Volume 17, No. 39 | October 6, 2021

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
The Power of Story and Truth-Telling
Story. Our faith would be nowhere without it.

Our Biblical narrative is filled with the stories of our ancestors in faith. From the creation accounts, through the prophets’ proclamations, to the teachings of Jesus and on to the apostles’ letters, we are drenched in the stories of those who have gone before us. We find in those stories testimony of those who struggled and lost, met with injustice, occasionally doubted and yet persevered in faith. We discover truths about our human capacity to hurt, to heal, and to sustain hope. The lessons of these ancient stories still shape and inform our faith today.

Story can transform us.

On Sunday afternoon, 30 Conference members gathered to hear other sacred stories. Led by Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, co-director of racial justice at the Minnesota Council of Churches, and Rev. Kelly Sherman-Conroy, a Native theologian and Ph.D. student at Luther Seminary, we sojourned to three different sites in the Twin Cities area that hold powerful meaning for Indigenous people in Minnesota.

As Jim Bear and Kelly narrated our experience, we heard about treaties with Native peoples that were ignored (and were unjust in the first place), the complicity of the Christian Church in oppressing and harming Indigenous peoples, the U.S.-Dakota war & execution of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, the "concentration camp" where women, children, and elderly Indigenous people were held and died, and sacred burial grounds on Pilot Knob that were desecrated.

These are stories central to the Indigenous experience, marked by brutality and broken promises as well as by resilience and strength. They are stories we must know and confront as Minnesotans, as Americans, and as Christians.

In 2019, delegates to the Annual Meeting of the Conference approved a resolution entitled “Racial Justice Through Reparations”, calling “on the Minnesota Conference, member churches, and congregation members to make meaningful efforts to repair the historic and sinful violations that perpetuate white privilege today.” There are multiple ways to engage in such repair. Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs told us on Sunday that one small step in this work is doing exactly what we were doing that day: receiving the stories of others and opening ourselves to confession and transformation in doing so.

Hearing and receiving the stories of our Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, making room for truth-telling and allowing those testimonies to shape our future ministry is part of the work we’re called to as a “courageous church alive with Christ’s transforming love.” We pray that in facing the truths of our past we won’t repeat such harm and sin in the future.

What stories might there be in your community that need to be heard? What can you learn from the testimony of those whose experience has been vastly different from your own? What relationships do you need to build in order to create sacred space for hard truths and stories to be shared and honored?

As Christians we know the profound power of story to shape the faith we proclaim. I urge all of us to seek out the hidden stories all around us, sacred testimonies of our communities and people of color. Their stories can teach us what we need to hear and strengthen our witness as a courageous church committed to repairing what’s been broken.

Grace and peace,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister 

Learn more about the Healing Minnesota Stories program of the MN Council of Churches (a partner of the MN Conference UCC) and plan to participate in a future tour of sacred sites.
Welcoming (More) New Ministers in the Conference!

We are sharing 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.

Enno Limvere joined First Congregational UCC in Grand Marais as designated term pastor in late 2020. He grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, and majored in child development and science at North Dakota State University. After graduating college, he worked as a youth minister, captaining a 28-foot boat that took young people on trips to the Apostle Islands. He went on to attend Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and has subsequently served churches in Walker, Minnesota; Wahpeton, North Dakota; and Ipswich, South Dakota. Enno also sings and plays guitar and mandolin.

You started your position in trying times. What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is worship — the technology of recording and publishing, dealing with changing conditions when worshipping outside, and deciding with leadership when and how we will return back to the sanctuary.

Where have you found joy?
Moving up to the North Shore, there is much joy to be found looking at Lake Superior and hiking the trails through the forest, mountains and waterfalls. The people here, inside and outside the church, have warmly welcomed my family and me.

What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
I look forward to a time when we can return into the sanctuary for worship (masked and not singing to begin, and hopefully maskless and hymn singing later). If the pandemic does wind down so we can do more things in person, I look forward to Sunday School with the kids, in-person Bible and book studies, and continuing to get to know the Grand Marais community and the Minnesota Conference.
Conference News & Events
Register by October 18 for "Grit & Grace"

Workshop is October 22 & 23

Join this personalized learning experience—for clergy, lay leaders, and all people of faith—that you direct, at your own pace and on your own time! In addition, you'll have discussion time online with peers and instructors, and real-time, facilitated group engagement. LEARN MORE AND REGISTER BY OCTOBER 18
Circle of Trust Peer Groups Offered for Faith Formation Leaders

  • Facilitators: Rev. Winton Boyd and Rev. Ellen Green
  • Opening Retreat: Oct 25, 6-8 pm & Oct 26, 8:30-11:30 am; 12:30-2:00 pm
  • Peer Groups: Monthly meetings via Zoom, November 2021–June 2022
  • Cost: $150 (with generous support from the Ashley Endowment of the Minnesota Conference UCC)
  • REGISTER by Friday, October 15
If you are a local congregational leader — clergy, lay staff, or volunteer — whose ministry focuses on nurturing the spiritual lives of others – children, youth, families, or adults – this opportunity is for you. These Circle of Trust Peer Groups will offer space for Faith Formation leaders to be nurtured and nourished in themselves and in community. The offering includes both an opening retreat AND monthly small group calls and will be held entirely online. Contact Rev. Kevin Brown with any questions.
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. MEET OUR BIBLICAL COMMENTATORS.
Join the Wisconsin Conference for a Conversation with the Author of Sweetgrass

The Wisconsin Creation Care Team invites all MN Conference folks and beyond to come hear Robin Wall Kimmerer speak about her book Braiding Sweetgrass on Oct 9 at 9:45 am CT. REGISTER
United's Favorite Lecture Series

Every teacher has one — the lecture that they love the best, the one that they can literally feel in their bones when they deliver it in class. United Theological Seminary invites you to get to know its current faculty and get a taste of what happens in the classrooms.

"The Theological Implications of Religious Diversity"
Dr. Demian Wheeler, Assoc. Professor of Philosophical Theology & Religious Studies
Thursday, October 21, 2021 at 7:30 PM CT via Zoom

What does religious diversity teach us about the nature of humanity, the nature of religion, and the nature of the divine? Why are there so many religions, and how do they relate to one another? How do our encounters with other faith traditions affect the way we interpret the meaning, truth, and mission of our own tradition?
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
Rev. Jerry Hankins passed away Monday, October 4. Jerry served the Minnesota Conference for many years as pastor of Faith UCC in Bertha, Granite Falls UCC in Granite Falls, and the Federated Church (UCC/UMC) in Morris, before retiring in 1999. The Minnesota Conference holds Jerry’s wife Liz and the rest of her family in prayer.
We celebrate the installation of Nikki Frontz as pastor at Solomon’s Porch in South Minneapolis. Nikki’s installation service is Sunday, October 10, at 4:30 pm at Solomon’s Porch (100 W 46th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55419). Masks are required. The service will also be streamed on Zoom: please see the Solomon’s Porch Facebook event page for the link.

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. The service will also be live-streamed on the church Facebook page.
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.