Workshops and Faith Formation sessions

2018 Annual Meeting — Why are we afraid? The winds and waves of race and privilege

Saturday Morning Workshops: 10:30 – 11:45

3 Great Loves

Take part in sharing “the love” and learn more about the United Church of Christ’s Three Great Loves Initiative with a representative from the UCC national setting. 3 Great Loves is our denomination-wide storytelling initiative that collects and lifts up the stories of our local churches and affiliates as we live out God’s love in our community through the lens of 3 Great Loves (Love of Neighbor, Love of Children, Love of Creation). We all have a story. We are all a part of God’s story. What’s your story?

Nichole Collins is the project manager for the UCC’s 3 Great Loves Initiative.


Difficult Conversations for People of Faith

Difficult conversations are difficult because they are difficult. We have come to see there are no easy answers and no magic formulas. This workshop will explore the relationship between inner spiritual disciplines and outer engagement with difficult issues and difficult people. It will draw on Family Systems work as well as Circle of Trust work sponsored by the Center for Courage & Renewal. It will be interactive and practical. You are invited to come – not to find easy answers – but to engage in thoughtful reflection about what it means to be the people of God in these divisive times. It will focus more on how we change ourselves rather than how we change those we disagree with or dislike.

Rev. Winton Boyd is minister at Orchard Ridge UCC in Madison. He enjoys helping make faith come alive through worship, theological discussion and hands on service/compassion work. He also has a passion for the Middle East, where he traveled in 2003 and 2005; and finding new and diverse church music for the congregation to sing as part of the global Christian community. Since 2007, Winton has been a facilitator for the Center for Courage & Renewal, and leads retreats for clergy and other professionals throughout the Midwest and the nation. He is currently President of the Board of Directors for United Church Camps, Inc. (UCCI); and he serves on the Board of the Mellowhood Foundation in the nearby Meadowood neighborhood.


Faith and Film on Tap:  Being “Church” Outside the Four Walls of our Buildings 

People do not relate to God, spirituality, and “institutional church” (the IC) as they did in generations past. Every year it seems like it becomes more difficult to accomplish the things we feel called to do as a church. So, what are we to do?  One answer may be to intentionally build collaborative partnerships with organizations and individuals outside the church and within our communities, leveraging resources from a variety of invested sources. Therefore, Faith & Film on Tap is a collaborative adventure where partnership has been formed between a bar and a local church, creating an event that facilitates spiritual conversation outside the 4 walls of the church, where the burden of financing and planning is shared. So, come and let’s talk about “being the church” outside the box.

Rev. Adam W. Westrich has nearly 15 years of semi-professional and professional experience. Adam has worked with two church plants including one named by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in the United States in 2010. He has church leadership experience (both lay and professional) in at least 5 different denominational and non-denominational contexts and in a variety of church configurations – from church plants to established churches to parachurch to intentional community to house church. He currently serves as a full time solo pastor a rural church (an inherited church) just outside the Twin Cities metro area, in Ellsworth, Wis.


The Good News, the Bad News, and the Gospel: Processing a Harsh World with Your Kids (Matthew 4:23)

How we talk with our children, young and older, about hard issues is important.  In this workshop we will explore ways to create and nurture a faith environment that sustains a true exchange of ideas and supports all at the table.  We’ll explore finding and using effective, realistic tools to engage skeptical young people, recognizing needs and boundaries.  And we’ll talk about how these conversations can help young people find their own means of expression and action.

Jeff Rabe has served in Children/Youth Ministry for nearly 30 years and is currently Director of Christian Education for Children and Youth at First Congregational UCC in Madison. A Lakeland College graduate, Jeff studied secondary education with an emphasis in history.


The History and Worship Style of the African American Church

The worship style of the African American church is very unique with its roots from Africa. A historical view of the Africanisms and culture will be presented to show how this has impacted the worship style of the Black church. The evolution of the spiritual to gospel music will be presented through singing and class participation.

Bryan Johnson was born and raised in Chicago and has family ties in Jamaica, Barbados and Louisiana. Bryan received a Bachelor of Arts from Chicago State University and a Masters of Music Education from VanderCook College of Music. Bryan joined the Chicago Children’s Choir in 1997 as an In-School Choral Conductor and conducted several neighborhood advanced choirs in 2014. Bryan is the Executive Director of Sacred Music at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He researches, plans, consults, implements and monitors the ministry of music for the church, which has a men’s chorus, mixed adult choir, women’s chorus, youth choir, praise teams and a liturgical arts department. Through his work with Trinity and the Chicago Children’s Choir and other consulting jobs, he has had the opportunity to perform in Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Israel and a number of cities in the United States. Bryan is also an associate conductor for the Evanston Children’s Choir and the choral conductor at the Academy of St. Benedict the African School, Jonnie Colemon Academy School and other schools.


Now That You’re ONA

Living fully into the ONA designation as a faith family can be a challenge. Come and share ideas for living into your ONA statement within the church and taking it out into the community.

Members of the Open and Affirming Team of the Wisconsin Conference and members of churches will lead the presentation and discussion.


Preaching and Politics

The members of this panel will talk about their experience and perspectives of how to preach about issues in the world and how we, as Christians, are to live out our faith in the world.

The panel members are Rev. Bonnie Van Overbeke, Rev. Mark Yurs, and Rev. Bill Wineke.


Using the UCC “White Privilege: Let’s talk” Curriculum in Local Churches.

We will introduce you to the UCC curriculum material, give you an overview and brief taste of its contents, and talk about several ways the material could be used in local church or other discussion groups. This is an introduction to the use of this material for engaging in serious and honest racial discussions.

Curt Anderson is a retired UCC minister, and he is now a member of Plymouth UCC in Milwaukee. He led the workshops at Plymouth using the UCC’s “White Privilege: Let’s Talk” curriculum. He is also on the Wisconsin Conference UCC Racial Justice committee.

Rev. Dr. Timothy Perkins has been serving Bethel-Bethany United Church, a multi-cultural/multiracial congregation in the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee, for 33 years. During that time he has sought to be engaged with the congregation and denominational, ecumenical, interfaith and neighborhood partners in community based ministries, social justice initiatives, anti-racism work, and cross cultural understanding. Through the years, Rev. Perkins and members of Bethel-Bethany have participated in and helped to organize efforts to address racial justice issues through educational programs that lead to change and action. During Lent in 2017, Bethel-Bethany leaders facilitated a four-part evening discussion based on the UCC white privilege materials. Recognizing that confronting systemic racism is an ongoing challenge for us as individuals and as Christian communities, Bethel-Bethany looks forward to sharing our experience and partnering with others


Why Should I Care?

Members of the Wisconsin Council for Health & Human Service Ministry will offer a panel presentation regarding the complex world of service ministry – the challenges, the joys and why you should care.


Saturday Afternoon Workshops: 3:15 – 4:30

Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome – Or Why I’m So Tired!

Modern lab work is showing us how to measure, prove, treat and fix Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue syndrome, but it turns out many folks with adult asthma, Lyme, depression, Alzheimer’s, resistant overweightedness, ADHD, autoimmune disease, weird rashes, hair loss, sleeplessness may benefit from the same evaluations. This is half of what people see doctors for and don’t get an answer, yet. You soon will. You will want to come to this talk. There will be a lot of “ah-ha” moments.

John Whitcomb is Holly’s husband. He practices functional medicine in Brookfield, focusing on getting folks to optimal function. He spent 25 years being an emergency physician and got the bug to go to the source of the problem, not treat the disease. He was certified with the American College of Antiaging Medicine in 2010.


Confessions of a Straight, White, Male!

“It’s not easy being a straight white male, because we basically invented civilization and now we have to share it. Seriously, straight, white males are in danger of becoming regular humans.”  All kidding aside, straight, white males must take ownership of our role in helping to confront the injustices and inequalities that have existed for far too long simply because it is the right thing to. This workshop is open to all, but will be geared toward those who consider themselves part of this privileged group. Time will be spent unpacking, venting, and channeling our energy into proactive work for change.

Rev. Bob Wang received his Bachelor of Music Education from The University of Mount Union (1980) and his MDiv from Chicago Theological Seminary (1989). He has served Plymouth Congregational UCC in Burlington since 2009, and prior to that, he served Somers Community Church for nine years. He is married to Rev. Judy Wang, and they have two adult children, Josh and Mollie.  They make their home in Bristol, Wis.


The Convergence Music Project

The Convergence Music Project (CMP) is a new online resource of worship songs from many diverse musical styles and traditions that have theology and language that line up with Bryan Sirchio’s book, The 6 Marks of Progressive Christian Worship Music. CMP was launched by Wisconsin’s own Bryan Sirchio along with author Brian McLaren, Cameron Trimble of the Center for Progressive Renewal, Otis Moss III, and the music team from Trinity UCC in Chicago, and other nationally known progressive Christian musicians such as Gary Rand and The Many, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, Christopher Grundy, and Andra Moran. Bryan Sirchio is the CEO and Lead Designer of this new company. Bryan will explain the vision and purpose of CMP ( and illustrate how the website works. The songs are extensively indexed to make it easy to find the perfect song needed for a particular liturgical moment in worship. We’ll explore the site, listen to and sing along with some songs, and have time for Q&A and conversation regarding many of the issues connected to finding, creating, and bringing new music into congregations.

Bryan Sirchio is an ordained UCC minister, singer/songwriter, author, worship designer, retreat leader, and former ballroom dance teacher (bet you didn’t know that!) who has been engaged in a full-time ministry of original music since 1987.


Creation Care among Wisconsin Conference Congregations

We will introduce participants to Wisconsin Conference UCC congregations that are already engaged in a variety of creation care ministries. They will share their stories about various “green” practices, how and why they got started, and how they are working: practices such as green teams, sustainable lawns, energy-efficient buildings and fixtures, recycling programs, photo-voltaic (electricity-producing) solar arrays, environmental advocacy and more.

John Helt and Bob Ullman will lead the workshop. Both are retired UCC pastors in the Milwaukee area, keen to keep their generation from fouling the nest of our planet for the sake of their grandchildren.


Exploring Lay Academy

In this session we will talk about Lay Academy in general; subjects covered in each session, types of assignments due at the end of each session, an overview of how each session flows, etc.  We will then have several current and former Lay Academy students give a testimonial of their own personal Lay Academy journey.  Attendees will then have a chance to engage in open discussion where we will do our best to answer any and all questions potential future students may have.

Lesley Buelow and her husband joined the UCC church in 201.  They have been in Lay Academy for the past four years.  Lesley is about to embark on Year Five of Lay Academy where she will be working closely with the upcoming Year 1 students and Tisha Brown, the Lay Academy Director.


A Force More Powerful: Unleashing Gospel Nonviolence in a Violent World

Violence has threatened the wellbeing of humanity throughout history and today it threatens our existence itself.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr expressed this well when he said, “the choice before us today is not violence or nonviolence but nonviolence or nonexistence.” This workshop will examine the extent of our nation’s investment and trust in violence for security in light of Jesus’ nonviolent message and ministry and will reflect on the significance of Jesus’ ministry for the ministry and mission of the church today.

Jerry Folk is a retired clergyman of the ELCA. He served as a parish pastor, taught Religious Studies and Peace Studies at church-related liberal arts colleges in the Midwest, was the first Executive Director of the ELCA’s Commission for Church and Society, and served as the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches. He is the author of two books and numerous articles, most of which deal with the Church’s and the Christian’s calling to proclaim and work for peace and justice in the world.


God Loves All: Discussing Christianity’s View of Sexuality and Gender

Research by members of Alphabet Soup at Lakeland University focuses on the importance of LGBTQ+ acceptance in the Christian church and the necessity to make that decision known to the wider communities, sharing what the church is and can be.

Members of Alphabet Soup a student organization at Lakeland University will be present God Loves All: Discussing Christianity’s View of Sexuality and Gender at the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC). We will have the benefit of three of these students, Tyler Yost, Dominique Lee, and Connor Armstrong, along with their advisor, Rev. Lex Cade-White (the university chaplain) presenting their research on LGBTQ+ acceptance in the Christian church. Students range from first year to final year at Lakeland.


Understanding and Managing Racial Anxiety

According to researchers, most Americans agree that people of all races and ethnicities deserve equal treatment. Yet we know that we have not achieved that ideal. Racial prejudice does not account for all racial dynamics. Racial anxiety, the discomfort people feel in anticipation of or during interracial interactions, may explain how we could be misunderstood. We will learn and discuss how we can manage that racial anxiety.

Cathleen Starck Wille is a life-long member of the United Church of Christ. She has training through the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center in Peaceful Conflict Resolution, Peter Steinke’s Healthy Congregations, and the Samaritan Institute Clergy and Congregation Care Program. She was employed as a High School biology teacher and a psychotherapist and Director of Clergy and Congregation Care with the Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley. She is a past General Synod Lay Woman of The Year for the Wisconsin Conference UCC, is a graduate of the Lay Academy, has taught Sunday School for 58 years and is a member and past moderator of First Congregational Church, Oshkosh. She is presently working with the Wisconsin Conference UCC programs:  Communities of Practice and Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.


When your rainbow flag becomes a lightning rod

What happens when your ONA status draws negative attention in your community?  How do you respond?  What resources are available to support your congregation?  What should you be prepared for?  Come and hear from congregations who have met that challenge and share ideas.

Members of the Open and Affirming Team of the Wisconsin Conference and members of ONA churches will lead the presentation and discussion.


Sunday Morning Faith Formation Gatherings: 8:30 – 9:30 a.m.


Be Not Afraid: Allowing Love and Courage to Cast Out Fear

In the Gospel of Luke, the angel says to the shepherds and to us, “Be not afraid.” Yet we are often disabled and paralyzed by our fears. We are often afraid of people who are not exactly like us. What does our faith teach us? How can we learn to manage our fears, to summon courage, and to let love cast out fear? Let’s define and tackle some of our fears together.

Rev. Holly Whitcomb is a spiritual director and widely traveled retreat leader who is the Director of Kettlewood retreats. She is the author of four books, including Practicing Your Path and Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting. Holly is finishing up her fifth book, The Practice of Finding, which will be published by Eerdmans in the spring of 2019.


Discipleship Walk

This self-guided contemplative walk through the Green Lake grounds will provide participants the opportunity to prayerfully interact with our meeting setting. Follow a route of prayer stations throughout the grounds, stopping periodically for meditations on prayers, poems and other readings, and scripture, and watching mindfully for signs and  wonders throughout the walk.

Linda and John O’Donovan will lead this guided walk.


A Healing Service

The healing service is an act of worship set aside for the express purpose of sharing in worship, prayer and God’s spiritual gifts of healing. This service is a safe, welcoming space for anyone seeking healing for themselves, their loved ones, their communities, churches, and more. It will include an anointing with oil for those who want to come forward and receive this laying on of hands. The service leader is to be determined. Mugs McFadden will accompany with music.


Dwelling in the Word:  A Bible Study

Spend a bit more time with the Bible text for our meeting:  Mark 4: 38-41.  The format of this Bible study will be “Dwelling in the Word,” a technique which may let us dig a little deeper into our understand of and feeling about this text.

Rev. Laura McLeod, pastor at Brookfield Congregational Church, and Cathy Benjamin will lead this discussion.


Walk the Labyrinth

Participants will be welcomed to come and walk the Labyrinth for some quiet contemplation. The Labyrinth is borrowed from First Congregational UCC in Oshkosh. Cathy Wille will be present to explain the Labyrinth to anyone who has never walked a Labyrinth.

Sign up for our newsletter!


Contact Us

(608) 846-7880