Volume 19, No. 9 | March 1, 2023

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

Courageous Church: Becoming Anti-Racist

—Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon

God calls the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ to equip a courageous church alive with Christ’s transforming love.


Three years ago – just before the pandemic began, before the murder of George Floyd sparked a nation-wide reckoning with our nation’s racism – the Conference’s Board of Directors adopted a new “Calling Statement” for the Conference. It reminds us not only of the ministry God calls us to, but of the kind of church we want to be: God calls the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ to equip a courageous church alive with Christ’s transforming love.

Today I want to share one very important way we are striving to step into our calling to be a courageous church in the Minnesota Conference UCC.  

It’s been said that systemic racism is this country’s original sin. And we cannot deny that it is true. From our displacement and violence against Indigenous Peoples when the first white immigrants settled on their sacred lands, to the long enslavement of and violence against Africans for our own economic gain, to the internment of the Japanese in the 1940s, to all the ways our economic, political, & legal systems still today disproportionately disadvantage people of color, white supremacy has been the collective sin that has done immense harm to communities of color for generations in this country.  


The Church itself has often been complicit in this harm. Our own sacred scriptures have been used time and time again to justify that harm through history. Scripture, Christian symbols and the language of faith are frequently employed still today by “Christian nationalists”, hate-based groups, and those who still insist that white skin and white power must prevail at any cost.

In the United Church of Christ, we have a proud (but imperfect) history of striving to combat racism and lifting up the inherent dignity and worth of all who bear God’s image. The same is true here in the Minnesota Conference UCC. I was recently combing through decades of files in our Conference office, and found there ample evidence that the work of anti-racism has long been a commitment the Conference has aspired to live into.  

Keep reading for full details of the Conference's work and plans
Conference News & Events

Join Us in Rochester for the Conference's Third Covenant Day

Saturday, March 18, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm

Congregational Church UCC, Rochester


You are invited to our third Covenant Day hosted by the Congregational Church UCC in Rochester. This is a time to gather together and be the church! Covenant Days are filled with workshops, worship, food and fellowship – a time for members, lay leaders, and clergy of local congregations to connect with one another and Conference staff.

This month we will also have a plenary panel, “When Jesus Leaves the Building: Being Church in the Community,” where we will hear from sibling congregations about their work in the community, and have a chance to share and ask questions.

All are welcome! Our workshops are designed to be of interest to clergy and lay members of the church. This is an opportunity to meet others who are being church in this time and to discuss what it means to be people of faith in a pandemic-informed world.

Announcing Our Next General Minister and President, the Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson!

By Rev. Jess Chancey, Staff Chaplain, Regions Hospital; Co-Chair, United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries

It was a joy and an honor to be invited to be a part of the Search Committee tasked with selection of a nominee for our next General Minister and President. We began this work almost a year ago, back in April 2022, exploring what our needs are as the United Church of Christ, listening to representatives from all over the Church, and working with professional consultants to pore over materials sent by a large number of extraordinarily gifted and skilled applicants for the position.

It was long, hard work, and I am thrilled to be able to join our Chair in naming the Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson as our nominee. (Read the official announcement from the UCC.)

Over the past several years, Karen Georgia has represented our beloved UCC in the world, carrying the love of Christ to those in need across the globe, and working in collaboration with other faith communities and groups to make this a truly just world for all. Though her portfolio has largely taken her far and wide, her attentions have also been stateside as she has led the team responsible for presenting General Synod, including our first ever virtual Synod in 2021.

As Co-Chair of UCC Disabilities Ministries, I invited her to speak with my Board of Directors about our experience of that virtual Synod in terms of accessibility. We were blessed by the generosity of her time, as well as the grace and genuine care she gave in listening to our needs and responding with curiosity and commitment. That grace and generosity are qualities I have noticed in every encounter I have had with Karen Georgia. She brings a fullness of presence with her everywhere she goes, embodying a truly non-anxious presence, as we chaplains like to call it. I also call it balance – a balance of the local with the global, the other with the self, the doing with the resting, and the community with the family.

This remarkable balance that Karen Georgia exhibits will surely do her well as she moves into her new role once officially elected at General Synod in Indianapolis this year. Balance will enable her to endure through the widely varied demands of a General Minister in terms of being a pastor to us all. Balance will enable her to achieve all that we need from a President who will keep the United Church of Christ a vital presence in the world. Balance will enable her to offer the energetic voice we need from our leader as she publicly proclaims the justice we seek for all God’s children, that is to say, all people everywhere.

Please join me and the rest of the Search Committee in celebrating this call we have placed on the Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson!

With excitement, blessings, and love,

Rev. Jess Chancey (they/them)

Mark Your Calendars for FourTHursday

Thursday, March 23, 11:30 am (in person at United Theological Seminary) or noon (via Zoom)



Please join us for a conversation about “Trauma & Resilience” led by Amy McNicholas and Felicia Houston, both faith and mental health specialists with Advocate Health LCPC. In her role, Amy partners with and supports faith-based communities around issues of mental health and emotional well- being. This entails consulting with faith leaders on issues they are facing with their members and communities; strengthening faith communities to be places that reduce stigma around mental health issues and offer support and care; advocating for policies and funding that support mental health equity.


Felicia is passionate about inspiring and empowering people to make mental health and self-care a priority. She believes in what poet Audre Lorde wrote: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."


Calling All Small Churches!

Monthly Zoom meetings starting March 14 provide an opportunity to gather and talk together


If you are a pastor or leader in a small church, we invite you to a special discussion series especially for you starting next month. The “Small Church Collective” will meet March 14, April 11, and May 9 (second Tuesdays of each month) from 10:30 am–noon. Each Zoom-based session will be hosted by one of the Conference staff and feature a special speaker who has specific expertise or experience with small churches. There will also be plenty of time for dialogue and interaction with the speaker and each other.

Our Church’s Pledge Goals for Mission and Ministry Forms Reminder

Has your church returned the 2023 Our Church’s Pledge Goals for Mission and Ministry yet? This important document should be filled out and returned to the Conference office as soon as possible for planning purposes. The pledge form was included in your Fourth Quarter Statement, but if you need an additional copy of the form, visit this page on the Conference's website and choose the Our Church’s Pledge Goals for Mission and Ministry form.

If you have any questions, please contact Bob Olsen at development@uccmn.org, or by phone at 612.230.3375. Sending in your form promptly is most appreciated. Thank you!

UCC March 22 Webinar Addresses Changing Landscape for Giving

Do you ever wish you had insights on your church's Millennials and Gen Z donors? The UCC is offering a webinar on the changing landscape of giving on March 22! Rev. Dr. Colie Bettivia of Grace UCC in Two Rivers, WI is the guest speaker. REGISTER

Mayflower UCC Seeks Stories for National UCC First Annual Earth Day Summit

This April, Mayflower is honored to host the National UCC’s first annual Earth Day Summit on Saturday, April 22. As part of the celebration, Mayflower is planning a Readers’ Theatre titled “Hope From The Front Lines” made up of relevant, true stories focused on the important environmental work, both urban and rural, being carried out all over Minnesota.

Readers’ Theatre is a simple, yet powerful, art form that is often transformative, educational, enlightening, and in this case, a call to action! Here’s how it works: You or someone from your church, community or organization submit a story about the good earth justice /climate mitigation work you have done, are doing/continue to do. Once stories are collected, they will be curated, edited (for time) and woven into a theatrical piece to be performed, in person and live-streamed, at Mayflower on Sat, April 22.

All stories will be read by “actors” (no one reads their own story). Please send questions, comments and/or your story (500 words or less) to Mary Keepers (612-240-7886) no later than Friday, April 7.

Today, March 1, is Deadline to Update 2023 UCC Yearbook & Directory!

The annual yearbook is not simply a formality but also what your church's 501(c)3 status depends on! Data from the annual reports is also used in the church profile when you are searching for a new pastor, and if no reports have been submitted for your church for five (5) years, all data reverts to zeros. In case those aren't enough reasons, check out this list of 12 important reasons to report your annual church data.


Instructional materials (both videos and documents) for local churches are available at the Yearbook and Directory webpage. Data Hub closes for churches tonight, March 1, at midnight (Eastern Time).

Conference Offers Fun & Fellowship for Middle and High School Youth

Spring 2023 Youth Gathering

April 28-30, 2023 | Camp Onomia, Onamia


For youth 6th-12th grades

Summer Youth Camp

July 5-7, 2023 | Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center, Sandstone

For youth entering 6th grade through 8th grade


Fall Youth Conference Event

October 6-8, 2023 Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center


Partner News & Events

Influence of Feminist Theology over 60 Years at United Theological Seminary

Monday, March 6, 2023 

7:30-9:00 PM CT

On campus and via livestream


United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities invites you to the March 6 Susan Draper White Lecture, “Influence of Feminist Theology over 60 Years at United.”

As United celebrates its 60th year, it is reflecting on how feminist theology has influenced United’s development as a seminary. President Molly T. Marshall will moderate a discussion with retired and current faculty members. Join us for a lively and informative conversation as we explore what it was about United that drew in so many gifted feminist theologians, how they impacted our students’ educational experience, and how the field continues to evolve today.

The Ministry Lab Offers Webinar on Mental Health

The last couple of years have been tough for church workers, kids, and families — not to mention the church workers who serve them. The Ministry Lab invites all youth ministry leaders, clergy, and mentors who work with tweens, teens, and their families to join Melissa Weinhandl, LMFT, MATh, for a 90-minute conversational webinar (free to Conference congregations and members) about how to support mental health for yourself and those you serve. LEARN MORE & REGISTER.

Joys & Concerns

The Committee on Ministry will host an Ecclesiastical Council for Nathan Holst on Sunday, March 12, at 3:30 pm. People are invited to join in person at St. Mark AME (please note venue change) in Duluth or via Zoom. This is an opportunity for our member churches to participate in the Conference’s discernment for our candidates for ordination. Please consider joining in this important process. You can read Nathan’s ordination paper and learn more about him. RSVP to See Chang, COM administrative assistant at COMadmin@uccmn.org, to receive the Zoom link. If attending in person, the address is 530 N. 5th Ave, Duluth, MN 55805.

A celebration of the life of Rev. Carol Joyce will be held at First Congregational Church of MN, UCC, on July 15, at 10 am (date change). As the secretary of the United Church of Christ, Rev. Joyce was the first woman to serve in national leadership of a mainline denomination. She also served as pastor of Robbinsdale UCC. The United Church news offers an account of her life and career in this article.

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.