Volume 16, No. 20 | May 20, 2020

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Rev. Shari Prestemon Shares New Guidance

Over the past few weeks, we have proven that we can facilitate rapid change in the Church when it comes to the health and safety of our members and communities! We have created new, virtual forms of worship, provided ongoing care and support for one another, and continued to conduct business and decision-making — and we have done all of it with grace, patience, and a sense of humor!

Now we are shifting into yet another season of this pandemic, when once again we as churches must make critical decisions about how we will move forward given evolving information and circumstances. As we await further guidelines from the Governor, I have decided to issue my own guidance to our UCC congregations now.

The guidance contained in this document names a set of broader questions to consider, as well as a longer list of items to attend to as you prepare for various phases ahead. It does not, however, provide detailed specific guidance on data-based phasing for resuming in-person worship and other activities. It seems best to await the state’s language and recommendations for phasing rather than risk creating confusion.

 In the meantime , I urge you to resist any temptation to rush back to in-person activities.  Our discernment now is of enormous importance and should be steeped in prayer and informed by careful, deliberate conversation among church leaders.

This pandemic has introduced a time of loss, sorrow, and collective trauma for all of us. Some have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Others have lost employment and find themselves in a serious financial crisis. Most of us miss the routines and freedoms we had before COVID-19. We long to gather with our friends and family in familiar ways, to feel safe again, and yes, to worship in the ways and spaces so precious to us.

Ultimately, each of our congregations will have to make decisions, utilizing all information provided and drawing on your own deep wisdom. This is incredibly challenging. It requires us to engage in a moral calculus of astonishing consequence.

As you discern your congregation’s path forward, be kind to one another, recognizing that people will be in different places on the continuum of emotion — some eager and happy to re-gather, some deeply fearful at even the thought, others simply overwhelmed by all that has transpired. Find ways to hear and honor all these complicated feelings.

Throughout all of this, our love for God and neighbor has been central. Our impulse to seek the welfare of the city and the broader community remains strong. These Biblical principles should continue to guide us now. And we should also remember that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)/

This particular season has taught us so much about ourselves, about our church life, and about our interconnectedness as communities, a nation, and a Conference. May we receive these lessons with grace and allow them to continue shaping our life together in this difficult season and in every season to follow. This is but one small season in God’s grand story and we shall journey our way through it as God’s people always have: faithfully, imperfectly, and with unshakable hope.
Making Worship Work for People with Dementia
When Claire Klein was working as a music therapist in a memory care facility, she noticed that people living with dementia—even those in advanced stages—experienced clarity and special connection during chapel services and daily devotions.

 In seminary, she began to ponder how churches might serve people with dementia who were in earlier stages of the disease and not living in a congregate care setting.

This past spring, after her first ordinational interview, she planned to pilot a dementia-friendly worship service, starting at Hazel Park UCC. The COVID-19 situation interrupted her in-person plans but she has been busy creating online video resources, including hymn sing-a-long videos, guided relaxation exercises, and weekly scripture discussion prompts. The resources are available on Facebook and YouTube .

When this crisis passes, Klein plans to return to her pilot plans. Services will be shorter, with many familiar and traditional hymns. “We’ll offer lots of music because of the connections it makes in the brain,” Klein says. “We plan on an environment of joy and comfort where all responses will be welcomed and celebrated. We’ll read stories about people like Abraham and Sarah who were called to raise a child when they were in their 90s. We’ll ask ‘What are the things you have felt too old to do? What has surprised you in your older years?’ We want to invite everyone to share their gifts."
Conference News & Information
Maintaining Boundaries in a Digital Age

In light of the pandemic, we are particularly pleased to offer an online training that addresses the role of social media in our ministries and how to have healthy boundaries in using social media. Given the current heavy reliance we have on social media in our ministries, this training is particularly appropriate. 

We will use a course from the Lewis Center at Wesley Theological Seminary titled,  “Maintaining Boundaries in a Digital Age . ” The course is $49 and available on your own time schedule. There is no group code when you register for this training. 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 online course. Here is all you need to do:

  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.

Questions? Contact  Anita Bradshaw .
Registration Closes May 25 for Annual Meeting

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 through May 25. Once you register, you will receive email information about attending the meeting online.
Applications Open for Pandemic Relief Loan Program and Grant Program

Applications are now being accepted from Minnesota Conference UCC congregations for the Pandemic Relief Loan Program. Applicants must be able to repay a low-interest loan and have a strong, active participation in the Minnesota Conference. Loan applications will be received and reviewed by staff at the Cornerstone Fund , which will administrate this program. Loan requests may range from $5,000-$20,000. Download a FAQ sheet about the loan program, and access the application and further details here.

The Conference's grant program is also underway. Congregations may 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.

If you would like to learn more about either of these programs, or wish to contribute to either of these efforts, contact Conference Development Officer Bob Olsen at development@uccmn.org .
 Courage & Renewal Retreat for Clergy, Staff & Lay Leaders

Returning to the Source of our Call in These Days
June 4, 9:30 am –12:30 pm CDT
Rooted in Sara Thomsen's song,   Root of the Root  and Romans 10:15 ("How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news?"). This 3-hour session will utilize the   Circle of Trust process   and will be more spacious, providing more extended time (both online and offline) for individual reflection, as well as time in triads and as a large group. Advance registration required and is limited to the first 20 people for each retreat, but there is no cost to participate.  REGISTER

Once you are registered, you will receive an email from the retreat facilitators a few days before the event that will provide you with the Zoom link and further details about the retreat you have signed up for. If you have questions please contact Sandy.
Joys & Concerns
An ecclesiastical council for Jan Murphy will be held via Zoom on May 26 at 2:00 pm. Minnesota Conference clergy and congregational voting delegates are encouraged to participate. To get a link to the event, contact Janet Anderson   with your name, church membership, clergy or lay status, and whether or not you are a voting delegate for your church. To learn more about Jan, you may read an introduction to her here and her ordination paper here.
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.
Upcoming Events
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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.