Volume 18, No. 35 | October 5, 2022

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

Christian Unity & Holy Spirit Shivers

352 member church bodies. 120 countries. Over 3,000 people.

Those numbers made for a fascinating experience at the World Council of Churches Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany, in early September. I was blessed to be present, closing out my sabbatical as one of over 20 from the United Church of Christ (USA) who participated as observers, staff, and official delegates.

I have always loved experiences of the global Church. Each encounter I’ve had with our global partners –in the Philippines, East Timor, Israel-Palestine, Haiti, and Columbia- has stretched my own understanding of what it means to be faithful witnesses and expanded my understanding of scripture. Those nine days at the World Council of Churches Assembly similarly enriched me, and at times gave me “Holy Spirit shivers.”

In our first worship service, the congregation was invited to pray the Lord’s Prayer together, using whatever language we preferred. Suddenly there was a glorious chorus of voices, all following a familiar cadence and lifting the same treasured words taught to us by Jesus in holy scripture, pouring out in countless dialects and native languages. I silenced my own voice just to take it all in, an overwhelming feeling of the Holy Spirit washing over me. It’s likely the closest I will ever get to the experience of that first Pentecost. Many voices and languages and peoples, but one faith uniting us all.

“I ask not only behalf of these but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” (John 17:20-21) Jesus prayed these words, according to the Gospel of John, just before his betrayal and arrest, an earnest prayer for his disciples’ faithfulness and unity. 

It’s a prayer at the heart of our identity in the United Church of Christ, too. “That all may be one” is proclaimed in our UCC emblem. It’s a reminder of how we came to be, the merger of two distinct denominations in 1957, the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical & Reformed Church. It’s also a nudge to continue the work, to honor that impulse toward unity that birthed us by making it our ongoing commitment.

I saw stunning glimpses of that unity at the World Council of Churches Assembly. I also saw the limits we place on that unity, even in a space such as that. Though we worshipped together twice every day, we never celebrated Holy Communion. The diverse practices and beliefs of those 352 member churches made gathering at Christ’s Table to partake of that blessed sacrament impossible. 

Our unity is incomplete.

This past Sunday we celebrated World Communion Sunday, a day when Christians across the globe gather at our sacramental tables to remember we are bound by the Holy Spirit in one family of faith. I give thanks for our unity in the Spirit, for the value the United Church of Christ places on Jesus’ prayer “that they may all be one.” And I continue to pray for a deeper unity than what we have yet realized.

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

Conference News & Events

From the Ground of Our Being: How Then Shall We Lead?

Minnesota Conference UCC Clergy Retreat

November 1-3, 2022 (Tuesday 5 pm – Thursday 11:30 am)

Christ the King Retreat Center, Buffalo, MN

$200 private room | $170 shared double room | $100 commuter



All actively serving clergy from around the Minnesota Conference UCC are invited to come together with colleagues for a few days of renewal, rest, and reconnection. Over the last year this clergy retreat has evolved and been rescheduled several times due to the limitations of our ongoing life with Covid. Finally getting ready to be in person with one another, let’s take time with these words from mystics Hildegard of Bingen and Howard Thurman:

We cannot live in a world interpreted for us by others.

An interpreted world is not a hope.

Part of the terror is to take back our own listening.

To use our own voice.

To see our own light.

—Hildegard of Bingen, 12th century, German

There is something in every one of you that waits and listens

or the sound of the genuine in yourself.

—Howard Thurman, 20th century, African-American

Circle of Trust Peer Groups Open for Registration

If you are a leader in a faith community or other ministry context — clergy, lay staff, or volunteer — whose ministry focuses on nurturing the spiritual lives of others, this opportunity is for you.

These Circle of Trust Peer Groups will offer space for faith leaders to be nurtured and nourished within themselves and in community. This is an opportunity to refocus on what inspires and sustains you in ministry. The Circle of Trust approach is an invitation and a structure for doing our own inner work in the company of others. This series of gatherings will be held entirely online and includes both an opening retreat AND monthly small group calls. LEARN MORE & REGISTER

Join Us for a Fall Wilderness Meditation

November 6 – 8

Luther Crest

8231 County Road 11 NW, Alexandria, MN 56308

Cost: $200/person for double room; $250/person for single room | Ages 19+


Using gentle hikes, meditation, and discussion, participants are encouraged to leave their worries at home and find their soul rhythm in natural spaces and deep conversations. Come to find reconnection for your body, mind, and soul.

Calling All Congregations in the Alexandria Area to the Conference's Covenant Day!

Saturday, November 12, 9:30 am – 3 pm

First Congregational UCC in Alexandria, 221 7th Avenue W


Gather a team from your congregation and join us for practical resources and workshops, inspiring worship, covenantal connections with your UCC neighbors, and the awesomeness of being together again! We encourage all clergy, local church moderators, and lay members to attend. Registration is required; $10/person

UCC National Setting Job Opportunity: Team Leader and Minister of Gender & Sexuality Justice/Executive Director

The Team Leader/Executive Director is responsible for oversight and coordination of United Church of Christ (UCC) strategies, programs and resources related gender, gender expression, and LGBTQI+ education, equity, and advocacy. This includes serving as the Executive Director of the United Church AIDS Network (aka UCAN), and assigned liaison to The Open and Affirming Coalition of the UCC, United Church of Christ Wellness Ministries, and the Unitarian Universalist Association specifically regarding agreements related to Our Whole Lives Program. LEARN MORE

Partner News & Events

Join The Damascus Project's Conversation with Diana Butler Bass

Tuesday, October 11, 6:00 pm



Diana will explore these questions, among others:

  • How do we find ways to be innovative leaders as we continue to emerge from a pandemic? 
  • How has the church and our world changed and how might we respond to those changes? 
  • How do we continue to Be the Church in an increasingly post-Christian culture?

Join The Damascus Project's Advent Lunchtime Series

Get ready to get ready for Jesus’ birth with our Advent lunchtime lecture & resourcing series. Great for preachers and faith formation and youth ministry leaders.

For just $40:

  • Participate in 5 lectures with 5 different interpretive voices (Wednesdays 12:00 to 1:00 pm CST Oct. 19–Nov. 16)
  • Receive video recordings of these conversations
  • Join an online cohort of learners for sharing resources and having conversation on your own time.


Overcoming Racism Conference Registration Open

The Power of Truth Telling is the theme of this year's Overcoming Racism conference November 11-12 at Metro State University in St. Paul. The Friday keynote speaker is Hmong-American writer, filmmaker and teacher Kao Kalia Yang on "The Power of Truth in Storytelling." The Saturday keynote performers are JUSTmove (David Scherer and Joe Davis) whose performances facilitate racial justice and healing through the arts.

More information and registration HERE. Download a flyer HERE.

Joy & Concerns

First Congregational UCC Montevideo invites you to the church's 150th anniversary celebration on October 9. Service of Praise and Thanksgiving at 1 pm is followed by an open house, music and refreshments from 2:30-4:00 pm.

After several years as a congregational organizer at Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, Rev. Emily Goldthwaite begins a new role this month as Director of Organizing. We also pray for her family (Emily, Tim and Noelle) as they go through a divorce.

Upcoming Conference Events
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.