Written by Anthony Moujaes
New Orleans, a city that reinvented itself after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is the perfect setting for the reinvention of the former Search and Call gathering of the United Church of Christ. From Dec. 4-7, the Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization (MESA) Ministry Team of the UCC will host a gathering of conference staff from across the denomination. This biennial gathering, formerly known as Search and Call, has been renamed and re-envisioned as Authorizing Ministry for the 21st Century (AM21).
The event’s scriptural theme comes from Romans 15:14: "I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another." The real hope for the gathering is for conference and denominational staff to work together to raise questions and seek common solutions to best support Authorized Ministers and Committees on Ministry in the UCC.
Authorizing Ministry for the 21st Century will start with an orientation for new conference staff members, and lead into four days of conversation around faithful and effective work on Authorized Ministry in the UCC. This is the first such gathering hosted by the newly reconfigured Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization Ministry Team (formerly Parish Life and Leadership) that welcomed three new members in September. The gathering will have facilitated conversations led by pairs of conference and national staff leaders on four different topics: Formation and Authorization, Post-Authorization, Search and Call, and Relationships of Committees on Ministry to Local Congregations.
The Rev. Holly MillerShank, minister and team leader for MESA, is excited about the possibilities of the coming week. "We are gathering the right people in the room, and shaping a creative space to have vital conversations, paired with great worship and time for reflection," she said. Preachers at the event include the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of Local Church Ministries, the Rev. Yvonne Delk, the first African-American woman ordained in the UCC, and the Rev. Shernell Edney, associate pastor at First Congregational Christian UCC in Chesterfield, Va.
"The overall goal is to lead conversations across the life of the church on how we do this work most effectively and faithfully," MillerShank said.
In addition to the new name, format, and location, the event also includes two other landmark features: an ecumenical delegation including partners from the Disciples of Christ and the United Church of Canada, and optional immersion experiences in New Orleans and Back Bay Mission at the close of the gathering.
New Orleans was chosen as new host setting for the reinvention of Search and Call, which previously took place in Florida. The biennial gathering was re-envisioned by a planning team of conference and national staff in response to meeting the needs of the 38 conferences throughout the UCC.
Follow the event on Twitter using the hashtag #AM21.