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)
Take pictures! We would love to share photos from all over our presbytery on our new website. As you're out and about this fall, snap a few photos of Minnesota's beauty. Share some photos of your congregation at worship, work and play, in masks or from pre-mask days! Please email pictures to karen@minnesotavalleys.org ASAP. Send the images at actual size, if possible.
Congregation of the Week of October 4-10
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church of Renville
Pastor Anna Williamson
Carol Beekman - Clerk of Session

Session Members - Todd Broberg, Tim Beekman, Lenae Wordes, Ryan Ross, Pam Kjersten, Greg Dikken, Jeff Bakker, Kristy Marks, Deb Winzenburg

Please Pray for:
  • Bev Raske - Broken shoulder and expects shoulder surgery (hopefully Thursday)
  • John Booth - John is a young boy that had a heart transplant in July. He is still in the hospital after having some setbacks. 
  • Those recovering from surgeries - Laurel Dikken, Donna Feldman and Vern Santjer
  • The residents at Renville Health Services - Meadows on Main and East Ridge Court as they deal with COVID-19
  • Teachers, students, and parents as they work their way through their COVID-19 plans
  • Everyone dealing with the wildfires on the west coast

Mission Projects
  • Ebenezer is supporting BACK-THE-PACK at Renville County West. This program provides kids with weekend meals for those less fortunate that us. 
  • We will also be starting Operation Christmas Child soon. 
  • During the time Ebenezer was closed, our elders were making phone calls to our members to see if they needed help with anything. 
The November 14 Stated Presbytery Meeting will be
meeting via Zoom from 10:00 am-12:00 noon.
I'm Embarrassed
Last night’s Presidential Debate would not make anyone proud. What a shame that debates that are used to discuss issues of importance to groups turned into a circus of egos. In my strong opinion, as Americans prepare to elect a new president, fill other key congressional seats and municipal positions, we need higher consciousness. Our values must align with the common good, faith, and justice. Like last week, reflect on the below quotes:
“We should ask God to increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and raise it up when it is overthrown.” 

“Our prayer must not be self-centered. It must arise not only because we feel our own need as a burden we must lay upon God, but also because we are so bound up in love for our [human beings] that we feel their need as acutely as our own. To make intercession for [others] is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them.” (John Calvin)

“I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“Peace comes when you talk to the guy you most hate. And that's where the courage of a leader comes, because when you sit down with your enemy, you as a leader must already have very considerable confidence from your own constituency.” (Desmond Tutu)

“And what is that religion that sanctions, even by its silence, all that is embraced in the 'Peculiar Institution'? If there can be anything more diametrically opposed to the religion of Jesus, than the working of this soul-killing system - which is as truly sanctioned by the religion of America as are her minsters and churches - we wish to be shown where it can be found.” (Sojourner Truth)

I pray that God has not left America. I pray that we can rise above this state of lowest. I pray we can live a better today and tomorrow. It will not be easy, but yes, it is possible as all things are possible through Christ Jesus. But for now, we cannot hurry past this place of pain and debrief. We have some things to learn from our current times. First, the cross, the grave, and tomorrow's resurrection this is the healing and reconciliation pattern in life.

Peace,
SanDawna
News from the Board of Pensions and the Commission on Leadership

The Commission on Leadership invited our Board of Pensions Church Consultant, Kenneth Green, to our meeting to discuss some of the new options for participants for 2021. The good news is that the Board of Pensions (BOP) program for installed full-time pastors remains the same, though the percentages for a couple of the components have changed. BOP dues is 37 percent of Effective Salary. New Cafeteria options are available for those who are in temporary pastoral relationships. You can find First Call Pastor benefit options on pensions.org.

The bigger news is the addition of Temporary Disability coverage. That and a new bundle of benefits for Pastors without the medical coverage, “Minister’s Choice” is being introduced as well.

Here are some highlights - the links take you to the pages within the Board of Pension website:
  • Minister’s Choice. provides a new benefit package designed for those not in an installed position and not covered under the Pastor’s Participation. New. Watch the video.
  • Pastor’s Participation Plan. Beginning January 1, 2021, ministers enrolled in Pastor's Participation will be provided with a new benefit as part of this package. The Temporary Disability Plan provides financial protection in the event of short-term disability for up to 90 days after a 14-day waiting period.
  • Temporary Disability Plan. In the event of a short-term disability, this financial protection benefit provides employees with a partial income for up to 90 days after a 14-day waiting period. This plan will be included in the Pastor’s Participation and the new Minister's Choice benefits packages. Watch the video.
  • Long Term Disability Plan. This benefit offers financial protection for employees with a long-term disability that extends beyond 90 days, providing them with a partial income throughout their disability. Employers may provide this plan to employees who are not enrolled in the Death and Disability Plan. Watch the video.
  • Employee Assistance Program. The Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) is a confidential resource provided at no cost to employees enrolled in medical coverage through the Board of Pensions or the Pastor's Participation or Minister's Choice benefits package. Through the EAP, employees have access to counseling sessions, financial and legal assistance, resources for child and elder care, and more. 

We highly encourage session members and ministers to check out this page:
to learn about the theology behind the decision making process for The Board of Pensions of the PC(USA).

The deadline for submitting your Employer Agreement is October 9. You can submit Agreements as often as you want before October 9. The last Agreement submitted by October 9 will determine the benefits you'll offer during annual enrollment beginning October 26.

Christ's blessings!
Bev Brock and Deb Hess
Commission on Leadership, Co-chairs
Are you called to serve?

The Committee on Representation has the responsibility to prayerfully consider the needs of the presbytery and the gifts of those who desire to serve the church through the presbytery. Below is a link to the Personal Interest Form. Please check those areas where you would feel called to serve in the ministries of our presbytery, and at the end of the form, list the gifts and interest you bring to those areas. For more info on each commission or committee, see the appropriate page on our website. Also see the Committee on Representation page at www.minnesotavalleys.org for info on skills needed and time commitment for each.

Link to form
Race and Christianity
We had a great time this morning in our second webinar in the Race and Christianity Series with Sarah Ruble. Here is the link to the webinar on YouTube: https://youtu.be/cp-P3GABO2Y. Join us next time (yet to be scheduled) for our final session with Sarah Ruble. Meanwhile, we are invited to watch and think about Episodes 5-8 at sarahruble.com in preparation for the discussion.
Next Book Discussion:
Jesus and the Disinherited
by Howard Thurman
Zoom scheduled for
Tuesday, October 20
10:00 - 11:00 AM
For the first meeting, read the forward and chapters 1 and 2.

In this classic theological treatise, the acclaimed theologian and religious leader Howard Thurman (1900–81) demonstrates how the gospel may be read as a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised. Jesus is a partner in the pain of the oppressed and the example of His life offers a solution to ending the descent into moral nihilism. Hatred does not empower—it decays. Only through self-love and love of one another can God's justice prevail.
The Academy Offers Hope for the Future

Many churches across America and here in Minnesota are finding it difficult to find and/or afford a full-time ordained pastor. However, several churches are finding what might even be a better solution: Commissioned Pastors (CP), also known as Commissioned Ruling Elders. CP’s are commissioned by the Presbytery to fulfill the role of a pastor for a specific ministry or congregation.

The Presbytery is responsible for training CPs, and the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys, working with the Synod, have developed The Academy. The Academy is a series of 11 courses over two years, designed to develop and equip ruling elders to serve in the Presbytery. 

I have been the Presbytery’s facilitator for the past year and am extremely impressed with the program, especially the quality of the instructors. Students completing the two-year program are clearly qualified to serve churches.
However, the classes are open to anyone. The classes are excellent Continuing Education for current CPs or anyone desiring to learn and grow as a leader in their congregation. Take a look at The Academy’s brochure.*

The next class is “PC(USA) Polity” taught by the Presbytery’s own Stated Clerk, the Rev. Pam Prouty. The class will be held at the Lakeshore Center at Lake at Okoboji Lake, IA, October 10-11. Contact the Presbytery for more information about cost and expenses for this class or contact me for more general information.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Hartwell
Randall Presbyterian Church
From our Congregations:
First Presbyterian Church of Mankato - We made this "staying connected in COVID" video for Stewardship, and thought Presbytery would enjoy this video with all the goodness of church packed in as tight as we could manage!
October Ordination Anniversaries

10/02/1999 Mark Ford
10/05/1999 Karen Anderson Dent
10/05/1971 Jim Krapf
10/08/1989 Sue DeNio
10/18/1981 Dwight Johnson
10/19/2008 Cory Germain
10/24/1984 Mark Chamberlain
10/30/2005 Nathan Lamb
10/31/1999 SanDawna Gaulman Ashley
10/31/2010 Anne Veldhuisen

New Robert’s Rules of Order Edition

“Meetings shall be conducted in accordance with the most recent edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, except when it is in contradiction to this Constitution” (Book of Order, G-3.0105). Link to document regarding changes.
The Presbyterian Action Team addresses Climate Change

by Earl Knutson, First Presbyterian, Willmar

The Presbyterian Action Team was formed in 2015 to inform Presbyterians of harmful changes in the climate. Further, PAT aims to encourage and enable individuals, congregations, and presbyteries in acting to slow or reverse these changes. PAT, along with many denominational action teams, is affiliated with the Citizens Climate Lobby, a 13 year old international organization patiently working to nudge the US and other countries away from fossil fuels. At the 2018 General Assembly, PAT was key in presenting an overture endorsing a specific climate legislation, HR763. The overture was adopted.
Support Education for Children in Our Sister Presbytery in Guatemala

by Jim Krapf

Education yields opportunities. We are grateful for your support of this possibility for children in our sister presbytery of Occidente. Donating $250 scholarships provides funds for a student's required uniforms, books, and other expenses for a year. It makes a difference for that child’s future.

Their next school year begins in January. You can mail your checks made out to the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys and noted for scholarships to the presbytery office. Any amount is appreciated; but $250 per student is the goal. You may consider making this more than a one-year commitment.

You might also added 22% of your donated amount. Five percent is given to the national office of the Presbyterian Church in Guatemala as a part of our partnership agreement. This money assists in paying their administrative and program cost at the national level. Seventeen percent is given to our national office of the PCUSA, to pay for promotional efforts and to ensure the funds are used as intended.

Your donations will be in addition to the six scholarships that are provided through our presbytery’s Occidente Partners budget. Our goal for several years has been a total of $4000, providing 16 children with $250 each. Keeping our donations at this level can support more children beyond elementary into middle and high school.

After their school year ends in December, donors will receive photographs, academic reports, and thank you notes from the children and/or their parents. Many churches display these to express appreciation and promote further contributions. Examples will be on exhibit at the next Presbytery meeting. We do not reveal the names of donors to the recipients to avoid further requests for assistance. We have found presbytery-to-presbytery arrangements are a fairer more manageable way to offer assistance. Occidente's Committee on Ministry will continue to select the recipients from among their now 20 churches.

Thank you in advance
From the Minnesota Department of Health

We wanted to make you aware of updates to the Faith-based Guidance under the Governor’s Stay Safe MN Phase III plan.


Thank you for your adherence to these guidelines and commitment to protection of our communities as you make decisions about how to support your members and the larger community.
Minnesota Grant to improve safety and air quality

Please go to this link for more information about this program:
ZOOM presentation on COVID 19 by Presbytery of Boston/Northern New England

This was provided for the Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England, with people joining in from across the country. It’s available both on the Presbytery of Boston Facebook page and here as an uploaded video: https://youtu.be/M9P0gOSqwn0 
Have you hit "the wall" yet?
A message from Executive Director Mark Sundby, PhD, LP 
Have you hit “the wall” yet? A number of friends and colleagues are passing around a recent twitter thread by Aisha Ahmad, who is a professor at the University of Toronto and has lived in a number of war torn countries. Working amid trauma and crisis for prolonged periods of time, she describes her experience of hitting the 6-month wall as almost always challenging but predictable. It’s like clockwork. Although the topic of her twitter thread focuses on the pandemic, I believe it applies equally well to our collective experience of outrage, action, and now—possibly—fatigue after the murder of George Floyd.
 
As Professor Ahmad describes, we first experience a surge of adrenalin. We see the contours of the crisis with striking clarity—in this case the injustices of murder, police brutality, and systemic racism—and we mobilize in response. We read articles and books, study, write emails or blog posts, preach sermons, and proactively address the issue. Our sympathies align with those oppressed by systemic racism, and we humbly consider our part. We enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to learn and act.
 
Our bodies and minds, though, can only handle a certain level of sustained, heightened focus. At about six months, fatigue seeps in, and we would like to think about almost anything else. According to Professor Ahmad, this is normal and to be expected. Here’s the problem. When it comes to racism, this is a luxury of white privilege. Who among the Black, Indigenous, and communities of color can take a break? As a white person of privilege, I can tune out for a time, if I wish. This is simply not an option for our neighbors who are brown or Black.
 
Friends, this is a time to lean in rather than lean out of conversations on race. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged, and even expected about this point in the struggle. Yet we must lean in. A bit of fatigue is little compared to 400 years of oppression.
 
LeaderWise has chosen to continue our Conversations on Race series because we recognize it is what we are called to do. We’ll offer a safe space for you to come, listen, share, and discuss matters of race. Our goal is developmental—no judgment (we all have work to do) and we offer simply a space to grow in or our awareness and commitment to antiracism. We’re all in this together.
 
This fall you will have the opportunity to participate in three conversations. On October 5, Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, who is the Director of Community Engagement and Racial Justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches, will talk about “Changing Self” in light of his personal experiences with racism and his community work; on November 2, Rev. Kelly Chatman, retired senior pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church and current executive director of Center for Leadership and Neighborhood Engagement in North Minneapolis, will discuss “Changing Community”; and on December 7, Rev. Alicia Forde, who serves as the Director of the International Office for the Unitarian Universalist Association, will share her insights about “Changing Systems.”
 
We invite you to join us in keeping the collective conversation on race going. Consider bringing with you a friend or two—perhaps members of your congregation—to these gatherings. Eventually, Professor Ahmad observes, the fatigue lifts after 4 to 6 weeks, and most of us will feel engaged and energized once again. She notes that we will even be more effective in our work due to our familiarity with the struggle and the lay of the land. In this in-between time, let’s lean in to prepare and renew ourselves for the antiracism work that lies ahead.
Presbyterian Women News

PW's 2021 Churchwide Gathering is August 5-8, 2021. The PW Churchwide Gathering is now less than a year away! WOOHOO! St. Louis, MO is the place to be to be inspired, energized, and challenged; to grow in one’s faith and to learn from the many knowledgeable speakers. Events will be held at the Grand Marriott and St. Louis Convention Center. Registration books will be available in the next few weeks and registration begins in January 2021! Continue to dream and make plans to attend!

The Board approved 125 grants at $450 each (cost of registration) for financial support to attend the 2021 Churchwide Gathering in St. Louis. A grant application form and three reference letters must be submitted to Churchwide by May 2021.

The Board approved gift cards as a mission project for the Churchwide Gathering. The cards will support work in three areas:
  • PW disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico
  • USA Mission Experience to the Finger Lakes Region in New York
  • Women’s health in the St. Louis area.

Register today to join a book study . . .
A Warrior of the People:
How Susan LaFlesche Overcame Racial and Gender
Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor
by Joe Starita

This book study is sponsored by Presbyterian Women in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies and led by members of the PWS Native American Concerns Committee. It is open to interested women and men across the synod, via Zoom teleconferencing (using computer or phone) There is no charge to participate nor to use Zoom, yet registration is required.

Daytime study begins: Monday, September 28, 2020 at 1:30-2:30 PM (CST)
Evening study begins: Monday, September 28, 2020 at 6:30-7:30 PM (CST)
Groups will meet every two weeks for four sessions

Synopsis: “On March 14, 1889, Susan LaFlesche received her medical degree becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. She earned her degree thirty-one years before women could vote and thirty-five years before Indians could become citizens in their own country. By age twenty-six, this fragile but indomitable Indian woman became the doctor to her tribe. Overnight, she acquired 1,244 patients scattered across 1,350 square miles of rolling countryside with few roads. Her patients often were desperately poor and desperately sick with tuberculosis, small pox, measles, and influenza, families scattered miles apart, whose last hope was a young woman who spoke their language and knew their customs, This is the story of an Indian woman who effectively became the chief of an entrenched patriarchal tribe, the story of a woman who crashed through thick walls of ethnic, racial and gender prejudice, then spent the rest of her life using a unique bicultural identity to improve the lot of her people physically, emotionally, politically and spiritually. A Warrior of the People is the moving biography of Susan LaFlesche’s inspirational life, and it will finally shine a light on her numerous accomplishments. The author will donate all royalties from this book to a college scholarship fund he has established for Native American high school graduates.

Register by contacting Marilyn Stone at mmstone52@att.net and provide the following information: Name, Email address, Phone number, Presbytery, Afternoon or evening study preference

Another Book Study: Justice and Peace Book Study Group (aka Book Club)
Read a book every two months
Receive study guide or questions for each gook to inform your reading
Meet via Zoom for a two-hour discussion

2020-2021 Proposed Books are Waking Up White by Debby Irving, A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves by Jason DeParle, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Climate Justice by Mary Robinson, The White Devil's Daughters by Julia Flynn Siler, and The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein.

This Book Club will meet by Zoom on October 19 at 12:30-2:30 and 6:30-8:30PM to discuss Waking Up White. Register by contacting Kathleen Keefer at kathleenkeefer20@gmail.com. Read the books which interest you and register for each separately. You don't have to read all of them to be in the book club. The book club is open to EVERYONE.
Coronavirus/COVID-19 Resources for Congregations and Members

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?—Psalm 27:1
Along with our brothers and sisters all around the world, we’re now coming to terms with the “new normal” brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. It is our hope and goal to equip churches and worshipers with useful information and resources during these trying times. Please check back often for updated information. If you have ideas or resources that might be of interest to the wider church, we invite you to email them to us at connected@pcusa.org.
Guidance for Faith-Based Communities from the MN Department of Health Link to guide
Prayer List

  • For Beverly Raske, Renville, former Interim Executive Presbyter, broken shoulder
  • For Rev. Al Jergenson and family, on the death of his mother
  • 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
  • For Rev. Elaine and Kent Boyd at First Presbyterian Church of Amboy

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 Bety Cifuentes, the treasurer of the Partnership Committee, undergoing chemotherapy
  • 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 -- http://oga.pcusa.org/section/mid-council-ministries/clc/
From Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center

Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center is a ministry affiliate of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church (Minneapolis). Just as so many communities of faith and nonprofits are adjusting their outreach in different ways due to the pandemic, we are also thinking creatively about how we continue to foster and encourage individuals and groups to retreat. In addition to now once again welcoming pastors and small church and nonprofit groups for in person retreats, we are also offering online workshops, classes and retreats. Links to upcoming virtual offerings and our complimentary retreat offerings for those who are doing racial equity and justice work to pastors and faith communities.