Northeastern Minnesota Synod
Online Reflections
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week of December 20, 2015  
Prayer Petitions

Each Wednesday morning the synod staff meets for devotions and prays for the congregations and people of our synod. You are invited to join us.
  • Pastor Paul Hadland, On Leave from Call, in Duluth
  • Elim Lutheran, Duluth and Pastor James Hagen
  • Pastor Thomas Hallowell, retired in Angora
  • St. Paul's Episcopal, Duluth and Thomas Hamilton, AiM
  • Pastor Paul Hammar, retired in Side Lake
Bishop's Christmas Message
Christmas:  A Story about a Middle East Family Seeking Refuge
We face enormous challenges in this country and around the world: gun-violence, global warming, racism, anti-Muslim hate rhetoric and enormously polarized and back-biting politics. And yet Christians around the world, in just a few days, have the audacity to tell another story: A love story, an anti-war, anti-prejudice, anti-racist one that ultimately trumps all our sad stories. 
Jesus' story begins with a Middle East Family seeking Refuge. In the midst of a similarlyviolent era, God became as vulnerable as you can get. God decided to join us in a world needing redemption. God sent Jesus into an Empire that promised peace, but only through violent domination, threat, and the marginalization of certain people the Empire deemed less important. God didn't wait for the perfect conditions to act with grace; Mary and Joseph were on the road when Jesus was born, not in the cozy confines of their home. Soon after our Lord was born, that holy family became refugees in Egypt because of the Empire politics of his day. But that child became the Prince of Peace, spreading God's dream everywhere he went - a dream that was about mending, healing, forgiving, loving and reconciling all people- no exceptions - back to God and God's plan for the world.
The only way we can realize God's intention for the world, is to tell and live this story. Don't think you can replace God's story by putting a child in front of a TV or video game this Christmas. Tell the real story of salvation. Gather with the faithful and worship the new-born King who brings us genuine hope and real strength to participate in loving and reconciling the world that seeks refuge in the real thing - even if it doesn't always know what the real thing is.
I thank you for your partnership in Christ and his ultimate message to the world. It's been a privilege to be your Bishop and to work with an amazing staff here in the Northeastern Minnesota Synod.
A Blessed Christmas to you from me and from your Northeastern Minnesota Synod Staff!


Online Evangelical Mission

For my evangelical mission article this week, I simply want to share this post by Pastor Jodi Houge from Humble Walk Lutheran Church. It's known as the "Small Church. Big Gospel. Enough Grace to Go Around" church. Humble Walk is a community of the ELCA in St. Paul, Minnesota. You can learn more about who they are and what they do at As we look forward to a new year and continue to live into changing times as a church, I share this post and ask you to consider Pastor Jodi's ideas as you plan to start 2016 and perhaps a new ministry, a new outreach, a new worship experience or worshiping community (on a very limited budget):

How to Start a Church Without Any Money
Backstory: When we started Humble Walk, I was a student at Luther Seminary ('score one' for laity!). Lest anyone accuse us of following a business model of ministry, I can tell you with confidence that we had no plan.  (And not too many of you have EVER made that accusation). We were an unplanned birth. Perhaps the Holy Spirit had something to do with it, but unplanned birth just-the-same. We met every Sunday for six months before putting a hoped-for budget together.

When you have a volunteer pastor and zero assets, the budget is pretty low. A box of wine, homemade bread, and a little rent money...that's about what it takes. But, then I graduated and the synod called me to do this work...and my student loans started rolling in. Durn those loans. We pieced together a scrappy little budget that would hopefully come to fruition through partner congregations, synod grants and offerings. It more or less worked. Some months better than others.

Now, as a congregation under development, we get some funding from our national church body in Chicago (our ELCA) and our local synod. Our worshipers are wonderfully generous-and we have been graced with surprise gifts from area congregations who believe in what we are doing. So, you are thinking of starting a church, are you? Here are five things you might want to know regarding money:
  1. There is enough. Enough to go around. Enough to fund ministry. Enough to share. (We might work on distribution, however...)
  2. Clergy...don't quit your day job. Seriously. Whatever skills you have for making a living outside of the church are huge assets. (I have none. Other than a decade of youth ministry...oh wait...) Think of the freedom to do wild, spirit-led mission without the burden of needing an institutional church to pay your salary. Think of the risks you could take.
  3. Look around you. There are people in your life who are ridiculously gifted. I am not telling you to use them for your church-starting agenda. That feels slimy. However, people want to be a part of something meaningful...and want to contribute. Let them. Invite them. You often have to give up control, but I'm pretty sure we are supposed to do that anyway.
  4. Owning stuff is way over-rated. Beg, borrow or steal. I will be the first to admit that this approach gets annoying. You are always setting up camp or tearing it down. What you do own eventually gets broken in the process. But traveling lightly has ALL sorts of benefits. Think of the hours you won't have to spend managing physical assets.
  5. Do your own vacuuming. Wash your own dishes. Set up your own chairs. Take out your own garbage. Don't be wussy and hire this out-invite your folks to set up camp with you. If you and a staff provide everything-what in the heck is the gathered body for? (Insert childhood Sunday School song: We are the Church).
Bonus tip: You don't need to rent or pay for an office. If you do, you will spend most of your time there. Lame. There is a whole world out there for you to be a part conspire with...and that world provides wifi and coffee and beer. I would, however, budget for the coffee and beer that you will consume in your mobile office. Probably a scone or two, as well. Throw in some nacho money for good measure. Ready? Set? Go.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may God continue to bless your innovative and courageous worship and work!

Pastor John Dietz
Assistant to the Bishop 
Director for Evangelical Mission 
An Open House in Honor of Marilyn Hull!

Sunday, January 3, 2016
Our Savior's Lutheran Church,
4831 Grand Ave, Duluth

2:00-4:00 pm - Open House with light desserts
3:00 pm - Short Program

Come celebrate Marilyn Hull as she retires from 26 years serving the Northeastern Minnesota Synod!
Your presence is the only gift that is needed. However, if you do wish to honor Marilyn with a gift, she has requested donations be made to the Center for Changing Lives "From Here On" campaign. You can make a donation directly to the LSS website at (there is a place to mark "In Honor of") or send checks to the NE MN Synod, 1105 E Superior St., Upper Suite, Duluth, MN 55804 (mark "In Honor of Marilyn Hull" in the memo line).

Lutheran Disaster Response -- 
Southern India Flooding

Those of you who view the synod's Facebook page have probably seen pictures of the recent flooding in southern India. Historic amounts of rain have flooded the city of Chennai and the surrounding areas. Chennai is home to 4.3 million people and much of the city lies at or below sea level. The Lutheran seminary in Chennai was also inundated by water, yet the faculty and students are reaching out to their neighbors in need.
A little less than 100 miles northwest of Chennai, the area of our Companion Synod, the South Andhra Lutheran Church, has also been affected by the flooding. Many of the people suffering in southern India are those who are on the margins, those living in inadequate housing ... the poorest of the poor. Lutheran Disaster Response is on the ground helping right now. Your gifts will go to help our Companion Synod and the people in their communities as well as the areas around Chennai. If you would like to help, you can donate through Lutheran Disaster Response of the ELCA. To give online, go to You can also donate via check. Make checks payable to "Lutheran Disaster Response" with the memo "Southern India Flooding". Checks can be sent to the synod office at 1105 East Superior St., Upper Suite, Duluth, MN 55802 or to Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, ELCA Gift Processing Center, P.O. Box 1809, Merrifield, VA 22116-8009. For more information, contact Brenda Wagner at

A Holiday Message from Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

"Confronting Racism: A Holy Yearning" Webcast

As racism remains an enduring crisis in the United States, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is continuing her call to the 3.7 million member church to address the complexity and implications of the issue in "Confronting Racism: A Holy Yearning" - a live webcast Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. (CDT). This is Eaton's second live webcast on the topic of racism.

Among other topics, the January webcast will raise the question of the racial disparity in the U.S. criminal justice system, emphasizing the ELCA's commitment to pray for the incarcerated, their families and communities, and those wrongly convicted, as well as to pray for law enforcers and those who work in the system. The webcast will also underscore the denomination's declaration to name racism as a sin and highlight the ELCA's ongoing work to eliminate racial, ethnic discrimination in the church and society.

Information about the webcast is available at, where a link to the live webcast will be embedded. A live stream also will be available at Twitter handle is #ELCAConfrontRacism. ELCA members are invited to submit a question to be considered during the live webcast at

Eaton's public statements are available at

The ELCA's social statement "The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries" is available at and its accompanying study guide.

January 16, 2016 - Duluth

February 5-8, 2016 - Anaheim, CA
Four, $100 scholarships are available through the NE MN Synod to assist leaders in getting to the Extravaganza! Please contact Catherine Anderson by December 1 to request a scholarship.
Job Opening Northeastern MN Synod
Office Communication and Support Person
All of you are aware that Marilyn Hull will retire Dec. 31, 2015. This creates a new job opening, with a new job description, worked out by our Personnel Committee. I post this position below so that if you or someone you know is qualified, they make contact me at 218-724-4424. - Bishop Thomas Aitken
Reports to: Bishop

Office Support
Answer telephone providing information, responding to inquiries and/or requests, directing phone calls
Greet synod visitors and provide hospitality for meetings
Office support/secretarial tasks to assist other synod staff as needed
Serve as point person for synod mailings, both electronically and through the USPS

Prepare brochures and flyers as needed
Maintain website, social media, and Constant Contact as needed
Arrange event preparation as assigned by the bishop, working with location liaisons (including Synod Assembly)
Assemble the Bulletin of Reports for the Synod Assembly

Maintain and update Pulpit Supply list
Maintain current rosters of all synod committees and task forces
Process information submitted by committees to the synod office
Arrange annual meeting of the Nominating Committee as directed by the bishop
Prepare nomination information for the Nominating Committee and Bulletin of Reports
Terms of Employment
This is a half-time position for 4 hours/day five days a week. Additional hours need to be pre-authorized by the Bishop. Hourly rate is according to synod guidelines for hourly support staff and commensurate with experience.
Vacation time, personal days, and holidays are granted according to Personnel Policy of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA in accordance with guidelines set forth in the Synod Compensation Guidelines.
Bulletin Board

Part-time Organist Position
Concordia Lutheran, Duluth is seeking a part-time organist. Please contact the church office a t 218-728-4229 or for more information.

Youth Director Position
Lutheran Church of the Cross (LCC) in Nisswa, MN, is seeking a full-time Director of Youth and Family Ministry to revitalize the ministry to youth in grades 7-12 and their families. We seek someone who has the skills for relational ministry to both youth and their parents. This person will also be part of a team that works on an integrated birth-to-graduation children's and youth ministry structure at LCC. Our congregational mission centering on the six marks of discipleship (prayer, scripture reading, worship, service in Christ's name, stewardship and hospitality will be a central part of all youth and family ministry programming. Most importantly, a love and passion for Christ and youth ministry is essential. The person in this position will work closely with the Director of Children and Family Ministry and Associate Pastor.
For more information or questions, please contact Pastor Andy Smith. Resume can be sent to: Lutheran Church of the Cross, Attn: Pastor Andy Smith, PO Box 29, Nisswa, MN 56468. Deadline is Friday, January 22 or when the position is filled. 

ELCA Good Gifts
Do you ever feel like you're shopping for people who already have everything they need? Or that you want to give and receive something a little more meaningful?  
Rethink the tradition of holiday gift-giving with ELCA Good Gifts. With more than 50 gifts to choose from - from goats and chicks, to clean water and education - there's something for everyone on your list And if you've given ELCA Good Gifts before, you might want to check out some of our new gifts. Might we suggest the latrineGiving is fun and easy. With each donation, we'll send you a free card with information about your gift to help you share the news. Print them online anytime. Please join us in celebrating God's greatest gift by sharing God's love with others. Thanks, and happy shopping. 
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Year-End Report Time!
The links are up for the annual reports to the bishop for rostered leaders.
There are two places where these forms can be found.  
Under the second link you need to use the "Synod" tab.

Important Message From Church Mutual Insurance Co. Concerning The ELCA Endorsed Insurance Program:
"Church Mutual is proud to be selected as your ELCA-endorsed insurance provider. As a reflection of our commitment to helping you achieve your goals under an umbrella of protection, security and partnership, we are excited to offer all ELCA congregations and synods a 5% discount when they select us as their insurance provider, effective January 1, 2016. As the largest single insurer of the ELCA church-wide offices, regional offices, synod offices and congregations, we look forward to our continued partnership. Learn more about Church Mutual by downloading our brochure. If you'd like us to provide a quote, simply go to and click on "Request a Quote," or call (800) 554-2642, selection Option 1.

LSS Resources for your Congregation
Happy New Year! Looking for study group resources for your congregation in the coming year? Check out The Lutheran church has done so much to support our ministry, now we want to support you as a faith leader in your community. Our small group studies focused on youth homelessness, aging abundantly and the Muslim faith are available for your congregation's use - free of charge. Download at the link above! 

NE MN Synod Women of the ELCA Summer Gathering/Convention
June 9-10, 2016 (Thursday-Friday)
Sugar Lake Lodge, Grand Rapids, MN

2016 Synod Assembly
April 29 - May 1, 2016 at Breezy Point Resort  
In This Issue
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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

One-third of the natural gas produced in North Dakota's Bakken shale formation is burned off and wasted.  The flares, which produce the greenhouse gas equivalent of 1 million cars, can be seen from space.  Overall, annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are at their lowest point in 20 years, but atmospheric carbon dioxide has reached 402 parts per million - the highest level in at least 800,000 years.

Story Starter 
Question of the Week

What character in the Christmas story do you relate to the most? Why?