Volume 17, No. 31 | August 11, 2021

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
The Damascus Project Announces Exciting Line-up of Fall Opportunities
Learn how to design effective meeting practices, nurture your creativity as a leader, or explore fresh perspectives on Advent texts with The Damascus fall learning opportunities.

"These programs are intended to enrich the ministries of local congregations," says Rev. Abby Henderson, Director of Leadership Development for the Conference. "They are affordable and short-term, which makes them especially accessible."

The Damascus Project is a shared ministry of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Conferences of the United Church of Christ to respond to a changing world and a changing church. The goal is to equip the whole Body of Christ by creating an open, non-judgmental, brave learning community for:
  • Laypeople (both leaders and seekers)
  • Clergy (continuing ed
  • Church staff (faith formation, admins)
  • Members-in-Discernment on non-seminary paths

Fall Line-up
“Heavenly Meetings: Processes to Foster Healthy Engagement” is a short course from Barb Bickford that will help church leaders encourage people to contribute more during church meetings. Too often, the way we run church meetings actually can weaken a church. We don’t want “meetings from hell.” We want “meetings from heaven”! Participants will experience three simple and highly adaptable structured activities that encourage groups to know one another, share opinions, review progress and make decisions in a healthy and inclusive way.

Registration includes: 1) two 60-minute online workshops at 5:30 pm on August 26 and September 23. These sessions will be recorded but participants are encouraged to attend live for the most benefit; 2) A dedicated online space or “Cohort” in the Damascus Project Network for answering questions, celebrating successes, and sharing tips and resources.

Cost: 1 participant/$10; 2 participants/$15; 3 participants/$20; 4+ participants/$25
Groups must be from the same church.
Writer/composer Amanda Udis-Kessler is pleased to offer the six-hour virtual workshop “Grit and Grace: Creativity, Spirituality, and Justice Work,” an ideal opportunity for clergy, lay leaders, and all people of faith seeking inspiration and creative renewal.

Optional-use pre-workshop materials will include essays on various ways of thinking about creativity, covering theology, sociology, ethics, spirituality, liturgy, and justice work, as well as practical writings and exercises designed to help people develop their creativity. Workshop time will include conversations, individual exercises, pair and small-group discussions, creative opportunities supported with spiritual grounding practices, and community-building.

Zoom workshop: Friday, Oct. 22, 6 to 8 pm; and Saturday, Oct. 23, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 pm (Central Time)
Cost: $65
Don’t let this holy season sneak up on you! Our "Get Ready to Get Ready" Advent Prep Series is great for preachers, faith formation and adult study leaders. This low-key, online lunch-hour lecture series will equip you with fresh perspectives on the Advent texts.

Save these dates: Wednesdays, October 20 & 27, and November 3, 10 and 17, 12:00–12:45 pm. Cost: $40 for the series. Additional information and registration available soon.
Conference News & Events
New COVID-19 Guidelines Published for Conference-Sponsored Activities

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 1,690 new cases of positive COVID-19 tests in the state, and seven new deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported as of Tuesday that 27 counties in Minnesota have a high level of COVID-19 community transmission. Another 44 counties in our state are considered to be at a substantial spread level. Community spread, hospitalizations, and deaths have risen across the country in what some are calling the “fourth surge” since the pandemic began last year.

Churches around the Conference are prayerfully considering this alarming data as they look toward making plans for the fall season. The Conference is also giving this data careful attention as it seeks to start offering a variety of in-person programs in the coming weeks.

Last Saturday, the Conference Board of Directors reviewed a new policy drafted by staff members that would guide COVID-19 protocols and requirements for Conference-sponsored, in-person activities until further notice. The policy, formally approved by the Executive Committee on Tuesday, also provides guidelines for protocols in the Conference office and for staff engagement in Conference activities. Read the entire policy here.

“The Board had a thoughtful and thorough discussion about how we could best provide for the health and safety of staff and Conference members given this current COVID-19 situation,” said Conference Minister Shari Prestemon. “We want to be a responsible member of the broader community while also offering programs that many are eager to resume. That caused us to make some tough decisions, especially in regards to our overnight activities, but I believe those decisions are wise and faithful ones in this moment.”

Overnight activities sponsored by the Conference, such as outdoor ministry and youth events, will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to register. Participation in other in-person activities of the Conference will require masking. The Conference will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and adapt policies and procedures as the situation warrants.
Power and Boundary Training
Oct 20 & 21, 9:30 am–noon

The Conference will utilize the services of LeaderWise to provide online power and boundary training on Wednesday and Thursday, October 20 & 21, from 9:30 am–noon both day. The fee is $50.

If you have questions or would like additional information, please email the Registrar for the Conference, Catherine Cejda, at catherinec@uccmn.org. To ensure that your training is recorded, please email your certificate of completion to Catherine at the same email.
FourTHursday Faith Formation Gatherings Return via Zoom for Fall

August 26, September 23, and October 28, 12:00-1:30 pm

After the summer hiatus, we are excited to regather the vibrant community of faith formation leaders – clergy, lay staff, and volunteers – from around the Minnesota Conference UCC. Make plans to pause in your day to join these gatherings for connection, conversation, and mutual resourcing. The three fall gatherings will be hosted on Zoom. In early 2022, we hope to begin hybrid gatherings and resume the shared meal that has been a staple part of our fourth gatherings.
Our topic for August 26 is “Creating Safer Spaces for Children, Youth, and Family Ministry in an Ever-Evolving Pandemic.” Conference staff have been wrestling with the safest ways to resume in-person gatherings for Outdoor Ministry, youth events, and other faith formation programs. We have also had numerous conversations with congregational staff and other leaders frantically working on plans for their specific contexts. Let’s bring these conversations together on the 26th to share our collective wisdom, offer mutual support, and share best practices. Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Faith Formation, and Rev. Sheri Nelson, Outdoor Ministry Director, will share the Conference’s COVID-19 safety guidelines and will invite participants to share their plans for fall and ask whatever questions they are holding.

Please contact Rev. Kevin Brown with any questions. Registered participants for the FourTHursday events will receive a timely and relevant resource based on the specific topic or theme for the month. 
Important Update on Fall Outdoor Ministry Events

Please be aware of our Covid-19 Policy before registering for any event, noting that proof of Covid-19 vaccination is required for all participants and staff, including all camp site staff, for events that include an overnight stay.

Please read the appropriate Covid-19 Policy before registering for any event. Proof of vaccination is required in the form of a mailed copy, received one week before an event. Electronic copies will not be accepted due to our lack of HIPPA compliant electronic data storage at this time. If proof of vaccination is not received one week before event, registrant will not be allowed to participate and no refund will be issued.

Please mail to Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ
122 W Franklin Ave, Suite 323
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Attn: Administrator
If you have any questions, please contact Rev. Sheri Nelson or Rev. Kevin Brown.

Hemp and Food Health Day: September 11 (9:30 am–2:30 pm)

Women’s Wilderness Retreat: September 24–26
Men’s Retreat – Overwhelmed by Life: An Invitation to Reconnect and Remember
September 24–26 (start time 4:00 pm, end time 11 am)

Women’s Retreat: October 15–17 (start time 4:00 pm, end time 11 am)

Conference Youth Event: October 8-10 (start time 5 pm, end time 11 am; no dinner served first night)
  • Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center, Sandstone
  • REGISTER by September 24
Faith Formation Leaders’ Retreat

Monday, October 18, 4 pm – Wednesday, October 20, 11am 
Luther Crest, Alexandria; cost: $75 

If you are someone who works with children, youth/young adults, or families in your local congregation—or whether you are clergy, lay staff, or a volunteer—please make plans to be part of this gathering. Spend a few days connecting with colleagues in ministry and reconnecting with your own soul. Throughout the retreat, participants will be invited to engage in generative conversation, shared reflection, and contemplative worship. There will also be ample down time for rest, renewal, and fun. Together we will explore the learnings of the past year and a half and the invitation these learnings hold for each of us and the local congregations we serve.  
Registration for this retreat will open soon. The Conference’s COVID-19 Safety Guidelines require participants in any overnight retreat to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Please contact Rev. Kevin Brown with any questions or concerns regarding the retreat or the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines. 
Cultivating Generous Congregations Seminar Starting Soon

Tuesdays, Sept 21, Oct 5 & 19, and Nov 2, 16, & 30; 5:30–7:00 pm

Can fundraising be ministry? Can stewardship be spiritual?

The Cultivating Generous Congregations Seminar this fall offers an opportunity for pastors and lay leaders to explore faithful, practical, and tested ways to promoting generosity in our congregations. We will draw on current research, seek guidance from the wisdom of scripture, and discuss the best practices in church-based fundraising. Pastors and leaders participating in this program will be equipped to lead an effective stewardship campaign and, more broadly, help their congregation reclaim generosity as a spiritual practice. There will be readings, videos, and reflections to complete in-between seminar meetings.

The program costs $300 for a team of two leaders (additional participants $150 each). LEARN MORE AND REGISTER BY SEPT 14.
Save the Date! Fall 2021 Clergy Retreat

November 16-18, at Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo, MN. More details regarding program and registration will be available soon!
Joys & Concerns
We celebrate the ordination of Claire Klein on August 29 at 2:00 pm. Claire is being ordained into a four-way covenant between Lyndale UCC, AccentCare Hospice, and the Minnesota Conference. The ordination service will be at the Waburn C picnic shelter in Minnehaha Falls Park, as well as streamed via Zoom. Masks will be required. Congratulations to Claire on this momentous occasion in her ministry.

Rev. Ellen Green is stepping down from her position as Associate Minister and Director of Children, Youth, and Families Faith Formation at Lynnhurst Congregational in Minneapolis. A Service of Thanksgiving and Farewell for Rev. Green’s ministry will be held at Lynnhurst on Sunday, August 15, at 10:00 am. Guests can join in person or via the livestream on Lynnhurst’s Facebook page.
Shyrl Eileen (Harrison) Daniel, mother of Rev. Cherie Daniel, passed away on Tuesday, August 3. Shyrl was a lover of the outdoors and enjoyed sewing and other handicrafts. The Minnesota Conference holds Cherie and the rest of her family in prayer.
Resources & Clergy Clusters

  • 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.