Volume 18, No. 44 | December 7, 2022

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

Advent's Sacred Pause

I was out for a walk on one of my favorite paths, rounding a small lake and enjoying the dense woods of tall trees that surrounded me.

About two-thirds along the way of this circular path, I noticed I was struggling, having trouble breathing, far more than the distance warranted. I slowed a bit and tried to take stock of what was happening. And suddenly I realized the problem: I was so determined to get around that lake in record time, so intent on the end point, that I was actually holding my breath along the way. I stopped, reminded myself to be mindful of each step, and to breathe deeply of the journey’s goodness rather than rushing toward the end point.

In some ways, Advent is that same reminder. It is this sacred pause before the glorious finale, the journey we move through as we await Christ’s birth and coming again. But so often our Advent walk leaves us struggling for breath, rushing so furiously through the gift-buying, the decorating, the baking, and the celebrations that we completely lose sight of the beauty along the way. We forget to breathe in the fullness of the ancient story: the way the prophets foretold how God would do an amazing new thing, the faithfulness of Mary and Joseph as surprising vehicles for God’s revelation. We may miss entirely the most stunning thing of all: God’s love for us was so deep that God desired to dwell among us, to become vulnerable, human flesh right in the midst of us.

 As you travel the Advent journey, I pray you are being mindful of each step, pausing often to breathe in the goodness of God, exhaling out whatever may be cluttering your path or weighing on your heart. Enjoy fully the path, while eagerly anticipating the destination. And trust that God is going before you and beside you, preparing to surprise you yet again with something unmistakably new, born of unfathomable love.

With you on the journey,

Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister (sharip@uccmn.org)

Rev. Shari Prestemon Chairs the UCC’s Council of Conference Ministers


Minnesota Conference Minister Shari Prestemon was chosen as Chair of the United Church of Christ’s Council of Conference Ministers one year ago and will begin the second year of that office in January. She recently attended a retreat of the Council of Conference Ministers in Atlanta.


“I’m so grateful for the beloved community we share, full of care, faithfulness, humor, dedication, and abiding love for the Church and her people,” Prestemon said. “I’m honored to chair the Council in this season, and to work with my colleagues to support and equip the church in this time of massive change and challenge.” She also noted that, of the 34 Conference Ministers across the UCC, 19 are now women and 6 are persons of color, the largest numbers of both groups in the history of the Council.


The Council of Conference Ministers meets throughout the year to share resources, offer mutual support, and consider the challenges and opportunities facing our Conferences and local churches. It also provides financial grants to Conferences for critical work that could not otherwise be done. It is a primary center of leadership in the United Church of Christ.

Conference News & Events

Building Eco-Justice in Our Churches

Do you have a team that is working on planet health, whether it be soil, water, recycling, or advocacy? If so, the Conference's Outdoor Ministry team would like to hear from you.

The more we know, the better we can serve your team and connect you with other churches who may be doing similar things.

Please contact Rev. Sheri Nelson.

Young Adult Winter Retreat is January 27 – 29

Who: Ages 18 (post-graduate) through 25

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

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

Cost: $50/person | $25/ person scholarship, if needed; please contact Rev. Sheri Nelson at sherin@uccmn.org


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.

Make Your Church’s 5 for 5 Contributions Count

The United Church of Christ’s popular 5 for 5 recognition program honors churches who participate in Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) and all four of the Special Offerings:

  • One Great Hour of Sharing
  • Strengthen the Church
  • Neighbors in Need
  • The Christmas Fund

The cutoff date for recognizing a 2022 gift to any of the 5 for 5 offerings is January 20, 2023. If your church is sending in a 2022 5 for 5 gift after December 30, please indicate that the gift should be for 2022; otherwise, anything not noted will automatically be recorded as 2023 giving. Thank you for participating in 5 for 5!

Enrollment Bonuses Included!

When you register with The Damascus Project, all learning Intensives include these bonuses to support you on your learning and ministry journey.

Bonus 1: Exclusive access to a learning cohort of your peers. Your course site is unique to you and your peers. Your conversations are private to your cohort. Engage with the course material, one another, and the instructor on your own time.

Bonus 2: Never miss a session with access to all Zoom recordings. Can’t make a live Zoom session work in your schedule? No problem. All Zoom sessions are recorded and recordings shared within the course site.

Bonus 3: Access to the growing online community in The Damascus Project network. Whether you enroll or not, you are welcome to join our free online community, the Damascus Project Network. Gain extra support for your learning when you participate in the conversations and small groups taking place there.

Coming in January: Faith Foundations (Jan 12-Apr 20)

Get equipped to take the next step in your faith journey and articulate why you believe what you believe through this online interactive study. Use code EARLYBIRD at checkout to save 20% through Dec 15. Learn more and register HERE.

Exploring the Enneagram

January 30 - March 12, 2023

Learn the Enneagram’s system of 9 Types and identify your type. Reflect on how your Enneagram type helps you relate to others and lead more effectively. Use code EARLYBIRD at checkout to save 20% through Dec 15. LEARN MORE & REGISTER

Joys & Concerns

We grieve the loss of Rev. Ron Cottone on November 25. Among other places of service, Rev. Cottone served as interim minister at Spirit of the Lakes UCC and Mayflower UCC. A memorial service will be held on January 14 at 1 pm at Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Read his full obituary.

After more than 18 years of ministry with the United Church of Christ in New Brighton, Beth Donaldson has resigned as Lead Minister to more fully attend to her health and family. There will be service of closure this Sunday, December 11, in the 9:30 am worship, and a farewell gathering and celebration of their shared ministry on Saturday, March 4, 2023.

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.