Volume 17, No. 18 | May 12, 2021

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
A Warm Invitation to the Annual Meeting from the Conference Minister
Have you ever found yourself wondering what the future may look like for your congregation?

Do you feel sometimes as if everything’s uncertain and you have no idea how to get from point A to point B?

Are you longing to gather with your siblings in Christ across the Conference, and spend some time hearing how others have endured the pandemic? 

Is your heart heavy thinking about the killing of George Floyd & Daunte Wright, and do you want to be part of creating change?

Are you a pastor who wants time to think with clergy peers about how to lead through this time filled with so many questions & possibilities?

Do you long for us to be a courageous church?

If you answered “YES!” to any of the above questions, I strongly encourage you to register for our Annual Meeting, June 7-13.  We have four days of amazing workshops with topics sure to interest you, keynote speaker Susan Beaumont who can perfectly speak to this moment of change and uncertainty, and a phenomenal Sunday preacher, Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, who serves as one of our national UCC officers and will inspire and challenge us.

In addition, clergy have an opportunity to gather on Friday morning for a seminar specially designed for them with Susan Beaumont – free for those registered for Annual Meeting! And I’ll deliver my State of the Conference address, “How is it with our Souls?,” on Friday evening, reflecting on how we as a Conference of congregations have navigated this unparalleled last year.

We’ll hear updates on the Damascus Project and Outdoor Ministries, & be greeted by the new Interim President of United Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Molly Marshall. We will also elect new leaders of the Conference and ask for your approval of a proposed budget for the next fiscal year. And it’s all virtual, so you don’t have to travel or leave your own comfy beds!

Please make sure your congregation is represented as we gather as the wider church, in blessed communion together. It’s never been more obvious that we can’t make this journey of being Church alone. We need each other. We’re stronger when we travel side by side.

See you at Annual Meeting!

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

P.S. Have questions about Annual Meeting? Find all the answers here!
Conference News & Events
A Requiem of Healing: Honoring the Spirit of George Floyd, One Year Later

The Amos Task Force of the Minnesota Conference UCC is hosting a “requiem of healing” on Sunday, May 23, 7-8:30 pm, to remember the death of George Floyd one year later and to honor the legacy of transformation his death has inspired. Local activists and artists will grace this time together, including: Rev. Lawrence Tanner Richardson (Linden Hills UCC), Rev. DeWayne Davis (Plymouth Congregational), Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs (Racial Justice Coordinator, MN Council of Churches), Nekima Levy Armstrong, poet Shá Cage, visual artist Cadex Herrera, Imam Mohamed Omar (Dar Al-Farooq Center), and Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman (Temple Israel). REGISTRATION is required.
Interim Associate Conference Minister Sheresa Simpson-Rice to Depart July 31

Reverend Sheresa Simpson-Rice will conclude her ministry with the Minnesota Conference July 31. She has been called to serve as the settled Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development in the Central Atlantic Conference (UCC).

Rev. Simpson-Rice has served as our Interim Associate Conference Minister since April 2020, leading our search and call efforts of the Conference, providing care and support to congregations and clergy, and staffing our Committee on Ministry. Since her work with us coincided with the onset of the pandemic, she has worked remotely from her home in Pennsylvania.

In her letter of resignation, Rev. Simpson-Rice wrote: “Words cannot express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve as an interim associate minister for the Minnesota Conference. I have appreciated the warmth and care of good colleagues, the challenge of church life, and the honor of service to the steadfast churches and people of the Minnesota Conference. I have learned and grown while working for this amazing Conference. I wish nothing but continued faith, prosperity, and growth for these wonderful people, churches and outstanding staff. I count myself fortunate to have worked alongside such talented and dedicated individuals. I will be holding you all in my prayers.”

We extend our gratitude to Sheresa for her ministries with us during this pandemic year, and offer her our blessings as she begins a new ministry with the Central Atlantic Conference.
Two Churches Eliminate $2.8 Million in Medical Debt in Five States
St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ and Falcon Heights United Church of Christ decided to love their neighbor in a big way in 2021: they helped thousands of individuals and families get out from under the burden of long-standing medical debt.  
Together, St. Anthony Park UCC and Falcon Heights UCC donated $28,275, which eliminated $2,848,121 of old medical debt for 2,178 households in five states – Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Georgia. In Minnesota, 52 counties received debt elimination, including Ramsey, Hennepin, Dakota, Scott, Cass and Anoka counties.
The churches worked with RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit that uses donated funds to abolish medical debt belonging to families in need of financial support. RIP purchases debts in large, bundled portfolios – most often on the secondary debt market – for a fraction of their face value. In this way, $1 donated relieves, on average, $100 of medical debt.
Church leaders said they took this action together to counteract some of the economic and racial inequities in our country and to engage in a big-impact endeavor through two "small-in-number but mighty-in-spirit churches." Our hats off to them for this wonderful work!
Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson To Lead Annual Meeting Worship June 13

We are so thrilled that the Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia A. Thompson will lead worship to close out this year's virtual Annual Meeting. She is the Associate General Minister for Wider Church Ministries and Operations in the United Church of Christ and Co-Executive for Global Ministries with the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Music will be provided from around the Conference.

Worship is open to all! There will be an opportunity during worship to contribute to the annual fund of the Minnesota Conference.

Outdoor Ministry Plans Educational Journey to Enbridge Line 3 Site

Saturday, May 15
Wednesday, May 26

Outdoor Ministry, MN Conference invites you to participate in an educational journey to Palisade, MN, the place where Enbridge Line 3 and the Water Protectors collide for the rights to sacred lands that cross the Mississippi, rice lakes, and one of the most important watershed systems in the world.

MN Interfaith Power and Light will lead the discussion on the controversial Line 3, introduce us to some of the Water Protectors and residents directly affected by the tar sands pipeline, and invite us to pray with them over the Mississippi.
Congregations, families, and individuals may register for one or both events. DOWNLOAD AN INFO SHEET.
The Strengthen the Church Offering
Pentecost Sunday is traditionally the day churches use to take the Strengthen the Church special offering, which funds the expansion of ministry and growth in the UCC. The Strengthen the Church offering is important to the ministry of the Minnesota Conference because 50% of contributions raised stay in Minnesota for projects like the eighteen Covid-19 Pandemic Relief Grants that enhanced the technology infrastructure in 18 Minnesota churches to provide online worship in 2020.
Resources for making your Strengthen the Church special offering successful are available free by clicking HERE.

Parkview United Church of Christ
3737 Bellaire Ave., White Bear Lake
Saturdays 10 to 11 am

A $20 donation is suggested for each sign and goes to Black-led community organizations. Cash is accepted but please prepay online if possible using these directions:
  • Text “Firstuniv BLM 20” to 73256
  • Replace "20" with the number you wish to donate (suggested $20 donation per sign).
  • Click the link you get back, enter payment details including e-mail address for receipt.
  • Drive to the location, show the receipt on your phone to the store clerk or volunteer.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The arrival of May brings Mental Health Awareness Month and, for many congregations, preparations for Mental Health Sunday on May 16. The UCC Mental Health Network has partnered with The United Church of Canada to offer a new resource: Radical Belonging: Mental Health Sunday Liturgies and Resources for All.

This downloadable resource, available in both a PDF and a large print Word document, is for any congregation of any size that wishes to become a place of radical belonging. Within it, you will find liturgy that challenges the systemic sins that create “otherness” and ableism, resources that share the stories of people living with mental illness and disabilities, and words of grace and celebration for the opportunities we have as the Body of Christ to love, care for and accept one another.
Joys & Concerns
Rev. Penny Entringer, pastor of Zoar UCC in Chaska, underwent successful gallbladder removal surgery on April 28. Rev. Entringer has been at Zoar since 2016. The Minnesota Conference sends prayers and gratitude for Rev. Entringer’s continued recovery.

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

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

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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.