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Volume 19, No. 8 | February 22, 2023

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Equipping a courageous Church alive with Christ’s transforming love

"Blessing the Dust"

“Blessing the Dust” appears in Jan Richardson's new book Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons. More here

by Jan Richardson for Ash Wednesday

All those days

you felt like dust,

like dirt,

as if all you had to do

was turn your face

toward the wind

and be scattered

to the four corners

or swept away

by the smallest breath

as insubstantial—

did you not know

what the Holy One

can do with dust?

This is the day

we freely say

we are scorched.

This is the hour

we are marked

by what has made it

through the burning.

This is the moment

we ask for the blessing

that lives within

the ancient ashes,

that makes its home

inside the soil of

this sacred earth.

So let us be marked

not for sorrow.

And let us be marked

not for shame.

Let us be marked

not for false humility

or for thinking

we are less

than we are

but for claiming

what God can do

within the dust,

within the dirt,

within the stuff

of which the world

is made

and the stars that blaze

in our bones

and the galaxies that spiral

inside the smudge

we bear.

©Jan Richardson

Conference News & Events

The Future of Faith Formation Networking and Support is Topic of February FourTHursday

Thursday, February 23

12:00 pm –conversation (only on Zoom due to weather)

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities



Please join us for the February FourTHursday gathering for a time of sharing food and conversation about the future of faith formation networking and support in the Minnesota Conference UCC. This will be a generative conversation to hear from all you who work in local congregations about how the Conference can best support your work and well-being and the ministry of the faith community you serve.

Monthly Zoom meetings starting March 14 provide an opportunity to gather and talk together


If you are a pastor or leader in a small church, we invite you to a special discussion series especially for you starting next month.

The “Small Church Collective” will meet March 14, April 11, and May 9 (second Tuesdays of each month) from 10:30 am–noon. Each Zoom-based session will be hosted by one of the Conference staff and feature a special speaker who has specific expertise or experience with small churches. There will also be plenty of time for dialogue and interaction with the speaker and each other.

We intend for the Small Church Collective to be a space where you can wrestle with mutual challenges, learn of helpful resources, and mutually spark new ideas. These virtual gatherings are intended specifically for pastors of small congregations that average 50 or fewer in worship.

UCC March 22 Webinar Addresses Changing Landscape for Giving

Do you ever wish you had insights on your church's Millennials and Gen Z donors? The UCC is offering a webinar on the changing landscape of giving on March 22! Rev. Dr. Colie Bettivia of Grace UCC in Two Rivers, WI is the guest speaker. REGISTER

Mayflower UCC Seeks Stories for National UCC First Annual Earth Day Summit

This April, Mayflower is honored to host the National UCC’s first annual Earth Day Summit on Saturday, April 22 As part of the celebration, Mayflower is planning a Readers’ Theatre titled “Hope From The Front Lines” made up of relevant, true stories focused on the important environmental work, both urban and rural, being carried out all over Minnesota.

Readers’ Theatre is a simple, yet powerful, art form that is often transformative, educational, enlightening, and in this case, a call to action! Here’s how it works: You or someone from your church, community or organization submit a story about the good earth justice /climate mitigation work you have done, are doing/continue to do. Once stories are collected, they will be curated, edited (for time) and woven into a theatrical piece to be performed, in person and live-streamed, at Mayflower on Sat, April 22.

All stories will be read by “actors” (no one reads their own story). Please send questions, comments and/or your story (500 words or less) to Mary Keepers (612-240-7886) no later than Friday, April 7.

March 1 is Deadline to Update 2023 UCC Yearbook & Directory

It’s that time again for the UCC to begin preparing the Yearbook & Directory for the coming year. The annual yearbook is not simply a formality but also what your church's 501(c)3 status depends on! Data from the annual reports is also used in the church profile when you are searching for a new pastor, and if no reports have been submitted for your church for five (5) years, all data reverts to zeros. In case those aren't enough reasons, check out this list of 12 important reasons to report your annual church data.


Instructional materials (both videos and documents) for local churches are available at the Yearbook and Directory webpage. Data Hub closes for churches March 1 at midnight (Eastern Time).

Register for Upcoming Youth Conference Events

Spring 2023 Youth Gathering

April 28-30, 2023 | Camp Onomia, Onamia


For youth 6th-12th grades

Summer Middle School Camp

July 5-7, 2023 | Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center, Sandstone

For youth entering 6th grade through 8th grade


Fall Youth Conference Event

October 6-8, 2023 Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center


Partner News & Events

The Ministry Lab Offers Webinar on Mental Health

The last couple of years have been tough for church workers, kids, and families - not to mention the church workers who serve them. The Ministry Lab invites all youth ministry leaders, clergy, and mentors who work with tweens, teens, and their families to join Melissa Weinhandl, LMFT, MATh, for a 90-minute conversational webinar in which to process personal struggles and find information and tools to support mental health for one's self and those we serve.

This webinar is free for all MN UCC congregations and members). Due to the potential for sharing personal and sensitive information, this webinar will not be recorded. Join in person at United Theological Seminary or via Zoom (the link will be shared upon registration). Learn more and register HERE.

Workshops Offered for Moderators, Treasurers and Other Lay Leadership Positions

Saturday, February 25, 9 am – noon

The Center for Transformational Leadership will offer basic training over Zoom for new and returning moderators, assistant moderators, treasurers, and pastor-parish relations committee members. The workshops are offered at no cost. REGISTER BY FEB 17.

Joys & Concerns

Correction from last week's newsletter: The Committee on Ministry will host an Ecclesiastical Council for Nathan Holst on Sunday, March 12, at 3:30 pm. People are invited to join in person at Peace UCC in Duluth or via Zoom. This is an opportunity for our member churches to participate in the Conference’s discernment for our candidates for ordination. Please consider joining in this important process. You can read Nathan’s ordination paper and learn more about him. RSVP to See Chang, COM administrative assistant at, to receive the Zoom link. If attending in person, the address is 1111 N 11th Ave E, Duluth, MN 55805.

A celebration of the life of Rev. Carol Joyce will be held at First Congregational Church of MN, UCC, on June 24, at 10 am. As the secretary of the United Church of Christ, Rev. Joyce was the first woman to serve in national leadership of a mainline denomination. She also served as pastor of Robbinsdale UCC. The United Church news offers an account of her life and career in this article.

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.