New Member Class

RJI Establishes Purpose Statement and Goals

by Catherine Shreves and Sonia Cairns, co-chairs of RJI

 The Racial Justice Initiative met in September for a half-day retreat to discuss its purpose and goals for the year ahead, and it has since approved these as follows:

Purpose Statement:  Live out our faith by accelerating Plymouth’s actions to heal pervasive racial injustice through individual, congregational and community transformation.

Goals:  The group embraced Plymouth’s existing within/among/beyond planning structure to arrive at the following goals:


  • Deepen our personal awareness of white advantage in systemic racism.


  • Fuel our commitment to actions that address racial injustice through a spiritual, honest and compassionate approach to ourselves and others.


  • Pursue opportunities to work with organizations led by Black, Indigenous, People of Color and other allies committed to fostering racial justice in our communities.

 These three goals are not mutually exclusive. They all support each other. 

RJI has agreed that these spiritual principles will guide its work:

  • We acknowledge that many of us are beneficiaries of a system that advantages white-bodied people.
  • We follow the yearning of our souls to build a just world.
  • We will care for one another with grace and compassion through this challenging work.
  • We will foster non-judgmental spaces and safe places to have honest conversations.
  • We will deepen our understanding of our country’s more complete history by learning from people whose stories have not been included in the dominant historical narratives.

An ambitious schedule of program offerings — designed to engage the entire Plymouth congregation — has been planned. Offerings will include four signature activities:

  • “Seeing White” podcast series discussions started Nov. 24 and will run monthly through January 2022. We encourage members to listen to an episode each month and join in online discussions, but members can participate for one, several or all episodes over the next year.
  • An audio/video program titled This I Believe | Making Racial Justice Personal that will communicate Plymouth individuals’ personal statements about white advantage and anti-racism actions will begin in December 2020. These will appear in Friday emails (see other article in The Flame on this new project);
  • Plymouth Reads The congregation will together read I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown, and online discussion groups will be held; and
  • Richard Rothstein, author of Color of Law, whose appearance at Plymouth in March was cancelled due to the pandemic, will speak sometime in 2021 .

Other RJI activities will include a regular opportunity to participate in local speakers’ talks; a multi-media discussion group on the intersection of racial injustice and immigration, to begin in January; a healing event to coincide with the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death; Dakota Sacred Sites tours next spring and summer; a community healing vigil tied to the outcome of the four Minneapolis police officers who will be on trial; book reviews; podcasts; and classes.

Many other yet-to-be-determined program offerings will be offered as the year progresses.  All RJI activities are open to the congregation and will regularly be communicated via The Flame, Friday email pushes and other Plymouth communications vehicles.

For more information on anything related to RJI, please contact Catherine Shreves at or Sonia Cairns at

Virtual Coffee Hour

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Legacy Giving, and Weren’t Sure Whom To Ask

By Becca Norris, Chair of Legacy Giving Committee

Q: What is legacy giving to Plymouth?
A: Simply stated, this is a deferred, planned gift to Plymouth Congregational Church made possible by including the church in your estate plan. Legacy giving creates a legacy beyond your lifetime.

Q: Do I have to pay anything before my death?
A: No. A legacy gift to Plymouth most commonly is a bequest in a will that costs nothing during one’s lifetime but benefits the church at the death of the donor.

Q: How much do I need to commit to give?
A: A legacy gift of any size is welcome and appreciated! Even a small legacy gift can make a difference. The specifics of your gift are kept confidential.

Q: How do you leave a gift in your will?
A: An easy way is to designate a specific dollar amount or a percentage of your estate.

Q: What are examples of a legacy gift?
A: Gifts can take several forms. Examples include cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, IRAs, life insurance, real estate or personal property.

Q: How are the Flame Society and legacy giving connected?
A: Plymouth members and friends who make plans for a legacy gift to Plymouth become part of the Flame Society. The Flame Society and Legacy Givers are one and the same. Most years, Plymouth expresses gratitude to legacy givers at an annual luncheon. Note that you can remain anonymous as a legacy giver if desired.

Q: Do I need a lawyer to set up a legacy gift to Plymouth?
A: You don’t have to use an attorney to set up a specific legacy gift in your will or trust, but you may want to contact an estate-planning attorney or financial planner, particularly to discuss any tax benefits for the donor or heirs.

Q: Where do legacy gifts go?
A: Your legacy gift should be designated to either Plymouth’s Legacy Fund or Plymouth’s Endowment Fund. You can find fund definitions and an example of words to use in your will at this link:

Q: Where can I get more information about setting up a legacy gift to Plymouth or get more information?
A: The church website has information about completing and submitting a Bequest Confirmation Form. You can find this form and information at this link:

A Conversation with the Congregation

Please join the Deacons for a “Conversation with the Congregation” to talk about what we can envision for Plymouth’s future. Together we’ll discuss questions like:
  • What is a “Lead Minister,” and how does the shared ministry model work?
  • Which clergy, leaders, and boards are responsible for various activities within the life of the church?
  • How can we welcome and embrace our new Lead Minister?
  • How can this time of distancing enliven rather than restrict us?
  • What topics would you like to be the focus of future Conversations with the Congregation?
Please register using the links below for one or both of the two Zoom sessions. Each will last an hour, and we’ll send a handout prior to the sessions to help focus our conversation.
The Deacons are eager to hear what’s on your minds and address your questions. Our conversation will be less about reports by the presenters and more about what you have to say. We look forward to being in virtual community with you!

Don Shelby – Preaches Underlying Causes – July 12

Don Shelby is widely considered the most decorated and honored local television journalist in the country. He has won three national Emmys, the Columbia-duPont, the Scripps-Howard, the National Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and he has been honored twice with the Pulitzer Prize of broadcasting, the George Foster Peabody.

Don continues his 55 year career in reporting after retiring from daily journalism in January of 2011. He continues to practice journalism and

is often read in Salon and dozens of other internet news aggregators. He now specializes in environment and science reporting, and lends his time to the Climate Scienc

e Rapid Response Team as well as the international environmental change movement – Geoversiv.

Don was inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2008 and into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle. He was named the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian of the Year, and honored by B’nai Brith with the Great American Traditions award. In 2010 he was named Distinguished Minnesotan, an honor he shares with other luminaries such as Sigurd Olson and Will Steger.

Don’s reporting has taken him around the globe from Romania to Egypt, Venezuela, Australia and the Arctic Circle. He originated the I-team concept of investigative reporting and served on the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), the county’s preeminent investigative journalism organization.

He has served as a war correspondent covering conflicts ranging from the Yom Kippur War in 1973 to the war in Iraq in 2009. Major General Richard Nash, commander of forces in the southern half of Iraq called Don, “…our Ernie Pyle,” referring to the noted combat correspondent of World War II.

Don is the author of The Season Never Ends, a collection of stories about teamwork. It is currently ranked as the #2 best seller in the coaching section of He is in the middle of writing his second book on the developing failure of American journalism to meet the needs of voting citizens in a democracy.

Don continues to stretch himself. He starred in a two-month run in the Rocky Horror Show live in Minneapolis. One reviewer called it the “Show of the Year.” He has appeared in the Mixed Blood’s production of “Safe at Home” staged at CHS field this year, and has performed with the top Guthrie actors in a production of “8”.

He serves on 13 boards or advisory boards, is a frequent lecturer at journalism conferences, including an appearance in September at the national convention of the Society of Professional Journalists in Los Angeles. He is the capital campaign chair of the Smithsonian Institution’s “Bias Inside Us” traveling exhibit. As head of the capital campaign for the Washburn Center for Children, Don led a team that raised more than 25 million dollars for children with mental health issues.

He performs as Mark Twain in a one-man show and has been appearing as Samuel Clemens throughout the Midwest, but his most recent show was in New Orleans, Louisiana, and travels each year with the choral group VocalEssence in River Songs and Tales with Mark Twain.

Don is an avid outdoorsman and a primitive survival specialist. He spends much of his free time climbing icefalls, mountains, hiking and canoeing his beloved BWCAW. He has a wife and three grown daughters, and their families.

Summer 2020 Sunday Forum

Plymouth Virtual Sunday Forum

June 28 Summer Forum (Julie Neraas, Hope)

July 26 Summer Forum (EJ Kelley, Radical Hospitality)

August 23 Summer Forum (K’s Revolutionary Catering)

Summer 2020
9:30–10:20 a.m

Sunday Forum will be held via Zoom webinar.  Please join us using the options below.  No registration is needed.

iPhone one-tap :  19294362866,,84128728969#  or +13017158592,,84128728969#

Telephone: 929 436 2866

301 715 8592

312 626 6799

669 900 6833

253 215 8782

346 248 7799

Webinar ID: 841 2872 8969

International numbers available:

If you would like to attend in person following physical spacing, wearing a mask, and other protocols established by Plymouth; please contact Doug Freeman ( to register.  In-person attendance in Guild Hall is limited to 10 people.

August 23

K’s Revolutionary Catering is based out of Plymouth’s kitchen.  You may have tasted Chef K’s delicious food at a Wednesday dinner, a memorial luncheon, or other event at Plymouth.  They are not your usual caterers.  The owners, Mariam Omari and Chef K Taylor, are business and life partners from East African and Louisiana Creole traditions.  The sweat and tears they put into making others rich, taught them how to operate their own business and to include their vision of real food for real people. K’s Revolutionary lives by the motto, “It’s Not Healthy, It’s Just Food.”  They want people to know that eating high quality food is affordable and flavorful and their aim is to normalize healthy eating while not losing any deliciousness. Food offers mental and physical healing and in their 35 years of culinary and restaurant experience they saw a need to revolutionize the ideas surrounding what constitutes “real food” within economically deprived communities.

Mariam Omari has been fighting for food justice since 1993 and brings decades of research to shine a light on unethical commercial food practices. Over the years, they have learned how the promotion of processed food within the commercial food industry plays a direct role in the increase of preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cholesterol. 

Chef K Taylor has sharpened her culinary skills by studying in New Orleans, LA and with top chefs like David Fhima in the Twin Cities. She led Youth Farm’s Powderhorn site, utilizing food as a catalyst to develop young people.

June 28


Covid-19, and the horrific murder of George Floyd and it’s the aftermath, have convulsed our community, state, nation, and world. The anguish and rage about racism’s devastations is deep. There are countless other crises that threaten hope, from millions of people unemployed to 71 million homeless, a planet in peril, etc. Many young people wonder if they even have a future. Where can we find hope that is equal to our times and can bear us up?

Julie Neraas is an ordained Presbyterian clergywoman, Spiritual Director, Retreat Leader, and was an Assoc. Professor at Hamline University. She is the author of Apprenticed to Hope: A Sourcebook for Difficult Times, Seeing the Sacred: A Year in Snapshots, and Hope and Poetry: How They Sustain us. Julie has been part of Plymouth Church since 1986, leading a number of retreats and classes.

July 26

Shifting Frames of Reference: Compassion, Radical Hospitality, and Wholeness

Often we think of compassion as transactional and hierarchical: there’s an act, a doer, and a done unto.  Radical hospitality is compassion that is relational, judgment-free, with no role-playing.  As Kathleen Norris wrote, “[t]rue hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person.”  Join us as we explore how we, individually and as a community, move from acts of Christian charity to true radical hospitality.

E.J. Kelley helps lead Plymouth’s Radical Hospitality Affinity Group. He is also a member of the Plymouth Contemplatives, the Board of Outreach, and the community that supports Groveland Emergency Food Shelf.  E.J. is particularly interested in the intersection of contemplation, love, and justice.

An Update on the Search for a Lead Minister

By Chris Bohnhoff

While many things have been made more difficult over the past two months, the search committee has made considerable progress. After collecting nearly 30 applicants over a three-month period, the position closed to new candidates in late March. From that pool, we interviewed eight candidates then selected three candidates with whom to proceed to second-round interviews.
As a committee, in all of our interviews, we have worked hard to hold in mind all of the requirements held in the Lead Minister job description: from preaching ability, spiritual leadership and an appreciation of the arts as a pathway to the divine, to staff and budget administration, to growth, a passion for social justice and civic leadership.
The candidate pool overall was strong and diverse, and our second-round candidates are dynamic, highly intelligent and qualified to lead. We are excited and inspired by our remaining candidates.
Through March, we stayed miraculously on our schedule to have a preferred candidate to bring for a congregational vote in June, but COVID-19 has necessitated extra time, both in terms of adjusting to social distancing and taking some time for the church community to live into these unprecedented circumstances.
Our work now is to deepen our understanding of the remaining candidates and to continue discerning how to move faithfully towards calling our next leader in a distanced world. In truth, every search is a venture into an unknown future. Not being able to convene large groups will require creativity as we proceed towards a congregational vote, but being Plymouth, we are not at a creativity deficit! Our search work is the culmination of several years of faithful, intentional examination of our community and planning for a future that was already in flux. We honor that body of work by looking hopefully forward, doing our best to hold all of you in mind in our evaluation of candidates and planning a process that does everything possible to create a path to a successful transition—which must include every effort to introduce our preferred candidate, when that person is identified, to the community.
We are doing this work on behalf of all of Plymouth and continue to be grateful for your trust and patience. Many thanks to our amazing lay leadership, both past, and present, to Paula for her leadership and support and to Beth and Seth for all of their efforts in these past months to hold us together in these incredibly stressful times. Also, my deep gratitude for the continuing work of the search committee, a group of incredibly insightful, dedicated people whose diversity of opinion has brought balance to our evaluations and discernment.
Our love and prayers are with all of you, and with all that is Plymouth. If you have questions, please contact us at search(at)

Zoom Congregational Meeting Frequently Asked Questions

You may also reference this quick Zoom tutorial.

Q: What is Zoom?

A: Zoom is a web-based video conferencing tool with a local, desktop client and a mobile app that allows users to meet online, with or without video. It is probably the most popular program for video conferencing in popular use.


Q: Will the meeting be live or on tape?

A: The meeting will be live, taking place on the designated day and time. Our bylaws require that the meeting be live.


Q: How do I connect to Zoom?

A: Members will receive an email invitation from the church at least a week before the meeting asking you to register to attend the meeting. If you click on the link in the email, it will take you to the registration page where you will answer a few short questions. Once your registration is confirmed, you will be emailed a link that will allow you to connect to the meeting. You will also receive meeting reminders.


Q: Do I need to download anything to participate in the meeting?

A: No. You can go to and download the app for your computer, phone, or tablet, which may work better for you depending on the web browser you use. You do not need a paid Zoom account. If you use Zoom’s software, we recommend you use the latest version, available at


Q: How is my email used?

A: In order to participate in the meeting, you must have an email address that is unique to you, and it must be on file with the church. Your meeting invitation will go to this email address.


Q: What about participating in the meeting?

A: When you connect to the meeting, you must connect from a device that is unique to you, like a computer, tablet or smartphone if you want to be able to vote, make a comment or ask a question. These measures will enhance the security of the meeting.


Q: What if I don’t have access to a computer, tablet or smartphone?

A: You may dial the phone number included in the email from any phone and be able to listen to the meeting, however, you will not be able to ask questions, make comments, or vote.


Q: How will I communicate with the chair or the presenter during the meeting?

A: There are two ways. One is to enter a motion, comment, or question in the Q&A panel during the meeting. The Q&A will be monitored continuously throughout the meeting. The other way is to use the “raise hand” tab in Zoom. It will show a raised hand next to your name. We can then unmute you so you can speak to the group.


Q: Will other people be able to see me when I am attending the meeting?

A: In the Zoom application we are using, meeting attendees will not be on video. The presenters, designated in advance, will be on video and audio.


Q: How will we make motions and vote during the meeting?

A: An attendee may make and second a motion through the Q&A. The vote will appear on your screen, and you will have a period of time to make your selection. Results are tabulated immediately, then made public to the assembly. Because of how Zoom works, votes will be private, however, we will run a report after the meeting showing how each person voted on each motion, which will be used to confirm that only members voted.