Volume 18, No. 4 | January 26, 2022

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
First Congregational UCC in Alexandria Takes Leading Role in Welcoming Afghan Refugees
When Rev. Dr. Jill Sanders of First Congregational UCC in Alexandria joined a community group that was pondering whether to resettle a refugee family from Afghanistan, she found 30-40 kindred souls who collectively said "We're interested."

The group needed a fiscal host, however, to manage contributions to pay for resettlement, which is $2,275 per family member. Rev. Sanders approached her church leadership and not only did they agree to serve as fiscal, the Council also agreed to give a $,2,275 lead gift!

"I was overwhelmed," Sanders says. "Our small but mighty congregation really stepped up."

The group working on resettlement is now raising the rest of the funds to support an entire family as well as searching for appropriate housing. "We have three to five weeks until the family arrives, we think, so we're sort of building the airplane in flight," she says.

There are still close to 20,000 Afghan refugees living on U.S. military bases, many of whom were forced to flee the country when the U.S. pulled out last August. The Alexandria group—the "Lakes Area Sponsor Circle"—is affiliated with the U.S. Department of State's Sponsor Circle Program. The program focuses on creating new opportunities for individuals and community groups to directly support Afghans who have been relocated to the U.S.

Sanders says the Lakes Area Sponsor Circle wants to engage the full community in offering a warm welcome to the family. "Right now we are focused on raising the funds and finding housing, but soon we will be looking for donations of household items," she says. "And further down the road, we may ask people to help drive the family to the closest mosque so they can worship."

Sanders is deeply proud of her congregation's involvement. "We are very mission-minded and outward-focused. That's what we're here for – to give ourselves away."

For more information, visit the Lakes Area Sponsor Circle Facebook page. Donations to help with family resettlement costs can be made through the group's GoFund Me site or by sending a check in care of First Congregational UCC, 221 7th Avenue W, Alexandria, MN, 56308. Please note “Lakes Area Sponsor Circle” in the memo line.

* * *
Late breaking news! Peace UCC in Duluth also just got approved to resettle Afghan refugees. Rev. Charlotte Frantz said that the church will support four Afghan newcomers through the same U.S. Department of State program. A team of five has been working on this issue since mid-November. Watch for an update on both Peace UCC and First Congregational Alexandria's progress in an upcoming edition of COMMAntary.
Conference News & Events
Exciting Line-up of Stewardship Webinars Offered

Join local church leaders from across the UCC this year to learn and discuss ways your congregation can infuse new life into your stewardship program. Seven free webinars are being offered by Rev. Andrew B. Warner, CFRE, who serves as a Generosity Outreach Officer of the national setting of the United Church of Christ and Director of Development for the Wisconsin Conference.

The first webinar, Year-Around Stewardship, is February 23 from 6:30 to 7:30pm Central Time. Even though stewardship campaigns last for just a few weeks, we all hope that people will make gifts throughout the year. This webinar focuses on practical steps to move from a brief annual campaign to a year-around plan that continually engages and inspires.

REGISTER in advance for this meeting.
READ MORE about all seven of the webinars being offered.
Fourth Thursdays
Let’s Talk Outdoor Ministry & Youth Faith Formation

January 27, 2022 | 12:00-1:30 pm Via Zoom

January’s topic is the 2022 full season of Outdoor Ministry programs and retreat for all ages and a preview of the exciting opportunities for youth throughout the year, including the summer 2022 Youth Immersion Trip.
Explore the Enneagram as a Tool to Grow in Faith and Service

"Introduction to the Enneagram: Forming Beloved Community"
One month of self-guided learning: Feb 3 – Mar 3
Plus three live Zoom sessions: February 18, 6:00–8:00 pm, and February 19, 10:00 am–12:00 pm & 1:00–3:00 pm

Calling all lay leaders, volunteers, council chairs, moderators, task force members, and more! Join the Leadership Skills cohort with the Damascus Project to explore the Enneagram as a tool to grow in faith and service as a lay leader.

The Enneagram is a system for profiling personalities that describes the patterns and methods that people use to interpret and move through the world. Every day we take in the world around us through our own individual lens (personality type) and create our own assumptions about it that conform to our views and ideals. By learning how this personality type influences our perception of the world we can notice how our own personality may give us a view of the world that is skewed or off-center.

  • Instructor: Rev. Casey Martinez-Tinnin
  • Registration open now through February 1, 2022
  • ENROLL (find "Length of Study" drop-down menu and select "Unit 2: Enneagram and You")
  • Questions? Contact info@the-damascus-project.org or 507-222-0194.
Winter Spiritual Immersion Retreat Rescheduled for February!

February 11-13, 2022 (Friday, 6:00 pm through Sunday, 11:00 am) 
Clearwater Forest Camp and Retreat Center, Deerwood, MN
Please Return Your Church’s Pledge Goals for Mission and Ministry

Many Minnesota UCC churches have their annual meetings in January to look back on their last year’s ministry and look forward to the coming year’s activities. Annual congregational meetings are also where your next year’s budget is approved, and covenantal financial commitments to your shared ministry with the Minnesota Conference and the national setting of the United Church of Christ occur.

Included in your church’s Fourth Quarter Giving Statement was the Our Church’s Pledge Goals for Mission and Ministry form that your church should fill out and return to the Conference office, just as soon after your annual meeting as possible. If you need an additional copy of the form, click HERE and choose the Our Church’s Pledge Goals for Mission and Ministry form. We appreciate you sending your form promptly.
News from Our Community
Rev. Dr. Molly T. Marshall Named President of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities

The Board of Trustees of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities has unanimously selected Rev. Dr. Molly T. Marshall as its president. Previously serving a one-year term as interim president, Marshall began her new role effective January 19, a term of up to three years, to continue the progress the school has experienced under her leadership.

A passionate advocate for theological education, Marshall has brought her skills to United as a strategic administrative visionary, academic scholar, effective minister and teacher, and builder of relationships and community since she began as interim president on March 1, 2021. Since then, the school has experienced a transformative season, including growing enrollment; an increase in the number of financial gifts; a renewed strategic plan; a new endowed chair in World Religions and Intercultural Studies; and a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to establish a leading-edge Leadership Center for Social Justice, equipping cohorts of pastors to move social justice to the center of congregational life.

Human Service Sunday is January 30

The Council for Health and Human Service Ministries’ resources for UCC Health and Human Service Sunday, which takes place January 30, is one way CHHSM members and friends can bring the message of serving leadership and collective care to their own local churches. Especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Health and Human Service Sunday can highlight the many ways CHHSM members work to create a just, caring, and compassionate world for all. READ MORE
Read The Ministry Lab's New Year Newsletter

The Ministry Lab's New Year Newsletter offers gratitude for its member congregations and supporting judicatories. See what your support has made possible at The Ministry Lab and find out what's coming in 2022!
Joys & Concerns
You are invited to celebrate the installations of Rev. Sarah Brouwer, Lead Minister, and Rev. Eli'jah Carroll, Associate Minister, at St. Paul's United Church of Christ, 900 Summit Ave., St. Paul, on Sun, Feb 13. If you are clergy, please arrive by 10 am, and bring a robe with red stole so we can welcome you into participation. Worship begins at 10:30 am. If you are unable to come in person, you can watch via livestream or on our church's Facebook page. We are fortunate to have the Rev. Shari Prestemon preaching. A note on safety: we are a highly vaccinated congregation, all masked, and spread out in our large sanctuary for worship.
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.