Volume 16, No. 18 | May 6, 2020

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Board of Directors Announces Pandemic Relief Loan Program for Churches
The Conference Board of Directors voted on Saturday, May 2, to establish a pandemic relief loan fund for Conference congregations. The loans are designed to provide critical financing for congregations suffering a short-term financial crisis during this pandemic.

This effort represents an outstanding collaboration between the Conference, the national setting of the United Church of Christ, and the UCC’s Cornerstone Fund. The Conference and national setting are both providing funding to seed the loan fund; the Cornerstone Fund will administrate the loan application and approval process. Conference members will also have an opportunity to generously contribute to the loan fund as they are able. 

“I am inspired by all the partners who have come together to make this initiative possible,” Conference Minister Shari Prestemon says. “It’s a beautiful image of covenant hard at work—multiple settings of the United Church of Christ all focused on helping our churches through this unimaginable time. It makes me so grateful to be part of a Conference willing to go the extra mile when churches need us most, and to be part of a denomination ready to walk that mile with us. This is the Church at its best!”

More details about the loan program are available HERE . Opportunities to give to the loan fund will be announced soon. The application process will begin in the coming 7–10 days. 

Grant Program Underway
The Conference also rolled out a grant program last week. 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. Eight grants have already been awarded; requests are still being received.

“We are truly thankful for the help, financially and for the care shown to our rural congregation,” said one pastor of a recipient church. “Blessings as you reach out to our Conference’s many congregations.” 

A lay leader of another recipient congregation wrote: “This is wonderful news! It seems so appropriate that the liturgy this past Sunday was the 23rd Psalm. I feel as if we have been walking in the shadow and now, with the conference’s help, we are beginning to walk into the light. On behalf of a grateful congregation, thank you.”

If you would like to learn more about either of these programs, or wish to contribute to either of these efforts, contact Conference Minister Shari Prestemon or Development Officer Bob Olsen .
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the McMahills' Ordination
Fifty years ago, Rev. David McMahill and Rev. Jane Adkisson McMahill embarked upon remarkable careers in ministry. Over the years, they have served in many positions—together and separately—in numerous United Church of Christ churches and settings.

They met at a YMCA Camp in Nebraska, attended Chicago Theological Seminary together, and served as co-pastors in three churches for 25 years before taking separate positions in churches and with the Minnesota Conference. When they were ordained in 1970, Jane was just one of 200 ordained women in the United Church of Christ.

Their calls to ministry and journey are fascinating. The Minnesota Conference had planned to honor the at this year's Annual Meeting, but in the absence of that in-person celebration, we share their story here and extend our heartfelt thanks for their many faithful years of service. READ THEIR FULL STORY
Conference News & Information
Looking for a Guest Preacher for Online Worship?
Need a guest preacher for your online worship? Rev. Abby Henderson, Director of Leadership Development for the MN Conference, and Rev. Sheresa Simpson-Rice, Interim Associate Conference Minister, are creating recorded sermons expressly for this purpose! Check them out on the COVID-19 resource page .
New  5 for 5 Video  for Church Leaders
A new video from the national setting explains well how the 5 for 5 offerings (OCWM, Strengthen the Church, One Great Hour of Sharing, Neighbors in Need, and the Christmas Fund) expand the work of UCC churches joined in covenantal ministries. It is especially helpful for pastors, church councils, and other financial lay leaders. View it  HERE .
Greetings from the Creation Justice Team
Your team meets monthly by ZOOM in order to reduce our carbon footprint. We monitor legislative affairs and the activities of other non-profits involved in creation justice matters. We realize that everyone is "doing church" differently during this pandemic, but we want you to be aware of a few things.

Many churches are looking for study group ideas. We draw your attention to the new book just released by the UCC: Cathedral On Fire  by Reverend Dr. Brooks Berndt, Minister for Environmental Justice of the UCC. It is a seven-session congregational study guide that includes suggested actions a congregation can take to work for creation justice. It has been called "the ultimate guide to informing and inspiring church members to act." Also, the Team is always looking for interested members. If you have an interest in creation justice and would like to get involved, send an e-mail to the Team chair, Reverend Jeanne Bringgold-Pro .
 Courage & Renewal Retreats for Clergy, Staff & Lay Leaders

On May 5, thirteen clergy and lay leaders from around the Conference and beyond gathered via Zoom for our first online Courage & Renewal retreat. Participants enjoyed a gracious and spacious time for intentional reflection, connection, and celebration. Our retreat facilitators,  Winton Boyd ,  (UCC pastor,  Center for Courage & Renewal ) and  Sara Thomsen  (Duluth area singer/songwriter), created a rich opportunity for participants to pause from daily routines to notice and name our experiences of gratitude, rest, and love amid this challenging and demanding season. There is still time to register for one of the upcoming online retreats:

Exploring Gratitude in These Days
May 21, 10:00–11:30 am CDT
Rooted in Sara Thomsen's song,  Rhapsody of Rest, based on Psalm 92 (A psalm, a song for the Sabbath day). This 90-minute session, utilizing the  Circle of Trust process, will include individual and group reflection, silence and music. Advance registration required and is limited to the first 20 people for each retreat, but there is no cost.  REGISTER

Returning to the Source of our Call in These Days
June 4 from 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. 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  via email .
MN Conference UCC Youth Camp is Going ONLINE!

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are moving this summer’s Youth Camp online! Join us for a time each morning and afternoon, June 29 – July 1, to re-connect and support each other as a community.

This year’s youth camp is about RESILIENCE : What is resilience? What does it look like? What if you feel un-resilient? ( Hint: That’s normal! )

The Theater of Public Policy is collaborating with Conference staff and volunteers to help create virtual spaces using the Zoom platform to ask important questions, explore skills around resilience, support authentic emotional expression & just connect.
Each day of camp will include:
  • Live music
  • Games and creative activities with the Theater of Public Policy
  • Small group projects
  • Spaces for processing and sharing in small groups
  • Virtual camp fires
All youth currently enrolled in grades 6-12 are invited to participate in this event. Register HERE, and c ontact Rev. Sheri Nelson , Outdoor Ministry Program Director, with questions about the online youth camp experience. We hope to see you on Zoom!
United Church of Christ Mental Health Network Offers Support for Clergy

Are you living with a mental health challenge/diagnosis? Do you need a confidential space outside of your setting or clergy circle? Are you yearning for a place to share your strengths and your struggles with symptoms? Two peer support groups are available:

Online Peer Support Group for Clergy Living with Mental Health Challenges
Free and confidential; Thursdays, 2:00–3:00 pm CDT via Zoom
Contact for Zoom link: Rev. Amy Petre Hill, UCC Mental Health Network Board Member, Mental Health & Inclusion Minister, Mountain View United Church, CO
revamy@mhiministries.org  510-967-4890

Online Peer Support Group for Clergy Living with Mental Health Challenges
Free and confidential; Tuesdays, 3:30 pm CDT via Zoom
Contact for Zoom Link: Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe, UCC Mental Health Network Vice-Chair 
Former Psychiatric Chaplain, author of  The Lifesaving Church (2018) by Chalice Press
Senior Minister, Living Table UCC, Minneapolis
Faith Formation Leaders Gathering | Thursday, May 14, 12:00-1:00 pm

If you have questions or concerns about how to replace VBS/Day Camp or what to do instead of camp or a mission trip, this is the conversation for you! Join clergy and other faith formation leaders from UCC, UMC and Presbyterian congregations around Minnesota for this discussion, jointly presented with The Ministry Lab. Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister of Faith Formation for Children & Youth, will facilitate this supplemental  Co-Lab Webinar "Do You Know What You're Doing This Summer...??" For more information, contact Rev. Kevin Brown or Rev. Emily Meyer, Ministry Lab Director. Join via Zoom with this  LINK.  If you prefer to join via telephone, call 1-312-626-6799 and use meeting code 997 774 390.
Registration Open for Online Annual Meeting on June 13 – Delegates, Please Register Now!

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. There is no fee for the meeting. If you are a clergy delegate or a lay delegate appointed by your congregation, please register for this Zoom meeting at your earliest convenience, but before Memorial Day as registration for this meeting will close on Monday, May 25, 2020. Once you register, you will receive email information about attending the meeting online.
Joys & Concerns
Vanessa Bradby will be ordained via a Zoom meeting on Sunday, May 17 at 2:00 pm. Ordained clergy in the Minnesota Conference are encouraged to participate and wear red stoles. In order to join the meeting, attendees must  RSVP to Janet  in the Conference office.
Notices & Invitations
The Ministry Lab is announcing its "Spring Sprout" line-up of Co-Lab webinars. See Upcoming Events for the schedule of leaders and topics and Webinars for an outline of each session and further details on presenters. Register to obtain the free zoom link by contacting The Ministry Lab Director Rev. Emily Meyer .

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
POSTPONED: Adult Meditation Retreat, Spring Conference Youth Event, Courage to Lead, Magnify! Annual Meeting. Updates about upcoming camps, retreats, and other faith formation opportunities will be continually updated on the Conference's website.
Clergy Clusters
The North Central Clergy Cluster will meet May 7  at 12:30 pm via Zoom.  Contact Rev. Leslie Moughty for details.

The Southeast Clergy Cluster will meet on Thursday, May 7th from 9:00-11:00 a.m. via Zoom.  Contact Rev. Paul Bauch at Peace Church in Rochester or  janeta@ucc.org  for details.
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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.