The Valley Bridge
The weekly newsletter from the
Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys
September 7, 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 September 11-17
First Presbyterian Church of Saint James

Pastor: Rev. Leah Elrod
Ruling Elders: Jan Zender, Craig Christiansen, Patty Brandts, Anne Olsen, Jake Oldenburg, Julie Englin, Dawn Lillevold, Margaret Smith, Mary Meyer and Wayne Sondag
Deacons: Gloria Lewis, Sara Carlson, Louise Paulson, Larry Curry, Linda Becken, Gus Zender, Karen Davis, Kathy Lillevold, Lori Willemssen, Carolyn Curry, Mary Shupe, and Cathy Vande Braak
Health Minister: Linda Becken
Secretary: Courtney Lillevold
Treasurers: Natalie Oldenburg an Courtney Brey
Financial Secretary: Bonnie Jessop
Clerk of Session and Choir Director: Jerry Olson
Organists: Gloria Lewis and Patty Brandts
Custodian: Jon Wilson
Prayer Concerns:
  • For Rev. Merle Elrod (retired), Rev. Leah Elrod and their family as they come to terms with the sudden illness and passing of wife and mother, Norma Elrod.
  • For the upcoming workshop at our church on September 24th, "Conflict Transformation Skills for Churches," and the leadership during that workshop of Rev. Leah Elrod; Rev. Scott Prouty; and Bill Blank, the Associate Director of the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center.
  • For our congregation during this transitional period as we discern God's direction for us with Pastor Leah's help.
  • For our deacon's as they develop and provide a bereavement ministry for our congregation.
  • And for the people in our community who are finding it hard to pay their monthly bills and how our congregation can best help them.
Important Information about a 
PROCESS for Board of Pensions Benefit Plan - 2017
Please Read Carefully!        

This applies to All Teaching Elders - Called and Installed, Temporary, Full and Part Time, Commissioned Ruling Elders, and Other Employees under Board of Pensions Coverage!
Changes in the Presbyterian Church (USA) Board of Pensions Benefits Plan for 2017 require all those receiving Pension, Death and Disability, and Major Medical benefits to complete a plan profile and submit it to the Board by SEPTEMBER 30, 2016!
Many people have missed the notices about these required actions. If you have not already done so. The following information will guide you to and through the process.
Background --People serving the Church who may be receiving benefits will now be divided into three categories:
  • ITEs - Installed Teaching Elders
  • OTEs - Other Teaching Elders
  • OEs - Other Employees
Called and Installed Teaching Elders (most church pastors) will experience little change . . . If they work 50% time or more, they must be enrolled in the traditional plan . . . there are minimal choices.
Teaching Elders who are not called and installed (Temporary Pastors, Interim/Transitional Pastors, Chaplains, Presbytery Executives, and those in Validated Ministries) must negotiate a benefits profile with their employing body.
It is encouraged, but not required, that employers (congregations, camps, etc.) provide full benefits coverage for full-time clergy employees; if something less than full time coverage is chosen, there is the option of negotiating individual portions of the benefits - pension, death and disability, and/or medical - with payment shared between the employer and employee. For this group, coverage may be at the same rate as the installed clergy.
Other church employees receiving Board of Pensions benefits must negotiate a plan in what the recommendation is that the employer pay up to 50% of the cost . . . and which includes a significantly higher cost for medical coverage - individual coverage will nearly double the current cost, while family coverage could be triple the current rates.
It will be possible, however, to negotiate fewer parts of the coverage, i.e. only medical, to keep employer benefits costs level and decrease the employee's cost.
When a benefits proposal is agreed on between the employing organization or congregation and its pastoral leader and employee(s), a designated individual from the organization or congregations needs to go to the Board of Pensions web site -, and click on Benefits Connect.
If you don't already have a profile (most of us), select "I am a New User"

1. Under "Create a User Profile, Step 1,

  • Select -- "I am an employer representative."
  • Employer ID is your congregation's denomination PIN number.
  • Use the name of your Church Treasurer, Business Manager, or Clerk of Session.
  • Current Invoice - this is the monthly amount you pay for the pastor's pension.
  • Use the church's e-mail if you can.
  • Scroll through the terms before you click "accept." Be sure to write down and keep your ID and password.

2. Complete the steps -

  • Called and Installed, working over 50% time will have the standard coverage - indicate if there are extras, such as a 403(b) or dental coverage.
  • Non-installed pastors and other church employees need to indicate what benefit profile has been negotiated, and who is paying what portions.

3. When the profile is completed . . . save it, print it, and then hit submit. At this point, the Employee ID# requested is the Church's Federal Tax ID#.

If you have questions anywhere in the process, do not hesitate to contact the Board of Pensions customer service staff and ask them to guide you through your questions or concerns.
Upcoming Gatherings

: Tuesday, September 13
"Boundary Training" from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at Hope Presbyterian Church in Spicer. This is a required gathering for all of our pastors and ruling elders commissioned to a particular service, in order for our credentials to be found in order for the coming three years. Other interested participants from our congregations are welcome, as well.
Mark Sundby from the North Central Ministry Development Center will be the presenter and lunch will be provided. RSVPs are necessary - both for those planning to attend and those unable to attend. Please contact Karen at the presbytery office by September 8th. Our pastors and CREs should be present and engaged in this important training.
Saturday, September 24 - "Conflict Transformation Skills for Churches" from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Saint James. Pastors Leah Elrod and Scott Prouty will be leading this workshop, in partnership with Bill Blank, from the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center. Brochures and registration information are now available. Don't miss out on this great opportunity for your congregation and your leaders to see how conflict can be transformed into an opportunity for growth, and how you can respond to conflict when it appears in your congregation. Contact Leah Elrod at 507.375.3432 for more details.
Saturday, October 15 - "Building Interfaith Bridges" from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Redwood Falls. You heard Scott Prouty talk about this at the May presbytery meeting, and I hope that you have already put it on your calendars. Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the National Director of the Islamic Society of North America will be the guest of Scott and the Redwood Falls church during that weekend. Our presbytery is working with Scott to sponsor this gathering with the hope that it will engage us all in some important conversations about relationship and building bridges of understanding and collaboration between our faith traditions and communities. More details will be shared, but I hope that our people take hold of this opportunity to be in dialog. Stay tuned for more!
Saturday, November 5 - Presbytery Meeting and Music Workshop at the Union Presbyterian Church in Saint Peter, from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. In the morning, Bill McConnell, Executive Director of PAM, the Presbyterian Association of Musicians will share with all of us how the Glory to God hymnal can be a vital resource for our congregational worship. Following lunch, while the presbyters conduct presbytery's business, Bill will lead a workshop for musicians, worship planners, and other interested folk. Make this a big day - bring your music lovers and worship leaders to the presbytery gathering. It will be great!
Opportunities to Serve in the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys

The Committee on Representation will be nominating individuals to serve in the following areas of our presbytery's ministry:
  • The Commission on Leadership
  • The Commission on Presbytery Life
  • The Commission on Presbytery Operations
  • The Commission on Congregational Transformation and Development
  • The Committee on Congregational Nurture
  • Vice-Moderator of Presbytery
  • The Committee on the Self-Development of People
Descriptions of these groups and their ministries can be found on the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys website, using the Commissions/Committees tab -

September Ordination Anniversaries

09/06/2008 Christopher Drew
09/09/1995 Pamela Prouty
09/18/1988 Edward Mark Godshall
09/21/1975 Bob Bartlett
09/26/1962 Roger Grussing
09/29/1985 Donald Ottenhoff
"Men in the Mirror" in Guatemala

By Edith Alvarez

The "Men in the Mirror: Towards a Christ-centered Masculinity" course has been offered throughout our country and will now be offered in Guatemala. The Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys, along with five other PCUSA presbyteries with sister presbyteries in Guatemala, the Sinódica (the PW Women Leaders) and the National Guatemalan Presbyterian Church (IENPG) are joining together to sponsor scholarships for 59 male pastors and elders to attend this course on September 27 & 28 at the Presbyterian seminary in the southern part of Occidente presbytery. The presenter is Pastor Kevin Frederick.

Guatemala has a history of extreme violence against women with little effort by the legal system to identify and/or prosecute those who commit physical abuse, rape, murder, and other crimes against women. This course is designed for men to take responsibility for being strong examples of love, hope and sensitivity in the church and in Guatemala. The men taking this course will form teams to return to the congregations in their presbyteries and offer similar classes to the men in their churches and the community. Please pray for the success of this effort.

Occidente Presbytery wants to thank the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys for the 10 scholarships provided through a designated fund of the Occidente Task Force towards this worthwhile program.
On the Road with Rick: August and September
August 28-September 7 - Vacation!
September 11 - Preach at Zion Irving Lutheran and Harrison Community Presbyterian Churches
September 13 - Boundary Training at Hope Presbyterian Church, Spicer
Available from the Wilmont Church

There are several items available from the Wilmont church. Click here for pictures. If you would like any of them, please let Charles Moore, chair of the Administrative Commission, know. Freewill donation.
The presbytery office also has two flags available, one American and one Christian. Contact Karen Lange.
Hello, Presbyterian Women!

We all love going out for a warm cup of coffee or tea with friends. And most of us long to extend those short visits and take time to slow down and really enjoy time together. 
That's exactly what we'll do at Sweet Life Café. Join us at this retreat, where we'll savor time with God and friends. Together we'll experience meaningful Bible studies, flavor-filled activities, and scrumptiously delicious fun!
We'll begin with registration from 12-1 PM on Monday, September 26 and will finish with a noon meal on Tuesday, September 27. Our Sweet Life Café retreat will be held at Green Lake Bible Camp, Spicer, Minnesota and the cost is only $85 per person! This covers three delicious meals, fun and refreshing activities, and comfortable lodging. 
Registrations should be made by September 1 and should be sent to Darlene O'Neal at 32505 300th St., Worthington MN 56187. Just missed the deadline? It's still not too late, but act soon. You do not have to be part of an organized Presbyterian Women's group or even Presbyterian to attend. All women welcome.
Take time to relax, to make new friends, to worship God, and to savor your relationship with Jesus. We hope you'll join us at Sweet Life Café!
Rev. Elaine Boyd
Sweet Life Café Director
Chris Cunningham
--A Minnesota Mini Tour with--
Wes Kirkpatrick

Concert at First Presbyterian Church
Canby MN
Sunday, September 11
4:00 p.m.
$15 at the door
(kids are free)
Send Us Your Congregation's Mission Activities!
One of the goals of the redesign of the Presbytery is to enhance relationships between the churches of the presbytery. At the July meeting of the Commission of Presbytery Life, we discussed ways to accomplish that goal. We need your help in this first attempt.
Here is what we intend to do. We will work with our staff to add a new category in the black bar across the top of the presbytery's web page. It will be entitled churches/mission. This will not be password protected. This link will bring you to a church directory that is similar to the one under directories except it will not have any personal staff information. Instead it will list the mission activities of the church.
This is where we need your help. Please send Karen a list of any mission activities that your church is participating in. We will let you define mission. Karen will add this list to your church listing in the new directory.
What do we hope to accomplish by doing this? Any one in any of our churches will be able to scan this information to look for mission ideas to use in their congregation. They will also be able to contact that church to solicit help in beginning and sustaining that mission. They might also be able to find a mission that they are interested in but not able to accomplish by themselves. They could then collaborate with the church that is already involved in that mission.
Our hope is that everyone will participate. Please contact Karen with the information requested and as your mission program changes, keep Karen informed so she can update the information on the website and keep it accurate. We will give you a couple of weeks to get the information to her, and then we will start contacting those who have not responded. 

Ministry Opportunities

The First Presbyterian Church of Pipestone  is seeking a Designated Pastor to lead them as they seek to grow and develop active disciples. First Presbyterian Church desires to be a congregation that will embrace new ideas that will lead them into a new and exciting future. 
If you, or someone you know, might be the dynamic, committed pastoral leader that FPC-Pipestone needs, please take a serious look at this opportunity! The Ministry Information Form is posted on the Church Leadership Connection web site -- It is MIF ID#03796.AC0. For more information, contact Rick Carus at the presbytery office - 320.235.7910 or .

The First Presbyterian Church Osakis is continuing its search for a Pastor to lead them as they live out the visions that have been generated by their New Beginning conversations. 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.AC1. For more information, please contact PNC Chairperson Shari Maloney at 320.859.3098 or by e-mail - .

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