Response to Charlottesville: Letter from Conference Minister



My partners in faith,

In the wake of events in Bloomington, Minnesota and Charlottesville, Virginia, we in the Minnesota Conference must have moral and theological clarity.  When we see a homemade bomb thrown through the window of an Islamic Center, when we watch a white supremacist, torch-wielding mob pummel others with clubs and shout “Jews will not replace us”, we are seeing evil personified.  It is morally wrong.  It is theologically offensive. We must resist this evil with everything in us.

These actions have been promulgated by those whose hatred against Muslims, Jews, immigrants, African Americans and all persons of color drives everything else in their lives.  Their actions are rooted in their insistence on their own superiority as persons with white skin.  They claim God is on their side, that somehow God’s love and blessings are shared with them alone.

That is theologically repugnant.

We know from the long narrative of holy scripture that the call of God in Jesus Christ is a call for justice, a call to expansive love, a call to honor the image of God in each beautifully diverse one we encounter, a call to humble service and abiding grace.  God sets before us a vision of peace and justice and wholeness and fullness of life that we are called to embody fully, “on earth as it is in heaven”.

So we have work to do…

  • The work of confession. Those of us who are white must confess our own complicity in our white privilege and the structures of racism that maintain it. We must acknowledge that our experience in the world is nothing like the experience of persons of color, and that the disparity between these experiences is sinful. We must confess that these latest events are merely the latest in a long history of racist violence and oppression in our nation, the effects of which are felt daily by persons of color.
  • The work of theological discernment. Too often our discussion in these days becomes a purely political one, but our task as Church is to consider how our faith and what we know of God from our scriptures informs this moment and should shape our response. How can we prevent the message and purpose of God from being distorted and used as a weapon of those who hate?
  • The work of witness and sanctuary. I borrow this from Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, the Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York.  She wrote:  “To be a sanctuary means that wherever we are present no one should feel diminished or unsafe because of who they are or are not…Proactive witness means, in the least, calling out racism, xenophobia and any other ism or bigotry for what it is…We must refuse to be silent until these systems and structures are dismantled.”  (

I am heartened by and sincerely grateful for all the ways so many of our churches, clergy, and lay leaders are already doing this work with creativity, commitment, and authentic faithfulness.  I urge all of us, in every church and community, to engage this work fully and for the long, determined haul.

Preach.  Protest.  Pray with your words and your feet.  Talk with your elected officials. Build relationships with persons of color in your neighborhood.  Reach out to someone of another faith.    Have authentic conversation about the difficult subjects.  Advocate for policy change.  Resist and persist.  And examine scripture for wisdom in all of it. This is the discipleship our God of justice and peace calls us to every day. So let’s get to it.

Your partner in the work,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister

P.S. Let me know what your congregation is doing or plans to do to engage in this important work.  I’m interested!

We’re Open and Affirming!

It is with great joy and gratitude that we announce that on September 27, 2015, The Congregational Church voted overwhelmingly to covenant together to become an Open and Affirming Congregation. This Covenant represents our commitment to provide and protect a safe place in our midst where all people are welcomed and affirmed.  The covenant reads:

The Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Rochester, Minnesota, is a theologically diverse community united by our faith in God and our call to be disciples of Jesus Christ.  Guided by the Spirit of Christ, we strive to honor the great commandments: to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

 Our congregation declares itself to be a welcoming Christian community, open to and affirming of all God’s beloved children.  We recognize the equal value of people of all ages, races, nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.  All are welcome regardless of physical, mental or emotional abilities, family structures, faith backgrounds or socio-economic status.  We invite all people, whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, into the full life, ministry, joys and responsibilities of participation in our congregation.

 We know that Jesus excludes no one from his love, and we choose to do likewise.  We humbly ask for God’s guidance as we walk together, embracing this covenant and living forward into our full potential.

We celebrate the sacred nature of this covenant commitment, and recognize that we have taken an important step as followers of Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation.  We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we learn to live into the full meaning of this covenant we have made together.

Job Opening: Volunteer Coordinator

The Congregational Church, United Church of Christ of Rochester has an immediate opening for a part-time (5 – 7 hours/week) Volunteer Coordinator. This paid position is responsible for finding, organizing and directing the volunteers needed for any church activities that are requested.  Click here for a full job description.