Volume 17, No. 38 | September 29, 2021

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Finding New Ways to Gather and Connect
Coming back to church after more than a year apart is a challenge for many congregations. Some people are reluctant to gather for health reasons. Some have just fallen out of the habit. Still others have gotten used to attending online.

The United Church of Christ in New Brighton decided to address these challenges head on by inserting a healthy dose of intergenerational fun into their Rally Sunday plans. “When people get together now, they want to laugh and have a good time,” says Rev. Amy Wick Moore, Associate Minister of Education and Faith Formation at New Brighton. “We’re all craving some comic relief.”

That relief came in the form of intergenerational activities — like relays that challenged teams to race across the parking lot and sit on balloons or transport bags of water—with holes—to fill buckets. “I’m finding that adults are very willing to do quirky things,” says Amy. “This was just a really great and different way to connect.”

The church’s Rally Sunday also featured performances of cheers created at an all-church retreat earlier in the summer at Camp Onamia. “We formed teams in connection with the liturgical seasons of the church,” Amy says. “We had Team Pentecost, Team Epiphany, Team Ordinary Time. Each group had to create their own cheer. They repeated them on Rally Sunday and, well, I’ll just say this: laughter is healing. We like to embrace a child-like spirit and run with it.”

Does your church have stories like New Brighton’s of how you are coming together? We’d love to hear them. Please share them at communications@uccmn.org.
Welcoming (More) New Ministers in the Conference!

We are sharing short profiles of pastors who have been called during the Covid-19 pandemic. We commend both ministers and congregations for continuing to move forward faithfully despite the unusual challenges this global health crisis introduced for search committees, candidates, and newly called pastors.

Rev. Nikki Darlene Frontz, Pastor, Solomon's Porch, Minneapolis

Pastor Nikki Darlene Frontz (she/her/hers) signs her emails with this quote from Dr. Maya Angelou: "Try to be a rainbow in someone else's cloud." A creative, out-of-the-box thinker and doer, she thrives on possibility and love to inspire people by empowering them and by challenging the status quo. She believes that God welcomes all to the sacred table and says inclusivity is how she does life. She is the founder of Rebel Harmony, a company that empowers people to live their best lives, and an affiliate coach with Convergence. She graduated from Iliff School of Theology in 2016 with a Master of Divinity specializing in Pastoral and Spiritual Care. She has a BA in Music (Vocal Emphasis) from the University of Southern Mississippi.

You started your position in trying times. What has been your biggest challenge?
Being a black southern woman, the biggest challenge for me is to learn how to be the minister of a community that is majority white, middle class, and of a Minnesotan cultural context. I made a deal with my church community that I will always get the last bite of church food so they don’t have to worry about it. 

Where have you found joy?
I have found joy in building a culture of authentic relationship, empowerment, and transparency in our community. I love seeing people in my community take ownership for their part and be empowered to do the work of God. I love getting to know my folks and checking in on how their souls are doing

What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
I love being creative, reimagining sacred and meaningful rituals, and Christmas! I love not only Christmas service, but Blue Christmas Service for those who hurt on Christmas. I feel a deep call to minister to the forgotten and to have intentional sacred space to hold joy and deep hurt.
Conference News & Events
Circle of Trust Peer Groups Offered for Faith Formation Leaders

  • Facilitators: Rev. Winton Boyd and Rev. Ellen Green
  • Opening Retreat: Oct 25, 6-8 pm & Oct 26, 8:30-11:30 am; 12:30-2:00 pm
  • Peer Groups: Monthly meetings via Zoom, November 2021–June 2022
  • Cost: $150 (with generous support from the Ashley Endowment of the Minnesota Conference UCC)
  • REGISTER by Friday, October 15
 
If you are a local congregational leader - clergy, lay staff, or volunteer - whose ministry focuses on nurturing the spiritual lives of others – children, youth, families, or adults – this opportunity is for you. These Circle of Trust Peer Groups will offer space for Faith Formation leaders to be nurtured and nourished in themselves and in community. Rather than addressing digital shifts or programmatic challenges, this is an opportunity to refocus on what inspires and sustains you in ministry. The Circle of Trust approach is an invitation and a structure for doing our own inner work in the company of others. The offering includes both an opening retreat AND monthly small group calls and will be held entirely online.
 
Contact Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister of Faith Formation for Children and Youth, with any questions.
What's Different about Learning with The Damascus Project?

Every Damascus Project course is a multi-faceted educational experience with personalized learning that you direct, at your own pace and on your own time. In addition, you'll have discussion time online with peers and instructors, and real-time, facilitated group engagement.

You are free to engage with as much or as little of the course content as is helpful and relevant for you! We know you have many things competing for your time and attention, so we will provide you with the best possible content, instructors and learning environment. The rest is up to you!

Try us out with the upcoming "Grit & Grace" workshop (October 22 & 23), an ideal opportunity for clergy, lay leaders, and all people of faith. LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
Power & Boundary Training

Oct 20 & 21, 9:30 am–noon

The Conference will utilize the services of LeaderWise to provide online power and boundary training on Wednesday and Thursday, October 20 & 21, from 9:30 am–noon both day. The fee is $50. If you have questions or would like additional information, please email the Registrar for the Conference, Catherine Cejda, at catherinec@uccmn.org. To ensure that your training is recorded, please email your certificate of completion to Catherine at the same email.
Get Ready to Get Ready for Advent!

Wednesdays, October 20 & 27, and November 3, 10 and 17, 12:00–12:45 pm
Cost: $40

Don’t let this holy season sneak up on you!
The Damascus Project's "Get Ready to Get Ready" Advent Prep Series is great for preachers, faith formation, and adult study leaders. This low-key, online lunch-hour lecture series will equip you with fresh perspectives on the Advent texts. Each week features a different faith leader, including Justin Sabia-Tannis, Karl Kuhn, Rachael Keefe, Shannon Kearns, and Alika Galloway & Carolyn Pressler.
Neighbors in Need is Special Offering on October 3, World Communion Sunday

Neighbors in Need (NIN) is a special mission offering of the United Church of Christ that supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States. One-third of NIN funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry. Two-thirds of this offering is used by the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects through grants.

Neighbors in Need grants are awarded to UCC churches and organizations doing justice work in their communities. These grants fund projects whose work ranges from direct service to community organizing and advocacy to address systemic injustice. This year, special consideration will be given to projects focusing on serving our immigrant neighbors and communities. LEARN MORE
Update on Fall Retreats and Outdoor Ministry Programs Cancellations and Postponements
 
As we continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation and consider the potential risks associated with the retreat and program sites and their wider community settings, we have decided it is best to cancel or postpone all indoor overnight retreats and programs this fall:
  • Conference Youth Event (October 1-3) - cancelled
  • Women’s Retreat (October 8-10) - cancelled
  • Faith Formation Leader’s Retreat (October 18-20) – postponed to spring 2022
  • Clergy Retreat (November 16-18) – postponed to spring 2022

If you have questions, please contact Rev. Sheri Nelson, Outdoor Ministry Director, or Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister of Faith Formation for Children & Youth.
"Water Where We Live" Curriculum to be Unveiled

The Ministry Lab and Growing Green Hearts invite you to an ecumenical unveiling of a free new "Water Where We Live" curriculum. This half-day retreat includes ecumenical worship; introduction to the inter- or multi-generational curriculum; and four workshops on Water in Worship; The Curriculum in Context - A Panel of Creators and Implementers; Water, Faith, and Enviro-STEM at Church; and Water, Faith, and Community-Based Justice. Mark your calendars for November 18, 10 am–12:30 pm at Luther Seminary. Further information and registration forms will be available soon.
Joys & Concerns
We celebrate the installation of Clare Gromoll as pastor at People’s Congregational Church in Bayport, Minnesota. Clare’s installation service will be outdoors on Sunday, October 3, beginning at 2 pm in People’s Park, which is immediately adjacent to Barker’s Alps Park in Bayport. Seating will be distanced and masks are encouraged. Clergy are invited to wear red vestments and arrive by 1:45 pm. All singers are welcome to join with our PCC choir! If interested, please arrive in time for a 1:15-1:45pm rehearsal.
 
We celebrate the installation of Nikki Frontz as pastor at Solomon’s Porch in South Minneapolis. Nikki’s installation service is Sunday, October 10, at 4:30 pm at Solomon’s Porch (100 W 46th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55419). Masks are required. The service will also be streamed on Zoom: please see the Solomon’s Porch Facebook event page for the link.

The Congregational Church UCC in Rochester invites you to the installation of Rev. Andrew Greenhaw and Rev. Shannon Smith as co-pastors. The worship service is Sunday, October 10, at 4:00 pm at the church, 974 Skyline Drive SW in Rochester. Masks will be required. Clergy are invited to robe and join the ecclesiastical procession. Rev. Dr. David Greenhaw, President Emeritus Eden Theological Seminary, will be giving the message. Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres outside will follow the service. Please RSVP the number attending to church@congoroch.org by October 3. The service will also be live-streamed on the church Facebook page.
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.