Volume 16, No. 12 | March 25, 2020

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
New Guidance to Churches During the Pandemic
On March 13, Conference Minister Shari Prestemon recommended that churches suspend in-person worship and other activities through the end of March. Nearly all congregations had done so as of March 22.

Today, Prestemon shares new and sobering guidance in light of the lengthening pandemic and advice from public health officials:

  • Churches should continue to suspend all in-person activities, including worship, until at least mid-May, assuming an even longer suspension may be necessary.
  • Churches should prepare now for the very real possibility that a “shelter-in-place” order may be issued by the governor that would expand restrictive measures in the state. Such an order could have additional implications for how pastors are currently providing worship and other ministry.

Rev. Prestemon also announced that the Conference office will remain closed until at least mid-May with staff continuing to work remotely from their homes during that time. The Annual Meeting of the Conference has also been cancelled (see article below); a virtual meeting to vote on essential business will take place June 13.

“I am heartened by the efforts I see all our Conference congregations taking to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 while remaining faithful and finding new ways to nurture communities where they are,” Prestemon says. “Our inability to worship together in person during Holy Week and Easter feels particularly devastating for all of us. But we know that the Resurrection story is not dependent on whether we gather face-to-face on one particular Sunday; God’s promise of new life despite all the odds is reflected now in our persevering hope and our deep trust that new life will also emerge from this terrible and challenging time.”

June 2020 Annual Meeting Cancelled
Business Meeting Planned On-Line for June 13
Given the current state of uncertainty about when gathering in large groups may again be advisable, the Board of Directors has decided to cancel our in-person Annual Meeting at the College of St. Benedict June 12-13. A short, virtual meeting for voting delegates only will instead be held on June 13 to attend to essential business of the Conference. Watch COMMAntary for further details in the coming weeks.
We are hoping to host a “re-gathering” of the Conference sometime this fall. This would be a time to celebrate being together again in person and to give thanks to God for all the ways we have been upheld and strengthened by the bonds we share in the Minnesota Conference and the graces God has given. As those plans unfold we will get word to you.
We are also determining how we might still benefit from the words and experience of our planned Annual Meeting speaker, Samantha Fuentes, a survivor of the Parkland, FL school shooting, at some later date. Stay tuned!
Conference News & Information
Opportunities & Resources for Support

  • Group Support Calls with Chaplains, facilitated by Conference staff, every Wednesday at 4:30 pm (join via Zoom link)

  • Minnesota Conference UCC Facebook page; like our page as we post important updates and news at least daily

Does your congregation have a specific interest or need during this pandemic that the Conference staff can help address? Do you have other ideas for groups that we can convene for mutual support and idea-sharing? Please email  Conference Minister Shari Prestemon  with your ideas and requests.
Support to Address Challenges of Pandemic on Church Finances

In times of uncertainty, it is natural to worry about church finance. More than 84% of individual donations to a congregation come in through the offering plate , and when we are unable to meet physically at least once a week, how is THAT supposed to work?

You and your pastors, church treasurers, and other congregants are invited to participate in a joint Minnesota/Wisconsin Conference Zoom virtual conference to discuss stewardship in times of challenge, identify what your church financial challenges are, and discuss how we can weather this storm out — together.

Join Tuesday, April 7 , from 7–8:30 pm via Zoom on your computer or by phone (312-626-6799; meeting ID is 349 859 915). Questions? Contact Bob Olsen, 651-757-0647.

Leaders from the UCC national setting are also offering support to walk pastors and lay leaders through ways to deal with giving. View the webinar or download a handout with similar information.
Power and Boundary Training Changed from June 11 to Online

In light of the cancellation of the in-person Annual Meeting, the Conference will move to an online model for power and boundary training. And with our current heavy use of social media to connect with one another and those we serve in our ministries, we are particularly pleased to offer an online training that addresses the role of social media in our ministries and how to have healthy boundaries.

We will use a course from the Lewis Center at Wesley Theological Seminary titled, “Maintaining Boundaries in a Digital Age .” The course is $49 and available on your own time schedule. However, to help with connections with other Minnesota Conference Authorized Ministers and to explore questions and applications to your ministry, we are holding a series of Zoom calls as a follow-up to the course. You only need to attend one of the one-hour calls after you have completed the online course.

  1. Register for the course through the Lewis Center.
  2. Complete the course.
  3. Send a copy (digital is fine) of your certificate of completion for the course to Janet Anderson.
  4. Janet will send you an invite to a Zoom meeting.
  5. Attend and participate in the Zoom meeting.
  6. You will be credited with completion of your power and boundaries training requirement for three more years.

Questions? Contact Anita Bradshaw.
Damascus Project Courses Postponed to Fall
Due to the uncertainty of this time, we will postpone spring Damascus Project courses until the fall. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and look forward to reconnecting in the fall. Watch this newsletter and visit our  website for updates. We will be developing free content to help leaders reflect on how the pandemic is impacting their ministries and spiritual identities. May God’s peace be with you during this challenging time and may you find a place of rest and renewal in the midst of the uncertainty.
The Ministry Lab Offers Online and At-Home Resources

Check out the  Six New Things blog , providing resources to support on-line and at-home faith formation, prayer, worship and service. Ministry Lab Executive Director Emily Meyer will join the UCC Faith Formation Leaders' FourThursday gathering on March 26. Others are welcome to engage the discussion around on-line-ing how-tos and resources. Find the Zoom info  here . For one-to-one consultation, contact Emily Meyer via  email  or phone, 651-894-2927, Mondays through Thursdays, 11:00 am–4:00 pm.
Telehealth for Clergy Available through LeaderWise

People in ministry are feeling the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic in unique ways, as their in-person programming has ceased, worship is now online or not at all, and parishioners look to them for calm and wisdom. LeaderWise counselors are available and are credentialed by Blue Cross Blue Shield and most other insurance carriers. Call 651-428-1534 or visit www.leaderwise.org.
Join March FourTHursday via Zoom
March 26, 12:00–1:30 pm
During this time of social distancing, we will gather via Zoom to share support, questions, ideas, and resources about facilitating online faith formation opportunities and community connection for your local congregation. Co-hosted by Rev. Emily Meyer, Director of the Ministry Lab, and Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister of Faith Formation for Children & Youth. Join at this link or go to Zoom.us and use meeting ID #190-948-039. If you do not have the capacity for video-conferencing or prefer to call in to the meeting, call 1-646-876-9923 or 1-669-900-6833; you will be prompted to enter the Meeting ID.

Joys & Concerns
Rev. Bob Summers w ill have his last Sunday at Grace UCC in Millville on March 29. As a farewell service cannot be held as planned, the Minnesota Conference especially holds Bob and the congregation at Grace in prayer for peaceful and fruitful change in a time of uncertainty. 

We hold in prayer our Minnesota Conference UCC chaplains, pastors, congregations, and lay leaders during this time of crisis, and pray our faith may provide strength and comfort to all. We pray for all our government leaders at national, state, and local levels who are charged with making such critical decisions impacting us all. We pray for every organizational leader in every sector of our society faced with unimaginable choices while striving to care for their employees and those they serve. We pray for those on the front lines of this crisis in health departments, health care settings, nursing homes and hospice organizations, and for their families who worry about their safety and health. We pray for those who have been laid off or face other economic hardship due to this pandemic. We pray for parents and families experiencing additional stress due to school and day care closures. We pray for those who are alone, for those most at risk of contracting the Coronavirus, and for all who are suffering and fearful in these uncertain days. God in your mercy, hear our prayers.

Notices & Invitations
Tell us what you're doing during these challenging times. Please share how your church is coping and reinventing worship and ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

If your church needs assistance: Until the arrival of our Interim Associate Conference Minister on April 6, churches in the northern part of the Conference should contact Conference Minister Shari Prestemon or Associate Conference Ministers Anita Bradshaw and Kevin Brown . Congregations with search and call questions may contact either Anita Bradshaw or Shari Prestemon at 612-871-0359.
Upcoming Events

POSTPONED: Adult Meditation Retreat, Spring Conference Youth Event, Courage to Lead, Magnify! Annual Meeting

Full information about upcoming camps, retreats, and other faith formation opportunities for all ages is available on the Conference's website.

Clergy Clusters
  • The North Central Clergy Cluster will meet on April 2 at 12:30 pm via Zoom. Contact Rev. Leslie Moughty for details.
There are many opportunities within the Minnesota Conference. Check out the  employment opportunities  portion of our website for all open positions. And be sure to 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.