Eighteen people from the Massachusetts Conference UCC went to the National Church Leadership Institute August 7-10 in Atlanta GA. Attending for new New Ministry start-ups were: Matt Carriker (Waltham) ,Donna Spencer Collins (Haverhill),Sarah Butreux (Northampton), Christie Baer (West Barnstable), Wendy Miller Olepade (West Medford) and for Church Redevelopment: Todd Vetter ( Duxbury), Lynne Devnew (Duxbury), Candi Ashendon (Conway), Patty Kogut (Middleboro), Pam Wannie (Centerville), Cathlin Baker (West Tisbury) and from the MACUCC Staff: Don Remick, Kelly Gallagher and Jill Graham.
The conference focused on the changing world and how the church needs to awaken from its slumber and lead others in, “living the way.” The Changes we have been navigating these past 25 years are fulfilling a divine purpose. It is the catalyst that has been shaking up and waking up spirituality in people. We must raise the banner announcing that we know the way! We must re-craft and reinvent our messages and our approaches because in our world today, ‘One Size does not fit all.”
Brian McClaren says: “…Faith was never intended to be a destination, a status, a holding tank or warehouse. Instead, it was to be a road, a path a way out of old destructive patterns into new and creative ones. As a road or way, it is always being extended into the future. If a spiritual community only points back to where it has been or if it only digs in its heels where it is now, it is a dead end or a parking lot not a way. To be a living tradition, a living way it must forever open itself forward and forever remain unfinished- even as it forever cherishes and learns from the growing treasury of its past." (from the book: We Make the Road by Walking 2014)
The Change we have been experiencing has challenged our faith, our belief systems, even our governance. The drama has shaken us and we discovered our traditions had holes and cracks that we could no longer ignore. Uncomfortable and alert many have reexamined who we are as individuals and as faith communities and how we live out our faith.
The conference workshops and Brian McLaren, the keynote speaker, provided insights and best practices that affirmed and encouraged us to possibilities and hope! Many said there was so much to take in; the pencil and pen had to be put down just to keep up with all that was offered. We heard new ways, new ideas, and were encouraged to seek God ourselves for new ways and new ideas for our own communities. We heard ways we can help the Church shift its role from one of serving members to one of serving those who, caught in this whirlwind of change are seeking a new way.
A key phrase that resonated with many is this idea that “WE Become What WE Celebrate.” Since 2002 our conference and local churches have been so focused on the rapids of change we've felt overwhelmed. Perhaps God is using this time of convergence to get us back on track.
WE must believe "God is still speaking" is much more than a slogan! We must realize God is waking us up and bringing us from a place of "running in the rut to moving in the groove!" When we are awake, aware and intentional, we can be more creative and develop bold new initiatives that unify and transform individuals, our churches and beyond, initiatives that will become the Celebration we have longed for.
The 18 people from our conference who were baptized with this fire hose of grace now have their eyes and ears wide open and the expectation for a new church for a new day is upon us! Behold the Glory of the Lord!!!! Here we come!!!
NOTE: The National Church Leadership Institute was hosted by the Center for Progressive Renewal (CPR). Read about a new partnership between MACUCC and CPR here.
Donna Spencer Collins is a member of the MACUCC Church Development Ministry Council. She is the called pastor of Phoenix Rising United Church of Christ and was formerly Pastoral Associate for Personal Outreach at Tewksbury Congregational Church, UCC.