Northeastern Minnesota Synod
Online Reflections
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week of August 9, 2015 
Bishop Aitken's Reflections

"It is more blessed to give, than to receive"
- Jesus, Acts 20:35
This past Friday I was honored to join Pastor Katie Slack and the members of Grace Lutheran/Ely (along with others) in building a Habitat House with the help of a Thrivent grant. I love these Habitat House days; they bring me out of the office and into the world of working with my hands. Friday was a day of joy. It was filled with Christian community, fresh air, faith in action, humor, tired muscles and healthy good works for the sake of our neighbor as Luther would say.
Mom, dad and baby will soon be able to move into that house. The joy in mom's eyes and voice was so genuine, so real and so hope-filled. There was palpable affection felt both ways; She for us and us for her and her family. We often overlook the ordinary things in the life of Jesus and those who accompanied him. Our Lord was hungry and thirsty and so were they. He had to go to bed, he had to eat, he "couch-hopped" on the good graces of others. And he modeled tenderness and care for others as they journeyed together. There was a kindness and friendship enjoyed among them, even as he was still their teacher. We have the Spirit of Christ already planted in us. It's his power, his affection, concern and kindness.
No sense in playing small - let us like those first disciples - carry his tender but robust love and care into our relationships this week.
+Bishop Aitken

Online Evangelical Mission
I recall this time of year in the parish. After a couple of months of the laid back summer schedule, pastors and youth directors and lay people in our congregations realize there's only about a month left before "it all starts up again." August becomes an intense planning month for the academic year: finalizing Bible Study plans, tweaking Confirmation and Sunday School curriculum, getting ready for Rally Day ...
While you're making plans for youth, education, and worship, have you considered what your congregation is going to do for your stewardship emphasis this Fall? Is this the year you're going to do something more intentional about giving? Your congregation is a community where stewardship is highlighted year-round, and not just a topic that only comes up when you're creating next year's budget. Have you considered how you're going to keep that emphasis before the congregation in a new way this year?
Every pastor, associate in ministry, synodically authorized minister, council member ... any one who is involved with the stewardship ministry of your church is encouraged to attend the Macedonia Project workshops coming up in September and October. More specific information (dates, times, locations, etc) about these workshops are in the following article along with the link to register.
The first workshop is an in-depth introduction to the Macedonia Project and the principles of generous giving. When you register you will be given some light pre-work to do that will help make your participation very worthwhile. At least two people from your congregation - many more are welcome - should come to the event. There will be time to discuss your specific congregation's stewardship practice and plan and it's so much easier to have a conversation with someone other than yourself. Plan on coming and bring a friend or two.
The second session will be a follow up to the first. Both will be facilitated by an ELCA stewardship leader who is excited to help the congregations of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod experience the benefits of the Macedonia Project that many other synods have been enjoying since their participation.
If you've been wondering what you're going to do this year for your own stewardship emphasis, this is a great - and free - opportunity! Please remember that you must register for this event by September 3.
Pastor John Dietz
Assistant to the Bishop
Director for Evangelical Mission

Macedonia: Stewardship Event


You are invited to the upcoming Macedonia Project workshops on Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, October 11. This is a great opportunity for leaders to learn how to grow faithful stewards in their congregation and community. The workshop is free to everyone in the synod.


What: In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul praises the spirit of the Macedonians. He talks about them being enriched in every way for great generosity producing thanksgiving to God.

The Macedonia Project will help you:

            + Embrace the spiritual principles of giving

            + Connect faith with Christ's call to mission

            + Invite people to grow toward a tithe

            + Grow regular giving in your congregation

Find out more about the Macedonia Project at:

For more information about these events, click here.


Initial Session 1

Where: Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Hibbing

When: Saturday, September 12; 9:00 am - 1:00 pm


Follow-up Session 2

Where: Bethesda Lutheran Church in Malmo

When: Sunday, October 11; 1:30 - 5:30 pm


Who: Pastors, AiMs, SAMs, Treasurers, Finance Committee Members (at least two people from each church are encouraged to attend)


How: Register at or by clicking the link below:


Eventbrite - Macedonia Project Workshops - Sept 12 & Oct 11

PV for Phebe - Solar August


Solar August has arrived, so consider having a conversation with your friends and family about how you will be joining in the celebration of this life-giving and life-saving ministry next month! Are you a Thrivent Financial customer? You can direct your Thrivent Choice dollars to RREAL to support Phebe! Check out for more information on this giving opportunity. Have you downloaded the Solar August Giving Calendar yet? Find this fun way to give (and think) a little every day of August and raise up to $50 for renewable energy at Phebe on the Resources page at Or take the Killowatt Challenge! Powering Phebe costs roughly $0.66 per kW/hr. The PV for Phebe project aims to reduce that by 1/3. Consider challenging others to donate $66 to power for Phebe for 100 hours - or match their August electric bill! 


P.S. Let your pastor know that additional texts and hymns are now available online on the Resources page at to help with worship service planning for the entire month of August!


Taylor Stevenson

RREAL Program Development Specialist

Boundaries Workshop
August 18; (9:30 registration) 10a.m. - 2:30p.m.
Lutheran Church of the Cross, Nisswa
Presenter: Pastor Karen Bockelman
Cost: $20/person
Clergy and adults that work with youth are encouraged to attend.
Electronic registration is open at, or by clicking on the registration button below.

Eventbrite - Boundaries Workshop

Alternate Event
If you are unable to attend the August 18th event, the SW MN Synod will be hosting a Boundaries Workshop on November 5th in Spicer. Registration for that event is not yet open. Additional details will be available in October.

Marriage Retreat

August 30 - September 1

Clearwater Forest, Brainerd Lakes Area

Cost: $200/couple rostered in NE MN Synod; $300/couple for non-rostered participants

Presenter: Pastor Ron Hunt

brochure available on synod website:


Jesus' Teachings on Love

August 22 - 9:00 am - 7:00 p.m.

Click here for more information

Congregational Learning Event: 

September 15


Equip a team from your congregation to use Discipleship Challenge and Practice Discipleship resources in your congregation's ministries. These resources are useful for your entire congregation - not just youth ministry! Contact Catherine Anderson at [email protected] or 218-724-4424

Fall Theological Conference


"Living in the Promise of the Holy Spirit"

September 27-29, 2015

Ruttger's Sugar Lake Lodge


Registration materials will be mailed to rostered leaders and posted on the synod website this summer:

Speaker: Lois MalcolmProfessor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary

Youth Ministry Information

The 2015 Fall Resource Packet for synod youth ministry events will be mailed to congregations early this week. Click here to download the contents now!
Post-ELCA Youth Gathering video links and resources are available at Find links for follow-up Bible studies, PowerPoint templates, Proclaim Story Curriculum, mass gathering videos and more. These resources are free and can be easily tweaked to use with youth and adults who were not on the Synod Journey/ELCA Youth Gathering!

Middle School Gathering:
November 20-21 OR 21-22, 2015
Grades 6-9: Cragun's Resort, Brainerd

Cardia Deo: March 4-6, 2016
Grades 9-12: Big Sandy Camp, McGregor

Important Tax Rules


Some sponsoring employers reimburse their employees for the cost of health care coverage purchased outside an employer-sponsored group health plan, or for out-of-pocket health care expenses. If the reimbursements are not part of a group health plan as defined by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as a health reimbursement account (HRA) or health flexible spending account (FSA) plan, these employers are subject to tax penalties if they continue these reimbursements.


Portico recommends that sponsoring organizations take advantage of our bundled benefits plan, which includes tax-advantaged health accounts such as an FSA, HRA, or health savings account (HSA).

  • We offer a bundled benefits plan, which includes health, retirement, disability, and life insurance, in accordance with the ELCA Philosophy of Benefits.
  • When you provide ELCA benefits through Portico, you can be assured that the benefits you're providing are in compliance with the ACA.
  • When you sponsor your employees in ELCA benefits, you must sponsor them in all of the benefits as part of the bundled plan.
  • Your sponsored employees must enroll in ELCA health benefits, unless they're eligible to waive health coverage. If sponsored employees don't have a valid waiver and do not enroll in ELCA health benefits, their participation in the entire bundled plan will end.


  • This rule applies to reimbursements, whether for insurance premiums or for out-of-pocket medical expenses, which must also must be reported to the IRS as taxable income for the employee.
  • This rule also applies to reimbursement for premiums for Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D.

 Potential Penalties

  • If you don't meet the exceptions and continue with reimbursements, the IRS may assess your organization $100 per employee, per day, per violation.


  • Employers contributing to coverage for only one employee are exempt from the penalty.
  • Employers reimbursing employees for only stand-alone accident, dental-only, and vision-only plans are exempt from the penalty.
  • Contributions to your employees' ELCA health savings accounts (HSA) are exempt from the penalty, because it is part of the ELCA health plan.


View IRS Notice 2013-54 LINK for more details about the exceptions and penalties.


Note: Portico Benefit Services cannot give tax advice. If you have specific questions, please consult your tax advisor or payroll vendor.

Bulletin Board


RiSK Healing Connections Retreat

Confidant and Leadership Training

A Journey of Grace, Healing and Wholeness

for Veterans and the Whole Church

Sunday, 16 August - Friday, 21 August

at Camp Vermilion

2555 Vermilion Camp Rd., Cook, Minnesota

Click here for more information.


The Music of Forgiveness Concert

Wednesday, August 19th - 6:30 p.m.

Our Savior's Lutheran, Virginia, MN

Click here for more information.


Custodian Position

Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd is seeking a full-time custodian to care for our building and grounds and to welcome the community to the mission of our congregation. Responsibilities include janitorial work, building and equipment maintenance, grass cutting/snow removal and set up for use of church facilities. Successful candidates will possess a positive attitude, ability to work cooperatively and a commitment to excellence. The position involves a flexible 40 hour per week schedule, including some weekends. Salary and benefit package included. Apply in person or submit resume to

[email protected]

1325 N. 45th Avenue East, Duluth, MN 55804 (218-525-1922). Deadline August 11, 2015.


Director of Music Ministry
Messiah Lutheran Church, Mt. Iron, is looking to hire a part-time Director of Music Ministry to direct and recruit the vocal choir (currently 11 voices), plan music for performance in worship and special events, and foster the participation of student musicians, including Messiah's new youth-initiated hand bell choir, the Bell Fire. The Director of Music Ministry will work with musicians of all ages and levels and in cooperation with the pastor and principal accompanist. Starting salary range: $4,500 - $6,000 based on education and experience.

For more details, contact [email protected], or call the church office at 741-7057 (Monday - Wednesday, 9:00-4:00p.m., Thursday 9:00 - noon.


CORE Godly Play Sunday School Curriculum Training


August 14-16, 2015
Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Superior, WI
Nancy St. John, Godly Play Foundation Trainer
Registration Brochure

LSS Center for Changing Lives/Northshore Inline Partnership 

Each night, 120 young people in the Northland have no place to call home. LSS is developing the Center for Changing Lives in Duluth which will create new transitional and permanent housing for young people, as well as bring together many of LSS' at-risk youth programs in the area under one roof.

Create or join an LSS team for the Northshore Inline Marathon (September 19th) and raise funds for the Center for Changing Lives! Team members may participate in any of the Inline Marathon, Wheels off half marathon (running event) or Tunnel 10k (running event). Inline skating clinics will be offered across the Twin Ports area for participants who are interested in learning how to skate or whom need skates.

Informational Flyer

Questions? Contact Robin Maxwell at 218.302.6837 or

[email protected]


Save the date! RECHARGE is coming to Duluth!

Mark your calendars for Saturday, January 16, 2016! RECHARGE is a one-day multi-denominational conference aimed to inspire and equip church staff and their volunteers for ministry with children, youth and families. The NE MN Synod is excited to partner with Youth Leadership to bring this premiere training event to our area! More information will be posted this summer at


Notice of Job Posting - Assistant to the Bishop for Youth, Young Adult and Spiritual Formation - SE Pennsylvania Synod

2016 Synod Assembly

April 29 - May 1, 2016 at Breezy Point Resort  

Returning Speaker: The Rev. Dr. Anna Madsen

SAVE THE DATE: God's Work. Our Hands

Save the date and celebrate! On Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will again have the opportunity to gather together for "God's work. Our hands." Sunday and celebrate who we are as the ELCA - one church, freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor. Visit for more information
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Northeastern Minnesota
Synod, ELCA

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The purpose of our

synod is to nurture a

Christ-centered climate

conducive to healthy,


congregations and

their ministries

throughout the world!

Staff Listing
Phone: 218.724.4424


Brenda Tibbetts, AiM - 122

  Assistant to the Bishop

Pastor John Dietz - 125

   Director for Evangelical Mission

   Assistant to the Bishop


   Youth Ministry 





1105 E. Superior St.,

Upper Suite

Duluth, MN  55802


FAX: 218.724.4393    

Online Reflections Editor

Anne Laechel

Latest Youth E-Chat
NE MN Synod 
Creation Care Team 
Green Tip of the Week
Once mercury from power plant emissions reaches water, microorganisms can change it into methyl mercury a highly toxic form that builds up in fish.  Waterfowl and mammals that eat fish, including loons and otters, songbirds and bats, as well as amphibians that feed on insects can be exposed to high levels of mercury as well.  Mercury increases in concentration with each step up the food chain.  As a result, large predator fish such as walleye and trout can have mercury levels over one million times that of the surrounding water.  Now that EPA's Mercury and n have mercury levels over one million times that of the surrounding water.  Now that EPA'ator fish such as walleyAir Toxics Standards (MATS) were finalized to be included in the Federal Register, the first-ever national limits on the amount of mercury spewing from the nation's coal-fired power plants will be in place.