Volume 16, No. 43 | November 4, 2020

COMMAntary
Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Two Things We Know With Utter Clarity
Grace and peace, dear friends across the Minnesota Conference UCC.

On this day after our state and national elections, I write to all of you profoundly aware of how exhausted and anxious we are as a country and as a community of UCC churches in Minnesota. As this morning dawned, the outcome of our Presidential election was still undecided, and that may yet be the case for at least a couple more days.

This bitter election season, and its unclear result thus far, only compounds the grief and hurt we are all feeling more broadly. The combined weight of a pandemic now re-surging, an economy in trouble, racial injustice painfully still part of our nation’s narrative, and church life so profoundly changed is devastatingly heavy. We feel it in our aching hearts and churning guts. So be gracious to others and with yourself this day.

There is a lot we don’t know right now, much we can’t predict, but today I offer two things we do know with utter clarity.

We are a nation painfully divided.
Whoever ultimately emerges as President in this election, we cannot ignore that the closeness of the race reflects a nation deeply and painfully divided. That should concern us all. That division will impact policy-making, relationships, rhetoric, and the national mood far beyond this election. It reflects a lot of serious truths we must reckon with more honestly as a people, ugly things that are hard to stare directly in the face.

That has direct implications for us in the Minnesota Conference UCC, too. Those same divisions are a factor in our own Conference and in the communities where our churches reside. Many of our pastors preach each Sunday to congregations that are politically diverse, or serve within communities where their church represents a clear minority of thought and theology. While others of our churches may be in ‘progressive bubbles’, that experience is clearly a privileged mirage in the larger context of our State. Our Conference, like Minnesota and our nation, is divided (for example) along urban and rural lines. It’s paramount that we as a church find a way to reckon with our own reality, too, and listen more thoughtfully to each other.

God is still with us: today, tomorrow, and forevermore.
That simple and profound truth is the blessed balm we need for our souls. The world around us is chaotic, and so many things we thought we knew seem to be slipping from our grasp. But this central pillar of our faith holds firm: “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Today we are shaken. It may feel as if God has not heard our deep cries of lament. Our hope may be diminished. And yet God still is who God has always been. A God who created us to be God’s partners in the creative, redemptive, sometimes agonizing work of justice and peace and mercy. A God who goes to the greatest lengths to deliver & liberate God’s people. A God who grants healing in the most unexpected of places and ways. A God of Resurrection, who wrestles new, abundant life out of desperation and death. A God who works in God’s own time and way, and bids us to be faithful.

Siblings in Christ, let us put our trust in the God whose presence with us remains steady when all else falters, whose all-embracing love forever holds fast. And may we join with God in the daunting work ahead of us all to learn, listen, reckon, and pray together for a future transformed by hope.

With you on the journey,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
Amos Task Force Update
The Amos Task Force was formed by the MN Conference Board of Directors to develop short-and long-term strategies for addressing racial justice in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.

The task force started meeting at the end of July and spent time becoming acquainted and organizing. In many ways, the task force is a microcosm of the issues all of us face in our communities: How do we find ways to be honest in conversation with each other and still bridge racial divides? How safe is it for persons of color to be vulnerable in a racially mixed group? How do white people learn to listen and speak without fear of being offensive? How can we undo the deep roots of white supremacy that affect the well-being of all of us?

In addition to beginning the hard work of becoming a community with honesty, vulnerability, and safety, the Task Force has made several decisions.

  1. Awarded reparations grants to two organizations serving the housing needs of Indigenous persons in Duluth (American Indian Community Housing Organization) and in Minneapolis (American Indian Community Development Corporation). Both of these grants were from monies set aside at the 2019 Annual Meeting to be distributed in 2020.
  2. Agreed to develop a webpage on the Conference website detailing anti-racism resources.
  3. Agreed to offer resourcing for congregations (along with Conference staff) on how to be a good ally.
  4. Agreed to offer a Conference-wide book read for Lent. The book is being chosen.
  5. Agreed to develop resources for congregations and the Conference for doing racial justice audits.

Details on the above items are forthcoming. We are also working on educational, advocacy, and direct-action opportunities. Stay tuned for more information or contact Anita Bradshaw at anitab@uccmn.org.
Conference News & Info
#Grateful? Your Photo Is Due by Tomorrow, November 5!

As the Minnesota Conference team prepares worship for Conference congregations to use in November, we want to find a way to showcase YOU in our worship!

We invite you —individuals, families, and churches—to send us photos that we will share during a prayer time focused on gratitude. Our goal is to provide a visual of the Conference community across the state.

Please send us a picture of you or your church, and if you can feature #gratitude or #thankful, that’s even better! Send your photo by Nov 5 to communications@uccmn.org.
"Practice Paying Attention – Humility" is Topic of This Week's Toolkit for Families and Faith Formation Leaders
Humility opens our hearts to gratitude. It allows us to become more awake to our profound interconnectedness, see beyond ourselves and feel deep appreciation for the gifts others offer the world. Research tells us that when we become aware of the value of others, it uplifts us and spurs us to be more generous and kind. Here are some fun ways to inspire the deeply entwined values of humility and gratitude in your family.

In week five of our Fall Toolkit (for families and faith formation leaders), we offer wonderful resources, from engaging videos, to creative activities, to spiritual practices, to books and songs and so much more.

Advent & Christmas Family Toolkit Launches November 29
 
The season of Advent is rapidly approaching, and we are delighted to announce details for the Advent & Christmas family toolkit, available electronically in weekly installments beginning the first Sunday of Advent, November 29. The toolkits will be available each Sunday of Advent, with the Christmas toolkit arriving Wednesday, December 23.
 
In addition to the variety of at-home faith formation resources included in the fall family toolkits, the Advent & Christmas toolkits will include a weekly Advent candle lighting ritual for home (appropriate for use in congregational worship) and a weekly adult-focused devotional practice.

Getting Credit for Power and Boundary Training
 
Authorized ministers who have completed a power and boundary training course in 2020 should forward the completion certificate to Janet at the Minnesota Conference office if they haven’t done so already. Those who have completed the LeaderWise training will be done with the requirement for this year. Those who have completed the Lewis Center training will be required to participate in a one-hour, follow-up conversation with Rev. Dr. Anita Bradshaw.
The Ministry Lab Announces Grant Opportunity

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on The Ministry Lab’s plans for 2020, we are delighted to announce a unique one-time grant opportunity to congregations for the upcoming seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

Hopeful Innovation Grants of up to $200 each will be made for efforts that aim to accomplish at least one of the following:
  • expand and/or deepen your reach within your congregation or community
  • represent something new, creative, and/or bold for your congregation
  • facilitate faith development
  • equip leaders for new ministry opportunities

Apply by Nov. 13 for the best chance to receive a grant. Any additional funds will be awarded through the end of November on a rolling basis. Grants are available to Ministry Lab member congregations only.
Statewide Overcoming Racism Conference is November 13 & 14

Join UCCers from across the state online for "Overcoming Racism: Taking Back "We the People." Keynote speakers are Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. and the Funny Asian Women Kollective. 

A special workshop on Saturday, November 14, from 2–3:30 pm CST will help us strategize how we can respond, as congregations and as a Conference, to further the efforts of racial justice. Anita Bradshaw, Associate Conference Minister, will be leading the workshop.

Limited scholarship money is available. Follow the link below for info. The MN Conference UCC also has some limited scholarship money available for first-time attenders. Please contact Anita Bradshaw at anitab@uccmn.org for more information.

PRAXIS: Practicing Strength
Join us Wednesday, November 11, from 3:00-4:30 pm for a discussion around building resilience and supporting mental wellness. Therapist Lori Alford, LAMFT, will lead us into practices that promote self-care and self-balance in work, play, and times of crisis.
 
Alford is a clinical therapist, working with youth who have engaged in sexually harming behaviors and their families at Steps for Change. She has done extensive work with the MN Conference UCC as a facilitator for Our Whole Lives and as a faith formation leader.

Contact Sandy for a Zoom link.
Election, Advent & Christmas Resources from the Conference

The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to ministry during the election, Covid-19 pandemic and faith formation. This week we added a new page of resources related to election and post-election concerns.

It's not too early to plan! Check out this list of Advent and Christmas resources provided by folks in the MN Conference UCC.

The Conference website offers a wealth of other resources related to ministry during the Covid-19 pandemic and faith formation. Bookmark this page and check back frequently.
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 and Concerns
An ecclesiastical council will be held for Claire Klein on Monday, November 9, at 2:00 pm via Zoom. Clergy of the Conference and church delegates are encouraged to attend. For a link to the event, contact Janet at the Minnesota Conference office with your local church membership, lay or clergy status, and whether or not you are a voting delegate. To learn more about Claire, read this introduction and her ordination paper.
Clergy Clusters
The North Central Clergy Cluster will meet Friday, November 6, at 5:00 pm for a Zoom happy hour. To receive a link to the meeting, email Rev. Leslie Moughty at pastorleslieucc@gmail.com.
News & More Resources
Check out the employment opportunities portion of our website for all open positions.

The Conference website offers a wealth of resources related to ministry during the Covid-19 pandemic and faith formation.

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.