Report of the May 4, 2020, Zoom meeting of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies

By Janice Palmer

A few highlights:

Strategic Service and Witness: About every five years the committees of the Synod revisit the work they have undertaken and decide how they might adjust their goals and so undertake an exploration of possibilities for such changes. This year they chose to take up three entirely different goal areas: connecting more closely with presbyteries, working more intentionally with racial ethnic folks, and expand what previous committees have done. Their work will be always focused on these three goals. They will no longer be known simply as “the grant-giving group.

Self-development of People: This will involve assistance with immigration and citizenship education for Liberian immigrants in North Dakota. The second program will support folks at the American Indian Center in St. Paul, offering preventive nutrition using traditional healing and cultural practices for health improvement. (This is the 50th anniversary of SDOP.)

Committee on Racial Ethnic Ministries: This body grants financial awards to racial ethnic students across a variety of disciplines as well as institutional awards to Tribal Colleges within our bounds. The goal is to nurture higher level thinking of justice in the world.

Transforming Communities’ Vital Leaders: This group is working on a Leadership Development grant for which presbyteries can apply in order to attract and retain new pastors.

Financial Services: Jim Koon declared that our financial assets were well-managed this year. Our stock market portfolio saw an unusually large gain.

Communications Committee: Will be developing a new website.

Committee on Representation: Part of this report considers the composition of the Synod membership. The majority represent a balance between female and male, and teaching and ruling elders. The majority of the membership are white and older. People with disabilities are also considered in this report.

Synod Presbyterian Women: All of the presbyteries’ PWs had to cancel their spring gatherings where much of the business takes place. They plan to meet again in the fall.

Board of Pensions: Ken Green spoke about the changes that are in effect through the COVID presence and others that will take place in 2021. Please check with him through the Synod office for the concise provisions of what these changes affect. We can say that dues will remain at the same 37%. There are within the plan new provisions for disabilities.

Presbyterian Mission Agency: The long-time fellow who oversees this work in the presbyteries is amazed at the ability of all our pastoral leaders and elders to move the church online. He says he’s seen more imagination in the past four months than at any other time in his service. He educates congregations about the special offerings of the church; he can talk about grants which are available through the PMA and PDA. He reports that all of our mission co-workers are sheltering in place, either at their home or here back in the USA.

Synod Executive: Elona has been thinking about who we are as a Synod. We are used to disasters of the physical kind, but this is our first pandemic. At least Zoom and other technologies make it possible for us to meet and see each other. She realizes the need to make sure that we are doing enough outreach to our presbyteries.

Synod School is still in question. The Leadership Summit has been cancelled.

A number of government programs are available to congregations and presbyteries—most specifically the payroll protection program through the SBA. The Synod did apply for such, which we did receive in the amount of $104,000. The Synod will use the funds to support the congregations in our geographic area. The Synod is in the process of figuring out how to used these funds for payroll protection.