Volume 18, No. 20 | May 18, 2022

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
After Buffalo, New York: A Statement of Our Faith
Last Saturday, a heavily armed white man entered a grocery store in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Buffalo, New York and fired 50 rounds, killing 10 and injuring 3. His own ‘manifesto’, the racist words he scrawled on his firearm, and a history of social media posts all make one thing clear: this act of violence that took so many precious lives and terrorized an entire community was driven by white supremacy and the shooter’s own twisted fear and belief that white people are being ‘replaced’ by persons of color. 

White supremacy and systematic violence against persons of color have been ugly stains on this nation’s history since white ancestors first stepped foot on this land. Today it continues to show up in a thousand different ways that harm, kill, and destroy, and it’s on the rise. The FBI reported that in 2020 the number of hate crimes were the highest they’d been in twelve years. (That number included violent crimes motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.)

In the days since this horrific violence took place in Buffalo, many politicians and pundits have offered analysis, suggested necessary policy change, and extended their thoughts and prayers. As people of faith, of course we also lift our prayers for those who are grieving and those traumatized by this unfathomable event. But while we should join others in seeking substantive change legislatively and societally, our voice as Church must also be distinctive, rooted in the language of our faith.

In the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ, we are called in this moment to:
  • Confess the historic complicity of the Church in upholding white supremacy, and repent of the ways we as Church continue to do so today
  • Remember that God in Jesus Christ is a God of infinite, embodied love, and that a faith that asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves has no room for hatred that excludes or destroys others
  • Commit our energies and resources to dismantling racism in our time as a sign of our faithful dedication to creating the beloved community God intends for us all
  • Join our prayers with those of others, beseeching God to comfort the grieving, stir our thirst for justice and peace, and guide our feet away from the things that make for bitterness and violence
  • Recognize and honor the precious image of God, and the inherent dignity and worth thereof, in every person of all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, disabilities, and gender identities
  • Testify in word and in deed to our kind of faith: a faith of extravagant welcome, Christ-like grace and mercy, fearless courage, and justice-seeking action in the world

May it be so.
 
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
sharip@uccmn.org

(image from The Guardian)
Conference News & Events
Pollinators of the Spirit: St. John's United Church of Christ in Norwood Young America

On any Wednesday afternoon during the summer, if you happen by the parking lot of St. John's United Church of Christ in Norwood Young America, you will find a community of people surrounded by a bounty of locally grown food and homemade goods at the Bongards Market.

The church, located in the heart of rural Carver County, has hosted this seasonal farmers market for ten years in conjunction with Bongards, the premium cheese company adjacent to the church. The market's mission is to build community, and through service from the body of the church with surrounding community members, strive to provide wholesome, sustainable, and nutritious food sources.

Church member Vicki Moteelall leads a small group of volunteers to make this weekly event happen, including a set-up team of Larry and Jeannette Bachmann, Sarah Schneewind on clean up, and Michelle Bachmann as web and promotion guru.

Rev. Scott Siefert, who recently joined the church as its new pastor, says, "It's a new way of being church, of providing an extravagant welcome."

Moteelall says the market attracts 200-300 people each week. In addition to providing an opportunity for small, local businesses and farmers to provide their goods and foods, the market also sponsors two programs that provide children and seniors ages 65+ with free produce throughout the season as well as a $2 coupon for children to spend at the market.This year, food trucks will be added to the festivities.

"We know this market connects our church with folks who may never step foot into the actual walls of the church," says Moteelall. "But we want them to have a great experience and connection in our parking lot. It's about meeting people where they're at."

Siefert agrees. "I kind of look at this as us being a way for us to go out and be in community, to walk our talk. Like pollinators of the spirit!"

The Annual Meeting Is Just Around the Corner!

For all who are registered for the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Minnesota Conference UCC, many exciting workshops and informative hearings have been planned for Annual Meeting week. Once you are registered, you will have access to the links to all of these excellent opportunities that will take place via Zoom on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (June 6 - 8) at various times. You are free to attend as many workshops as you want once you are registered. REGISTER TODAY and you'll be all set to attend! Also, please note that the Conference's board of directors approved new Covid guidelines at its May 7 meeting. READ MORE
FourTHursday Faith Formation Gathering Returns for the Summer

Join In-Person or Online via Zoom!
May 26, 2022 | June 23, 2022 | July 28, 2022 | August 25, 2022
Lunch: 11:30 am | Community Conversation/Resourcing: 12:00 - 1:00 pm

During our first in-person gathering in April, we asked participants if they would like to continue meeting over the summer for connection and support, and the resounding response was “Yes!”
 
Please mark your calendars for the spring and summer dates to come together with colleagues for lunch, conversation, mutual support, and shared resourcing. The summer conversations will not include a formal presentation but will provide space for building relationships and for participants to bring questions and issues for the gathered community to help resource. There will also be space for reflection, shared wondering, and simply being together.

For the May gathering, in-person participants will be required to wear a facemask, except when eating lunch. Please note that registration is required for all in-person participants, with a firm registration deadline for May's gathering of May 25, 2022. In-person participants will be required to register in advance so that enough food is available for lunch.

Please contact Kevin with any questions regarding the gathering or the Conference's COVID-19 Safety Guidelines. We look forward to seeing your for FourTHursday.

REGISTER HERE for in person, or JOIN US for the gathering via Zoom.
Thank You! The 2021 Generosity Report is Online

With the 2021 Generosity Report, the Minnesota Conference gratefully acknowledges the financial support individuals and congregations have made to equip the courageous United Church of Christ to be alive with Christ’s transforming love. And together, we strengthened congregations statewide to do the redemptive work of God in the world! READ THE REPORT
Clergy Care Grant Program Concludes May 31

Is your congregation still considering applying for a Clergy Care Grant? The Conference will conclude that grant program and other pandemic relief grant programs this month. Get your applications in before May 31!
Strengthen the Church Special Offering is June 5

  • The Strengthen the Church (STC) special offering gives individual church members the opportunity to support local and national efforts that build up the United Church of Christ. Contributions to STC are split 50/50 between the Minnesota Conference and the national office of the United Church of Christ. in their congregations.

Strengthen the Church is one of the "5 for 5" UCC funds, along with One Great Hour of Sharing, Neighbors in Need, the Christmas Fund, and your congregation's covenantal commitment to Our Church's Wider Mission (OCWM) basic support. Resources to support generous giving to STC are available HERE.
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 Covid, racial justice, and more.
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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.