South Dakota Conference - United Church of Christ


"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven"

                                                                                      - Ecclesiastes 3:1

          As I write this, I only have a few short days left as your Conference Minister.  Things are changing.  And God is in those changes.

          If I'm honest, there is some grief at this time.  I don't think anyone has ever doubted that the work of this Conference has fully captured my soul.  I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to walk with you as your partner in ministry these past two and a half years.  For me, the season of service as your Conference Minister has been blessed indeed.  Things are changing but that in no way diminishes the grace that has been discovered in what has been. 

          Since we are all complicated beings, I also honestly find myself excited at this time.  I am grateful that our new Executive Conference Minister, the Reverend Brigit Stevens, has offered me the opportunity to help bridge into the new season by serving as a Transitional Associate Conference Minister in the months to come.  I am excited to work with Brigit and the Tri-Conference Ministries staff to breathe life in to what we've imagined for the past few years.  God is in these changes...and we all know there is nothing that excites me more than helping others discover where God is at work.

          Things are changing.  And I am confident.  I am confident in the leadership you have chosen in Brigit Stevens.  She is now your Conference Minister and she has my complete, unqualified support...even to the point of my getting myself out of the way when that is the most appropriate thing for me to do.  Brigit is profoundly gifted.  You are in for a treat as you welcome her leadership in this new season.

          Not only am I confident in your new season, but I am confident in the new season I am approaching as well.  No, that doesn't mean I know what I am doing after my time serving as your Transitional Associate Conference Minister.  My time serving among you has convinced me that my passion and call is in the Conference Minister role, but beyond that there is more discernment to unfold.  But I so clearly sense God in that discernment that I find myself simply eager to discover what God is up to. 

          Things are changing.  The time has come for us to release the season that was and welcome the new season before us.  It is time for us to be bold in our faithfulness.  It is time to embrace not just new leadership, but a new way of being Christ's church.  And as we do, we ought keep our eyes wide open for there is much of the Divine to discover.  Never let us forget that God is in these changes.

-      Gordon

 Transition News and Contact Information
South Dakota Conference/Tri-Conference Ministries Transition News


            As we make our transition on January 1 to staffing our Conference with the Tri-Conference Ministries staff many things will be changing...some in ways we know and some in ways we've yet to discover.  We are working fervently to make this transition as seamless as possible.  We do very much appreciate your prayers and your patience along the way.

            He are some things you should know.  Karen Peters will be continuing her work as part of the Tri-Conference Ministries staff.  She will be located in the Tri-Conference Ministries Office in Sioux Falls (yes, the former SD Conference office).  While aspects of our transition are still in motion, Karen is the best person to contact to determine who to talk to about what.

            Brigit Stevens begins her tenure as Tri-Conference Executive Conference Minister/Conference  Minister of the Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota Conference on January 1st(though she has been doing plenty of the work for a couple of months).  One of her early tasks will be convening a search committee to hire two new Association Conference Ministers. 

            Gordon Rankin will be serving as Transitional Associate Conference Minister.  Part of his portfolio will include continued support of the Dakota Association.  In the short term, Gordon and Associate Conference Minister Jonna Jensen will be covering many of the search and call, ministerial authorization, and other local church needs for all three Conferences.  Once the new ACMs are hired portfolios will be reconsidered and revised.  "Transitional" is included in Gordon's title to signify he is remaining with us to help us transition into our new staff model.  While there is no limit to his duration, he will eventually be discerning where God is calling him to next.

            Carmen Gill retires on January 31st.  The focus of her remaining work will be closing out the 2017 fiscal year.  Jo Ordway in the Tri-Conference Ministries Des Moines office will be taking on the role of fiscal management for all three Conferences and Tri-Conference Ministries.  (There is an article below that outlines the desired way to handle remaining 2017 and new 2018 contributions.)

            Kerry Steever's role as Director of Placerville Camp is expected to be minimally effected by this transition.  (At least as minimally effected as you can be when so much is changing for all your colleagues.)

            Yes, many things are shifting and they probably will continue to do so for a while.  Be assured what is not shifting is the commitment of your staff to do our very best to resource and support the churches we serve. 


 Contact Information:

 Tri-Conference Ministries Sioux Falls Office - (605) 338-8838

 Tri-Conference Ministries Des Moines Office - (515) 277-6369

The Reverend Brigit Stevens -

The Reverend Jonna Jensen -

The Reverend Gordon Rankin -

Karen Peters -

Jo Ordway -

Diane Leggett -

Kerry Stever -

A Time (or two) to Celebrate
Retirement Party
Carmen Gill
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Sunday, January 14, 2018
Spirit of Peace

If you are unable to attend in person, please send "smiles across the miles".  Good wish, stories and thanks can be emailed to: or  
All messages will be compiled into a keepsake book for Carmen.

Save the Date...
A Celebration of Ministry:
Rev. Gordon Rankin and the South Dakota Conference UCC
Saturday, February 3, 2018
First Congregational UCC - Pierre, SD

12:00 noon - Gather
12:30 - Lunch is served
1:30 - Worship Celebration followed by coffee, dessert, and conversation

A backup snow date has been is being held for Saturday, February 10th.  More information about this celebration will be coming out in the next couple weeks.
2017 & 2018 Contributions
All 2017 financial contributions (OCWM, 5 for 5 offerings, and special Conference appeals) need to be dated no later than December 31, 2017and received in the Sioux Falls Office (3500 S. Phillips Ave., Suite 100, Sioux Falls, SD 57105) no later than January 5th.  All contributions received after January 5th will be credited toward 2018.  

Starting January 1st, all 2018 financial contributions should be made out to the South Dakota Conference and sent to: South Dakota Conference, 5609 Douglas Ave, Des Moines, IA 50310.

Online giving, via the Conference website (, remains a viable option for all types of contributions.  
 Hay for Horses Update


Our "Hay for Horses" campaign has raised over $8000 to provide hay this winter for the horses at Bridger Horse Camp.  Two truckloads of hay have already been delivered and a third is being planned.  Contributions can continue throughout the winter months and should now be sent to:  Hay for Horses, c/o South Dakota Conference, 5609 Douglas Ave.,  Des Moines, IA 50310.  (Checks should be made to the South Dakota Conference UCC.)  Contributions can also be made through the online giving option on the Conference website (


Regional Youth Event 2018

West Central Regional Youth Event 2018
June 19-22, 2018
Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa
Faith = Action:
A Just World for All

Registration Opens in Mid to Late January

For more information and flyers, visit
 Annual Meeting
The 148 Annual Meeting 
of the South Dakota Conference of the United Church of Christ
May 4th, 5th & 6th, 2018
Yankton United Church of Christ
Keynote Speaker:  The Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer,
General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ

Statement of Witness
The following Statement of Witness was prepared by the conference staffs of the seven Conferences of the West Central Region of the United Church of Christ (Missouri Mid-South, Kansas-Oklhoma, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota and Northern Plains).   
A Statement of Witness from the Staffs of the Conferences
of the West Central Region of the United Church of Christ
November 2, 2016
Provoked by the Holy Spirit, we bear witness to the congregations, communities, and pastors of the Conferences of the West Central Region of the United Church of Christ:
  • God calls us to lean in, look hard, and pay close, prayerful, purposeful attention to the devastation caused by White Privilege in America. 
  • It is the responsibility of white people to do this leaning, hard looking, and close attending.  It is the responsibility of white people to raise and name terrible truths, trusting God who lovingly convicts and redeems. 
  • We refuse the vision of shallow, fragile tolerance among muted peoples.  We watch for the way to reparation as a prelude to reconciliation.  We pray and work for the day when every racial uniqueness is passionately celebrated as a reflection of the face of God.
  • We honor the sovereignty of First Nation peoples. We stand, speak, and act in solidarity with the people of God whose holy ground is called Standing Rock Reservation.  We move at their invitation, grateful for their leadership, with offerings of prayer, provision, and presence. 
We are more fully the people God calls us to be when we are together - learning together, working together, moving together.
  • Any Student wishing to get a Scholarship Application, please e-mail Karen Peters at or call 605-338-8738 and she will e-mail the application to you.  Please relay this message on to your congregations.  Thanks!
  • Contributions for the 2017 Advent Appeal must be received by January 5th (and dates no later than December 31, 2017.)  Thank you for your generosity.  (The Advent Appeal letter can be found here.)  
  • A black and white print copy of this newsletter (clearly without videos or hyperlinks) that can be easily reproduced  by churches should be available in the next couple days.  Please contact Karen Peters at if you would like a copy emailed to you.
Conference Calendar
January 14th - Retirement Celebration for Carmen Gill
February 3rd - Celebration of Ministry: Gordon Rankin and SD Conference
February 6th - Committee on Ministry
February 10th - Celebration of Ministry: Gordon Rankin and SD Conference SNOW DATE
April 8th - Prairie Lakes Association Meeting
April 20-21 - Tri-Conference Committee on Ministry Training (First Congregational, Sioux Falls)
April 22 - Black Hill Association Meeting
May 4-6 - South Dakota Conference Annual Meeting (Yankton UCC)
Pastoral Care
Our prayers are with Wade Schemmel who is recovering following hospitalization

Our prayers are with Jill Kundtz is scheduled for shoulder surgery early in January.  

Pastoral/Ecclesial Transitions
Our best wishes and prayers are with these pastors as they make changes in their ministry. 

Elaine Miller has been called to serve as pastor at Mayflower Congregational UCC in Sioux City.
Walt Geisler has been called to serve as Designated-Term Pastor at the United Church of Christ Congregational in Springfield.

Joe Schulte has been called to serve as Pastor at Beresford and Centerville UCC.

Harold Condon is providing pulpit supply for the Dakota Association at the Cherry Creek and Red Scaffold churches.  


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