COMMAnts from the Conference Minister – November 2019

Giving Thanks Without Ceasing

 “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.”

Ephesians 1:15-16

Grace and peace to you, Minnesota Conference UCC!

Earlier this week, the Conference staff had the honor of hosting a luncheon to celebrate the service of our retired clergy and spouses.  Over 40 people attended.  What an awesome display of collective ministry and legacy!  I truly give thanks for their dedication and faithfulness over so many years in the United Church of Christ.

There is so very much to be thankful for in our life together in the Minnesota Conference.  As your Conference Minister, I have the privilege of a “bird’s eye view”, and seeing the breadth and width of our ministries across the state.  Like Paul in his letter to the community of Ephesus, I have heard of your faithfulness and your love, and cannot help but give thanks for all of you in my daily prayers.

I am thankful for your perseverance as church in times that often feel unsettling.  I am constantly humbled by the ways pastors and members are digging in, despite enormous challenges, to “be the Church” in their local communities and to care for one another.

I am thankful for the ways you do your part to make the world a better place, to multiply love and to build justice in our times.  Whether you are giving to your local food pantry, protesting against injustice wherever it is found, going to Back Bay Mission or traveling to the border, every bit of effort makes a difference in a hurting world and offers a faithful witness to a Gospel of love and mercy.

I am thankful for our clergy, serving as pastors and chaplains and organizers and teachers.  Their daily tasks have them sitting vigil at someone’s bedside, writing sermons, organizing projects and programs, and  tending to the daily needs of those they serve, all while striving to share a vision for the work God calls us to in this present moment.  Ministry is an immense and increasingly complex calling, and I have enormous appreciation for what our clergy do each and every day.

I am thankful for the 24,000 members of our congregations in the Minnesota Conference who invest their lives and care so deeply about their churches.  They sing in our choirs, chaperone youth events, teach children, plan events, shovel the sidewalks in Winter, serve as leaders, and support the church financially.  They care deeply about our congregational communities and share generously of their time, talents, and treasurer to ensure a faithful future.

I am thankful for our partners in ministry: for the national setting of the UCC, for United Theological Seminary, Back Bay Mission (Biloxi, MS), Samaritan Bethany (Rochester), Oak Meadows (Oakdale), and United Church Homes.  And wow, am I grateful to Tom, Monica, Hannah and Simon Liddle, for their courageous service as mission co-workers in East Timor! All of this reminds us that our ministry is wide and our impact large, and that we can do so much more together than we could ever do alone.

My friends, we have so very much to be thankful for in the Minnesota Conference!  As Thanksgiving draws near, know how deeply grateful I am for all of you. I see you: I see all the large and small things you do every day to prosper our ministry together and to counter the world’s messiness with your little offerings of love and justice and mercy and peace.  Yes, sometimes we have our own messiness, and our own struggles.  But even there, when our own challenges are fierce, we strive to be faithful and to listen for God’s call.  And that is a beautiful and hopeful thing.

Thank you, Minnesota Conference.  Thank you for sharing your generous gifts of many kinds to multiply this ministry we share.   Thank you, Church, for striving to be faithful in all times and circumstances.

With gratitude,

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

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