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 Purpose Statement and Goals

Purpose Statement


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




  • Deepen our personal awareness of white advantage in systemic racism through a spiritual, honest and compassionate approach to ourselves and others.



  • Cultivate our Plymouth community commitment to build awareness and work to dismantle racist structures in our personal lives, the life of our congregation and the life of our community.



  • Foster relationships and opportunities to listen to, learn from and partner with organizations led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and all allies who are committed to nurturing racial justice in our communities.


 Spiritual Principles to Guide our 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 care for one another with grace and compassion through this challenging work.
  • We foster non-judgmental spaces and safe places to have honest conversations.
  • We 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.

  *These categories are not mutually exclusive

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.

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.