Volume 20, No. 40 | November 15, 2023

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

St. Anthony Park UCC Travels to the Deep South

Fifteen members of St. Anthony Park UCC (St. Paul) spent eight days in October in the Deep South. The Civil Rights-intensive trip was led by Mark & Leslie Swiggum of Edina Community Lutheran Church. The Swiggums have been leading these trips during their retirement years as part of their deep commitment to anti-racism work and racial justice.


The group spent time in Alabama (Anniston, Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery), Mississippi (Philadelphia, Greenwood, Money, Glendora, Sumner, Ruleville, Clarksdale) and Tennessee (Memphis). According to St. Anthony Park's Rev. Victoria Wilgocki, "The sites, the history, the land, the songs, the images, the ghosts, the churches, churches, churches (!) and above all, the people we met profoundly changed us."


Wilgocki says what made the experience so remarkable is that the group met with numerous “foot soldiers” – women and men, now in their 70s and 80s, who were on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement. "They told stories of growing up during Jim Crow," she says. "They sang freedom songs and invited us to sing with them. They spoke not with bitterness, but with humility, sorrow, pride, humor and hope. They continue to work and pray for the communities in which they live."


In the photo above, the group is pictured with one of the “foot soldiers” – Bishop Calvin Woods, age 90 (front row, center) – in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham. "Several other young Black people pictured happened to be passing through the park at the time, so we invited them to join us in listening to Calvin’s stories," Wilgocki says. "At the end, we linked elbows and sang 'We Shall Overcome.'"

Photo by Craig Freeman

Conference News & Events

It's HERE: Give to the Max 2023!

Give to the Max 2023 is Thursday, November 16, and we are excited that your contribution between now and the first week of Advent will help support key Conference ministries including climate justice, church renewal, and leadership development ministries this year. 

There are three easy ways to give:

  • Writing a check maximizes your gift by avoiding electronic payment transaction fees. Just write "Give to the Max" in the memo line and mail it to the Conference; or
  • Donate online, filling in your gift amount in the "Friends of the Conference" section; or
  • Use the DONATE button on Minnesota Conference's Give to the Max page!

Conference Offices Closed Thu-Fri Nov 23 & 24

The Minnesota Conference UCC is closed on Thanksgiving (Thu Nov 23) and Fri Nov 24. Conference staff will not be available on those two days.

Service of Farewell and Celebration for Conference Minister Shari Prestemon

The Minnesota Conference Board of Directors invites you to join us for a celebration in honor of Rev. Shari Prestemon’s decade of service as our Conference Minister.

The celebration will be held December 9 from 11 am – 2 pm at Mayflower Community Congregational United Church of Christ at 106 E. Diamond Lake Road in Minneapolis. We will begin with a service of farewell followed by a luncheon reception and program. The luncheon reception is $15 per person. REGISTER HERE.

In honor of Rev. Shari Prestemon's decade-long ministry in the Minnesota Conference, the special Re-Imagine Fund has been created. The Fund will offer grants to congregations who are actively working on "re-imagining" their ministry, as inspired by Rev. Prestemon.

To celebrate Rev. Prestemon's contributions to the Minnesota Conference and to send her off to work at our National UCC level with a legacy, everyone is invited to make a special one-time gift contribution to the Re-Imagine Fund. You can give online or send a check to the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ, 122 W. Franklin Ave., Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55404. Thank you!

Re-Imagination Grants Ranging from $2,000–$3,000 Open for Application

A single congregation applying may request up to $2,000; two or more congregations applying together may apply for a maximum of $3,000. 

It's time to re-imagine what it looks like to 'be Church' in this historical moment for the sake of a Gospel and a witness that this world and our communities sorely need!


Applications are now being accepted from congregations for “Re-Imagination Grants” to support this faithful, creative work. A single congregation applying may request up to $2,000; two or more congregations applying together may apply for a maximum of $3,000. Applications are being accepted now through December 25 and will be reviewed as they are received. Grants will be awarded until all money allocated for these grants has been depleted. These grants are being funded by the Conference’s 21st Century Church Fund and the Ashley Fund.


Review grant guidelines and all details, and find the application form HERE.

Partner News & Events

Join Us for an Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service

A freewill offering will be collected to support the ministries of All Nations Indian Church – a United Church of Christ native congregation in Minneapolis—as well as the Indigenous People’s Task Force.

Tuesday, November 21

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 2315 Chicago Ave, Minneapolis, MN

5:30 pm - Fresh oven-fired pizza served

6:30 pm – Honoring Sacred Waters Gatherings with Nibi Play

7:30 pm – Pie


This gathering will include a Nibi (water) play by the Ikidowin Youth Acting Ensemble. This ensemble of Native youth actors is a program of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force. The Indigenous Peoples Task Force strengthens the wellness of our community in a way that is based in indigenous values and ways of knowing. They were founded in 1987 to develop and implement culturally appropriate HIV education and direct services to the Native community in MN. They write on their website: “We know our community will not be completely well until all people have restored their relationships with each other and the earth.”


Please join us or send your donation directly to:

All Nations Indian Church

1515 E. 23rd St., Minneapolis, MN 55404

Joys & Concerns

Mary Klonoski died on October 16. Mary was an active volunteer in the Minnesota Conference, serving the conference as treasurer. A memorial service will be held at First Congregational Church of MN in Minneapolis on November 18 at 2 pm. Read her obituary.

Upcoming Conference Events

December 9: Service of Farewell & Celebration for Shari Prestemon

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 faith formation, 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.