In This Issue
News around the Synod of Lakes and Prairies
Conferences, camps & other resources
News of colleges, universities, seminaries
News from the Board of Pensions
News around the PC(USA)
Just a few more
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Synod of Lakes and Prairies

Presbyterian News Service



February 15, 2014

News around the Synod of Lakes and Prairies

Synod School materials will hit

the mail, be online soon

Synod School 2014 catalog coverIf everything goes according to plan, Synod School 2014 materials - catalogs primarily - will be in the hands of Keeping in Touch readers before the next issue of the newsletter goes out. This summer's Synod School carries the theme, "Becoming God's Next Church." Evening worship leaders will be Katie Estes, Sarah Dickinson, Sara Dingman, Sara Tonje and Bob Wollenberg. Morning worship leaders will be Scott and Pam Prouty. Anna Case Winters, professor of theology at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, will be the convocation speaker. She will address "Theology and Science: A Constructive Engagement." Readers are reminded, too, that updates to Synod School information, along with promotional materials, will be posted soon to the synod's Web site.


Synod site takes on a new look

Lakes Prairies websiteThe Synod of Lakes and Prairies' presence on the Web has taken on a new look. "After about six years - which is a bit like a thousand in tech years - we've decided to change the way we look," said Duane Sweep, the synod's associate for communications. Over the past several months the synod's online look has undergone a substantial re-design, a slight modification of its navigation and a tweak to the subject matter it offers, Sweep pointed out. As with any change, there will likely be "bugs that need to be worked out," Sweep said. Comments concerning the site can be directed to Sweep at Even though there have been changes, the site remains at its long-standing Web address:


Des Moines congregation offers global flavor

With a congregation whose population is 95 percent Sudanese refugees, Cottage Grove Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, Iowa, might seem different from the average church in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). But step into Cottage Grove's kitchen and you'll find a scene common to many churches: the preparations for a communal meal. "Music and worship are the centerpiece (at Cottage Grove)," said the Rev. David Madsen, pastor. But "next to music, food and fellowship is extremely important." The complete Presbyterian News Service story - and a link to the "Bizarre Foods" episode that featured the congregation - is at "Communal Meal."


De Pere congregation, Winnebago

Presbytery celebrate arts in worship

De Pere dancers First United Presbyterian Church of De Pere, Wis., and Winnebago Presbytery were hosts last month to "Celebrating the Arts in Worship," a multi-day event led by professional artist, musician and educator Stephen Titra as the artist in residence. According to a note from Mark Young, communications coordinator for First United, the event "proved to be a wonderful 10 days exploring painting, music, clay, wind chimes, liturgical movement, flower arranging, knitting, sign language, drum circles, candle making, bread baking, grapevine wreaths, memory boxes and more. The various gatherings, Festival Day, and worship services reached several hundred people - young and old - from De Pere, Green Bay, Neenah, Appleton, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc and beyond." More pictures and dditional details about the event can be found at "Arts Celebration."

Conferences, camps & other resources

SwartwoodClearwater Forest names

Swartwood as executive director

The Clearwater Forest board of directors announced the appointment of Rich Swartwood as its new executive director and set a celebration this summer, in conjunction with the camp's 60th anniversary, to welcome him. Swartwood will begin serving at Clearwater March 12. He has spent the last 20 years as executive director of Pyoca Camp, Conference and Retreat Center in Brownstown, Ind. The complete announcement of Swartwood's appointment can be found at "Clearwater."


Phyllis TicklePhyllis Tickle headlines at Theologian-in-Residence

Weekend in Ames

Phyllis Tickle, a leading authority on religion in America, will be the theologian in residence at Ames (Iowa) United Church of Christ-Congregational for its 2014 program, "Being Christian and Church in the 21st Century America," Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23. Tickle, founding editor of the religion department of Publishers Weekly, the international journal of the book industry, will lead sessions Saturday, and speak in the adult forum and preach during worship Sunday. Tickle is the author of the bestseller "The Great Emergence." Details are available at "Theologian in Residence."


Calvin Crest is host to Conflict

Transformation Skills workshop

A Conflict Transformation Skills workshop, one that sees conflict transformation as "a process of engaging with and transforming the relationships, interests, discourses and, if necessary, the very constitution of society that supports the continuation of violent conflict," is slated at Calvin Crest Camp, Conference and Retreat Center, Fremont, Neb., Saturday, March 1. The one-day workshop will be led by Steve Frazier, Wayne Owens and Bob Houser, Lombard-trained mediators of the Quad Presbyteries. Details and registration information can be found at "Conflict Transformation."


'Stewardship Kaleidoscope' set in March in St. Louis

Stewardship Kal"Stewardship Kaleidoscope," an annual event established for congregation and mid-council leaders and volunteers, offers an opportunity to explore the many dimensions of Christian stewardship from a Reformed perspective. Kaleidoscope, which will feature about 40 workshops, is planned March 17-19 in St. Louis. Keynote speakers are Karl Travis of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and Carol Howard Merritt of Chattanooga, Tenn. Additional information and registration details can be found at "Stewardship."


Eco-Palms shows environmental commitment

Eco-palm artworkBuying Eco-Palms can be a way for congregations to show a commitment to environmental and economic justice, according to the Presbytery Mission Agency. The Eco-Palms Web site notes, "Your church's purchase of Eco-Palms for Palm Sunday helps ensure fair wages, environmental protection training, and development assistance for harvesting communities in the rainforests of Guatemala and Mexico." There is a March 21 order deadline. Orders can be placed at "Palms." There is additional information at "Environmental Commitment."


Summer Pastors School set in July,

registration suggested by March 15

The 58th annual Summer Pastors School will take place Wednesday through Wednesday, July 9-16, at Hastings (Neb.) College and organizers are suggesting that those who want to attend should submit registrations by March 15. Presenters this year include Mary Louise Bringle, professor of philosophy and religion at Brevard (N.C.) College; Philip W. Butin, co-pastor of First United Presbyterian Church of Fayetteville, Ark., and former president of San Francisco Theological Seminary; Daniel G. Deffenbaugh, professor of religion at Hastings College; and David B. McCarthy, professor of religion at Hastings College. The Omaha Presbyterian Seminary Foundation is host to the annual school in conjunction with the college. Additional information and registration materials can be found at "Pastors School."

Seminary Foundation opens

registration for lectures, course

Omaha SeminaryThe Omaha Presbyterian Seminary Foundation has announced plans for its Heartland Lectures in April, Nelson Lectures in May, and the Church Administration Institute in July and August. Program details and online registration are available at "Foundation Programming."


Lakeshore Center at Okoboji

sets women's retreat in March

Lakeshore LodgeThe Lakeshore Center at Okoboji will be host to a women's retreat Friday and Saturday, March 14-15, that will feature Lisa Rambo, an inspirational speaker and former contestant on the "Biggest Loser" television show. Details and registration information can be found at "Retreat."


Project Grow offers practical

strategies to grow church

church growth conference, A group of successful church leaders will share a variety of practical strategies to grow a congregation in a two-day summit at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Neb. Sponsored by the Omaha Presbyterian Seminary Foundation, the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, and the presbyteries of Central Nebraska, Homestead and Missouri River Valley, the event will run Monday and Tuesday, April 28-29. Featured speakers include Tex Sample, a well-known author and storyteller; Shannon Craigo-Snell, professor of theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary; and Charles Arn, a well-known author in the field of church growth. Details can be found at "Grow." 


'NEXT Church' opens at end

of March in Minneapolis

NEXT Church 2014The annual gathering of "NEXT Church," an organization fostering relationships among God's people as it looks to the future of the church, will take place March 31 through April 2 at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. "NEXT Church" cultivates connections, celebrates emerging leadership and innovation, and works with congregations and leaders to form and reform faith communities. Details about the annual gathering and registration information can be found at "NEXT Church." 


Emerging Leaders Institute

set in May, features McLaren

Plymouth CenterThe Plymouth Center for Progressive Christian Faith, in its commitment to nurture leaders for the future, will feature Brian McLaren, a prominent leader in the emerging church movement, at its 2014 Emerging Leaders Institute May 12-15 at Dunrovin Retreat Center in Marine on St. Croix, Minn. This year's event is titled "The Hyphenated Pastor: Creating Church at the Intersection of Movements and Institutions." The institute is designed for congregational leaders, who have completed seminary or graduate-level ministerial preparation and are serving in a called or commissioned capacity, and are under the age of 40 in their first seven years of parish ministry. Details about the conference can be found at "Leaders Institute." An application can be found "Apply." 


New 'Comparative Statistics'

available from Research Services 

Research Services, an office of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, recently released the 2012 edition of its annual publication, "Comparative Statistics." The booklet - compiled using data reported by sessions and other sources - reports statistics about Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) membership, its leadership and finances. The complete Presbyterian News Service story, and a few highlights from the book, can be found at "Statistics."


'Being Reformed' series provides

understanding of Reformed

Reformed religion"Being Reformed: Faith Seeking Understanding" is a series of biblically based mini-courses that provides adults with a foundational understanding of the Reformed faith. Each six-session study - written by well-known and respected scholars - features scripture, a prayer, in-depth commentary and questions for reflection. Each study addresses its subject from a Reformed theological perspective. Details about the study can be found at "Reformed."


IRMS offers variety of new

resources for students, parents

IRMSLOGOIowa Religious Media Services is lifting up its resources for parents, and junior- and senior-high students. For parents, especially those with children in those challenging puberty years, IRMS offers "The Puberty Workshop," which takes a look at the physical and emotional changes that children experience, and "Parenting Your Teenager: A Biblical Look at Parenting," which tells true stories of identity, turmoil and rebellion. Then, from the students' perspective, IRMS offers "Tech Timeout Academic Challenge," which challenges teachers and family to shut down digital devices, and "Echo the Story," which includes creative reflection and dialogue to help youth discover meaning and identity in the biblical narrative.


Sweet headlines preaching

conference at Lake Tahoe

Leonard Sweet will headline the Presbytery of Sacramento's 2014 Preaching Pastors Conference at Zephyr Point Conference Center, Lake Tahoe, Calif., May 19-21. Conference details can be found at "Preaching Pastor."

News of colleges, universities, seminaries

UDTS offers an opportunity to 'explore a call'

UDTSLogoThe process of discerning and exploring a call to ministry can be an adventure. It is a journey that is best undertaken with a little help from friends and others who are familiar with the various twists and turns that may be encountered along the way. To offer just that perspective, faculty and staff of the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary are planning the spring edition of its "Exploring a Call Conference" Wednesday through Friday, March 12-14, for those who are considering a call to ministry. Additional information is available at "UDTS." A brochure, with registration material, can be found at "Exploring."

News from the Board of Pensions

February is American Heart Month

BOP Connections LogoFebruary is American Heart Month, a time to commit to doing whatever it takes to prevent cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends "The Simple 7" --  seven simple steps to improve your heart health. The seven steps can be found at "Heart Healthy."

News around the PC(USA)

PMA board elects new chair, vice chair

With no new nominations from the floor and a unanimous vote, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board elected its new chair and vice chair earlier this month. The Rev. Marilyn Gamm, a member of the Presbytery of Milwaukee, will serve a two-year term as the board's chair, beginning with the adjournment of this summer's 221st General Assembly and ending with the adjournment of the 222nd Assembly in 2016. Josephene Stewart will serve a two-year term as the board's vice chair, with her term beginning and ending at the same time as Gamm's. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "New Chair."


Budgets project no per capita

increase in '15, '16 for OGA

The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly and the Executive Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board earlier this month recommended per capita budgets for 2015 and 2016 that maintain the General Assembly per capita apportionment at the same level as 2014. If the budgets are approved by the upcoming 221st General Assembly this June in Detroit, the per capita apportionment will stay at $7.02 per member for all three years. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "Per Capita."


PDA plans 'blue t-shirt Sunday' in March

PDA disaster assistanceThe blue t-shirts of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance could be more visible Sunday, March 9, when volunteers wear their t-shirts to church. That Sunday, the first Sunday in Lent, has been designated "Wear your blue t-shirt to church Sunday" as a testament to one of the ways One Great Hour of Sharing makes a difference. Details about this PDA event can be found at "Blue Shirt Sunday."


Belhar Confession speaks to racism in church today

"We believe deeply that [the Confession of] Belhar is a word from God to our church at this time," the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick told the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board in twin presentations earlier this month. Kirkpatrick, former General Assembly stated clerk and global ecumenical leader, is serving as co-chair of the General Assembly's Special Committee on the Confession of Belhar, which was appointed by the 2012 General Assembly. The committee has just released its unanimous recommendation for inclusion of the confession in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s "Book of Confessions." The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "Inclusion."


Mission Agency Board sends MRTI recommendations to General Assembly

After a similar recommendation was not approved by the 220th General Assembly in 2012, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is recommending that this summer's 221st Assembly vote to divest from three companies until "they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel-Palestine." The Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment proposes that Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions be added to the General Assembly Divestment List. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "Divestment."


PMA board encourages participation

1001in '1001' movement

Amid recommendations that the 221st General Assembly encourage and challenge mid-councils and congregations to get involved in the 1001 movement, Presbyterian Mission Agency Board members received good news recently about the number of new worshiping communities that have started. "Right now at nearly 200, we are ahead of the curve," said Philip Lotspeich of the agency's Evangelism and Church Growth office. "It is going to accelerate very quickly, as we have 198 new worshiping communities in 95 ... presbyteries." The complete story from the Office of Evangelism and Church Growth can be found at "1001."


PHEWA seeks nominations

for social justice ministry awards

The Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association is seeking nominations for five ministry awards that will be celebrated during the 221st General Assembly in Detroit in June of this year. PHEWA, part of the Compassion, Peace & Justice Ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, is a voluntary membership organization dedicated to social welfare and justice ministries. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "PHEWA."


PMA Executive Committee

approves 2 church-wide initiatives

The Executive Committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is recommending that this summer's 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approve two church-wide initiatives focusing on education and missional living.The two proposals, "Educate a Child, Transform the World" and "Living Missionally," would allow the mission agency to serve as a catalyst for church-wide movements that could take many different forms. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "Initiatives."


Kathy BostromKathy Bostrom named winner

of top Presbyterian writing prize

The Rev. Kathleen Bostrom, a prolific writer whose works have been translated into 17 languages around the world, has been named recipient of the 2014 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award by the Presbyterian Writers Guild. Bostrom, who served as co-pastor of Wildwood (Ill.) Presbyterian Church in Chicago Presbytery for 22 years until July 1, 2013, will receive the prestigious award at the Writers Guild General Assembly luncheon June 19 in Detroit. The complete Presbyterian News Service story is at "Steele Award."


General Assembly will look

at revision to Directory of Worship

The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board recommends that this summer's 221st General Assembly send a revised Directory of Worship to the larger church for comment and study. The revised directory begins and ends by giving glory to God, focuses on the crucified and risen Christ and highlights the work of the Holy Spirit while insisting on the centrality of Scripture, the unity of Word and Sacrament and the Reformed themes of grace and gratitude, according to the agency's Office of Theology and Worship. If approved, the revision would be added to the "Book of Order" at the 222nd Assembly in 2016. The complete announcement from the Office of Theology and Worship can be found at "Directory of Worship."


Sharing medical bills could be a godly calling

Every time he goes to the doctor's office, Daniel Eddinger takes a leap of faith. Eddinger, a 28-year-old father of two from Lexington, N.C., doesn't have health insurance. But he's not worried about the cost of getting sick. Instead of insurance, he says, he relies on God - and the help of other believers - to pay his medical bills. Eddinger is one of a small but growing number of American Christians who have joined so-called health sharing ministries - faith-based alternatives to insurance. The complete Religion News Service story can be found at "Insurance."

Just a few more

And a few more that crossed the editor's desk

There has been a rather long break this winter between issues of Keeping in Touch. We could blame the weather. We could blame the development of new working arrangements. But sometimes it just works out this way. And, in addition to the longer break between issues, the last issue failed in its effort to provide just one or two more - the cute stories at the end of the real information. Well, for this issue, we have a few more. Trying to answer the pressing question about what the fox says, we offer "Happy Fox." Then, from Upworthy, there's a humorous take on the changing face of the nation - "Minority." And, finally, Dale Hansen, with a voice much like Paul Harvey - some of us may remember him - talks about NFL prospect Michael Sam and Sam's declaration that he is gay. It's at "Speaking Out."