Volume 18, No. 13 | March 30, 2022

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Our Amazing Churches in Action
Every week, the Conference hears stories about important work our churches are doing in our communities and the wider world. This week, we spotlight two wonderful examples. What is your church doing that we should know about and share with the wider Conference? Send us a note!

New Spirit UCC in Savage raises funds for UCC Ukraine fund
One of the Sunday School teachers at New Spirit suggested that the children create sunflower artwork that would be the focus of a church-wide art show. The children stepped up to create and the congregation stepped up to purchase — with all proceeds donated to the UCC's Ukraine fund! "It was a great way for kids to raise $700 for the fund," said Rev. Vanessa Bradby, Bridge Pastor at New Spirit. "And the people at church were really excited about the project." Our hats off to this congregation for their creativity and commitment to the people of Ukraine.

Saint Anthony Park UCC reduces its environmental footprint
In fall 2019, Saint Paul Park UCC (SAPUCC) kicked off work with Minnesota Waste Wise to reduce its environmental footprint. The church started collecting food scraps that a staff member then took to a local organics drop-off site. Leaders then applied for and received a Biz Recycling Grant, which allowed SAPUCC to start commercial organics recycling services and purchase bins for coordinated collection of organics, trash, and mixed recycling throughout the building. Dollies were purchased for the janitor to efficiently collect various types of waste throughout the building. Additionally, MN Waste Wise provided training sessions to teach the congregation best practices for recycling. The result? The combination of diverting 1,300 pounds of organic waste from the trash and switching haulers has saved SAPUCC $2,040 per year! And most important, as church member Dian Klinefelter said, “We are one big step further in ‘greening’ our church and being good stewards of our planet.”
Conference News & Events
UCC Appeal Provides Safe Spaces for Ukraine Women and Children

Most refugees from the war in Ukraine are women with children whose husbands and fathers were required to stay behind to fight. They arrive in Poland, Hungary, and other neighboring countries exhausted and craving a safe place to rest. Tragically, it’s at this moment that they are at high risk of falling into the hands of people who want to exploit, not help them.  

The vast majority of refugees fleeing across the Ukrainian border into Poland are women and children. Contributions to the United Church of Christ’s Ukraine Emergency Appeal are helping fund registration points at border crossings, where refugees can be referred for protection and psychosocial care and receive financial aid.

"Too Muchness" is Focus of Week Five Lenten Family Toolkit

Has there ever been a time when you felt there was too much going on in your life or the world? What helps you when life is overwhelming and is too much for you? And what does God do when the world feels like too-much to handle?
Check out this week's Lenten family toolkit, with Rev. Claire Klein and Nathan Holst from Peace United in Duluth offer conversation and reflection on "too muchness." The toolkits provide a rich and diverse collection of at-home games, activities, book and film recommendations, spiritual practices, and service ideas for individuals and families of all ages.

The Damascus Project Offers "Conflict Transformation: When Agreement isn’t Enough"

April 28-May 26
Live Zoom Sessions: Friday, May 13, 6:00–8:00 pm; Saturday, May 14, 10:00 am–12:00 pm and 1:00–3:00 pm

To live in “interesting times” is a burden and a blessing, and both can mean conflict as change takes a toll on God’s people. The Damascus Project is partnering with Rev. Elena Larssen to offer a four-week workshop titled “Conflict Transformation: When Agreement isn’t Enough.” This course will cover popular concepts of conflict transformation, both interpersonal and community based. Emphasis will be placed on self-knowledge, prayerful practices, and the role of a lay leader in church conflict.

The workshop is unit 4 in our 2022 Leadership Skills series and features a combination of self-guided work online and six hours of communal learning using Zoom.

  • Cost: $154
  • REGISTER (in "Length of Study” drop-down menu, select “Unit 4.”)
  • Want to share this information with your congregation? Click HERE for a newsletter-bulletin insert.
  • Questions? Email info@the-damascus-project.org, or call 507-222-0194.
Watch & Discuss "The Story of Plastic"

Virtual viewing: April 18–30 (at your convenience)
Virtual discussion: Sunday, May 1, 3:00 pm CT

Learn what throwaway plastic is doing to our health, animals, environment and planet — and what you can do locally to reduce throwaway plastic. Guest panelist speakers are Macy Gustavus (researcher at Utah University, pursuing an MS in Watershed Sciences with work focusing on the transport of microplastics) and Gay Trachsel (social activist in Duluth, instrumental in securing the success of the Duluth ordinance to put a fee on plastic bags, co-chair of the Natural Resources Committee for the Duluth League of Women Voters, and a member of Duluth for Clean Water’s Political Action Team). REGISTER for the discussion (you will receive a link to view the movie).
Taking Heart Ramadan Iftars

Ramadan is the month of the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims refrain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, and is performed to learn compassion, self-restraint, and generosity.

In 2022, Ramadan falls between the dates of April 2- May 2. Taking Heart guests are invited to arrive at a participating mosque or Islamic center about one hour before sunset. They will hear a presentation about Islam/Ramadan and the reason for fasting, participate in the breaking of the fast, have the opportunity to observe prayer, and then join at table for wonderful food and conversation. Evaluations following last year’s Taking Heart state clearly that personal conversations are the most meaningful part of the program for participants. REGISTER for a Taking Heart Ramadan Iftar near you.This program is a partnership between the Minnesota Council of Churches (of which the Minnesota Conference UCC is a member) and the Muslim American Society of Minnesota.
Faithful Groan: Lamenting the Pandemic as Part of Worship

May 4-6, 2022 
ARC Retreat CommunityStanchfield 
Cost: $225 actual (25% and 50% discount if needed)

Breathe out the grief and pains of life during a pandemic and breathe in a renewed sense of presence in our body, mind, heart, and soul at this special Outdoor Ministry retreat. Listen to psalmist and musician Richard Bruxvoort Colligan's video invitation (above).

Through worship and music, conversation, embodied practice, and solitude, participants will be encouraged to tend to their aching souls and sighing spirits and to rest and “just be.” There will be warm hospitality, plenty of good food, time for walking in the white pine forest, and lovely spaces for meditation and rest. 
This retreat is open to all adults, especially clergy and lay leaders. Space is limited, so register earlyREAD MORE ABOUT THE RETREAT & OUR FACILITATOR.
Chapel Hills UCC Accepting Applications for Enduring Fund Grants

United Church of Christ in Edina is now accepting applications for 2022 Enduring Fund Grants, which provide supplement financial support to organizations, individuals and projects. While there is no specific requirement on what the grant can be used for, special consideration is given to applications that focus on specific projects versus contributions to general operating budgets. All electronically submitted applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. April 30, 2022.

Where to find the grant application:
Rest and Renewal!

Mark your calendars for Annual Meeting June 10–11, where we will gather for Rest and Renewal. This will be a hybrid meeting, but we hope you will join us in person at College of St. Benedict.

For the last two years, the work of the Conference has continued despite the tremendous impact of the pandemic. This year, with hope, we will gather together in-person (with an online option) to not do the work of the Conference and to rejoice in one another’s presence. Each and every church is encouraged to attend and send voting delegates. Financial aid is available to those congregations that require it.

The Minnesota Conference UCC has received two resolutions to be discussed and voted on at our Annual Meeting in June. 
Pastoral Relations Committees with the Rev. Tara Barber and the Rev. Stephen Boyd

Pastoral Relations Committees provide essential leadership in the life of a congregation. Come to this workshop to explore what the purpose of a PPR Committee is and is not. We’ll be talking through and naming the priorities and commitments of a well-functioning PRC. Revs. Tara and Stephen will share best practices from around the church and be prepared to answer your questions. Open to pastors, lay leaders and judicatory staff. REGISTER
Eco-theology Leader Dr. Catherine Keller to Speak at United Theological Seminary

April 4, 7:30 pm CT

Dr. Catherine Keller will deliver the keynote speech for the Picard Lecture on Environmental Theology and Ethics on April 4, available on campus or online, free of chargeA well-known and sought-after thought leader in eco-theology, the George T. Cobb Professor in Constructive Theology from Drew University will deliver a message on "Apocalypse After All? Climate, Politics and Faith in the Possible." Keller's lecture comes on the heels of United's announcement about a new masters of art concentration in Eco-Justice. LEARN MORE & REGISTER
Upcoming Conference Events
More Resources & Opportunities

  • 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.

  • The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to Covid, racial justice, and more.
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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.