Volume 16, No. 7 | February 19, 2020

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
The Damascus Project Launches New Website & Two New Courses

Are you curious about how to create real and lasting change in a community of faith? Is your church seeking to develop a faithful and loving response to those living with mental illness? Are you l onging for the words to talk about your faith?

If you answered "yes"—or even "maybe"—to any of those questions, The Damascus Project is for you! We are an exciting hub for spiritual learning, offering sacred learning opportunities to help transform and equip spiritual leaders to navigate a changing world and guide a changing church. The Damascus Project is a new initiative of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Conferences of the United Church of Christ.

We are thrilled to share our new website , which now will serve as the central place to share information related to our learning opportunities. We hope you’ll bookmark us and check back frequently!

On our new site, you’ll see our two exciting new courses that address key challenges in the lives of local congregations: "Being a Faith Change Agent: A New Paradigm for Transformational Pastoral Leadership," led by Rev. Dr. Mark Tidsworth, and "The Church's Response to Mental Illness," led by Rev. Abigail Henderson, MSW.
Join a Progressive Christian Revival!
A call to hope and progressive, faith-based action across MN, sponsored by a coalition of United Church of Christ Churches
Saturday, February 29, 6–9 pm

In the tradition of religious revivals, the evening will feature uplifting song, inspirational speakers, a call to action and solace for the spirit. Revitalize your commitment to love-led action in a world hungry for hope.  LEARN MORE
Conference News & Information
We are delighted that Sheresa will begin her service with us April 6! She received her Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary, where she is also now completing her Doctor of Ministry. She has served small and rural congregations in the Heartland Conference (OH) and in the Penn Central Conference, and has also worked as a mental health professional providing therapeutic services in institutional, clinical and residential settings. READ MORE
Rev. Tom and Monica Liddle have served with their children, Hannah and Simon, as mission co-workers in East Timor for the last several years on behalf of the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ. They will conclude their appointment and return to the United States in March. The Liddles will be in Minnesota April 10–30. Please consider inviting them to preach in worship, lead an adult education session, or talk with your youth.  LEARN MORE
Fourth Thursdays
Thursday, February 27, 11:30 am–1:30 pm
Presenter: Jenny Friedman, Doing Good Together
Join faith formation leaders of children and youth from the Minnesota Conference UCC on the 4th Thursday of the month to eat together, share resources and learn fresh ways to engage our ministries. Participants will receive a copy of " Doing Good Together: 101 Easy, Meaningful Service Projects for Families, Schools, and Communities," a book Friedman co-authored with Jolene Roehlkepartain. We'll meet at the Minnesota Church Center in the Assembly Room, or you can join via Zoom on your computer via THIS LINK.
Thanks to all church administrators and pastors who have submitted information to the Data Hub. The system is open for your changes only through March 4.   INSTRUCTIONS FOR UPLOADING INFO AVAILABLE HERE . Contact Janet Anderson if you experience problems.
Do you long for time in nature for renewal and reconnection? Are you called to action on our global climate crisis? Does wilderness spur your spiritual growth? These are just a few topics we need to hear from you about with our BRIEF OUTDOOR MINISTRY SURVEY. Your voice can help us shape a bold, relevant, and sustainable vision for outdoor ministry in the Minnesota Conference UCC.
A power and boundary training session will be held on Thursday, June 11, prior to the Annual Meeting in St. Joseph at the College of St. Benedict. Registration information will be available next month in COMMAntary. A planned April session has been cancelled; we hope to see those authorized ministers needing training this year in June. An additional fall date will be announced later this year. 
Friday, May 1–Sunday, May 3, Camp Onomia, Kathio State Park
Save $50 with early registration before April 1!
Earth Day turns 50 on April 22. To mark this occasion, youth in grades 6–12 will gather to explore our deep interconnectedness with the Earth. We'll use each of our five senses to develop a greater awareness and love of creation and we'll hear and learn from the stories of those working on the front lines of conservation, sustainable living, climate change, and other environmental justice efforts. Camp Onomia is on the banks of Shakopee Lake, with plentiful wildlife from a nesting pair of loons and eagles to the frequent appearance of the ground squirrel during worship at the Fire Circle!

Members of the Minnesota Conference UCC gathered February 13 to celebrate the service of Associate Conference Minister Rick Wagner and to wish him well in retirement.

Pictured: Rick and his wife Mary joining those gathered in the closing song, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.”
Joys & Concerns
  • An ecclesiastical council will be held for Matthew Orendorff Tuesday, February 25, at 3:00 pm at St. Anthony Park UCC in St. Paul. Delegates from churches and clergy of the Minnesota Conference are encouraged to attend. To ensure a quorum, please RSVP to Janet at the Conference office and include your church of membership in your reply. To learn more about Matt, read an introduction and his ordination paper

  • An ecclesiastical council will be held for Vanessa Bradby Monday, March 3, at 10:00 am at Olivet UCC in St. Paul. Delegates from churches and clergy of the Minnesota Conference are encouraged to attend. To ensure a quorum, please RSVP to Janet at the Conference office and include your church of membership in your reply. To learn more about Vanessa, read an introduction and her ordination paper.

  • Rev. Wendy Vander Hart has been called to serve First UCC in Northfield as its Interim Lead Minister. For the past 12 years, Wendy has served as Associate Conference Minister in the Massachusetts (now Southern New England) Conference. The Minnesota Conference is grateful for Wendy’s presence and offers prayers for a time of fruitful discernment and joyful development at First UCC.

  • The Minnesota Conference celebrates with First Congregational UCC in Alexandria, which has called Rev. Jill Sanders as its next pastor. Jill was ordained in the United Methodist Church where she has served as a pastor, chaplain, and Field Outreach Minister for the Iowa Annual Conference of the UMC. Jill starts March 1.

  • Rev. Barbara Toomey Yara, who served UCC churches in Illinois and Iowa, is in hospice care at Bayview Nursing and Rehab Center in Red Wing. Barb served as a chaplain at the Minnesota Correctional Facility and has been a part of Minnesota Conference retired clergy gatherings. The conference offers prayers of comfort and peace to Barb and her family.
Notices & Special Invitations
Associate Conference Contact Info: Until the arrival of our Interim Associate Conference Minister on April 6, churches in the northern part of the Conference should feel free to contact Conference Minister Shari Prestemon or Associate Conference Ministers Anita Bradshaw and Kevin Brown for assistance. Congregations with search and call questions may contact either Anita Bradshaw or Shari Prestemon. The Conference office telephone number is 612-871-0359.

Practice Self-Care on Wellbeing Wednesday, Feb 26: Seminarians, clergy, chaplains, social workers, community activists and nonprofit change-makers are invited to this drop-in event at United Theological Seminary focused on self-care. Yoga, healing touch, aromatherapy, dance workshops, arts expressions and more are offered 100% free of charge but please REGISTER so organizers know how many practitioners to have on site.

COMMAntary: If you have submissions, story ideas, or a local church event to be posted, please send the information to communications@uccmn.org. COMMAntary is published on Wednesdays; submissions are due the Monday prior to publication at noon.
Upcoming Events

Full information about upcoming camps, retreats, and other faith formation opportunities for all ages is available on the Conference's website.

Clergy Clusters
  • Twin Cities Clergy Cluster Wednesday, March 4, noon, Robbinsdale Parkway UCC

  • Southwest Clergy Cluster Thursday, February 20, 11:30 am, First Congregational in Mankato
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.