Volume 18, No. 34 | September 28, 2022

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

A Prayer for Those in the Path of Hurricanes

O God of infinite grace and generous love, our hearts tremble as Hurricane Ian barrels its way toward Florida, and we lift our prayers to you.

Sit with all those in the path of the storm: huddled in attics, sheltered for safety, evacuating in haste, fearing for their lives.

Hold close all those in harm’s way, whose homes & neighborhoods & businesses & places of worship face the utter devastation of pummeling waters & winds.

Wrap in your embracing love those already experiencing the disaster wrought by Hurricane Ian in Cuba, and lives upended by earlier storms that have already faded from our view.

Grant your blessed guidance to all those who will rush to help & heal in the midst of the disaster, to all those who will follow in the months & years to come to recover & repair what has been lost.

Stir resilience among all those who will walk the long road to full recovery. Heal grief. Resurrect what’s been broken & destroyed. Illuminate paths to the future when exhaustion & desolation overwhelm.

Move all of us to respond with hearts of compassion, acts of service, generous giving, & enduring prayers.

O God, hear our prayer. We trust in your abiding presence and power. Amen.

Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon

MN Conference Co-Hosts Expanded "Our Whole Lives" Training

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Conference UCC co-hosted an Our Whole Lives (OWL) training with the Wisconsin Conference at Daycholah Center near Green Lake, WI. Eighteen participants came from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Montana. It was a wonderful weekend of learning in community amid the beautiful setting and warm hospitality provided by the staff at Daycholah.

Three participants attended from Peace UCC in Duluth and three from Mayflower UCC in South Minneapolis. "We were so pleased to meet in person," said Associate Conference Minister Kevin Brown. "This kind of training highlights the importance of collaborative ministry and the desire to expand OWL and human sexuality education within the ministry of local congregations."

Nathan Holst, Minister for Faith Formation at Peace UCC, took part in the training for facilitators of the adult OWL curriculum. He received training in the youth-focused OWL curricula several years ago and found it powerful for the young people in his church. "Kids get comfortable talking about sexuality through OWL," he says. "Discussing consent and healthy relationships and helping young people gain knowledge and skills is really important. So many people in the world don't know how to talk about sexuality and that can create a lot of problems. People can get really hurt."

Holst says Peace hopes to expand OWL to young adults soon, starting with the college-age curriculum. "We want to give college students access to the kind of conversations OWL provides." He also highly recommends OWL training. "It's a great space to reflect on your own relationships and comfort with sexuality. The training gives you tools for your professional and personal lives."

Bree McKee Miller, Interim Director of Faith Formation at Mayflower, participated in the training for teens. "OWL has been such an important program at Mayflower for years," she says. "I wanted to be able to support the programs and help deliver them responsibly." She found the experience inclusive and affirming. "OWL offers accurate information without any sort of judgment or any of the things that might induce shame. It also helps young people really understand and respect boundaries."

Both Holst and McKee Miller believe OWL is vital for congregations to offer. "From an historical perspective, churches have been associated with negative messages about sexuality," McKee Miller says. "OWL changes the narrative, that our bodies are gifts from God. But we must use that gift respectfully. If we want our kids to be healthy and happy, we have to equip them. The church is uniquely situated to provide a trusted place to talk about this subject, and we have a responsibility to do so."

Conference News & Events

A Wonderful Women's Wilderness Retreat!

Six women from four congregations and representing three generations participated in last weekend's Women's Wilderness Retreat. This second annual event, held at Camp Amnicon, was filled with nature walks to Lake Superior and a lazy canoe trip down the Namekogan river. The in-between times were filled with good food and inspiring conversations around a roaring campfire. The mood was filled with hope, inclusion, and friendship!


One of our young women had this to say about the experience: "Going into this retreat I imagined myself having a good time and being able to hang out with my friend that I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. I did not expect to experience what I did. I was able to be one with nature as I come from a big city where you can not experience that much. We had wonderful conversations around the campfire and delicious food. We went canoeing and saw some wildlife. It was truly a feeling of renewal that I think we all needed and I can not wait to go back next year!" —Kristen Peterson, Hazel Park UCC

UCC Launches National Art Contest for Children & Youth

The UCC is launching a national art contest for children and youth that will be part of a larger campaign that will generate hope in making a difference when confronting the climate crisis.

Draw or paint about climate hope, environmental justice, or protecting the Earth. Sunday school class and youth group participation encouraged. Winners will be selected in November! LEARN MORE

"White Privilege: Let’s Talk” Reading and Racial Justice Study Group

October 18, November 15, December 13, January 10, 6:00 –7:30 pm

Come together to discuss the United Church of Christ’s resource for conversation and dialogue around race. This workshop will meet over Zoom for four 90-minute sessions from October through January. This will meet the standing requirement for Anti-Racism/Diversity for authorized ministers in the Minnesota Conference. To register, send an email to See Chang at comadmin@uccmn.org.

You’re Invited to the Conference's Covenant Day in Alexandria

Saturday, November 12, 9:30 am – 3 pm

First Congregational UCC in Alexandria, 221 7th Avenue W


Gather a team from your congregation and join us for practical resources and workshops, inspiring worship, covenantal connections with your UCC neighbors, and the awesomeness of being together again! We encourage all clergy, local church moderators, and lay members to attend. Registration is required; $10/person

What Kind of Message will your Stewardship Campaign Signal this Year? Urgency vs. Agency…

—Rev. Andrew Warner, Generosity Outreach Officer, Office of Philanthropy, Technology, Identity, & Communication - United Church of Christ

Does your stewardship campaign use the language of urgency? 

Urgency, from the Latin “to pressure,” involves a moment or problem that insists or compels our attention. You might hear it in the church treasurer who says at the annual meeting, “Given our financial trends, we will be closed in 5 years.” Or the consistory president who announces, “We face a $30,000 deficit. We need everyone to give to keep the lights on.” I hear the language of urgency showing up in church when leaders put the emphasis on financial problems.

Urgency can be motivating because it names an immediate and large problem. But it can also leave people overwhelmed and uncertain about their ability to make a difference. For this reason, we often do better to use the language of agency.


TOMORROW! Faith and Reproductive Choice: a Webinar for Minnesota UCC Clergy and Laity

Thursday, September 29, 7:00-8:30 pm | Free of charge | REGISTER

Many Christians struggle with the issue of abortion morality and find themselves conflicted or confused in today’s intense, polarized political environment. Others support reproductive choice politically, but still feel that abortion is shameful. This webinar invites participants to step back a bit from politics to explore positive positions on abortion in terms of biblical theology of “living beings” and pastoral concerns about people’s real lives. Led by faith leaders with time for Q&A.

Circle of Trust Peer Groups Open for Registration

If you are a leader in a faith community or other ministry context — clergy, lay staff, or volunteer — whose ministry focuses on nurturing the spiritual lives of others, this opportunity is for you.

These Circle of Trust Peer Groups will offer space for faith leaders to be nurtured and nourished within themselves and in community. This is an opportunity to refocus on what inspires and sustains you in ministry. The Circle of Trust approach is an invitation and a structure for doing our own inner work in the company of others. This series of gatherings will be held entirely online and includes both an opening retreat AND monthly small group calls. LEARN MORE & REGISTER

Register for the Minnesota Conference UCC Clergy Retreat

November 1-3, 2022 (Tuesday 5 pm – Thursday 11:30 am)

Christ the King Retreat Center, Buffalo, MN

$200 private room | $170 shared double room | $100 commuter


All actively serving clergy from around the Minnesota Conference UCC are invited to come together with colleagues for a few days of renewal, rest, and reconnection. LEARN MORE

UCC National Setting Job Opportunity: Team Leader and Minister of Gender & Sexuality Justice/Executive Director

The Team Leader/Executive Director is responsible for oversight and coordination of United Church of Christ (UCC) strategies, programs and resources related gender, gender expression, and LGBTQI+ education, equity, and advocacy. This includes serving as the Executive Director of the United Church AIDS Network (aka UCAN), and assigned liaison to The Open and Affirming Coalition of the UCC, United Church of Christ Wellness Ministries, and the Unitarian Universalist Association specifically regarding agreements related to Our Whole Lives Program. LEARN MORE

Partner News & Events

Join The Damascus Project's "Leadership Matters" Conversation with Diana Butler Bass

Tuesday, October 11, 6:00 pm



Diana will explore these questions, among others:

  • How do we find ways to be innovative leaders as we continue to emerge from a pandemic? 
  • How has the church and our world changed and how might we respond to those changes? 
  • How do we continue to Be the Church in an increasingly post-Christian culture?

Join The Damascus Project's Advent Lunchtime Series

Get ready to get ready for Jesus’ birth with our Advent lunchtime lecture & resourcing series. Great for preachers and faith formation and youth ministry leaders.

For just $40:

  • Participate in 5 lectures with 5 different interpretive voices (Wednesdays 12:00 to 1:00 pm CST Oct. 19–Nov. 16)
  • Receive video recordings of these conversations
  • Join an online cohort of learners for sharing resources and having conversation on your own time.


Overcoming Racism Conference Registration Open

The Power of Truth Telling is the theme of this year's Overcoming Racism conference November 11-12 at Metro State University in St. Paul. The Friday keynote speaker is Hmong-American writer, filmmaker and teacher Kao Kalia Yang on "The Power of Truth in Storytelling." The Saturday keynote performers are JUSTmove (David Scherer and Joe Davis) whose performances facilitate racial justice and healing through the arts.

More information and registration HERE. Download a flyer HERE.

Walk, Give, and Change the World

10th Annual South of the River CROP Hunger Walk

Sunday, October 2, registration at 1 pm, walk begins at 2 pm

St. James Lutheran Church, 3650 Williams Dr., Burnsville



The walk supports local and global programs that work with communities for immediate relief and long-lasting solutions to hunger and poverty, with 75% of funds raised going toward creating sustainable futures for our global neighbors and the other 25% to Second Harvest Heartland. CROP Hunger Walks are part of Church World Service, an organization with more than 70 years of experience in disaster relief and sustainable development.

Leadership Center for Social Justice Partners with Anti-Racism Study Dialogue Circles for Clergy-specific Anti-Racism Workshops


Are you a clergy member looking for a way to fulfill requirements for six hours of continuing education in anti-racism? The Leadership Center for Social Justice invites you to participate in Discerning Whiteness: The Unacknowledged Barrier. These two clergy-specific workshops will be led by the Anti-Racism Study Dialogue Circles (ASDIC). Two sessions over Zoom on October 13 and October 27 from 9 am-noon CT. Cost is $90. Contact Stella Pearce at spearce@united.edu to register.

Joy & Concerns

The Rev. Curt Johnson, longtime Pastor for Ministerial Support at First Congregational Anoka, died peacefully on September 21 after his health declined rapidly in the last 2-3 months. He was 93. Curt worked as a parish pastor for the American Baptist Church, serving in rural South Dakota among other places. He left parish ministry ultimately to work in nonprofit work with the Mayo Clinic, and spent the last five decades providing volunteer ministerial services at Anoka. Funeral plans are pending. Please keep Curt and Claire's loved ones in your prayers, including their daughter Debbie, who was the choir director at the New Brighton church for many years.

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.