Volume 16, No. 14 | April 8, 2020

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
by Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
Some days it feels like everything is crashing in all around us.

The last seven days alone are, for me, a case in point. It began with a tremendous crash in my house while I was in the middle of a video conference. The rack system in a large closet chose that moment to spontaneously rip from the wall, spilling everything hanging and sitting on it out into one colossal mess.
A few days later, I got the unhappy message that our Conference website had crashed, temporarily shutting down one of our most critical hubs for resource-sharing during this pandemic.

But all of that pales to the frightening news I got last night….My beloved, wonderfully sassy, 100-year-old grandma is not well in a nursing home in Iowa, and of course our family isn’t permitted to be by her side. So we check in together constantly and we lift our intense prayers and we anxiously wait for test results and whatever will come to pass.


My experience is by no means unique. We’re all experiencing our share of "crashes" during this pandemic. We are each struggling with a hundred new challenges, nagging fears, annoying ambiguities, and unanswerable questions every single day. Our need to gather with family, friends, and our church communities to draw strength from one another is frustrated by the greater public need to physically distance ourselves. And our emotions see-saw endlessly from one extreme to the other, sometimes within a single hour!

Perhaps our own present sufferings allow us to enter into this Holy Week differently than we have in the past. 
Faster, Brighter, Better! Introducing Our New Website
We may not have picked this time to redesign our website — in the midst of intensive communications due to the COVID-19 outbreak — but we are a resourceful and resilient bunch at the Minnesota Conference UCC! Our aging site took a turn for the worse last week and we apologize for being down for a day. But the silver lining is that we have built a much faster, more flexible and dependable website to serve the congregations in our state.

Given the speed at which we had to move, some pages are not yet fully built out so please know that we will be making many updates and adjustments in the days to come. Check out our new site here.
Conference News & Information
Conference Welcomes Rev. Sheresa Simpson-Rice

We are delighted to welcome Sheresa who began work as our Interim Associate Conference Minister this week (virtually!). In her role she will provide care and nurture for our churches in the northern half of the state. She also will manage all search and calls and work with our Committee on Ministry.

Sheresa received her Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary, where she is also now completing her Doctor of Ministry. She has served small and rural congregations in the Heartland Conference (Ohio) and in the Penn Central Conference, and has also worked as a mental health professional providing therapeutic services in institutional, clinical and residential settings. Sheresa can be reached at  sheresar@uccmn.org  or 717-318-6865.
Resources Available to Support Your Work During COVID-19

Every day the Conference is updating its website to with new materials, videos, webinars, and insights to help congregations, clergy and lay leaders navigate the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Check back frequently to see new items.
5 for 5 Statements to Churches Postponed

Churches normally receive their first quarter 5 for 5 Statements in the mail the first part of April, but these are not normal times. Instead, churches will receive a second quarter statement the first part of July. If your church needs to have a summary of giving to OCWM, One Great Hour of Sharing, Neighbors in Need, Strengthen the Church, or The Christmas Fund before July, please contact Bob Olsen at  development@uccmn.org . Thank you for your understanding.
Conference Staff Available to Bring Greetings to Your Virtual Worship

During the first weeks of this pandemic, Conference staff have been blessed to drop into many of our congregations’ worship services on Facebook Live, You Tube, and other online platforms. In the coming weeks, the Conference Minister and Associate Conference Ministers would welcome specific invitations from pastors and congregations to bring brief greetings and messages of encouragement. Depending on your method of virtual worship, staff can provide a written message for the pastor to read, join you in your Zoom worship to bring greetings directly, or send a video greeting. To make an invitation for someone to attend your worship service in this way, reach out directly to Shari Prestemon,   Anita Bradshaw , Kevin Brown or Sheresa Simpson-Rice. We look forward to worshipping with you!
Joys & Concerns
Rev. Jess Chancey, a chaplain serving at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, is awaiting results of a COVID-19 test.  Her doctor thinks that she has the virus but her strong heart and lungs will help her recover. Jess would welcome prayers to lift her spirits as she awaits test results that have already been long in coming and may be longer still. The Minnesota Conference prays for healing for Jess and all those with the virus, for protection for those who are caring for the sick, for hope for all who worry and comfort for all who mourn.

Rev. Norma Burton was hospitalized last week with an infection and passed away in hospice on April 7 . Norma was the pastor of Faith UCC and, since 1990, served as Community Minister at Linden Hills Congregational UCC, both Minneapolis congregations. The Minnesota Conference holds Norma’s loved ones—especially her sons Marc and David--and the congregation at Linden Hills Congregational in our hearts and offers prayers to at a time when dying and loss are especially lonely.
Notices & Invitations
Tell us what you're doing during these challenging times. Please share how your church is coping and reinventing worship and ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.
Upcoming Events

POSTPONED: Adult Meditation Retreat, Spring Conference Youth Event, Courage to Lead, Magnify! Annual Meeting

Full information about upcoming camps, retreats, and other faith formation opportunities for all ages is available on the Conference's website.
Clergy Clusters
The Southeast Clergy Cluster will meet on Thursday, April 9, 9:30 am via Zoom.   Contact Rev. Paul Bauch at Peace Church in Rochester for details.
Check out the  employment opportunities  portion of our website for all open positions. And be sure to like us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on news, events, jobs and more.

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.