Volume 17, No. 11 | March 17, 2021

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Heading Back to Honduras
In just a few weeks, Maryjane Westra will head back to Honduras as a mission co-worker with the United Church of Christ’s Global Ministries. It’s a long way from Fergus Falls, where she currently lives, but it’s a country she knows well, having served there with her husband, Don, from 2013-2017. And that was after she and Don served in Zimbabwe from 2009-2013.
 
Back in 2009, the Westras were eager to see the world. “We had always talked about living in another culture, about seeing the world but not from a tour bus or a cruise ship,” Maryjane says.
Their eight children were grown; Don had handed over the reins of his engineering firm to his son and Maryjane had turned her adoption agency over to a trusted colleague. They applied with Global Ministries with the intention of volunteering for a year, she says. “Then Global Ministries said they would pay our expenses if we signed on for three years. It took me about five minutes to say yes!”
 
In Zimbabwe, Maryjane worked in a hospital, helping co-administer and develop policy. Don threw himself into hands-on projects. “Don was never happier than when he had dirt under his fingernails,” she says. After first three years, as part of the agreement with Global Ministries, the Westras returned to the U.S. to share their experiences. “It’s so fun,” Maryjane says. “You get to travel around UCC Conferences and tell your story. We loved it.”
 
The Westras were now were hooked. They renewed with Global Ministries and returned to Zimbabwe. In 2013, when their visas expired—and were mysteriously not renewed—they spent a few weeks in Mozambique deciding what to do. They decided to continue their work in Honduras. They loved their time in this Central American country, where Maryjane says they felt “spiritually close to the people.”
 
In 2017, at the end of their three-year commitment, the Westras returned to their home in Fergus Falls. They were pondering their next move when Don died unexpectedly in 2019. “Don was a partner in all of this,” she says. “I was always the pusher for going abroad, but Don just grew wherever he was planted. He really thrived in international places.”
 
As Maryjane contemplated life without her partner, she also watched two back-to-back hurricanes devastate Honduras. “That crisis just motivated me,” she says. “I was feeling a little useless and bored. I really feel like there is something left in me to give.”
 
Earlier this year, she decided to return to Honduras—to the same area and position at the vocational school—once again with Global Ministries. She’s committing to a year at this point. “There’s a big world out there, so I wouldn’t mind going somewhere else,” she says.
 
The Conference celebrates Maryjane’s commitment to service and sends her out into the world with abundant prayers of support. Maryjane is a new member of First Congregational UCC in Alexandria.
Conference News & Events
Celebrate the Ministry of Rev. Dr. Anita Bradshaw on April 6

The Conference invites you to a virtual celebration of the ministry of Associate Conference Minister Rev. Dr. Anita Bradshaw, who is retiring this spring. The celebration to be held Tuesday, April 6, from 5:00–6:30 pm via Zoom. REGISTER HERE. Once you register you will receive a confirmation email that will have a link to the virtual celebration.

Anita has a long history of serving in various roles on the Conference staff, and has served in her current position since March 2018, supporting congregations and pastors in the southern half of the Conference, staffing the Subcommittee on Authorized Ministry of the Committee on Ministry, and serving as the staff liaison to the Conference’s prophetic witness teams, including the Amos Task Force. She has provided significant leadership to re-imagining power and boundary training for authorized ministers, has offered consistent pastoral presence to clergy and congregations, and is highly respected in our Conference life.

If you want to recognize Anita’s ministry with a gift of gratitude, Anita has identified the following organizations as near to her heart: Penumbra Theater, One Voice Mixed Choir, MIGIZI, MN Conference Racial Justice. Cards for Anita may be sent to the MN Conference (122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 323, Minneapolis, MN 55404.
"What Is Permaculture?" Discussion is Thursday, March 18
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Heidi Morlock and Hans Peterson will relate stories of experimenting for 20 years with permaculture principles and sustainable agriculture at both the garden and farm scale. Get ideas to support a transition to a more just food and farming system. LEARN MORE & REGISTER
"Practicing Repentance" in Week 5 of the Lenten Family Toolkit
What things have I said or done – to myself or others – that were hurtful? How can I make space every day to think and pray about asking for forgiveness and offering forgiveness? Check out the resources to help you and your loved ones reflect on these questions with week 5 of our Lenten Toolkit page. If you would like to receive a direct email each week, email Sandy Kellen.
MN Department of Health Offers Resources for Churches

This week, the Minnesota Conference held a gathering for our clergy with Minnesota Department officials. Several helpful resources were shared that are now available at the top of our Covid-19 resources page. LEARN MORE
Share Your Videos and Pictures for "Courageous Church!"
Our theme for Annual Meeting this year is "Courageous Church!" based on Joshua 1:9, "I hereby command you: "Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

So, as part of our worship time together on Sunday during the Annual Meeting, we plan to share videos or pictures with captions of what being a "Courageous Church" means to your particular congregation/context. Case in point, pictured above: Courageous Church at First United in Little Falls is worshipping online and learning how to use Zoom!

This will be a great way for us to see how courage takes many forms across our diverse Conference. Please share your information with us by emailing Sandy Kellen at sandyk@uccmn.org no later than May 12. Thank you for being the Courageous Church that you are!
2020 “5 for 5” Congregations Honored

These congregations are being honored for their exemplary support of Our Church’s Wider Mission and the four special offerings of the United Church of Christ: One Great Hour of Sharing, Neighbors in Need, Strengthen the Church, and the Christmas Fund. Each of these congregations made a contribution to all five of the offerings that expand our ministries at the local, regional, national, and global level. Thank you!

If you would like more information on how to become a “5 for 5” congregation, please contact Bob Olsen, Development Officer at development@uccmn.org, or by calling 612-230-3375.
 
First Congregational UCC – Anoka
Faith UCC – Bertha
First Congregational UCC of Brainerd
Zoar UCC – Chaska
Cottage Grove United Church of Christ
St. Paul's UCC – Delano
The Cong. Church of Detroit Lakes UCC
Peace UCC – Duluth
Chapel Hills UCC – Edina
Edina Morningside Church
St. Paul's UCC – Eyota
First Congregational UCC – Fairmont
Congregational Church of Faribault UCC
St. John's UCC – Faribault
United Church of Christ Gaylord
First Congregational UCC – Glencoe
First Congregational UCC – Grand Marais
Granite Falls UCC
New Journey UCC – Hutchinson
Zion UCC – Le Sueur
First Congregational UCC – Mankato
Bethlehem UCC – Maple Lake
The United Church – Mapleton
First Congregational Church of MN – Minneapolis
Living Table UCC – Minneapolis
Peace UCC – Minnesota Lake
First Congregational of Moorhead
St. John's UCC – New Albin IA
United Church of Christ - New Brighton
First UCC – Northfield
St. Paul's UCC – Plato
First Congregational UCC – Princeton
The Congregational UCC – Rochester
Union Congregational UCC – St. Louis Park
Circles of Faith UCC – Waubun
Parkview United Church of Christ – White Bear Lake
First Congregational Church – Zumbrota
Johannah Frisby from MN Interfaith Power and Light Joins FourTHursday

Thursday, March 25, noon-1:30 pm

To prepare for Earth Day on April 22, Johannah Frisby from MN Interfaith Power and Light (MNIPL) will join us March 25 from noon–1:30 pm to discuss activities families can do at home and leaders can introduce to their groups in response to environmental issues. Emily Meyer from the Ministry Lab will have other resources to share as well.
Joys and Concerns
Rev. Brian Brosz's mother, Carole Rae Brosz, passed away from complications of COVID-19 on January 9th. Carole served the UCC for over forty years, including several leadership positions. She was Honored Laywoman at the 1985 UCC General Synod in Ames, Iowa. Carole was a member of Linden Hills UCC in Minneapolis, where she enjoyed singing in the choir. Rev. Brosz is the pastor of St. Paul's UCC in Plato, Minnesota. The Minnesota Conference holds Rev. Brosz and his family in our prayers.
Resources

  • The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to ministry.

  • The United Church of Christ National Setting is offering financial assistance to local churches whose ministries have been challenged by the pandemic. See the process.


  • 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.
Clergy Clusters
The BIPOC Clergy Cluster meets quarterly on the second Thursday of the month June 10, September 9, and December 9 from 5pm-6:30pm on Zoom for now.  To receive the Zoom link to the cluster meeting and/or get an invitation to the Facebook group, email Rev. Nikki Frontz.
Like us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on news, events, jobs and more.

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.