Volume 16, No. 30 | July 29, 2020

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Samantha Fuentes Headlines August 6 "Justice Talk to Justice Walk"
Youth, young adults, and adult supporters are invited to join a discussion on Thursday, August 6, from 7:00–8:30 pm with guest speaker Samantha Fuentes (pictured above at left) , a survivor of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and leader in March for Our Lives.

Samantha will share her story of resilience and healing that fuels her commitment “to uplift the voices of the silenced, and remind us that ALL our experiences matter regardless of color, religion, gender, age, or sexual orientation."

The webinar, the third in the Minnesota Conference's "Justice Walk to Justice Talk" series, will be co-moderated by Cecilia Alexander (pictured at right) and Rev. Kevin Brown. Cecilia is serving as a Youth Engagement & Social Media Interns with the Conference this summer to help build broader engagement of youth and young adults.
Join The Damascus Project Network – For Free!
In this time of continued physical distancing, it is more important than ever to find new ways to connect. That’s why we invite you to join The Damascus Project Network.

The Network is the platform for our online courses, but it is more than that: it’s also a gathering place for learners across Minnesota and Wisconsin to connect, engage, and grow. More than 100 people have already created their free accounts. Join us?
 
To help get you oriented, we’ve created brief videos about The Damascus Project and our Network. Check them out:
 
Get Acquainted With Us

Sign Up

Learn More

Ready to go?  Join The Damascus Project Network  here  (select the “free” membership plan), and register for courses on our  2020/21 Offerings  page. There are learning opportunities for lay leaders, spiritual seekers, pastors and staff, and members-in-discernment. Our first classes begin in mid-August.
Conference News & Info
POC/BIPOC Clergy Group Forming

The lack of support for clergy of color in the Conference was a topic of discussion in the newly formed Amos Task Force. As a response to that need, a clergy group is forming to link clergy of color with one another and to identify ways of support. Rev. Okogyeamon, Pastor of First Congregational UCC in Montevideo, has agreed to convene and facilitate the group. If you identify as a POC/BIPOC authorized minister in the Minnesota Conference, please contact Okogyeamon to be added to the list for the group. A meeting will be organized in the near future.
No Justice No Peace Rally – Part 2
Tuesday, July 30, 2:30 PM (CDT)

This second town hall forum for youth and young adults from congregations of the Minnesota Conference UCC will feature the stories and experiences of white youth and young adult allies responding to "Why I fight for racial justice." REGISTER
Family Toolkit Week 4: Giving & Receiving Extravagant Welcome

Check out week 4 of our Family Connections Toolkit. This wonderful resource supports parents with at-home resources and a wonderful array of games, activities, and practices during this time of COVID-19, when so many summer plans have been disrupted.
 
The toolkit is available on the Conference's website in weekly installments through August 5. To receive a weekly reminder, email Sandy Kellen .
Former UCC General Minister and President Rev. John H. Thomas to Preach "at" Union UCC

One of the benefits of online worship is that churches can easily make it possible for interesting speakers to be "local." That is the case with former UCC General Minister and President Rev. John H. Thomas who will preach "at" Union UCC in St. Louis Park on Sunday, August 2, and Sunday, September 6. Union's services are recorded and can be accessed at Unionslp.com.
AIR Forms Due This Week!

2020 Authorized Minister Information Review   (AIR) forms are due by July 31 in the Minnesota Conference office or emailed to  Janet Anderson . If you haven’t submitted what was mailed to you in March, you can  get a copy here. All licensed, commissioned and ordained ministers are required to submit AIR forms annually.  To understand more about ministerial standing requirements, including AIR forms, power and boundary training, continuing education, exempt standing, and more,  read this crib sheet.
Financial Assistance for Congregations from Conference and National Setting

The United Church of Christ National Setting is offering financial assistance to local churches whose ministries have been challenged by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Applications are now being accepted. See the process described here .

Applications are being accepted from Minnesota Conference UCC congregations for the Pandemic Relief Loan Program. Access the application and further details here . The application deadline for this loan program has been extended to December 31, 2020.

Congregations may also apply for  emergency grants  to cover operating expenses, technology needs, or community ministries; grants to cover the cost of  website development ; or  counseling assistance grants  for authorized ministers.
Joys & Concerns
Rev. Chester Olsen , a retired pastor and member of First Congregational Church, Princeton, died recently. The Conference extends its sympathies to his family.

Our sympathy to Conference Minister Shari Prestemon as she mourns the death and celebrates the life of her beloved grandmother, Marcie Opfer, who passed away July 25 at the age of 101. A graveside service was held July 28 and a full obituary is available  HERE . Our condolences to Shari and her entire family.
 
Ray Croaston , a member of our Minnesota Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Ann were in a serious motorcycle accident this past weekend. Prayers of healing for both Ray and Ann as they face a long road to recovery for their many injuries.
Clergy Clusters
T he Southwest Clergy Cluster will meet   Thursday, July 30, at 11:30 at at First Congregational   in Mankato, on the patio, masked and at a distance. (Head to Fellowship Hall if it rains.)  
Tell Us Your News!
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.

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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.