OCWM Makes Many Things Possible

Why Support Our Church’s Wider Mission?

This month at the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ, there have been numerous happenings that give us reason to support Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM). When you think about whether your church can afford to make a pledge or contribution to OCWM, please consider all that the Minnesota Conference is doing to support our churches, clergy, lay leaders, and beyond. Just to name a few things that we have been doing:

  • The Ecclesiastical Council convened this last month as part of their overall ministry work. This ministry is essential for ensuring new ministers become approved for serving the Minnesota Conference churches. After having been a Member in Discernment for at least one year, this is the last step a candidate must go through to be approved for ordination, pending an actual “call”.   The EC provides the candidate an opportunity to demonstrate his/her ability to communicate a theological understanding of faith, church, and its ministry that approximate the preaching and teaching expectations.  ECs are often celebratory, informative, thought-provoking, and sometimes poignant.  Those who attend are invited to ask questions about the candidate’s presentation.  This is an expression of our covenantal polity and it shows how OCWM dollars help to develop pastoral leaders for the 21st century.  See the official procedures for an EC.
  • New beginnings photoNext steps continued on the New Beginnings Program. This service specializes in helping congregations that are in decline make bold decisions about their future. New Beginnings assesses strengths and challenges for congregations as they seek to engage in significant ministries in their communities. The assessment service, coupled with strategic interpretation and training enables church leaders to envision a new path for their future based upon their available resources and potential to serve new vital ministries to become sustainable Christian witness and action into the future.  The New Beginning Assessment Service seeks answers to the question, “What is God calling your congregation to do and to be in this time and in this place?” Minnesota Conference churches that are participating in the New Beginnings Program this year include: Plymouth UCC, Minneapolis; Pilgrim Congregational Church, Duluth; Union UCC, Hackansack; New Spirit, Savage; and Peace United Church of Christ, St. Cloud. Rev. Steve Boorsma met with consultant Ray Schulte of the Center for Parish Development and church leaders for an all-day retreat at Sandstone United Church of Christ Congregational. Attendees listened to Ray Shulte who helped participating congregations determine where they are at in the process and to help church leaders share thoughts and ideas.
  • anti Racism TeamThe Minnesota Conference Anti-Racism Team (Steve Pavich, Gary Kwong, Kim Graff, and Rev. Oby Ballinger and Rev. Steve Boorsma) met. Rev. Steve Boorsma attended an adult education class at The Congregational UCC, Rochester, where they were showing the video “Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity”. We look forward to hearing Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon present at our 2016 Annual Meeting, and discussing how we as the Minnesota Conference can continue to move forward with anti-racism training and advocacy work.

All of what is happening at the Minnesota Conference continues to move forward because of the pledges and contributions we are receiving from our churches.

If your church has already sent in your OCWM pledge or contribution, thank you very much for your support. There is still time to send in your pledge or contribution. For more information, click on the Donate tab, then OCWM, or you may contact the Minnesota Conference office to learn how your church can support Our Church’s Wider Mission and all of the ministries it serves. Thank you for your ongoing support.

UCC Chaplain Group Welcomes Guest Speaker, Sponsored by OCWM Contributions

Chaplains GatheringIn April 2016, United Church of Christ chaplains, Rev. Shari Prestemon and Rev. Rick Wagner gathered together at the Minnesota Church Center.

Together, they listened to Rev. Stephen Boyd, Minister for Chaplains and Ministers in Specialized Settings from the national United Church of Christ. He spoke on ecclesiastical endorsements, the process that is involved, and how chaplains in specific settings can become certified. Rev. Boyd offered the group encouragement, information, and specific next steps for them to follow in their journey.

We are indeed grateful that we were able to bring in a speaker such as Rev. Stephen Boyd. According to Kathryn Morin who attended this meeting:

“I appreciated Reverend Boyd’s clarification of his understanding of endorsement as well as hearing about the new initiatives for communication and support for specialized ministry that will be coming from the national office.”

The chaplains’ network in the Minnesota Conference began meeting in 2015 and convenes at least twice a year for mutual support and resourcing. Currently, the Minnesota Conference has approximately 70 specialized ministers who serve either as chaplains or in other non-parish capacities. A few chaplains who have been attending these meetings mentioned how beneficial these gatherings are for their professional development and networking:

“It is very meaningful to gather together as specialized ministers to not only support each other in our unique ministry settings but also to share stories that flow forth from our work as chaplains and build important relationships”. —Chaplain Group participant

“The reason I attend the meetings is because I serve as a UCC Chaplain in a non-UCC setting. I feel isolated from my colleagues, the Conference, and denominationally specific issues related to my call. These meetings invigorate me–even though they require me to drive 5 hours to attend!”—Rev. Elizabeth Hoblin Endicott, Chaplain

Bringing Rev. Boyd to speak at this chaplain’s meeting was sponsored in part by contributions from Our Church’s Wider Mission. As we continue to see more churches make pledges and send in donations, the Minnesota Conference is better equipped to plan for providing more resources, training, and support to our chaplains and others in specialized ministries.

If your church has already sent in your OCWM pledge or contribution, thank you very much for your support. If your church has not already done so, there is still time to send in your pledge or contribution. Please click on the Donate tab and then OCWM to download the OCWM pledge form, brochures, stories and more information. Or you may contact us at the Minnesota Conference office for additional information about how your church can support Our Church’s Wider Mission and all of the ministries it serves. Thank you for your ongoing support.

OCWM Supports Second Year of the New Beginnings Program: March 11-12 Leaders Retreat Kicked-off the Start of 2016 Program
New Beginnings picNew Beginnings is a program in its second year at the MN Conference, and is supported in part by contributions to Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM).The New Beginnings program is designed to help churches in need of revitalizing their ministries in the communities they serve as they face ever changing and challenging times. Churches that experience fewer people attending worship, declining financial pledges, and other difficulties that seek to redefine their mission turn to the Minnesota Conference’s New Beginnings Program for direction and revitalization.Minnesota Conference churches that partner with us by sending in OCWM contributions augment the New Beginnings program, allowing us to support, resource and assist each congregation in their journey as they discern “What is God calling us to do and be today?”.Additionally, each year, the Minnesota Conference offers a Leaders Retreat to kick-off the New Beginnings program, which recently occurred on March 11th-12th.  This event follows the initial Phase I Assessments at each of the participating churches where Hope Partnership of the Disciples of Christ, gathered data on the church.  It also provides a treasured opportunity for New Beginnings Congregations to support one another in this renewal journey.In addition to the Hope Partnership presenter and church leaders, the event was also attended by Associate Conference Minister Steve Boorsma and the Rev. Chris Davies from the National UCC, who recently began working in Congregational Assessment, Support and Advancement Ministry in Local Church Ministries.Please continue to help us to sustain healthy and vital congregations with your church’s OCWM commitment.  If you have already sent in your 2016 OCWM pledge or have begun sending in your donation, we thank you for your support. If you require additional information about how you might make your OCWM pledge or contribution, please refer to our OCWM Donate website link, or you may contact the Minnesota Conference office, and we will gladly assist you in any way possible.In Gratitude,Shari signature
Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

Our Churches Wider Mission Serves Vital Ministries
OCWM is there for your and your church as a larger support system when you need it, bringing you events and trainings and supporting your church and clergy when you are experiencing transition. UCC ministries happen because your OCWM support makes it possible.
OCWM Brochure CoverYear-to-date, forty-four churches have already sent in their OCWM pledges—thank you to every church that has sent in their pledge. We are indeed very grateful, and off to a good start this year. Yet, in order that the United Church of Christ might continue to offer the same ministries that feed our minds, hearts and souls, we hope that every church will participate in supporting OCWM.If you are still contemplating how your church can become involved, I would encourage you to talk your church council, clergy and lay leaders and prayerfully consider how your church can support OCWM. Any commitment your church can make would be greatly appreciated.You may download the 2016 OCWM Commitment Form, and mail, email or fax this to our offices. Need more information? A few recommended resources to pass along to your church and lay leaders include:
Minnesota Conference OCWM Brochure
Transforming Lives through OCWM Giving
OCWM Stories
Why I Support OCWM
Minnesota Conference UCC website
National UCC website
For questions or concerns about how to fill out and submit your 2016 OCWM pledge, you may contact me or the Minnesota Conference office staff. We will be glad assist you in any way possible.Thank you again for all of your support, leadership and partnership with the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ. We look forward to working with your church in the future, and continuing in our shared covenantal commitment together.
Lese Wright
Development Officer
Minnesota Conference UCC
122 W. Franklin Ave. Ste. 323
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Email: development@uccmn.org
Phone: 612-871-0359
Fax: 612-870-4885

MN Conference Celebrates Wider Church Covenant Throughout the Weekend – OCWM at Work!
John Dorhauer in Robbinsdale
“The Holy Spirit envisions a future in which the United Church of Christ matters.”
Those words from Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, General Minister & President (GMP) of the United Church of Christ, defined a weekend of events where Minnesota Conference clergy and lay leaders gathered to celebrate being part of the UCC and to reflect on how God is calling us to be Church in the future.Rev. Dorhauer, who began his leadership as GMP in August 2015, shared his vision for the UCC at an event attended by over 85 donors on Friday evening. On Saturday, Rev. Dorhauer delivered a key-note address entitled “Why the United Church of Christ Matters” to over 100 clergy and lay leaders from across the Conference at our “Church on the Move” event held at United Theological Seminary.
The weekend highlighted the value of our covenantal relationships in the UCC, from the local congregation to the Conference and national settings. Renee Pfenning, a member at Cherokee Park United Church who attended the Saturday evening, remarked, “I find the wider church events are meaningful and important to me. I leave encouraged and feeling more connected.”
OCWM Brochure CoverOur Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) is the glue that binds us in this extraordinary covenant we share. It allows ministry in the local church to be equipped and resourced so that congregations can be the best church they can be. It multiples ministry beyond the local setting and empowers our wider UCC witness of radical hospitality . As Rev. Sandy Johnson, a retired pastor and advocate for OCWM giving, said at Friday’s event, “ What I love about the United Church of Christ is that we are pretty clear on which mistakes we are willing to make, and more importantly, which ones we are unwilling to make…Given the choice to be inclusive or exclusive, we choose to welcome everyone, no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey.”
Your gifts to OCWM ensure that the ministry of the United Church of Christ in all its settings continues to matter and make a difference in times when our bold witness is increasingly important. Thank you to the 111 congregations that gave over $705,000 to OCWM in 2015, a slight increase over 2014. As your congregation makes budget decisions for 2016, please complete this pledge form (LINK) and let us know what you expect to give to OCWM in the year ahead. This in turn helps the Conference appropriately develop its own budget and ministry plan.You may find the OCWM pledge form, stories, information and more on our webpage. Should you have any questions or concerns about how to submit your OCWM pledge, please contact Lese Wright, Development Officer, at development@uccmn.org.


Why We Support Our Church’s Wider Mission

Todd Smith LippertWe asked Todd Smith Lippert, Pastor of First UCC in Northfield why they support OCWM.  Here’s what he said.

At First UCC in Northfield, individual households pledge to Our Church’s Wider Mission in the same way they make a pledge to the ministry of the local church.  Each year I am very proud of how generously this congregation supports OCWM, and what we need for our local ministry is also generously provided.

First UCC supports OCWM so generously because we believe in the ministry of the UCC.  We believe in the idea of Continuing Testament, that God’s revelation is present in the Bible and beyond.  We believe that God’s revelation is still unfolding in the world and we must pay attention.  We support the UCC’s deep commitment to social justice, caring for creation, and GLBT equality.  We also believe in UCC churches working together, strengthening our shared ministry in Minnesota and around the globe.  This shared ministry takes generosity.  Strong connections, strong conferences, and a strong denomination lead to strong local churches.

I invite you and your church to join First UCC in Northfield in generously supporting Our Church’s Wider Mission.

To learn more about how your church may support Our Church’s Wider Mission, please visit our OCWM webpage.  There you may download our OCWM brochure, video, and the 2016 pledge commitment form.  Thank you for your support!

Making OCWM (Our Church’s Wider Mission) a Piece of Our Mission Pie or the Pie Tin?

OCWM Brochure Cover

For decades, support for OCWM (Our Church’s Wider Mission) has been declining. However, during that same time period, some churches have, in fact, increased their support for OCWM significantly. It is hard to summarize what is OCWM; it is easier to explain what OCWM is not: “OCWM is not a slice of the Mission Pie!”

OCWM may sound like just another mission project, and many church members, especially those unfamiliar with the wider United Church of Christ, may believe that’s just what it is – some general, undefined, mission project of the church. OCWM is actually essential support for many different specific ministries of the church.

In today’s society donors and local churches want to see their dollars used for specific projects. If OCWM is added to the mission pie, it can never compete because of it covers such a wide and varied range of activities which are harder to explain, embrace, and champion than very specific mission projects.

OCWM is more accurately equated to the lowly pie tin. It is what supports and holds the entire UCC mission pie. It’s what makes it possible for dollars that are given to specific UCC mission projects to be used almost 100% for those specific projects.

Thank you to all those churches and individuals who have so faithfully supported the OCWM pie tin these many years. Your Our Church’s Wider Mission dollars have sustained many vital ministries and mission projects of the church. Now we all need to look at what we can do to increase our support for the humble OCWM pie tin in the years to come so that we can continue and expand specific mission projects and ministries of our church.

If you want to know about all the things that Our Church’s Wider Mission dollars do, please visit the national UCC web site: www.ucc.org, search for “OCWM”.

RobinNewPhoto (2)
Clergy Convocation Underwritten by Your OCWM Support
Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers, author and Distinguished Professor of Social Justice in the Philosophy department at Oklahoma City University, was our keynote speaker. Dr. Meyers spoke on important topics such as: “Making the Case for Progressive Christianity”, “God Talk: How Quantum Physics is Redefining ‘Almighty'”, and “The Risks and Benefits of Fearless Preaching”.
When asked to name things that they will do differently as a result of participating in the Fall Clergy Convocation, clergy participants responded with their take-a-ways:
  • “Preach more fearlessly!”
  • “I’ll feel much more comfortable in “Faith and Science” conversations.”
  • “I will try to preach prophetically despite the opposition I might encounter.”
The event was underwritten by Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) dollars and a special grant from the Brown Endowment from the national setting of the United Church of Christ. According to Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister, “The Convocation is a wonderful example of how our shared gifts in the wider Church make possible experiences that would never be possible if we didn’t have those connections. Without the support of OCWM and the grant we received, this event would not have been so affordable for our clergy.”
Research shows that clergy who are intentional about drawing on regular support from their clergy peers have more longevity in their ministry settings and enjoy healthier ministry overall, facts which also benefit their church community. “It’s essential that we provide these opportunities to our clergy for fellowship and peer support,” says Reverend Prestemon. “What’s good for our clergy is good for the entire Conference.”
Testimonials from participants include:
  • “Best program I’ve been to in a long time! Excellent”
  • “I really appreciated the chance to specifically connect with clergy colleagues more deeply – very much value that this event was geared toward clergy.”

Many thanks to our OCWM supporters for helping the Conference fulfill our strategic priority to equip clergy and laity to lead in a rapidly changing world.



Fall Leadership RetreatOCWM in Action: Leadership Retreat Speakers Discuss Race Relations with Native Americans

At our 2013 Annual Meeting, delegates passed a resolution calling the Conference to new commitment in the work of anti-racism. Since then, one expression of that commitment has been to devote significant time to creating a deeper understanding about the experience and roots of racism. Our annual Fall Leadership Retreat provided one more venue for this understanding to be deepened.

Staff, the Board of Directors, committee chairpersons, and several others from throughout the Conference gathered at Pilgrim Point Camp on September 11 to dialogue with three persons who offered a glimpse into the Native American experience of racism in our state and nation. Kent Nerburn, author of 13 books including Neither Wolf nor Dog and a spiritual teacher respected in the Native American community, shared his insights about bridging the gap between Native and non-Native cultures. Kirk (Blackfoot tribe from the Piikani Nation) and Jackie (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians) Crowshoe offered their deeply personal experiences of injustice and racism as Native peoples, and brought wisdom about how best to approach these conversations in our own communities.

“These conversations were an important piece of the anti-racism work we’ve committed to in the Minnesota Conference,” said Conference Minister Shari Prestemon. “We can’t authentically engage in the dismantlement of racism around us until we’ve taken time to first understand what the experience of racism is really like for those who don’t have white privilege. In Minnesota in particular, it’s critical that the experience and voice of Native Americans is among those we hear.”

Your church’s contribution to Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) makes these kinds of sacred conversations possible. Your gifts enable the Minnesota Conference UCC to do this important work of seeking racial justice and societal transformation, aligning with our strategic priority to “increase capacity for compassionate service and prophetic witness”. Your gifts support training and resourcing for our clergy and lay leaders, and enable our work with congregations across the state.
In total, 90 of 132 churches, or sixty-eight percent, have been supporting OCWM with their pledges and gifts. Last year OCWM contributions provided thirty-seven percent of all Minnesota Conference revenue. Will we be able to obtain that same level of support this year? Your church’s participation might be the one that makes the difference.

As the calendar year draws to a close, we thank each congregation for the OCWM gifts you so conscientiously make. Your gift multiplies our ministry, here in Minnesota and far beyond!
OCWM checks may be sent to the Minnesota Conference office at 122 W. Franklin Ave, Ste. 323, Minneapolis, MN 55404. Be sure to write “OCWM” in the memo line.
For more information or to make contribution, visit our local Minnesota Conference website at Our Church’s Wider Mission. There you will find an OCWM Brochure and a video testimonial about the importance of OCWM giving. The National UCC website also provides OCWM resources for your congregation. Have questions? Feel free to call Development Officer Lese Wright or Conference Minister Shari Prestemon at telephone #612-871-0359.