The 61st Annual Meeting of the MN Conference UCC is a wrap! It was a wonderful two days of deepening our connections, gathering for moving worship, learning in incredible workshops, laughing and dancing and singing, and reflecting on the theme “Protecting God’s Gift of Creation.” Here are six takeaways:
1. Two new congregations granted full standing in the Conference
On Saturday of Annual Meeting, delegates voted unanimously to grant congregational standing to two new churches in our Conference. United Faith Community in Buffalo, which began as a “ministry connection” several years ago, was the first. Pastored by licensed minister Ole Olson, the small congregation worships in a conference room of a local organization and does an inspiring amount of advocacy, mission outreach, and public witness in the community. People’s Congregational Church in Bayport was also voted into Conference membership. Pastored by Rev. Clare Gromoll, People’s Congregational will also maintain its membership with the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.
2. Conference Minister Prestemon Calls Conference to Faithful Re-Imagination
In her State of the Conference Address, Rev. Prestemon called Conference members to a season of faithful re-imagination and deep discernment. “Re-imagination is a core strategy for our future,” she said, “a tool for noticing & seizing the new thing God is longing to do in this “Age of the Spirit.” We need to re-imagine what it looks like to “be Church” in this historical moment for the sake of a Gospel and a witness that this world and our communities sorely need…Our faith has always relied on the imagination of our hearts, called on us to be “imagineers” of the future. And so I invite each of us in the Minnesota Conference to a season of faithful re-imagination, of paying attention to the movement of the Spirit as an act of our devotion, trusting that God is in fact doing a new thing among us, here and now.” Read the entire State of the Conference address HERE. A recording will be shared in coming days.
3. Use your voice!
Keynote speaker Rev. Michael Malcolm, founder of the People’s Justice Council in Alabama and a staunch environmental justice advocate, called on us to “use our voice” and compel change on the issues we care about. He reminded us that when we show up and lift our voices, those who are blocking change will pay attention. He shared that sometimes advocacy victories are as simple as getting up one more morning and continuing the fight. The recording of Rev. Malcolm’s powerful message will be shared in coming days.
4. Budgets are Mission Spending Plans
Conference delegates unanimously approved a budget for the 2024 fiscal year. The $1.6 million budget will fuel an exciting mission and ministry plan, including Clergy Communities of Practice, more Covenant Days across the Conference, a deepening commitment to anti-racism, incredible outdoor ministry & faith formation programs, and an exciting new initiative called the “Re-imagination Project”. Conference Treasurer Bob Sicoli reported a healthy financial position in the Conference, and thanked congregations for their generous giving to Our Church’s Wider Mission. Read our narrative budget and mission spending plan here.
5. Protect God’s Gift of Creation!
Our Annual Meeting theme was “Protecting God’s Gift of Creation”. Our anchoring scripture was Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” Our Bible Study leader, Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt (UCC Environmental Justice Minister), invited us to explore Psalm 24 more deeply. Our closing worship preacher, Rev. Nikki Frontz (Solomon’s Porch church & United Theological Seminary Chaplain), called us to a spirit of “Ubuntu,” reminding us of our sacred interdependence. “I am because we are.”
6. Prophetic Witness Resolution
A resolution submitted by United Church of Christ in New Brighton passed with overwhelming support. The resolution called on the Conference to advocate for full funding of English Language Learner and Special Education services in public education. Several members of the Conference meaningfully spoke in favor of the resolution, sharing their own experiences and knowledge of the issue. Read the full resolution here.
Check out these wonderful videos made by the amazing Scott Keehn: