Volume 17, No. 3 | January 27, 2021

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
A Call to Unity
by Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon

Unity. 

Ever since President Biden implored the nation to join him in seeking it in his inaugural address on January 20, it is the new “buzz word.” Ironically, “unity” and what it looks like has now itself become a point of disagreement, among politicians and in wider conversation. We can’t even seem to agree on what unity means or what it requires of us! In other words, there doesn’t seem to be much progress on the unity front. 

President Biden knew his call for unity was both an imperative and a gigantic leap. He spoke the words against the backdrop of our nation’s Capitol, where just two weeks prior a mob had violently stormed the doors, terrifying those inside and leaving five people dead. That day was unimaginable to most of us, but as stunning as it was it should not have been entirely a surprise. The deep cultural, political, and religious divides in our country have become increasingly more entrenched and stark for years.

I don’t know how or if politicians, either in Washington, D.C. or even here in Minnesota, will find a path to anything resembling unity. What I do know is that a call to unity is something people of faith cannot simply dismiss.

The Epistles of our sacred scriptures are full of language calling the earliest Christians to a new kind of relationship. Those letters were written to communities equally divided by bitter disagreement and strife. They argued about who was welcome and who was not, struggled with what the culture would permit and what it forbade, and disagreed about what defined “truth” in their time. (Sound familiar?) And yet Paul and others who wrote the letters consistently reminded those communities that Christ’s bold, saving love had “broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14) and appealed to believers to be “united in the same mind and purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10). 
2021 Annual Meeting Set for June 7-13
The Annual Meeting Planning Work Group, in collaboration with Conference staff, is working hard to create a virtual experience that will be educational, supportive, collaborative, and enjoyable — balanced by our sincere desire to keep everyone safe and healthy.

The activities and learning sessions for the Annual Meeting will be spread out throughout the week of June 7, with the bulk of the work conducted on Friday and Saturday. Monday through Thursday we will have two workshop sessions each day, one mid-morning and the other mid-afternoon. We are accepting workshop proposals now! All workshops will be open to all delegates and visitors and will be recorded for later viewing by those registered for the Annual Meeting.

Conference News & Information
Our Faith, Our Values, and the Issues Facing Our Communities

In every community in Minnesota there are opportunities for congregations to see those who are invisible and to live out our call to respond to the needs in our communities.

Join pastors and leaders from around the Conference to explore the possibilities and how others are living out their faith and values on a webinar on Monday, February 8, at 7:00–8:30 pm, presented by the Amos Task Force and moderated by Conference Minister Shari Prestemon. Revs. Dana Mann (Mankato), Lawrence Richardson (Minneapolis), Nathan Holst (Duluth), Rev. Dwight Wagenius (Conference Creation Justice Team and MNIPL), and Diane Haines (Conference Immigration Team). We will explore issues facing our communities and how pastors and lay leaders have drawn on their faith and values to respond. REGISTER
Show up for Racial Justice

  • The Damascus Project invites you to participate in our "40-Day Lenten Practice: Strengthening Emotional Stamina to Counter White Fragility." It's a great programming opportunity for church groups and it also satisfies the new anti-racism/diversity requirement for authorized ministers. Registration deadline is end-of-day Friday, February 12. MORE INFO & REGISTRATION HERE
Creation Justice Series Returns February 18

How Then Shall We Live? Putting Faith Values into Earth Practice — The Second in the Creation Justice Series
February 18 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm with Buff Grace, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light

Christian faith like other religions calls us to live in harmony with the planet and peace with one another. But how exactly do we do that in our daily lives in the society in which we live? How do we choose our next steps amid the myriad of “green” options? What makes the most impact? What practice can we sustain? What deepens our growth and relationships? Whether you have been responding to the climate crisis for years or are just beginning, this session will help you take the next step. LEARN MORE
Family Toolkit Returns for Lent Beginning February 10

During Lent, we will share a weekly toolkit full of thoughtfully focused and curated video reflections, spiritual practices, readings, creative/art activities, games, community service projects, justice and advocacy opportunities, and more. The toolkit will be available electronically in weekly installments, starting February 10 on our website. If you would like to receive a direct email each week, please email Sandy Kellen.
Sabbath Practices and the Formation of Christian Identity

Mark your calendars for February 25 from noon–1:30 pm for a session with Rev. Jason Brian Santos, Ph.D. is an American practical theologian and the pastor of Community Presbyterian Church, a small mountain congregation located in Lake City, CO. For the last five years, he served as the national director for Christian Formation for the Presbyterian Church (USA). REGISTER
Data Hub Open Through March 3

The Data Hub is open to church administrators through March 3rd!  All churches in the conference are requested to submit data that informs us about our shared regional and national resources in a movement of faith and love. Click here for instructions. Contact Catherine Cejda at the Conference office if you experience problems with the process. The deadline for submissions is March 3. Thank you for your time on this project! 
Joys & Concerns
The United Church of Christ mourns the death of Reverend Keith Mills, Conference Minister of the Northern Plains Conference, who died suddenly on February 1. Rev. Mills had a steady passion for rural communities and churches and great affection for his Conference Minister colleagues. He is survived by his wife, Denise, and three children. Our deepest prayers are with his family, the Northern Plains Conference, and his friends and colleagues in the Council of Conference Ministers.

Rev. Mary Shaffer's husband, Steve, is now in home hospice. The family would appreciate prayers as they walk this journey together. Mary is a chaplain with Fairview Hospitals in the Twin Cities.
Resources

  • The Conference website offers a calendar of events, both Conference-sponsored and those sponsored by local churches. Access the calendar.

  • The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to ministry.

  • The United Church of Christ National Setting is offering financial assistance to local churches whose ministries have been challenged by the pandemic. See the process.


  • 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.
Clergy Clusters
The BIPOC Clergy Cluster meets monthly on the second Thursday of the month from 5:00–6:30 pm on Zoom. To receive a link to the meeting, email Rev. Nikki Frontz.
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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.