Volume 17, No. 37 | September 22, 2021

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Soul Tending: Sustaining Faith Formation Leaders
Thursday, September 23
12:00 – 1:30 pm via Zoom

Registered participants receive “The New Normal: 8 Ways to Care for Gen Z in a Post-Pandemic World,” from Springtide Research Institute.

So many clergy and other faith formation leaders are feeling overwhelmed by the demands of ministry in this time and are at or near total exhaustion and burnout. If this describes you or colleagues or friends whom you care about and support, please plan to join our September 23 gathering.

We will spend time in small group and large group conversation holding trustworthy and supportive space for one another to reflect on the challenges and gifts of ministry during this season. We will also leave time for folks to share the ways in which they sustain their well-being of body, mind, and spirit, and the ways in which they struggle to do so. Our hope is that this gathering becomes a space for connection, mutual support, and shared resourcing.

We invite you to consider these questions before the gathering on September 23.
  • How would you describe your own personal experiences of doing ministry during this time?
  • What strengths are you relying on – within yourself? from friends and colleagues? from others in your faith community?
  • How are you experiencing loss and grief during this time?
  • What has been gained during this time that you celebrate?
  • What is wanting to emerge in your life and/or ministry that you may only have a slight glimpse of right now?
  • What sustains your well-being – physical? spiritual? emotional?
  • What additional support and/or connections do you need to sustain your well-being?
  • What support and/or resourcing do you need to sustain your ministry during this time?
  • What support and/or resourcing does your congregation need?
Welcoming New Ministers in the Conference!

Over the next few weeks, we will share short profiles of pastors who have been called during the Covid-19 pandemic. We commend both ministers and congregations for continuing to move forward faithfully despite the unusual challenges this global health crisis introduced for search committees, candidates, and newly called pastors.

Rev. Winston Janusz, Associate Pastor, Peace UCC, Rochester

Rev. Janusz joined Peace Church in July 2020 as associate pastor.  Winston first studied philosophy and then went on to earn his master’s degree in mental health counseling. After working as a licensed therapist for several years and still feeling passionate about recognizing the importance of mental health in our communities, he heeded his call to pursue ordained ministry, earning his Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology. Winston is married to Jessica and they have three children: Jonah, Connor, and Sage. His special interests including spending time with family, gaming and social justice issues, specifically global warming.

You started your position in trying times. What has been your biggest challenge?
The process of getting to know the congregation and getting familiar with the culture of the church has been very difficult because of Covid. I've been in this position for over a year now and it still feels like I'm just starting the job. 

Where have you found joy?
I have found joy in the opportunities I have had to connect with members of the congregation, to experiment with new ideas, and to express myself in the church in various ways. It's a blessing to be able to live out my calling despite the times we are living in and despite the uncertainty of the future.

What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
We recently began having in-person worship again, so I am looking forward to seeing how that will deepen my relationships with members of the church.

Conference News & Events
Update on Fall Retreats and Outdoor Ministry Programs Cancellations and Postponements
Conference staff members have been preparing to welcome people to a variety of retreats and outdoor ministry programs this fall. We long to host these spaces for respite, renewal, and reconnection that we know are so needed at this time. Unfortunately, as we continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation and consider the potential risks associated with the retreat and program sites and their wider community settings, we have decided it is best to cancel or postpone all indoor overnight retreats and programs this fall:
  • Men’s Retreat (September 24-26) – cancelled
  • Conference Youth Event (October 1-3) - cancelled
  • Women’s Retreat (October 8-10) - cancelled
  • Faith Formation Leader’s Retreat (October 18-20) – postponed to spring 2022
  • Clergy Retreat (November 16-18) – postponed to spring 2022
We are pleased to announce that our first Women’s Wilderness Retreat this weekend, September 24-26, will go ahead as scheduled. This exciting program partnership with Camp Amnicon is hosted in mostly outdoor spaces (including meals and lodging) for the entire weekend.
Conference staff is working to create alternative opportunities for connecting during fall 2021 and winter 2022. Please continue to watch COMMAntary for updates. Plans for 2022 Outdoor Ministry opportunities will be available in early January 2022.  
If you have questions, please contact Rev. Sheri Nelson, Outdoor Ministry Director, or Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister of Faith Formation for Children & Youth. Sheri and/or Kevin are happy to connect for one-to-one conversation or find a time to visit your local congregation to share plans and hear your hopes, dreams and concerns regarding the future of the Conference’s Outdoor Ministry and Faith Formation programs.
Friday, October 22, 10 am–noon
Saturday, October 23, 10 am–noon and 1–3 pm; all times CT

If you are seeking inspiration and creative renewal, "Grit and Grace: Creativity, Spirituality, and Justice Work” is for you!

Writer and composer Amanda Udis-Kessler's virtual workshop is an ideal opportunity for clergy, lay leaders, and all people of faith. Workshop time will include conversations, individual exercises, pair and small-group discussions, and creative opportunities supported with spiritual grounding practices. During the workshop as well as the two weeks before and after, participants will build supportive community through conversations about creativity.

Anti-racism Training: New Dates Offered to Accommodate Demand!

October 13 & 20, 5:30 to 8:30 pm
Attend at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities or online
Registration fee: $75
Led by Okogyeamon, co-founder of ASDIC

The two September sessions are full so sign up today for the new cohorts added in October. This Antiracism Study Dialogue Circle (ASDIC) workshop is interactive and experiential. We will explore the ways that racial dynamics play out in and about us, every day, in both personal and institutional spaces. This training is open to everyone and meets the requirement for the Minnesota Conference UCC Diversity/Anti-Racism Education for Authorized Ministers.

Get Ready to Get Ready for Advent!

Wednesdays, October 20 & 27, and November 3, 10 and 17, 12:00–12:45 pm
Cost: $40

Don’t let this holy season sneak up on you!
The Damascus Project's "Get Ready to Get Ready" Advent Prep Series is great for preachers, faith formation, and adult study leaders.

This low-key, online lunch-hour lecture series will equip you with fresh perspectives on the Advent texts. Each week features a different faith leader, including Justin Sabia-Tannis, Karl Kuhn, Rachael Keefe, Shannon Kearns, and Alika Galloway & Carolyn Pressler.
Power & Boundary Training

Oct 20 & 21, 9:30 am–noon

The Conference will utilize the services of LeaderWise to provide online power and boundary training on Wednesday and Thursday, October 20 & 21, from 9:30 am–noon both day. The fee is $50.

If you have questions or would like additional information, please email the Registrar for the Conference, Catherine Cejda, at catherinec@uccmn.org. To ensure that your training is recorded, please email your certificate of completion to Catherine at the same email.
Joys & Concerns
The Congregational Church UCC in Rochester invites you to the installation of Rev. Andrew Greenhaw and Rev. Shannon Smith as co-pastors. The worship service is Sunday, October 10 at 4:00 pm at the church, 974 Skyline Drive SW in Rochester. Masks will be required. Clergy are invited to robe and join the ecclesiastical procession. Rev. Dr. David Greenhaw, President Emeritus Eden Theological Seminary, will be giving the message. Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres outside will follow the service. Please RSVP the number attending to church@congoroch.org by October 3. The service will also be live-streamed on the church Facebook page.

We celebrate the installation of Clare Gromoll as pastor at People’s Congregational Church in Bayport, Minnesota. Clare’s installation service will be outdoors on Sunday, October 3, beginning at 2 pm in People’s Park, which is immediately adjacent to Barker’s Alps Park in Bayport. Seating will be distanced and masks are encouraged. Clergy are invited to wear red vestments and arrive by 1:45 pm.
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.