Volume 18, No. 7 | February 16, 2022

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Robbinsdale Parkway UCC: A True Consolidation
A few years ago, as the Robbinsdale UCC and Parkway UCC congregations began contemplating a consolidation, the Rev. T. Michael Rock, then senior pastor at Robbinsdale, got sage coaching advice from a peer. “Don’t be in charge of it,” T. Michael says he was told. “A successful consolidation is led by the smaller congregation.”

He heeded that advice, stepping back to let Parkway lead the conversation. “We looked at all of our options,” says the Rev. Kathy Itzin, who had served as Parkway’s lead minister. “Merging with a non-UCC church, moving to a storefront, but in the end we chose a consolidation with Robbinsdale.”

Today, Kathy and T. Michael are co-pastors of what they call a “new church.” They are quick to point out that this was not a merger; rather, it was about forming a whole new entity. In fact, both interviewed as if the new church were calling new pastors.

T. Michael says that the focus brought to the process aided decision making. “Our congregations had worshipped together and our councils had met, so we posed a singular question: Do we want to consolidate? It wasn’t scenario planning. It was beautiful the way it happened because we kept the iron hot on that question. And then we asked ourselves, if we say yes to that question, how do we do it well?”

Once the question was answered, Parkway sold its building, which was just two miles from the Robbinsdale location, and decided to use a portion of the sale to subsidize co-pastor salaries for four years. “After that timeframe, we agreed that neither of us would quit and that both would reduce our salaries if we couldn’t afford both of us,” says T. Michael.

Robbinsdale Parkway UCC is now two and one-half years into its new life. During the first year, the two ministers shared the pulpit, giving “half sermons.” Kathy says, “We wanted to avoid the T. Michael Sunday or the Kathy Sunday.”

They both believe deeply in the co-pastor model. “I love the collaboration with an equal colleague,” says T. Michael. “We are a good team. I have ideas and Kathy knows how to make them better.” The two also asked five feminist leaders to give them perspectives and to do check-ins to make sure they truly function as co-pastors. “We bring different things to this ministry,” says Kathy. “We have different skill sets that complement each other. And honestly, we just truly enjoy each other.” They frequently play music together, Itzin on string bass and Rock on guitar.

For congregations considering a consolidation, they recommend planning rituals for closing. “Both congregations are losing something,” says T. Michael. “Everybody goes through a loss when there is change. People need to acknowledge and grieve.” The Parkway congregation also brought important objects to the Robbinsdale location, such as a baptismal font.

As they continue to grow as a congregation, the Robbinsdale Parkway website proclaims a vision that reflects true consolidation: “We are rooted both in Robbinsdale and North Minneapolis and we seek justice for all of our neighbors.”
Conference News & Events
Let's Talk: Confirmation Hackathon

FourTHursday Faith Formation Gathering
Via Zoom!
February 24, 2022 from 12:00 - 1:30 p.m.

Almost two years into this pandemic, and you're probably feeling exhausted and burned out. The adrenaline-fueled creativity of the early pandemic has long since passed and now you're slogging through day-by-day, perhaps without any spark of joy or creativity.

Your confirmation program is probably showing the signs of this burnout, too.

Join our next Fourth Thursday gathering with Ivy Beckwith and Nicole Havelka who will spark creativity with an introduction to a process called Hackathon that can give you a little rest, reflection and space to spark creative ideas and tangible next steps to bring new life to your confirmation program. LEARN MORE
Wilderness Travelogue: Stories of Faith, Doubt, and Longing
Lenten Family Toolkit

Leader resources available now!
Family resources posted weekly March 2 – April 13, 2022 
The season of Lent is drawing near, and we are delighted to announce the details for this year’s Lenten family toolkit. Each weekly toolkit installment will feature a weekly video with clergy from around the Minnesota Conference in conversation and reflection on the themes and texts for the week. In addition to these video reflections, 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 full collection of resources for congregational leaders will be posted Wednesday, February 23, and the at-home resources will be available weekly, March 2 – April 13.
Following are the themes and texts for each week:
  • Ash Wednesday (March 2): Into the Wilderness
  • Lent 1 (March 6): The Wilderness of Fear
  • Lent 2 (March 13): The Wilderness of Grief
  • Lent 3 (March 20): The Wilderness of Loneliness/Isolation
  • Lent 4 (March 27): The Wilderness of Self-Doubt
  • Lent 5 (April 3): The Wilderness of Too-Muchness
  • Lent 6 (April 10): The Wilderness of Betrayal
  • Holy Week/Easter (April 11-17)
Please contact Rev. Sheri Nelson, Outdoor Ministry Program Director, or Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister of Faith Formation for Children & Youth, with any questions.
This curriculum and interactive content are being developed in collaboration with Keren’s Art, Doing Good Together, and the Ministry Lab.
Join the Outdoor Ministry Cohort on The Damascus Project Network

We invite you to join the online cohort for Outdoor Ministries Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ, a virtual gathering place to share conversation, resources, and the latest information about our programming and events. It's a similar experience to Facebook groups, without the advertisements, data mining, and privacy concerns. All are very welcome.

If you don’t already have a free Damascus Project Network account, you will be prompted to create one when you click the cohort link.
Thank You to Those Who Have Submitted Yearbook & Directory Data
As of Tuesday, February 15, the following fourteen churches have submitted their Yearbook & Directory Data:

  • Community UCC, Biwabik
  • Federated Church, Fergus Falls
  • First Congregational UCC, Anoka
  • First Congregational UCC, Grand Marais
  • First Congregational UCC, Princeton
  • First UCC, Northfield
  • Parkview UCC, White Bear Lake
  • Peace UCC, Rochester
  • St. Anthony Park UCC, St. Paul
  • St. John’s UCC, Faribault
  • Union Congregational UCC, St. Louis Park
  • United Faith Community, Buffalo
  • Zion UCC, LeSueur
  • Zoar UCC, Chaska
Thank you so much to these early leaders! If you haven’t yet submitted your church’s data, now is the time. The Minnesota Conference UCC would like to have all of our churches submit their annual data for Yearbook 2022! Here’s why - 12 Important Reasons to Report Annual Church Data.
Data Hub is open for churches right now and closes for church data entry at midnight, March 2nd, 2022. This date will not be extended. So, please consider putting this on the top of your "to do" list. Instructions for the report can be found HERE.
Year-Around Stewardship Webinar is February 23

Join local church leaders from across the UCC this year to learn and discuss ways your congregation can infuse new life into your stewardship program. Seven free webinars are being offered by Rev. Andrew B. Warner, CFRE, who serves as a Generosity Outreach Officer of the national setting of the United Church of Christ and Director of Development for the Wisconsin Conference. The first webinar, Year-Around Stewardship, is February 23 from 6:30 to 7:30 pm Central Time.

REGISTER in advance for this meeting.
READ MORE about all seven of the webinars being offered.
Our Church’s Pledge Goals for Mission and Ministry forms reminder
Has your church returned the 2022 Our Church’s Pledge Goals for Mission and Ministry yet? This important document should be filled out and returned to the Conference office by February 28 for planning purposes. The pledge form was included in your Fourth Quarter Statement, but if you need an additional copy of the form, click HERE and choose the Our Church’s Pledge Goals for Mission and Ministry form. If you have any questions, please contact Bob Olsen at development@uccmn.org, or by phone at 612.230.3375. Sending in your form promptly is most appreciated – Thank you!
Upcoming Conference Events
Joys & Concerns
Our hearts go out to Rev. Cindy Maddox (First UCC, Northfield) and her family upon the death of Cindy’s mother, Jan, on February 15. May our prayers surround Cindy and her family, and may the resurrection promise of our faith lend comfort and peace.
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.