Volume 18, No. 1 | January 4, 2022

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Let Grace and Love Lead in 2022

“Never underestimate the amount of pain and heartache that will come through your church doors on any given Sunday.”

I remember those words distinctly, though I received them over 30 years ago now. It was shared by one of my seminary professors at Chicago Theological Seminary, and I have been reminded of that statement and its deep wisdom countless times during all my years of ministry since.

It has never been more true than it is now. And it’s not just true of those we encounter in our churches. It’s the case for those we pass in the grocery store and in traffic, for patients and workers in every health care setting, for teachers and students and parents and administration in educational institutions, and the list goes on. No matter where or how we cross paths with people these days we can be sure each person is carrying their own daunting mix of exhaustion, grief, anxiety, frustration, and more.

I observe this heaviness amongst our pastors, our chaplains, our lay leaders, and our congregations too. Relationships are frayed, volunteerism is down, motivation is low, and worry looms large. Patience has worn thin. Our normal capacities to navigate conflict or crises in healthy ways are diminished. We’re worn out by the constant questions forced upon us by a pandemic that just won’t quit. 

As this new year begins, I don’t underestimate the burdens and heartaches we’re carrying. And so this is my request of each of us:

Let love and grace lead you.

This is a time when bountiful heaps of grace are required, when perfection is impossible and forgiveness should flow. This is a time when love needs to burn more brightly and be shared more generously. And these are all gifts we have been taught well by the Jesus we all follow. In fact, these are practices of faith that Jesus commanded us to embody in the living of each day. As Christ’s Church, whether gathered or scattered, I hope love and grace are plentifully evident in the ways we work and worship together and in the ways we navigate the world and encounter one another. Especially when times are rough.

I pray for each of us a new year that is abundant with possibilities and led by love and grace.

—Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
Conference News & Events
Maintaining Fierce Hope: Refreshing Our Grip on What Sustains Us Clergy Retreat

Jan 18, 5 pm–Jan 20, 11:30 am

After a long season of being apart, actively serving clergy from around the Minnesota Conference UCC are invited to come together on retreat. We will have gentle invitations to rest, reconnect, recognize losses, and recommit to both familiar and unfolding shapes of ministry. In these quiet winter days, with their share of darkness and perhaps harsh weather, it will be so good to come together. You must register by this Friday, January 7! LEARN MORE

Location: Christ the King Retreat Center, Buffalo, MN
Fee: $150 (private room) or $130 (shared double room)
Facilitator: Rev. Dr. Martha Brunell
Inflation & Church Budgets

Rev. Andrew Warner, Generosity Outreach Officer at the UCC national office, has written a thought-provoking article on how your church can plan for inflation through good budgeting. Click HERE for the complete article, and share with your church financial leaders.
Check Out the Wonderful Epiphany Family Toolkit

When is it good to keep secrets? When can it be harmful to tell a secret to others? If you were a Magi, what gift would you bring to Jesus? Check out the Epiphany faith formation toolkit, the final one in our Advent, Christmas & Epiphany weekly editions. And listen in on a conversation with Liam Magistad, Truman and Noah from St. Anthony Park UCC for this week’s conversation and reflection (see video below).

Great Lakes Creation Care Series Begins January 13

The Great Lakes Creation Care Collaborative invites you to a three-part Zoom series, offered by the Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan Conferences of the United Church of Christ.

“Treaties Broken, Earth and Lives in Crisis: How do we change the narrative for the land and all its people?”
January 13, 2022, 7:30-9:00 pm EST/6:30-8:00 pm CST
With Frank Bibeau, tribal attorney for Honor the Earth and White Earth Band of Ojibwe

“Good Money After Bad: How to invest in Creation Care”
February 10, 2022, 7:30-9:00 pm EST/6:30-8:00 pm CST

“Creation Justice from the Sanctuary to the Street: Linking Worship, Action, & Advocacy”
March 3, 2022, 7:30-9:00 pm EST/6:30-8:00 pm CST

Fourth Thursdays
Hybrid FourTHursday: Let’s Talk Outdoor Ministry & Youth Faith Formation

January 27, 2022 | 12:00-1:30 pm | Join in-person or online

January’s topic is the 2022 full season of Outdoor Ministry programs and retreat for all ages and a preview of the exciting opportunities for youth throughout the year, including the summer 2022 Youth Immersion Trip. Register to join in-person (required) for a light, physically distanced lunch and conversation. You may also register participate via Zoom. All in-person participants will be required to wear a face mask throughout the event, regardless of vaccination status, except when eating or drinking.
Building the Beloved Community Public Safety Project

Your congregation is invited into conversation with Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington.

Interfaith Action invites interfaith leaders to a series of compelling conversations about creating a better system of public safety and policing in Minnesota. Together with Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington and several state public safety leaders, participants will walk through real-life scenarios that police officers face on the job. What do we want our public safety officers to do in these situations? Clergy and their congregations will be invited to respond. This work will culminate in a report of the collective feedback. REGISTER AND LEARN MORE
Winter Spiritual Immersion Retreat Coming Up!

January 21-23, 2022 (Friday, 6:00 pm through Sunday, 11:00 am) 
Clearwater Forest Camp and Retreat Center, Deerwood, MN
Registration closes January 14
Joys & Concerns
Our prayers are with the family of Rev. David Crum, who died on January 3 in Brainerd. May God receive this servant of the Gospel into his eternal rest.
We extend our love and prayers to Rev. Vicki Wunsch (Chaplain) and her family upon the loss of Vicki’s beloved father, Roger Wunsch, on January 1 at age 79. May God’s embrace offer peace and comfort to the grieving.
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.