Volume 18, No. 14 | April 6, 2022

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
It Matters
It was the last thing I expected when I stepped into an Uber in downtown Cleveland to head to the airport. I was tired after several days of meetings and wasn’t really up for a lot of conversation. But the Uber driver, Adam, was chatty. “So what do you do?” he asked. Not wanting to explain the whole “Conference Minister” thing, I simply replied, “I’m a pastor.” Thus began an extraordinary, Spirit-led encounter I cannot forget. For the next 20 minutes, that car became sacred space. 

“I used to be really involved with the church,” Adam started, “but not anymore.” He was raised in what he described as a conservative Christian family. When he was a teenager, he came out to his parents as gay, and their response was to send him to a group home to be “reformed.”

Despite the devastating toll that traumatic experience took on his faith and his spirit, he somehow managed to maintain his faith and find his way back to the Church. In adulthood, he became very involved with a local church who accepted him as a gay man and invited him to provide leadership in a variety of ways. Later, though, he moved to another city and sought out another church home. The church he found did not offer welcome and inclusion, but rather excluded him from any leadership positions and consistently made its harsh judgement of his sexual identity known. He left that church and has not been back to any church since then.

Adam told me that he once had a dream of being a pastor one day. Now he just dreams of a church that will truly welcome him, his husband, and their two foster children.

I assured Adam that he is precious in God’s sight, and that nothing any church might do or say can separate him from the certainty of God’s love. I told him about the United Church of Christ, about our “open and affirming” identity and our history of LGBTQ inclusion. I confessed that we don’t always get it right, that sometimes we fall short of the extravagant welcome we claim. Mostly I wanted him to know that not all churches will try to ‘reform’ him or judge him, that God absolutely loves and celebrates him as the precious creation of God he is.

Eventually we arrived at the airport. Other cars maneuvering for space all around us honked as we stood outside Adam’s car and continued a conversation we were reluctant to finish. I didn’t have a business card and he didn’t have a piece of paper. So, he grabbed a worn dollar bill from his wallet and wrote his email address on it, asking me to send him more information about the United Church of Christ as he handed it to me. I promised I would, offered him a last word of encouragement, and we parted ways. Both of us, I feel certain, changed and blessed.

What Adam shared with me during that 20-minute Uber ride contained a lot of precious wisdom for us as Church. I’d summarize one bit of that wisdom like this: how we ‘show up’ matters. 

How we invite, receive and welcome others into our church life matters. How we engage the world and all its injustice and need and messiness matters. How we proclaim and embody the bold love of God matters. How we recognize and honor the precious image of God in others matters. How we match our words and the core values of the Gospel message with our everyday behavior matters. 

Our choices, our words, and our actions matter immensely. What we do and say, how we show up for and with others, can either inflict great harm or multiply great love. 
May we be the Church God is calling us to be. It matters.

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
Conference News & Events
Is Your Church Facing a Threshold Moment?

Is your church experiencing a significant threshold moment? Is your church facing an uncertain future? The MN Conference UCC offers support for your church & its minister. Please reach out to the Cindy Mueller (763.439.3952, cell; 763.515.3281, landline). She can assist your congregation as it discerns its next most faithful steps.
For the authorized ministers serving in these churches, Cindy facilitates a Zoom gathering every other month to check in, discuss what is happening in churches, and support one another with the exchange of resources and ideas. If you are interested in participating in this gathering, let Cindy know. Another place authorized ministers serving churches facing uncertain futures can obtain support is a national UCC Zoom monthly gathering facilitated by Rev. David Schoen. Reach out to Cindy for his contact information if you are interested.
Ministry in these times of uncertainty can be challenging. The MN Conference UCC is here to assist you. READ MORE IN THIS BROCHURE
"Betrayal" is Focus of Weekly Lenten Family Toolkit

Has someone ever hurt, bullied, or said something untrue about you? When you thought you didn’t matter or were ashamed of who you are? 

Check out this week's Lenten family toolkit, including the video conversation (above) with Rev. Sheri Nelson and Rev. Eli’jah Carroll from St. Paul’s UCC in St. Paul. The toolkit also provides a rich and diverse collection of at-home games, activities, book and film recommendations, spiritual practices, and service ideas for individuals and families of all ages.

The Damascus Project Offers "Conflict Transformation: When Agreement isn’t Enough"

April 28-May 26
Live Zoom Sessions: Friday, May 13, 6:00–8:00 pm; Saturday, May 14, 10:00 am–12:00 pm and 1:00–3:00 pm

  • To live in “interesting times” is a burden and a blessing, and both can mean conflict as change takes a toll on God’s people. The Damascus Project is partnering with Rev. Elena Larssen to offer a four-week workshop titled “Conflict Transformation: When Agreement isn’t Enough.”

REGISTER (in "Length of Study” drop-down menu, select “Unit 4" or click HERE for a newsletter-bulletin insert you can use to share with your congregation.
Celebrating Church Anniversaries at Annual Meeting

We would like to acknowledge and celebrate anniversaries from the last two years at this year’s Annual Meeting. If your church have celebrated an anniversary of 100 years or more within the last two years and you would like to include that in the celebration booklet for annual meeting, please send an email with a short summary of the church’s history (including anniversary year) to our Administrative Assistant See Chang. SEND EMAIL
Watch & Discuss "The Story of Plastic"

Virtual viewing: April 18–30 (at your convenience)
Virtual discussion: Sunday, May 1, 3:00 pm CT

Learn what throwaway plastic is doing to our health, animals, environment and planet — and what you can do locally to reduce throwaway plastic. Guest panelist speakers are Macy Gustavus (researcher at Utah University, pursuing an MS in Watershed Sciences with work focusing on the transport of microplastics) and Gay Trachsel (social activist in Duluth, instrumental in securing the success of the Duluth ordinance to put a fee on plastic bags, co-chair of the Natural Resources Committee for the Duluth League of Women Voters, and a member of Duluth for Clean Water’s Political Action Team). REGISTER for the discussion (you will receive a link to view the movie).
Taking Heart Ramadan Iftars

In 2022, Ramadan falls between the dates of April 2- May 2. Taking Heart guests are invited to arrive at a participating mosque or Islamic center about one hour before sunset. They will hear a presentation about Islam/Ramadan and the reason for fasting, participate in the breaking of the fast, have the opportunity to observe prayer, and then join at table for wonderful food and conversation. This program is a partnership between the Minnesota Council of Churches (of which the Minnesota Conference UCC is a member) and the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. REGISTER.
Faithful Groan: Lamenting the Pandemic as Part of Worship

May 4-6, 2022 
ARC Retreat CommunityStanchfield 

Breathe out the grief and pains of life during a pandemic and breathe in a renewed sense of presence in our body, mind, heart, and soul at this special Outdoor Ministry retreat.
Rest and Renewal!

Mark your calendars for Annual Meeting June 10–11, where we will gather for Rest and Renewal. This will be a hybrid meeting, but we hope you will join us in person at College of St. Benedict.

For the last two years, the work of the Conference has continued despite the tremendous impact of the pandemic. This year, with hope, we will gather together in-person (with an online option) to not do the work of the Conference and to rejoice in one another’s presence. Each and every church is encouraged to attend and send voting delegates. Financial aid is available to those congregations that require it.

The Minnesota Conference UCC has received two resolutions to be discussed and voted on at our Annual Meeting in June. 
Chapel Hills UCC Accepting Applications for Enduring Fund Grants

United Church of Christ in Edina is now accepting applications for 2022 Enduring Fund Grants, which provide supplement financial support to organizations, individuals and projects. While there is no specific requirement on what the grant can be used for, special consideration is given to applications that focus on specific projects versus contributions to general operating budgets. All electronically submitted applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. April 30, 2022.

Where to find the grant application:
Upcoming Conference Events
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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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.