Volume 16, No. 13 | April 1, 2020

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Conference Board Approves New Strategic Plan
What is God calling the Minnesota Conference to do over the next three years?

That is the question the board of directors and staff leaders pondered in crafting the Conference’s new strategic plan, approved by the board in early March. The plan articulates the Conference's calling and five strategic priorities.
While the plan was developed in a time before the Covid-19 pandemic, it has provided strong guidance in the past few weeks, says Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon. "The whole world has changed since the board adopted this plan just one month ago, but the commitments we made then remain incredibly relevant for us now in this crisis, perhaps even more so. To me this is beautiful evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in great and mysterious ways."

Rev. Jane McBride, moderator of the Minnesota Conference board of directors, notes, " The words 'courageous,' 'alive' and 'transforming' in our new statement of calling depict a church that is actively engaged with the world. It articulates the hope so many of us have, that the church is not primarily dedicated to its own survival, but to the abundant sharing of Christ's love. Watching our staff and local church leaders respond to this pandemic, I have truly seen the church come alive in this way."

The following is a brief summary of the plan; the full plan is available on the Conference's website.

Our Calling
God calls the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ to equip a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love.

Our Strategic Priorities
  • Deepening Connections: The Minnesota Conference responds to God’s covenantal call by facilitating relationships within and beyond the Church. Resisting isolation, we serve as connective tissue for deep listening, healing justice and spiritual transformation.

  • Developing Leaders: We equip disciples in all ages, stages and settings of the Minnesota Conference to lead an emerging Church with passion and excellence. We cultivate the leadership skills needed for a changing landscape of Church and culture.

  • Doing Justice and Mercy: We join God’s mission to transform the world, extending a prophetic call for mercy, justice and humility in the name of Christ. We exercise leadership as a Conference, using our collective voice and resources to further the work of justice

  • Communicating Our Story: We use diverse communication tools to lift our distinctive voice. We share stories of our faith, service and extravagant welcome, celebrating the ministries of our local congregations and covenantal partners.

  • Stewarding Resources: We are a responsible steward of God’s gifts. We exercise prudent financial practices and leverage our resources to accomplish our collective mission in the world.
Stewardship During Covid-19
Join the Conversation Tuesday, April 7, from 7-8:30 pm

God continues to work through each of us as our churches minister to people anxious about the novel coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, many church leaders, pastors, and stewardship committees feel stressed about church finances. In the recent Barna survey of Protestant congregations, nearly eight in 10 churches (79%) said financial giving is down, with nearly half (47%) reporting it is down “significantly.” Still, almost all of the pastors surveyed (95%) felt confident their churches will survive and said they haven’t made any changes to their staffing (71%). In other words, your church is not alone!

That’s why the Minnesota and Wisconsin Conference development staff,  in collaboration with The Damascus Project,  are inviting all those interested to join in a Zoom meeting to talk about YOUR stewardship needs, questions, and suggestions.

Please join us Tuesday, April 7, from 7–8:30 pm via Zoom on your computer or by phone (312-626-6799; meeting ID is 349 859 915). Questions? Contact Bob Olsen, 651-757-0647.
Conference News & Information
New Resources to Support Your Work

Financial Support Related to Federal Stimulus Package
Loans to nonprofits, including many churches, are now available through the federal stimulus package. Churches are urged to review this information and submit an application early, as demand is expected to be high and funds will be exhausted quickly .

Other Resources
  • The Cornerstone Fund: "The New World of Church Stewardship: From Offering Plates to Online Giving," a discussion about the (quickly) changing face of church stewardship and overall giving during the COVID-19 pandemic. View the video

  • Minnesota Conference UCC Facebook page: we post important updates and news on a regular basis (make sure to "like" the page)

  • Minnesota Conference website: More resources compiled to help you navigate the pandemic
Power and Boundary Training Going Online
In light of the cancellation of the in-person Annual Meeting, the Conference will move to an online model for power and boundary training, using the course “Maintaining Boundaries in a Digital Age .” The course is $49 and available on your own time schedule. However, to help with connections with other Minnesota Conference Authorized Ministers and to explore questions and applications to your ministry, we are holding a series of Zoom calls as a follow-up to the course. You only need to attend one of the one-hour calls after you have completed the course.

  1. Register for the course through the Lewis Center.*
  2. Complete the course.
  3. Send a copy (digital is fine) of your certificate of completion for the course to Janet Anderson.
  4. Janet will send you an invite to a Zoom meeting.
  5. Attend and participate in the Zoom meeting.
  6. You will be credited with completion of your power and boundaries training requirement for three more years.

*If you experienced a problem entering the Lewis Center Online Learning portal last week, that problem should now be corrected. If you continue to see a message asking whether you trust the site, you may click "Trust" or contact Janet Anderson .
The Importance of Email, Facebook and Church Websites
Physical distancing during the pandemic creates all sorts of challenges to ministry. How do you sing hymns together? How do you pass the peace? How do you administer communion? What does prayer look like? In other words, what is your church’s new mode of community and worship?

"Doing church" remotely necessitates using technology. Here are the three most important technology tools your church should have.

  • A good email address. Sure, using the phone works, but email is the easiest way to share information with a larger group of people. An email address also gives people searching for a church home an easy way to communicate with your church. Make sure your church and/or your minister have an email account that is checked at least daily.
  • A Facebook page. Facebook is more than a social media platform. Facebook is where you can share information about your church like address, phone number, worship times, and links to making donations online. Facebook can also be the place where church folk share photos and videos that keep everyone connected. You can also make video calls using Facebook. And best of all, Facebook is free.
  • A website. There are many user-friendly and low-cost website platforms to choose from, including Squarespace and Weebly, to name a couple.

Think of it this way: you aren’t going to have visitors walking in your doors in the near future, so you need to offer them a new front door!
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 , or Kevin Brown . We look forward to worshipping with you!
Joys & Concerns
Rev. Wendy Vander Hart began work as the Interim Senior Pastor at First United Church of Christ in Northfield this week. The Minnesota Conference offers prayers of thanksgiving for Wendy and petitions for strength, creativity, health, and love for the First UCC community.

We continue to hold in prayer our Minnesota Conference UCC chaplains, pastors, congregations, and lay leaders. We pray for our government leaders and organizational leaders in every sector who are faced with unimaginable choices. We pray for those on the front lines of this crisis and for their families who worry about their safety and health. We pray for those who have been laid off or face other economic hardship due to this pandemic. We pray for parents and families experiencing additional stress due to school and day care closures. We pray for those who are alone, for those most at risk of contracting the Coronavirus, and for all who are suffering and fearful in these uncertain days. God in your mercy, hear our prayers.
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.

If your church needs assistance: Until the arrival of our Interim Associate Conference Minister on April 6, churches in the northern part of the Conference should contact Conference Minister Shari Prestemon or Associate Conference Ministers Anita Bradshaw and Kevin Brown . Congregations with search and call questions may contact either Anita Bradshaw or Shari Prestemon at 612-871-0359.
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 Twin Cities Clergy Cluster has cancelled April and May meetings to promote public health. Meetings are expected to resume after a summer hiatus. Meanwhile, clergy are encouraged to participate in Zoom calls sponsored by the Minnesota Conference.
  • The North Central Clergy Cluster will meet April 2 at 12:30 pm via Zoom. Contact Rev. Leslie Moughty for details.
There are many opportunities within the Minnesota Conference. 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.