For the 250 of us who minister on your behalf in the UCC's national setting in Cleveland, getting to work the last couple of months has meant negotiating an obstacle course. We've scooted through drywall dust; weaved past stepladders, buckets and tool kits; ducked under loose wires and maneuvered around painters and carpenters, plasterers and electricians. All this because construction is nearing completion on the lobby of "700 Prospect" and the Amistad Chapel, just off the lobby.
The transformation of the old Ohio Bell Building to the UCC Church House is just about done. Soon on one site we'll have a friendly lobby, a chapel for worship, a hotel and meeting rooms for guests and new office space for the staff. The building will be a place of learning, worship and hospitality for both UCC members and ecumenical guests.
This construction coincides with the restructure of the UCC's national setting, which legally goes into effect on July 1. But July 1 is no magic date. Implementing the restructure will take most of this year and, in the short run, probably will affect service to local churches.
Why? First, because of the changeover in personnel. Many national staff are leaving on June 30, either to retire, to go elsewhere or because they were not invited to stay. Co-workers who vied for the same positions are now shaping new working relationships. About one-quarter of the staff will be new. And many current employees will be in new positions.
Second, because the construction efforts—including the lobby obstacle course—will move to the upstairs offices. In a huge game of musical chairs, nearly every one of us will end up in a new office, often on a different floor. The second floor, for example, now vacant, will house some staff from the Office of General Ministries. Once these people move in, many from offices on the ninth floor, their former space will be reconfigured for the Justice and Witness Ministries staff. And so on. It won't all happen in a day. It won't all happen this summer. Another consideration is that September is slated for staff orientation to the new structure with no staff vacations or travel permitted.
This is why we need your help as we reduce nine "instrumentalities" in the building to four "covenanted ministries." While our positions, offices and phone numbers are changing, you may not get the information you want when you phone or write in. In the meantime, please:
Be patient. Practice all the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), but especially be patient and kind.
Be resourceful. If you can't get what you want from the national office, call a colleague in another church, or the Association or Conference office. Check the UCC website for our new phone numbers.
Be thankful. God has given us much, including opportunities to serve. Sometimes obstacles appear in the way, but these, too, shall pass.
Be prayerful. Join with other UCC members nationwide for the Season of Prayer from June 15 to July 15 for our church, our nation and our world.
God has more "truth and light to break forth" from the national setting. That is, once the dust settles and the paint dries and we find our new offices and learn our new phone numbers.
The Rev. W. Evan Golder is editor of the national edition of United Church News.