Northeastern Minnesota Synod
Online Reflections
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week of July 31, 2016  
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.
  • United in Christ Lutheran, Eveleth and Pastor Steven Weston, Interim
  • First Lutheran, Hinckley, and Pastor Brenda Wicklund
  • Calvary Lutheran, Mora, and Ms. Susan Williams, AiM and Pastor Dean Oelfke 
  • Church of the Cross, Nisswa, and Pastor Kari Williamson and Pastor Andy Smith
  • Pastor Michael Wittkamper, retired in Anoka
  • Pastor LeRoy Yarger, retired in LaPorte
A Chance to Change

When our kids were little, they loved reading books that offered alternate endings whereby  they had the chance to change the outcome of the story. There seemed to be at least three different endings-each of which had a very different outcome. There would be a sense of unrest if the ending they chose did not match up with their hopes. But, what a deep, satisfactory smile would come to their faces when the chosen ending brought about their anticipated conclusion!
As the body of Christ, as individual congregations working together to be synod, we are like readers of a book for which we too, both individually and corporately, have a chance to choose the outcome of the story.
We are living in a chapter of time where the clergy shortage is real. We are also inhabiting a chapter where there are too many physical facilities (aka church buildings) to maintain while still being able to carry out the mission Christ calls us to be about.
We are characters in this book. We are readers of this book. We are writers of this book. And, we have a chance to change the outcome. Working together, utilizing creative imagination (which is a gift of the Spirit!), conversing respectfully with one another, looking for possibilities of doing outreach ministry together are just some beginning possible choices for writing the next chapter.
At the 2015 Synod Assembly, the Northeastern MN Synod body of voting members chose to move forward with the Renewing the Promise Campaign which seeks to raise important funding to provide scholarship monies for our people in the Candidacy Process (ordained ministry and lay rostered students) as well as funding to assist our First Call Pastors with Seminary Debt Reduction.  By giving to this campaign,we have a chance to change the outcome of not enough called and trained leaders moving into the next decade(s).
Renewing the Promise Campaign funds will also assist our mission partners at Lutheran Campus Ministry, Twin Ports Ministry to Seafarers, our companion synods in Honduras, Ingria-Russia, and South Andhra, India. These funds will also benefit our local School of Lay Ministry which provides excellent opportunities for lay leaders to grow in faith as they study scripture and Lutheran theology. We have a chance to change the outcome for both present and future church leadership!
Choosing to participate in these types of chapters offer hope and excitement, new life and a re-energized desire to share Jesus' love with our neighbors. Yet, there is another chapter that congregations can continue to use the same old formula which perpetuates dead-end thinking of "It has always been done that way" - to which we know the ending.
However, we are people of the Gospel and therefore people of the resurrection! Even in making a choice that may lead to closing a congregational building for the sake of joining forces to strengthen our mission, even that choice can plant seeds for new ministries, new life, new hope.
The Apostle Paul said, "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" (2 Cor. 5:17) Thanks be to God who provides us with new creation along with A Chance to Change!

Mrs. Brenda Tibbetts, AiM
Assistant to the Bishop
NE MN Synod

Reprinted from last Thursday's Online Reflections
Youth Ministry News

NE MN Synod Youth Ministry Fall Resource Packet
The NE MN Synod Fall Resource Packet, with information for 2016-2017 Youth Ministry Events will be mailed to congregations this week. You can also download the packet contents on the NE MN Synod Youth Ministry Resource Page

Links to the individual pieces are:
Discipleship Challenge
Fall Theological Conference
Brochure and Housing

Middle School Gathering
November 18-19 OR 19-20, 2016
It's not too early to start inviting youth for the Middle School Gathering! More information and registration forms can be downloaded at
ELCA members to gather in New Orleans for 2016 Churchwide Assembly
CHICAGO (July 13, 2016) - Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will gather Aug. 8-13 in assembly at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Meeting under the theme "Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God's Grace in Action," the assembly's business will include preparations for observing the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
The assembly - the highest legislative body of the ELCA - will be comprised of 980 voting members serving on behalf of the 3.7 million members of the ELCA. The ELCA's 65 synods elect voting members to serve at churchwide assemblies.
"Churchwide assemblies are a combination of legislative sessions, worship, Bible study, theological reflection and fellowship," said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop. "We deliberate and discuss and vote. Some would say that it is a messy way to do the work of the church, but [it] is a wonderfully open process."
As part of planning for the Reformation observance, non-voting members are invited to attend the Grace Gathering, Aug. 10-13. Participants will experience the assembly proceedings and also prepare for 500th anniversary observances within their congregations and synods. "God's Grace in Action Afternoon" will offer experiential learning on several topics to inspire participants to take action back home, including: Music, Justice and Peace; From the Doctrine of Discovery to #BlackLivesMatter; Human Trafficking; Care of Creation; and Food Security.
"Often members of congregations are not aware of the scope of the wider church," said Eaton. The Grace Gathering will give even more of our people the opportunity to see the whole church at work. We can do a lot more together than we can do separately. And, close to 2,000 Lutherans singing is a heavenly sound."
Key action items at the assembly include:
  • Electing an ELCA vice president. Carlos Pea, the current vice president, is stepping down after serving for 13 years.
  • Considering the Word and Service task force recommendations that the three rosters of church lay leadership be unified into a single body known as deacons.
  • Voting on the recommendations for the ELCA Strategy to Accompany Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities (AMMPARO).
  • Considering the "Declaration on the Way," a document that draws on 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in preparation for the Reformation anniversary.
Voting members will also receive:
  • An update on the ELCA's first major fundraising campaign, Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA. Approved by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the campaign seeks to raise $198 million to help extend the ministries of this church.
  • A report from the presiding bishop and officers of the ELCA.
  • Reports on ELCA churchwide ministries, including ELCA World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster Response.
  • Proposals (known as memorials) from the ELCA's 65 synods, which include: repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery; deepening of relationships with historic black churches; a responsible energy future; supporting military personnel, veterans and their families; and peace with justice in the Holy Land.
  • Budget proposals for 2017 to 2019.
  • Greetings from ecumenical guests, global partners and others.
Along with voting members, hundreds more will participate in the assembly as ELCA congregational observers, special ecumenical guests and global leaders, presidents of the eight ELCA seminaries and 26 college and universities, advisory and resource members, staff and others.
ELCA members and others not attending the assembly can access live video of plenary sessions at
The ELCA's newsroom will be at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in Room 227. Two news conferences are scheduled during the week. On Aug. 10, Eaton and others will discuss the "Declaration on the Way" consideration by the assembly. On Aug. 12 a news conference will introduce the new ELCA vice president. Reporters are welcome to participate in person or through teleconference. More details about the news conferences will follow. To register as press and for other news and media information, contact Candice Hill Buchbinder at [email protected].
2016 Bishop's Fall Theological Conference

Dear Rostered Leader and Congregation Council,

Thank you for your good and faithful work as leaders in this synod and in this church, the ELCA. Each year Rostered Leaders (Pastors, AiMs, and Deaconesses), Synodically Authorized Ministers, and Interns are expected to be in attendance at continuing education events, even as professionals are in any other vocation. Directors of Youth & Family Ministry are also invited to participate. Christian education is life-long for all of us who are disciples of Jesus; and, it is especially so for those who have leadership roles in 21st century congregations.

All Rostered Leaders (spouses are welcome to attend as well) are urged to attend the Fall Theological Conference held September 25-27, 2016 at Ruttger's Sugar Lake Lodge near Grand Rapids as one way to fulfill this expectation (see our Northeastern Minnesota Synod's 2016 Compensation and Professional Expense Guidelines for background information on Rostered Leaders' Continuing Education expectations on pages 11-12). The Fall Theological Conference is a component for First Call Theological Education requirements. This annual event is rich in conversation, renewed encouragement, meaningful worship and fellowship as well as deep and practical theological education. If you have not already done so, please consider fully funding this conference for your Rostered Leader(s) and their spouse(s).

Please note that all program costs are covered by your synod budget and grants. Participants are asked to pay only for meals and lodging. In the past, some congregations have asked if their local Women of the ELCA or some other group/individual might be in a position to help defray costs. In some cases, these wonderful gifts have included the extra step to provide child care so that both pastor or other Rostered Leader and spouse may attend.

This year's theme is a timely one; "Faith and Firearms" presented by Dr. Michael Chan, Assistant Old Testament Professor at Luther Seminary. Dr. Chan's presentation, along with our conversation, will assist leaders in practical and biblical ways for listening and engaging our people in difficult conversations regarding faith, firearms, politics, etc.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Your congregation will benefit greatly from sending your Rostered Leader to participate in this event. I look forward to being with you at the September 25-27, 2016 Fall Theological Conference!

Carry on with the gospel of Jesus Christ, just as you've been taught (Colossians 2:6-7),

+ Bishop Thomas M. Aitken

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Staff Listing
Phone: 218.724.4424
Brenda Tibbetts, AiM - 122
   Assistant to the Bishop
   Call process
   Director for Evangelical Mission
   Assistant to the Bishop
   Youth Ministry 
    Communications/Office Support

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1105 E. Superior St.,
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Duluth, MN  55802

FAX: 218.724.4393    
Summer Office Hours

This summer the synod office will have amended hours to accommodate the overlap of staff vacations. Staff will still fulfill their designated hours June-August, however, the phone will be answered by voicemail, and the office will be closed to meetings and drop-in visits on Fridays.

Online Reflections Editor

Anne Laechel

Online Reflections is a semi-weekly e-newsletter from the Northeastern Minnesota Synod.

Online Reflections Part 1 is published on Monday of each week and contains articles from Bishop Thomas Aitken, Synod Staff, and information from the ELCA.

Online Reflections Part 2 is published on Thursday of each week and contains late breaking news, information about events occurring in the congregations of the NE MN Synod, and job postings.

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Green Tip of the Week

Does your home or business get enough sun to generate solar power?  You can easily find out with a convenient mapping tool called the "Minnesota Solar App," which is available at app.  Simply by typing your address on a computer, tablet, or Smartphone, you can get an instant analysis of the solar energy potential of your property.  According to Minnesota's Commerce Department, a single family home in Minnesota gets more than enough sunlight to meet its energy needs on a year-round basis, more than Houston, TX or Jacksonville, FL.