Wisconsin Conference Life Newsletter
March 2, 2022
Pastor, mental health advocate, to keynote Annual Meeting’s second day
The Rev. Dr. Sara Lund, minister for disabilities and mental health justice on the national staff of the United Church of Christ, will deliver a keynote address titled “Good Enough Love” on Day 2 of the Wisconsin Conference Annual Meeting. Her message: Only God’s love is perfect. But if we build beloved communities bound by “good enough” love, we create a space where everyone belongs – including our imperfect selves.

Lund is an ordained minister in both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the UCC. In addition to her duties with the national setting, she serves as senior pastor of First Congregational UCC in Indianapolis. She holds degrees from Trinity University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Rutgers University and McCormick Theological Seminary. She is the author of several books on mental health. For more information, check out her website.
This year’s annual meeting theme is “Building Up the Beloved Community.” Click now to sign up for the early bird rate. The meeting runs from noon on Friday, June 10, to noon Sunday, June 12. Click for more information on this year’s Annual Meeting.

The Annual Meeting relies on support from our sponsors and exhibitors. Sponsorship opportunities are available here. To become an exhibitor, click here.
In this issue: scroll down to find these articles
  • Lay Academy laid solid foundation for Damascus Project
  • UCC members part of warm welcome for Afghan refugees
  • Ukraine Emergency Appeal
  • Apply for a Catalyst Grant
  • Sign up for Organizing as Evangelism
  • Save the date for the ONA 50th anniversary celebration
  • Save the date for association annual meetings
  • Upcoming webinars
  • Work at camp this summer
  • Help others
  • Conference transitions
Lay Academy laid solid foundation for Damascus Project
For 26 years, program equipped participants for ministries

Editor’s note: This year’s Annual Meeting will include a celebration of the Lay Academy’s 26 years of equipping the saints of the Wisconsin Conference for ministries of all kinds. Wisconsin Conference Life is looking back at this beloved program and celebrating the ways in which the Lay Academy’s success has shaped the Damascus Project and enabled us to transition from in-person to online delivery of the curriculum and sense of community that helped make the Lay Academy so special.

By the Rev. Dr. Frederick R. Trost and the Rev. Bonnie VanOverbeke

The teaching ministry of the Church, with its many shapes and forms, takes place amid the noise, fury and passion of the times. Teaching takes place not solely in the tranquility of a seminary library or the quiet of a pastor's quiet study, but also alongside the wounds, the joys, the hopes and heartaches of each generation. With this in mind, the Wisconsin Conference Lay Academy was formed more than two decades ago to help equip communities of faith for their various ministries.

The Academy’s roots extend deep into the Scriptures and teaching ministry of the Church as expressed in ancient times and more recent generations. The Wisconsin version reflects the teaching academies that took shape in places like Iserlohn, Westphalia. There, years after the Second World War, "communities of learning" brought together people from many different walks of life in an attempt to establish an honest dialogue between the faith of the Church and secular society.
UCC members part of warm welcome for refugees in Eau Claire
Members of First Congregational UCC in Eau Claire were among the first people to welcome an initial group of eight Afghan refugees to their new home in the Chippewa Valley last month.

“Everything is going really, really well. They’re just a really wonderful group of men,” said Ginny Close, a First Congregational member and a leader of Welcoming New Neighbors-NW WI Refugee Resettlement, an interfaith alliance formed to support the Afghans.

It’s not clear when the men’s wives and children will arrive in the United States. The Afghans had been temporarily housed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey since fleeing their homeland after the U.S. military pullout and subsequent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August.

The Leader-Telegram of Eau Claire reported that 70 volunteers from Welcoming New Neighbors have been working to help the Afghans obtain housing, food, furniture, clothing and other supplies.

Members of the group also made sure to provide a culturally sensitive welcome.
Ukraine Emergency Appeal
On Feb. 24, the Russian military attacked Ukraine. By March 1, more than 670,000 persons had already sought refuge outside of Ukraine and even more had remained in the country but were displaced from their homes. The humanitarian crisis is accelerating in Ukraine and in neighboring countries as the violence escalates and the number of people on the move multiplies.

The United Church of Christ is appealing for support for refugees and for elderly and other vulnerable people who are displaced within Ukraine and unable to leave. For more information and how to donate, click here.
Change your community with a Catalyst Grant; applications due March 31
By Mary Kuenning Gross
Do you have a dream for how your congregation can do ministry beyond the walls of your church? Are there partners in your community that you could work with to transform lives? Do you have an idea of how you can meet a need? Does a justice issue -- racial justice, immigration, care of creation -- cry out for your attention in your setting? What does a Sacred Conversation on Race look like? How might your church minister to youth, the elderly, the homeless, the hungry, the refugee, the migrant, the addicted, those with special needs, the unemployed, the prisoner, communities plagued by violence and despair? How is God calling you to respond?
Sign up for Leadership Skills: Organizing as Evangelism
Community organizing in the Progressive Christian world is the new “evangelism.” We seek not to welcome people into our churches, but rather we invite the church to go out into the community and find out what God is already doing, and how we might come alongside and tap into the good work that is already being done. It is the job of spiritual leaders to learn how to listen to the needs of the community, and attach those needs to resources for change. Community organizing is the best tool to transform a congregation, a community, and our world.

Over one month, using self-guided learning and two live Zoom sessions, we will learn the history of community organizing, a theological approach to organizing, and a basic framework to engage in the good and hard work of community organizing. The ability to learn how to organize a community is one of the best and most practical and effective ways to lead a congregation and to transform the community that the church finds itself in. This course will require you to ask––and answer––big questions. It will challenge you to get outside your comfort zone, and it will invite you to tap into how God might be leading you to seek justice in your community.

Self-guided learning: March 24–April 21, 2022
Live Zoom sessions: 6 to 8 p.m. on March 25; 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. on March 26
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of ONA with a national gathering
Fifty years ago, in 1972, a courageous and visionary band of queer leaders in the United Church of their Christ (with their straight allies) founded the UCC Gay Caucus, the forerunner of the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ.

Earlier that year, the Golden Gate Association in California ordained Bill Johnson—the first openly gay man to be authorized for ministry in a historic Protestant denomination. 
This year's National ONA Gathering will celebrate this milestone in our beloved church. We'll celebrate the past 50 years and the extraordinary growth in our movement from small beginnings, honor our elders, and learn from one another the ways our movement needs to expand its vision at the beginning of our second half-century. 
Join us on Zoom on Aug. 5, 6, and 7 for this once-in-a-lifetime event. Events will be scheduled in the evenings, enabling Hawaii and Western time zones to participate. We'll announce registration in the spring, but in the meantime please mark these dates on your calendar. As with National Gatherings in the past, there will be soul-expanding worship and mind-expanding keynotes.
2022 association annual meetings
Northeast Associatoin Annual Meeting
April 30
Info to come

Northwest Association Annual Meeting
April 23
9 a.m.-noon
Hybrid meeting: Attend in person at Plymouth UCC in Eau Claire, or attend via Zoom

Southeast Assocation Annual Meeting
May 7 at Brookfield Congregational UCC, Brookfield
Info to come

Southwest Association Annual Meeting
April 30, on Zoom
9 a.m.-12:30
Upcoming Webinars
After Fort McCoy: Immigration Justice Here and Now with our New Afghan Neighbors
The Wisconsin Conference's Immigration Working Group will host a conversation about ways congregations around the state are welcoming our new Afghan neighbors. Participants will hear updates on the big picture of statewide refugee resettlement and stories of personal experiences in our communities, and have a chance to brainstorm and share ideas. 
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Date: March 22
UCC Webinar—Restoring Nature: What People of Faith Can Do to Heal the Earth
Douglas Tallamy’s books have awakened thousands to the problem of wildlife decline and the solution that resides in habitat restoration. This is a solution of which you and your faith community can be a part. The solution can be as close as your backyard or the property surrounding your place of worship. In this webinar, Tallamy will outline the crisis faced and what we can do in response. Even if you can’t make the scheduled time still sign-up, and we will send you a recording.
Time: Noon Central time
Date: March 23
Work opportunities available at summer camps
The hospitality and event programs offered at camp depend on finding passionate and caring people who thrive in a growth environment. The team at United Church Camps Inc. brings hospitality to life by providing the best experience for our guests. Summer staff members make friends and memories that last a lifetime.
UCCI is currently seeking team members to fill a variety of summer positions at Moon Beach and Daycholah Center. Check out the current openings and apply today.
Help others by donating now
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 Congregational UCC in Appleton is searching for an intentional interim pastor. Details
To see all searching churches, click here.

Installations and ordinations
  • The Rev. Dr. David McDonald was installed as pastor at Congregational UCC in Whitewater on Feb. 27.

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.
The Kairos Call to Action Newsletter was created to support the efforts of congregations, families and individuals who want to be a part of the UCC’s Kairos Call to Action. Through this newsletter the Conference Creation Care Team will provide resources for study and worship, encourage advocacy on behalf of climate justice, and help congregations find and connect with partners who share this common concern and commitment.

Tending the Soul of the Beloved Community is a communication dedicated to sharing resources and tools, wisdom and insight for congregations and individuals navigating these challenging days. Created by the Conference Supportive Ministries Team, this publication will highlight resources to aid in steering your path forward.
Ignite Your Fire, Feed Your Soul,
Build Your Faith... In Nature's Sanctuary

We invite all to subscribe to the UCCI email newsletter to receive our latest news and inspiration! Also, please consider liking and following UCCI on Facebook and Instagram. It's a great virtual community–you are an important part of it!

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 the Creation Care webpage to learn more.
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!
Get Involved! A Conference-wide Racial Justice Task Force gathers resources and encourages congregations to engage in conversations around race. If you and your congregation are interested in participating in this group, you are welcome. Contact Lisa Hart get involved.

More information on the Racial Justice Task force is available on the Conference's Racial Justice webpages.

This month's Parish Paper is "Bringing a Community Project info Focus." Access this issue and archived issues here!
Image credits:
Ukranian Flag: Government of Ukraine, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Refugees Welcome Here image from AdobeStock images

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