Volume 18, No. 36 | October 12, 2022

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

Welcoming Immigrants with Open Arms

Jan and Kim Shaffer, members of First Congregational UCC Mankato, have opened their home to a child from Northern Ireland, a foreign exchange student, a Rotary student, and several Rotary chaperones. So, when they read about a program to support Ukrainians impacted by the current war with Russia, it didn’t take long for the Blue Earth couple to decide to sponsor and house a family.

In September, they welcomed Alex Rykov and Julia Rykova, children Luka and Alesia, and dog Noah into their home, where they converted their basement into an apartment. The two families cook together and share meals.

“I’m a firm believer that you can travel by having people come to your house,” Jan says. “So when Congress passed special immigration for Ukrainians and we saw a story about a group named Uniting for Ukraine, I looked at Kim and said ‘Do you want to do this?’ And we both said ‘Yes!’”

The process moved quickly, with five families contacting the Shaffer’s for possible sponsorship. “Julia and Alex seemed the most prepared," she says. "We sent them pictures of our home, the school, the downtown in Blue Earth and our church in Mankato.” The Shaffers also attended webinars to understand their commitment and how to best support the family.

Jan says that a church member paid for the family's airplane travel, and the congregation as a whole has been deeply supportive. The Shaffers have been devoted members First Congregational for eight years, driving 42 miles each way on Sundays to attend church.

“Our church and the Blue Earth community have been so welcoming,” Jan says. “The school has bent over backwards.” The plan is for the family to live with the Shaffers as long as they want and need. Jan says her church community is ready to help Alex and Julia find jobs as well.

For now, the Shaffers are helping the family acclimate to their new environment. They are sharing customs and cultures, new foods and new adventures. “We have learned what borscht is really supposed to be,” she says. "And Kim made plans to take Alex to a Gophers football game, which is exciting and new for him. We are receiving far more than we are giving. The joy of having them here is enriching our lives incredibly.”

Read a recent story in the Faribault register about the Rykov-Rykova family, and learn more about Uniting for Ukraine.

Conference News & Events

October FourTHursday is Moving to United Theological Seminary

"Handing Down the Faith: Building from Parents’ Views of Congregations" is the topic of our FourTHursday discussion on October 27 at noon. Professor Amy Adamczyk, Ph.D., who recently coauthored Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation, will be our guest presenter. Her book draws on more than 200 interviews with parents across the United States of varied faith traditions, as well multiple surveys, to better understand how parents think about religious faith transmission. LEARN MORE

Registration Closes Tue Oct 18 for the MN Conference UCC Clergy Retreat

From the Ground of Our Being: How Then Shall We Lead?

November 1-3, 2022 (Tuesday 5 pm – Thursday 11:30 am)

Christ the King Retreat Center, Buffalo, MN

$200 private room | $170 shared double room | $100 commuter



All actively serving clergy from around the Minnesota Conference UCC are invited to come together with colleagues for a few days of renewal, rest, and reconnection!

A Great Start to the New Year!

I learned about nature and more about the UCC." —8th grader

"I learned about the UCC and I'll take back good memories" —6th grader

"I learned a lot about my own belief system and spirituality." —10th grader

The Outdoor Ministry began the new fiscal year with the Fall Conference Youth Event (CYE) held at Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center in Sandstone, MN, this past weekend. Fourteen youth, grades 6–12, and seven adult leaders spent time learning more about the UCC and each other — in person!

Youth representing five congregations were challenged to think about their faith, their congregations, and how that all fits with the values to which the UCC aspires. They also had a chance to climb walls in a barn, learn more about their relationship with the natural world around them, and eat s’mores around a campfire.


It was a blessing to have good weather as a new community of youth started our new year with enthusiasm and grace. While not everything went as planned, we all came together to make this event a fantastic way to begin our 2022-2023 season.  

Make sure your youth and adult leaders save the dates for our next events (registration will open in November):

  • Spring 2023 Conference Youth Event |April 28-30 | Camp Onomia, Onamia, MN 
  • Summer Middle School Camp | July 5-7 | Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center, Sandstone, MN 
  • High School Immersion Trip | July 21-28 | Washington D.C. 
  • Fall 2023 Conference Youth Event | October 6-8 | TBD

Join Us for a Fall Wilderness Meditation

November 6 – 8

Luther Crest

8231 County Road 11 NW, Alexandria, MN 56308

Cost: $200/person for double room; $250/person for single room | Ages 19+


Using gentle hikes, meditation, and discussion, participants are encouraged to leave their worries at home and find their soul rhythm in natural spaces and deep conversations. Come to find reconnection for your body, mind, and soul.

Building Hope through Tiny Homes

The youth from St. Paul's UCC, Falcon Heights UCC, UCC New Brighton, and St. Anthony Park UCC are busy building a tiny home through a partnership with Settled and raising $35,000 for the work. These committed youth have also spent ample time learning about homelessness and discerning what about their faith calls them to do this work.

Thinking About Money

by Prince Rivers, Alban at Duke University


Coming into the fall planning season, church leaders are likely to have more concerns about money. In-person worship attendance is roughly half of what it was pre-pandemic. Prices and interest rates are trending upward. Under these conditions, congregations could take a defensive position: they scale down their plans so they don't take on too much risk.

Risk management is not a bad thing, but too much of a good thing can have unintended consequences. As you make financial plans for the rest of this year and next year, try not to let yourself and other leaders get trapped in fearful speculation about the future. It is difficult to encourage generosity when we start from a place of scarcity, because scarcity thinking is often rooted in fear.


Church leaders need to move beyond talking about money as a need for survival and instead encourage people to think about money as a resource for ministry and transformation. We sow seeds of hope when we find ways to publicly - and frequently - make the connections between what people give and what the church is doing for others.

In these challenging times, speak about financial stewardship with love, grace and hope. Love and grace will help you convince the unconvinced. Hope can inspire those who are afraid.

Calling All Congregations in the Alexandria Area to the Conference's Covenant Day!

Saturday, November 12, 9:30 am – 3 pm

First Congregational UCC in Alexandria, 221 7th Avenue W


Gather a team from your congregation and join us for practical resources and workshops, inspiring worship, covenantal connections with your UCC neighbors, and the awesomeness of being together again! We encourage all clergy, local church moderators, and lay members to attend. Registration is required; $10/person

Partner News & Events

Catching God’s Breath in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter

October 24, 2022

7:30–9:00 pm

In person and via livestream

Join us for "Catching God's Breath in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter," United's Gustafson Lectureship in New Testament Studies, delivered by Rev. Dr. Angela N. Parker, assistant professor of New Testament and Greek at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology. Rev. Dr. Parker will speak on the subject of her recently published book, "If God Still Breathes, Why Can't I? Black Lives Matter and Biblical Authority." REGISTER

Minnesota's Racial Legacy – Duluth: Bridging divides between our past, present and future

The Conference is an active member of the Minnesota Council of Churches, and is providing support to its Truth-telling, Education and Reparations project to foster a MN culture of anti-racism. The MCC is hosting a series of "truth-telling" events across the state over time, and we encourage our Conference members to attend. The next event is in Duluth on Sunday, October 16, 2-5 pm. Find more details HERE.

Join The Damascus Project's Advent Lunchtime Series

Get ready to get ready for Jesus’ birth with our Advent lunchtime lecture & resourcing series. Great for preachers and faith formation and youth ministry leaders.

For just $40:

  • Participate in 5 lectures with 5 different interpretive voices (Wednesdays 12:00 to 1:00 pm CST Oct. 19–Nov. 16)
  • Receive video recordings of these conversations
  • Join an online cohort of learners for sharing resources and having conversation on your own time.


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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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.