First Congregational United Church of Christ, Mankato

February 24, 2016

Mankato UCC worshipingSimply put, this past year has been about nurturing relationships… We began 2016 with interfaith worship to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr’s vision of the beloved community– gathering together the people and leaders of seven neighborhood churches (Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Unitarian, Presbyterian) and the Islamic Center.

The 2015 MLK interfaith gathering was a first in Mankato’s history, and now with the support of our local community, it’s set to be an annual event. It has grown: this year in addition to readings and the music of the day, we had story tellers who spoke in deeply personal and moving ways about prejudice and hope: Jaylani Hussein (CAIR, Minneapolis), Abdi Sabri (Mankato Islamic Center), Michael Fagin (MSU Institutional Diversity), Renita Robinson (Committee Against Domestic Violence). Afterward, we broke bread together — Somali and mid-western loaves! The MLK service came on the heels of a series of educational events (films, local speakers, bible study) that was held at 1st Church this past fall on Immigration and Resettlement, and already the energy from it is yielding new projects. This coming summer, with CAIR, a community-wide event is being planned to address Islamophobia, and with the Unitarian Fellowship and Mankato Islamic Center we’re putting together a series of conversations to address privilege and prejudice.

We’ve also been lifting up concerns around economic justice. We brought forward a Fair Trade Resolution to the last Conference Annual Meeting, and remain committed to the work in our community — offering resources to local organizations to support these efforts. We continue through intergenerational projects to support the community’s transitional houses and drop-in center, and the food shelf: from funds and food drives to building shelves and cooking and serving and packing and ‘peddling past poverty’ and a literacy project. Each spring we garden on the church’s land, and the vegetables produced are dedicated to the safe house next door — in past years the women and children have shared in its tending, and all year we continue to be a resource in practical ways. Twice a year some of us travel to help with events at a school in South Dakota for
Lakota children, and  again this coming summer, a group of us will head to Guatemala to work with Common Hope — during the year, about twenty Guatemalan children are financially supported by church members. And since need and justice know no borders, we remain committed to being a Five for Five church. Finally, we delight in opening our space to local musicians and MSU students to do their thing with us in worship at least once each month.

Why do people worship at your church?

From the sticky notes that were plastered all over the board this past Rally Day and from ongoing conversations, people come to worship:

  • to be moved by the presence of the holy — to open to the care and comfort, hope and beauty and joy that’s among us
  • to have a place to hang their spiritual hats — to feel hospitality, the invitation to pause, to wonder, to discern, to experience the values of a progressive Christian community.
  • to be sent — to be able to go out with a sense of purpose, to go out not-alone.

What do you think is the single, most important, life-giving characteristic of your church?

There’s a spirit in the air, as that hymn goes, that lifts out the best in us and points us to the gift of one another — sooner rather than later. Though covenant is not a daily word we use, it’s what we do daily — listen and hear, respond and allow ourselves to need and be changed by one another as we do life together. This way of being sustains our relationships, keeps us creative and in touch with possibility, and lets us do the big work as a small body.

We are located in Mankato, just down the hill from Minnesota State University. This is a newer spot for us — we’ve been here since 2002, but we’ve been around since 1870. We average 85 people in worship. Rev. Dana Mann is our pastor.