Spotlight on Our Minnesota Conference Churches

Each week look for information about one of our churches in the Minnesota Conference as we take the time to get to know each other and how God is working in our mission and ministries.

April 6, 2016 – St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Eyota

Eyota Easter childrenSt. Paul’s United Church of Christ is located 2 miles north of Eyota and 10 miles east of Rochester in southeastern Minnesota.  Their church was founded by eight German immigrant families in 1868 as St. Paul’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church, then later “Evangelical”, then “Evangelical and Reformed, and then “United Church of Christ”.  Their pastor is Rev. Jean Boese and they have a weekly average of 30 people in attendance.

They are experiencing a resurgence of sorts in their F.A.C.T. group (Families and Church Together).  This group of younger families has redecorated the altar area, enlivened their “Children’s Time”, gathered Operation Christmas Child boxes, and in March led their Food Share Drive.  You can find them on Facebook at “St. Paul’s United Church of Christ – North Church”.   



March 23, 2016 – Granite Falls United Church of Christ (Congregational), Granite Falls

Granite FallsGranite Falls United Church of Christ (Congregational) is located in the wonderful and gorgeous Minnesota River Valley where the Yellow Medicine and Minnesota Rivers combine.  They were formed in 1872.  This year they will have been in continuous existence for 144 years.  The settlement of Granite Falls was less than 2 years old and there were less 30 people living in the community at that time.  The congregation had been meeting in the open air throughout that summer and then began worship in an abandoned log cabin with a sod roof that had been used as a school the winter before.  In 1874 a church building with a steeple was begun.

Reverend Dan Maiden is the pastor and average attendance fluctuates, but 25 – 50 is normal.

This congregation engages in the policy of allowing the church to be used by other community groups whether they have someone affiliated with the congregation or not.  A TOPS group, Circle Sentencing, and Narcotics Anonymous all meet in the church.  They have been used for the Senior Center Meal Site and gathering place on occasion.  Spring fundraising groups use this church to sort out flower bouquets.  The congregation is very active in delivering meals to the shut-ins with a program called Dinner at Your Door.   There are members who enjoy helping with building Habitat for Humanity Homes, especially in the Mississippi area.  They are located across the street from the local Food Shelf and each year they dedicate 2 months of their mission moments to the awareness of the needs of the hungry and fundraising for the MN Food Share program.

The place they really shine is the ecumenical nature of this congregation.  Open to all kinds of diversities, welcoming and helping, praying and caring about and for the world at large is who they are.

People love to worship with them because they are a small, friendly, family style church, but also because they really do practice a welcoming and caring atmosphere.



March 16, 2016 – Cherokee Park United Church, St. Paul

Cherokee Park peopleCherokee Park United Church is located on Saint Paul’s West Side. The congregation is a merged congregation with roots going back to Saint John’s United Church of Christ, which began as an Evangelical church in 1920 and Cherokee Heights Presbyterian Church, which began in 1912. The two congregations merged in 1968. The West Side is located south of downtown St. Paul, west of South St. Paul and North of West St. Paul, a description members never tire of giving. The West Side is an economically and ethnically diverse community. It has been and remains a point of entry for many new immigrants.
Dr. Tim Johnson has been the pastor of Cherokee Park United Church since 1981 and retires on April 10, 2016. During his tenure he has served in numerous capacities in the Minnesota Conference UCC, including as moderator. In the fall of 2015 Pastor Tim was named West Sider of the Year by the local District Council and in January was named Local Legend in association with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Both awards were a reflection of the commitment of Cherokee Park United Church to social justice.
During Pastor Tim’s tenure Cherokee Park United Church has established a strong reputation as a theologically progressive congregation, an advocate for LGBT citizens; among the very first to have all its electrical needs met through solar energy, a voice for immigration justice and a leader in antiracism work. Cherokee Park United Church in partnership with (ASDIC) Antiracism Study Dialogue Circles gave birth to an antiracism conference that is now in its 7th year and annually attracts over 400 people. The congregation has established a supportive relationship with the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community and hosts a closing feast at their annual Pow Wow. Cherokee Park United Church partners with Clark/Grace UCC in an annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. and each year hosts a Sunday morning service celebrating Bishop Oscar Romero with bilingual worship.
The congregation has an average worship attendance of about 70, which includes a talented choir of 15 members who help lead the congregation in a creative blend of hymnody and world music. Those drawn to Cherokee Park United Church come because they appreciate a theologically progressive congregation, with a strong commitment to justice and where people know they can make a difference. The formation of community is core to the identity of Cherokee Park United Church with radical hospitality lived out through intentional practices of welcome.



March 9, 2016 – Austin Congregational United Church of Christ, Austin

Austin peopleTell about the work you do in your community or in the world:

Celebrating 50 years in 2015-2016, Congregational Preschool is our primary community outreach program. A non-secular, non-denominational, non-discriminatory early childhood development program was the first founded in Mower County Minnesota. Continually operated as a state licensed program it has severed thousands of students – getting them off to a solid start for kindergarten and beyond.  We also support our local food shelf and local school backpack food program, in fact, our children collect these offerings of food and loose change during our offering when adults are donating to support our ministries. We support several of the UCC special offerings and pledge annually to CUE and OCWM. Additionally, we tithe the first fruit on the income from our endowments with these dollars going to support various charities in our community, state, nation and world. Finally, our Women’s Fellowship holds a twice yearly rummage sale and luncheon with proceeds all going to charity. This community-wide event has been happening since the early 1900s and calls come in weekly asking when the next one is scheduled.

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

Friendliness. Seriously. Every new person will tell you that they instantly were greeted in a genuine, warm manner. Within a few visits they feel like they have found a new family.

When you are at your best, what are you doing?

Opening our doors to others.

Why do people worship at your church:

A recent survey we completed highlights our pastor, Shari Mason, and the change in atmosphere she has brought: worship is less formal, prayer centric, with meaningful messages and children involvement. More families are attending and we have had several members of the LGBT community actively participating in the full life of our ministries.

Anything else you think is important about who you are:

We are the best kept secret in Austin, Minnesota.

We are located at 1910 3rd Ave NW, Austin, Minnesota, on a large suburban parcel away from any major streets. Home of Hormel Foods, SPAMtown USA, in eastern Mower County at crossroads of Interstate 90 and US Highway 218. Reverend Shari Mason. ELCA recognition partnership is our pastor.  Our average attendance on a Sunday is 67 and we were founded on July 6, 1857 (159 years ago!)





March 2, 2016 – Union Congregational United Church of Christ, St. Louis Park

unionstlouisparkTell us about your work in the community or in the world:

We actively support our local food shelves, homeless youth ministries, weekend take-home food program for local school children; we cultivate and promote our rain garden, we fly the rainbow flag to show that we are an Open and Affirming Congregation, and we financially support national UCC mission programs.

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

We pride ourselves on community building in worship and fellowship time — and we take pride in promoting and actively supporting local, national, and global missions.

Why do people worship at your church?

We preach the Gospel as it relates to the problems of today, we sing with strong, joy-filled voices, we actively engage children in worship, our choirs and musicians gift us with all kinds of music — old and new songs — presented in a variety of ways so there are songs and styles to make everyone happy.

Anything else you think is important about who you are?

We continually seek to be relevant — looking for ways to make a difference in our community and world — we are proud to be UCC.

We are located in St. Louis Park on the beautiful corner of 36th and Alabama Avenues.  Our church was founded in 1883 and our pastor is Barbara Martin.  We average nearly 100 adult, youth, and children each week. 


February 24, 2016 – First Congregational United Church of Christ, Mankato

Mankato UCC worshipingTell us about your work in the community or in the world:

Simply 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.