Volume 17, No. 3 | January 20, 2021

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
A Prayer for Inauguration Day
From Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon

O God of endings & beginnings, grant to our nation this day your bountiful blessing. We claim no special favor as a country, for that is neither our right nor your way. But in this moment so ripe with change and possibility, we have need of your power and purpose.

As our new President and Vice President are inaugurated this day, we pray upon them your deep wisdom and daily guidance. Grant them the courage to confront the daunting demands of this moment. Lend them your fierce passion for what is right and true and just. Commission them to be healers among us, unafraid to touch our collective wounds and stitch us back together. Grant joy enough to make the most difficult days bearable. Summon from them their best gifts in humble service to a greater good. And protect them, O God, from every danger.

O God of Love and Justice, call upon each of us as well. Make us partners with our leaders and with you in creating Beloved Community. Move us to lock arms in common purpose. Spark within us a renewed hope & a deepened commitment to service. Soften our skepticism and bridge our divides. Compel us to seek earnestly together that “more perfect union” our founders dreamed of, for all your precious children.

Through your ancient prophets you called nations and peoples to faithfulness and mercy, justice and peace. Demand no less of us now, Enduring Presence, but send us forward to seek the future you would have us build. Hear our confessions of the sin our nation carries; free us from the selfishness and greed and hate and violence that consumes us. Refuse our useless cries that “we are better than this” and strengthen our resolve to actually be better now.

You are our Help in ages past, our Hope for years to come. We trust in your abiding presence, and invite your transformation and renewal for our nation and each one who calls it home. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Written by Reverend Shari Prestemon on the eve of the January 20, 2021, Inauguration of Joseph Biden & Kamala Harris as President and Vice President of the United States.

Living Table UCC Joins Forces with Two Congregations to Build Sustainability
Several years ago, Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe, pastor at Living Table United Church of Christ in south Minneapolis, began conversations with the pastor at nearby Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church. Both congregations were grappling with how to become more sustainable for the long-term.

“Like many churches, we aren’t in debt, but we also don’t have big reserves and we have an aging building,” says Keefe. “We wanted to see if we could ease the financial burden to refocus our energy on our ministries.”

The ministers invited others into the conversation, including Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community. Now, after nearly four years of discernment, the trio has developed an exciting plan for the three congregations to renovate and share space at Lake Nokomis Lutheran’s site at 5011 31st Avenue South.

Lake Nokomis and Spirit of St. Stephen’s will share a renovated sanctuary, with a separate, smaller sanctuary developed for Living Table. The congregations plan to stagger worship hours but leave time for overlap so people from the different houses of worship can be in the building at the same time. “It’s one of the things we’re most looking forward to,” says Keefe. “We’re really excited about developing a stronger sense of community from a shared building. We want the building to be used as much as it possibly can.” If all goes well, renovation will be completed by end of 2021. A separate legal entity has been formed to manage the building.
Conference News & Information
This Lent, Join a 40-Day Anti-Racism Practice

The Damascus Project is excited to bring pastors and church groups a Lenten opportunity that we hope speaks to this critical moment. This course satisfies the new anti-racism training requirement for UCC authorized ministers in Minnesota to maintain ministerial standing.

Watch this brief video to learn more.
This anti-racism programming is offered at a significant discount for all participants, and especially for groups for four or more:
  • $50 for individuals
  • $150 for groups 4-6
  • $300 for groups 7+

If your church is interested but cost is a barrier, please contact The Damascus Project at 507-222-0194 or info@the-damascus-project.org.

Webinar Offered on COVID-19 Considerations for Church Employers

This webcast offered by the Insurance Board will address issues churches face as employers during COVID-19, and provide best practice policies and procedures for managing employees and volunteers. Many states may require that employers have specific COVID-19 policies and procedures in place to protect their employees; learn about best practice considerations for your church.Your copy should address three key questions: Who am I writing for? (Audience) Why should they care? (Benefit) What do I want them to do here? (Call-to-Action). LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
Anti-Racism/Diversity Training Requirement for Authorized Ministers

The Committee on Ministry has adopted a new requirement for all Authorized Ministers for participating in anti-racism/diversity training every two years. Authorized Ministers with exempt standing are not required to meet this requirement. The full policy is described here. If you have any questions, please contact Anita Bradshaw.
Welcome to Catherine Cejda!

The Minnesota Conference is pleased to welcome Catherine Cejda as the new Administrative Assistant to the Associate Conference Ministers/Registrar. Catherine began work on January 11. She is taking over from Janet Anderson, who ably served the conference for the past two years. Catherine can be reached at catherinec@uccmn.org.
Complete Your Church’s Goals for Mission and Ministry Soon

All United Church of Christ congregations are asked to share their financial covenant with the Minnesota Conference by completing the Our Church’s Goals for Mission and Ministry form at the beginning of each year, shortly after their annual congregational meeting. Churches pledge their Per Capita Annual Dues and their OCWM (Our Church’s Wider Mission) commitments with this form, and are encouraged to participate in the quarterly Special Offerings of the UCC. The form was included with your Fourth Quarter Statement mailing, and is also available online. The Local Church Remittance form is available here. Questions? Contact Bob Olsen at development@uccmn.org. Thank you!
Our Faith, Our Values, and Issues Facing Our Communities

Mark your calendar for a webinar on Monday, February 8, at 7:00–8:30 pm, presented by the Amos Task Force and moderated by Conference Minister Shari Prestemon. We will explore issues facing our communities and how pastors and lay leaders have drawn on their faith and values to respond. More details and registration in next week's COMMAntary. 
Joys and Concerns
Rev. James E. Slocum died after a brief time in hospice for pancreatic cancer on January 7. He was the pastor of First Congregational Church of Waseca from 1967-1975 and Pastor of St. Paul’s UCC in Plato from 1975-1988. One of his surviving children is Rev. Carolyn Fure-Slocum, a UCC pastor who currently serves as the Chaplain at Carleton College.

Rev. Coqui Conkey’s father, Bill, passed away after a long period of illness. Rev. Conkey is pastor of the Associated Church in Owatonna and serves as both a member of the Committee on Ministry and as Liaison to the Committee on Ministry from the Board of Directors.
  • Matthew Wagner, Vice President of Institutional Relationships at the national setting of the UCC, has prepared a helpful article that describes practices and strategies for churches and ministries to create a Gift Acceptance Policy – an essential but often overlooked section of endowment governance.

  • The UCC’s Lakeland College in Wisconsin has a great scholarship opportunity available for students interested in religion as a major or minor, who also have a commitment to learning about and participating in diversity and social justice activities on and off campus. More details here

  • The Conference website offers a calendar of events, both Conference-sponsored and those sponsored by local churches. Access the calendar.

  • 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.
Clergy Clusters
The BIPOC Clergy Cluster meets monthly on the second Thursday of the month from 5:00–6:30 pm on Zoom. To receive a link to the meeting, email Rev. Nikki Frontz.
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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.