Volume 18, No. 12 | March 23, 2022

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Faithful Groan: Lamenting the Pandemic as Part of Worship
May 4-6, 2022 
ARC Retreat CommunityStanchfield 
Cost: $225 actual (25% and 50% discount if needed)

Breathe out the grief and pains of life during a pandemic and breathe in a renewed sense of presence in our body, mind, heart, and soul at this special Outdoor Ministry retreat. Listen to psalmist and musician Richard Bruxvoort Colligan's video invitation (above).

Through worship and music, conversation, embodied practice, and solitude, participants will be encouraged to tend to their aching souls and sighing spirits and to rest and “just be.” There will be warm hospitality, plenty of good food, time for walking in the white pine forest, and lovely spaces for meditation and rest. 
This retreat is open to all adults, especially clergy and lay leaders. Space is limited, so register earlyREAD MORE ABOUT THE RETREAT & OUR FACILITATOR.
For Brown-Eyed Beauties Everywhere
By Rev. Anna M. Larson, Circles of Faith UCC, Waubun, MN
For the second Wednesday in Lent, two youth created sunflowers for Circles of Faith UCC’s outward sign of support for the Ukrainian people and refugees. On St. Patrick's Day, I laid them out on the blue paper (yellow and blue for the colors of the Ukrainian flag; sunflowers, their national flower) for the church’s windows facing the highway. 
Thanks to the artistic contributions of Eric Beaupre (high school junior) and Katie Tilton (second grader), our windows now express support for Ukrainian refugees with this bright symbol of hope. The Helianthus “sun-flower” has nearly 70 different species. Some look like starbursts with flares of dark orange on their yellow petals, others are variegated with black, dark brown and orange in the middle. As people of all shades and colors seek refuge and acceptance in foreign lands, may this flower stand not only for the Ukrainian people, but for the diversity of humanity across the world.
The sunflowers have taken on a special significance for brown and black beautiful-skinned people, at least in my mind. Do others see this meaning of the brown-centered flower? 
A college roommate of mine, Alvita, told me how all the literature she was seeing praised blue eyes. Alvita is a black woman. She opened my eyes and ears to that biased fact. A few years ago, Eva, a young girl in my neighborhood, visited my office once and was captivated by a devotional book from the UCC with a black man on the cover. Outside, next to my front door, the golden cone flowers with the brown center caught her eyes and she sat down on the grass and touched them, taking in their beauty. These brown-eyed flowers remind me of Alvita, of Eva. May our black and brown, red and yellow beauties be known and fully embraced at the borders and everywhere in a world wounded and reeling from trauma based on biased, preferencial vision. 
Our Lenten call to follow the cross-bearer, Jesus, asks us to allow ourselves the discomfort of stretching to meet the needs of people in our own time. When the blood of our relations cries out from the ground to God, will Caine’s question in Genesis 4:9 "Am I my brother's keeper?" will we stretch with courage to answer "Yes"?
Conference News & Events
Self-Doubt is Focus of this Week's Lenten Family Toolkit

Our weekly toolkit for families and faith formation leaders focuses on self-doubt in week four of lent. Each week features a video with clergy from around the Minnesota Conference in conversation and reflection on the themes and texts for the week. This week's video features Reverend Sheri Nelson from the Minnesota Conference UCC and her family (watch video above).

The toolkits also provide a rich and diverse collection of at-home games, activities, book and film recommendations, spiritual practices, and service ideas for individuals and families of all ages.

Reimagining Faith Formation: The Spiritual Practice of Making It Up as We Go

March 24, noon–1:30 pm via Zoom
A note from Kevin Brown about this month’s conversation: I love musical theater! In fact, watching movies and videos of stage productions and listening to soundtrack recordings have been important escapes and sustaining spiritual practices for me throughout the pandemic. One song in particular has become my personal anthem for this chaotic, confusing, and distressing season: “Anybody Have a Map” from Dear Evan Hansen. I have listened to this song a hundred or more times over the past two years… READ MORE
Rest and Renewal: Updates on this Year's Annual Meeting

We are excited to welcome you to this year’s Annual Meeting June 10–11, where we will gather for Rest and Renewal! This will be a hybrid meeting, but we hope you will join us in person at College of St. Benedict.

The Annual Meeting is a valuable and important gathering for all churches. Each year, the people who are the Minnesota Conference are called together for a meeting that ensures the life and work of our Conference is celebrated and can grow. All churches throughout the Conference are eagerly welcomed to attend!

The business of the Conference—from discussing the budget, considering resolutions, electing officers, and hearing from our staff—is vital work of the church. We are people of community, and a community can only thrive if we all engage in the work together. By attending the Minnesota Conference Annual Meeting, churches can ensure their unique perspective is heard, their voices are included in all decisions, and their ministry within the Conference is celebrated.

For the last two years, the work of the Conference has continued despite the tremendous impact of the pandemic. This year, with hope, we will gather together in-person (with an online option) to not do the work of the Conference and to rejoice in one another’s presence. Each and every church is encouraged to attend and send voting delegates. Financial aid is available to those congregations that require it.

The Minnesota Conference UCC has received two resolutions to be discussed and voted on at our Annual Meeting in June. 
The Electrification Resolution was submitted by our Creation Justice Team and Mayflower UCC in Minneapolis. This resolution declares that the 2022 Annual Meeting for the Minnesota Conference UCC encourages member congregations to actively plan for and promote electrifying appliances and machines when old ones fail or become outdated as one of the ways to protect God's earth and its people from climate change emissions, and to become role models for just and equitable electrification for individual members and the broader community.
The Resolution Supporting Public School Educators, Academic Freedom, and Equity Efforts in Schools was submitted by the United Church of Christ in New Brighton. This resolution is intended to voice support of public-school educators at a time when academic freedoms are threatened. The submitters wish to provide a response to efforts to control curriculum, ban books, and media, and restrict equity efforts in schools. The resolution further intends to raise awareness and provide members of the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ with information that can be used for the development of talking points about these issues.
Keynote Speaker Diana Butler Bass
On Saturday June 11, those attending the Minnesota Conference Annual Meeting will have an opportunity to hear from Christian author and speaker Diana Butler Bass (pictured above). 

As her website says, “Diana’s passion is sharing great ideas to change lives and the world—a passion that ranges from informing the public about spiritual trends, challenging conventional narratives about religious practice, entering the fray of social media with spiritual wisdom and smart theology, and writing books to help readers see themselves, their place in history, and God differently.”

In her keynote address, Diana will speak directly to our theme of “Rest and Renewal,” drawing on the scriptural wisdom of the raising of Lazarus, whose resurrection did not come without tears and permanent marks upon his body. Diana is eager to explore what it means to rest and renew our spirits after two years of pandemic, a global reckoning with racial injustice, and a church carrying the weariness of the world.

Diana Butler Bass has published 11 books, including her most recent, “Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence.” She also publishes her work in a regular Substack newsletter “The Cottage.”

She holds a doctorate in religious studies from Duke University and lives with her husband in Alexandria, Virginia.
Pastoral Relations Committees with the Rev. Tara Barber and the Rev. Stephen Boyd

Pastoral Relations Committees provide essential leadership in the life of a congregation. Come to this workshop to explore what the purpose of a PPR Committee is and is not. We’ll be talking through and naming the priorities and commitments of a well-functioning PRC. Revs. Tara and Stephen will share best practices from around the church and be prepared to answer your questions. Open to pastors, lay leaders and judicatory staff. REGISTER
Register by March 24 to Learn How to Build and Transform Your Congregation!

This 4-week course explores community organizing as a tool for building and transforming congregations and communities. "Organizing as Evangelism" features six hours of online learning in community via Zoom and four weeks of self-guided learning using the Damascus Project’s course platform, the Damascus Project Network. Live Zoom sessions are required for successful completion of this course and meet on Friday, March 25, 6:00–8:00 pm; Saturday, March 26, 10:00 am–12:00 pm and 1:00–3:00 pm.

LEARN MORE & REGISTER BY MARCH 24 (in “Length of Study” drop-down menu, select “Unit 3"; cost is $154 for laypeople; $220 for Assessment Learners [MIDs])
Eco-theology Leader Dr. Catherine Keller to Speak at United Theological Seminary

April 4, 7:30 pm CT

Dr. Catherine Keller will deliver the keynote speech for the Picard Lecture on Environmental Theology and Ethics on April 4, available on campus or online, free of chargeA well-known and sought-after thought leader in eco-theology, the George T. Cobb Professor in Constructive Theology from Drew University will deliver a message on "Apocalypse After All? Climate, Politics and Faith in the Possible." Keller's lecture comes on the heels of United's announcement about a new masters of art concentration in Eco-Justice. LEARN MORE & REGISTER
Joys & Concerns
Celebrate the installation of the Rev. Cindy Maddox as the Senior Minister of First United Church of Christ in Northfield. The service will be held Sunday, March 27, at 10:30 am during worship. Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon will preach. All are welcome! Clergy are invited to robe (red stoles). The service will be livestreamed via Zoom and Youtube. Streaming information is available on the church’s website.
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.