Volume 17, No. 28 | July 21, 2021

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
United Faith Community UCC Doubles Down on Racial Equity Work
After George Floyd was murdered in May 2020, the congregation of United Faith Community UCC in Buffalo seized the opportunity to speak up for racial equality. “We want to be the progressive voice in our area, which is fairly conservative,” says Rev. Ole Olson, who helped form the church in 2015 and serves as its senior minister.

United Faith Community became a part of the Wright County Coalition Against Racism and was asked to help organize its interfaith outreach sub-committee with members from Buffalo, Monticello, and Maple Lake. “It has been a year of self-education,” Olson says. “We led racial studies, starting with a series of YouTube videos entitled ‘Difficult Conversations with a Black Man.’ That led to many interesting conversations. We discovered that while we knew racism was an issue, it is a much bigger deal than we all thought.”

United subsequently joined with a local Presbyterian church for a book study series on racial topics. That experience led them to wonder how they might share what they had done and learned with others. “We wondered how can we help others start on a journey like we’ve taken over the last ten months?” Olson says. The group is busy curating a list of resources especially pertinent to faith communities. “We’ve read some really books, like Dear Church and So You Want to Talk About Race," he says. “We think we can be of real help to other faith communities.” United is actively seeking grant funding to host a racial studies library that would be available free of charge to congregations in their community.

United Faith’s journey has also brought unexpected joy, Olson says, in the form of a budding relationship with Ballet Folklorico Rosa a Quetzal. “We were introduced to this grassroots group, most of whom are from Mexico. We have learned so much from them about their traditions and their immigration experience. Our relationships are really growing.”
Conference News & Events
Fall Outdoor Ministry Events Announced; Registration Now Open

Outdoor Ministry is back in full swing with overnight retreats! Spaces are limited so be sure to register early!

We are again partnering with a number of wonderful host sites around the state of Minnesota. Due to requirements of our host sites, we must adhere to the registration deadlines listed on each event page. If you try to register after the deadline, we cannot guarantee lodging availability or accommodation for specific dietary needs or requests.

Your health and safety remain our top priorities, and we will continue to examine and modify policies in accordance with most current science-based recommendations from the CDC and MDH, along with requirements from event sites.

We are working to finalize our COVID-19 safety protocols and participant guidelines. We hope to have this information available early in August. We will provide this information via COMMAntary and direct email to all registered participants.

Registered participants will receive additional emails with any changes or updates to the COVID-19 or other participant guidelines prior to the event start date. Thank you for your support and cooperation during this time.
Hemp and Food Health Day: Saturday, September 11
  • Cotter Farm, Austin | 9:30 am–2:30 pm
  • Cost: $15/person + $5 to ride the bus from Falcon Heights UCC church parking lot.
  • REGISTER by September 3

Tom Cotter and friends invite you to join them for a day on the Cotter Farm to learn more about the science of hemp farming and production, soil conservation, and natural growing methods that can be used in gardens big and tiny. Read more

Women’s Wilderness Retreat: September 24–26
  • Camp Amnicon
  • $200/ person
  • Age requirement 21+. This has a maximum of 14 participants so act quickly.
  • REGISTER by September 10

Take a break from the chaos and stress of daily life, and unplug into adventure! This weekend-long getaway will be full of fun, laughter, meaningful connections, and new experiences…all without compromising on style! Each day will bring a different kind of adventure while we hike and paddle on the South Shore of Lake Superior. Each evening you’ll enjoy gourmet foods and beverages around the fire before falling asleep in a real bed to the sound of the waves on The Lake. You’ll go home feeling refreshed, with memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. Read more
Men’s Retreat – Overwhelmed by Life: An Invitation to Reconnect and Remember
September 24–26 (start time 4:00 pm, end time 11 am)
  • Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center, Sandstone
  • $200 (actual cost of event), $150 subsidized price, $100 subsidized with added scholarship, or contact Rev. Sheri Nelson for more scholarship funding (there is an extra $25/ night for single rooms, limited to the first four requests)
  • REGISTER by September 10
  • Participation maximum is 15

The poet Christian Wiman wrote, “How does one remember God, reach for God, realize God in the midst of one’s life if one is constantly being overwhelmed by that life?” If these words have resonance for you or seem to describe your experience during this season, please make plans to be part of this retreat. Join other men from around the Minnesota Conference for a weekend to pause amid the chaos and overwhelm of life. The retreat will be co-facilitated by Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Faith Formation, and Hans Peterson. Read more

Women’s Retreat: October 15–17 (start time 4:00 pm, end time 11 am)
Camp Onomia, Onamia
Cost: $200 (actual cost of event), $150 subsidized price, $100 subsidized with added scholarship, or contact Rev. Sheri Nelson for more scholarship funding. There is an extra $25/night for a single room, limited to the first four requests.
Participation maximum is 30, so REGISTER early.

Set amongst the trees and Lake Shakopee, this retreat will be a time of rest and renewal as Rev. Sheri Nelson and Rev. Claire Klein bring inspiring music and conversation around the Wisdom of women and power of equity through the circle of gender. There will also be time to take a long walk in nearby Kathio State Park, participate in some nostalgic camp arts and crafts, and take a nap.
Conference Youth Event: October 8-10 (start time 5 pm, end time 11 am; no dinner served first night)
Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center, Sandstone
Cost: $100/youth, $75/adult leader (Some scholarship money is available upon request. Contact Rev. Sheri Nelson for more information).
REGISTER by September 24.
Open to all youth grades 6-12 and adult leaders
How is Your Church’s Online Giving Doing?
During the pandemic, many, if not all, congregations faced financial challenges related the inability to meet in-person. Traditionally, almost 80% of individual donations to a congregation come in through the offering plate. Many of us adapted to new ways to receive gifts. But recent research found one-third of UCC congregations still do not offer online giving. 
HERE is a short article that could be helpful to both churches that have, and have not, implemented online giving. If you have questions, please contact Bob Olsen, Development Officer, at development@uccmn.org.
Summer Outdoor Ministry Events Coming Up!

Senior Graduate Day: Wednesday, August 4, 9:00 am- 2:00 pm
Hidden Falls Park, St. Paul
All high school graduates from 2020 and 2021 are invited to reconnect with friends, play a few games, and share a meal.

MNIPL– Be the Spark!: Thursday, August 5, 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
United Church of Christ, New Brighton
Be the Spark is a dynamic and experiential leadership development workshop that builds community and gives participants organizing tools and strategic approaches for engaging their community of faith in climate change solutions.

Organic Farm Tour: Saturday, August 7, 10:00 am- 2:00 pm
Auntie Annie's Fields near Northfield
Visit a local organic farm in the Northfield area to learn what it means to run a family farm—economically, spiritually, socially—and the practical pitfalls and joys.

Rest and Renew at Green Island: Sunday, August 8, 1:00 pm- 6:00 pm
Green Island Preserve, Wadena
Experience this unique opportunity to relax and meditate on the beautifully maintained paths of this old family farm that has transitioned into an oasis for contemplation and connection with Mother Earth.
Summer Ministry Lab Series Continues

Our Summer Worship Series: Liberation #2 is ready! Let it be an excuse to share a prophetic sermon – from the perspective of a rural pastor; authentically experience a new art form; experiment with a new style of engaging liturgy; or, just take some time away from worship planning! Find more information here about this service, Everyone’s Chains Came Off – Reflecting on Paul & Silas’ Liberation from Prison.
Resources & Clergy Clusters

  • 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.