Conference News

2014 Fall Leadership Retreat Recap

On September 5 & 6, 28 leaders of the MN Conference gathered together for the annual leadership retreat. Entitled, “Forward Together” the retreat focused on enabling the purpose and vision of the Conference into the future. Members of the Board of Directors, chairs or representatives of Conference committees and teams, and Conference staff and Sandy Lindahl, lead consultant for Ackley Consulting Group came to work together while enjoying the beauty and hospitality of Pilgrim Point Camp. United by prayer and worship, retreat participants engaged in energetic, creative and meaningful dialogue and activities.

Retreat participants identified and confirmed the MN Conference as a connecting, covenantal entity comprised of UCC churches throughout Minnesota; the embodiment of the wider body of Christ. Ms. Janet Bartz and the Rev. Cindy Mueller engaged the group in a review of the Conference purpose, vision, values and priorities and how we are being faithful to our plan. Our core purpose: “inviting and equipping inspired Christian leaders and communities” is supported by five core values: faithfulness, stewardship, empowerment, innovation and justice. The group identified and celebrated the many ways we are currently moving forward together to achieve our four strategic priorities: equip clergy and laity to lead; create and sustain healthy, vital congregations; strengthen faith formation across the generations; and increase our capacity for compassionate service and prophetic witness. Further work identified things we are grateful for from the Conference and national setting of the UCC, the important and essential support and resources provided by the Conference and what is needed in the future.

As has been previously reported, work is underway to consider the feasibility of a future financial campaign to enable critical ministries of the Conference into the future. Ms. Sandy Lindahl and the Rev. Shari Prestemon led the group in activities designed to further define the scope of such a campaign. Ms. Lindahl also reviewed current plans and timelines for the development of a campaign case for support and feasibility study.

Mr. Phil Hatlie facilitated a session on best practices of good governance and Associate Conference Minister for Faith Formation of Children and Youth Wade Zick provided tours of Pilgrim Point Camp to highlight the facility recommendations identified in the report from Kaleidoscope Consulting. Time and activities to build community were also part of the retreat.

Following the retreat, the Board of Directors met to: approve Boyum & Barenscheer as the auditor for the 2013-2014 fiscal year; authorize engagement of a realtor to assist with the sale of conference property in Maple Grove; and establish two workgroups to provide further definition of potential initiatives which might be part a future financial campaign.

…from Ms. Janet Bartz, Congregational Church UCC, Rochester, Vice-Moderator of the Board of Directors

New Solar Array On-line at St. Paul’s UCC, St. Paul

20140825_184406St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, St. Paul, deepened its commitment this week to being an Earthwise congregation by bringing a 39.6 KW solar array on line.  The $216,000 project involved no upfront cost to the congregation.  Instead, federal and state tax credits, and an Xcel Energy rebate flow through the congregation to a solar leaser who funded the project’s construction.  The solar leaser also receives the value of about two-thirds of the solar energy produced for five years at which time the congregation has the option of ending the lease.  Said the church’s business manager, Jeff Palmer, “This has been a win-win-win project:  With no upfront cost, we have re-committed ourselves to Earthwise values and reduce the congregation’s electric bill. How can you beat that?”

Word of the congregation’s experiment in solar energy has spread.  Last week a film crew for Al Gore’s endeavor, “24 HOURS OF REALITY: 24 REASONS FOR HOPE,” were on the church’s roof filming the new solar array for possible inclusion in the September 16-17th live streamed multi-media show highlighting 24 reasons to be hopeful about our future and positive steps underway to end human contribution to climate change.

Congregations interested in learning more about St. Paul’s UCC solar project are encourage to call Rev. Palmer at the church.

Fall Youth & Faith Formation Events

Picture3In many of our congregations this Sunday and the next will be “Fall Kickoff,” “Rally Day,” “Welcome Home Sunday,” “Christian Education Sunday” or some other catchy way to let folks know if they were away this summer – it’s now time to return or pay attention. In the area of Faith Formation and Youth Ministry for the conference we are shifting focus from summer camp season to Fall Youth Events, Fourth Thursdays, and special opportunities such as the Parables event sponsored by the UCC national setting and Wayzata Community Church. We will also be launching two grant opportunities in October in November for church micro-grants and mission trip grants and encouraging churches to become a 2014-15 Faith Forming Five Congregation.

Youth Opportunities:

Fall Middle School CYE (October 3-5)
High School CYE (October 17-19)

Leader Opportunities:

Fourth Thursdays (September, October, January-April)
Parables Event (October 26)

Please let us know if you have questions on any of these opportunities and hope you have a great September kickoff!

To churches who have international relationships with overseas churches:

World Communion Sunday is fast approaching and will take place the first Sunday of October.  Global Ministries, a common witness of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) receives many requests from US churches for materials and resources to share in worship throughout the year. But by far, the most requested time is just prior to World Communion Sunday, this year on October 5. Our webpages have a great deal of information and ideas for this special Sunday, but we always want to have new and fresh material each year.

Would you please plan to share a worship and communion service received from churches you have global relationships with. We would be delighted to receive from you, photos, short videos, litanies, prayers, sermon ideas, bread recipes, etc.

The lectionary selections for Oct 5, are:

Please send these to Tracy Carnes, Executive for Mission Education,, and to Jessica Allen, of the MN Conference Global Partnerships team,, by September 12. It will be so appreciated by our UCC and DOC church constituents, and by the MN Conference.

Visit and Support Detained Immigrants

Visit and Support Detained Immigrants

Next Visitor Class Training

Two Upcoming Sessions
When: Monday, Sept. 22 (Meeting Room) & Monday, Sept 29 (Edina Conference Room)
Time: 6:30 – 8:00pm

All Welcomed – the curious and the committed!

Edina Public Library
5280 Grandview Square, Edina, MN 55436

For more information, see attached flyer.

Contact – Rev. John Guttermann, Covenant Minister, United Church of Christ New Brighton | 651 485-3104

Mayflower Global Justice Advocacy Team Goes to Guatemala

guatemala 2

Members of the Mayflower Global Justice Advocacy Team visiting a mining site in Guatemala in support of those resisting mining on their farms.

The Minnesota Conference takes its global partnerships seriously. Peace UCC in Duluth has a long relationship with the Philippines; Plymouth connects with Sierra Leone; the Conference, itself, recently welcomed long-time partners from the Southeast Mindanao Jurisdiction of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Nine members of the Mayflower (Minneapolis) Global Justice Advocacy Team (GJAT) just returned from a pilgrimage to Guatemala. This is Mayflower’s sixth visit. The team stood in solidarity with those resisting large scale mining at four sites around the country and with those seeking restitution from the effects of a hydroelectric dam which included the massacre of their community.

GJAT takes seriously this challenge from Aboriginal indigenous leaders: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” GJAT seeks not to “help” partners in the Global South, but to foster relationships in which partners get to know each other in ways that allow actions toward a just world to emerge. GJAT is particularly interested in actions of the United States government and multi-national companies that negatively affect partners in the Global South.

GJAT made this trip in support of its international partners including the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala, and Rights Action. Both partners work to fight multinational mining companies that destroy mountains and communities for the sake of gold.

GJAT went to Guatemala shortly after the delegation from SEMJur visited Minnesota. Mining is also a huge issue in the Philippines. When the Philippines delegation was in Minnesota it shared with many the UCCP Statement on Large-Scale Mining that was recently passed at its General Assembly. This section of the statement was in the minds and hearts of the Mayflower delegation while in Guatemala:

“Fear not, let us unite! Resisting large-scale mining is an act of refusing the power of Mammon god—a dead god that could not see the people’s suffering and could not hear the people’s cry; a god that could not be touched an moved to compassion by the peoples’ affliction.”

Should this statement be adopted by the Minnesota Conference Annual Meeting or the UCC General Synod as an act of solidarity with partners in the Philippines and Guatemala and many other places in the world fighting against mining? The possibility has been discussed at Mayflower and by the Conference Global Partnerships Team.

The Mayflower pilgrims were: Keith Roberts, Judy Roberts, Mary Shaffer, Josephine Fernandez, Brenda Dehmer, Dave Manner, Jennifer Manner, Diane Haines, and Thom Haines. For more information, you can read the delegation’s daily blog.

… from Thom Haines. Thom serves on the Mayflower Global Justice Advocacy Team, the Conference Global Partnerships Team, and the Common Global Ministries Board.


Mayflower and Rights Action thanking Diadora for Resisting the Marlin Mine in her community and for sharing her story through the film, Gold Fever, all over the world.


Board of Directors Meeting Summary – August 2014

The Minnesota Conference Board of Directors met on Saturday, August 9th at the former site of Pilgrims United Church of Christ in Maple Grove. We started with a tour of the Pilgrims UCC building and property to see how it is being used (by a Montessori school) since the congregation suspended operations in early 2014. The bulk of the morning was spent in discussion and discernment with Sandy Lindahl from Ackley Consulting Group to further develop a Case for Support and a possible capital campaign for the Conference’s ministries. Leadership development and congregational vitality are potential top priorities if the Conference proceeds in this direction, in addition to continued investment at Pilgrim Point Camp. The Case for Support will be further shaped at the Conference leadership retreat in September.

Shari Prestemon reported on upcoming events hosted by the Conference, and the successful results of several New Initiatives grants. She’s working with the Development Committee to ensure that all our fundraising efforts are coordinated, and is interviewing candidates to fill a vacant part-time Development staff position. The Board returned to an ongoing conversation with Rev. Prestemon on the “highest and best” use of her time as Conference Minister. We encouraged her to continue conversations with committees on ways that she can aid their work without attending as many meetings. This will free up her schedule for executive priorities such as vision-casting, relationship-building, staff coaching and financial development.

Our afternoon session began with updates from our Treasurer and committee liaisons, then turned to the question of the Pilgrims UCC building. A unique arrangement at the time of the church’s founding means that the property returned to the Conference’s care when the congregation suspended operations. A short-term arrangement has the Conference paying the building’s outstanding mortgage and its staff acting as landlord to the Montessori school tenant, while Wayzata Community Church is providing property management when maintenance needs arise. After discussion of various alternatives, the Board directed Rev. Prestemon to oversee sale of the property, with the proceeds set aside for “strategic and visionary” future efforts. We are deeply grateful for the ministry of Pilgrims UCC members, and intend their legacy to continue through this fund’s development of other vital ministries. Before adjourning, the Board charged a task force to look at modifying the Annual Meeting resolution process to allow greater clarity and feedback for delegates, with recommendations to come back to the Board at a meeting later this year.’

…from Rev. Oby Ballinger, Member At-Large, pastor of Community UCC, St. Paul Park

Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President to retire June 2015

Subject: Memo from UCC Board Chair, Bernard R. Wilson
August 13, 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ

Today I received official notification from our General Minister and President, Geoffrey Black, of his intent to retire early, specifically with the conclusion of the 30th General Synod in June 2015. Geoffrey has graciously agreed to serve until his successor is ready to take office, sometime next summer.

I want to express my gratitude to Geoffrey for his leadership during his time in office – through the challenging and difficult discussions over the governance of the United Church of Christ to the successful transition to a new and unified governance structure. Geoffrey has been tireless in his ecumenical work with both our domestic and international partners. Moreover, he has spoken to the tough issues of our time, whether they are natural or human caused, Geoffrey has been a kind, gentle and thoughtful manager of our affairs in the national setting of the Church. We cannot begin to thank him enough for his service as General Minister and President, as New York Conference Minister, as a national staff member and as a local church pastor.

As we look ahead and move forward, I want to outline the task before us and how I hope to help us accomplish it. I will immediately put together a search committee tasked with the responsibility of recommending a new General Minister and President.  With United Church of Christ Board (UCCB) confirmation, I hope to have the search committee up and running by the end of August 2014.

The search committee will require careful, prayerful discernment but will also need to adhere to a tight timeline. The committee will need to collect and review the profiles of those called to apply for consideration. The committee then will need to interview those candidates it considers worthy of the tremendous responsibilities of the Office of the General Minister and President, and it will need to select one candidate and present that candidate at the March 2015 meeting of the UCCB. At that meeting, a two-thirds confirmation vote is necessary to forward the recommendation to the 30th General Synod for call by election in Cleveland next summer. I am tasking the search committee with finalizing its recommendation for UCCB consideration by early February 2015, so the board of directors will have a month to reflect, discern and decide. That’s roughly five and a half months from now.

Geoffrey will continue to serve until his successor is prepared to assume his or her new position, sometime after the General Synod. The bylaws require transition to occur sometime within 90 days of the call by election.

I ask for your prayers for Geoffrey and his wife Pat, for those who will serve on the search committee and for those who will come before it. I also ask that you pray for our beloved United Church of Christ as we move into the future God has before us.

Yours in Christ,
Bernard R. Wilson
Chair, The United Church of Christ Board of Directors


You may read Rev. Black’s retirement letter here.

Update from Global Missionary, Rev. Loren McGrail

from Rev. Loren McGrail, Minnesota Conference UCC Authorized Minister
and Global Missions Israel-Palestine Missionary

Israel.Palestine sunset photo

In memory of four boys killed playing football on the beach in Gaza: Mohammed Bakr, 9 years old. Ahed Bakr, 10 years old. Zakaria Bakr, 10 years old. Mohammed Bakr, 11 years old. (art by Amir Schiby).

In this time of fear and suffering, from Jerusalem to Gaza, from Hebron to Nazareth, we reaffirm that all people deserve security, justice, dignity, and peace. We mourn all who have died, been injured, or made homeless. This is not a conflict or a war. It is an offensive attack on a people who have no army, navy, or air force.

Operation Protective Edge is taking place in the context of Israel’s illegal military occupation and a seven year siege on Gaza. Israel controls Gaza from air, land, and sea therefore it is obliged to protect civilians not attack them according to the Geneva 4 Convention. It is criminal to collectively punish a whole population, or to target civilians, journalists, and medical workers. It is criminal to use banned weapons and gases that blow up bodies beyond recognition. These are crimes against humanity and violate humanitarian and international law.

We cannot be silent. We must hold Israel and all governments and companies accountable.

The above comes from my first Action Alert for our partner the YWCA of Palestine on the newest offensive bombardment on Gaza. I have written five alerts altogether because each week there have been new and more horrible events that we wished the world to know so it could act to end the violence.

Telling you that I am the Communications/Advocacy Officer for the YWCA may suggest that I spend my time writing annual reports or answering emails but the truth is I am engaged in witnessing and writing about what is happening here under the longest military occupation in history. You have charged me to support the important work of our partner as it seeks to provide vocational training to Palestinian women and their children and advocacy training on how they can advocate for their human and gender rights. Part of my work then is to write alerts or calls to action centered on important dates in our shared Christian life, Palestinian history or political moment. To do this requires deep listening to what my Palestinian sisters and brothers are experiencing and then crafting messages that expresses what they wish the world to know and how they wish them to respond or act. Because the YWCA has observer status in the UN and is committed to a rights based approach, these current action alerts on Gaza focus on violations to humanitarian law of which there are many.

Please visit the YWCA’s website to see all the action alerts at You will also find information about the YWCA’s advocacy project Fabric of Our Lives that I coordinate about the women in our refugee camps from 1948.

Please visit Global Ministries to learn how you can support my mission work.

If you are interested in updates on Palestine and my life as your missionary, you can follow me on facebook at Accompanying Naomi and on my blog at You are also welcome to email me at

A note from the Conference Minister

Dear Minnesota Conference family,

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me in my time as your Conference Minister thus far is that all of us are longing for relationships across the Conference that are deep and genuine. You want to know your Conference staff, and we want to know you. We long to gather together for fellowship, to learn from one another, and to experience mutual support of our ministries.

Church on the Move is designed to respond to our desire to be together more often as United Church of Christ family. Over the next 9 months there will be 4 events in different regions of the Conference, and you’re invited! You can come to the one nearest you or to all of them. At least two Conference staff will be at each of the events. By the way: this is definitely not just for clergy! Bring a car-load from your congregation, or a bus! Each Church on the Move event will be different, with varied speakers, workshops and worship experiences in each place. You’ll see more information about the first of these events, to be held in Duluth September 20, below.

I issued a challenge at Annual Meeting that we would have 4 events and a grand total of 400 participants by the time we’re done. I’m counting on you and your congregation to help me meet that goal.

4 events… 400 people

We can do it!


See you at Church on the Move! Registration is now open.

Grace and peace,

Shari Prestemon