Volume 17, No. 30 | August 4, 2021

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Profiles in Courage: COMMAnts from the Conference Minister
Last week our nation was privileged to witness five inspiring profiles in courage.

On Tuesday, four police officers testified in front of the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at our nation’s Capital. Capitol Police officers Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell and Washington, D.C. police officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges offered harrowing details about their experiences that tragic day in January. Their pain, their trauma, and their dedication to service and country was on full display throughout their testimony. So was their courage: their courage during those long, horrific hours on January 6, and their courage in coming forward to testify despite the wrenching difficulty of doing so. As Sgt. Gonell said, “For most people, January 6 happened for a few hours. But for those of us who were in the thick of it, it has not ended.”

Thousands of miles from the halls of Congress, Simone Biles, who has won a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals for her gymnastic awesomeness, announced last week that she would not compete in several Olympic events in Tokyo. Pointing to a case of “the twisties” – when gymnasts lose a sense of where they are in the air while performing routines – she stepped back from competition despite tremendous pressure and was met with a fair amount of ridicule because of it. “It wasn’t easy pulling out of all those competitions,” Biles said. “But my mental and physical health is above all medals that I could ever win.” Biles later returned to competition and won the Bronze medal for her balance beam routine.

Watching those five individuals last week reminded me that courage takes many forms. It’s not always the big, daring, physical acts that are the stuff of courage. Sometimes courage is the willingness to be vulnerable, to speak our truths for the sake of something larger or more profound. It’s doing the hard thing because we know it’s the right thing. Courage can also be our willingness to be silent and hear another’s story in all its rawness, absorbing the lessons it has to teach us.

Churches are called to courage, too. The Conference’s calling statement puts courage front and center: “God calls the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ to equip a courageous church alive with Christ’s transforming love.” 

What does being a ‘courageous church’ look like where you are? First Congregational UCC in Anoka offered one example recently. Despite vandalism to their church and some hostility from community members, the congregation persisted in their public support and welcome of LGBTQi neighbors. Sometimes being a courageous church means standing with those who others would disparage and dismiss, rooted in a Gospel mandate to love our neighbors and draw the circle of welcome wide.

But being a courageous church is not just about how and where we stand for justice. Showing courage in our churches is also about the difficult questions we dare to ask ourselves, the congregational conflict we address with honesty and care, or steps we choose to take to create a bold future for our ministry. And especially important these days? Being a courageous church means refusing to allow the toxicity and divisions that surround us in today’s polarized society to seep into our church community. It is choosing day in and day out to be counter-cultural, providing an alternative witness to the world of communities characterized by extravagant love, mutual respect, and enduring grace.

How is your congregation responding to the call to be a courageous church? I’d love to hear your examples of courage in action, whether quiet, simple acts of courage or bold, public stances. Send me a note at sharip@uccmn.org. I know I’ll be inspired!

Be of good courage,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
Conference News & Events
Amazing Fall Outdoor Ministry Events Await You!

Outdoor Ministry is back in full swing with overnight retreats! Spaces are limited so be sure to register early!

Hemp and Food Health Day: September 11
  • Cotter Farm, Austin | 9:30 am–2:30 pm
  • Cost: $15/person + $5 to ride the bus from Falcon Heights UCC church parking lot.
  • REGISTER by September 3
  • Read more

Women’s Wilderness Retreat: September 24–26
  • Camp Amnicon
  • $200/ person
  • Age requirement 21+. This has a maximum of 14 participants so act quickly.
  • Registration for this adventure is directly with Camp Amnicon by September 10. Click on Adventures and scroll down to “Join a Group.” You will be prompted to create an account and fill out all necessary fields. The Group ID Code is UCCGLAMPING21. Payment for this trip is being collected by the Minnesota Conference so you must also click HERE to pay. Please be sure to complete both steps of the registration.
  • Read more
Men’s Retreat – Overwhelmed by Life: An Invitation to Reconnect and Remember
September 24–26 (start time 4:00 pm, end time 11 am)
  • Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center, Sandstone
  • $200 (actual cost of event), $150 subsidized price, $100 subsidized with added scholarship, or contact Rev. Sheri Nelson for more scholarship funding (there is an extra $25/ night for single rooms, limited to the first four requests)
  • Age requirement 21+. REGISTER
  • Read more

Women’s Retreat: October 15–17 (start time 4:00 pm, end time 11 am)
  • Camp Onomia, Onamia
  • Cost: $200 (actual cost of event), $150 subsidized price, $100 subsidized with added scholarship, or contact Rev. Sheri Nelson for more scholarship funding. There is an extra $25/night for a single room, limited to the first four requests.
  • Participation maximum is 30, so REGISTER early.
  • Read more

Conference Youth Event: October 8-10 (start time 5 pm, end time 11 am; no dinner served first night)
  • Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center, Sandstone
  • Cost: $100/youth, $75/adult leader (Some scholarship money is available upon request. Contact Rev. Sheri Nelson for more information).
  • REGISTER by September 24.
  • Open to all youth grades 6-12 and adult leaders
Allies Building Connections Diversity Library Opens August 8

A new "Allies Building Connections Diversity Library" celebrates its grand opening August 8 from 2-5 pm at Peace UCC in St. Cloud. Run by volunteers, the library seeks to provide all children with access to books in which they can see themselves and their experiences reflected, especially Black, Indigenous, people of color, and people with physical and mental challenges who are underrepresented in children's literature. DOWNLOAD a flyer with more details or VISIT the group's website.
The Minnesota Conference UCC encourages all members who are able to do so to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a sign of our care of ourselves and our neighbors.

Join UCC Friends on a Trip to the Border

You are invited to join Mayflower UCC on a trip to the Arizona border October 27–31. Our agenda includes meeting with Kate Scott, co-founder and director of Madrean Archipelago, to learn about how the border wall has affected people, wild life, water, and many other aspects of life. We will meet with a ranger at the border to see the militarization of his ranch and spend time in a new shelter in Nogales Sonora, Mexico, with which Rev Randy Mayer is very involved. We will also travel to Douglas, AZ, to learn of the amazing work of Fronterdecristo and make a trip to the area of the border that affects the O’odham tribal communities and learn how their land and community have been affected by the militarization of their land. We also hope to have a lawyer from the ACLU address the group.

If you are interested in participating in this trip, please contact Diane Haines at diane.m.haines@comcast.net for more information. The trip will be limited to 20 people.
“Rooted in Love” Stewardship Theme Materials Available

New stewardship materials available from UCC Resources help congregations tell their story while making a request for financial support. Much of the content came from pastors and leaders from rural and urban churches across the country!

The materials include everything needed to run an effective campaign such as bulletin inserts, pledge cards, and graphics. A practical campaign guide provides support for leaders running their first campaign and offers suggestions for those looking to customize stewardship messages to their own setting. Options for purchase include both printed and download formats; prices start at $39.95. SEE OPTIONS HERE.
The Ministry Lab Summer Worship Series

The Ministry Lab is delighted to offer a 2021 Summer Worship Series featuring three excellent preachers and a beautiful team of current United Theological Seminary students giving voice to the diversity of identities and contexts of our supporting congregations. We have just completed our third segment, Believe Jesus – Reflecting on Thomas’ Need to See & Touch.
  • Preacher: Rev. Jia Starr Brown, First Covenant Church, Minneapolis (non-denominational)
  • Spoken Word Artist: Joe Davis & The Poetic Diaspora musical collective (ELCA)
  • Musicians: piano, Sam Reeves, First Covenant, Minneapolis, MN; vocalist, Robert Robinson, First Covenant, Minneapolis, MN
  • United Seminarians: Chance Martinez-Colon and Mike Mataczynski

Joys & Concerns
Congratulations to Rev. Hannah Campbell-Gustafson and her husband Rev. Craig Simenson on the birth of Ruth Henry Louise Campbell-Simenson on July 24. Ruth joins big sister Leona and is welcomed by grandparents Rev. Sarah Campbell (Mayflower UCC) and Gus Gustafson.
We celebrate the Ordination of Claire Klein on August 29 at 2:00 pm. Claire is being ordained into a four-way covenant between Lyndale UCC, AccentCare Hospice, and the Minnesota Conference. The ordination service will be at the Waburn C picnic shelter in Minnehaha Falls Park, as well as streamed via Zoom. Masks will be required. Congratulations to Claire on this momentous occasion in her ministry.
Resources & Clergy Clusters

  • 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.