Volume 17, No. 12 | March 24, 2021

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Responding to Gun Violence
—Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon

“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?”

—Habakkuk 1:2

Columbine. Newtown. Virginia Tech. Aurora. Charleston. Las Vegas. Orlando. Pittsburgh. El Paso. San Bernadino. Parkland.

These are the names of just some of the places where mass gun violence has occurred in our nation. The city of Buffalo here in our own state of Minnesota is another, where the perpetrator shot five people at a clinic, killing one, just last month.

And now yet two more: Atlanta & Boulder. Within less than one week, these cities have been added to this horrific litany of cities where mass shootings have occurred. Eighteen precious lives were lost in these two events, 18 families devastated, 18 communities traumatized.

This scope of mass gun violence is a uniquely American experience. And it’s getting worse. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the number of mass shootings in the United States has nearly doubled in the last 3 years. (Mass shootings are defined as an incident where at least 4 people are either wounded or killed in roughly the same time and location.) In 2018, there were 337 mass shootings; in 2020, there were 611. And there have already been 103 mass shootings in 2021. It seems no public space is safe space anymore; our houses of worship, schools, movie theaters, night clubs and concerts, clinics, spas, and stores have all been invaded by these insidious, evil acts.

Every time another mass shooting occurs, a nauseous mix of despair, anger, and frustration churns in my gut. I lift to God the same ancient prayer that has been uttered by prophets of old and generations of the faithful in times of despair: “How long, O God, how long?”

The simple and painful answer, as with so much that ails our society, is that such violence and bitter loss will rage on until we say “no more” and collectively summon the political and communal will to demand and create substantive change. Until that time, I suspect God looks upon us with an aching, grieving heart and wonders also: How long, my children? How long until you turn from violence, stop making guns your idols, and embrace lives of love and justice and peace?

O God, we grieve so much in these days. Our stomachs lurch at the shocking loss of life in Atlanta and in Boulder and in all the places where gun violence traumatizes families and communities. You have taught us another way. You have invited us to a pathway of peace. We confess we have not yet embraced your hope and vision for us. Grant us courage to make change. Make our voices bold and our intentions worthy. And turn us from the violence that destroys us to a love that builds us up. Amen.
Conference News & Events
Johannah Frisby from MN Interfaith Power and Light Joins FourTHursday

Thursday, March 25, noon-1:30 pm

To prepare for Earth Day on April 22, Johannah Frisby from MN Interfaith Power and Light (MNIPL) will join us March 25 from noon–1:30 pm to discuss activities families can do at home and leaders can introduce to their groups in response to environmental issues. Emily Meyer from the Ministry Lab will have other resources to share as well.
So You Want to Build a Hybrid Worship Experience?

The Indiana-Kentucky Conference is offering a two-session series for its Conference members (via Zoom) and the wider church (via YouTube live streaming) that addresses the work of creating a worship service that is simultaneously online and in-person, without sacrificing the feeling of engagement and belonging for either type of worshipper. DOWNLOAD THE FLYER
Celebrate the Ministry of Rev. Dr. Anita Bradshaw on April 6

The Conference invites you to a virtual celebration of the ministry of Associate Conference Minister Rev. Dr. Anita Bradshaw, who is retiring this spring. The celebration to be held Tuesday, April 6, from 5:00–6:30 pm via Zoom. REGISTER HERE. Once you register you will receive a confirmation email that will have a link to the virtual celebration.

If you want to recognize Anita’s ministry with a gift of gratitude, Anita has identified the following organizations as near to her heart: Penumbra Theater, One Voice Mixed Choir, MIGIZI, MN Conference Racial Justice. Cards for Anita may be sent to the MN Conference (122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 323, Minneapolis, MN 55404.
"What Is Permaculture?"

If you missed the March 18 discussion, no worries! Listen to the webinar with Heidi Morlock and Hans Peterson who shared stories of experimenting for 20 years with permaculture principles and sustainable agriculture at both the garden and farm scale.
"Practicing Revolution" in Week 6 of the Lenten Family Toolkit
What can I do from home to stand up against hate and violence? How can I live more gently on this earth?

Check out the resources to help you and your loved ones reflect on these questions with week 6 of our Lenten Toolkit page. If you would like to receive a direct email each week, email Sandy Kellen.
“Kiss the Ground” Documentary Discussion with Rep. Todd Lippert & Land Stewardship Project

April 10 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Outdoor Ministry, MN Conference United Church of Christ, and the Creation Justice Work Group of First Congregational UCC, Mankato are offering an exciting addition to our Creation Justice series: a free viewing of the documentary “Kiss the Ground” between April 1-10, with a panel discussion April 10 from 10-11:30 am, featuring Amanda Kohler from the Land Stewardship Project, Rep. Lippert, and a Minnesota farmer (who have presented the 100% Healthy-Soil Farm Bill to the MN Legislature). LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
March Generosity Reflection
Rev. Dr. Ginny Brown Daniel, Conference Minister, Missouri Mid-South Conference
 
I don’t know about you, but years from now when we are finally all vaccinated and the Covid-19 pandemic is a memory within our collective conscience, there are some aspects that I will gladly forget because of the pain they caused. And there are other aspects that I will give thanks to God for sustaining us through those painful moments. I am so grateful that in the hardest times, generosity nourished us for the barrenness we experienced through the pandemic. Generosity inspired retired healthcare workers to return to hospitals, neighbors to check on vulnerable neighbors, New Yorkers to come together every night at 7 pm and to give loud sounds of thanks to the weary essential workers, and patrons to contribute extra dollars to their favorite service providers during the shutdown. READ MORE
Generosity Seminar Recommended
 
The Cultivating Generous Congregations Seminar for pastors and lay leaders offers an opportunity to explore faithful, practical, and tested ways to promoting generosity in our congregations. The seminar draws on current research, seeks guidance from the wisdom of scripture, and discusses the best practices in church-based fundraising. Class sessions held May 19, May 26, June 2, June 9, June 16, and June 23, 2021 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm EST. Between class sessions, the instructors provide materials to help you analyze the culture of your own congregation and learn how to create change. Cost is $150 per participant. REGISTER
The Ministry Lab Announces Spring/Summer Colab Feedback Loop

The Ministry Lab is excited to announce the launch of our Spring/Summer 2021 Colab Feedback Loop. This cohort is geared toward progressive congregational leaders as we emerge from Covid-19 precautions. It will be a sharing ground for innovative and transformational approaches to community building and congregational life, resourcing for meeting challenges, and mutual support and affirmation.

Our Spring/Summer 2021 Loop will meet on the second Tuesday of each month, April through July (April 13: Summer Plans; May 11: Hybrid Worship; June 8: Outreach and Service; and July 13: Planning for Fall) from 2:00-3:30 PM CST. Click here to register.
Authorized Ministers: Anti-Racism Education Information
 
Authorized ministers can apply for approval of anti-racism education that isn't offered by the Conference or Damascus Project with the form available here.
Sign up for Power and Boundary Training Offered March 16 & 17
 
The Conference will be offering a training on Tuesday, March 16 (2 pm to 4:30 pm) and Wednesday, March 17, (9:30 am to noon) -- both days are required. The training will be led by LeaderWise, our partner in leader development, assessment, and counseling. It is totally online and the cost is $50. The deadline to register is March 11. REGISTER

We are also working on dates with LeaderWise for a training later in the spring. If you have questions, please contact Anita Bradshaw at anitab@uccmn.org.
Joys and Concerns
Rev. Dr. Anita Bradshaw's mother, Jean Bradshaw, passed away after a sudden decline in health on March 19th.  Most of you will have met or interacted with Anita during her time as one of the Associate Conference Ministers here in the Minnesota Conference. The Minnesota Conference holds Rev. Dr. Bradshaw and her family in our prayers.
Resources

  • The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to ministry.

  • The United Church of Christ National Setting is offering financial assistance to local churches whose ministries have been challenged by the pandemic. See the process.


  • 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.
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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.