Words About Worship: Welcome to Lent

Lent invites us to consider in deeper, intentional ways our life of faith. Considering the example of Jesus and the way he both wrestled with and lived into his ministry, we now begin a period of reflection and prayer so that we can discover what God is calling us to do and be graced by God to grow in strength and integrity. During worship in this season, we will explore the meaning of covenant through the powerful stories of God’s covenant with the prominent figures of the First Testament. What does covenant mean in your life of faith, and how might the encounters between Noah, Abraham, and others with God in the Hebrew Scriptures encourage our own return to God? Join us each Sunday for “Covenant Reawakened: A Lenten Journey of Return and Renewal.”


In addition to morning worship, Sundays in Lent beginning February 28 we will offer a “Lenten Evening Prayer” at 5 p.m. via Zoom. This is a time to interact and engage with one another around the theme from that morning’s sermon with music, silence, and prayer.


This week I sent an email with the opportunity to receive a star word for 2021. If you missed the email and would like to receive a star word (a spiritually centered word intended to provide focus and meaning for your faith journey), please email me at BethF@plymouth.org. And if you received a star word, I would love to know what it is. Please let me know.


Blessings to you in this season of Lent—and always,

Rev. Beth Hoffman Faeth

This I Believe  |  Racial Justice is Personal

Project Description…….

This I Believe/Racial Justice is Personal is a new project from the Racial Justice Initiative.

In each Friday’s Latest News from Plymouth email, you will find a link to a video story from a member or friend of Plymouth describing their thoughts and experiences on racism, racial equity, white culture and/or white advantage.  These stories will also appear on the Plymouth website and Facebook page.  Our goal with these personal stories is to inspire reflection and action, and we offer them with humility and vulnerability.

Experts who lead transformative anti-racism work ask us to turn our attention away from the actions of individual bigots and instead look at ourselves. We are asked to consider why white supporters of racial equality remained silent in the face of a continuing and deepening inequality in our society. In the early weeks of This I Believe, RJI members will practice speaking up, and we invite you to listen with an open heart and mind.  RJI hopes that all of the stories, from people you may know, will inspire deeper thought about your own relationship to systemic racism. Before Plymouth can become a truly anti-racist church, we need to first look at our own participation in a system that favors white people.  RJI wants to engage the entire Plymouth congregation in the writing of personal stories in the weeks and months ahead.

We invite you to consider writing and sharing your own story.

Writing your story….

We invite you to reflect on your own experiences, perhaps an “a-ha” moment you had or a situation you encountered, in the past or recently, that has stayed with you and shaped your thoughts and feelings on racism, equity, and/or white advantage.  How have your feelings or behavior changed as you have thought about that moment or encounter?  It need not be a long story, please use 250 to 400 words as a guide.

Writing Roundtable….

When you have written your story, you will be invited to participate in a writing roundtable.  Sharing your personal story can be emotional and vulnerable.  The intent of the roundtable is to create a safe space to read your story and get reactions from the other participants.   They are limited to 4 to 5 participants and are currently held monthly via Zoom.  Historian, writer, and Plymouth member Annette Atkins facilitates the writing roundtable.  She describes it as follows:

“The members of the roundtable are not editors or critics, but friendly readers who provide a supportive, helpful response to the writing.  The author and the readers then become partners in thinking about the essay.”

Recording your story….

Once you have finalized your story, we ask you to record it at home using any method that is best for you. We are using recorded videos because the spoken word carries more meaning and power than the written word.  In addition, recording from your home adds a level of intimacy to the telling of the story.  Recording yourself maybe a new experience for you; the church audio/video production staff can help with this process. Once you have completed your recording, you will send it to one of the audio/video production staff.  We believe there is power and value in sharing these stories with the Plymouth community in the widest way possible.  Your video story will be featured in an upcoming Latest News from Plymouth email, posted on Plymouth’s website via YouTube, the Plymouth Facebook page, and other social media platforms.  Since the video will be in the public domain and in keeping with Plymouth communication practices, we will ask that you sign a media release form prior to releasing your video.

We hope you give serious consideration to joining us and practice speaking up.

Writing and Sharing Process Summary….

  • If you want to participate in this project, contact Jean Kennedy, contact info is below
  • Write your personal story, between 250 to 400 words.
  • Participate in one of the monthly writing round tables.
  • Finalize your story for recording.
  • Record your story from home and submit video to the church staff.
  • Your video story will be included in an upcoming Friday email that is sent to the Plymouth Community, posted on the Plymouth website via YouTube, the Plymouth Facebook page and other social media platforms.

If you would like to view a few previously released This I Believe stories you can view them at:


Want to write and share your story or have questions….

If you want to participate in the This I Believe/Racial Justice is Personal project or have questions, please contact Jean Kennedy at jekennedy21 (a) comcast.net

Update From Nina

Dear ones,
It is Monday, January 4th, 2021. School is back in session, if not back in person. People are back to the office, even if the office is their couch. Christmas decorations are getting packed away, trees are getting taken down, the last Christmas cookies and New Year’s bubbly have been consumed, and it is January. Even though January is both my birthday month AND my youngest daughter’s birthday month, it is not my favorite. It is bitterly cold, Christmas is done, it gets dark early. Plus, when I was a kid, Plymouth took the whole month of January off from Wednesday evening programming, so January was a lonely month, when I missed seeing my closest friends. I would guess that many of us are feeling many emotions as we enter January 2021–hope and excitement for a COVID vaccine, joy over the arrival of DeWayne and Kareem into our Plymouth family, anticipation for Inaugeration Day, loneliness and exhaustion from 10 months of social distancing, questions around returning to school, sports, activities, etc. and so many more. It feels like we need extra big bags, and extra strong shoulders, to hold all the emotions that we are carrying. I choose the tweet from Lin-Manuel Miranda above (part of his daily GMorning and Gnight tweets) because it feels so universal. Not a single one of us is holding a feeling that only belongs to us. Whatever you are feeling, and however many feelings you are holding, someone else (most likely many someones) is carrying the same load. It doesn’t always make it easier, but it makes it less lonely.
Parents/grandparents/caregivers–as the pandemic continues, it is important to me that the programming we are offering for children and young people continues to evolve to meet their needs. We want to ensure that our programming is helpful and life-giving for your family during these ever-evolving times. Please take a moment to complete these surveys for your household, so we can best serve your family. Please do the survey for each child in that age group, especially if your children’s needs are different. For example, a family with 3 children under grade 5 should take the Children’s survey 3 separate times, once per child. This will give us the most accurate data, since siblings are not automatically monoliths, just because they reside in the same home.

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 catherine.shreves (at) gmail.com or Sonia Cairns at scairns (at) mosscairns.com.

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: https://www.plymouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Legacy-web-language.pdf.

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: https://www.plymouth.org/act/give-2/legacy-giving/.

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 Amazon.com. 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.