Volume 16, No. 38 | September 23, 2020

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Five southeastern Minnesota churches, including the First Congregational Church of Winona, UCC, have joined forces to clear more than $2 million of medical debt throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The five faith communities raised $15,000 and, through a partnership with the New York-based nonprofit RIP Medical Debt, purchased and cleared medical debt in bulk across both states. As a result, 1,057 households will receive a letter informing them that their medical debt has been relieved and that credit agencies have been informed these families are no longer liable for the debt.

The five churches that worked together to achieve this goal are: First Congregational Church of Winona, UCC; Grace Presbyterian Church of Winona, PCUSA; Central Lutheran Church, ELCA; Cedar Valley Lutheran Church, ELCA; Lutheran Campus Center of Winona State University, ELCA.

“Our primary goal with this campaign was to relieve the burden of debt for families across the region,” said First Congregational Church’s Rev. Danielle Bartz. “We also wanted to show our churches that even small communities can do tremendous things. This campaign has more than proven that.”
Refusing to Fight for Crumbs: Exploring the intersections of Indigenous and Black Justice
Guest: Jim Bear Jacobs
Thursday, October 1 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm via Zoom

Jim Bear Jacobs is is director of racial justice and community engagement at the Minnesota Council of Churches. He is also a cultural facilitator in the Twin Cities and works to raise the public’s awareness of American Indian causes and injustices. He is founder/convener of “Healing Minnesota Stories,” an initiative dedicated to creating events of dialogue, education, and healing, particularly within faith communities.

Jim is a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation, an American Indian tribe located in central Wisconsin. He has degrees in Pastoral Studies and Christian Theology and has served various churches as youth minister, adult Christian educator, and director of Men’s Ministries. RSVP
Conference News & Info
Promote Conversations about Racial Justice with Compelling "Justice Talk to Justice Walk" Webinars

Where Do We Go From Here? Lessons from Ferguson & Beyond
Featuring Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister of the United Church of Christ and a leading national voice in the struggle for racial justice

Sacred Disruption: Standing with Jesus at the Corner of 38th & Chicago
Featuring Rev. Gary Green and Rev. Dr. Justin Sabia-Tanis in a dynamic conversation about how our sacred scriptures and our theologies can help shape our responses to George Floyd’s murder and a history of racial oppression

Youth Lead Now: Equipping Young Leaders for Social Change
Featuring Samantha Fuentes, a survivor of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida
Where Do We Go From Here? Lessons from Ferguson & Beyond
Sacred Disruption: Standing with Jesus at the Corner of 38th & Chicago
Youth Lead Now: Equipping Young Leaders for Social Change
New Boundary Training from Leaderwise
The Minnesota Conference is now offering power and boundary training from our partners at Leaderwise, in response to criticism of the online boundary training offered earlier this year. The course includes reading, online learning, and written reflection for a total time commitment of about five hours. The cost is $50/participant. Dates and times for fall classes are noted below. MORE INFORMATION

  • Chaplains: Thursday, October 29, 9:00-11:30 am
  • Other clergy: Wednesday, October 21, 9:00-11:30 am
  • Other clergy: Wednesday, October 28, 3:00-5:30 pm 

If you have started the Lewis Center online training, please plan to finish it before Tuesday, October 27. Rev. Dr. Anita Bradshaw will hold the last follow-up session to that training at 3:30 that day via Zoom. To receive a link to the conversation, send your completed certificate to janeta@ucc.org.
Support for Your Stewardship Work

Join Our Informal Group to Talk Stewardship Ideas! If you or your congregation are interested in receiving occasional stewardship ideas, tips, news, and conversations about church giving, consider joining the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ Stewardship Cohort. This informal group is made up of people who care deeply about the mission of their church and passionate about ramping up stewardship efforts. For more information, contact Bob Olsen, Development Officer at the Minnesota Conference, 612.230.3375.

Help for Communicating Your Stewardship Efforts. Are your church’s financial efforts changing to meet the challenges of fundraising in the 21st Century? The national setting of the United Church of Christ is offering webinars for churches on making your church’s communications seamlessly overlap with your stewardship programs and help congregations stay "on-message" to your community. The webinars are led by The Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, a well-known and well-respected school that understands the basic nature of congregational life and giving. More information on how you and your church can participate is available HERE.

Registration closes September 27 for this series designed to help faith leaders (ordained and lay) call forth their best heart and soul for ministry. The course will meet (virtually) seven times over the course of five months. Cost is $400. Participants from the Minnesota Conference receive a $200 discount (use the code UCCDISCOUNT). LEARN MORE & REGISTER
Family Toolkit Returns Beginning October 7 for Fall and Advent/Christmas

Based on the positive experiences and constructive feedback we received about the Summer Family Toolkit, the Conference is returning with additional installments of this accessible and interactive at-home family faith formation resource. The toolkit will be available electronically in weekly installments (released on Wednesdays), Oct 7–Nov 18 (fall) and Nov 25–Dec 23 (Advent).
The fall toolkit will focus on two important spiritual practices for this season of life. Each week of October will invite folks to "Practice Paying Attention: Be Still, Listen, Wonder, Remember." November will invite folks to "Practice Gratitude: Humility, Kindness, Blessing."

Each toolkit will provide a thoughtfully focused and curated collection of video reflections, music, spiritual practices, readings, creative/art activities, games, community service projects, justice and advocacy opportunities, and more. If you would like to receive a direct email each week, please email Sandy Kellen.
This curriculum and interactive content are being developed in collaboration with Danger Boat Productions, Doing Good Together, the Ministry Lab, and psalmist and musician, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan.
Practicing Hope is Topic of September 24 Discussion

Faith formation leaders (clergy, lay staff, and volunteers) from around the MN Conference are invited to to gather via Zoom on most second and fourth Thursdays this fall from noon to 1:30pm. We will create together an online space for conversation, questioning, and shared resourcing within a supportive community of colleagues. And REGISTERED participants for each gathering will receive a free book or other ministry resource.
The sessions this fall will focus on five key spiritual practices essential for adaptive leadership in this chaotic, anxious, and challenging season of ministry with children, youth, and families. The themes for each gathering are:
Coming up on September 24: Practicing Hope. Develop new rituals and practices for the season of Advent/Christmas during a pandemic. REGISTER
MN Conference Outdoor Ministry Presents Three-Part Contemplative Gatherings

The MN Conference Outdoor Ministry will present a three-part Contemplative Gathering to bring us into a place of mindfulness and peace as we enter a change of seasons, a time of thanksgiving, and a time of reflection and anticipation. With the facilitation of three singer-songwriters/theological artists, each Zoom gathering will involve story, song, and inspiration. The first gathering is October 17. LEARN MORE & REGISTER
Register by September 28 for "Being a Faith Change Agent" Adaptive Leadership Course

As our churches engage in adaptive change —however successfully or not — it is the ideal time to learn the key moves of faith change agents. Faith change agents help their communities recognize crisis and major change as opportunities for faithful action and organizational transformation. Recommended for pastors, lay leaders and members-in-discernment. LEARN MORE
Fiduciary Support from United Church Funds

Every church and non-profit organization has its own unique mission and financial objectives. With that understanding, Matthew Wagner, Vice President, Institutional Relationships at United Church Funds, has written a helpful guide that describes the building blocks for customized, workable, and effective investment policy. DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE
Financial Assistance for Congregations

  • 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.

Joys & Concerns
Rev. Lawrence Tanner Richardson will be installed as lead pastor at Linden Hills United Church of Christ on Sunday, September 27. The Minnesota Conference offers blessings to Lawrence and the congregation on this new phase in their relationship. For links to the 10:00 am service on FaceBook or YouTube, contact Alexander at the Linden Hills church office.

Rev. Coqui Conkey’s daughter gave birth to a nine-pound girl September 21 (International Peace Day!). The Minnesota Conference offers hearty congratulations to Coqui and to her family and welcomes Della Louise into the world with joy.
Winston Janusz will be ordained by the Southern New England Conference Sunday, September 27 at 3:00 pm. Winston’s first call is to Peace United Church of Christ in Rochester. He has been approved for transfer to the Minnesota Conference following ordination. For a link to the service, contact Debby at the Peace Church office. Congratulations, Winston, and welcome!
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.

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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.