Dear Committee on Ministry colleagues,
As the summer wanes (already?!) and breezes begin to hint of autumn, all around us schools and churches are gearing up for the start of another program year. The work of ministry authorization and oversight, however, is year-round, and your COM plates have been just as full in these summer months as they are during the cooler seasons.
The Habakkuk Group – our 17-member committee that is tasked with re-visioning the Manual on Ministry – has likewise been hard at work this summer, and for this edition of COMma, I want to share an overview of their work:
• As the Habakkuk Group considers where the UCC has been, where it is, and where it is going with regard to ministerial authorization, this summer we’ve been reading & rereading a number of important documents, among them the UCC Constitution & Bylaws and “Draft 3.1” from the Ministry Issues Implementation Committee.
• Some of our Committees on Ministry may appreciate the particular challenge of meeting across great geographic distances. The Habakkuk Group has employed conference calls, video chatting, and an online project-management forum to share information, converse, brainstorm, and pray together.
• The Habakkuk Group has been listening to stories of what works well with the Manual on Ministry and how COMs and Conferences have accommodated their authorization practices in response to 21st century tools and needs. In addition, we’re listening to stories of authorization practices from other denominations.
• The group is also asking how COM members are being familiarized with MOM and other polity resources. For example: Are there orientation sessions for new COM members? Does the Conference or Association provide annual retreats for continuing education of COMs? Is there time provided in each COM meeting for a brief review of a topic that the committee has on its upcoming agenda or hasn’t dealt with in a while?
• As the Habakkuk Group prayerfully examines the UCC’s past and present practices of ministerial authorization, we’re asking a lot of questions about the future of ministerial authorization. How do we speak about ministry in a way that strengthens both lay and authorized ministries? How can the Habakkuk Group model discernment processes, and how might our final product support a rich spirit of discernment across the UCC?
The Habakkuk Group meets again in late October to continue its exciting work. We appreciate your ongoing prayers for the group, even as the group members keep you in prayer and in mind throughout our work.
The Rev. Rachel G. Hackenberg
Minister for Committee on Ministry Resources & Conference Support
Ministerial Excellence, Support & Authorization (MESA) Team
Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ