to their conduct. These are rules which need to be approved for electronic meetings but can be adapted, updated, and changed when new learnings happen. Following are some additional rules (adapted from Robert’s Rule of Order, newly revised, 12th edition 9.36) to discuss and think about before an electronic meeting happen.
  1. Robert’s Rule of Order, newly revised, 12th edition states that electronic meetings must provide the “…opportunity for simultaneous aural communication among all participating members equivalent to those of meetings held in person in one room”(9.31). How will this happen?
  2. How will members who do not have the proper equipment or computer software required for participating in electronic meetings participate?
  3. What will happen if the moderator, clerk, or a member lose their internet connection? Who will run the meeting? Who will take the notes? What’s the back-up plan? In other words, have a contingency plan for technical difficulties and/or malfunctions.
  4. What is the method for determining the presence of quorum?
  5. How will a member be able to raise a point of order? What will be your methods for seeking recognition and obtaining the floor?
  6. What are the means by which motions are to be submitted? Do all motions need to be submitted ahead of time in writing? Will you take new business during the meeting or do you need a rule about receiving new business for electronic meetings?
  7. How will votes be taken and verified?

Following are some suggestions from my experience of running electronic meetings:
  1. At least three people (or more) are needed to smoothly run an electronic meeting; one to be moderator, one to be clerk and one to monitor the members who have questions and to monitor the voting.
  2. For voting, the video conferencing program, Zoom has feature called poll voting. This works well for one member on one screen. In reality at an electronic congregational meeting, the possibility is high that more than one member is on one screen. In these instances, I have found it easiest to have one person use the poll to vote, then the other members can “private chat” their vote to the person who is monitoring the voting.
  3. If people are connected to the electronic meeting via the phone and the computer, voting needs to happen in steps. The moderator would ask those on the phone to vote first, followed by those on the computer.
  4. It is possible to conduct meetings in a hybrid model meaning some people are there in person while others are present via an electronic means. In these cases, I find it extremely important that the business moves a bit slower so that members have a chance to seek recognition to deliberate and vote. And it is vital that one person monitor the computer and the moderator moderate.
  5. The moderator using the words, “Seeing no objection, I declare the action approved” works well for actions such as approving the agenda, minutes, and other non-controversial actions.
  6. The moderator needs to moderate with lots of patience. Giving space for members to ask questions, discuss, deliberate and vote is important.
  7. While electronic meetings are the wave of the future, it’s difficult to discuss and act on challenging topics and conflicting matters.

Electronic meetings are not going away even when the pandemic is over because they are convenient. They are a way for members to be included who might not be physically able to attend in person, for those who are travelling, plus a variety of other reasons. In order for an electronic meeting or a hybrid meeting to go well, planning ahead of time with the people involved with the meeting is so important; I can’t stress this enough. For every meeting which I plan, I meet with the moderator and others prior to the meeting to discuss every possible thing which could happen, so we have a plan.

If you have more “best practices” to share, please do so. And most important if you have questions/concerns, please contact me.
Minnesota Department of Health Coronavirus Resources
Cultural, Faith, and Disability Communities COVID-19 Update:
From the Committee on Representation

The Committee on Representation has been hard at work and would like to thank those who have felt the spirit’s nudging and agreed to share their time and talents with the various commissions/committees. We will be presenting these folks for your approval at the presbytery meeting on Saturday, November 14. COR still has a few openings left to fill at the time of this writing so are asking each of you to think about how you might be able to use your gifts in one of these areas. Following are the list of openings with a brief description of the commission’s or committee’s role.

  • Plans engaging, informative and celebratory Presbytery meetings, including the Commissioner Briefing and receiving the four church wide offerings: One Great Hour of Sharing, Pentecost, Peace and Global Witness, and Christmas Joy
  • Provides vision and strategy for the ongoing life of the presbytery
  • Promotes, encourages, and enables congregational participation in, and support of, Presbyterian mission, social justice concerns, and peacemaking initiatives, including but not limited to the presbytery’s current mission connections: Presbyterian Clearwater Forest, Lakeshore Center at Okoboji, Occidenté Partnership Task Force, Ethiopia-South Sudan Ministry Network, The Academy (Commissioned Pastor Training)
  • Develops presbytery-sponsored events, both regionally and presbytery-wide, to enrich the lives and enhance the ministries of our congregations.
Ensures accountability to the councils of the church.
  • Between the meetings of the Presbytery, Operations uses delegated authority to take actions on behalf of the Presbytery as necessary
  • Provides oversight for the Presbytery's budgeted and designated finances.
  • Provides oversight for the Presbytery's property
  • Acts as Trustees of the Presbytery in accordance with the presbytery’s Fiscal Accountability Policies
  • Provides oversight of the Presbytery staff and implement the presbytery’s approved personnel policies.
  • Nominates members to serve on the Committee on Representation
  • Maintains communications with the Synod of Lake and Prairies and the General Assembly
  • Receives proposed changes to Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and Operating Procedures and recommend action to presbytery.

COMMITTEE ON CONGREGATIONAL NURTURE: 2022 (2 year term), 2021 (1 year term)
Our vision is to foster the well-being of all congregations of the presbytery.
  • Develops relationships with and among the presbytery’s congregations with a strong commitment to their overall health and well-being 
  • Conducts regular visits to each congregation 
  • Communicates the particular needs or concerns of the congregations to the appropriate presbytery entity. 
COMMISSION ON LEADERSHIP: 3 openings for 2023 (3 year term), 1 opening for 2022 (2 year term)
  • Provides support, resources, and care for pastors
  • Works with congregations and pastors in the all areas of their relationships, including pastoral transitions
  • Acts on grant requests from individuals seeking support for conferences, workshops, other learning opportunities
  • Works with inquirers and candidates on behalf of the Presbytery as they move through the process of preparation for ministry as outlined in the Advisory Handbook on Preparation for Ministry from the General Assembly
  • Provides for the training, examination, and nurture of Ruling Elders seeking to be commissioned to pastoral service
  • Works with congregations in exploring non-traditional staffing models
OKOBOJI BOARD: (The committee believes this is a 3 year term and is in the process of finding out for sure.)

Our prayer is that all these terms can be filled in time for the presbytery meeting! Many thanks for your thought-filled consideration. Interest Form
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
Synod Moderator John McKay finishes term with Fall Synod Meeting
From the Synod Newsletter

Ruling Elder John McKay (commissioner from the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys) called the Fall Synod meeting to order, just as he has since becoming Moderator, via Zoom.
It is not an easy task to lead a meeting over computers and smart phones; one could argue that the technology is the easy part. John, like all of us, had no idea of the challenges he would encounter when he accepted the call to be Synod Moderator. The hard part is bringing everyone together, making people feel connected in spirit. John did just that with warmth, enthusiasm, intelligence, a little humor, and a lot of love.

John is a member of Union Presbyterian Church, St. Peter, Minn., and has been a synod commissioner since 2018. "For the presbytery, I have been vice-moderator in 2013 and moderator in 2014. I served on the 'Next Pres Team', when the presbytery was undergoing a complete change of its structure." Plus, he is a regular pulpit supply for churches in the area.

John was born in Montreal and began studying piano as a boy. He graduated from McGill University and in 1962 he won the Prix d’Europe, which allowed him to study in Vienna, Cologne, and Brussels. He taught on the music faculties of the University of Toronto, The Royal Conservatory of Music and Dalhousie University.

In 1974 John and his family moved to the United States so he could attend Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. While in graduate school John joined the music faculty at Gustavus Adolphus College and primarily taught piano and music history for 28 years. He was a co-founder of the “Minnesota Valley Sommarfest.” In 2019 John and Sara, his late wife, were inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame.

Even though his year as moderator did not go as planned, in person at Mt. Olivet Retreat Center where John probably would have also played the piano for worship, John led the synod with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. The synod is thankful for his service.
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
From Jan: 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!
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.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on The Ministry Lab’s plans for 2020, we are delighted to announce a unique one-time grant opportunity to congregations for the upcoming seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.
Hopeful Innovation Grants will consist of as many as 40 micro grants of up to $200 each. Grants will be given for efforts that aim to accomplish at least one of the following:
  • expand and/or deepen your reach within your congregation or community
  • represent something new, creative, and/or bold for your congregation
  • facilitate faith development
  • equip leaders for new ministry opportunities
Apply by Nov. 13 for the best chance to receive a grant. Any additional funds will be awarded through the end of November on a rolling basis. Grants are available to Ministry Lab member congregations only.