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EMerge, Jan. 3, 2020

Presbytery News
A Matthew 25 Story
Going to Jail
In March of 2019, the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area declared itself a Matthew 25 presbytery, accepting an invitation from the Presbyterian Mission Agency to “actively engage in the world around us.”
Then the righteous will answer him,
 ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food,
or thirsty and gave you something to drink?
And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you,
or naked and gave you clothing?
And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’
And the king will answer them,
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these
who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
EMerge will periodically feature stories of PTCA congregations living out the call of Matthew 25, in their own ways and abilities. Today: First Presbyterian Church in Ellsworth, Wisconsin, and Laurel Presbyterian Church in Hager City, Wisconsin, written by their pastor, the Rev. Amy Kosari.
“Is it scary?” That’s the most frequent question I get when I mention that my two churches have a jail ministry. The answer is yes…and no.
Remember when you were really young and you weren’t able to open doors on your own—the helplessness and dependence of relying on others? Inmates and even guards to some extent are living in this kind of helplessness day and night. But on the other hand, and I think this is more true, jail is not frightening, because it is a place filled with freedom and light.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “She’s a hopeless Pollyanna!” But please don’t give up reading quite yet. First, let me say that the jail that we serve, Pierce County Jail, is exemplary. When there has been a stated decision communicated down the chain of command to make an institution a place of contentment, that decision bears exceedingly good fruits for both staff and inmates. But it’s more than that. Simply put, the jail is filled with light because the God is there. 
Let me illustrate. Take the phrase, “you have to hit rock bottom before you can recover.” That saying implies that there’s something good about rock bottom. I strenuously disagree. There’s nothing good about losing everything. There’s nothing good about being down and out. But God is good. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn,” not because there’s anything good about mourning but because God blesses and comforts those who are so distraught they can’t even breathe, can’t even speak. Rock bottom isn’t good, but God is. God is with those who have been abandoned. God is with those who see only darkness. God seeks and saves the lost.
How come? Because that’s who He is, “the Father of mercies,” “without shadow of turning.” Please don’t mistake me here. We need to completely reform our criminal justice system, and it needs to be done yesterday. We need places people can go, rehabs instead of jails. We need to stop sweeping our fellow human beings under the rug. But at the same time, when I think of how God works in our jails and prisons, I am surprised that people aren’t breaking into them!
If you feel the call to volunteer, know that you will meet Jesus there, whether you are helping people learn to knit, working with AA, your local library, working with NAMI, or going to jail, as we do. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me….to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound,” and he keeps his promises. He is “the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” He is our “room with a view.” He is our star shining in the darkness.
January Presbytery Gathering
Reports & Materials Due Monday, Jan. 13th at 5:00pm
Mark your calendar for Saturday, January 25, and the next Presbytery Gathering. The Gathering will begin at 9:00 am at Church of the Way in Shoreview, MN.
Pastor and artist Shawna Bowman will join us as our featured speaker, reflecting with us on the gift of playfulness, especially during difficult times. (Find out more about Shawna at her website, Pair Shawna’s offering with worship, fellowship, and key Presbytery business items, and you have a great day. More information in the coming weeks.
Please observe the January 13 deadline for ALL reports, materials and inclusions for the stated meeting. If you have any questions please contact Barbara Lutter, stated clerk, at
Jeff's Jottings:
Happy New Year
In these days of Christmas that, on our calendar, includes both Christmas and New Year’s, we're reminded anew of the hope proclaimed in the season.
"Our faith dares us" writes Jeff Japinga, "to invest anew in the belief that this better world, this better way is possible."
Read more about how to have common hope in our individual callings in this week's edition of Jeff's Jottings...
Around the Presbytery
Anti-Racism Educational Retreat
On February 6-8th, 2020, the Presbytery Leadership Team in collaboration with the Anti-Racism Task Force will host an anti-racism educational retreat, facilitated by Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training. 
This retreat marks the formal beginning of an institutional assessment of the presbytery around the issue of race (which occurs over the next 18 months). The assessment is not a study of individual churches, but rather of the work of the officers and committees of the presbytery as a whole. The wider goal is to:
  1. understand how race and ethnicity have played a role (both of good and harm) in how our presbytery has lived out its life of ministry in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and
  2. to practice a process of faithful self-honesty and transformation that can continue forward even beyond the formal conclusion of the assessment.
Members of the working group who will facilitate this institutional assessment as well as committee chairs and ministry leaders in the presbytery will gather for this training.
There are a limited number of additional slots available to others in the presbytery who would like to attend. While there is no cost to attend the retreat, you must commit to ongoing engagement and support of the institutional assessment over the next 18 months.
Such engagement and support may take various forms depending on what support is most helpful to the work group, but is likely to include connecting to the process through 3-4 Zoom calls with the Anti-Racism Task Force, promoting and championing the need for all in the presbytery to participate in surveys and focus groups as requested, and generally being an ambassador for this process by helping all to understand the importance of this work as followers of Christ seeking God’s dreams of justice and peace for all people.
The educational retreat will be held:
Thursday, February 6, 2020, 5:00-9:00 pm; Friday, February 7, 8:00am-5:00pm; and Saturday, February 8, 8:00am-5:00pm at the Minnesota Humanities Center, 987 Ivy Avenue East; St. Paul, MN 55106
If you are interested in attending, please complete this online form by Wednesday, January 8We will work to create a diverse group of attendees from across our presbytery, and will let you know by the second week of January if a spot is available.
If you have questions, contact Anti-Racism Task Force Chair Kendra Grams ( or Executive Presbyter Jeff Japinga (
In Christ,
Anna Kendig, Presbytery Moderator
Walter Rockenstein, Chair of Presbytery Leadership Team
Jeffrey Japinga, Executive Presbyter
Kendra Grams, Chair Anti-Racism Task Force
On December 26, a group from the Presbytery stood as witnesses to the annual 330-mile Horse and Rider pilgrimage from Crow Creek, South Dakota, to Mankato, Minnesota. The pilgrimage marks the day when, in 1862, the United States Army hung 38 Dakota leaders, prisoners of war and captives from the Minnesota Dakota War. It’s the largest single execution in our history.
Jim Miller, a Dakota leader and Vietnam War veteran, imagined a series of horseback rides that would bring the Dakota people together, raise awareness to the significant impact still with us from the mass hanging and the surrounding events, and to bring reconciliation among all people of the region. Riders arrived at 10:00 a.m., the same hour as the hanging.
Remembering and celebrating the Dakota 38+2, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, the Water Carriers, the riders, the runners, and all those who support them.
Wrote Greg Bolt, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Red Wing, “Had an amazing morning at Reconciliation Park honoring and remembering the Dakota 38+2, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Water Carriers, the riders, and the runners. Thankful to the runners continuing the journey to the Land of Memories Park.”
Interfaith Art Show at Shepherd of the Hills
Windows to the Soul
The Sower Gallery at Shepherd of the Hill is having it’s third annual interfaith art show. This year it is called “Windows to the Soul.” 
This exhibit includes about 50 pieces, prepared by artists who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Native American.
One featured artist of note is James He Qi (pronounced Ha Chi), a prominent Chinese Christian artist.
Above: "Eternal" by Shoaib Siddiqui
Below: "Forlock" and "O Lord" by Raghda Skeik
We have three of his intricate paper cuttings on loan from the Westminster Gallery.
Pictured is some of the Islamic Art; 
1. "Eternal" by Shoaib Siddiqui 
2. Artist Raghda Skeik posing with her two pieces, "Forelock" and "O Lord"
The show runs until, Jan. 25th, 2020. Visitors welcome Mon.-Thurs. 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Services are at 10:30 a.m.
Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church of Chaska 145 Engler Blvd., Chaska MN 55318 
EMerge is a newsletter of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. Through most of the year it is published biweekly and distributed to congregations, teaching elders, ruling elders, church members, committees and friends of the presbytery. Please send submissions and address corrections to