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.

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: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kd0UI7Nsl1

If you would like to attend in person following physical spacing, wearing a mask, and other protocols established by Plymouth; please contact Doug Freeman (dougf@plymouth.org) 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)plymouth.org.

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 https://zoom.us/download 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 https://zoom.us/support/download.


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.

COVID-19 Updates

Earth Day 2020 – 50th Anniversary

Fifty years ago, April 22, 1970 was the first Earth Day. It marked a watershed in history with millions of people rallying and calling for collective action to protect our planet. It was just the beginning…..

How do we mark Earth Day today, in the midst of sheltering in place? With no rallies or cleanups or gatherings allowed? We begin by giving thanks. We open our hearts with gratitude and love for Mother Earth and for all that she provides, no strings attached. We revel in her beauty and abundance! We go outside and get our hands dirty. We see and feel the natural beauty and interconnection of all living things, and say yes to standing together and caring for her.

What can you do?  Despite the Covid limitations, there are still plenty of ways to connect with others, albeit virtually, and actions you can take individually and collectively.

Join Plymouth’s EcoChallenge 

One great way to get involved, and positively impact the world in community with other Plymouth members, is to participate in the Draw Down EcoChallenge, as part of the Plymouth Church Team.

What is the Eco Challenge?
Powered by the Northwest Earth Institute since 2009, EcoChallenge is an online educational platform that challenges you to take action on environmental and social issues that matter to you. Common wisdom says it takes at least three weeks to change a habit: if you can stick with new behavior for 21 days in a row, we believe you’re a lot more likely to keep it up forever. Throughout the event, Eco-challengers share their progress and reflect in the social feed, earn points for taking action, and watch the impact they make add up in real time!
Getting signed up is really easy—just check out our video tutorial!
But I have so many questions about what it is and how it works! No problem. We’ve created a handy set of FAQs to help you navigate this challenge!
This challenge is a simple, enjoyable way to connect with fellow Plymouth members, while also multiplying our collective impact as we work to make our Earth cleaner and greener. Sign up today!
There are also dozens of Earth Day virtual events happening on April 22 and all week locally and nationally. You need only search on-line to connect with live-streamed events to get ideas and inspiration about ways you can make a difference. Go to MNEarthDay.org to see a full listing of local events and organizations you can connect with.
You can also check out these two articles featured in the Star Tribune:

Plymouth’s Prayer Circle

As part of Plymouth’s Earth Sunday, we’ve created a “Prayer Circle” in the garden near the Jones Commons entrance. The circle, which is based on Ojibwe spiritual teachings, was guided by Sharon Day an Ojibwe elder. Sharon has created these circles on land all around the country as she has led ceremonies and walks that follow the path of rivers.
In this short video Sharon talks about the prayer circle and how it is a place for reflection and prayer for the earth and the water and our relatives and all that is. She encourages each of us to find a special place and make our own prayer circle where we can lay our prayers. Everyone is also invited to use Plymouth’s prayer circle.


Earth Sunday in July

We still have plans for an in-person Earth Sunday celebration at Plymouth on July 12th. Don Shelby will be here to give the sermon and there will be informational tables and activities for all ages in Jones Commons. We hope to see you there.
In the meantime, stay well and peace be with you ~
Plymouth’s Climate and Environmental Justice group
“The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” —Lady Bird Johnson

Coronavirus upates

March 27, 2020

An excerpt from Paula Northwood’s March 27 Along the Way:

We have great resources that are guiding us through this time. The MN Conference UCC Minister, Shari Prestemon, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz are providing solid leadership and direction.

Because of the information we have now, we will not be holding in-church worship services until mid-May, and possibly for a longer time. Because we house the Groveland Food Shelf and Academia Elze, which are considered essential, we will continue to have limited custodial and security staff on site. Governor Walz’s executive order gives faith leaders and staff permission to record and broadcast spiritual support during this time. We are taking every precaution while doing this. We are trying to err on the side of caution.

March 14, 2020


Upon further consideration and in consultation with the Deacons and the MN Conference of the UCC, we have decided to cancel the Sunday worship service and postpone the special meeting. This was a difficult decision, but we want to err on the side of caution. Our plan is to resume Sunday services and the special meeting on April 5 with the building opening again on April 1.

Elements of worship will be recorded and shared via the website and, we hope, other media platforms.  May these offerings provide some spiritual sustenance in this complicated time.  We continue to imagine ways to stay connected in community during these days of social distancing. Check the website tomorrow for details.

We will also provide boxed meals for the Third Sunday meal with limited volunteers.

Thank you for your patience.
Paula, Beth and Seth

March 13, 2020


We are living in unprecedented times. We are also having to make decisions daily as new information becomes available. We know many of you are concerned and anxious about the future. Please know that we are in this together, and your clergy are available to help you through this stressful period. During life’s difficulties, the church is called to be a place of solace, support and well-being. We just may have to be creative about how we do it.

Following the Third Sunday meal—handing out boxed meals—we will be closing the building until April 1. (This date is subject to change; we’ll keep you posted.) All Plymouth programming, board and committee meetings, and events are cancelled unless held by teleconferencing or other non-contact means.

The only exceptions are Groveland Food Shelf, Academia Elze, VocalEssence and theater groups. They will be making their own decisions.

We’re taking our lead from MN Dept of Health and following the guidelines as best we can under the circumstances. We are committed to be a supportive community of faith during this time. Stay tuned as we creatively find solutions for staying connected and supporting each other.

May God bless us!

Paula Northwood, Acting Senior Minister
Beth Hoffman Faeth, Minister for Congregational Care and Worship
Seth Patterson, Director of Spiritual Formation and Theater

Seeking wonderful role models

August 2019

Dear Plymouth members,

When I was a child at Plymouth, every kindergartner knew they would have Ms. Ruth, with her creative projects and her long beautiful braid, and we couldn’t wait for 5th grade, when Mr. Bud would be our church school teacher—he was legendary for his great stories and silly jokes. People like Ruth and Bud taught church school for decades here, and they built relationships that lasted. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to chair the 50-year member brunch when Ms. Ruth joined the ranks, and it felt like such an honor to celebrate her legacy of giving to Plymouth.

In my role here now, I am fortunate to be able to spend lots of time with the youth of our church, and here is what I see—our young people at Plymouth are smart, fun, caring, jubilant, silly, and questioning—exactly like many of us were at their age. Think back to the Ms. Ruth and Mr. Bud’s from your childhood: They might have been a Sunday School teacher, a coach, a friend’s parent, but whoever they were, they were someone who cared about you and wanted to see you succeed. It is also possible you did not have one of those people in your life, and you are now looking for the opportunity to be the person you needed when you were a child.

We are currently in need of Church School teachers. As commitments change and jobs get more demanding, people are not always able to make the 20 year commitments that Ms. Ruth and Mr. Bud did to working with our young people, but for those that do work with them for any length of time, I guarantee the lives of teacher and children will be changed for the better. Ms. Ruth and Mr. Bud were not parents of any children in Church School at the time that I had them as teachers, nor were they “energetic 25-year-olds,” but it didn’t matter. Having a caring adult who showed up, knew our names, and took an interest in our lives is what mattered to us.

Our teachers always work in a team with another adult (with new teachers being paired up with a veteran), and the time commitment is 2 hours per month. Education happens during the 10 a.m. hour, so teachers can still attend the worship service of their choosing, as well as the Sundays @ 10 offerings on weeks they don’t teach. Curriculum is all written and created in-house and sent out a few days prior to the weekend to give the teachers time to look it over and prepare.

Sunday mornings, teachers pick up their supply box, stocked with all supplies and materials they will need and bring it to their classroom to share with their kids. Each week, the curriculum focuses on our “5 Ms”:

Message—what is the Bible verse, story or quote of the day

Meaning—what is lesson to be learned from this and how might it apply to the lives of the children

Movement—a song, game, project or dance related to the message, that gives the young people the opportunity to connect to the message with their bodies

Making—a take away that helps the children connect with the message through art

More—an opportunity to talk with their parents or guardians about how to bring the lesson of the week to life, and use it to improve the world.

We are looking for teachers (2 Sundays per month) and classroom friends (1 Sunday person month) for a variety of grades, and after a background check is completed, training will be provided to help boost your confidence!

We currently have volunteers ranging in age from 21 to 80, and our kids love them all! If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of the children and youth at Plymouth Church, please email me today!

In closing, I leave you with a quote from world-renowned cellist Pablo Casals:

“Each second we live in a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that two and two makes four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all of the world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed there has never been another child like you. And look at your body—what a wonder it is! Your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move! You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must cherish one another. You must work—we all must work—to make this world worthy of its children.


Nina Jonson, Programs Manager



Spiritual Formation Minister Search Committee

We are pleased to announce the slate of candidates for the Spiritual Formation Search Committee.

Bill Davini
Ryan French
Jane Gerber
Renee Macomber
Emily Moses-Thomsen
Mary Kay Sauter, chair
Anne Seltz

Confirmation of the search committee vote will be on the agenda for the August 25 special meeting, following the second service. A booklet with bios and photos has been produced; copies will be available at the meeting.

Background: Plymouth has settled on a three-clergy ministry staffing model, which has been communicated to the congregation in a variety of ways following discernment of the Deacons, Leadership Council, counsel from Interim Minister Dan Wolpert and current ministers and staff.

We currently have two ministers: Paula Northwood and Beth Hoffman Faeth. Seth Patterson, as Director of Spiritual Formation and Theater, has been serving as the third member of the ministerial team. This position was a ministerial position in the past, and we are proceeding to make it a called clergy position once again. A search committee for the Lead Minister was commissioned at the annual meeting of the congregation in June to fill Paula’s position upon her retirement. We now need to form another search committee to round out our three-clergy ministerial team.

Our bylaws require that when a ministerial position is open, the congregation must approve a search committee. This search committee will review all possible candidates, including internal candidates (which does include Seth, who is finishing his requirements for ordination) and make a recommendation to the Deacons to take to the congregation. We expect the work of this committee to last approximately 3 to 6 months.

Thank you,
Brian Siska, Moderator