Volume 16, No. 5 | February 5, 2020
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Be Encouraged
Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

Everywhere I go these days I hear the ring of despair. Clergy speak of their loneliness and isolation amid the hard work of ministry. Local church leaders worry about their congregation’s future. Disagreements become major conflicts. People are physically and spiritually exhausted by the challenges we face as Church and by our nation’s bitter divisions and troublesome rhetoric.
In the United Church of Christ, we are people of action. We see injustice and we organize for change. We notice someone’s need and we reach out to meet it. We identify a problem and we rush to fix it. “Doing” is part of our denominational DNA. I love that about the UCC! But even the most passionate activist gets tired, the hardest-working pastor can hit a wall, and the most vital church occasionally falls exhausted.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul offers some advice to that earliest Christian community that found itself overwhelmed and disheartened in its own time by challenging circumstances and daunting ministry: “ Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, as indeed you are doing.” (5:11)
Parkland School Shooting Survivor Samantha Fuentes to Bring Powerful Story to Annual Meeting
Samantha Fuentes, one of the young people who survived the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, is the keynote speaker at "Magnify," the 58th Annual Meeting of the Minnesota Conference UCC.

With Mary's Magnificat as our text, we'll explore how we together can magnify our resilience, the voice of Jesus, and the power of love. Samantha, like Mary, offers a powerful message about resiliency and speaking truth to power.

This year's Annual Meeting includes many special activities for youth. LEARN MORE
UCC Churches Demonstrate Their Generosity
As the Minnesota Conference closes the books on 2019, we celebrate the amazing generosity shown by Minnesota churches in supporting the UCC “5 for 5” special offerings this past year: Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM), Strengthen the Church, Neighbors in Need, One Great Hour of Sharing, and the Christmas.

  • In 2019, nearly all of our UCC churches participated in at least one of the special offerings;
  • We received 839 gifts in 2019; the average gift amount was $997;
  • Gifts in support of our ministries totaled totaled $836,587!

The deadline for sending in your  2020 Goals for Mission & Ministry  is February 15. Thank you for your prayerful consideration and continued generous support in 2020.
Conference News & Information
Is your church wondering how to put a planned giving program in place? You’re in luck! On Tuesday, March 31 at 7 pm, Rev. Andrew Warner, Generosity Officer with the national UCC office, will present a webinar on how to engage your members in a conversation about making planned gifts to your church. Best of all, the webinar is free but reservations are required. REGISTER
"Without stable shelter, everything else falls apart." — Matthew Desmond, Evicted

Faith leaders across the state are urged to attend the first-ever Faith Leader Housing Summit on Thursday, February 20, at Christ on Capitol Hill from 8:30 am–12:15 pm (lunch provided). Hear from policy experts and elected officials (including Governor Walz), discuss housing and homelessness with colleagues, and develop action steps for the 2020 legislative session. LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
Church data is used to measure the health of our denomination. It is also the profile that pastors access as they consider where they might like to work.  The Data Hub is open to church administrators only through March 4.  INSTRUCTIONS FOR UPLOADING INFO AVAILABLE HERE. Contact Janet Anderson if you experience problems.
The Minnesota Conference wants authorized ministers to know where their contact information is stored and how it is shared. A letter explaining data storage and how to opt out of sharing is being mailed to all clergy with standing this week, along with a 2020 AIR (Authorized Minister Information Review) form. Please read the privacy letter, AIR letter. and AIR form carefully.

There is a short window for opting out of Data Hub information sharing for this year, as well as the opportunity for retired ministers to request information about exempt ministerial standing. Due to the privacy deadline, AIR forms are going out early this year. We look forward to receiving them!
MATT ORENDORFF was installed as pastor of The Federated Church of Morris (affiliated with the UCC and United Methodist Church) on February 2. Congratulations to Matt and to the congregation! Learn more about The Federated Church.
RICK WAGNER retires next week! Join us for a celebration Thursday, February 13, at Robbinsdale Parkway UCC from 3:30–6:30 pm (formal program at 5:00 pm). You're not too late to send a short video remembrance (30-90 seconds). Submit to Jeff Palmer by Thursday, February 6.
Welcome to our New Communications Team
The Conference has retained Parenteau Graves , a Twin Cities-based planning and communications firm, to provide communications support for the weekly COMMAntary, our website and social media. They will also increase our storytelling to better share our work and impact throughout the state.

  • 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.

Joys & Concerns
  • Rev. Anita Bradshaw’s father suffered a massive stroke and passed away in Virginia on January 23. The Minnesota Conference grieves with Anita and is keeping her and her family in prayer. We hope that each of them experiences moments of grace and peace and the comfort of those who understand their loss.

  • Rev. Sandy Graham, member of the Wisconsin Conference and one of the guiding forces behind the Damascus Project, had heart bypass surgery on February 4. The Minnesota Conference keeps Sandy and her spouse, Patricia, in prayer. If you wish to uplift Sandy’s spirits, write to her at 4511 S. Lawler Ave., Cudahy, WI, 53110 or revdrgraham@gmail.com.
Upcoming Events

  • MN Alive: A Progressive Christian RevivalSaturday, February 29, 6–9 pm, Plymouth Creek, sponsored by Mayflower UCC, Robbinsdale Parkway UCC, Macalester Plymouth UCC/PCUSA, First UCC Mankato, Peace UCC Rochester, and UCC Duluth
Interested in having an engaged, vibrant congregation? Bonnie Buckley, a member in discernment, invites all clergy to an informational meeting February 18 from 1-2 pm in the sanctuary of Linden Hills United Church of Christ, 4200 Upton Ave. S, Minneapolis (enter on corner of 42nd St. and Upton Ave S.). You can also join the meeting via Zoom online .

The Damascus Project is committed to creating safe, accessible learning environments where questions are encouraged, wisdom is drawn from real-life contexts and experiences, and people of faith are empowered to develop their spiritual gifts for ministries both traditional and new. In order to do that, we need an accurate picture of who you are, what you need to know, and how you best learn.  Please take a few moments to  fill out a survey  about you and your faith community's needs and preferences around leadership development and continuing education. 
Clergy Clusters
  • North Central Clergy Cluster Thursday, February 6, 11:30 am; new location—The Local 218, Brainerd
  • Twin Cities Interim Ministers Network Thursday, February 13, 9:30 am, Mayflower UCC, Minneapolis
  • Southeast Clergy Cluster Thursday, February 13, 9:30 am, Peace Church, Rochester
  • Northern Clergy Cluster Tuesday, February 18, 11:00 am, Peace UCC, Duluth

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.