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  • Writer's pictureNancy Rexford

With Guest Associate Conference Minister Wendy Vander Hart Meeting #28

Forward Chats, Winter 2019-20 (Meetings #24 through #32)

Apologies to everyone for not keeping up with these reports. Chairing the Central Board created a heavy workload, and the notes from Forward Chats tended to get moved to the back burner. Writing on May 10, 2020 (Mother’s Day), I am reporting on nine meetings held from November 2019 through March 2020. In most cases, the whiteboard notes were brief. In a few, there were none taken. I am reporting what information I can find.

Meeting #28 – January 12, 2020: UCC Identity and Pastoral Search

With Guest Associate Conference Minister Wendy Vander Hart

Twenty five people were present. Ruth reminded us to read the covenant.

Wendy began by calling our attention to the Vision Statement of the newly restructured Southern New England Conference of the UCC. See end of these notes for this statement.

Everyone was anxious to talk about our problems with pastoral search. Here are some of the questions and answers:

1. Are we seen as a problem church? Are pastors being warned to avoid us?

No, Second Church is seen as a strong Church, and nothing is being said behind the scenes to discourage pastors from being interested in Second Church.

2. Is the conference really supporting us?

I must have been listening instead of writing, but as I remember, Wendy assured us that she had reached out to MANY candidates on our behalf, but for various reasons they were’nt interested, sometimes because of timing, sometimes because of distance.

3. Is the pool shrinking?

Yes. There are now 28 openings in MA and some churches have been looking for two years. The seminary population is declining. When the economy is good, fewer people go to seminary. When it declines, more people turn to the ministry. Are our churches encouraging people to enter the ministry? Not apparently as well as they used to. [of course there are fewer young people to encourage – now it would often be older people interested in the ministry as a second career]

4. What’s the advantage of an interim?

Sometimes interims are able to do work that longer term pastors cannot because they aren’t going to stay and everyone knows that. A long-term pastor has to make sure proposed changes don’t jeopardize long-term relationships. An interim can do what seems to be objectively correct, without worrying about whose nose may be bent out of shape (of course Wendy would never have expressed it that way).

5. What about the rules preventing a pulpit supply pastor or an interim from applying for a settled position. These roadblocks seem silly. Patty asked that question, but Dale Miller Bouton also expressed frustration that a good candidate who comes in a temporary capacity is not allowed to stay. She – and many others – feel that the rules get in the way of our best interest. Wendy’s answer was:

There is some wiggleroom. If you have an Intentional Interim pastor that you really like, you must still go through with a complete search for a settled pastor, carried out in good faith. If you are truly unable to find a suitable settled pastor, you can talk to the Committee on Ministry and make a case – but not unless you have carried out a proper search.

Most pulpit supply pastors are not interested in permanent positions, but there is always room for conversation. The Committee on ministry is the authorizing body. It has the power to break the rules. What the Profile document says is that the Interim candidate will not raise the issue, won’t campaign to be allowed to stay.

6. How can we better connect with young families?

Try a Zoom Meeting – use technology to connect with families and use three or four questions.

7. Interim Search Steps

We should revise our current profile and then put it on the national list. Transition [I think this means create a transition committee]

8 . Settled Pastor Search

There is a new edition of the profile we need to use. The UCC recommends that we form two different teams:

· a transition team to gather data and develop the profile. Wendy [or now, her successor] can meet with the team to help put it together

· a Search Committee to interview candidates and handle onboarding

· If the same group does both jobs, they are likely to burn out

9. Standing in the UCC:

If a minister leaves one denomination ENTIRELY, and completely moves to the UCC, that minister is said to have “Privilege of Call.” If a minister continues to work in one denomination but also is approved to serve in UCC churches, that minister has “Dual Standing.” The Committee on Standing holds the covenant between churches and pastors. They are the authorizing body and have the power to authorize a pastor to connect with a church. If you are insured by UCC insurance, but you bring in a non-UCC pastor, you are not covered for liability for the misconduct of that pastor because the UCC has not had an opportunity to vet that person.

Southern New England UCC Conference Vision Statement

Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into the one who is the head – into Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love. ~ Ephesians 4:15-16

Following Jesus’ call to discipleship, and bound by the covenant we share as siblings in Christ, we – the members of the United Church of Christ in Southern New England – declare these values essential to our shared ministry together:

  • We understand the local church exists to make disciples of Jesus and we welcome all people unconditionally to share in this calling.

  • We commit to making God’s love and justice real by loving our neighbors, children, and all of creation through our collective work, such as seeking racial, economic, environmental, and LGBTQ justice.

  • We believe God calls us to bring new life as agents of change and so we embrace and encourage adaptive and transformative leadership wherever the Body of Christ is gathered.

  • We encourage local congregations and varied ministry settings, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, to form covenant partnerships with all who work for the common good in their local communities and throughout the world.

In union with the entire United Church of Christ, we respond to Jesus' call and strive to live our faith by:

God’s Vision: United in Christ's love, a just world for all.

The Church’s Mission: United in Spirit and inspired by God's grace, we welcome all, love all, and seek justice for all.

Our Purpose: To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

Our United Covenant: Living the Love and Justice of Jesus

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