Volume 16, No. 44 | November 11, 2020

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Bringing Together Generations for Racial Justice Conversations
As Associate Chaplain for Christian and Interfaith Life at Carleton College, Rev. Hannah Campbell Gustafson was compelled to host conversations about racial justice as students returned to campus this fall.

She turned to Rev. Wendy Vander Hart, a trained racial justice facilitator, at the nearby Northfield First United Church of Christ. Vander Hart asked church member Kathy Sandberg to help facilitate and, together, the trio launched weekly conversations, using the UCC’s curriculum on white privilege.

The discussions attracted intergenerational participation, something Campbell Gustafson believes was especially beneficial. “There is a richness that comes from different perspectives in intergenerational conversations,” she says. “These conversations were a great gift for all ages and, honestly, for the facilitators.”

The weekly discussions were open to all, but Campbell Gustafson said they were meant for white people. “This is the work white people need to do. It isn’t a therapy group. It’s a group where we support one another, yes, but it’s really about challenging ourselves and figuring out how to take action. I was impressed at how open people were and how willing they were to be both vulnerable and challenged.”

The intergenerational participation was enlightening in many ways, she says. “A student brought up the topic of how to handle inherited wealth and an older person shared how she and her spouse had actually changed their will to address reparations. Another person talked about a conversation from many years ago where she felt at a loss for words and a student shared a similar experience.”

Campbell Gustafson said several participants began the discussions believing that, because they came from a lower socio-economic background, they didn’t have white privilege; by the end of the series, they had a much different understanding. “The curriculum really takes people on a journey. I think all of the participants understood at the end of the series, these conversations are the beginning of that journey.”

Based on the success of the fall series, Vander Hart and Campbell Gustafson plan to repeat what they are now calling “Brave Conversations,” beginning January 21. A Carleton student, Astrid Steiner-Manning, will join as co-facilitator to continue the intergenerational focus.

Campbell Gustafson thinks it is important that students see people from religious communities having these bold conversations. “Many young people don’t necessarily have a great impression of religion,” she says. “I feel like this model can show students that people of faith and people of all ages are deeply concerned about racial justice.”
Is it Time to Reinvigorate Your Sermon Process?
In challenging times, you wonder if there's a better way to prepare your sermons. But it's hard to know where to start and how to make change that matters — and lasts.

The Good News is more important than ever. That's why The Damascus Project is partnering with Backstory Preaching to offer you a roadmap to a new approach rooted in prayer and best practices.

Participants describe this as “the class I wish I had in seminary,” “the exact sermon-writing refocus I needed for this time in my ministry,” and “salve for my soul.” This learning opportunity is recommended for clergy and anyone who preaches regularly.
 
Sermon Camp is fully online, runs from January 11 to February 19, 2021, and costs $299. Questions? Contact Abby at info@the-damascus-project.org or 507-222-0194.
Conference News & Info
"Practice Paying Attention – Kindness" is Topic of This Week's Toolkit for Families and Faith Formation Leaders
Kindness, which embraces generosity, compassion, inclusiveness and caring, is critical to a world too often inclined toward cynicism, self-centeredness and intolerance. So it couldn’t be more important to put these values center-stage when raising our children. Check out this week's toolkit for a wonderful array of resources, activities, videos and more to make kindness a family habit.

Governor Walz Issues New Executive Order
from Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon

On November 10, Governor Walz detailed new restrictions to slow communal spread of Covid-19. The Governor's announcements did not place new restrictions on in-person worship itself, including funeral & wedding ceremonies but it did change guidance about receptions or gatherings connected with funerals, weddings, and worship. Executive Order 20-96 states that as of Nov. 24, attendance at such "receptions" must not exceed 50 attendees; as of December 8, attendance must not exceed 25 attendees. This also applies to any coffee hour/fellowship times, pancake breakfasts or other church-sponsored dinners, etc. Basically anything you host at the church or in another venue that is not worship itself is subject to these new guidelines.

Give to the MAX Day is Next Thursday

Show your personal support of the Minnesota Conference’s expanded ministries during these unsettling times by participating in Give to the Max 2020 next Thursday, November 19! We are thrilled that the Conference has a matching challenge gift! Watch your email, next week's COMMAntary, and our Give to the Max page for more information soon, or make your contribution here.
The Ministry Lab Announces Grant Opportunity

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on The Ministry Lab’s plans for 2020, we are delighted to announce a unique one-time grant opportunity to congregations for the upcoming seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

Hopeful Innovation Grants of up to $200 each will be made for efforts that aim to accomplish at least one of the following:
  • expand and/or deepen your reach within your congregation or community
  • represent something new, creative, and/or bold for your congregation
  • facilitate faith development
  • equip leaders for new ministry opportunities

Apply by Nov. 13 for the best chance to receive a grant. Any additional funds will be awarded through the end of November on a rolling basis. Grants are available to Ministry Lab member congregations only.
Pandemic, Post-Election, Advent & Christmas Resources from the Conference

The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to ministry during the Covid-19 pandemic, post-election, and more. We also have a list of Advent and Christmas resources provided by folks in the MN Conference UCC. Our resources are updated frequently so check back regularly.
Financial Assistance for Congregations

  • 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.


Joys and Concerns
Claire Klein was unanimously approved for ordination pending call at an ecclesiastical council on November 9. Congratulations, Claire, on your hard work and faithful discernment!

Steve Sorensen, member of First Congregational UCC in Minneapolis and a longtime volunteer in the MN Conference, has been hospitalized with very serious heart issues and is in critical condition. Please hold Steve, his wife, Karen, and their family in your prayers.
Clergy Clusters
The Southeast Clergy Cluster will meet on Thursday, November 12, from 9:00-11:00 am via Zoom. Contact Rev. Paul Bauch at Peace Church in Rochester for a link.
 
The Northern Clergy Cluster will meet on Tuesday, November 17, at noon via Zoom. Contact Rev. Kathy Nelson at Peace UCC, Duluth for the link. 
News & More Resources
Check out the employment opportunities portion of our website for all open positions.

The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to ministry during the Covid-19 pandemic and faith formation.

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.
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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.