Written by Rachel Hackenberg
Dear Committee on Ministry colleagues,
When the Habakkuk Group hosted an open forum during General Synod in Cleveland this past summer, we invited questions about the group's process as well as people’s hopes & concerns for the Manual on Ministry. These are some of the questions asked of the Habakkuk Group during the forum:
How do you set priorities, get work done, and control scope?
Since it began meeting in June 2014, the Habakkuk Group has prioritized and continues to be attentive to (1) the shoulders on which our work stands, including previous Manuals on Ministry, the Ministry Issues Pronouncement, and ecumenical efforts such as Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry; (2) the state of the United Church of Christ and of the wider church today, including hints and dreams of the future; and (3) the ever-moving Spirit above all and through all. Our conversations shift back-and-forth between the "big picture" and the particularities of the church and authorized ministry, and we are compelled forward by the shared desire to produce an effective resource that supports Committees on Ministry and to be faithful in our stewardship of the UCC's time and finances for this work. One attendee of the open forum at General Synod noted, "I hope you can balance the desire for perfection with delivering." Yes, we do too.
How to discern the gifts and graces of leaders needed for forms of church that are unlike what has come before?
We can't. Tempting though it may be to try, the Habakkuk Group cannot predict the future of the church, nor the forms and settings of authorized ministry that will develop in the church’s future, nor the gifts and graces that will be needed of authorized ministers to lead the future church. What we can do is encourage and equip Committees on Ministry for that vital work of discernment by developing a resource that gives COMs space and imagination to test fitness and call and Spirit in every meeting with ministers, Members in Discernment, and/or congregations. Our Committees on Ministry are best positioned to discern God's work in each local context of the United Church of Christ, and the Habakkuk Group aims to promote best practices and common understandings for that work of discernment across our diverse settings. (For an overview of the diversity of COM structures and practices, committees are encouraged to read the Committee on Ministry Research Report.)
How do you plan to communicate evolving changes to COMs?
The Habakkuk Group is clear that Committees on Ministry are our primary audience, and we discuss communication to COMs in every meeting. In the long run, when the final product is ready for COMs, we’ll offer regional trainings through Associations & Conferences and we’ll provide online materials to promote quick familiarity & comfort with the new resource. In the short term, there will be changes that make sense to communicate to COMs even before the new resource is released. We already know, for example, that the Marks of Faithful & Effective Authorized Ministers – a familiar tool for many COMs along with Journaling the Journey – needs to be revised in order to excavate implicit bias and to make the Marks more user-friendly; a revision of the Marks could be released to COMs well before the new MOM resource is completed. With every change, we're testing language and relevance with two groups of readers in order to improve our work, and we plan to partner with Conferences & Associations to promote effective communication of changes.
The Habakkuk Group held its most recent meeting at the start of October in San Antonio, Texas, during which it began to shift from its examination of the grounding for the Manual on Ministry (the faith perspectives, church practices, values and assumptions that inform MOM) to a basic outline around which the Habakkuk Group will write & assemble content for the next edition of MOM – which will not be called "MOM" at all, and we welcome your creative title suggestions for the new resource.
Until then, the Manual on Ministry remains our common guide in the work of authorization and oversight, and the MESA Ministry Team is glad to support your work by email, phone and in-person as needed.
Blessings to you, and gratitude,
The Rev. Rachel G. Hackenberg
Minister for Committee on Ministry Resources & Conference Support
Ministerial Excellence, Support & Authorization (MESA) Team
Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ