Some 45 people from various settings of the United Church of Christ talked about mission and ministry together Oct. 5-7 in the first of a new series of gatherings at the Church House in Cleveland.
The "Dipko Leadership Series," as the events are named for now, is designed not only to acquaint local people with what's available from their denomination but also to help national ministries hear the needs and concerns of local churches, associations and conferences.
Participants worshiped in the Amistad Chapel, shared meals and engaged each other in large and small groups. Topics included worship, education, mission, and the "organizational life" of the church.
"I leave with a new awareness and understanding of the UCC, and I'm blessed with many new friends," said Suzanne Stevens, a member of Keene (N.H.) UCC.
"It personalized the national staff and setting in a powerful way," said Eric Kirkegaard, pastor of Peace UCC, Kewaskum, Wis. "A little magic came from the dialogical process used through so much of the weekend. We weren't just talking about the church, we were being the church."
Similar gatherings will take place at the Church House once or twice a year, bringing in people from two regions at a time. (This fall they came from New England and Great Lakes states.) Local-church participants are invited by their conference ministers.
The series is made possible by the Thomas E. Dipko Leadership Fund, created by the directors of the former United Church Board for Homeland Ministries to honor the last executive vice president of that mission agency.
The fund is administered by the UCC's Local Church Ministries, the corporate successor of the UCBHM.
Hans Holznagel is Assistant to the Collegium for Community Life in the UCC's national setting.