Workshops and Faith Formation sessions

2017 Annual Meeting — SHIFT: Our Unfolding Story

Annual meeting 2017 logo


Scroll down for workshop descriptions and presenters, or click here for a list of workshop titles only


Workshops: Saturday Morning, 10:30 – 11:45

Becoming Immigrant Welcoming: A Ministry of Hospitality and Hope 

Are you are interested in Being an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation and don’t know where to start? This workshop aims to be a very practical discussion about what it means for the Wisconsin Conference to become Immigrant Welcoming. We will also address the process by which congregations discern whether to covenant as an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation. We will engage with leaders from First Congregational UCC, Janesville, who will share about their own journey to become Immigrant Welcoming. We will briefly touch on the biblical, theological, and historical basis for the ministry of welcoming newcomers, and give an update on the UCC’s national response to recent immigration and refugee issues.

Joya Colon-Berezin imageJoya Colon-Berezín currently serves in ministry at Middleton Community Church UCC (Director of Christian Education) and at Bethel Bethany UCC (Ministry Associate). Joya hails from New York City. She is a graduate of Oberlin College and New York Theological Seminary. She has a background in faith-based community organizing, and prior to moving to Wisconsin she worked for Church World Service as the Ecumenical Relations Coordinator for the Immigration and Refugee Program.

 Tanya Sadagopan imageTanya Sadagopan serves at the minister of First Congregational Church. Janesville. Her work over the last 10 years has included church revitalization and renewal focusing on Faith, Families, and Activism in the community. Her church ministries have spanned the Greater Chicago landscape and have been ecumenical  in nature and have resonated across faith traditions.  She has worked on national issues such as curbing gun violence, fair wages, economic justice, and most recently has guided Janesville UCC through process of Becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation.


Coaching isn’t Just for Football

Do you think it’s time to change something in your life? In the fitness world, we look for a personal trainer. Or we could go to a continuing education class. A new tool for change in the church is a coach who works with the pastor to figure out how to make a shift in the ways of doing ministry. Greg Watling and Ted Drewson will share their experience of a coaching relationship; Greg is the coach. And Ted says it has been a really good thing in his work life and personal life.

Ted Drewsen imageRev. Ted Drewson is pastor at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Fond du Lac.

Greg Watling imageRev. Greg Watling is pastor at United Church of Christ, New London.



Healing the Heart of Democracy – a Sampler

As cultural, social, economic and political divisions have deepened, it has become harder and harder to talk with each other about the things that divide us. Parker Palmer’s 2011 book Healing the Heart of Democracy explores these divides and proposes ways to go about bridging them through intentional, invitational small-group work. This workshop will introduce Palmer’s approach and provide some sample small-group experiences based on offerings at First Congregational, Appleton, during the 2012 and 2016 election seasons.

Steve Hirby imageSteve Hirby retired in 2008 after serving in a variety of administrative positions at Lawrence University, including 21 years as a fund raiser and eight in information technology. He has been an active member and lay leader of First Congregational UCC, Appleton, and had served on several Conference committees before being elected to the Board of Directors in 2011. He chaired the Board from 2012-2016. Steve lives in Appleton with his wife, Pat. They have three grown sons and three grandchildren.



Healthy Congregations

Churches are our faith families.  As is the case in our personal families, not always are our relationships within our faith families easy. Sometimes we have difficulty communicating.  Sometimes decisions by others in the church are made that negatively affect us. Sometimes there’s outright conflict between members.  A healthy church family requires attention, devotion, intention, and a willingness to learn new ways of relating and communicating. The Wisconsin Conference’s newly trained Conflict Resolution team is able to help you develop best practices for healthy congregations. This workshop will introduce to you to some best practices for healthy congregations and conflict mediation. It may help you decide if you’d like the team to come work with your church family.

The Conflict Resolution Team includes: Jane Anderson, Associate Conference Minister; Stephen Ware; Tina Ottman-Boykin; Rev. Beth Voigt; and Rev. Delisa Buckingham-Taylor.

Transgender Stories

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Two families will share their experiences with transgender family members in this workshop. Joey Hoover-Simon will talk about her family’s experience at the intersection of family and faith with a transgender child.  And Annette and John Grunseth will share about their adult child’s transition from son to daughter. Through understandable poetry they offer insight about gender and acceptance. Be prepared to laugh, shed a tear or two and learn something new.  Annette has written a book “Becoming Trans-Parent, One Family’s Journey of Gender Transition” published by Finishing Line Press.


Music and the Arts for the Practice of Praise, Prayer, Lament and Justice

Come and find ideas and resources for the renewal of worship with a special emphasis on creative approaches, the arts and music. (This workshop will be repeated in the afternoon.)

Gary Rand imageGary Rand has planned the worship services on Friday evening and Sunday morning.



The New MOM:  A Conversation

The development of a re-visioned Manual on Ministry has taken years and engaged participants from across the United Church of Christ. Much of our church and ministry practice will remain the same; but some changes have been recommended as well. This workshop will offer an introduction to and conversation about the new MOM. We encourage you to take a look at the new MOM at

Associate Conference Ministers Rob McDougall, Joanne Thomson, and Jane Anderson will lead the workshop.

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations focuses on practices of radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service and extravagant generosity.  The program is designed to assist congregational leaders in taking a look at their own ministries in order to ask the questions “How are we doing in practicing these qualities of ministry in our congregation and how might we do them better?”  This program is an opportunity to shift the focus to a practical way to deepen and improve these practices. It will shape agendas and leadership in churches that are committed to renew and grow congregations in their ability to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Participants are invited to join as we introduce the program for 2017.

Bonnie Andrews is a member of Bethel-Bethany UCC in Milwaukee and has served in many roles and on many committees in her congregation, the SE Association and the Wisconsin Conference. Bonnie graduated with the first Lay Academy class and has assisted with the Five Practices process for the past five years.

In her work life, she is the Manager of Volunteer Milwaukee, promoting and supporting volunteerism.



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 UCC Wisconsin Conference, is a graduate of the Lay Academy, has taught Sunday School for 56 years and is a member and present moderator of First Congregational Church, Oshkosh.  She is presently working with the UCC WI Conference programs:  Communities of Practice and Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.

Workshops:  Saturday Afternoon, 3:15pm-4:30pm

Becoming Welcoming Communities

This workshop will introduce “Becoming Welcoming Communities: Immigration in the Light of Biblical Faith,” a study guide for congregations from the Wisconsin Council of Churches. Immigration has become one of the most emotionally-charged and polarizing social and political issues. Immigration is also a core issue for faith communities. Throughout the New Testament, Christians are called to care for the outcast and the stranger. Christians have been in the forefront of those calling for hospitality, solidarity, and justice for the more recently-arrived members of their communities. They have worked to replace prejudice and hostility with understanding and reconciliation.

Peter Bakken imagePeter Bakken is Coordinator for Public Policy at the Wisconsin Council of Churches and Executive Director of Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light. He received his Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of the WCC publications, Hunger at Our Doorstep: A Study-Action Guide for Wisconsin Congregations and Becoming Welcoming Communities: Immigration in Light of Biblical Faith.



Engaging Criminal Justice Reform

Learn how local congregations can engage in local, state and national efforts to reform the injustice in our justice system.

Jerry Hancock imageRev. Jerry Hancock JD, M.Div., is Director of The Prison Ministry Project based in First Congregational UCC, Madison, Wisconsin.

Jerome Dillard imageJerome Dillard is the Director of EXPO: Ex-Prisoners Organizing, a program of WISDOM.

David Liners imageDavid Liners is the State Director of WISDOM.


Music and the Arts for the Practice of Praise, Prayer, Lament and Justice

Come and find ideas and resources for the renewal of worship with a special emphasis on creative approaches, the arts and music. (This workshop will be repeated in the morning.)

Gary Rand imageGary Rand has planned the worship services on Friday evening and Sunday morning.



The Path to ONA

Are you interested in the process of becoming Open and Affirming. Come hear stories of churches who have recently completed Open and Affirming processes.

rainbow comma imageMembers of the Open and Affirming Team of the Wisconsin Conference and members of churches will lead the presentation and discussion.


Tools for Ministry

Have you ever felt like you just can’t get caught up, everything you do or plan is a last minute effort? This workshop will give you some tools and suggestions for planning ahead even if you have very little time for planning. You will leave with your own tools to take back to your church with you. This workshop is for Ministers, Lay Leaders, council/board members and those who want to help make the church run smoothly throughout the year.

Jeannie Douglas imageJeannie Douglas has been ordained in the United Church of Christ for 16 years. For the last 10 years she has served as an Intentional Interim serving churches throughout Wisconsin. She also served as a called Minister in both Minnesota and Montana. Currently, she serves as Pastor of Congregational Life at First Congregational in Appleton.  She has led several workshops and retreats and is also a Certified Life Coach. Because of her wide range of experience in churches she has developed a toolbox of methods for making planning easier in the church.


Using an Original Biblical Pictorial Timeline to Engage the Whole Congregation in the Biblical Story

One of a congregation’s most important responsibilities is to nurture its people in the Christian faith. The Biblical Pictorial Timeline (BPT) is a collection of 36 original images depicting Bible stories. The BPT and its related books, curriculum, and resources are a creative, engaging way to foster biblical literacy and interpretation, and support people as they find their place in the unfolding drama of the Bible. The BPT is applicable to a wide variety of congregational settings; connects worship, education, and mission; and provides a link between church and home.

Chris and Stacy Myers imageChris and Stacy Myers are ministers with First Congregational United Church of Christ in River Falls, Wisconsin.




Your Stewardship Ministry

Informed by the UCC/DOC “Stepping up to Stewardship” conference, this workshop will explore the unique opportunities for ministry in our congregational stewardship efforts.

Ann Utke imageRev. Ann Utke has served in pastoral ministry in a variety of church settings since 1994. Currently Ann is an interim minister at St. John’s UCC, Random Lake. She lives in Milwaukee with her husband, Bill, who is also a UCC clergy person. In her free time, she enjoys gluten free cooking, practicing Spanish, and singing along with her ukulele.



Sunday Faith Formation Gatherings, 8:30 – 9:30am

Discipleship Walk

This guided contemplative walk through the Green Lake grounds will provide participants the opportunity to prayerfully interact with our meeting setting. We will follow a route of prayer stations throughout the grounds, stopping periodically for lectio-like meditations on prayers, poems and other readings, and scripture, and watching mindfully for signs and wonders throughout the walk.  Participants will be asked to add their prayers to a group composition, and will take home a reminder of the walk to use in prayer.

Julie Kramer imageJulie Kramer is a Year 3 Lay Academy student. She is a long-time member of First Congregational in Madison, and has co-facilitated (along with Rev. Ann Beaty) several classes on spiritual practices and development. Her interests include leadership, prayer, and writing poetry. Julie, her husband Greg, and 3 teenage children are all “cat people” and avid hockey fans.

Debbie Hoogesteger imageDebbie Hoogesteger is a 2010 graduate of the Wisconsin Conference Lay Academy and facilitator for the Come-Down-to-the-Lakeshore Writer’s Retreat held annually at Pilgrim Center. She and her husband Jim recently retired in the Fox Valley area to be closer to family – they are still adapting to country life on a farm several miles outside of Reedsville WI. Debbie enjoys reading, writing, spending time with her family and learning to ride the John Deere.

Ann Beaty imageRev. Ann Beaty has been an ordained minister for over 20 years and currently serves as Associate Minister at First Congregational UCC, Madison. Ann has special interest in contemplative prayer practices and how they feed us for justice ministries. She has an MDiv from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Her love of contemplative practices and social action was influenced by participating in a Spiritual Director certification program through Shalem Institute. She enjoys spending time outdoors, traveling, and reading.


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 our world. It will include an anointing with oil for those who want to come forward and receive this laying on of hands. Manda Stack will lead the service. Bob Wang will provide songs that lyrically and musically promote a sense of healing and wholeness.

Manda Stack imageRev. Manda Stack has served as Pastor for 20 years at Union Grove Congregational UCC and Raymond Community UCC (Yoke). She is certified as an energy clearing practitioner, bringing balance to people’s lives and living spaces.


In the Key of Grace:  Why & How We Sing Black Gospel Music

Gospellers imageMembers of the Wisconsin Gospellers lead an exploration of the roots, songs & appeal of a musical tradition that crosses spiritual and cultural boundaries. Alicia Gardner is Music Leader for St Paul’s UCC in Marshfield, a graduate of Lay Academy, and the Gospellers’ Membership Coordinator. Mark Schmitt is a semi-retired music educator who leads the music team at First Congregational UCC—Waukesha. He is interim musical director of the Wisconsin Gospellers. Kimberly Redding teaches history and cross-cultural studies at Carroll University, and is a member of First Congregational UCC—Waukesha. She chairs the Wisconsin Gospellers’s Leadership Team.


Join us as we take a walk with Micah

Come for a Sunday Morning Bible Study on the prophet Micah.

David Schnepf imageRev. David Schnepf is the Senior Pastor of First Congregational UCC in Oconomowoc.  He graduated from Eden Theological Seminary and received a Doctorate in Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  He has taught New Testament and a variety of other courses for the Lay Ministry School in the United Methodist Church, for the Indiana and Florida Conferences.


The Ministry of Writing a Mystery

As a minister my head and heart is always full of stories but I believe we all have great imaginations. Often, whether a minister or a lover of the church, our work with others keeps us up at night, and that is a perfect time to get up to write ten pages. This workshop will encourage writers, we will talk about ways to begin and keep going. I think writing soothes the soul, encourages the lost and lonely and sometimes you even get a book out of it! My book St. Mary’s Private Dancer is due out in March.

Here are a few words from the back cover:  It was no surprise when sex worker Marnie called retired pastor Shepherd Murdoch for help. But when Shep arrived at Marnie’s house, she found the kitchen covered in blood, her young son left behind and Marnie nowhere to be found. All Shep really wants us to grow flowers in her greenhouse, but a nagging sense of duty draws her into a dangerous underworld, as she searches for Marnie and tries to take care of her boy. And is police Sgt. Kelly flirting with her? She just hopes she can stay alive long enough to find out.

Blair Hull is pastor at Whitewater Congregational UCC in Whitewater



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 imageCathy Wille will be present to explain the Labyrinth to anyone who has never walked a Labyrinth.

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