Member Lenten reflections: 2

This beautiful post comes from Kris Felbeck, who writes about the profound experience of loss and grief in the family.










In Fall 2000 my father was dying.

Read more »

Member Lenten reflections on prayer: 1

Thanks to Kathy Haskins for contributing the first selection, a poem written for the occasion of Ash Wednesday.


Ashes to ashes and

Dust to dust

Star dust and Earth dust we are


Of death come to fleeting life

Read more »

Baptism: the conversation continues

Depiction of baptism in an early Renaissance tapestry

Recently, Clyde Steckel, emeritus professor of theology at United Theological Seminary and First Church member, responded to my post about baptism.  You can read his response below.  He makes  a compelling case for retaining and exploring the symbolism of “washing clean” in baptism, rather than shying away from it.  Thank you, Clyde, for deepening the conversation!  Readers, stay tuned for more words from First Churchers as we consider our Lenten theme, “Teach us to Pray.”

Clyde’s response:

Read more »

Ash Wednesday reflection

Ash Wednesday reflection delivered by Abigail Henderson on 03/09/11 at First Cong. Church of MN.

Psalm 51:1-17; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Psalm 51 is a tough one.  It uses the “s-word” five times.  You know the one I mean.  Sin.  These verses even declare that sin is original—“I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.”  Yeesh.  That one’s hard to swallow.  Yesterday afternoon, I read a book about animals to my niece, aged fifteen months, and she fell asleep right in my arms.  As I felt her little body breathing against mine, sin was about the farthest thing from my mind.

And you know what?  It was a moment of rest and relief, because I actually think about sin quite a lot.  Not sin as it’s popularly understood or described—the sin of pride, the sin of lust, the sin of… whatever. It’s risky to talk about sin because it’s a loaded term, one that’s been used as a weapon in so many unjust crusades.

Read more »

What’s my role?

Today, I’m addressing another question related to Baptism: What is the role of the Godparents or Sponsors?

This question leads me to ponder… what is anyone’s  role in this ritual?  God’s?  The parents or the person (if an adult)?  The congregation’s?  The pastor’s?  The wider community’s?

I don’t know who created the above piece of art (my apologies) but I like it very much. It speaks to me about the interconnection of all of the above named  “actors”.

Read more »

The significance of baptism

This week I am tackling this question:

Is immersion a more significant experience (compared to the practice of sprinkling)?  Should our church use immersion?

From a purely subjective standpoint, I’m under-qualified to make a response.  I have never experienced baptism by immersion; nor do I remember my own sprinkling as an infant.  As a minister, moreover, I’ve never performed an immersion-style baptism in a baptistry.

One example of a baptistry.

Read more »

Baptism through the ages

In January, we held a “Back to Basics” session at church on Baptism.  We watched film scenes with “baptismal” imagery as a way of exploring the meanings of Baptism in our daily lives.  We also collected questions from participants — insightful, probing, wise questions, that we wanted to share here on the blog.  Over the next few weeks, Abby & I will offer our responses to these questions and hope that you will join the conversation.

Why should parents bring a young child to be baptized? As Abby wrote in her Chimes article, one thing we agree on as a church is that we do not baptize out of fear.  We believe that both those who are baptized and those who aren’t receive the full welcome of God.  As a community, we embrace and honor all, inclusive of each person’s choices and history with respect to baptism.

Read more »

Report from Creating Change

OK, we promised blogging about baptism… but I’m going to take an opportunity this week to reflect briefly on the National Conference on LGBT Equality Creating Change, held this year in Minneapolis.  Of great interest to me is the “mini-conference” within the conference, known as Practice Spirit, Do Justice (PSDJ).  This gathering is dedicated to teaching and sharing the skills for a multi-faith-based pro-LGBT movement that has strong alliances with secular movements.

I have always followed the progress of LGBT justice in various religious groups, but it was a new experience to have activists from all these different groups together, in one place.  Each faith community brings its own unique strengths and limitations to the vision of full LGBT equality, but there are many points of connection.  As a UCC person, I felt proud of our accomplishments and challenged to dream bigger about the future.

In one workshop, we talked a great deal about intercultural movement-building.  When working with different groups of people, particularly various faith groups, it is important to remember:

  • Shared meaning can not be assumed
  • Shared meaning must be discovered, negotiated, created

I found myself thinking that this is an excellent bit of wisdom for congregational life as well.  In a church, you have so many different people with their own stories, backgrounds, commitments, hopes… how do these various threads intertwine into a community?  I think that’s one of the questions behind the Visioning Process we’re engaged in.  We’re trying to do the intentional work of discovering, negotiating, and creating our shared meaning.  This isn’t to say that shared meaning hasn’t been there before–most surely it has!  But perhaps we’re trying to shed light on it in a different way–assuming less, listening more.

Speaking of listening… do sign up for a small group listening session!   I can’t wait to hear your voice.  :)



Celebrating Rev. Richard Kozelka

A memorial service was held at First Church last May for Rev. Richard Kozelka, who served First Church  from 1974-1991.  Below, we are sharing the text of that service, as collected by Dick’s wife, Kathy Kolb.

Tim Harlow of the Star Tribune wrote: “The Rev. Richard Kozelka will be remembered at First Congregational Church in Minneapolis … for transforming the church near the University of Minnesota into a congregation that welcomes people of all races, cultures and sexual orientations.”





First Congregational Church, Minneapolis

May 21, 2010


Reverend Jane McBride

Grace and peace to you, sisters and brothers in Christ.

On behalf of myself and all the staff and members of First Church, it is a joy and privilege to welcome you here. We are glad to share with you this day of remembering and giving thanks for the life of Rev. Richard Kozelka.

I am inspired by Dick’s witness and work in this place, by his voice that so boldly proclaimed the Gospel of justice, peace and inclusivity. I am grounded by the values he embraced, and which continue to shape the life of this congregation so integrally. It is an honor for me to serve this community of faith knowing that I stand in the strength and integrity of Dick’s legacy.

I am grateful for this opportunity to come to know Dick more fully today, through the eyes of his beloved community of family and friends, colleagues, and those he served in ministry over so many years.

Read more »

Confirmation retreat thoughts

First of all:  in order to see the photos in my previous post, please email me at & request the password.

We had a wonderful time on retreat with the confirmation class to the ARC Retreat Center, a residential spiritual community in central Minnesota’s pine woods.   Carl, Jane, and I were all proud of our students’ interest in and openness toward communal living.  The resident staff were impressed as well.  Together, we:

– helped prepare our yummy meals in the kitchen

– watched and discussed the classic coming-of-age movie Stand By Me

– helped ARC staff move wood for the furnace that heats the lodge

– shared a Bible study on Genesis 32:22-32

– participated in 10- and 20-minute silent prayer (!)

– played games in the snow

– shared worship and Communion together

Here are some of the students’ reactions to the experience:

I am hard pressed to think of the thing that I like most about ARC, but I think my favorite aspect is the fact that the whole place is heated by water.

The thing I liked most here is the kitty, Joey, that lives in the wood place.

At ARC, I had fun and a great time.

I liked how everyone here is always really nice and it’s really cozy.

I loved how everyone participated in everything.  The sense of community and equality was great.

I had a marvelous time.  We played many fun games and also learned about ourselves and our faith.  Given the opportunity, I would come back to ARC in a heartbeat.  It was great to take a break from the world and relax.  I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say I can’t wait to come back!


It was so fun.  I want to come every month.

Wow!  Good stuff.  Thanks, everyone, for a lovely time together.