Conference News

Minnesota Conference UCC Welcomes Rev. Kevin Brown to Staff Team

 

Reverend Kevin Brown

Reverend Kevin Brown

The Board of Directors has approved the unanimous recommendation of the search committee that Reverend Kevin Brown be our next Associate Conference Minister for Faith Formation with Children and Youth.

Kevin has outstanding experience in leading faith formation in congregations.  He currently serves as the Director of Faith Formation with Mayflower Community Congregational United Church of Christ in Minneapolis.  He previously served as Director of Faith Formation at Union Congregational UCC in St. Louis Park and in similar positions at Judson Church in Minneapolis and Affton Christian Church in St. Louis, Missouri.  He earned his Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

“I’m really excited for Kevin’s ministry with us to begin,” Conference Minister Shari Prestemon remarked.  “Kevin has a deep respect for the ministry of the local congregation and comes to us eager to help congregations strengthen their faith formation practices.  He understands Pilgrim Point Camp as a primary and cherished space of ministry within the Conference. He also has a wonderful vision for making the Minnesota Conference a true leader in faith formation across the United Church of Christ.  All of that plus his engaging and thoughtful personality will make Kevin an amazing addition to our Conference staff team.”

In the life of the Minnesota Conference UCC, Kevin has served on the Conference Faith Formation Team since 2013 and has chaired that team since 2015.  He has also served as part of the leadership team for congregational camps and has been a speaker at Conference Youth Events at Pilgrim Point.

Kevin and his wife Monica have four young adult children and have lived in the Twin Cities area for the last nine years.  He enjoys playing his trumpet and listening to music, has a passion for cooking and eating, and loves a good book or movie.

Search Committee members, L-R: Shari Prestemon (Conference Minister), Kim Shaffer (Mankato), Abigail Henderson (Northfield), Sheri Nelson (Wadena), Hathan Holst (Duluth)

Search Committee members, L-R: Shari Prestemon (Conference Minister), Kim Shaffer (Mankato), Abigail Henderson (Northfield), Sheri Nelson (Wadena), Hathan Holst (Duluth)

As he contemplates his move to Conference ministry, Kevin says, “I feel privileged to join the staff of the Minnesota Conference UCC and look forward to beginning this wonderful and challenging ministry.   I am excited to join my gifts in collaboration with so many other innovative and creative leaders from around Minnesota and within the wider church as we engage the vitally important work of articulating an authentic, justice-focused, and theologically progressive vision for faith formation with children and youth.  My hope is that the Minnesota Conference will continue and expand its leadership in the work of connecting and supporting faith formation leaders, providing rich opportunities for faith exploration and development for children and youth, and become a catalyst for the development of relevant, faith-nurturing resources for congregations, families, and individuals.”

Kevin will begin his ministry with the Conference on November 16, 2016.  Please join us in providing a warm welcome to Kevin as we begin this adventure of ministry together!

COMMAnts from the Conference Minister – October 2016

What Legacy Will You Leave?

shari-favorite-head-shotLast week I had one of those unique opportunities afforded a Conference Minister from time to time.  Reverend Carolyn Fure-Slocum, one of our own authorized ministers and College Chaplain at Carleton College, asked me to speak at an event marking the 100th anniversary of the chapel at Carleton in Northfield.  It was part of a larger celebration honoring the 150th anniversary of the college.

Carleton College was founded in 1866 by the Congregationalists, one of four streams of church that eventually became the United Church of Christ.  This much I knew, but when I started doing some more extensive research in preparation for my evening at Carleton, I was inspired by what I learned.

The founding of Carleton was a visionary, risky, and thoroughly faithful enterprise of the Church.  The Congregationalists in Minnesota back then were at the vulnerable place of their own very tender beginning.  A book titled “Congregational Work of Minnesota, 1832-1920” described it this way: “The territory of Minnesota had been organized only in 1849.  Its population at that time was about 4000.  When the decision was reached in 1860 to found a Congregational college, the population [of MN] had risen to 172,023.  There were, in the MN of 1860, 47 Congregational churches, ten of them less than a year old, and the average membership of all of them 28.  There were only 30 ministers and about 12 church buildings.  Not more than three of the congregations were self-supporting.”

Just think of that!  Just 47 small churches with a tenuous grip on their own future made the bold commitment to found a college.  And that college still flourishes today, nurturing the intellectual and spiritual development of students, reflecting those foundational impulses of the Congregationalists all those years ago to blend a zeal for learning with a deep respect for the sacred.

This narrative of our church ancestors’ forethought and vision causes me to think about the concept of legacy. What legacy are we in the Church of today leaving for those who come after us?

It seems a worthy exercise for us to consider this question. Each of the four predecessor churches of the United Church of Christ left its own imprint on the United Church of Christ of today and on our world.  Educational institutions, health & human service organizations, bold missions, & a daring witness for justice in critical moments of history are all part of the enduring legacy they left us.  What will our legacy be?

The legacy we leave depends on the vision and character of our ministries today.  So take some time to consider questions like these with leadership in your ministry setting:

  • What enduring impact does your ministry have on the lives of others? How is that impact evident?
  • What are you so passionate about doing in your community that the ripples of that work are felt far beyond the doors of your building?
  • How are you planning today for the legacy you wish to leave in the future? Does the vision you have for your congregation’s ministry somehow extend beyond the confines of your current reality?  Are you willing to take a risk for the sake of something bold?
  • If your church were to ever make the very difficult decision to close, how could your plan for the distribution of your remaining assets leave a legacy that would far out-live your building and your church?
  • What do you want your ministry’s legacy to be? What can you do to ensure that legacy?

The context of Church is very different today than it was when our ancestor Congregationalists stepped up so faithfully to found Carleton College.  Yet I hope we remain today a people of bold vision and faithful forethought, eager to leave behind a legacy that endures.

With gratitude for all you do,

Shari signature

 

 

 

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

Camp Director Gigi Nauer to Depart

gigi-w-drumAfter five seasons at Pilgrim Point Camp, Gigi Nauer is bidding a fond farewell to her duties there as Camp Director.  In her letter of resignation, Gigi stated, “I have been offered a faith formation position in a local church, and since mid-August have been contemplating the ways that I could combine both the church position and the camp position.  After examining and experiencing the two simultaneously, I have determined, unfortunately, that it will not be possible to do them both.” Gigi will be serving as Director of Faith Formation and the Hand Bell Choir Director at Union UCC in Elk River, where her spouse Robin is the pastor.

“So many throughout the Minnesota Conference have benefitted from Gigi’s spontaneous and loving spirit, her amazing gift of music, and her deep commitment to Pilgrim Point Camp,” said Conference Minister Shari Prestemon. “We are truly sad to see her leave her position at camp, but we give thanks for what has been and look forward to her continued presence with us in the wider life of the Conference.”

Gigi reflects on her ministry at Pilgrim Point Camp: “It has been a blessing for me to help create a sacred space where anyone who comes senses the presence of the Holy.  I have seen even a few short days become a healing, transformative, life-changing time.  I am grateful to have been a part of making that happen at Pilgrim Point Camps & Retreats and believe it will continue to be a vital ministry of the Minnesota Conference UCC.”

Gigi will finish out the remainder of the 2016 season at Pilgrim Point Camp and close up the site before winter settles in for one last time.  Watch for future announcements about an opportunity to celebrate her ministry with us in the next weeks.  In the meantime, feel free to share your well wishes and thanks with her at gigin@uccmn.org.

Women’s Retreat ~ A time of Weaving Baskets and Life Stories

cropped-group-photoLast weekend, almost 50 women gathered at Pilgrim Point Camp for a Women’s Retreat.  Workshop Leader Kaila Russell led the women in a weekend of connecting the ordinary skill of basket weaving with the sacred as they noticed the parallels of weaving and their life’s journey.  The act of weaving creates a space to share stories and realize that we are connected – woven together in lots of different ways.

Here is what participants share of their experience from the weekend:

  • fb_img_1474777391880I have wanted to attend the Women’s Retreat for years, but it never seemed to work out.  This year, five women from our church attended.  This was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life – making baskets and sharing life stories.  What amazed me was the baskets all started out the same, but each ended up as unique as the weaver. Gigi and the staff were so caring and helpful.  Oh, and the food was wonderful!
  • The retreat was fantastic!  Kaila is the most affirming woman I have ever met. Robin Raudabaugh’s communion invitation humanized the gift of bread and wine. Gigi Nauer obviously loves what she does, and is infectious! This annual weekend is about more than a weekend away from work and dishes.  It is a weekend of bonding with other women over life issues, a personal introspection, an opportunity to positively impact someone in need, and a chance to simply be grateful.
  • I had a wonderful time at the women’s retreat! The atmosphere of acceptance and permission to relax and care for ourselves and each other was exactly what I needed. Weaving baskets was a wonderfully symbolic exercise in acceptance of our flaws, being kind to ourselves, and recognizing our beauty. I made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and left feeling refreshed and strengthened to face my everyday life again. I wish it was longer than two nights! Pilgrim Point is a wonderful place to relax and energize. Being there with loving women from all over the state was a very special treat. I’m definitely going back next year.
  • I absolutely loved the entire weekend and enjoyed making many new friends across the Conference.  The basket weaving activity and inspirational messaging felt like the entire weekend was designed just for me.  Thank you to everyone that had a hand in making it such a success.
  • Last weekend I went to the Women’s Retreat at Pilgrim Point.  I loved how Kaila led us all in weaving our stories into our baskets, it’s something that will stay with me forever.  Everyone is very welcoming and I always felt like I was a part of something great!  I am already planning on attending next year.  Thank you to all who helped make this a wonderful experience.
  • I found that the whole of the weekend, with Taize and the basket weaving, so lovingly led by wonderful women, to be very meditative. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience.

Each Fall there is a Women’s Retreat at Pilgrim Point Camp & Retreat Center in Alexandria.  If you didn’t sign up this year, based on these comments you won’t want to miss out next year.

2016 Fall Leadership Retreat

leadership-retreat-2016We just finished our annual Leadership Retreat at Pilgrim Point Camp. Thirty Board members, staff, and chairs of various committees, teams, and work groups spent two days learning about good governance and imagining new ways of working together to advance the mission of the MNCUCC. And we had some fun in the process!

Heather Kimmel and Richard Hilbrich, the General Counsel and Associate General Counsel of the United Church of Christ, were our keynote presenters.  

We discussed principles of good governance.  These principles include being accountable to and concerned with the health and well-being of the entire conference, exhibiting a clear and unified vision and mission, and functioning with transparency and openness. fall-leadership-retreat

We talked about the Board’s work of discerning the movement of the Spirit in the Conference, providing strategic direction, and providing oversight of our ministry and resources.  We discussed the ways that the Board of Directors are entrusted with the mission of the Conference, and we heard the ways the work of various committees, teams, and work groups fit into the overall mission of the Conference.

Governance conversations get a bad rap.  People hear governance and imagine boring or even painful conversations that remind them of a dentist’s waiting room or sitting in a dental chair.  Not this time!  Retreat participants were engaged and focused.  We recognize that good governance is crucial for the Minnesota Conference if we want to live out our mission as effectively as possible.  Good governance allows us to be faithful to God and to be good stewards of the gifts God has given the Minnesota Conference of the UCC.  Deepening the faithfulness of the Minnesota Conference is very interesting indeed! 

We also enjoyed meals together, socializing, high stakes team building competitions, and, of course, the beauty of Pilgrim Point.     

Respectfully Submitted,

Rev. Todd Smith Lippert

Senior Minister, First UCC Northfield

Vice Moderator, Conference Board of Directors

COMMAnts from the Conference Minister, September 2016

“Conversion Experiences”
shari-favorite-head-shotOn Sunday, I returned home from a two-week partner visit with the SE Mindanao Jurisdictional Area (SEMJA) of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). The Minnesota Conference has enjoyed a global partnership with SEMJA since the 1980’s, and has strengthened that partnership through a number of visits both directions over that span of 30 years.  This time there were three of us from the Minnesota Conference who traveled to the Philippines; I joined Global Partnership Team members Thom Haines and Josephine Fernandez.

Such visits are a time to build relationships, gain clearer understanding of the other’s cultural and socio-political context, and observe the unique witness of the Church in that setting.  We seek to embody partnership values of accompaniment and mutuality in our time together.  All of that happened on this particular trip as expected, as we traveled with UCCP leaders, worshipped in UCCP congregations, and talked together about the issues that shape their ministries today in the Philippines.

But for me, this trip was also a bit like going home.  Twenty-five years ago, I served in the Philippines as a Peace & Justice Intern on behalf of the UCC’s Board for World Ministries .  I was 23 years old at the time, had just one year of seminary under my belt, and was questioning whether or not I was really called to the ministry.  Sensing that I needed a break from academics and longing for an experience that would stretch and test me in new ways, I departed for a year of global mission service.

I got exactly what I said I wanted; I was profoundly stretched and tested.  My culture shock was severe.  I struggled with the language, and for the first few months my naturally extroverted self suffered from enormous isolation because of my inability to easily communicate with others.  I was forced to confront my own vulnerabilities and inadequacies head-on, and leaned heavily on my faith and my God in the process.   Navigating through that experience was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and yet I can also say with complete honesty that serving in the Philippines was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  It was a conversion experience of the best kind.

We don’t talk much about “conversion” in the United Church of Christ.  We’re more likely to use words like “transformation” or refer to “mountaintop experiences”, because the concept of “conversion” has been unfortunately sullied for us by the ways more conservative elements of Christianity have used and abused the term.  But as we see in the example of Saul on the road to Damascus  (Acts 9), “conversion” is simply a way of describing an encounter with Christ that profoundly changes the nature and substance of our faith, how we see the world, and how we understand ourselves.  And that kind of conversion is most definitely the work of the whole Church, including the United Church of Christ.

My experience in the Philippines all those years ago was undoubtedly one of conversion.  It was during that year that I discovered within myself an inner strength I didn’t know I had.  It was the experience that revealed to me in fresh ways the power of God in my life and the lives of others.  It was a time of witnessing the great possibility of faith and Christ’s Church in ways that mattered deeply, as I met UCCP pastors who literally risked their lives for the sake of “the least of these” and for justice rooted in their faith understanding.  It re-awakened my own call to ministry and sent me straight back to seminary to pursue that call.  I was converted from a kind of hum-drum, taken-for-granted faith to a faith that was bursting with new life and purpose.  That conversion still shapes my faith and ministry to this day.

As Summer turns to Fall and our ministries in every setting ramp up, my question for all of us is this: how are we creating space for conversion to take place today within our own faith communities?  Are we making room for the Holy Spirit to truly move us and change us?  Are we giving others the tools to experience their own conversions, and to recognize them when they happen?  Or are we just cultivating a sort of “status quo” faith that fails to breathe new life into tired, worn out places and people?

Conversion of the type I’ve described lies at the heart of our task as Church.  I pray that what we do and who we are in the United Church of Christ always offers room for conversion….of lives, of faith, of systems and communities.  Let us convert all that lacks love and hope and faith into places and people bursting with new possibility and purpose.  That’s a conversion we should be proud to claim and cultivate.

With prayers and thanks for your ministries,

Shari signature

 

 

 

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

Community UCC, Saint Paul Park

140817 Summit-Pullman Intersection PhotoCommunity UCC was founded as a Presbyterian mission start in October 1888, making us 128 years old. Our congregation has long had a heart for the well-being of children in our community. It was founded first in order to provide children with Sunday school, and hosted kindergarten classes until they were main-streamed into public education in the 1950s. We currently have members who volunteer in elementary school classrooms, we host Girl Scout troops several nights a week, and for the last two years have offered a weekly after-school program for elementary school aged children. We intentionally craft worship and other events in ways that children can feel fully welcome and able to participate.

We have an average of 50 people in worship each week.  We offer a radical welcome to each person who comes through the doors of the church. We say in worship each Sunday, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here”, and then we try to live that out every day of the week. We are at our best in creating caring relationships with the people who come to the church. The congregation is very generous when they have the power to meet tangible needs. Even when the answers to prayer are not immediately evident among the people gathered on a Sunday morning, the church always extends the intangible but essential gift that is sacred community, where sorrows shared are halved and joys shared are doubled.

150609 Growing with God Altar DisplayPeople worship with our congregation because they are drawn to our genuine care for other people and for the broader community. They are also drawn to a child-friendly sanctuary, preaching that connects Scripture with public events, and vulnerable/strong/honest sharing during Joys and Concerns. People can easily make genuine connections on a Sunday morning, and the service is small enough to allow even newcomers to feel like their participation makes a difference. If a child who’s only come to worship 1-2 times wants to light the altar candles, we will support and guide them so they can succeed in their leadership too!

The church is located at 1145 Summit Avenue in Saint Paul Park, at a prominent intersection. We are next to railroad tracks, on top of a hill, 6 blocks from an elementary school, and 6 blocks from lower-income and subsidized  rental housing (“down the hill”, and “across the tracks”).

Our pastor, Rev. Oby Ballinger, has served us since December 2009 and will leave us August 21, 2016. Our interim pastor will be announced in the next several weeks.

COMMAnts from the Conference Minister – August 2016

IMG_7353Last week I had the privilege of joining 59 youth and 22 adults representing 9 congregations* in our Conference at the UCC’s National Youth Event (NYE) in Orlando, Florida.  It was awesome! Our 81-person delegation from the MN Conference joined 3000 other youth and adult advisors from across the nation, including about 300 from our partner church, the Christian Church-Disciples of Christ.

Imagine the intense energy and vibrancy of those spaces where we gathered… voices raised in song, bodies moving in dance and clapping to the music, minds fully engaged as youth and young adult speakers shared their absolute brilliance and their passion for making a difference.  In between worship and speakers and quick dips in the pool there were dozens of workshops on topics ranging from the war in Syria to choosing a college to what the Bible says on a wide range of social issues.  The place positively buzzed with life and enthusiasm!  And it was all couched in the language of faith, all directed at compelling our youth to see their faith as a launching pad for action, to help them see themselves as the amazing and talented Children of God that they are.

IMG_7332Yesterday I read some of the blog posts our youth participants from Linden Hills UCC made during NYE.  As NYE finished up, they were asked to reflect on the question, “How has your life changed because of your experience at NYE?”  Here are just a few glimpses of how some responded:

“All the lessons and speeches inspired me to find my passion and help change the world. I’m going to remember this experience for the rest of my life.” – Adam

 “I finally can see the impact that words can have and I hope to live in a world where we use our action to fight for the rights of all people and to end the violence in the world.” – Beryl

 “I realize that being young is not an excuse for doing nothing about today’s problems.” –Briana

 “I feel more comfortable to show who I really am & not to be scared to hide my talents & passions.” –Gayl

I teared up when I read those remarks.

IMG_7328Whether we are 15 or 75, I hope all of us feel empowered and driven as people of faith to go out there and change the world.  And I hope that as individuals churches and as a Conference, we heed God’s call to be a people of passion and compassion.  As an old UCC bumper sticker used to say, “To believe is to care, to care is to do.”

With gratitude and hope for all the ways you care, and for all you do to make a difference-

Shari signature

 

 

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

Our Minnesota Conference participants at NYE received grants from the Conference to help them attend, and our Conference was a major sponsor of the event itself.  This support was made possible by our Ashley Endowment, dedicated to faith formation with children and youth.

*Many thanks for the following congregations for sending delegations to the National Youth Event this year.  Your prayers, fundraising, and commitment to your youth were outstanding!

  • Bethlehem UCC, Maple Lake
  • Congregational Church of Detroit Lakes
  • First Congregational UCC, Brainerd
  • Linden Hills UCC, Minneapolis
  • Lynnhurst Congregational UCC, Minneapolis
  • Plymouth Congregational, Minneapolis
  • St Paul’s UCC, St Paul
  • Congregational Church, Rochester
  • First Congregational UCC, Princeton

Antiracism Team Update

The Antiracism Team has met twice since the Annual Meeting last month to discern best ways for us to work together on behalf of the Conference. We currently have five members: Gary Kwong (New Brighton UCC/Union UCC in Hackensack), Steve Pavich (Mendota Heights UCC), Khalid Moussa Foster (New Brighton UCC), Kim Graff (Community UCC in St. Paul Park), and myself (soon to be at Edina Morningside Community Church). Associate Conference Minister Steve Boorsma also joins our meetings as a staff liaison when possible. We recognize that our work relies on a far greater circle of partners and allies in this work throughout the MN Conference, and that’s where you come in!

In upcoming months, I anticipate sending occasional emails sharing requests for action that would help our Team’s work, highlighting helpful resources, and sharing info about antiracism activities throughout the state. We individually know about great resources, events and needs, so this may be one way to share with each other and build broader awareness of efforts throughout the Conference. You are likely on many email lists, so to avoid duplication I’ll prioritize news about faith-based activities and needs here in Minnesota. If you’d like to add your name to the list for future emails, please email me your name and congregation (preferably). In the meantime, here are several requests you might consider acting on, and an upcoming event we hope you’ll consider attending.

Action Items:

  • Responding to requests throughout the Conference for resources to aid antiracism efforts in faith communities, the Team is developing a list of resources to be posted on the Conference website and updated regularly. Our goal is to have those available by this fall. Will you help us by submitting resources you recommend, through this form?​​
  • We’ve received an invitation from MARCH, a “newly-emerging rapid response network of people of faith in the Twin Cities”, for folks to add our names to a text/email list. “The idea for this list is that religious leaders and people of faith who are interested in being mobilized for action in support of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and other racial justice work will be connected through a list-serve (and possibly text messaging if we can develop that capacity). Actions are sent out and members of the network are asked to participate as they are able and led.” If you’d like to be added to the list, please email Arif Mamdani at the Kaleo Center, an initiative of United Theological Seminary.
  • We are looking to increase the Antiracism Team’s official membership by 1-2 people in order to achieve broader representation of the entire Conference. We are particularly looking for people of color, women/gender-nonconforming folks, and/or folks in greater Minnesota. Most important, of course, is that potential Team members have the time and passion for this ministry of the Conference. We’ll do great work with our current Team and you as partners, but we’ll do even better work as we continue to reflect the diverse voices of God’s people in Minnesota. Might you be able to recommend someone interested in this work who would help increase our breadth of experience on the Team?Please reply to this email with contact information if you’d like to nominate someone (including yourself). Even if we’re not able to bring someone on to an official role, you will be helping us expand this network of partners and allies–thank you!

Upcoming Events:

New! Overcoming Racism Conference: October 28-29 (Metropolitan State University, St. Paul)

This is an annual event started some years ago with the leadership of Cherokee Park United Church in Saint Paul. It now gathers hundreds of Minnesota and national folks acting to dismantle racism.

Know of another Minnesota antiracism event of interest to people of faith? Please share it with us!

Thanks so much for your partnership in the antiracism efforts of the MN Conference! Please let me know what else would be most beneficial to your congregation or small group.

With gratitude,

Oby Ballinger, Chair

First Congregational United Church of Christ, Baudette

First Congo UCC BaudetteAnother of the congregations started by Rev. T. W. Howard and his wife Susan Collier in the early 20th century, the original church building was destroyed in the fire of 1910 that burned through the area and destroyed most of the towns of Baudette and Spooner, along the Rainy River.  A new church was one of the first buildings to be built following the fire and is still in use as the sanctuary of the current church.  Additions have been made over the years including a basement and a new entrance that contains a lift for all three levels of the church.  Throughout its more then 100 years, the church has seen both good times and bad.  During much of the middle of the twentieth century the church flourished because of the DEW Line Radar bases in the area.  An end to the cold war and the closing of the bases meant a downturn in the area and the church.  It again flourished when a drug company came to town and produced an important drug for women, but when the company downsized, again the church hit hard times.  Currently, Baudette is the largest community in Lake of the Woods county with an economy based on tourism.  The church works to provide a progressive ministry to the community.

As the central church in the Rainy River Regional Parish, First Congregational serves as the base for the parish pastor.  When the proposed amendment that would define marriage as being between one man and one woman came to a state wide vote, it was the Deacons of First Congregational (using resources provided by the Conference) that organized the opposition to the amendment in Lake of the Woods County and the surrounding area.  It also lent support to the effort to make same gender marriage legal in the state.  More recently, it has offered a workshop on telling the truth about the religion of Islam as part of its Lenten study series.

The church is working to rebuild its Christian education program and boasts one of the youngest if not the youngest acolyte in the Conference (a four-year-old girl, usually barefoot and helped by her father, puts out the candles on the alter and carries the flame out).  The Sunday School is primarily very young girls and is multi-racial.  Worship is informal with a come as you are attitude.  After church, coffee usually is available and visitors can catch up on local happenings and the latest fishing news.  Located just a few blocks from the Port of Entry into Canada, First Congregational is an older congregation trying to renew itself as the main voice of progressive Christianity in the area.