Written by Daniel Hazard
I invite you to visit the Congregational Vitality Initiative's exciting new website uccvitality.org. What's it all about?
The Congregational Vitality Initiative (CVI) is an all-church initiative that supports UCC congregations that want to enhance the vitality of their ministry and mission, both locally and beyond.
Through an assessment instrument, local churches may choose from several program areas: joyful worship, theological reflection and biblical literacy, generous giving, discipleship, spiritual formation, and so on. CVI partners with Conferences, Associations and churches in a comprehensive, integrated movement to enable local congregations to "fulfill God's mission."
CVI is about living out the life of Christ, claiming Jesus Christ as the center of our life and mission, enhancing personal and corporate life in the Christ who promised "abundant life" and who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life."
CVI is about people of the resurrection faith experiencing transformation. There are those among us who think that this church won't survive; they are mistaken - just as others in the past have been wrong about the resiliency of the Church of Jesus Christ, and, yes, even of this, our United Church of Christ. CVI is about instilling and nurturing spiritual and intellectual vigor in our discipleship, going beyond church viability to vibrancy in life and vitality in mission.
Jesus was anointed by the Spirit to proclaim the good news of helping the poor, healing the sick, releasing the captives, giving sight to the blind. The Apostle Paul affirms this gifting by the Holy Spirit of the early churches: "The various ways God's Spirit gets worked into our lives." The Spirit's gifts are given to empower Christian individuals and congregations to be about God's mission. CVI is reminding every UCC congregation that they already have the gifts to do God's mission and that there is a consequence to the Spirit's gifting - to do acts of mercy and justice. It's not optional, we don't vote on it. It's a commission, a marching order as it were. The Spirit of God nags, tugs and compels us.
CVI is about God's mission, missio dei. The faithful interpretation of that mission may cause us to be different, to be courageous rather than cautious, to reclaim for our day and for our churches the historic legacy and acts of courage that the UCC and its predecessor bodies are known for. Yet, as Anthony B. Robinson reminds us in one of CVI's resources, ours is a whole new world. Congregations, he says, do not exist in a vacuum. Even while the gospel is centered in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13.8), cultural and contemporary contexts do change.
As Robinson suggests, "Such changes call for faithful and creative response on the part of congregations and their leaders." CVI helps in developing that response.
The Rev. José A. Malayang is executive minister of Local Church Ministries and a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.