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

April 2, 2015

News around the Synod of Lakes and Prairies

Synod School Catalog Synod School catalog, other

registration materials are here

It's that time of year when Synod School dominates as the lead story in Keeping in Touch. Registration is underway and it can be completed online. The complete Synod School catalog, including information about the midsummer ministry's 70 classes, can be found at the synod's website. Theresa Cho, co-pastor St. John's Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, and prolific writer and speaker, is this year's convocation speaker. Classes include everything from "How to Survive Church Hurt" to "Worshipful Work" to "Zionism Unsettled." Synod School runs Sunday through Friday, July 26-31, at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. Everything is at "Synod School."


Children's sermon moves Iowa children

to support mission in South Sudan

Mission Matters logo A Bible story set in the ancient city of Nineveh helped connect children at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Park, Iowa, with the modern-day challenges of South Sudan. In a children's sermon last fall, Tim Harmon, pastor of the church, told the children the prophet Jonah's reluctance to share God's love with the people of Nineveh was not unlike people today who fail to share God's love with others.  These five third and fourth graders, who had been studying about mission in Sunday school, decided to show their care for others through an offering. Joined by other children in the church, they collected $93.41 over a two-month period to support the work of Presbyterian mission co-worker Leisa Wagstaff, an educator serving in South Sudan. The complete story from the Presbyterian Mission Agency can be found at "Children Respond."


Northern Plains moderator: 'We are Easter people'

mountain-cross-silhouette.jpg Ruling Elder Sylvia Pringle, moderator of the Presbytery of the Northern Plains, notes in the April edition of the Light of the Northern Plains, "On Good Friday, we will go to the cross with Jesus. We will allow our sins to be crucified with him. We will allow our hearts to be broken because of our sins against God and each other. ... We will cry out to God for forgiveness. Slowly the time of mourning will cease, the sun will rise again, and on Easter we will rejoice in Christ's resurrection." Pringle's column can be found on Page 2 at "Easter People."


Minnesota Valleys leaders

issue letter to the presbytery

Minnesota Valleys Logo The March 24 edition of the Valley Bridge, the newsletter of the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys, included at letter from presbytery leadership regarding the church-wide vote on Amendment 14F to the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In part, the letter states: "We are keenly aware that there are those in our congregations who believe that our church has chosen to disregard the teaching of Scripture, the wisdom of those who have lived and died for the faith before us, and the continuing consensus of the contemporary church around the world. There is a concern that the church is yielding to our culture and misrepresenting Scripture. We are also aware that there are those who believe that this action is seen as being faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and extending his grace and good news to the world around us." The complete letter is available on Page 2 at "Minnesota Valleys."


Synod supports racial ethnic scholarship fund

Racial Ethnic Scholarship Fund The Synod of Lakes and Prairies offers a Racial Ethnic Student Scholarship Fund that offers financial assistance to encourage racial ethnic students in their pursuit of higher education. Students must have a permanent residence within the synod and be active members in a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation. Application awards are based on personal achievement, financial need and recommendations from a teacher and pastor. Additional details and an application form can be found at "Lakes and Prairies Racial Ethnic Scholarship."


Synod interpretive information available at website

Synod Logo Each year the Synod of Lakes and Prairies prepares documents that provide interpretive information about its ministry and mission. These documents, including a narrative budget and slide presentation of income and expenditures, can can help presbyteries and sessions answer questions about the work of the synod. The documents are at "Lakes and Prairies."


National gathering of Presbyterian

PW Gathering 2015 Women set in Minneapolis

The National Gathering of Presbyterian Women of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will take place this summer, June 18-21, in Minneapolis. The theme of the Gathering is "One Body, One Spirit," based on 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. As always, workshops, plenary sessions, worship, mission opportunities and all Gathering programming will explore the theme in the context of a diverse, faithful sisterhood. Details and registration material can be found at "National Gathering."


PASTCF board seeks info about those

working in sustainability, climate change

PASTCF Logo The board of the Presbyterian Association on Science, Technology & the Christian Faith will meet in Cleveland next month as part of the larger Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology & the Church. The topic this year is environmental sustainability and climate change. As part of its time together, each denomination has been asked to participate in a panel discussion on how congregations participate around those topics. Sandra Hawley of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area and Sara Miles of the Presbytery of Milwaukee serve on the PASTCF executive board, and are seeking information from congregations throughout the Synod of Lakes and Prairies that are working in these areas. Information can be sent to Keeping in Touch at Information about the Presbyterian organization can be found at "PASTCF" and information about the Ecumenical Roundtable is at "ERT."

Conferences, camps & other resources

Northern Plains extends

invitation to leadership retreat

Northern Plains Leadership Leading well in today's church is especially challenging for clergy. Remaining resilient while retaining focus on God's mission isn't an easy task. With that in mind, the Presbytery of the Northern Plains will be host to a retreat, "Leading Long, Leading Well: Remaining Resilient in Time of Adaptive Change," April 16-17 in Grand Forks, N.D., and the presbytery has extended the invitation to that retreat beyond its bounds. The retreat will explore the notion of resiliency as part of strong leadership, and offer the opportunity to discover what resiliency means for leadership.  The retreat will also explore mind, body and spirit practices designed to enhance leadership effectiveness.  Details are available in a brochure at "Leading Long and Well."


Wee Kirk 2015 Wee Kirk conference planned

in May at Calvin Crest

The 2015 Great Plains Wee Kirk Conference is planned Wednesday through Friday, May 4-6, at Calvin Crest Camp, Conference & Retreat Center near Fremont, Neb. The event brochure can be found at "Wee Kirk." Registration materials are at "Register."


Camps across synod gear up for summer sessions

PCCCA Camps Logo There are five Presbyterian camps in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies - actually six, if one counts the two camps of the Presbytery of South Dakota - Rimrock and Pioneer. And all of them are getting ready for summer. Camp Wyoming of Wyoming, Iowa, is located in the Presbytery of East Iowa. Calvin Crest Camp, Conference & Retreat Center is just outside Fremont, Neb. Clearwater Forest near Deerwood, Minn., is a multi-presbytery and synod camp. And on Lake Okoboji in Iowa, near Milford, there is the Lakeshore Center at Okoboji. And speaking of those two camps in South Dakota, both are in the beautiful Black Hills region and both can be found online at the same site.


PC(USA) offers Student Opportunity Scholarship

PCUSA Scholarship The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) offers a Student Opportunity Scholarship to help full-time, first degree students pursuing a college degree in the United States. The need-based scholarship for sophomores, juniors and seniors extends preference to racial ethnic students in order to promote diversity. Student Opportunity Scholarship applicants will explore who God created them to be in a series of essay questions intended for students to explore with mentors and peers. The deadline for applications for the 2015-16 academic year is May 15. Details, including application information, are at "Opportunity Scholarship."


Outlook publishes links to news, blogs, webinars

Outlook Logo From news stories to blogs to webinars, The Presbyterian Outlook this week published a newsletter that provides links to multiple resources. Leading off the issue is a story by The Outlook's Leslie Scanlon that opens, "The Presbyterian Mission Agency has been rocked in recent months by a trifecta of investigations and a lot of criticism. That's leading some to ask harder systemic questions about why so many problems are emerging at the top levels of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)." The newsletter can be found at "Outlook Resources." Scanlon's complete story is at "Rocked."


Money, faith connection explored

in April Presbyterians Today

Presbyterians Today Presbyterians Today magazine, a publication of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, looks at the connection between money and faith in its April edition. It notes, "This issue explores tough questions about giving vs. saving, morality in the marketplace, privilege, the spiritual value of church buildings, the theology of money, and lots more." Some of the articles in the issue can be found at "Money and Faith."


Mid Council newsletter notes 'reconciliation video'

Sue Krummel, associate for mid-council ministries in the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), notes in the March 22 newsletter from that office, "One of the suggestions of the Reconciliation Task Force was to have a short video that could be used at a presbytery meeting or elsewhere that describes how business comes before a General Assembly." That video is at "Presbyterian Governance." Krummel adds, "It is kind of along the lines of the old 'Schoolhouse Rocks' presentations of our childhoods." The complete newsletter is at "Mid Councils."


'Big Tent' planned this summer

Big Tent PCUSA new at University of Tennessee

The "Big Tent," a national gathering of Presbyterians, is scheduled this summer Thursday through Saturday, July 30-Aug. 1, on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Details can be found at "Big Tent."


IRMS offers resources for study of Gospel of John

IRMSLOGO The Iowa Religious Media Services library offers a new look at what is often called the spiritual gospel, the Gospel of John, titled "Unusual Gospel for Unusual People." The study has four modules that can be used in any order: "Unusual Names," "Unusual Healing" and "Unusual Questions." Though the author of the Gospel uses no parables, no healing stories and no transfiguration, he explores foundational concepts for faithful lives.


Clearwater's Swartwood writes

Clearwater Logo of 'spiritual connection'

When he put together Clearwater Forest's March newsletter, Rich Swartwood, executive director of the camp and conference center, included a letter from Beth and Ernie Cutting. The letter notes: "As a family with three young children, winter was long and lacked the physical outlets our family needed. We found our solution: a February weekend retreat at Clearwater Forest with our church family. Throughout the '70s, we repeated that tradition every winter and were renewed in body and spirit by the snow shoeing, sledding, worship and fellowship we found there.  When a tornado cleared a swath through the forest in 1978, we joined other families for a Memorial Day weekend work camp to replant hundreds of white pines.  Now we feel a spiritual connection with the towering trees we helped re-establish." The complete newsletter can be found at "Clearwater."


New PC(USA) children's curriculum coming this fall

grace and gratitude A new Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denominational children's curriculum is succeeding the long-standing denominational curriculum "We Believe: God's Word for God's People." The new curriculum, "Growing in Grace & Gratitude," coming in fall 2015, is rooted in the foundation of Presbyterian identity where God's grace and the people's gratitude are the heartbeat of faith, life and worship. The announcement from Congregational Ministries Publishing is at "Grace and Gratitude."


Foundation adds new

service for churches, ministries

Foundation logo The Presbyterian Foundation has announced the addition of the "Planned Giving Navigator" as a service to churches and other ministries involved in beginning or enhancing a stewardship and generosity program.  Developed under the leadership of Karl Mattison, it is a subscription service that provides a brochure design center, a library of best practices, a calendar of activities and planned giving web pages that integrate into existing congregation websites as well as reports on current giving trends and research. The complete announcement from the Foundation can be found at "New Service."

News from colleges, universities, seminaries

UDTS offers series of courses

UDTSLogo for Christian Leadership Program

The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary is offering a slate of online courses in its summer Christian Leadership Program for Commissioned Ruling Elders. Courses begin June 1 and run through Aug. 23. Students new to UDTS online courses must complete the seminary's Online Learning Course. Details about the program and courses offered can be found at "Christian Leadership Program."


University of Dubuque UD launches new online master's

degree in Christian leadership

The University of Dubuque is accepting applications for a new master's degree program in Christian leadership - a 30-credit, completely-online degree designed to "nurture biblically and theologically informed, culturally sensitive leaders for the church and world," according to the seminary's website. The program is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission/North Central Association agencies and can be completed in as little as one year. Details can be found at "Master of Arts in Christian Leadership."

News around the PC(USA) and more

Changes coming to PC(USA) ordination exams

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) committee charged with preparing ordination exams has approved changes to administration procedures for the tests, complying with assignments it was given by the General Assembly. At its annual meeting in March in Atlanta, the Presbyteries' Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates voted to expand the time parameters for three exam areas and give presbyteries the option to incorporate oral examination components as part of online tests. The changes take effect with July exams. The complete announcement from the Office of the General Assembly can be found at "Ordination Exams."


General Assembly vice moderator

faces challenge of cancer diagnosis

Kwong Abazia The Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, vice moderator of the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has been diagnosed with cancer. "I have learned that I have breast cancer after a series of diagnostic tests in the past several weeks. I will be starting chemotherapy on March 24," she said in a letter to the congregation she serves as pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Forest Hills in Queens, N.Y. "I know many of you have faced cancer or supported those who have gone through cancer. I value all of your prayers at this time." The complete announcement from the Office of the General Assembly can be found at "Kwong Abazia." She is writing about her experience at "Each New Day."


Jinkins: 'You don't have to be mean

Jinkins Blog or stupid to follow Jesus'

Writing last week in his blog, "Thinking Out Loud," Michael Jinkins, president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, noted, "The Rev. Charlene Han Powell, associate pastor for education and engagement at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, introduced me to an adult Christian education class that I was teaching at FAPC by repeating something I have said on several occasions: 'You don't have to be mean or stupid to follow Jesus.' Hearing someone repeat your words back to you is a lot like looking in a mirror." Jinkins' complete column can be found at "Mean or Stupid."

Dreaming of church with no steeples, buildings

1001 The Rev. Ben Johnston-Krase wonders where the church he has been called to is going to be, where his 6-, 8-, and 11-year-old daughters will go to school. The ministry he has been called to - the one that he left his pastorate at First Presbyterian Church in Racine, Wis., for - doesn't really exist yet. Except it does, in a dream and on a Facebook page, and inmagazine - an online magazine, and newspaper articles. In that dream, Johnston-Krase saw himself being called to a new church, to be their pastor. The complete Presbyterian News Service story can be found at "No Steeples."


Problems with American

Christianity, leaving evangelicalism

Rachel Held Evans has grown into a powerful voice in American Christianity, first as the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and later with the New York Times best-seller "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." Those who follow her writings often note that her thinking has become increasingly progressive, especially on hot-button theological issues such as gender and sexuality. That shift culminated in her leaving evangelicalism for the Episcopal Church. Next month, Evans will release "Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church," a book that oscillates between stinging critiques of American Christianity and prescriptions for how she believes believers can more faithfully participate in church life. The complete story by Jonathan Merritt for the Religion News Service can be found at "Questions and Answers."
Just one more

Copy editors share peeves

BuzzFeed left-handers More than 500 copy editors attended this year's American Copy Editors Society conference in Pittsburgh in late March. Your editor - and, he thinks, so do a few readers - knows one of them. Thirty of those copy editors shared some of their peeves. Your editor has a few peeves, too. It is, after all, more than 500 and not over 500. Those peeves can be found at "Oxford Comma."