Volume 17, No. 2 | January 13, 2021

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Creation Justice Series Launches this Week
The Conferences launches a new Creation Justices series beginning Thursday, January 14. Organized by the Outdoor Ministry, the series includes four Zoom events on different environmental topics.

Together we will consider our sacred connections to the lands, waters, and air and how to respond to the global environmental crisis. All events are free and open to all.

The Green Awakening: Churches and Environmental Justice Today
January 14, 7:00-8:30 pm

In the 1730s and 40s, Christian revivalism caught hold as the First Great Awakening swept through the colonies and ultimately formed part of our UCC heritage. The next Great Awakening will be a Green Awakening, and the UCC can play a significant role in leading it. In this Zoom Gathering, the Rev. Brooks Berndt will outline how caring for God’s creation is central to our DNA as Christians, how the UCC has led the way in the past with the launch of the environmental justice movement to address environmental racism, and how there are a plethora of resources available to assist congregations in fulfilling their calling as caretakers of creation and champions of justice. LEARN MORE ABOUT JANUARY 14
A Prayer for a Drowning Nation
From Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon, based loosely on Psalm 69

God of magnificent power and tender care, we need you in this hour.

The waters of division and violence have come up to our necks. We are drowning in waves of lies and unrest. Our feet sink in the mire of evils our nation has not yet conquered. We are weary with worry and waiting.

O God, grant to us the clear-eyed courage to face the hard truths that haunt this nation. Focus our gaze on the white supremacy that chokes us, the fear and anger that hold us in their grip. Help us see our own failings, and not just those of others. Hear our confessions, and strengthen our reckoning.

You are both staunch defender of justice and boundless vessel of mercy. Grant us the resolve of prophets in seeking what is righteous and good. But also teach us grace and fill our hearts with uncommon love. Pour balm on our tattered spirits. Weave us together. Instill wisdom and hope sufficient to this moment. Make of us your Church, witnesses to your vision for a better country and future.

We praise you, Mighty God, even now in this chaos and confusion. For you are ever with us, your steadfast love endures forever. You will deliver us from this trouble of our own creation. You will rebuild our broken cities and repair our strained relationships. You journey with us on this rocky, stumbling path.

We offer our thanksgiving, and we call upon your help and presence. Save us from the waters that overwhelm us. Save us from ourselves. Amen.
Conference News & Information
Health and Human Service Sunday is January 31

On this day, the United Church of Christ honors all those who serve, and are served, in our care agencies. Many churches celebrate this day with a blessing of hands, a special liturgy, or a moment to honor these people and the important work they do. “Health and Human Service Sunday lifts up the vital role that front-line workers in particular play — in CHHSM member ministries and beyond — as they respond to the crises of our day,” says the Rev. George Graham, CHHSM vice president. “While this is true every year, it is especially poignant this year. As front-line workers become vulnerable themselves in responding to others who are vulnerable, we recognize and honor the healing, support, and care they provide.”

A special liturgy designed by the Rev. Elyse Berry of the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) is available for local churches to celebrate this important day. Read more and find resources on the CHHSM WEBSITE.
New Year’s Resolution #1: Get Organized!

Important Documents – Does Your Church Know Where They’re Kept? (Part I)
By Jonathan Guest and David Cleaver-Bartholomew

For many churches, these are challenging and stressful times. Church members are concerned about worship, programs, and caring for one another as well as their “neighbor.” Busy with pastoral responsibilities and keeping the faith community together, church leaders may not have the time or energy to maintain essential church records and documents. Without regular review, important “institutional memory” may also be lost as volunteers rotate through key positions.

Neglecting this important part of church management may present problems, especially if important action must be taken quickly. So, what belongs in that “cabinet” containing important documents? 

Racial Justice and Equity Grants Available for Greater Minnesota
The Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative (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.

Summary of Board of Minnesota Conference UCC Meeting Available

The board of the Minnesota Conference UCC commits to sharing a summary of its conversations and actions following meetings. The board met on January 9, 2021, via Zoom. The meeting included a report on pandemic grants for congregations, update on the Pilgrim Point sale, and plans for reparations. READ THE SUMMARY
2020 Fourth Quarter Church Statements
By now, your church should have received your fourth quarter Quarterly Statement of funds received by the Minnesota Conference. Please review your Statement for accuracy, and let us know if you have any questions. In that same mailing you also receive your church’s 2021 Goals for Mission and Ministry form, and a copy of the Remittance form that should accompany all contributions sent to the Conference office. Your attention to these important documents is much appreciated. Thank you for supporting the ministries of the Minnesota Conference!
Joys and Concerns
Rev. Kathryn Nelson has retired from Peace UCC in Duluth after three decades of amazing ministry. The congregation celebrated her ministry with them in a farewell event on January 9 and in worship on January 10. View these events on www.peaceucc.org 
  • 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 5pm-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.