Volume 17, No. 34 | September 1, 2021

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
When Disaster Strikes: COMMAnts from the Conference Minister
—Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon

Some in the Conference already know this but others may not: living through an overwhelming natural disaster is part of my story and faith journey.

Sixteen years ago, I was serving as executive director of Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi, when Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast and destroyed everything in its path. Seven of eight of the service buildings that were part of Back Bay Mission’s campus back then were rendered a total loss; it took 18 months to repair the one building still standing. The entire region the Mission had then served for 90 years was devastated, the poorest communities that were the Mission’s closest neighbors flattened. It was several excruciating years before the Gulf Coast community — its neighborhoods and families and organizations and infrastructure – resembled anything like “recovered.”

That experience was simultaneously the most traumatic of my life and the most inspiring. The deep and multi-layered loss, coupled with the enormity of practical challenges the disaster introduced into everyday life and work, was horrific and left its lasting scars. But it was also during those years that the Body of Christ continually showed up in every way that mattered to bring healing and restoration: generous dollars, extraordinary volunteerism, steady and enduring presence.

I can’t help but reflect on that experience of many years ago when I watch now the wide-spread ruin Hurricane Ida has brought to Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, including areas where UCC ministries reside. I know something about what they’re now witnessing, and my heart aches when I think of all they have ahead of them. Their pain and recovery journey will stretch far beyond the normal attention spans of our media and most of us.

So I invite you today to find ways over the coming days, months, and years to be for them (and for all the other places where fires and floods have left their mark) the same amazing Church that I saw show up 16 years ago: generous, attentive, and present.

A Prayer for the Facing of this Hour
Written by Reverend Shari Prestemon, August 29, 2021

O God of infinite grace and generous love, our hearts tremble as storms rage around us.

In the wake of Hurricane Ida and the devastation it leaves behind in Louisiana and Mississippi, we bow our heads in prayer to You.

Sit with all those still awaiting rescue in this hour, those without electrical power, those who have been injured or have lost loved ones.

Hold close all those whose homes & neighborhoods & businesses & families have been devastated by brutal winds and waters, who face months and years slow recovery, whose lives have just been indescribably changed.

Grant your blessed guidance to all those who will rush to help & heal in immediate relief efforts, to all those who will follow in the months and years to come to recover and repair what has been lost.

Hear our prayer, our God.

O God who grants peace beyond all understanding, we pray for Afghanistan…

For all military service members who aided in the evacuations and who selflessly served over the last two decades;

For precious lives lost over 20 long years of war, and for lives violently taken in just these last few days…for all the human wreckage that war inevitably leaves behind;

For the Afghan people, those who’ve now left their homeland and others who remain, for safety & dignity for women & girls, for a future with abundant life for all;

For all who would receive refugees from this war-torn place, that welcome might be granted;

For a peace that seems to evade us, for healing of wounds seen & unseen that will long be with us.
O Great Healer, balm to our souls, we pray for a nation and a world still gripped by COVID.

For the families and friends of all who have perished, & for those who suffer in this moment with the scourge of this virus;

For teachers and children and college students and parents as school years begin;

For pastors and chaplains and all who strive to lend comfort;

For all who carry the burden of leadership and decision-making amid continuing uncertainty;

For all exhausted by this ceaseless pandemic journey.

God of grace and glory, rise within us like the words of the hymn our hearts still dare to sing: grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of this hour. Still the storms around us and within us. Lend us the courage that fails us and the hope that escapes us. Grant strength for all that weighs upon us. 

Though our voices may tremble and our world may rumble, our faith in you holds fast, and it is in your powerful name that we pray. Amen.
Conference News & Events
Just a Few Slots Left for Sacred Sites Tour with Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs

Sunday, October 3, 1-5 pm.

The tour is part of the MCC’s “Healing MN Stories” program, an effort to create understanding and healing between Native American and non-Native people, particularly those in faith communities. This particular tour will be for Minnesota Conference UCC members only.

This opportunity is offered as part of the Conference’s commitment to racial justice and equity. Registration is required by September 30 and limited to 30 people. There are only six remaining slots so act now! The tours are entirely outdoors and designed for adults and older youth (16+). Per person cost is $40; registration fees will be donated to support the Healing Minnesota Stories program.
The Damascus Project's New Course Open for Registration

Friday, October 22, 10 am–noon CT
Saturday, October 23, 1–3 pm CT
Cost: $65

Writer/composer Amanda Udis-Kessler will offer a virtual workshop “Grit and Grace: Creativity, Spirituality, and Justice Work,” an ideal opportunity for clergy, lay leaders, and all people of faith seeking inspiration and creative renewal.

Workshop time will include conversations, individual exercises, pair and small-group discussions, creative opportunities supported with spiritual grounding practices, and community-building.

Applications Open for Inaugural Social Justice Undergraduate Fellowship at United Theological Seminary

UTS' new and innovative "Soul of Social Transformation: Exploring Vocations in Social Justice" fellowship will help participants consider previously unimagined vocations that link the work of justice and transformation with church or faith-based organizations, while building skills to become transformative leaders.
At monthly mini-retreats, the cohort will receive mentorship from a diverse group of social transformation leaders and change agents who are working at the intersection of faith and justice, including:
  • Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis, lead minister, Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis
  • Jim Bear Jacobs, director of community engagement and racial justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches and parish associate at Church of All Nations Presbyterian Church
  • Carin Mrotz, executive director of Jewish Community Action
  • Jamil Stamschror-Lott, founder of Creative Kuponya and teacher of diversity & inequality coursework at Augsburg University’s clinical social work program
  • Kelly Sherman-Conroy, Native American theologian 
Applications are due September 10. LEARN MORE
Hemp and Food Health Day is September 11

Saturday, September 11
Cotter Farm, Austin | 9:30 am–2:30 pm
Cost: $15/person + $5 to ride the bus from Falcon Heights UCC church parking lot.
REGISTER by September 7

Tom Cotter and friends invite you to join them for a day on the Cotter Farm to learn more about the science of hemp farming and production, soil conservation, and natural growing methods that can be used in gardens big and tiny. READ MORE

Also Coming Up (register by September 10)

Women’s Wilderness Retreat: September 24–26
Take a break from the chaos and stress of daily life, and unplug into adventure! Each day will bring a different kind of adventure while we hike and paddle on the South Shore of Lake Superior. Each evening you’ll enjoy gourmet foods and beverages around the fire. 

Men’s Retreat – Overwhelmed by Life: An Invitation to Reconnect and Remember
September 24–26 (start time 4:00 pm, end time 11 am)
Join other men from around the Minnesota Conference for a weekend to pause amid the chaos and overwhelm of life. The retreat will be co-facilitated by Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Faith Formation, and Hans Peterson. LEARN MORE AND REGISTER
Rev. Dr. Jessica Chapman Lape to be Installed at UTS

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities invites the public to Fall Convocation on Thursday, September 9, at 11:45 am in the campus chapel (767 Eustis St., St. Paul) or via Zoom. In celebration of the new academic year, Convocation will include a time of worship and the installation of Rev. Dr. Jessica Chapman Lape as assistant professor of interreligious chaplaincy and program director for interreligious chaplaincy. She will present on the theme, "In the Wilderness: A Womanist Embrace for Liminality."
Regenerative Communities Summit Set for Sept 24–Oct 10

The United Church of Christ has a legacy of leadership on creation care and environmental justice. The virtual Transition US Regenerative Communities Summit is one opportunity to engage our calling. Learn more about this event that brings together people committed to reimagining and rebuilding a world that is more just and supports the flourishing of all.
National Setting Address Change

All OCWM gifts and gifts to the other four special mission offerings should still be sent to the Minnesota Conference office at 122 W Franklin Avenue, Suite 323, Minneapolis MN 55404. We will forward your gifts, including 34.75% of OCWM receipts, to the national office. For all other directed gifted to the national setting, use this new address:

United Church of Christ
PO BOX 71957
Cleveland, Ohio 44194
Anti-racism Training Offered for Ministers

Wednesdays, September 22 and 29, 5:30 to 8:30 pm
Attend at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities or online
Registration fee: $75
Led by Okogyeamon, co-founder of ASDIC

This Antiracism Study Dialogue Circle (ASDIC) workshop is interactive and experiential. We will explore the ways that racial dynamics play out in and about us, every day, in both personal and institutional spaces. This training is open to everyone and meets the requirement for the Minnesota Conference UCC Diversity/Anti-Racism Education for Authorized Ministers.

Eden Seminary Offers NEXT Steps: Midlife and Beyond Program

The program introduces participants to theological, philosophical, and psychological concepts of vocation and aging. It is a gathering for adults contemplating or entering retirement, and for those who are recently retired. NEXT Steps participants engage in this 14-week process of self-discovery to develop a vision and plan for their next phase of life. All meetings are on ZOOM. LEARN MORE
Take Your Shot!

The Minnesota Conference UCC encourages all members who are able to do so to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a sign of our care of ourselves and our neighbors.

Joys & Concerns
We offer thanks for two Interim pastors who are concluding their ministries in two of our churches. Pilgrim Congregational UCC in Duluth bid farewell this past week to Rev. Judith Youngman. First UCC in Northfield said good bye to Rev. Wendy Vander Hart. We give thanks for the faithful ministries of these two pastors and pray blessings on each congregation as they prepare to welcome new pastors.

We celebrated the ordination of Claire Klein on August 29 at 2:00 pm. Claire is being ordained into a four-way covenant between Lyndale UCC, AccentCare Hospice, and the Minnesota Conference.
Resources & Clergy Clusters

  • The BIPOC Clergy Cluster meets quarterly on the second Thursday of the month September 9, and December 9 from 5pm-6:30pm on Zoom for now.  To receive the Zoom link to the cluster meeting and/or get an invitation to the Facebook group, email Rev. Nikki Frontz.

  • 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 Covid, 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.