Volume 19, No. 10 | March 8, 2023

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

UCC Churches Host South African Musical Group 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

—Jeremiah 29:11

In the coming weeks several Minnesota UCC congregations are hosting 29:11, an amazing group of performers from South Africa who share their music and story of reconciliation. Upcoming performances are at Congregational Church of Excelsior on March 12; Lyndale UCC on April 9; Peace UCC in Duluth (with St. Mark's AME) on May 7; and Plymouth Congregational on May 14. Robbinsdale Parkway UCC hosted the group in February.

29:11 International Exchange is a music ministry based in South Africa and the U.S. whose mission is to facilitate hope and reconciliation through musical performance and collaboration, artist development, and cross-cultural relationships. In their words, "By recognizing that each of us is worthy of understanding and love, we can bridge the ideological, racial, and socio-economic gaps that divide us, and live together as citizens of the world."

The group produces, performs and records music across a wide range of genres. Repertoire features original works, including a cantata depicting the history of traditional African songs, Gospel favorites, remixed rhymes, and pop covers.

Rev. Claire M. Klein got involved with the group in 2018 when she was part of the South African tour with the Minnesota Orchestra and Minnesota Chorale. 29:11 came to Minnesota to perform, then the Orchestra and Chorale traveled with the group to perform in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Soweto.

The co-founders of 29:11, Brendon and Gaylene Adams, reached out to Klein in 2020 to express interest in returning. Klein, who works as a music therapist with Grace Hospice, readily volunteered to help. She engaged her UCC colleagues and found many eager to host the group. Former Associate Conference Minister Rick Wagner and Steve Hughes, a member at Excelsior UCC, volunteered to help as well.

Klein says she hopes this tour will promote a "shared envisioning of peace and reconciliation, for people to be moved to love more widely and deeply by getting to know the amazing musicians and artists of 29:11."

Brendon Adams, who is originally from Capetown, says, "Reconciliation is messy. It’s hard work, but we can approach it with a spirit of forgiveness and love. We can invite others to sing with us, pray with us, serve in the streets with us, heal with us.”

The group often quotes Nelson Mandela: "Reconciliation is a spiritual process, which requires more than a legal framework. It has to happen in the hearts and minds of people.”

Learn more about 29:11 and their performance schedule on their website or follow them on Facebook.

Conference News & Events

“Small Church Collective” Conversations Start Next Week


Tuesday, March 14, 10:30-12 noon, free


The first in a series of conversations designed for pastors and lay leaders in churches with 50 or less in worship begins next week with “Small is Normal, Small is Beautiful.”

Our special guests on March 14 are the Rev. David Schoen and Erica Dollhopf, both of whom are on the national staff of the United Church of Christ. David is an ordained minister in the UCC who has worked to nurture and strengthen local congregations throughout his ministry. He is a contributor to Vital Signs and Statistics ; including “A Guide for Being Smaller” and Shining Light on Your Church’s Halo.” Erica is the Director of the Center for Analytics, Research Development, and Data (CARDD) of the UCC, which annually compiles data on congregations across the denomination. She has done extensive research on congregational vitality.


This gathering will be held on Zoom. Our guests will present first, followed by a time for Q & A and small group discussion. Future gatherings of the “Small Church Collective” will be on April 11 and May 9 (second Tuesdays of each month), also 10:30 am-noon.

Be Part of the Change: Join the Ad Hoc Anti-Racism Working Group

In the next two months, the Conference will convene a special ad hoc working group (6-8 people) tasked with shaping our anti-racism work, identifying objectives and strategies to advance it. The group will meet for 90 minutes monthly, led by our Crossroads partners and staffed by Conference Minister Shari Prestemon. Ad hoc members will:

  • Be either Authorized ministers or lay members from anywhere in the MN Conference UCC
  • Bring a personal commitment to anti-racism
  • Exhibit an openness to learning and exploring
  • Have an ability to work well with others who have different experiences and understandings
  • Have a personal faith that anchors and informs everything we do
  • Commit to one year of active participation in this group, regularly attending meetings and performing tasks in between as needed

If you’d like to learn more about participating in this way or be considered for the ad hoc group, please contact Conference Minister Shari Prestemon at sharip@uccmn.org. Help us be a courageous church!

Read more about the Conference's anti-racism work.

There's Still Time to Register for This Week's Environmental Justice Discussion


March 9, 7:00-8:00 pm on Zoom (free)


Join us for the third Zoom gathering in our environmental justice series. We will learn more about mining pollutants, especially in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.

Mining pollutants have been on the forefront of Minnesota’s environmental conversations for many years. The effects on our water, habitats, and health are well documented. However, the push for copper-nickel is an urgent concern, especially from the PolyMet mine.

All are welcome to join the discussion. Invite others from your congregation, friends, co-workers, and other organizations. This is a free event.

Annual Meeting 2023: Protecting God's Gift of Creation

We are excited to welcome you to this year's Annual Meeting June 9-10, where we will gather at the College of St. Benedict. Our theme is "Protecting God's gift of Creation." An online option will also be available. Workshops will be offered in person during the afternoon on Friday, June 9, for those attending in person.

VISIT OUR WEBSITE for more details including our keynote speaker, the agenda, and access to the newly opened registration link. 

Mayflower UCC to Host First Annual National UCC Earth Day Summit on Saturday, April 22

"There is no greater power on Earth than Story." – Libba Bray

Plan to attend all or part of a special day filled with inspiring stories of hope!

10:00 AM - 12:30 PM CST

National UCC Summit (virtual on Zoom) featuring renowned climate activist, theologian, and author Jim Antal as the keynote speaker and a panel of expert Minnesota organizers


Saturday 1:30 - 3:00 PM CST

A program held at Mayflower Church, both in person and live-streamed; 106 E. Diamond Lake Road, Minneapolis

Music, prayer, a call to Action and a Readers’ Theatre presentation “Hope From the Front Lines," personal stories of courage and hope from rural, small town and urban Minnesota. REGISTER

One Great Hour of Sharing is March 19

The One Great Hour of Sharing special offering gives individuals in your congregation a way to respond to humanitarian and development needs here at home and around the world. One Great Hour of Sharing provides sources of clean water, food, education, health care, small business micro-credit loans, advocacy, resettlement for refugees and displaced persons, emergency relief and rehabilitation as well as disaster preparedness and response.  

There are many resources available online for churches to use to learn and support One Great Hour of Sharing:

  • Short VIDEO introduction
  • SERMON from Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson
  • Other One Great Hour of Sharing RESOURCES

Join Us in Rochester for the Conference's Third Covenant Day

Saturday, March 18, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm

Congregational Church UCC, Rochester


You are invited to our third Covenant Day hosted by the Congregational Church UCC in Rochester. This is a time to gather together and be the church! Covenant Days are filled with workshops, worship, food and fellowship – a time for members, lay leaders, and clergy of local congregations to connect with one another and Conference staff.

This month we will also have a plenary panel, “When Jesus Leaves the Building: Being Church in the Community,” where we will hear from sibling congregations about their work in the community, and have a chance to share and ask questions.

All are welcome! Our workshops are designed to be of interest to clergy and lay members of the church. This is an opportunity to meet others who are being church in this time and to discuss what it means to be people of faith in a pandemic-informed world.

FourTHursday to Focus on Trauma & Resilience

Thursday, March 23, 11:30 am (in person at United Theological Seminary) or noon (via Zoom)



Please join us for a conversation about “Trauma & Resilience” led by Amy McNicholas and Felicia Houston, both faith and mental health specialists with Advocate Health LCPC. LEARN MORE ABOUT AMY & FELICIA

Announcing 2023 Adult & Intergenerational Retreats & Camps!

We have an amazing line-up of adult and intergenerational camps and retreats for the summer and fall. Check them out!

Women's Retreat, September 8–10, Camp Onomia: LEARN MORE & REGISTER

Women's Wilderness Walk: From the Inside Out, September 22-24, Walking Space, Houston MN


2023 Queer Walk, September 29–Oct 1, Walking Space, Houston MN


2023 Faith Formation Leader Retreat, October 22-24, ARC Retreat Community


Bayport Day Camp, August 5, People's Park, Bayport


Mankato Day Camp, August 6, First Congregational UCC, Mankato


Two Educational Opportunities for Church Leaders

March 15, noon–1 pm: How Do We Fund the Future?


Featuring provocateurs Rev. Kent Siladi, UCC Director of Philanthropy, and Rev. Andrew Warner, Generosity Outreach Officer in the UCC Office of Philanthropy, Technology, Identity, and Communication (OPTIC)

Mar 22, 6:30–7:30 pm: What We Can Learn from Millennial and Gen Z Donors


Rev. Dr. Colie Bettivia of Grace UCC in Two Rivers, WI, will discuss insights and ideas the Church can learn from Millennial and Gen Z Donors about their charitable giving and philanthropy.

Chapel Hills UCC Accepting Applications for Grants 

Chapel Hills United Church of Christ in Edina, MN is now accepting applications for 2023 Enduring Fund Grants. Grants typically vary in amount and have ranged from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. While there is no specific requirement on what the grant can be used for, special consideration is given to applications that focus on specific projects versus contributions to general operating budgets. DOWNLOAD the grant application.

Applications are due by 11:59 pm April 30, 2023, via email (chapelhillsUCC@gmail.com) or mail (must be postmarked by April 30, 2023) to Chapel Hills United Church of Christ, 6512 Vernon Ave S, Edina, MN 55436-1823. Questions? Email chapelhillsUCC@gmail.com or call 952-935-3025.

Partner News & Events

The Ministry Lab Offers Webinar on Mental Health

The last couple of years have been tough for church workers, kids, and families — not to mention the church workers who serve them. The Ministry Lab invites all youth ministry leaders, clergy, and mentors who work with tweens, teens, and their families to join Melissa Weinhandl, LMFT, MATh, for a 90-minute conversational webinar on March 14 from 2:00-3:30 pm (free to Conference congregations and members) about how to support mental health for yourself and those you serve. LEARN MORE & REGISTER.

Joys & Concerns

The Committee on Ministry will host an Ecclesiastical Council for Nathan Holst on Sunday, March 12, at 3:30 pm. People are invited to join in person at St. Mark AME in Duluth or via Zoom. You can read Nathan’s ordination paper and learn more about him. RSVP to See Chang, COM administrative assistant at COMadmin@uccmn.org, to receive the Zoom link. If attending in person, the address is 530 N. 5th Ave, Duluth, MN 55805.

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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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.