Volume 17, No. 6 | February 10, 2021

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Seeking Racial Justice in Minnesota
The Minnesota Conference Board recently approved a $25,000 gift to support the Minnesota Council of Church’s (MCC) Truth Telling and Reparations Initiative.

The ambitious 10-year initiative, the first of its kind in the nation, is focused on addressing the historic harm done to African American and Native American communities in Minnesota. Its three-pronged approach calls for truth telling about systemic racial injustice, including complicity by faith communities; education to equip denominations and congregations through anti-racism and cultural competency training; and reparations in Black and Indigenous communities.

“The work of racial justice and reparations is enormous in scope and significance,” says Minnesota Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon. “It is not work the Conference can do alone so it makes good sense to collaborate with other partners. Joining with the Minnesota Council of Churches gives us more scale across the state and puts us at the table with a far more diverse group of people racially, which will root and inform us in very important ways. The MCC is also a long-time and trusted partner of ours, and we know solid relationships are critical to advancing work that is so challenging.”

All 25 denominations in MCC’s coalition are supporting the initiative, according to MCC CEO Curtiss DeYoung. He says that once the initiative officially launches, leaders will explore connections with the Roman Catholic Church and broaden the effort to be interfaith.

Beyond the Conference’s $25,000 grant, DeYoung says MCC has received gifts from the ELCA-Minneapolis Synod, Westminster Presbyterian Church, four foundations, and numerous individuals.

“We see this gift as an act of reparations on our part and a demonstration of the commitment we made when the Conference passed the Resolution Calling for Justice through Reparations in 2019,” said Prestemon.

MCC is currently accepting applications for co-director of the initiative. See more info.

Amos Task Force Continues its Anti-Racism Work
Two weeks after George Floyd was murdered at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, the Executive Committee of the Conference Board of Directors approved the establishment of the Amos Task Force to develop a long-term strategy for the Conference to address and repair historic and present-day racial injustice in Minnesota.

“The Amos Task Force has been helpful in our early decision-making about reparations, identifying new Indigenous partner organizations last year to whom we made gifts,” says Prestemon. “The Task Force will also make recommendations to the Board about longer-term strategies to ensure our commitment to dismantling racism is strong, wise, and authentic.”
Clergy Seek to Build Unity in Alexandria
Shortly after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a pastor in Alexandria, Minnesota, posted a Facebook video telling citizens to be ready to "arm up." He said he expected President Donald Trump to enact martial law and that he was tempted to open his black robe to show his AR-15 rifle while making the video.
 
The video fueled divisions in an area where political divisions were already profound, said Rev. Dr. Jill Sanders from First Congregational UCC in Alexandria. Area clergy, who were meeting in a weekly lectionary group, immediately began preparing a response to the video. “We knew we wanted to respond, to have a public witness,” Rev. Sanders said. “But when we met, we also realized we needed to pause and reach out to our evangelical brothers and sisters.”
 
They did exactly that, and on January 18, clergy from a diverse array of churches gathered to talk about how to respond. “We have a history of difficulty in churches getting along in the area,” said Sanders. “So, the fact that we could all be in the same room was an important step.”
 
The group co-authored a letter to the editor of the local paper, but they also wanted to produce something for social media. “We decided not to speak against what this pastor said but to speak to what we are for,” said Sanders. “We wanted to be clear that we value peace and that we have to figure out a way to talk to each other even when we disagree.”
 
The result of their unified work is an incredibly powerful video (watch above).
 
“I think we agreed that churches haven’t done as much in the past as they might have to address divisions,” said Sanders. “It took something shocking to bring us together and for us to say, for all the things that divide us, we are together in pursuing peace and unity.”

Conference News & Information
Our Faith, Our Values, and the Issues Facing Our Communities

Pastors and Conference leaders gathered February 8 to explore how people and congregations are living out their faith and values. The discussion was hosted by the Amos Task Force and moderated by Conference Minister Shari Prestemon, with panelists Revs. Dana Mann (Mankato), Lawrence Richardson (Minneapolis), Nathan Holst (Duluth), Rev. Dwight Wagenius (Conference Creation Justice Team and MNIPL), and Diane Haines (Conference Immigration Team). Listen to the conversation (below).
How Then Shall We Live? Putting Faith Values into Earth Practice

Creation Justice Series Returns February 18
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm with Buff Grace, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light

Christian faith like other religions calls us to live in harmony with the planet and peace with one another. But how exactly do we do that in our daily lives in the society in which we live? How do we choose our next steps amid the myriad of “green” options? What makes the most impact? What practice can we sustain? What deepens our growth and relationships? Whether you have been responding to the climate crisis for years or are just beginning, this session will help you take the next step. LEARN MORE
Lenten Family Toolkit Now Available

Our weekly Lenten toolkit provides content for home and community practice from Ash Wednesday (February 17) through Palm Sunday (March 28). Check out the thoughtfully focused and curated video reflections, spiritual practices, readings, creative/art activities, games, community service projects, justice and advocacy opportunities, and more. See week one, for Ash Wednesday. If you would like to receive a direct email each week, please email Sandy Kellen.
Sign up by February 12 for Anti-Racism Lenten Practice

  • The Damascus Project invites you to participate in our "40-Day Lenten Practice: Strengthening Emotional Stamina to Counter White Fragility." It's a great programming opportunity for church groups and it also satisfies the new anti-racism/diversity requirement for authorized ministers. REGISTER
Upcoming Opportunities through the UCC National Setting

Healthy Pastoral Relations Committees with Rev. Stephen Boyd
Monday, February 22, 7:00 – 8:30pm EST (6–7:30 CST)

Pastoral Relations Committees provide essential leadership in the life of a congregation. Come to this workshop to explore what the purpose of a PPR Committee is and is not. We’ll be talking through a newly developed PRC covenant to help name the priorities and commitments of a well-functioning PRC. Stephen will share best practices from around the church and be prepared to answer your questions. REGISTER
 
Saying No to Say Yes? Discernment around a return to in person worship for COMs and PRCs with Rev. Tara Barber
Monday, March 24, 4:30 – 6:00pm EST (3:30–5pm CST)

Using the popular resource Saying No to Say Yes (written by David C. Olson and Nancy G. Devor), this conversation will focus on pastoral and congregational leadership in beginning the discernment process towards a return to in-person worship. Committees on Ministry also have a stake in this conversation – as ministers and congregations need sustained support as they continue to make difficult decisions related to this pandemic. REGISTER
The Damascus Project Offers Ministry with LGBTQIA+ Youth
March 12-13 | Only $49 |  INFO AND REGISTRATION

When we baptize children into our community, we promise to nurture them in the faith and support them as they grow. In addition, many of our churches make commitments to be open and affirming. But what does that support really look like for LGBTQIA+ youth? How do we proactively create spaces in church so LGBTQIA+ youth in the wider community know they are welcome? 

This weekend workshop from The Damascus Project will include practical and meaningful information for building or strengthening a ministry among LGBTQIA+ youth in your church. 

This learning opportunity is generously underwritten by the Ashely Endowment of the Minnesota Conference UCC. Authorized pastors in the Minnesota Conference, please note: this course satisfies the diversity requirement, but not the anti-racism training requirement.  
Authorized Ministers: Anti-Racism Education Information

Authorized ministers can apply for approval of anti-racism education that isn't offered by the Conference or Damascus Project with the form available here.
 
Another book study for The Racial Healing Handbook by Annelise Singh will be held Mondays from 7 to 8:30 pm March 1, 8, 15, and 22. All are invited to participate. Participants should purchase the book and register for the read. It will qualify for meeting the anti-racism requirement for authorized ministers. REGISTER
Are you Strategically Generous?
 
Lent is the time of reflection, which could include reflecting on your charitable giving for the coming year. Rev. Andrew Warner, Generosity Outreach Officer with the national setting of the United Church of Christ, shares his thoughts on being strategically generous in a short piece available HERE.
Church Annual Reports Due: Data Hub Open Through March 3

The Data Hub is open to church administrators through March 3rd!  All churches in the conference are requested to submit data that informs us about our shared regional and national resources in a movement of faith and love. Click here for instructions. Contact Catherine Cejda at the Conference office if you experience problems with the process. The deadline for submissions is March 3. Thank you for your time on this project! 
Joys & Concerns
Congratulations to Rev. Todd Lippert who was named the 2020 Distinguished Alum by United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. UTS says, "Since his graduation in 2003, Todd has lived into United’s missional values and a commitment to the Common Good through ministry to UCC congregations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as advocacy work and public service as a Minnesota state lawmaker." Todd served as senior minister at First UCC of Northfield, MN, prior to his current call at Mayflower Congregational UCC as community minister.

Rev. Kathy Gibson Christiansen's father, Spencer Gibson, passed away on Sunday, February 7. We hold Kathy and all her family in our prayers.
 
Rev. Kent Meyer, pastor of Zion United Church of Christ in LeSueur, asks for prayers for his son, Mark Meyer. He will be having surgery to correct some neurological issues. Mark is a professor of biostatistics at Georgetown University.
Resources

  • The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to ministry.

  • The United Church of Christ National Setting is offering financial assistance to local churches whose ministries have been challenged by the pandemic. See the process.


  • Send story ideas, insights and more to communications@uccmn.org. COMMAntary is published on Wednesdays; submissions are due the Monday prior to publication at noon.
Clergy Clusters
The BIPOC Clergy Cluster meets monthly on the second Thursday of the month from 5:00–6:30 pm on Zoom. To receive a link to the meeting, email Rev. Nikki Frontz.
Like us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on news, events, jobs and more.

This newsletter is brought to you by generous contribution to Our Church's Wider Mission.

The Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ (UCC) equips a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love. Through advice, support, and resources, we strengthen the 126 congregations throughout the state to do the redemptive work of God in the world.