Written by Daniel Hazard
It's all about the local church ? "the basic unit of the life and organization of the United Church of Christ" - declares the UCC's constitution.
Serving the church of Jesus Christ to enable the local church and its members to become God's communal instrument and personal agents of mission, this conviction is the essence of the call to Christian ministry.
Marking in 2007 my 45th year in ordained ministry, I am truly and humbly thankful to God and to my parents whose idea it originally was, or so they or I thought, for the call.
The United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), my ordaining denomination, assigned me to my first parish, a small-town church and part of a circuit of seven even-smaller mountain churches. Other calls would follow: as staff to a university church and as senior pastor of a large city church. Immigrating to the United States in 1970, I served on the staff of a Presbyterian congregation in a suburb, followed by 14 years of pastoring a yoked charge of UCC churches in rural Michigan.
And then, somewhat unexpectedly, came the call to be on a UCC Conference staff, followed by 12 years in the UCC's national setting, serving three different entities including Local Church Ministries (LCM), one of the UCC's four covenanted ministries in the new structure of July 2000.
Throughout the years and in every setting of ministry, the joy that beats in my heart and the passion that drives my efforts was the well-being and wellness of local churches. Indeed, my ministry was and is all about the local church.
The anxiety and reluctance I felt when called to the Southern California Conference staff - I didn't want to leave a local church pastorate - vanished in my excitement to do church development: starting and revitalizing churches. And the UCC's Office for Church Life and Leadership, one of the national instrumentalities I served, was mostly about supporting the all-important task of providing good leadership in our churches.
Briefly working with staff colleagues at the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries' evangelism and local church development was also about programmatic efforts at birthing or renewing churches.
The peak of self-fulfillment in these calls was being "called by election" by the General Synod and LCM to my present ministry. It was - is - the height, because in the 2000 new structure of doing mission, it created four program foci, of which one is LCM and its primary mission is to support, strengthen and celebrate local churches.
As a child of "foreign" mission, I would have loved being part of Wider Church Ministries. And with my years of social activism, including efforts to bring down a U.S.-supported dictatorship in my home country, I would have liked the work of Justice and Witness Ministries.
But LCM was and is where my heart beats ardently, where my passion is stimulated continually - not for LCM's sake, but for the good of the whole church and the church of Jesus Christ.
God always knew what God called me to do. Thanks be to God.
The Rev. Jos A. Malayang, executive minister for Local Church Ministries, is a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers. Celebrating his 45th ordination anniversary this year, Malayang has actually spent 47 years in continuous service to the church.