The Winona Circuit
Minnesota River Valley Conference – Western Wisconsin District
The Winona Circuit has an interesting mix of churches. The circuit straddles the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. There are nine congregations in Minnesota and three congregations in western Wisconsin. A couple of the churches have multiple pastors while most of the congregations are part of dual parish situations. While there are twelve congregations, there are nine pastors in the Winona Circuit. In other words, there are two larger congregations and numerous very small congregations in this circuit.
The Winona Circuit meets for two hours every month except when there is a conference. Their meetings begin with a communion service. The sermon is preached by the host pastor.
The primary topic for discussion is currently Daniel Deutschlander’s The Narrow Lutheran Middle. A pastor is chosen on a rotating basis to lead the discussion, either by formulating discussion questions or pointing out key sections which lead discussion.
After spending about an hour discussing the book, the remainder of the time is spent with questions of casuistry and sharing circuit and district news. Then the group goes out for lunch.
The Winona Circuit also gets together several times throughout the year for fellowship activities. In the spring, there is a family night which might include bowling or game night. The early fall features a circuit picnic. At Christmas time, the pastors and their wives get together at one of the congregations for a communion service and then go out for dinner.
There are several items about the study plan of the Winona Circuit worth noting:
- Fellowship is a key feature in the activities of the Winona Circuit. Perhaps this is especially important for circuits with numerous small congregations or where the congregations are spread out geographically. The expression and enjoyment of fellowship among the brothers and their families is something that is very easy to take for granted. The Winona Circuit doesn’t. That is demonstrated in several different ways:
- The communion service at the beginning of each circuit meeting
- The regular sharing of circuit and district news
- The planned activities each year which include the families
- The Christmas gathering which begins with a communion service
- Studying a book like The Narrow Lutheran Middle provides opportunities for discussion of pastoral and congregational issues. Having someone responsible for preparing and leading serves to make the discussion more fruitful.
Here are a few suggestions for circuits that would consider adopting/adapting larger or smaller portions of the plans of the Winona Circuit:
- Beginning with a sermon and communion service is beneficial to the faith of the brothers of the circuit as they are fed by Word and sacrament. Offering opportunity for formal and brotherly critique could also be beneficial for the preacher.
- It is always helpful to break out the Greek and/or Hebrew on a regular basis. Such an in-depth discussion of Scripture keeps the language skills sharp and allows for opportunities to bounce homiletical and teaching ideas off of one another. Perhaps adding 30-45 minutes to the meeting time would allow for exegetical study to be included on the agenda.