Volume 17, No. 1 | January 6, 2021

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
In the Middle of this Mess
Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

“Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him…” (Matthew 2:1-3)

Today is Epiphany, when we recall the journey of the Magi to see the Christ Child in Bethlehem, led by that rising star to witness history in the making. We imagine them arriving with great pomp and circumstance, kneeling with reverence before a simple manger that cradled an unexpected kind of king, offering gifts of great price and honor.

Yet in reality the picture was far more complicated than this. From the beginning, the Magi’s search for the Christ Child was fraught with complicated politics, sinister manipulations, and dangerous possibilities. News of the child born in Bethlehem as prophets had foretold was striking fear in the heart of King Herod, who was desperate to hold on to power at any cost. Others in Jerusalem were apparently also shaken by the news, perhaps imagining their own status, their own understandings of the world, might now be at risk too. 

So Herod sent the Magi out to find this troublesome arrival who threatened his power and purpose, intending to make these wise sages unwilling accomplices in his evil schemes. Yet the scriptures tell us that when they found the baby lying in a manger they were filled with joy. And rather than inform Herod of what they’d seen and learned, they went home another way, subverting his intentions.
A Prayer from Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon

Rev. Prestemon calls the entire Conference to prayer for our nation as danger escalates in Washington, D.C.

Listen to her words in the video at left.
Outdoor Ministry Creation Justice Series Launches January 14
The Outdoor Ministry Creation Justice series launches January 4, the first of four events held on Zoom.Together we will consider our sacred connections to the lands, waters, and air, and how we might respond to the global environmental crisis. The events are free and open to all.

The Green Awakening: Churches and Environmental Justice Today with Rev. Brooks Berndt
January 14, 7:00-8:30 pm | REGISTER

Conference News & Info
New Courses & Last Chance for Sermon Camp

Last chance to sign up for Sermon Camp is end-of-day Saturday, January 9
View a recording of the January 5th orientation session to catch up and be prepared to leap right into week 1! REGISTRATION & MORE DETAILS

New learning opportunities for 2021
$50/participant, discounts for church groups; Authorized Pastors, this course satisfies the new anti-racism training requirement!

$49/participant thanks to generous support from the Ashley Foundation of the Minnesota Conference

$150/participant; for pastor/lay leader teams
Racial Justice and Equity Grants Available for Greater Minnesota
The Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative (FREC) seeks ways to connect with and support organizations in Greater Minnesota working on racial justice and equity in their communities. All counties outside the seven counties of the Twin Cities region (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington) fall within the definition of Greater Minnesota.

In 2021 FREC is offering grants of up to $2,000 to support organizations and community groups in Greater Minnesota working to address racial justice and equity in their community. Local partners would take the lead in planning and implementation. FREC would co-sponsor the event, which would include financial and logistical support. LEARN MORE or APPLY HERE
The Amos Task Force Begins Authorized Ministers Book Study on Racial Healing Beginning Jan 13 and 14

The Amos Task Force is offering a book study in January/early February for authorized ministers to explore The Racial Healing Handbook learn a model and the confidence to lead a Lenten study. There will also Conference-wide discussion of the book.

There will be two discussion sessions offered each week beginning on January 13 and 14 and continuing for four weeks. Authorized Ministers are asked to choose and attend one session each week. Wednesday sessions will meet from 1–2:30 pm. Thursday sessions will meet from 7–8:30 pm. The book read will count in meeting the new Anti-Racism training requirement.

Trauma During the Turning of the Tide: Ministering to Self and Others as We Prepare for In Person Gatherings"
January 28, noon–1:30 pm
Presenter Sally Ankerfelt is committed to upholding conversations on how faith communities can be a source of connection and healing for those who have experienced trauma. She will help us address the question of: How do we continue to minister to our flock's current needs, prepare for in-person ministry — and take care of ourselves in the process?

Join other faith formation leaders from around the Minnesota Conference for a time of conversation, mutual support, and sharing ideas and resources.There is no fee to participate. REGISTER HERE
Did You Participate in the Advent and Fall Family Toolkits?
We value your feedback on how we are doing with our toolkits. Please take just a few minutes to fill out a brief survey so that we can better serve you in the future. TAKE THE SURVEY HERE
Kevin Brown on Sabbatical

Associate Conference Minister Rev. Kevin Brown is enjoying sabbatical January 1–March 31. During this Sabbath time, Rev. Sheri Nelson, Program Director for Outdoor Ministries, will assume key elements of Kevin’s work while continuing to devote energy to outdoor ministry needs. We offer our prayers for Rev. Brown’s time away as he renews, rests, and studies.
Ashley Grant Opportunities for Congregations

Through the Ashley Grant program of the MN Conference, Union Congregational Church in St. Anthony Park created an opportunity for their congregation to participate in the season of Advent and Christmas while keeping the doors to the building closed. Activity bags for the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany season helped the congregation enjoy coloring, reading, decorating and participating in Christmas Eve zoom worship!

LEARN MORE about the Ashley Grants and how your congregational can apply.
Joys and Concerns
Our prayers of healing are with Rev. Coqui Conkey, pastor of The Associated Church in Owatonna, as she faces surgery this Friday following a broken ankle earlier this week. 

Vanessa Bradby lost her father, Mark Simoneau, to Covid on January 1. Please hold her and her family in your prayers.
Clergy Clusters
The Southwest Clergy Cluster will meet next on January 21 at 11:30 am.
  • The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to ministry during the Covid-19 pandemic, post-election, and more.

  • The United Church of Christ National Setting is offering financial assistance to local churches whose ministries have been challenged by the pandemic. See the process.

  • 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.