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Wisconsin Conference Life Newsletter
June 17, 2020 
When It's Hard to be the Church
by Rev. Dale Bishop

Struggling with the absence of in-person worship because of the pandemic, Rev. Dale Bishop shares his thoughts on when it's hard to be the church:
I've been reflecting on what I've been missing in worship as we're compelled to do it "distantly" during the pandemic. One of the things I miss is singing. Singing is about as close as I get to being uninhibited. For other people it's dancing, or perhaps dancing and singing, but dancing is definitely not my forte. Think Elaine in a particularly hilarious episode of Seinfeld. But I love to sing, and most of the singing I've done in my life has been in church. My parents got me started one Christmas season when I was about 4 and I sang, of all things, "Up on the Housetop," at some program in the church sanctuary. I had casts on both of my club feet, and my father held me in his arms while I sang. My parents loved to tell me how the congregation clapped, something never done in our congregation of dour Germans. I'm sure that our stern pastor, Reverend Beck, did not approve. But how can you frown at a temporarily crippled four-year-old singing a happy Christmas song?
Wisconsin Conference Lay Academy and The Damascus Project Join Forces
Registration for 2020-2021 cohort opens June 30

For more than 26 years, the Wisconsin Conference Lay Academy has equipped God's people for ministries of all kinds. As one participant said: "Lay Academy has helped me try different things that I might never have tried on my own without the support and encouragement of my teachers and classmates. In a way, each of us challenged ourselves to step out of our comfort zones and trust that God would help us as we tackled new challenges. I've learned that there is so much more we can do as Christians to share our faith, our love for one another."
Beginning this fall, the Lay Academy will find a new home and name under the umbrella of The Damascus Project , a joint initiative of the Wisconsin and Minnesota Conferences of the UCC. We are excited to expand the Lay Academy's highly successful program to the people of the Minnesota Conference. 
Much about Lay Academy's structure will remain the same, including the four years of learning opportunities. However, each former Lay Academy year now has its own name: Years 1 & 2 are known as Faith Foundations 1 & 2; year 3 is now called Leadership Skills; and year 4 is called Ministry Skills.
Each year of learning will continue to have five six-week units evenly spaced between September and April. We will work with the same amazing instructors to offer the transformative learning opportunities for which Lay Academy has become known. Participants will deepen their learning through independent reading and at-home activities, and we will meet together and with the instructors using Zoom and the new   Damascus Project Network (think Facebook but with a UCC flair and no ads!). 
Click here to learn more about what to expect in Faith Foundations and Leadership Skills and to explore all of the Damascus Project's course offerings. Registration opens June 30. Questions? Please contact Tisha Brown or Abigail Henderson .  
Faith Foundations: Tim Keenan

What is Faith Foundations?
Tim Keenan completed the two-year Lay Academy Faith Foundations program. Hear what he has to say about his Faith Foundations journey in this video. Find out more information here (scroll down a little bit to Faith Foundations).
Watch the video here
Historic Firsts
By the Wisconsin Conference Creation Care Team

Historic firsts. First Wisconsin Conference Annual Meeting held virtually during a pandemic and a resurgence of Black Lives Matter. First UCC Conference to endorse the Council for Climate Justice's Kairos Call to Action. Although COVID-19 and George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis dominated news coverage (rightfully so!), the Wisconsin Conference believes another significant headline for Saturday, June 6, 2020, might be: THIS IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR ACTION ON CREATION CARE.
During our abbreviated "Zoom" meeting, following a keynote address by environmental leader Tia Nelson on the ongoing legacy of Earth Day, our delegates and ministers voted to embrace The Kairos Call to Action, a decade-long covenant for the Conference, our congregations and their households and individuals to embrace what MLK called "the fierce urgency of now." During these next ten critical years, we will pursue the ten "calls to action" that Kairos outlines. These begin with study and worship, and lead to a variety of practical ways that we can more intensively apply our faith as caregivers for the Earth to the growing climate crisis. Read John Helt's introduction to this call here.
Brooks Berndt, UCC Minister of Environmental Justice, offered kudos for our national leadership in making creation care a Wisconsin Conference mission priority. Helping us to take the first step of study after the annual meeting, Brooks was featured in a webinar discussing his how-to-book, Cathedral on Fire: A Church Handbook on the Climate Crisis. He also featured our Kairos decision in last week's Pollinator, the weekly newsletter of the Council for Climate Justice. Our next webinar on August 13 will feature Jim Antal, another UCC creation care leader, who will share a variety of models for faithful climate-related preaching, from his book Climate Church, Climate World. (Antal was scheduled to be our education day speaker for the Green Lake annual meeting.) Past creation care webinars are archived on the conference website and available here
The Creation Care Team recently received a $5,000 grant, and will soon be announcing ways that congregations may apply for a "Kairos/Right Time" award to further your creation care ministry right where you live! Stay tuned for details on how to apply for an award.
What Now?
By the Wisconsin Conference Conflict Transformation Team

Due to the Coronavirus, our culture experienced an extremely swift change in what 'typical' life looked like. In addition to changing daily routines and interrupting income for many it has thrown us emotional challenges like most have never experienced. While we continue to navigate our changed daily life, we cannot even latch on to a vision of a future that will feel familiar. How do we make sense of this experience and prepare ourselves for the future? The Conflict Transformation Team offers suggestions for congregations as we come back together
Poor People's Campaign Digital March
This Saturday, June 20

The Digital Mass Poor People's Assembly & Moral March on
Washington, DC, will take place on Saturday, June 20, 2020.

The 2-hour program will be broadcast on Saturday, June 20th, at 9:00am CDT and again on Sunday, June 21st at 5:00pm CDT. Visit to watch.

For more information go to: > JUNE 2020 > Overview, and Digital Toolkit
Are Churches Liable if Members Get Sick at Church Events?

The Insurance Board has provided a COVID-19 Liability FAQ to answer questions churches may have about possible liability in the event of a member getting sick after attending a church event. Download here 
Stores from the Border: A Live Zoom Event
Thursday, June 25, at 6:30pm

Children are still being held in cages. Find out what's going on now, during the pandemic, on both sides of the US/Mexico border. Learn about specific actions that you and your congregation can take. This webinar will feature reports from Rev. Randy Mayer of Good Shepherd UCC in Sahuarita, Arizona, and Linda Zuba, an attorney from Rockford, IIlinois, active in immigration advocacy. This webinar is presented by the Wisconsin Conference UCC Immigration Working Group and McFarland UCC's Not In Our Name campaign. 
Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act
The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act was signed into law on June 5. The law extends certain deadlines and eases certain requirements for loan forgiveness for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans borrowed under the CARES Act. UCC General Counsel, Heather Kimmel, provides a brief summary of key changes 
United Church of Christ Local Churches and other settings should take these new deadlines and requirements into account in determining whether to apply for a PPP loan and how to use the funds once received. Download here
Financial Assistance for Congregations and Pastors
The Wisconsin Conference, the national setting of the UCC, and the Pension Boards are offering a number of grant and loan options for congregations and pastors affected by the coronavirus. 
Emergency Response Fund Grants - The Wisconsin Conference created the Emergency Response Fund to pool resources as congregations deal with critical needs. The Conference will award grants to organizations experiencing financial hardship and those meeting crucial needs in their community. Learn more here 
Wisconsin Conference Pandemic Relief Loan Program -
The UCC Cornerstone Fund Pandemic Relief Loan program is available to churches in participating Conferences, including the Wisconsin Conference. While loan amounts and terms can vary by Conference, the Wisconsin Conference program is offering a limited number of 12-month, interest-only loans of up to $25,000 at a rate of 2.50%. Loan applications are required and are due by July 15, 2020. More information 
National UCC Financial Assistance - The United Church of Christ National Setting is offering financial assistance to local churches whose ministries have been challenged by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The national officers have collectively identified $2.6 million in COVID-19 relief and another $1.1 million in micro grants.Recently expanded grants options include new grants for the operational support of congregations, grants for congregations of color and ethnic minority congregations, and grants to create community gardens.  A full list of grant and low-interest loan options can be found online here.
Protest during a Pandemic
Webinar, June 24, 12pm CDT

Instead of becoming suppressed by the pandemic, the spirit of justice has arisen with fierce determination and become embodied in countless ways. This webinar will reflect upon how protest has manifested itself during this time and the lessons that can be learned for communities of faith dedicated to answering the unrelenting call of justice. Three panelists will share what they have learned: Sophia Benrud from the Black Visions Collective in Minneapolis, Lindsay Harper from Arm-in-Arm in Atlanta, and Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick from the University of San Diego. Register now!
Immigrants in Dane County and Wisconsin
By Paulette Harder, member, Lake Edge UCC in Madison, and the Wisconsin Conference UCC Immigration Working Group
COVID 19 has had a devastating effect on Wisconsin. By early June, Wisconsin had over 20,000 confirmed cases and over 600 deaths as a result of the virus. The unemployment rate was over 14%.
The effects of COVID 19 on immigrants, minorities and low-income workers are devastating. Our most vulnerable citizens are the most affected by this pandemic. The Latinx community is uniquely vulnerable to COVID 19. For example, although the Latinx population is 6% of WI population, Latinx workers compose 30% of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin. The following data from Dane County shows vulnerabilities of this community: 70% are renters, 68% live in multi-unit dwellings, 34% fall below the poverty line and almost two of every five work in the service industry. Nearly 50% of Latinx lack healthcare coverage.
Congratulations to This Year's Scholarship Winners
Each year, the Conference awards three scholarships. This year's winners are listed below. You can read more about each winner and each scholarship in this article.
  • First Congregational Church-McDowell Scholarship: Shannon Joshi
  • Carl H. Zeyher Award: Dianne Droster
  • Myrtle I. Baker Scholarship Award: Hannah Campbell Gustafson
Message of Support From Our German Partners
The Wisconsin Conference UCC has a long history of partnerships with the Evangelical Protestant Church in Germany. Franz Rigert recently received this letter of support and solidarity from Bishop Dr. Stäblein from the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz. We give thanks for this continued relationship between our churches and share Bishop Dr. Stäblein's letter here.  
Communities of Practice for Clergy and for Christian Educators
Registration now open for groups starting in September
Note: Previous COP participants need to register again each year to continue in a group
Communities of Practice (COP) clergy groups provide the sustenance that your ministry needs in order to be effective well into the future! COP groups are designed to be peer learning groups, focused both on the practice of ministry and your growth in your role as a pastoral minister. Previous participants need to re-register to continue on in a group.
COP groups are available for people who work in Christian Education and Faith Formation (CE/FF), too!  
Help Others - Donate Now
The Emergency Response Fund of the Wisconsin Conference will provide help as congregations deal with critical needs caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. All funds will be awarded to organizations experiencing financial hardship and those meeting crucial needs in their community. Donate to the Emergency Response Fund
The General Fund of the Wisconsin Conference helps us connect, support, and resource pastors, leaders, and congregations.  Your gift allows the Conference to provide relevant and timely help during the pandemic and beyond. Donate to the General Fund 
Conference Transitions

Searching Churches
  • First UCC in Green Bay is searching for a pastor. Details
To see all searching churches, click here.

New Calls
  • Rev. Richard Feyen has been called as interim pastor at Pilgrim UCC in Fond du Lac, effective June 1, 2020.
  • Rev. David McDonald has been called as designated term pastor at Whitewater Congregational UCC in Whitewater, effective June 2, 2020.
  • Rev. Deborah Howland has retired. She served churches in Michigan, Minnesota, Connecticut and Wisconsin.
In Memoriam
  • Rev. Francis (Frank) Turpin passed away on June 9, 2020. Obituary 
  • Barbara O'Connor, wife of the late Rev. Jerry O'Connor and mother of Rev. Kathryn Kuhn, passed away on June 13, 2020. Obituary
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
Lay Academy joins Damascus Project
Faith Foundations
Historic Firsts
What Now?
Poor People's Campaign digital march
Liability information
Stories from the Border event
Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act
Covid Financial Assistance
Protest during a Pandemic webinar
Immigration Working Group
Scholarship Winners
German partnership
COP groups forming
Emergency Response Fund
Conference Transitions
Subscribe to the
Generosity Forward e-newsletter
to learn about new ideas, best practices, and training opportunities around
congregational fundraising .
Check the Conference calendar for upcoming events.
The Parish Paper
This month's Parish Paper is "title." Access this issue and archived issues here!
Quick Links

Is your church considering an Open and Affirming Process? The Wisconsin Conference has a committee to help!  Please feel free to use us as resources for your discussions and preparations. Contact Laura McLeod of the Wisconsin Conference UCC Committee on Ministry with LGBTQ Persons.

Also: check out the Facebook page for ONA churches

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. 
Got News?
Let us know! If you have something you'd like considered for publication in
Wisconsin Conference Life, email Nola at the Wisconsin Conference.