Volume 17, No. 46 | November 24, 2021

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
A Prayer of Thanksgiving
Great Giver, Source of all that is goodness and grace, Your holy scriptures urge us to give thanks in all circumstances. But we confess our thanksgiving is often less than full-hearted these days, for the burdens of this world weigh heavily upon us.

We’re exhausted. We’re divided. We grieve deeply the loss of so many and so much. We’re thirsty for true justice but it evades us. We’re so over this pandemic, yet it won’t loosen its stubborn grip on us.

Renew in us a song of thanks, O God. Touch our weary hearts with gladness.

For at the end of every day and in the middle of every mess You are at our side. You are Lingering Love when the world threatens to drown us in hate. You are Sustaining Strength when we can’t imagine a way forward. You are Gentle Grace when our own hearts are full of hard judgment. You are Surprising Courage when fears overwhelm us. You are Unyielding Hope when despair draws near.

And so we will give abundant thanks. Thank you for our pastors and our congregations. Thank you for our chaplains and health care workers. Thank you for those who govern our nation and for leaders everywhere faced with impossible choices. Thank you for scientists and vaccines, for teachers and school boards. Thank you for factory workers, truck drivers, dock workers, and all those who labor unseen for the benefit of us all. Thank you for family and friends, and for the beauty of your Creation. Thank you for this life you have given, even when it is hard, and for the quiet blessings you bestow day after day.

Yes, we will sing a song of praise! We will lift our thanks to You for Your unending faithfulness to us! Morning by morning new mercies we see. And we are deeply grateful. 

Amen.

Written by Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister of the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ, for Thanksgiving 2021

Conference News & Events
Weekly Advent Family Toolkit Now Available


The Conference's weekly toolkits feature a video of youth and leaders from one of our local congregations engaging in conversation and reflection on the themes and scripture text for the week. The toolkits will also share a rich and diverse collection of at-home games, activities, book recommendations, candle lighting ritual, and service ideas for individuals and families of all ages.

The themes and texts for each week are:
  • Advent 1 (Nov 28): Hope – Anna & Simeon (Luke 2:22-38)
  • Advent 2 (Dec 5): Peace – Elizabeth & Zechariah (Luke 1:1-25)
  • Advent 3 (Dec 12): Joy – Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
  • Advent 4 (Dec 19): Love – Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)
  • Christmas (Dec 25): The Birth of Love – Shepherds (Luke 2:8-20)
  • Epiphany (Jan 6): Star Followers — Magi (Matthew 2:1-12)
                       
Please contact Sandy Kellen to sign-up to receive the link to the weekly toolkit delivered to your email inbox.
Who Might be Interested in Leadership Skills 2022?

  • You are a lay leader in your local church (e.g. church council member, board or team chair, moderator or council president) and would like to grow in service
  • You are a volunteer or paid staff person in your local church (e.g. Sunday school teacher, youth ministry leader, administrative personnel)
  • You long to connect leadership in your day-to-day life with your faith walk.
  • You lead one of your congregation’s significant outreach ministries
  • You joined a United Church of Christ congregation from another religious tradition or no tradition and want to know more about the UCC
  • You are curious about pastoral ministry or sense God’s call in this direction! (Considering the Member In Discernment process with the UCC? Contact us!)

Detailed dates, pricing, and payment options for lay people and members in discernment described here or watch the intro video below. You can enroll in the full year or purchase workshops à la carte.
Thank You for Another Successful Give to the Max Day
 
Many thanks to everyone who gave during this year’s Give to the Max day! With your generosity, we met the $3,000 matching gift and raised more than $8,000. And, it's not too late to give this year. Make your gift HERE.
Help Afghan Refugees

The Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC) continues to resettle individuals and families evacuated over the past few months from Afghanistan. Most are coming to Minnesota having been granted "humanitarian parole," which means that they won't be eligible for all the same financial and program supports as refugees.
 
MCC needs your support to meet families' direct needs and help MCC connect Afghan and refugee families to housing, schools, health care, and the community resources they need to start their lives in Minnesota. LEARN HOW TO HELP
Conference & Partner Events
Register for the Winter Spiritual Immersion Retreat

January 21-23, 2022 (Friday, 6:00 pm through Sunday, 11:00 am) 
Clearwater Forest Camp and Retreat Center, Deerwood, MN
Registration closes January 14
Join UTS for "The Iconography of Advent: Images of Mary East and West"

December 9, 7:30 pm via Zoom; free but please REGISTER

Dr. Jennifer Awes Freeman delivers the next in the United Theological Seminary's "Favorite Lecture Series." Dr. Freeman will discuss images of the Virgin Mary, which are so ubiquitous in western culture that it’s often difficult to see them—and indeed Mary herself—afresh. This is perhaps most true during the Advent and Christmas season when she appears on greeting cards, magazine covers, and even postage stamps. This lecture will explore early Christian, medieval, and Byzantine depictions of Mary and will consider some similarities and divergences between Eastern and Western images of the Mother of God, and what we might glean from such a rich and complex theological tradition." LEARN MORE
Joys & Concerns
Our prayers are lifted for Reverend Chris McCardle (First Congregational–Anoka) and his family upon the death of his father last week. The Honorable J. Patrick McArdle of Crete, NE, died in Wilber, NE, on November 19. He was a member of First Congregational UCC of Crete for nearly 50 years.
Resources & Clergy Clusters


  • 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 Covid, 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.