Volume 16, No. 32 | August 12, 2020

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Samantha Fuentes Inspires Youth With Commitment to Uplift All Voices
Samantha Fuentes, a survivor of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and leader in March for Our Lives, shared her story of resilience and healing for the third webinar in the Conference's "Justice Talk to Justice Walk" series.

The discussion was co-moderated by Rev. Kevin Brown and Cecilia Alexander, an intern with the Minnesota Conference UCC helping manage the new youth/young adult Instagram channel and connect youth to social justice opportunities. Samantha talked about her passion for "uplifting the voices of the silenced, and remind us that ALL our experiences matter regardless of color, religion, gender, age, or sexual orientation.”

View Samantha's talk above, or find all three of the webinars in the series here.
COVID-19 Update from the Conference
In light of increasing COVID numbers in Minnesota and continued uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, the Board of Directors voted on Saturday that the Conference staff are to continue working remotely through at least December 31, 2020.

In addition, the Conference will not host any in-person events during that time and all committee meetings will continue to be done electronically. Conference staff members will also refrain from any travel or visits within the Conference and wider UCC.
 
“I made this recommendation to the Board with great sadness,” said Conference Minister Shari Prestemon. “We deeply miss the opportunity to be in our congregations in person for worship, to gather in groups or one-on-one with our clergy and chaplains, and to work side by side with all those who help us do the daily ministries of the Conference. And we miss being together as a Conference staff team. But this decision is also made with a very clear sense that it is the wisest and safest choice from a public health standpoint at this time. We will continue to work hard, as we have been since March, to engage in relevant, timely, and purposeful ministry during this challenging time, and we’re grateful for the grace and space to do that in the safest way possible for everyone.”
 
Conference staff can be reached by email; voice mail messages can also be left at their Conference office extensions and are checked routinely.
Conference News & Info
Summer Family Toolkit Feedback Requested
             
Last week we released the fifth and final installment of Summer Family Toolkit. The toolkit resources will continue to be available on the Conference website throughout the summer.
 
We want to hear from you about your experience with the toolkit activities and resources. Please take a few minutes to complete a brief survey. Your feedback will help us better understand who used the toolkit, how it was used to support at-home faith formation, and what type of resources we can provide for families during the coming seasons.
 
Thanks for taking the time to help us strengthen our shared ministry with families across the Minnesota Conference.
Searching for Faith in the Wilderness?

In these unusual times, we're all grappling with big questions. Why not grapple together in the safe, thoughtful community that the Damascus Project provides? Our online Faith Foundations course begins mid-August. This course welcomes all but is especially suited for lay people and members-in-discernment eager to explore theology and find spiritual grounding in a welcoming learning environment. Learn more and register.
People of Color/Black-Indigenous-People of Color (POC/BIPOC) Clergy Group Forming

The lack of support for clergy of color in the Conference was a topic of discussion in the newly formed Amos Task Force. As a response to that need, a clergy group is forming to link clergy of color with one another and to identify ways of support. Rev. Okogyeamon, Pastor of First Congregational UCC in Montevideo, has agreed to convene and facilitate the group. If you identify as a POC/BIPOC authorized minister in the Minnesota Conference, please contact Okogyeamon to be added to the list for the group. A meeting will be organized in the near future.
Get Support and Resources from Your Peers

Check out our COVID-19 resources page where we are posting sample policies on reopening; baptisms, weddings and funerals; check lists, and more. See full list of resources.
"Building Church Differently" Webinars Planned for Fall

The United Church of Christ Church Building Loan Offers will offer three power-packed webinars on September 17, 24 and October 1 from 1-2:30 pm CDT. The cost is $25 for all three webinars. Mark your calendars and watch for a link in an upcoming edition of COMMAntary.
Financial Assistance for Congregations from Conference and National Setting

The United Church of Christ National Setting is offering financial assistance to local churches whose ministries have been challenged by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Applications are now being accepted. See the process described here.

Applications are being accepted from Minnesota Conference UCC congregations for the Pandemic Relief Loan Program. Access the application and further details here. The application deadline for this loan program has been extended to December 31, 2020.

Congregations may also apply for emergency grants to cover operating expenses, technology needs, or community ministries; grants to cover the cost of website development; or counseling assistance grants for authorized ministers.
Joys & Concerns
Rev. Joe Peacock died on July 28. He was a member of Macalester-Plymouth United Church, had dual standing in the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ, and was an advocate for peace and justice. To receive a link to the August 29 online memorial service, contact the Mac-Plymouth church administrator.
Clergy Clusters
The Northern Clergy Cluster will meet on Tuesday, August 18th at noon via Zoom. Contact Rev. Kathy Nelson at Peace UCC, Duluth for the link.
Tell Us Your News!
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.

Check out the employment opportunities portion of our website for all open positions.
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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.