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Volume 18, No. 29 | August 17, 2022

Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love
Youth in Four Congregations Join Forces to Address Homelessness
Four UCC congregations— Falcon Heights UCC, St. Anthony Park, UCC, St. Paul’s UCC, and UCC New Brighton—have joined forces for a unique project to re-engage youth in the life of the church.

“After being apart for so long in the pandemic, we wanted to find a meaningful way to bring our kids back,” says Rev. Amy Wick Moore, associate minister for education and faith formation at UCC New Brighton. “We decided on the topic of homelessness, and we basically designed a mission trip that is spread out over the span of a summer and into October.”

The four congregations began with discussions about the root causes of homelessness and different approaches to housing. They then moved to working with Settled, an organization focused on cultivating home with the homeless. “Settled brings people who have been chronically homeless into community with one another to show God’s love to them,” says Wick Moore. “The goal is to help lift people out of physical homelessness but also to have them find a place of care and concern.”

Settled facilitates building tiny homes in conjunction with Minnesota congregations. State legislation passed in May now allows churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship to create sacred communities of tiny homes on their property for persons experiencing chronic homelessness. While the tiny homes are not fully plumbed, the congregations provide bathrooms, showers, laundry, and kitchen. Youth from the four congregations toured a new tiny home site with six houses created by the Mosaic Christian Community in St. Paul.

“I’m so thankful that Eli’jah Carroll from St. Paul’s UCC helped us identify this type of project,” says Wick Moore. “The youth have really grown in their understanding and commitment.” Eighteen youth are meeting regularly to build a tiny home themselves. Importantly, the four congregations joined together to raise the $35,000 necessary to build the tiny home on a site created by Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood.

This past Sunday, the youth met to do a blessing of the home. They wrote prayers and messages of hope on the building’s frame. “We want the people who will be living here to literally be surrounded by hopes and prayers,” says Wick Moore. “The youth wrote things like ‘I hope that the people moving in here feel safe and loved,’ ‘I hope they have a sense of community.’ These amazing kids really understood what was happening. And Settled said they had never seen four churches working together on something like this so we’re pretty excited about this commitment.”

Conference News & Events
Save the Date for the Minnesota Conference UCC Clergy Retreat

November 1-3, 2022 (Tuesday 5pm – Thursday 11:30am)
Christ the King Retreat Center, Buffalo, MN
Registration fee: $200, private room | $170, shared double room | $100, commuter
After a long season of being apart, and a few rescheduled dates over the last year, we are delighted to host the fall clergy retreat. All actively serving clergy from around the Minnesota Conference UCC are invited to come together with colleagues for a few days of renewal, rest, and reconnection. We will be guided throughout our time by our retreat facilitator, the Rev. Dr. Martha Brunell, and our guest musician, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan.

Proof of vaccination against COVID-19 will be required for all participants, and face masks and physical distancing may be required in some spaces throughout the event. You will find the Conference’s COVID-19 Safety Guidelines here. Please contact Rev. Kevin Brown, Associate Conference Minister, for more information and with any questions.
Rev. Dr. Martha Brunell has been in ministry since the 1970’s as a local pastor in the United Church of Christ, primarily in marginal urban settings, as a hospice chaplain, as a founding director of a domestic violence agency, as adjunct faculty at Eden Seminary and Aquinas Institute of Theology, as a spiritual director, as a writer and facilitator of writing groups, as a retreat and workshop leader, and as someone who lives at the crossroads of spirituality and the earth. Martha was once described as “a contemplative who knows how to pick up the telephone and get things done.” She lives in Chicago and currently maintains practices in spiritual direction, writing group facilitation, and retreat and workshop leadership. She is also trained as an advanced certified labyrinth facilitator and as a Soul Collage facilitator and is in training now with the Association of Forest and Nature Therapy to be a guide for Forest Therapy Walks.
Richard Bruxvoort Colligan is a composer, musician, and teacher of psalms. He serves across denominations inviting a perspective of lifelong spiritual formation to community singing. He also loves dumb jokes and is always ready to hear one. He has recorded several albums of original worship music, and his hymns have been published by the UCC, ELCA, UMC and PCUSA. He serves the Olive Branch community in Rochester, MN, and lives with his family in Strawberry Point, Iowa. 
It's Time to Sign Up for the September Men's & Women's Retreats

Who doesn't need a few days of time in nature to reconnect and reboot?!

The Minnesota Conference UCC Outdoor Ministry invites you to join the Men's Wilderness Retreat at Camp Amnicom or Women's Retreat at Camp Onamia September 9–11. Women are also invited to the Women's Wilderness Retreat at Camp Amnicom September 23–25.
Want More Heavenly Meetings?

Are your meetings boring? 
Do they last too long? 
Do you wish more people would speak up? 
Do only a few people make most of the decisions? 

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, we invite you to experience A Taste of Heavenly Meetings for yourself. Heavenly meetings occur when everyone participates and moves through the agenda efficiently, and care, lightness and curiosity are the norm. You can get A Taste of Heavenly Meetings in one of two identical workshops: 
4:00–5:30 p.m. CT, Monday, Aug. 29 or Tuesday, Sept. 13 
Cost is $10 per participant per session.
Covenant Days: Coming to a Church Near You!

Covenant Days are a time to gather together and be the church. This year, the Minnesota Conference will offer five Covenant Days around the state. These will be days filled with workshops, worship, food, and fellowship – a time for members, lay leaders, and clergy of local congregations to connect with one another and Conference staff.

The first two dates and locations are:
Saturday, October 8 – Peace UCC, Duluth | REGISTER
Saturday, November 12 – First Congregational UCC, Alexandria | REGISTER
Three other days will be offered in 2023; watch for registration info in upcoming editions of COMMA:
02/04/2023 – Robbinsdale Parkway UCC, Robbinsdale
03/18/2023 – The Congregational Church UCC, Rochester
04/22/2023 – First Congregational UCC, Moorhead
Damascus Project Courses Now Available for Registration

Is this you or someone you know?
  • You wish you knew more about the Bible.
  • You’re leading in your church but feeling overwhelmed and alone.
  • You struggle to understand who God is for you and in your life.
  • You feel like you’re the only one who longs to go deeper in faith.

The Damascus Project would love to help! Check out our fall courses for lay leaders, seekers in faith and clergy.

In Faith Foundations we:
  • Practice talking about faith and what we believe
  • Form a sacred learning community where questions are embraced
  • Dive into the world of the Old Testament
  • Explore a wide range of thoughts and language about God

The fall unit of Leadership Skills is "Leading Faith-Filled Meetings (or how to avoid meetings from hell)"
  • Help your faith community thrive
  • Build community while doing business
  • Include diverse viewpoints
  • Welcome healthy conflict
  • Lead efficient meetings with confidence

Running out of ideas for Advent programming, worship, sermons?
This course will help you prepare for the season of preparation.

Annual Campaigns 101

Designed for pastors and lay leaders planning an annual pledge campaign, this webinar will explore ways to create an effective campaign. We will reflect on core purpose of a campaign, discuss practical steps leaders can take, and explore creative ideas to design a campaign uniquely suited to your congregation. Join this webinar to develop and strengthen plans for a successful fall campaign. REGISTER
Partner News & Events
Sixty Years on the Vanguard: United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities Turns 60

UTS will kick off its 60th anniversary with a special event for students and alums, current and former faculty, and other members of the community on September 28. The theme for the celebration is “Many Voices United," an homage to the ecumenical origins of the seminary and its ongoing dedication to educating leaders for the church and society. UTS will take time to honor the past, remember seminal faculty and students, and lay the groundwork for an even brighter future.

Suicide Prevention Conference for Rural Faith Leaders

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Department of Health are sponsoring a free event that brings together rural faith leaders to discuss, learn, and share suicide prevention information and resources. Conference speakers include Deacon Ed Shoener, President of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, Scott Roeder, Founder of Jackson Roeder Memorial Fund, Dr. Dan Reidenberg Psy D., Executive Director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), and Ann Ellison, Director Interfaith Health at M Health Fairview.

Who should attend? Rural clergy, spiritual and faith leaders, including chaplains, elders, deacons, sisters, youth pastors, parish nurses, church board members, church staff, and congregational suicide prevention advocates.

When and Where:
September 27, 2022, 8:30 am – 4 p.m. at Evangelical Free Church Bemidji | REGISTERSeptember 29, 2022, 8:30 am – 4 p.m. at Mankato Event Center Mankato, MN | REGISTER
ConNext Summit 2022: In the Ways of Jesus

Is there anybody out there? Does anybody care? We’re not actually touting Def Leppard, but rather listening to the Divine and one another so we can all move forward In the Ways of Jesus.

If you still care about your Self — as a clergy person or faith formation leader — and the people you serve (children, youth, parents, middle-agers, elders, anyone), join with colleagues at ConNext Summit 2022. Gracious Idleness awaits those who are tired, and seek inspiration; Scrappy Transformation is fueled by leaders who have found joy in reimagining ministry; Radical Belonging is yours amidst multi-denominational colleagues from around the state as we laugh, learn, rest, Zumba, and explore God’s desired future together.

Register by August 31 to receive the early bird pricing. Find details and registration HERE.
Joys & Concerns
Grace United Church of Christ in Millville invites you to the celebration of installation of Rev. Ana Wilson, M.Div., BCC as pastor on Sunday, September 11, at 2:00 pm at 300 Division Street, Millville, Minnesota. Clergy are invited to wear the stole of their choice. Masks will be available at the entrance but are not required for the in-person service. A light lunch and time of fellowship will follow the service at the Millville Valley American Legion Hall (one block east of the church). RSVP to Lesley Balcome or call or text (507-226-4193 by Friday, September 2. The service will also be available on Microsoft Teams meeting.
Upcoming Conference Events
More Resources & Opportunities

  • Send story ideas, insights and more to 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 faith formation, 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.