Volume 16, No. 15 | April 15, 2020

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Making It Work: Resiliency and Creativity on Display
"We have been sorely challenged … Yet in every way that matters most, we have been more unified in purpose, more held together by our faith than I have ever seen before …

You have been willing to try new things in order to be together in new ways … You, Church, are the embodiment of our Easter faith. You are persevering hope in the midst of deep despair. You are balm of comfort and compassion in this time of great sorrow." —Rev. Shari Prestemon
Rev. Prestemon spoke those words in her video to the people of the Minnesota Conference UCC on Easter morning. View the full video on Facebook.

Every day, we're seeing the amazing resiliency and creativity of our churches throughout the state. We asked how and what you're doing in these challenging and uncertain times and will be sharing your stories and ideas. Here are a few responses:

Resiliency & Creativity
Robbinsdale Parkway UCC held a car parade in its parking lot before returning home to celebrate Easter via Facebook Live and had this to report: "We are still the church. We just left the building."

Pastor Frank Picard of St. James United Church of Christ in Barnesville shared this: "A clergy friend of mine always said that God takes whatever bad is happening and always brings some good. Our church is small; we worship about 80 on Sundays but our online worship has a growing audience. We have had a consistent 150-160 views. Our Deacon chair has started a Sunday morning coffee group online prior to worship and a parishioner has started a Bible study using Zoom. The efforts our people are taking to maintain and strengthen community are a joy to watch. I speak of wilderness time a lot and I see this as wilderness time. Time in the wilderness always bring unimagined blessings."

When Anoka United Church of Christ gathered for coffee hour via Zoom, their collective response was this: "It was so good to be together. We are grateful to be watching out for each other and having ways to connect safely."

Zion UCC in Le Sueur is carrying on its ministry through a regular radio broadcast shared with St. Paul's UCC in Henderson, according to Rev. Kent Meyer. Zion also hosted a joint Good Friday service on YouTube with First Lutheran Church in Le Sueur. Pastor Deb from St. Paul's is coordinating a mask making group of 35 volunteers who have made more than 500 masks for local medical personnel, and both pastors are helping with the local food shelf, which distributed six tons of food in recent weeks.

Deepening Our Connections & Strengthening Our Congregations
The Conference continues to host clergy and chaplain calls weekly to provide support and guidance. We are also updating our Resources section of the website daily, so be sure to check regularly. Just yesterday we posted a helpful webinar on stewardship , co-hosted with the Wisconsin Conference.
"Replace Anxiety With Prayer" — Rev. Tom Liddle
Tom, an authorized minister in the MN Conference, just returned from East Timor after serving there with his family — Dr. Monica Liddle, Hannah, and Simon — for the last four years as mission co-workers with Global Ministries.

"If there’s one thing I learned during seven years as a pastor among the Timorese people, it’s that prayer is a simple, effective way to cope with anxiety. They take their cue from St. Paul. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul admonishes: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6)

In any and all circumstances, the Timorese replace anxiety with prayer. That is because Timorese are people of faith. But it’s also because they have lived as vulnerable people for generations. They have been subject to colonialism, military occupation, war and conflict, realities the average person cannot control or manage. But, he or she can pray.

One thing the coronavirus is teaching us is that we have far less control than we thought we did. Despite our scientific and technical prowess and in spite of our economic power, our capacity to cope, control and manage is stunningly limited. This is a new feeling for many Americans and one that makes people very anxious. Thus we can learn from the Timorese: replace anxiety with prayer."

Conference News & Information
A Conversation with Rev. Sheresa Simpson-Rice

The Rev. Sheresa Simpson-Rice joined the Minnesota Conference April 6 as the Interim Associate Conference Minister. She is providing care and nurture for our churches in the northern half of the state and managing search and calls. She is working virtually for the time being from her home in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

We talked with her about starting a job in a pandemic, her observations from the first week, her background and more.

So, what’s it like to start a new job virtually, in the middle of a pandemic? Strange! I’m getting to know people quickly but I really am missing being able to be in churches. Clergy and lay people have been emailing notes of welcome and I am immensely grateful for their hospitality in the midst of quarantine, with lots of problems that demand their attention. I’ll look forward to that time when I can meet people in person. But I was impressed by how clergy and churches are adapting.

What did you do your first week?
I joined two clergy clusters, which was really interesting. I did some MESA and database training. But perhaps the thing that stuck with me most was the weekly call with chaplains. They are on the front lines of this coronavirus pandemic. It was an emotional and truly spirit-filled space, and I just so appreciated being part of it.

5 for 5 Statements to Churches Postponed

 Churches would normally see their first quarter  5 for 5  statements from the Minnesota Conference at this time in April. However, due to staff continuing to work remotely, the statements are delayed until the end of the second quarter (early July). If your church needs to check on your Per Capita Annual Dues, OCWM, One Great Hour of Sharing, Strengthen the Church, Neighbors in Need, and/or The Christmas Fund, please contact Bob Olsen, Development Officer, at  development@uccmn.org . Thank you for your flexibility. 
Registration Open for Online Annual Meeting on June 13 – Delegates, Please Register Now!

Given the current state of uncertainty about when gathering in large groups may again be advisable, the Board of Directors has decided to cancel our in-person Annual Meeting at the College of St. Benedict June 12-13. A short, virtual meeting for voting delegates only will instead be held on June 13 from 10 am to noon via Zoom to attend to essential business of the Conference.

Registration for this meeting is now open at THIS LINK. There is no fee for the meeting. If you are a clergy delegate or a lay delegate appointed by your congregation, please register for this Zoom meeting at your earliest convenience, but before Memorial Day as registration for this meeting will close on Monday, May 25, 2020. Once you register, you will receive email information about attending the meeting online.
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 BradshawKevin Brown or  Sheresa Simpson-Rice. We look forward to worshipping with you!
Joys & Concerns
Circles of Faith UCC in Waubun will celebrate its 25th anniversary this week. A celebratory gathering has been postponed.

The Minnesota Conference lifts up the congregation and Pastor Anna Larson in joy and with gratitude for faithful community, needed more now than ever.
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.

Check out the  employment opportunities  portion of our website for all open positions.
Clergy Clusters
The Northern Clergy Cluster will meet via Zoom on Tuesday, April 21, at noon.  This change in time allows for those who are interested to join the Minnesota Conference clergy call at 11:00.  Contact Rev. Kathy Nelson at Peace Church for details.
Upcoming Events

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

Updates about upcoming camps, retreats, and other faith formation opportunities for all ages will be available on the Conference's website.
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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.