Volume 18, No. 46 | December 21, 2022

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

Let There Be Rejoicing!

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.” (Isaiah 35:1-2)

At every other time of year, it stands there silent and gathering dust, waiting patiently for me to once again use it as intended, to make music at last. Despite 8 years of lessons long, long ago and a genuine love of music, I rarely touch the keys of my piano. But when Advent begins and Christmas beckons, I am inevitably drawn to it, my fingers itching to play the familiar carols and hymns.

Musically speaking, it is never an entirely pleasing experience. I fumble badly through my first attempts, struggle with the flats and the sharps, and get frustrated with a talent too long ignored. But I keep playing, practicing certain arrangements over and over again until the tune flows more easily and my fingers grow more nimble. Eventually I feel what I’ve been after all along: the joy of the season slowly blossoming within me. Despite all the noisy imperfections of my efforts, my heart rejoices with song.

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that joy can emerge from even the most desolate places, that gladness can spring forth in moments we least expect it. Some days it feels as if wilderness spaces surround us on all sides. There is so much that exhausts us, discourages us, leaves us broken and hurting and resentful. Our labors to craft our lives with meaning and purpose, and to re-fashion our world with love and justice and peace, may be flawed and encounter a frustrating number of obstacles. And yet our faith would have us keep trying, urging us to keep stumbling along until we catch glimpses of new possibility, until we feel something like joy piercing through all else.

In these closing days of Advent, as Christmas draws near, my prayer for all of us – our congregations, clergy, and members – is that we might persevere in faithfulness and boldly search out joy. For this is the promise of Christmas: that something unimaginable can burst forth from a place as stark and simple as a stable, that the rocky hillsides where lowly sheep rest can be the site of impossible good news for all, that God can break through our dreariness with extraordinary love. Rejoice!

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister


Blessing this Holy Season …

The Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ prays the blessings of this holy season on all our congregations, clergy, members, and other ministry settings.

May the hope, peace, joy, & extraordinary love that reveals itself in Jesus at Christmas be yours!

The Work of Christmas

By Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flocks,

The work of Christmas begins:

           To find the lost,

           To heal the broken,

           To feed the hungry,

           To release the prisoner,

           To rebuild the nations,

           To bring peace among the people,

           To make music in the heart.

Conference News & Events

Important Note from the Conference

This is the final edition of COMMAntary in 2022; there will not be an edition next week. The newsletter returns January 4, 2023. The Conference office will be closed December 23-26 and December 30-January 2.

Outdoor Ministry Announces 3rd Annual Winter Zoom Series

Join us for three Zoom gatherings this winter focused on environmental justice issues.

2023 Farm Bill

January 12, 7:00-8:00 pm CST

Presenter: Sarah Goldman

Free; register here to receive the Zoom link

Learn more about the Farm Bill and why it matters to us as a faith community in this one-hour discussion brought to you by the Outdoor Ministry of the MN Conference UCC. The Land Stewardship Project will present the 2023 Farm Bill, which covers health care, food concerns, climate change, and corporate accountability and responsibility. Universities are also affected by this bill through research funding on topics involving agriculture, sustainable practices, and innovation. Read more

Microplastics in the Great Lakes

February 9, 7:00-8:00 pm CST

Presenter: Art Hirsch; Host: Jane Dow

Free; register here to receive the Zoom link

Microplastics in the Great Lakes is an emerging water quality issue that has a huge potential of impacting human health and the aquatic environment. Microplastics are found in our food, water, air, and even beer along the Great Lakes. Fish are ingesting microplastic that cause them to starve and allow microplastics to move up the food chain. Humans are ingesting plastics made from endocrine disruptor chemicals. Read more

Mining Pollutants in Our Watersheds and Soil

March (date tbd)

Free; register here to receive the Zoom link

FourTHursday: Reframing Ministry: The Joy of Listening that Forms Community

January 26, 2023 @ 11:30 am - 1:30 pm

Join online or in person at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities

Lunch: 11:30am | Community Conversation/Resourcing: 12:00-1:30pm


In her book Eighth Day of Creation, Elizabeth O’Connor writes, “The major obligation of the Church to children is to enjoy them and listen to them so that each can grow according to the design which is written into the being of each and emerges only under the care and warmth of another life.” O’Connor goes on to talk about the particular ministry to which parents are called, “…their really important ministry is to listen to their children and enable them to uncover the special blueprint that is theirs.”

O’Connor’s words reflect the wisdom of many of our ancient spiritual traditions and practices. Yet, the practices of listening for the whisper of the Spirit – whispers we hear in the voices of others, in the songs of creation, and deep within ourselves – are often absent from the life we share together as local faith communities. What would it mean for us to ground our work, ministry and being in deep, authentic, spacious listening? What would it mean for us to give on another the gift of being listened into speech? What would it mean for us to listen to our children, so that they can discover the blueprint that God has written upon their being? What if…

Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Faith Formation, will facilitate this time of conversation. We will draw on new research and work about the counter-cultural practices of listening and the necessity for this practice as both balm and resistance amid the chaos, despair, and overwhelm of our time. We will explore together how to re-member our communities as spaces of hospitality and belonging rooted in the simple and challenging practices of holy listening.

Calling Young Adults Ages 18-25

Reconnect with UCC camp friends for a weekend at Green Lake Lutheran Camp in Spicer, MN. This is a chance to relax, have some fun, create a meal together, and help plan the future for young adult programming in the MN Conference. Registration is open now until January 20 or when spaces are filled. Read our Covid guidelines.

When: January 27-29, 2023, begins at 6:00 pm Friday and ends 11:00 am on Sunday

Where: Green Lake Lutheran Camp, Medayto Lodge, Spicer, MN

Cost: $50/person | $25/person scholarship, if needed; contact sherin@uccmn.org


We Met our Give to the Max Goal!

We raised $8,956.25 during Give to the Max 2022 for the critical ministries of the Minnesota Conference UCC. Many thanks to the 33 individuals who came forward to match the $4,250 incentive from three generous, anonymous donors. Your collective gifts helped us meet that match. Thank you!

Faith Foundations: Read the New Testament & Explore Christian History

January 12 - April 20, 2023

Lay leaders, seekers, and people exploring authorized ministry are invited to explore the history of the New Testament and the early church, and to gain tools to read and interpret scripture well.

Registration ends Monday, January 9. LEARN MORE

Exploring the Enneagram

January 30 - March 12, 2023

Learn the Enneagram’s system of 9 Types and identify your type with The Damascus Project's upcoming learning opportunity. LEARN MORE & REGISTER

Joys & Concerns

We note the passing of Reverend Carol Joyce on November 30. Rev. Joyce was elected to serve as Secretary of the UCC in 1983. She was the first permanent elected female national staff executive in any mainline Protestant denomination in the United States. A memorial service has not been set at this time and no obituary is yet available. 

We offer our prayers for Rev. Lindy Purdy, whose husband of 52 years, John, passed away in late October. Memorial services were held November 28 at Wayzata Community Church. Read his full obituary.

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 faith formation, 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.