Volume 20, No. 30 | September 6, 2023

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

Outdoor Ministry Offers "Nature-Drenched, Adventure-Driven Queer Walk"

A walking trip in Spain changed Andrew Boddicker’s life.

“Walking healed me,” he says. “Walking reawakens you and reveals what is important in your life.”

That experience led Boddicker to found Walking Space, an organization that has been leading walking experiences in the “Driftless Area” since 2019. The area encompasses much of western Wisconsin and the corners of southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa, and northwestern Illinois.

On Sept 29-October 1, Boddicker will lead a “Queer Walk” for the Outdoor Ministry of the Minnesota Conference UCC, inviting participants to connect in a nature-drenched, adventure-driven weekend. As Boddicker describes, “In this safe, inclusive environment, our shared queerness acts as a connecting point to deep relationships and transformative experiences. Activities are geared to give agency to people in a space that is not always welcoming to queer folx.”

Boddicker led the first Queer Walk last year. “It was a very exciting event,” he says. “People often see the queer community in terms of the bar scene, so this kind of experience runs contrary to that.”

Associate Conference Minister Kevin Brown said this year’s walk grew out of the desire for the Conference to offer new partnerships and experiences. “With the sale of Pilgrim Point, Outdoor Ministry was no longer tied to just one space,” he says. “We set out to find new ways to intentionally serve people who may not have been included in outdoor experiences before. The UCC often thinks about queerness through a social justice lens, but this walk is about offering a place to just be, to be in community in the wonder of creation. We want to hold this space for queer folx to give their attention to both the natural world around them and to their inner world - to perhaps catch glimpses of what is being revealed.”

The Queer Walk will use the Root River Trail in southeastern Minnesota, a repurposed train track bed that is usually used by bikers. It is entirely paved and mostly flat, making it accessible to most people of varying ability. Participants will walk 4-7 miles each day. The trail is nestled along the Root River and the picturesque bluffs. At each stopping location, participants are housed in either one-of-a-kind hostel on wheels, the Bunk Bus, or private tent. The campground has bathrooms and showers for participants to use.

Boddicker may provide prompts for the group, but he does not dictate. “Nature has a way of dictating for you,” he says. Brown added, “As Parker Palmer says, ‘Everything we do is by invitation and not by demand.’ And we follow the instructions poet Mary Oliver gave us for living a life: ‘Pay attention, be astonished, and tell someone.’”

Ultimately, Boddicker wants the walk to be freeing and revelatory. “Nature is unapologetically itself and that’s what queer folks want – to be unapologetically themselves.”

Learn more and sign up
Conference News & Events

Register for the Women's Wilderness Walk: From the Inside Out

September 22 - September 24

Limited to 10 participants

Held on the Root River Trail in Southeastern Minnesota, with walking practices of pilgrimage, forest therapy, and the labyrinth

$250/person; please select to sleep in the bus or tent when registering. The bus is open to the first 6 registrants.

LEARN MORE & REGISTER by September 15

Calling all Authorized Ministers: Communities of Practice is Live!

Now is the time to sign up to join a Community of Practice this fall in the Minnesota Conference. REGISTER by September 15 to let us know you are interested, what you are hoping for in your Community of Practice, and the best times for you to meet.

The groups are facilitated and ongoing, each participant committing to at least a year of practice together. Three necessary and interacting dimensions of a CoP are: 1) the focus is ministry; 2) the community is essential; 3) knowledge is practice-based. CoPs have been gathering for decades throughout the UCC and are proven to help us grow as ministers, to provide spiritual and emotional support, and to remind us that we are not alone in this work.

OWCM and Annual Dues: The Lifeblood of our Shared Ministries!

As we round the corner to the end of the Conference's fiscal year end September 30, we remind all of our churches that your support of Our Church's Wider Mission (OCWM) and your Per Capita Annual Dues are the life blood of our shared ministries in Minnesota.

OCWM contributions and Per Capita Annual Dues spark courage and hope among our churches, equip a new generation of pastors and church leadership, accompany churches with pastoral searches and calling, and so much more. Your OCWM gifts and Per Capita Annual Dues are appreciated this year more than ever. Thank you!

Learn How You Can Maximize Your Church Property

Join the UCC Church Building & Loan Fund at our two-day virtual conference on September 21-22. Your church property might be a key ingredient to your congregation’s future impact.

Partners in Building is the only Church-led, faith oriented event that provides comprehensive education about real estate redevelopment, from concept to completion. The conference is open to church leaders of any Christian denomination based in the United States. It includes opportunities to connect with loan partners, capital fundraising executives, building professionals and other experts to discuss your goals. There will be presentations and workshops on land use, repurposing resources for mission, faith-based entrepreneurship, fundraising and the future of ministry as well. Learn more

Apply Now for 2024 Grants Supporting UCC Congregations

Applications for the United Church of Christ’s 2024 Justice and Local Church Ministries grants, which support the work and mission of local churches, are now open. LEARN MORE. The deadline for congregations to apply is September 15.

Save the Date for the Fall Clergy Retreat

November 14–16, Christ the King Retreat Center

We are excited to gather again this fall for our Clergy Retreat. This year we are blessed to have Dr. Jean Chagnon leading us through our time of “Reimagining Our Connection to Self and Spirit.” Together we will seek to reconnect spiritually in a time where many feel ungrounded, lost, and overwhelmed. Using ritual, experiential exercise, and meditation we will focus on developing skills and strategies to help us be more centered and aligned even amidst polarization and chaos.

Dr. Jean Chagnon is an integrative healer and ceremonialist working with individuals and groups for more than 30 years. She focuses on helping people expand their ability for compassionate presence; release personal, familial, and cultural entanglements that interrupt the flow of life and love; ground into full embodiment; and reconnect with their passion. She combines her training in psychology, spiritual direction, family systems constellations, shamanic practice, and Peruvian Indigenous Wisdom in the work that she does in service to others.

Stay tuned for registration information.

Stewardship Campaign Materials Now Available

With fall arriving soon, many United Church of Christ congregations are beginning to roll out stewardship campaigns and begin fundraising to sustain ministries in the coming months. This year’s materials, with the theme “Because of You, Our Church Changes Lives,” are available for purchase as a digital download.

The materials include eight complete worship services, hymn suggestions, sermon starters from eight different authors; plus additional faith formation sessions for children, youth and adults.


2023 Neighbors in Need is October 1

In 2023, the Neighbors in Need “BEHOLD!” theme continues. This year’s focus is on environmental justice. Plastics, electronics, and other non-compostable wastes are being shipped across, and even tossed into, our waterways, launched into space, and buried in landfills. As people of faith, we believe these egregious acts are sinful and unholy. We must be better stewards of our planet!


Please join us in promoting this year’s NIN campaign at your church! Many churches will collect the offering on October 1, as part of World Communion Sunday. DOWNLOAD RESOURCES HERE.

Partner News & Events

You're Invited to the Final Service of Solomon's Porch

Solomon's Porch invites you to its final service of Solomon's Porch and the pastoral service of farewell for Pastor Nikki Frontz on September 17 at 4:30 pm. This is a time for our community to come together to worship and give thanks to Pastor Nikki. Learn more

Mark Your Calendars for the 15th Annual Overcoming Racism Conference

Reclaiming History and Paying What's Due is the topic of the Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative's upcoming Overcoming Racism Conference November 10-12.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Yohuru Williiams, Distinguished University Chair and Professor of History and FOunding Director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas.


Joys & Concerns

We grieve the passing of Rev. David Plumb, who died on August 30. May his family and loved ones know God's assurance of eternal life and steadfast presence. Read his obituary.

We lift prayers of loving mercies and comfort for Rev. Chuck Eversman, who has entered hospice care at Episcopal Homes.

We invite your prayers for Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel, her spouse Maggie Shannon George, her sister-in-law Susie George, and her brother-in-law Michael George. All sustained serious injuries in a head-on collision on September 1. May God grant them strength, patience, and courage for the long road of recovery and healing ahead. Learn more at their CaringBridge site.

Upcoming Conference Events
More Resources & Opportunities

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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.