Volume 19, No. 1 | January 4, 2023

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

A Future with Hope: COMMAnts from the Conference Minister

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. —Jeremiah 29:11

A blessed Christmastide to you, Minnesota Conference UCC community!

This week we travel with the magi toward the brilliance of Epiphany’s star. It prompts us to wonder how God might be newly revealed among us, what new journeys of possibility God might invite us to take.

Some of us might be focused on the New Year resolutions we’ve just been inspired to make. Others are busy making predictions about what 2023 might hold in store for us.

The question I’ve been pondering is this: What hopes do we as Church bring as this new year unfolds?

I’m not asking what we’re wishing for in some sentimental, saccharine sense. I’m not even asking what we might resolve to do in the year ahead. My question is more about the hopes we carry that are deeply rooted in faith. A hope that is grounded in faith is different from some shallow kind of optimism or simple wish. It is a future we imagine based on our trust that nothing is impossible with God. It is a profound longing to more authentically step into the vision God holds for us and our world. It is our embrace of Jeremiah’s reminder that God desires to grant us a “future with hope.”

What hope do you bring into 2023, for your church, your ministry, our ministry together in the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ?

I’ll share just two hopes that I’m holding for our life together in the Minnesota Conference.

  • I hope our Conference community will be a strongly woven tapestry of mutual support and concrete love. I long for us to know one another, to love one another, to support and uphold one another. I want us to be the Body of Christ in the fullest sense of that image, to realize that all our parts are essential, and that we are less than we could be if any part of the Body is lost or harmed or disengaged. I imagine a future where we rejoice in being together and seek every opportunity to gather, where we show up for each other in prayer and in presence, where we celebrate and respect each member of this Body we call the Minnesota Conference UCC.

  • I hope we are people of courage and imagination. I want us to encounter difficult questions about our futures and our world with a faith that knows God will not abandon us, no matter how challenging the journey. I encourage us to be people of experimentation, ready to try a new thing even if we might occasionally stumble and fall. I imagine a Church where we stand ready to be bold for the sake of justice, faithful in the face of uncertainty, open to new ways of being communities of faith in a rapidly changing world.

In all of this, I pray for you, my siblings in Christ. I pray for our congregations, for our ministers, for all the ways and places in which we do ministry, and for all of you who are members and lay leaders. May we walk together in this new year filled with a powerful hope that is rooted and guided by the faith we share.

With you on the journey,

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

What hopes do you hold for your congregation or for the Minnesota Conference UCC? Share them on the Conference’s social media or with Conference Minister Shari Prestemon at sharip@uccmn.org.

Conference News & Events

The Damascus Project Welcomes New Director

The Minnesota and Wisconsin Conferences (UCC) welcome a new director to the helm of our shared ministry, The Damascus Project.

The Reverend Stephanie Perdew, Ph.D. is a life-long member of the United Church of Christ. She received her bachelor's degree in Religion and Native American Studies from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and her M.Div. from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, where she also obtained her Ph.D.

She served in parish ministry for 25 years, has served on the adjunct faculties of McCormick Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago Divinity School, & is an Affiliate Professor of Christian History at Garrett. She holds certificates in Online Education and in Spiritual Guidance Training. For the last year she has served on the Illinois Conference UCC staff as an Interim Associate Conference Minister. She is an enrolled tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and co-chairs Garrett’s Indigenous Study Committee.

“I am honored to be called to lead the Damascus Project further into its future and to build on its historic legacies," Stephanie says. "I look forward to using my skills and experience in pastoral ministry, theological education, spiritual formation, and conference staff ministry toward its growth and flourishing. I am impressed with the health and vitality of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Conferences and eager to collaborate with conference staff, clergy, and laity in creative, collaborative, and innovative theological education for our churches and people.”

The Damascus Project is a joint venture of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Conferences begun five years ago to address emerging leadership needs of both Conferences and the wider United Church of Christ. It provides educational courses in faith foundations, ministry studies, and leadership skills for lay members, continuing education to authorized ministers, and may serve as a multiple learning path toward ministerial authorization for individuals seeking to serve local congregations in pastoral roles. It has developed an early reputation in the United Church of Christ for its innovation, collaborative model, and quality of programing.

“I continue to believe that the Damascus Project is a critical tool in our shared church life as we re-imagine what equipping leadership looks like in this moment of profound change in the church,” says Conference Minister Shari Prestemon. “I’m delighted to be in partnership with the Wisconsin Conference in this important work, and am very excited to welcome Stephanie as our new Director. Her unique set of skills and experiences, alongside her deep love for the Church and infectious enthusiasm, signal an exciting future for the Damascus Project!”

Learn more about the Damascus Project & register for amazing upcoming courses by checking out The Damascus Project website.

Join Us for Our Second Covenant Day February 4

Robbinsdale Parkway UCC

February 4, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm

REGISTER by February 1

You are invited to our second Covenant Day hosted by Robbinsdale Parkway UCC in Minneapolis. This is a time to gather together and be the church! Covenant Days are filled with workshops, worship, food and fellowship — a time for members, lay leaders, and clergy of local congregations to connect with one another and Conference staff.

All are welcome! We have tried to offer workshops that are of interest to clergy and lay members of the church. This is an opportunity to meet others who are being church in this time and to discuss what it means to be people of faith in a pandemic-informed world. We look forward to seeing you!

Join Us for the First Outdoor Ministry Winter Zoom Series Gathering January 12

2023 Farm Bill

January 12, 7:00-8:00 pm CST

Presenter: Sarah Goldman

Free; REGISTER to receive Zoom link

Learn more about the Farm Bill and why it matters to us as a faith community in this one-hour discussion brought to you by the Outdoor Ministry of the MN Conference UCC. The Land Stewardship Project will present the 2023 Farm Bill, which covers health care, food concerns, climate change, and corporate accountability and responsibility. Universities are also affected by this bill through research funding on topics involving agriculture, sustainable practices, and innovation. Read more

FourTHursday: Reframing Ministry: The Joy of Listening that Forms Community

January 26, 2023 @ 11:30 am - 1:30 pm

Join online or in person at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities

Lunch: 11:30am | Community Conversation/Resourcing: 12:00-1:30pm


In her book Eighth Day of Creation, Elizabeth O’Connor writes, “The major obligation of the Church to children is to enjoy them and listen to them so that each can grow according to the design which is written into the being of each and emerges only under the care and warmth of another life.” O’Connor goes on to talk about the particular ministry to which parents are called, “…their really important ministry is to listen to their children and enable them to uncover the special blueprint that is theirs.”

O’Connor’s words reflect the wisdom of many of our ancient spiritual traditions and practices. Yet, the practices of listening for the whisper of the Spirit – whispers we hear in the voices of others, in the songs of creation, and deep within ourselves – are often absent from the life we share together as local faith communities. What would it mean for us to ground our work, ministry and being in deep, authentic, spacious listening? What would it mean for us to give on another the gift of being listened into speech? What would it mean for us to listen to our children, so that they can discover the blueprint that God has written upon their being? What if…

Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Faith Formation, will facilitate this time of conversation. We will draw on new research and work about the counter-cultural practices of listening and the necessity for this practice as both balm and resistance amid the chaos, despair, and overwhelm of our time. We will explore together how to re-member our communities as spaces of hospitality and belonging rooted in the simple and challenging practices of holy listening.

Church Leaders: Become a Time Boss

Make space for self-care while challenging cultural norms and creating gracious boundaries. Join Rev. Nicole Havelka, a leadership coach and mindful meditation teacher, in a workshop that will help you step back, name your self-care needs and priorities, empower you to manage your time for work-life balance, and introduce you to mindfulness practices that will sustain you through stress-filled times and spark transformation. LEARN MORE

REGISTER to receive the Zoom link

  • Members*: freewill donation (*All Minnesota UCC, UMC, and PC(USA) congregations and their leaders and members are members of The Ministry Lab. Learn how you can become a subscription member HERE.
  • Non-member fee: $25

Calling Young Adults Ages 18-25

Reconnect with UCC camp friends for a weekend at Green Lake Lutheran Camp in Spicer, MN. This is a chance to relax, have some fun, create a meal together, and help plan the future for young adult programming in the MN Conference. Registration is open now until January 20 or when spaces are filled. Read our Covid guidelines.

When: January 27-29, 2023, begins at 6:00 pm Friday and ends 11:00 am on Sunday

Where: Green Lake Lutheran Camp, Medayto Lodge, Spicer, MN

Cost: $50/person | $25/person scholarship, if needed; contact sherin@uccmn.org


Faith Foundations: Read the New Testament & Explore Christian History

January 12 - April 20, 2023

Lay leaders, seekers, and people exploring authorized ministry are invited to explore the history of the New Testament and the early church, and to gain tools to read and interpret scripture well.

Registration ends Monday, January 9. LEARN MORE

Exploring the Enneagram

January 30 - March 12, 2023

Learn the Enneagram’s system of 9 Types and identify your type with The Damascus Project's upcoming learning opportunity. LEARN MORE & REGISTER

Joys & Concerns

You are invited to the installation of Cynthia Riggin Sunday, January 8, at 10 am at Macalester Plymouth Church in St. Paul. All clergy are invited to robe and wear a white stole, and process (or red stole if they don't have a white one).

Upcoming Conference Events
More Resources & Opportunities

  • 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.

  • The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to faith formation, racial justice, and more.

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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.