Volume 16, No. 36 | September 9, 2020

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Answering the Call for Reparations
“…the Minnesota Conference reaffirms the historic and faithful commitments of the Annual Meeting and our covenantal partners: finding racism a pervasive sin that mars the full and equal recognition of God’s image in all people, repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery by which land and culture were sinfully obtained from Native people through terror and genocide in the name of Christ, confessing those shameful parts of White culture and practice that continue to dehumanize and dishonor God’s people, and declaring again our intention to be a multiracial and multicultural Conference.”
 
At its 2019 Annual Meeting, the Minnesota Conference voted to begin a process of reparations with approval of a resolution recognizing the pervasive sin of racism and apologizing for past actions of the Christian Church and its members in the history of slavery, genocidal abuse of Native people and communities, and the subsequent institutional racism in the laws and practices of our state and country. The resolution further stipulated creation of a Racial Justice and Reparations fund to support reparation initiatives. The Conference committed to initial seed funding of $5,000.
 
Amos Task Force Focuses on Reparations
In the time since that resolution was passed, George Floyd was murdered and racial injustices in our Minnesota communities were laid bare once again. Two weeks after Mr. Floyd’s death, the Conference board of directors approved establishment of the Amos Task Force whose charge is to: 1) shape a short-term, thoughtful response to the murder of Mr. Floyd and the communities most impacted by the unrest resulting from it; and 2) to develop a longer-term strategy for the Minnesota Conference UCC to address and repair historic and present-day racial injustice in the state of Minnesota and in ourselves as a Conference of local churches.
 
In its first meetings, the Amos Task Force determined a focus on reparations for organizations serving Indigenous populations around the areas of homelessness and housing. To ensure a statewide focus, the group carefully chose the American Indian Community Development Corporation in the Twin Cities and the American Indian Community Housing Organization in Duluth. These two entities will share this year’s $5,000 in reparations funding.

Local Churches Engage in Work
Local churches, too, are stepping into the work of reparations. For example, Robbinsdale Parkway UCC recently prepared and shared a statement in worship that begins: “We who are non-Native confess that our ongoing colonization of the land is unjust, and that our broken relationship with the land is a root cause of our global climate crisis.” Robbinsdale committed to spending the year examining reparations as the church seeks "to heal our relationship with the Dakota and Anishinaabe people, with this land and our own soul.”

If your congregation is examining reparations, we want to hear from you. Please share your story with communications@uccmn.org.
Justice Talk to Justice Walk Continues September 15
Justice Talk to Justice Walk: Facing Our Past, Present, & Future: The Duluth Lynchings and Anti-Racism Work

September 15 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Guest: Henry Banks, community activity & organizer

Henry L. Banks is a community leader, community organizer and racial and social justice activist residing in the Twin Ports of Duluth/Superior. He served the Duluth Superior region as founder and first co-chair of the Clayton Jackson McGhie (CJM) Memorial board and project, recognized by National Geographic as one of the top memorials in the U.S.

Conference News & Info
A Prayer as the School Year Begins from Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon

"God of ancient wisdom and sacred lessons, as a new school year begins our hearts turn to you in prayer. In this uncommon time, when normal routines are upset and new challenges surround us, we pray for these your precious ones…

"For students of every age, those sitting at desks in classrooms and those sitting at home or in dorm rooms in front of computers and tablets: grant a thirst for learning in this new and strange day, a patience for all that is unfamiliar, comfort when things are scary.

"For teachers: spark within them that same passion for teaching that began their vocational path, and an abiding care for their students during this challenging year. Lend your perseverance on difficult days and stir a bit of joy within them daily. Grant them eyes that see their students’ struggles, and creativity and compassion enough to ease them…"

Calling All Faith Leaders Navigating the New Reality of Covid-19

Join us for “Being a Faith Change Agent,” an adaptive leadership course from The Damascus Project. Faith change agents help their communities recognize crisis and major change as opportunities for faithful action and organizational transformation.

As our churches are engaged in adaptive change —however successfully or not — it is the ideal time to learn the key moves of faith change agents. Led by pastor, leadership coach, and congregational consultant Mark Tidsworth, the course integrates adaptive change theory with an emerging pastoral leadership paradigm that plays out in real time.

Recommended for pastors, lay leaders and members-in-discernment. Registration deadline is Monday, September 28. LEARN MORE

Participants from MN Conference eligible for a $200 discount

This new Courage to Lead series is designed to help faith leaders (ordained and lay) call forth their best heart and soul for ministry. The course will meet (virtually) seven times over the course of five months. Cost is $400 (payable in two equal installments by September 30, 2020, and January 31, 2021). Participants from the Minnesota Conference UCC are eligible for a $200 discount (use the code UCCDISCOUNT). LEARN MORE & REGISTER
FourTHursday (and 2nd Thursday) Returns Online

Faith formation leaders — clergy, lay staff, and volunteers — from around the Minnesota Conference will gather via Zoom on most second and fourth Thursdays this fall from noon to 1:30 pm online for conversation, questioning, and shared resourcing within a supportive community of colleagues. Registered participants for each gathering will receive a free book or other ministry resource

The sessions this fall will focus on five key spiritual practices essential for adaptive leadership in this chaotic, anxious, and challenging season of ministry with children, youth, and families.

Coming up Thursday, September 10 – Practicing Adaptability: Creating new patterns for children & youth ministry in virtual spaces and socially distanced gathering. Register

Conference Outdoor Ministry Plans Three Contemplative Gatherings

The MN Conference Outdoor Ministry will present a three-part Contemplative Gathering to bring us into a place of mindfulness and peace as we enter a change of seasons, a time of thanksgiving, and a time of reflection and anticipation.

With the facilitation of three talented singer-songwriters/theological artists, each Zoom gathering will involve story, song, and inspiration – open to all ages, congregations, and leaders. Participate in one, two, or all three; it's your choice! The first gathering is scheduled for October 17.

Short Discussions to Foster Deeper Thoughts on Racism

United Church of Christ in New Brighton is hosting a four-week, discussion-based program via Zoom to foster deeper thoughts on white privilege and racism. The program is open to all. Each week, participants will watch a video or read an article and answer a few questions in preparation for the week's discussion. The program starts Sunday, September 13, from 4:00–5:30 pm and continues the following three Sundays. Participation is limited to 25 people. Contact Pat Yahnke at piyahnke@gmail.com to register.
Financial Assistance for Congregations from Conference and National Setting

The United Church of Christ National Setting is offering financial assistance to local churches whose ministries have been challenged by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Applications are now being accepted. See the process described here.

Applications are being accepted from Minnesota Conference UCC congregations for the Pandemic Relief Loan Program. Access the application and further details here. The application deadline for this loan program has been extended to December 31, 2020.

Congregations may also apply for emergency grants to cover operating expenses, technology needs, or community ministries; grants to cover the cost of website development; or counseling assistance grants for authorized ministers.
Joys & Concerns
An ecclesiastical council will be held for MaryBeth Harman on Wednesday, September 16, at 2:00 pm. Clergy and church voting delegates are encouraged to attend. For a Zoom link, contact janeta@uccmn.org with your name, church membership, clergy or lay status, and whether or not you are a voting delegate. To learn more about MaryBeth, read an introduction to the candidate and her ordination paper.

Roger Apodaca, who served as camp chef and facilities manager at Pilgrim Point, has asked for the prayers of the Minnesota Conference. His wife Nicole has been diagnosed with liver cancer and is experiencing complications in her treatment. Please lift up Roger and Nicole and those who love and are caring for them.
Clergy Clusters
The Southeast Clergy Cluster will meet Thursday, September 10, 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 Tuesday, September 15, at noon via Zoom. Contact Rev. Kathy Nelson at Peace UCC, Duluth, for the link.
Tell Us Your News!
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.