The latest news from the Montana-Northern Wyoming UCC Conference of the UCC
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E-News November 9, 2015

The Montana-N.Wyoming Conference UCC covers a lot of ground; but we have always embraced the missional opportunities found here.

God-seeds, reflections from Marc Stewart

Got Clergy?  

I visited Eden Theological Seminary (St. Louis) for its UCC pastor recruitment day last week. It had been six years since the last time I had visited Eden. There were fewer students to recruit this time. Eden president, David Greenhaw, explained that among the various seminaries, there are now only about 140 UCC graduates each year. There may be 10 from Eden in 2016. There are not enough pastors for the number of churches searching. Even here in the Montana-N.Wyoming Conference, we have 12 churches in the search process. 
Our Conference reflects what is also happening in the larger conferences, as many churches are moving from full-time to part-time pastors, or to one church sharing a pastor with another church. UCC congregations in Plentywood, Medicine Lake, and Froid are talking about how to share a pastor among themselves. They also want to continue their shared relationship with Culbertson Methodist Church and two Lutheran churches over near Dagmar. Sheridan and Buffalo congregations are talking about sharing a pastor. Kalispell Community UCC is wondering with Missoula University UCC if there might be a closer shared relationship between their congregations.

Eight of our congregations are finding ministry through their own lay leaders, licensed ministers or retired ministers: Buffalo, Glasgow, Medicine Lake, Fairfield, Plentywood, Miles City DOC/UCC, Kalispell, Red Lodge. Another eleven churches are served by pastors who travel up to 90 miles to serve on a Sunday: Froid from Medicine Lake, Glendive from Fairview, Baker from Terry, Broadus from Miles City, Custer from Hardin, Ballantine from Red Lodge, Hardin from Colstrip, Power from Fairfield, and Worden, Molt, and Columbus from Billings.

The UCC has “a thing” for extravagantly prepared clergy. So, ordination is often the standard for calling a pastor. However, some expectations within a congregation do not make for good church stewardship of much that has been invested in the pastor’s calling  such as time, money, intellect, spirit, faith, hope, and love, etc. There are many ministries serving congregations where members could provide support very well among themselves. I wonder if “the thing” we have for ordained ministry can be more clearly discerned so that we call ordained ministers to serve through what they are best at: biblical interpretation in preaching, critical pastoral care, spiritual discernment, and prophetic witness.

I wonder if congregations might find that they are called to utilize ordained clergy in specialized ways. Perhaps an authorized minister could be called to preach once a month, and to provide worship and preaching or study resources for a lay leader to use the other weeks. Perhaps a lay leader, who is comfortable visiting other members, could be given some prayers to share for different occasions, such as those in the “Called to Care” notebook. There is already a lot of mission happening in even our smallest congregations, but an ordained minister could bring some theological context to these endeavors of faith. I wonder if our larger congregations might be “open-to-all-everywhere,” by extending their ministry to distant congregations. What about our smaller congregations?  I wonder if your congregation would be open to receiving another congregation that would like to be with yours in fulfilling what God is calling the church to be, wherever you are, and beyond?  For all the transitions happening in our churches, perhaps the most exciting are the faithful ways of assuring that all our churches have ministers.
Ballantine UCC is a small church in small town twenty miles east of Billings, served by Rev. Jim Smith who travels up from Red Lodge.  Recently, the congregation of about 15 people discerned another vital ministry. The church has opened its doors to children and youth who have nowhere to go after school gets out. On school days about 10 children come over to the church to find a safe place to hang out with some supervision. As parents return to work and come get their children, the families are offered a hot dinner. Last week, 125 meals were cooked up by chefs Doug and Rite Oltroge! The church is an old building, and its members what they can with what they have. Even though it is a “barebones” operation, it is still a most extravagant welcome. 


from General Minister and President, Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, Fall 2015
The full presentation can be viewed on You Tube.
A "Keeping You Posted" article describes John's 5 point plan further.

I. Still Speaking 2.0
    1. Local Church toolkit: marketing, advertising, public relations
        * Local churches are the distribution agency for Still Speaking 2.0
    2. Funding research to refresh UCC brand

II. Twelve media events
    * So that our voice is relevant, meaningful, and still matters:
        What must the UCC say to still be credible and relevant?
        So that the world stands up and takes notice?

III. Change ethos and culture of the UCC National setting
    * As covenant partner
    * In full partnership, relationship, and cooperation with local settings of the UCC
      Thirty National setting leaders to:
    * Rewrite protocols
    * Initiate a “call a day” to local churches, to remind us who we are called to serve
    * We are partners with and to local churches
    * How can we help you?
    * Open up dialogue
    * Open up relationship

IV. Open a meaningful, substantive, and safe dialogue on white privilege
    * A curriculum for all UCC settings of impact of white privilege on people of faith
    * Available September 2016

V. Strategic Planning to Build the United Church Christ
    1. The UCC in ten years?
        * Skew data towards under 40
        * Include non-UCC partners
    2. Given who we are right now; given our current resources;
        What do we need to do to build the UCC that we want to be in ten years?
        * Determining what our non-negotiables are
        * What do we need to hang on to the lest of our identity and our
           core missional purpose be sacrificed or compromised?    
        * What’s working and will make a difference?
        * What’s working but won’t matter?
        * What’s missing that needs to be added in order to make us    
           relevant, meaningful, and credible in ten years?

John Dorhauer, our UCC General Minister and President, offers a weekly blog, "Into the Mystic"
that is available for download on Mondays.

National Youth Event 2016 will gather at Orlando, Florida, July 26-30.

Marc Stewart will take a delegation of youth and chaperones.  The cost will be between  $1200 - $1500 each.  Preliminary information has been posted on the WEB site.  Please let Marc Stewart know if you or youth in your church may be interested.

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