Wisconsin Conference Life Newsletter
May 4, 2022
Celebrating the Lay Academy, Embracing the Damascus Project
This year’s Wisconsin Conference Annual Meeting will include a celebration of the 26 years during which the Lay Academy transformed and equipped the saints of the Wisconsin Conference. Wisconsin Conference Life is taking a look back at this beloved program, whose success has shaped the Damascus Project and enabled us to transition from in-person to online delivery of the curriculum and the sense of community that helped make the Lay Academy so special. This month’s story comes from Michael Loomis, a Lay Academy participant from 2014-2018. Michael, a customer care representative with American Family Insurance, is a lay leader at Peace UCC in Schofield. He worked closely with Pastor Gloria Van Houten to help the congregation transition to remote worship during the pandemic and also serves as a liturgist and supply preacher. Click to read more about the Lay Academy.
A Story of Equipping
By Michael Loomis

I didn’t grow up in the church. I considered myself an agnostic well into my 30s. At a very difficult moment in my life, I decided to start attending Peace UCC in Schofield. The pastor at the time became a mentor to me, and he and the congregation helped me through some really hard days. As I grew in my faith and got more and more involved in Peace Church, I had some life-changing moments when God really started to speak to me. During this time the pastor encouraged me to attend Lay Academy to explore the sense of call that was emerging in me. I had a thirst for knowledge about the Bible, the Christian faith and theology. I was seeking answers and struggling with doubts. I wanted to grow in faith and in service.

Lay Academy changed me. The community there, the instructors and all that we learned helped me develop the courage, the confidence and the humility to follow my sense of call. I learned that there are many different types of calls. Everyone has a call – mine is to serve in my local congregation as an active lay leader in worship, through liturgy and preaching, and by sharing my gifts for theater, videography and technology.

Lay Academy equipped me with knowledge about the Bible and theology. It helped me gain the courage and confidence to know that I could preach, I could lead in worship and I could serve in administration to help move our congregation forward. Even though my sense of call guides me to serve in these ways, Lay Academy also helped me recognize that we all have gifts to share to enrich the life of the community. All of us contribute from our gifts to help our congregations thrive so that we can pass the faith to the next generation.

Lay Academy helped me to get comfortable with my questions and doubts and to see them as part of the life of faith. It’s OK to have questions and to not have everything figured out. This has helped me be more flexible and open to the perspectives of others.
I wish everyone in the UCC had an opportunity to participate in the Lay Academy. I am excited to see it continuing in the Damascus Project and hope the online format will make it more accessible to more people. Lay Academy changed my life. It could change yours, too.

In this issue: scroll down to find these articles
  • Annual Meeting Early Bird Deadline is May 13
  • "Grace and Gigabytes" Book Group
  • Disaster Volunteers Sought
  • Cornerstone Fund Loans
  • Upcoming Webinars
  • OWL Training
  • Cultivating Generous Congregations
  • Help Others
  • Conference Transitions
Sign Up Today for Annual Meeting Early Bird Rate
The 2022 Annual Meeting of the Wisconsin Conference is just five weeks away, but it’s not too late to take advantage of the early registration rate, which is available through May 13. The Annual Meeting will be held June 10 to 12 at the Green Lake Conference Center. This year’s theme, “Building up the Beloved Community,” acknowledges the toll that the pandemic has taken on congregations, pastors and lay leaders. We will focus on tending to individual and congregational wellness, lifting up best practices and good strategies for fostering healthy church dynamics, and challenging ourselves to think in fresh ways about the church. Click for more information and to register.
Being Church in a World Shaped by Technology: A Damascus Project Book Group
Register now to join a virtual book group to discuss “Grace and Gigabytes: Being Church in a Tech-Shaped Culture” by Madison author Ryan Panzer. “Grace and Gigabytes” invites us to explore the opportunities for the church in a culture being shaped by technologies like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. The discussion group will be hosted by the Damascus Project.
The group will gather weekly by Zoom at noon on Tuesdays June 14, 21 and 28 and July 12 and 19. On July 26, the group will participate in a live virtual discussion with the author from noon to 1:30 p.m. Cost to participate in the discussion group is $15. Register here. The book is available at a 30 percent discount at the Fortress Press website. Use discount code PANZER30.
Panzer has spent his career in the worlds of church leadership and technology. He received master or arts from Luther Seminary while simultaneously working for Google. He serves as a learning and leadership development professional in the technology industry, as a speaker and writer on digital technology in the church, and as a lay leader at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Madison, where lives with his wife and two children. For more, visit ryanpanzer.com.
Volunteers Sought for Kentucky Disaster Recovery Effort
The Indiana Kentucky Conference UCC is organizing volunteer work groups through October to assist recovery efforts in parts of Kentucky devastated by tornadoes last December. If your congregation or community wants to volunteer, click for more information and to register. Please note: All volunteers must have completed a background check within the past five years. The registration site contains instructions for obtaining a background check. Questions? Contact the Rev.Greg Denk, Indiana Kentucky Conference disaster response coordinator.
A Low-Cost Loan from the Cornerstone Fund is Just a Click Away
Sometimes you need to ask the difficult question. Deep down inside, you may already know the answer. But it’s not until you actually take the time to assess and realistically address the situation that you decide to act on the solution. While this scenario applies to a variety of issues in life, the topic at hand is the condition of your church property.
Is your congregation considering making improvements on your building to expand ministry or increase revenue? Is it finally addressing deferred maintenance items that worsen every year? Are you ready to reduce your building’s carbon footprint and save money on utilities in the process? Can you enhance digital capabilities to maintain and grow your online community?
If any of these questions apply to you, now is a good time to talk with the Cornerstone Fund about low-cost loan options that will directly improve your facility and potentially strengthen your congregation.
Maria Coyne, president and CEO of Cornerstone Fund, explains how her organization can help. “The United Church of Christ Cornerstone Fund helps local churches and nonprofit organizations improve their facilities and create change within their communities. We do this by offering a variety of transformative lending products and investment options that not only empower these communities, but also help clients earn more on their investment.”
Many building issues, such as facility additions, major infrastructure improvements, technology upgrades and use of space enhancements, can be addressed by Cornerstone Fund products like mortgages, bridge loans, and lines of credit. “Many churches and organizations find that the Cornerstone Fund offers better financing packaging than a local bank," Coyne says. "Plus, since the Cornerstone Fund only works with churches and nonprofit organizations, the Fund understands your unique needs and can offer both lending expertise and flexibility – along with great interest rates – that you won’t find anywhere else.”
“For congregations looking to reduce their carbon footprint, the Creation Care Loan Program is specifically dedicated to environmental justice efforts and allows us to offer lower subsidized loan rates to UCC affiliates,” says Coyne. This Creation Care loan product, a new product developed in 2021, may be used for renewable energy installments, building efficiency improvements and other environmental care projects. 
Congregations and UCC-affiliated organizations across the country have taken advantage of Cornerstone Fund offerings. Regardless of your church or organization's needs, the United Church of Christ Cornerstone Fund may be able to assist. Visit CornerstoneFund.org to learn more or contact a lending specialist at 888-UCC-FUND (822-3863) or lending@cornerstonefund.org.
Upcoming Webinars
UCC Webinar—Climate Migration: Responding with Faith, Care, and Equity
According to a recent UN climate report, 20 million people have been displaced each year since 2008 due to extreme weather that is often exacerbated by the climate crisis. There is much we can do as people of faith in responding with deeply held values to this critical situation. To inform and guide us, this webinar will feature Drocella Mugorewera from Bridge Refugee Services, Tomas Matom Ramirez from the Indigenous Maya Ixil people, and the Rev. Irene Hassan from the UCC’s Minister of Refugee and Migration Services. Can’t make the scheduled time of noon Central on Wednesday, May 11? Sign up anyway, and we will send you a recording.
Time: Noon Central
Date: May 11

Matching Gift Challenges
A major gift from a single donor, or a small group of donors, can be leveraged to inspire gifts from a wider circle of donors. Learn practical ways to use a gift to issue a “challenge” to your congregation to support your own ministry or that of a partner organization of your congregation.
Time: 6:30 p.m. Central
Date: May 25
Make Plans Now for OWL Training
Clergy and lay leaders who plan to offer an Our Whole Lives program in their congregations are invited to three days of facilitation training from Aug. 26 to 28 at the Daycholah Center in Green Lake. Our Whole Lives, or OWL, is a comprehensive human sexuality curriculum for elementary-age children through older adults, developed by the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association. The August training is co-sponsored by the Wisconsin and Minnesota conferences, in partnership with the national setting of the UCC.
Cost is $475 for a shared double-occupancy room, meals and training for UCC participants and $550 for non-UCC participants. A limited number of private rooms are available for $575 for UCC participants and $650 for non-UCC participants. Registration will open in mid-May.
Facilitator training will be offered at the elementary, youth and adult levels. Each participant may participate in training for just one age level, so consider sending a team to be trained to start or expand the OWL program in your church. Registration information will be available soon. Questions? Contact Lisa Hart, associate conference minister for faith formation and justice ministries.
Cultivating Generous Congregations Seminar
The CGC Seminar for pastors and leaders offers an opportunity to explore faithful, practical, and tested ways to promote generosity in our congregations. Be sure to recruit at least a team of two for this program. Changing the culture of your congregation requires more than one dedicated leader.

The CGC seminar meetings will be held virtually from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Central on June 2, June 16, June 30, July 14, July 28 and August 11. Between meetings, there will be readings, videos and reflections to complete.

The registration fee for members of the Heartland, Wisconsin and Minnesota conferences is $100 per team of two. You are able to register an additional team member(s) for a fee. Register here by May 11.
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
  • Union Congregational Church in Waupun is searching for a pastor. Details

To see all searching churches, click here.

Wider Church Searches
  • The national UCC is searching for a director of marketing and communication. Details

New Calls
  • The Rev. Myles Alexander has been called as interim pastor at First Congregational UCC in Rhinelander, effective April 5.
  • The Rev. Nancy Zorn Micke has been called as interim pastor at Hope UCC in Fremont, effective May 1.

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 "Reaching out to low-income neighbors." Access this issue and archived issues here!
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