|The Rev. Dr. Chris S. Davies|
The Rev. Dr. Chris S. Davies has been selected as the new Executive Minister for Programs and Initiatives for the Southern New England Conference effective November 1, 2022. Davies, an ordained UCC minister who has Connecticut roots, and has served at the UCC's national setting as the Team Leader of Faith Education, Innovation, and Formation, Justice and Local Church Ministries, will report directly to Executive Conference Minister The Rev. Darrell Goodwin.
“As one who grew up in the historic Connecticut conference, having been baptized and ordained by the same local pastor in Connecticut, and came to ministry via the Silver Lake Conference Center, this feels like I’m coming home,” said Davies. “I left the area to join the national setting and do similar work, but this position gives me the opportunity to really get closer to local congregations and closer to the way faith moves in the world, in 2022 and beyond.”
The Executive Minister for Conference Programs and Initiatives is responsible for stewarding the leadership of our Faith Formation, Justice, Outdoor Ministries Teams and our Center for Transformational Leadership. This includes sharing expertise in the Conferences’ daily operations, facilities and assets, and oversight of implementation of Conference activities. The Executive Minister also provides an environment and a culture that embodies the 4-part vision of the Southern New England Conference to: Make disciples of Jesus Christ; Make God’s love and justice real; Bring new life as agents of change; and form covenant partnerships -- and assures that the vision of the Conference is furthered by such programs.
“Chris and I have had the pleasure of serving and working together over the past few years on a variety of national setting projects and programs throughout the United Church of Christ,” said Goodwin. “These programs have included leading the formation of the strategic priorities for our denomination, various national webinars and worship services, as well as revitalizing the denomination’s new and renewing church granting process. These touch points have allowed me to see her leadership acumen, love of church, and her personal and professional commitment to compelling and relevant programs. I am assured that she will bring this same energy, innovation, and Holy Spirit to our Conference programs and initiatives to help us achieve a greater missional impact. I am also particularly excited about her history at Silver Lake and welcome her leadership in bringing new energy and vision for our youth and outdoor ministries.”
“It is wonderful to be able to welcome Rev. Dr. Chris Davies and her family home to Southern New England,” said Rev. Dr. Kelly Hough Rogers, Sr. Minister of the Scarsdale Congregational Church and Silver Lake Advisory Board Member. “I know we will all benefit from her experience as a national staffer and a local pastor who has served two congregations in Connecticut. Chris is a committed Christ follower, collaborator, and innovator who will add her passion, experience, and humor to the SNEUCC staff.”
Davies does not have a grand plan to introduce as she steps into the role. She anticipates that the first few months will be focused on caring for the staff, listening carefully to what their experience through the pandemic has been, learning from them, and following the leadership of Goodwin, whom she greatly admires.
“The wisdom is already there, and collectively we are much smarter than any one person with a preconceived set agenda,” said Davies. “I'm really delighted by our collective vision to make disciples of Jesus and to make God's love and justice real. The strategic partnerships and the way that we can leverage who we are as the United Church of Christ in Southern New England for the sake of collective liberation is inspiring. I plan to work with staff to find out the programs that really meet the needs of our congregations and constituencies and assess those programs that can be released to make room for the Spirit to grow.”
Davies also believes that vitality is crucial, but clarifies that vitality is not just growing a church. “In this post-pandemic world with racial trauma and polarization of country, people are tired; we need to nurture the connections we have as a Conference, as local churches and pastors, parishioners and staff. That’s just as important as looking outward towards the unaffiliated. Vitality is how we are in relationship with ourselves, our community, and with God, and doing the work with integrity.”
“I am delighted to welcome Rev. Dr. Chris Davies to the staff!” said Debby Kirk, SNEUCC Faith Formation Team Leader. “She brings leadership skills and experience, as well as deep connections to the region having been raised in the Bolton (CT) Congregational Church and having spent several summers at Silver Lake; as a conferee, summer staff member, and as a Dean. She understands the powerful influence of outdoor ministry to transform lives.”
“I also greatly appreciate her commitment to making the Gospel accessible to all generations,” Kirk continued. “Through her leadership of recent UCC programs Tuesdays for Nurture and Thursdays for the Soul, she has helped connect the church to the people in new ways.”
Rev. Davies currently lives in Cleveland with her wife and child, and describes herself as a wandering Irish Rover at heart, who loves faith deeply, and is committed to finding ways to continue to bring spiritual innovation into the world past this generation and into those to follow, through clear leadership development and deep relationship building. She considers herself a millennial leader, a queer femme, an urban beekeeper, and a creative networker of communities. She is passionate about justice and Jesus, and serves on the board of Preterm, an abortion clinic in Northeast Ohio.
Davies attended Smith College for her undergrad work and Andover Newton Theological School for both a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry, focusing on queering proclamation.
Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane is the Storyteller for the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ, and a member of Tewksbury Congregational Church UCC.