Volume 20, No. 39 | November 8, 2023

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

COMMAnts from the Conference Minister


“If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present…gratefully.” — Maya Angelou

As I enter my last month of service as your Conference Minister, the days are marked increasingly by “last things”: my last Board of Directors meeting, my last opportunity to spend time in this church or that church, my last lingering conversation with a pastor over coffee, my last report written or task completed. A bit of melancholy gradually settles in, unexpected tears slipping from my eyes at random moments…during the congregational singing of a hymn, or while preaching the final words of a sermon, or saying one of many good-byes that now seem to accumulate daily.

These are days when even the most routine moments and interactions are filled with extra meaning and poignancy. These are days for remembering, and for reflecting on all that has been over these ten amazing years. In the midst of it all, I am attempting, as Maya Angelou has advised, to “be present in the present … gratefully.”

Indeed, there is so much for which I am thankful when I consider our ministry together.

  • For the faithful striving of our congregations. In small country churches and large metro churches, from our border with Canada to our border with Iowa, I’ve watched you labor to be the churches God is calling you to be in this moment. I’ve seen the ways you care for one another and extend that care outward to others, your immersion in prayer and worship, your diligent discernment about your future and your ministry. For this I am grateful.

  • For our ministers and their daily “yes” to service in Christ’s Church. I watched with awe-filled respect as pastors persevered during the pandemic and did what was necessary to continue holding their faith communities together amid unimaginable circumstances. I’ve deeply admired the loving mercies of our chaplains, their particular sacrifices during the pandemic. I’ve watched others follow their call as community organizers and teachers and non-profit leaders and have been inspired by their big hearts for those they serve. For all these ministers in all these settings, I am grateful.

  • For amazing lay leaders across the Conference, the ones who chair Council meetings and cook for fundraisers and show up for worship and give their offerings and breathe life into our congregations year after year. I love their dedication, the community they build with laughter and grace and persevering prayer, the ways they carry their faith into the world, the Church with skin on. For these I am grateful.

  • For our youth and young adults. I’ll never forget their “march for our lives” in 2018 after the gun violence that took 17 lives in Parkland, Florida, or their courage in speaking truth to power in the halls of Congress just a few months ago. Nor will I forget their challenge to the rest of us at Annual Meetings to step up as the Church and do our part to change the world. For these, too, I am grateful.

  • For this Conference’s bold commitment to justice and its willingness to march, protest, advocate, rally, and organize with prophetic passion and inspiring devotion. Whether you’ve done all this yourselves, or enthusiastically supported me in my witnessing for justice and peace on your behalf, I have been grateful.

  • For our Conference volunteers. You’ve served on committees and work groups and teams and our Board. You’ve chaperoned groups at camp and on trips. You’ve shared your abundant gifts and your precious time to assist the work of the wider church because you care about our life together and what we’re trying to accomplish among our churches and in the world. You are indispensable to our ministry. For you I am grateful.

  • For your incredible generosity. You have wowed me time and time again. When the pandemic was causing unbearable strain on our congregations, you still gave to Our Church’s Wider Mission, to per capita dues, and to special offerings of the UCC. You’ve given to our Annual Fund and to Give to the Max and to special appeals. Because you’ve been so generous, we are a financially healthy Conference in a time when so many Conferences are struggling mightily. And because you’ve been generous with us, we’ve been able to be one of the most generous Conferences in the country to our national setting of the UCC. What a joy to serve in a Conference where generosity is a core value and consistent practice! For this I am grateful.

  • And finally, for our Conference staff. Our staff work so hard every day to fulfill our core mission of “equipping a courageous church alive with Christ’s transforming love.” They walk with you in times of great celebration, unsettling conflict, and deep uncertainty. They organize, plan, respond and host out of a sense of their own call and in service to a shared ministry they value immensely. And they do so much of it unseen, quietly but diligently working to help your ministries thrive. For the Conference staff – past, present, and future – I am indeed grateful.

In 1 Thessalonians 5, we are urged to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (vs.16-18) Know that I rejoice in the time we have shared together and that my gratitude for you is full. You will remain in my prayers as your future unfolds, and as another comes to lead. I am confident that the Minnesota Conference UCC will continue to give constant cause for abundant thanksgiving.



Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

[email protected]

Conference News & Events

Service of Farewell and Celebration for Conference Minister Shari Prestemon

The Minnesota Conference Board of Directors invites you to join us for a celebration in honor of Rev. Shari Prestemon’s decade of service as our Conference Minister.

The celebration will be held December 9 from 11 am – 2 pm at Mayflower Community Congregational United Church of Christ at 106 E. Diamond Lake Road in Minneapolis. We will begin with a service of farewell followed by a luncheon reception and program. The luncheon reception is $15 per person. REGISTER HERE.

In honor of Rev. Shari Prestemon's decade-long ministry in the Minnesota Conference, the special Re-Imagine Fund has been created. The Fund will offer grants to congregations who are actively working on "re-imagining" their ministry, as inspired by Rev. Prestemon.

To celebrate Rev. Prestemon's contributions to the Minnesota Conference and to send her off to work at our National UCC level with a legacy, everyone is invited to make a special one-time gift contribution to the Re-Imagine Fund. You can give online or send a check to the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ, 122 W. Franklin Ave., Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55404. Thank you!

Give to the Max for Key Conference Ministries!

Give to the Max Day 2023 is Thursday, November 16. Again this year, every gift between now and the first week of Advent will support key Conference ministries including climate justice, church renewal, and leadership development ministries.

There are three easy ways to give:

  • Writing a check maximizes your gift by avoiding electronic payment transaction fees. Just write "Give to the Max" in the memo line and mail it to the Conference; or

  • Donate online, filling in your gift amount in the "Friends of the Conference" section; or

  • Use the DONATE button on Minnesota Conference's Give to the Max page!

Give to the Max is a fun and exciting Minnesota tradition that brings thousands of Minnesota nonprofits and schools together to raise millions of dollars for organizations that make our communities stronger. Thank you for your generous support of your Minnesota Conference during the start of the annual Advent Appeal!

Re-Imagination Grants Ranging from $2,000–$3,000 Open for Application

A single congregation applying may request up to $2,000; two or more congregations applying together may apply for a maximum of $3,000. 

It's time to re-imagine what it looks like to 'be Church' in this historical moment for the sake of a Gospel and a witness that this world and our communities sorely need!


Applications are now being accepted from congregations for “Re-Imagination Grants” to support this faithful, creative work. A single congregation applying may request up to $2,000; two or more congregations applying together may apply for a maximum of $3,000. Applications are being accepted now through December 25 and will be reviewed as they are received. Grants will be awarded until all money allocated for these grants has been depleted. These grants are being funded by the Conference’s 21st Century Church Fund and the Ashley Fund.


Review grant guidelines and all details, and find the application form HERE.

Partner News & Events

FREC Overcoming Racism Conference 2023: Reclaiming History and Paying What is Due

November 10 & 11

Metro State University

Keynote speaker: Dr. Yohuru Williams


This year's conferences focuses on two themes: 1) Historical Recovery – reclaiming movements, strategies, approaches from the past that could be useful in our current work—if they were known, and; 2) Paying What’s Due to those harmed by oppressive acts sanctioned by government and every other sector in our society in which primarily Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities were stripped of their land, rights and ability to create generational wealth. Black and Indigenous people also experienced cultural genocide, of which the after effects are still felt today.

Joys & Concerns

Mary Klonoski died on October 16. Mary was an active volunteer in the Minnesota Conference, serving the conference as treasurer. A memorial service will be held at First Congregational Church of MN in Minneapolis on November 18 at 2 pm. Read her obituary.

Upcoming Conference Events

December 9: Service of Farewell & Celebration for Shari Prestemon

More Resources & Opportunities

  • Send story ideas, insights and more to [email protected]. 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.