Volume 17, No. 15 | April 14, 2021

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Before We Get to Healing
—Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.  —James 5:16

On Monday, I was contacted by a member of the media. “What can we do to heal our communities in the middle of all this pain and unrest?” she wondered. I declined to be interviewed. It felt like she was asking the wrong question. Or that it was at least premature.

Daunte Wright had just been shot and killed by a police officer the day before in Brooklyn Center. We were entering the third week of testimony in the Derek Chauvin trial, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd less than one year ago. There is an enormous amount of pain in Minnesota right now, to be sure, a whole lot of healing needed. But this is no simple scrape of the knee, fixed up quick with a bandage and a kiss. This is a gaping, raw wound that needs major intervention if healing is to come.

In our Christian tradition, we regularly practice confession. It’s a form of truth-telling, coming clean about our own lives and recognizing how what we’ve done or left undone has caused pain. Our honest confession restores relationship with God and with others. It clears the way for the forgiveness our faith promises, the healing our souls need.
Confession is good for the soul. Truth-telling sets us free.

Before we can heal all the wrenching pain and loss that the evil of historic, systemic racism has caused we need to first tell the truth about what ails us. That will take time. Intention. Courage. It will necessitate personal transformation, policy change, reform and legislation. And we in the Church are not exempt. Our Conference and all our churches must find ways to authentically engage in our own processes of confession, so that we too might be changed.

At a vigil held Monday evening near where Daunte Wright was killed, his family wept bitter tears, their grief and shock brutally clear. Daunte Wright’s mother spoke about her son. She talked about his smile, what a good son and father he was, how much she already missed him and couldn’t imagine more days without him. “My heart is literally broken in a thousand pieces,” she said.

That kind of ragged wound and inconsolable grief won’t heal easily. It takes time to put that many pieces back together again. Our shattered community and nation won’t heal easily either. But we can begin with telling the truth. Only then will healing begin.

—Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon
sharip@uccmn.org
Conference to Experiment with New Staffing Model
Susan Beaumont, the keynote speaker for our Annual Meeting in June and the author of “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going: Leading in a Liminal Season,” recently wrote these words to churches during this pandemic season: 

“We are in a liminal season, stuck between an ending and a new beginning.…This season requires a different leadership stance. Our actions must originate from a new center—a less busy and more yielding, soulful place….We accept this moment as “just the place we need to be” to learn what is most important now. To surrender does not mean giving up or giving in. It does not mean we languish or grow lazy—quite the opposite. It means we lean into the disorientation and trust the leading of the Holy Spirit.”

In the coming months, the Minnesota Conference UCC staff team will lean into such a time of learning, trusting in the Holy Spirit to tell us what we need to know. We will try out a new staff model, moving forward with two full-time Associate Conference Ministers instead of three and welcoming a new part-time position — Steward for Search & Call & Congregational Legacy Planning. Responsibilities for several of our continuing staff are also shifting. 

We don’t want to assume that we should just keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. Instead, we want to experiment with a new staffing model and see what we can learn in the process. Those lessons will inform our next steps.

In the coming weeks, all pastors will receive further information about staff changes so they have clarity about who to contact for a variety of needs. The Conference will continue to provide high quality support and ministry to our churches and leaders.
Rev. Cindy Mueller Joins Conference Staff

The Minnesota Conference has appointed Rev. Cindy Mueller to the role of Steward for Search and Call and Congregational Legacy Planning. In her position, a new role in the Conference, she will work with all congregations that are currently in leadership transition and searching for a pastor. She will also work with congregations that are discerning a potential closure or significant transition.

Cindy has more than 20 years of involvement with the Conference, including serving as moderator. Currently she is on the Conference’s Committee on Ministry.
 
After she was ordained in 1987, she served as an installed pastor in two Wisconsin churches before she felt called to enter interim ministry. She has since served ten churches, nine of them in Minnesota, throughout 33 years of ministry, while also supply preaching in another eight UCC churches around the state. Most recently she served at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in St. Paul as lead interim minister.
 
“I have dedicated my life’s ministry to aiding the church of Jesus Christ as it goes through the challenging and exciting time a transition provides for local congregations,” Cindy says. “I see each position as a journey pregnant with possibilities. I look forward to beginning that journey in this new role.”

Cindy lives in Buffalo with her husband, the Rev. Dr. Jeff Palmer, and their golden retrievers. She is the mother of three adult children and grandmother of two. She earned her bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Minnesota and her master of divinity degree from Chicago Theological Seminary.

“We are grateful to have Cindy on our Conference team, a person with a history of such faithful service in the MN Conference,” says Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon. “Her deep and varied experience, and her demonstrated devotion to our Conference’s collective ministries, will serve us well in this role.”
 
Cindy can be reached at cindym@uccmn.org or 612.230.3367.
Conference News & Events
Meaning Making & Belonging: A sabbatical journey with St. Benedict and Springtide Research Institute 

Thursday, April 22, Noon – 1:30pm 

Join us on Zoom as Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister of Faith Formation for Children & Youth, shares reflections and insights gained during his recent sabbatical. Our conversation will include reflections on some successes and failures of practicing a “rule of life,” as well as significant new research findings from Springtide Research Institute about the shifting role of congregations in relationship with youth and young adults. Each participant will receive a copy of Springtide’s recent publications, “Meaning Making: 8 Values That Drive America’s Newest Generations.” Please contact Kevin with any questions.
Check Out the “Kiss the Ground” Documentary Discussion
Right now, soil might be the last thing on your mind. But when the future of our planet and humankind is at stake, nothing may be more important than regenerating the ground beneath us. We’re in need of a kind of hope we’ve never felt before. “Kiss the Ground” unveils a game-changer to our climate crisis: the Earth’s own soil.
Planetary Health: Co-creating a Better Future for All

April 22, 7pm
Led by Teddie M. Potter, PhD, RN, FAAN

What do COVID-19, structural racism, and the devastating wildfires in the western United States have in common? They are all symptoms of a planet in multi-system failure. Join our Creation Justice series to learn about the human health consequences of the human caused disruptions of Earth’s natural systems. You will also learn that it is not too late for all of us to work together to co-create a healthier future. LEARN MORE
Ministry Lab Resources to Support You

In response to the killing of Daunte Wright, The Ministry Lab offers resources to encourage compassion, engagement, discussion, and stamina:
Vigil Service of Remembrance for George Floyd

Sunday, May 23, 7 pm

The Minnesota Conference will host an online vigil to mark the one-year anniversary of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. We will take time to pray for racial justice, more just policing, and for hope for a more just future. Hosted by the Amos Task Force, the vigil will feature local and diverse speakers and artists. More details and a registration link will be provided in future COMMAntary issues.
Building Peace with the Earth

April 27, 6–7 pm (CDT)
Via Zoom, Meeting ID: 895 8593 7276; Passcode: 211499

Join a presentation and discussion with Amariee Collins, who has worked with Texas Impact and her congregation, St. Peter's UCC in Houston Texas, on issues of environmental justice and disaster recovery. Houston has some of highest levels of toxic air in the country and is home to 10 of the "Toxic 100." A short presentation on environmental justice and Just Peace will be followed by time in small groups to network and share with one another resources and upcoming events related to our common work.
Quarterly Church Statements Mailed

Be on the lookout for your church’s first quarter 2021 Church Gift Statement this week. The statement includes all gifts, pledges, and pledge payments made to the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ January 1-March 31. Please review your statement carefully: occasionally it is difficult to determine if gifts given at the beginning of a new calendar year are for the CURRENT calendar year (designated as “2021 Church Giving”), or the PREVIOUS calendar year (designated as “2020 Church Giving”). Please contact the Conference office with any questions or changes!
 
Additionally, the current Local Church Remittance Form is included in the mailing, and should be used when you send in gifts or pledges to the Conference office in order to assure an accurate accounting of your church’s financial covenant and support. This form is also available online at www.uccmn.org/resources/forms. Please discontinue using old forms.

Thank you for supporting all the ministries of the Minnesota Conference.
Registration Open for Annual Meeting

June 7-13, held virtually
The Annual Meeting Planning Work Group, in collaboration with Conference staff, is creating an experience that will be educational, supportive, collaborative, and enjoyable! LEARN MORE & REGISTER
Joys & Concerns
Mark (Gus) Gustafson, spouse of the Rev. Sarah Campbell and father of the Rev. Hannah Campbell Gustafson, suffered two massive strokes during Holy Week. He has been discharged home and is embarking on his road to recovery.
Resources

  • The Enduring Fund, established by Chapel Hills UCC of Edina in 2003, provides supplemental financial support to organizations, individuals and projects that align with the church's mission as a community of faith. Applications are due April 30SEE INSTRUCTIONS AND THE APPLICATION FORM


  • The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to ministry.

  • 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.


  • 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.
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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.