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Wisconsin Conference Life Newsletter
March 12, 2020 
Social Innovation Challenges Return in 2020
Attend to see if this might be an opportunity for your church

The inaugural Social Innovation Challenge in the Wisconsin Conference took place last fall at First Congregational UCC in Janesville. This event brought together community leaders, entrepreneurs and congregation members in a shark-tank like collaborative competition designed to launch projects and businesses that would contribute to making the Janesville community stronger. More information on the successful launch of this initiative is available here.
Based on this event's success, the Catalyst Team has recruited two additional congregations to hold a Social Innovation Challenge in their local community in 2020. All are welcome to attend either of these events to learn more about Social Innovation Challenges and what it might look like to host one in your community. Everyone present, whether innovator or observer will participate together in honing and shaping creative ideas aimed at social change and in voting for the ideas that will receive the start-up funding grants. Stay tuned for additional information about these upcoming events:
Saturday May 9, 2020, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
United Church of Christ
110 E. Hancock St., New London, WI
Contact: Rev. Greg Watling 
Saturday October 24, 2020, 9:00 am
Grace Congregational, UCC
2801 Garfield St., Two Rivers, WI
Contact: Rev. Colie Bettivia 
Celebrate Love of Creation - Plant Trees for Earth Day
by UCC News

Help protect the planet: Plant a tree. United Church of Christ  Environmental Justice Ministries  is inviting members and congregations across the wider church to celebrate Earth Day's 50th anniversary by participating in the Three Great Loves Tree Planting Campaign.
"Love of Creation is our most ancient and holy calling," said the Rev. Dave Sigmund, UCC ambassador for the 3 Great Loves Initiative. "The beauty of 3 Great Loves, our sharing of God's love through our love of neighbor, love of children, and love of creation, is that together in community, as a church, united, bonded, bound, connected to one another, we can change the world." Trees produce oxygen as they absorb carbon dioxide, reducing the overall concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They intercept airborne particulates and help reduce smog. Trees also provide a number of benefits to our communities.

Tree Planting Opportunities: The UCC has set an ambitious goal - hoping to plant 50,000 trees during the  3GL Tree Planting Campaign , to mark 50 years of Earth Days. In addition to planting trees in your communities, these organizations will plant trees on your behalf:
Please report how many trees you plant in this manner to our partners at Interfaith Power and Light.
Read these fun facts: The value of trees to a community  
Healing Our Earthly Home: Annual Meeting 2020
All Creation is Groaning...but listen and the Earth will teach you --Romans 8:18-25 and Job 12:7-9
June 5-7, 2020 - Green Lake Conference Center

Love of Creation: it's one of the UCC's 3 Great Loves. And it's more important now than ever before. Grounded in our Judeo-Christian faith and seeking to honor the wisdom of the First Nations, we are called to love, revere and care for God's whole creation. Annual meeting will inspire you and provide you with information and connections to resources to help you and your congregation become involved and take action on this critical challenge of our time. Join us at Green Lake Conference Center, June 5-7, 2020, for this year's annual meeting: Healing Our Earthly Home. Our Keynote speaker is Tia Nelson and Deborah Krause will be preaching in worship on Saturday.
Read more about Annual Meeting here

To set the stage for this year's meeting, the Creation Care Team suggests reading one or more of the following books:
Church Book Read : Cathedral On Fire | A Church Handbook For The Climate Crisis

The urgency of the climate crisis requires that we act as if our cathedrals and churches are on fire. Indeed, God's creation can be seen as one grand cathedral on fire with burning forests and rising temperatures. Amid this dire situation, Brooks Berndt focuses our attention on the unique and vitally needed gifts that churches can offer. He writes with poetic passion but also with an eye toward the practical as every chapter ends with suggested, field-tested actions. The book is designed so that church book groups can discuss one chapter a week from Earth Sunday (April 19th) to Pentecost (May 31st). With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, the book provides the perfect opportunity to inform and inspire church members to act.
Chapters in the book explore the following areas in which churches possess immense potential:
  • a commitment to care for God's creation as our first calling
  • a scriptural basis in pursuing justice for a planet and its people
  • a moral foundation for understanding the climate crisis as an inequality crisis
  • a powerful, sacred language for articulating what fundamentally motivates people to act
  • a hope-giving history found in the faith leaders who launched the environmental justice movement
  • a rich tradition of theology in times of crisis
  • a countercultural ethic of generational justice found in the Bible
  • a recognition of youth as the climate prophets of today
Plan now, and order your books from UCC Resources Single copy $6.95, Pack of 5 is $25.00.
quilt block image From Wisconsin To New South Wales with Love

When the Wollongong Modern Quilt Guild put out a request for quilt squares, the quilters at Plymouth Church in Eau Claire responded! The Wollongong Quilters are making quilts to give to families who lost their homes in the massive bushfires across Australia over the past several months. The squares were to be made with tree and leaf themes, to signify new growth and new life. Several squares were completed by the Plymouth quilters; this group includes members from Plymouth, First Congregational, and Truax churches in Eau Claire, and Namekagon Church in Earl. Quilters from other local groups also sewed squares. We will continue our prayers and support for the people, wildlife, and habitat of Australia as fire recovery continues.
Jesus Wore Moccasins
(You don't really know someone until you've walked a mile in their moccasins.) Blanket Exercise Coming to E&R UCC, Waukesha, Sunday, April 19
The "Blanket Exercise" is an experiential retelling of North American indigenous peoples' history from the fifteenth century to present day. The two to three hour experience helps participants focus on how colonization impacted Indigenous peoples' land base and culture and adds new information on how colonization - particularly the theology of the Doctrine of Discovery (repudiated by a Wisconsin Conference resolution in 2019) - has and continues to influence current colonizing behavior which has a disproportionate environmental impact on Indigenous people in the United States. The blankets show the size and population of indigenous people in North America from the time of European explorers and how and why they diminished over the next 500-600 years. A Talking Circle to debrief the experience is part of the event.
The Blanket Exercise will be presented by members of the Alliance for Justice, an emerging social justice movement sponsored by the Hocak United Church of Christ in Black River Falls and hosted by Evangelical & Reformed UCC, 413 Wisconsin Ave., Waukesha, Sunday, April 19, 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. Because participation is limited and to help cover the expenses of the Alliance members, registration is required. For questions or further information contact Rev. Bob Gross, E&R UCC, 262-547-2424. You can also participate in the blanket exercise at the Conference Annual Meeting. 
Coronavirus Considerations
United Church of Christ leaders are sharing information with each other, listening to the latest data from world health organizations and taking directives from their local health departments to discern how best to take precautions as the coronavirus COVID-19 spreads across United States. In that vein, Franz Rigert shares a message of Care, Caution, and Calm. Read Franz's message
However, please look for a new message from Franz on Friday, March 13, with updated information.
One Great Hour of Sharing: Everything is Potentially Local
By Terry Andre Dukerschein, Ladysmith United Church of Christ, UCC

One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) is a worldwide UCC Lenten Offering to be collected in UCC Churches March 22, 2020. It supports disaster aid, refugee relief, and development that is ecumenical and worldwide in scope and implementation. Before I retired 9 years ago, I worked first in medicine, then in ecology. I would argue that as our world shrinks and epidemiological, political, and climate instability issues loom larger, everything potentially has local implications.
OWL Training - Save the Date!

The Wisconsin Conference will be hosting an Our Whole Lives (OWL) Facilitator Training at Pilgrim Center from August 14-16. We will offer the training for two different levels- Elementary (K-1 & Grades 4-6) and Secondary (Grades 7-9 & Grades 10-12). Participants will need to register for the level they want to be trained in.

Registration information will be available soon!

Questions? Contact Lisa Hart
Rev. Laura McLeod Certified to Facilitate Sacred Conversations to End Racism

As the United Church of Christ prepares to mark Racial Justice Sunday, Feb. 9, there is much to celebrate - and, as always, much work to do, according to the denomination's minister for racial justice. The Rev. Velda Love (at right in picture) has announced that nine people from around the UCC are now certified to facilitate Sacred Conversations to End Racism, and Wisconsin's Laura McLeod is among them.
The Church's Response to Mental Illness
A Damascus Project Course
Instructors: Rev. Abigail Henderson, M.S.W. with Rev. Tisha Brown and Hannah Campbell Gustafson, M.S.W.
Several spring starting dates and locations, and meets both in-person and online
This course is designed to help local congregations develop a faithful and loving response to those living with mental illness. Topics include key concepts in mental health (terms, demographics, statistics); theologies of mental illness (scriptural study, theological writing, sermons, and opportunities for personal reflection); trauma and its impact and treatment; and an exploration of the church's role in risk assessment and crisis response. The goal is that learners will leave with a stronger sense of their own personal understanding of the meanings of mental illness, a collection of resources to bring back to their ministry contexts, and tools for responding to real-life situations involving mental health struggles.
Being a Faith Change Agent: A New Paradigm for Transformational Pastoral Leadership
A Damascus Project Course
Instructor: Rev. Dr. Mark Tidsworth
Starts Friday, April 24, in St. Paul, Minn. and continues for six weeks online
Explore the leadership practices of transformational and adaptive leaders and ground them theologically and spiritually. Learn best practices, how to apply them in congregational and ministry contexts, and reflect upon leadership efforts in a supportive community of learners. 
Who might want to participate in this course? Anyone curious about how to create real and lasting change in a community of faith will benefit from this learning opportunity. While this course is geared to pastors currently serving in congregations, all are welcome.
Sexual Assault Survivor Support
Break the Silence Sunday and
Steps on the Journey: A Healing Retreat

This April, the Wisconsin Conference UCC will observe its 5th Break the Silence Sunday. This will mark the first year that, having passed a resolution at General Synod this past June, the United Church of Christ will observe Break the Silence Sunday as a denomination. This annual observance to support survivors of sexual violence is scheduled for April 26th, the 4th Sunday in April.  April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Resources for this Break the Silence Sunday, including a full liturgy, are available at  
One of the resources available to support adult female survivors of sexual violence is a retreat at Moon Beach. For many years, United Church Camps, Inc. has offered Steps on the Journey: A Healing Retreat to support the healing and wholeness of survivors. The retreat is led by survivors and has provided a circle of support for the survivors who have participated over the years. Our hope is to continue to expand this circle of support. This year's retreat will focus on Resilience. Please include this insert in your bulletins and post them as flyers in your church. It is not easy for survivors to know where to find support, especially within the faith community.  By sharing this information, your congregation can help provide an important ministry to the survivors in your community.
Slogging Toward Resurrection:
When the Wait for New Life is Long and Hard
An Eastertide Retreat
April 17, 2020

Have you ever found yourself in a liminal time of sadness and stuckness when you know that something better and more bearable will eventually appear? In each of our spiritual lives, we endure vast and soggy "mud seasons" before the exuberant blossoming of springtime resurrection. How do we move through this slogging? How do we preserve hope and trust? Join us as we explore what can be the long wait for new life. 
Our retreat leader: Rev. Holly Whitcomb, Director of Kettlewood Retreats, is a widely traveled speaker and spiritual director. She is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Practice of Finding.
Kettlewood Retreats invites you to this Eastertide retreat at Cedar Valley. Come join us in the countryside of the Kettle Moraine on 100 spectacular acres near West Bend. The noon meal is included.
To register for this retreat, please write a check for $50.00 to Rev. Holly Whitcomb and send it to: 2095 Elm Tree Ct., Elm Grove, WI 53122. Include your name, address, email, and phone number(s). Upon receipt of your registration, you will receive a map. For more information, call (262) 784-5593. Deadline for registering is April 11.
Rev. Dr. Starsky
Faithful Citizenship for Beloved Community
Lakeland University 2020 Founders' Day Lecture
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Lakeland University Campus, Plymouth

In this year of the presidential election and the national census, the annual Lakeland University Founders' Day Lecture will address the sometimes dueling calls of dual citizenship in United States of America and God's community of peace and justice, where love is the governing ethic. The Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation, chair of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and vice chair of the Forum for Theological Exploration, will deliver a free lecture titled "Faithful Citizenship for Beloved Community" on Tuesday, March 31, at 11 a.m. in the Bradley Theatre on the Lakeland campus.
Wilson will reflect on his journey of discernment, leadership and the pursuit of racial healing during the unrest of the Ferguson Uprising in 2014 and 2015. After the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., Wilson was appointed by Missouri's Governor to co-chair the Ferguson Commission. In 2015, they released the 'Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity' Report, calling for sweeping changes in policing, the courts, child well-being and economic mobility which continues to guide civic decision-making today.
He will discuss the ways public policies continue to create a context approximating apartheid in the United States, then offer theological and cultural resources for citizen-servants to respond. Specific attention will be given to leadership models young Americans may consider as they choose candidates for elective office and determine how they will lead in communities through the nation in the future.
More information
UCC Webinar: Trees--Threats and Opportunities
The burning of forests around the world has sensitized us to some of the threats faced today by trees, one of the most precious gifts entrusted to our care. In the United States, trees have faced an especially dire situation in the Southeast where forest cover loss from industrial logging has been four times greater than the loss in South American rain forests. Amid such devastation, faith communities are finding tangible sources of hope, whether it is through community organizing or campaigns to plant thousands of trees. Learn more in a UCC webinar on March 17th. Even if you cannot make the time of the webinar on that day, sign-up and a video of it will be sent to you.  
Conference Transitions

Searching Churches
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New Calls
  • Will Pirrello Nelson has been called as pastor at Union Congregational UCC in Three Lakes, effective February 16, 2020. 
Installations and Ordinations
  • Rev. Kelly Volk was installed at Washington Reformation UCC on February 23, 2020 
In Memoriam
  • Rev. Kathy Rust passed away on February 13, 2020. Obituary
  • Rene Ceniceros, father of Rev. Lorraine Ceniceros, passed away on February 21, 2020. More information
The Conference Transitions feature appears monthly in the Wisconsin Conference Life. Please share your transition information, including church anniversaries, with the newsletter editor by emailing Nola.
This newsletter is made possible by contributions to Our Church's Wider Mission Basic Support.

The Wisconsin Conference UCC is an Open and Affirming Conference, and an Immigrant Welcoming Conference.

Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ
4459 Gray Road | DeForest, WI  53532

In This Issue
Plant Trees for Earth Day
Annual Meeting
Church Book read
Quilt project successful
Blanket Exercise offered
Coronavirus considerations
One Great Hour of Sharing
OWL Training announced
Sacred Conversations to End Racism facilitator certified
The Church's Response to Mental Illness Course
Being a Faith Change Agent course
Sexual assault survivor support
Eastertide retreat
Faithful Citizenship for Beloved Community
Creation Care webinar
Conference Transitions
Church Spotlight

For 175 years, this Southwest Association church has been serving the Janesville area. Currently led by Rev. Tanya Sadagopan, this church prides themselves on being a progressive, caring, and active community of faith.
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Generosity Forward e-newsletter
to learn about new ideas, best practices, and training opportunities around
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Check the Conference calendar for upcoming events.
The Parish Paper
This month's Parish Paper is " What is the Emerging Church?" Access this issue and archived issues here!
Quick Links

Join the Conference-wide Creation Care Team!
Are you passionate about Creation Care? Want to connect with others who are taking action to care for the earth? The Creation Care Team's primary focus is to encourage, support and provide resources to congregations in the Wisconsin Conference as they do what they can to care for creation. If you would like to be a part of this team, or for more information on the Creation Care Team, contact John Helt. You can also go to to learn more. 
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Wisconsin Conference Life, email Nola at the Wisconsin Conference.