The Rev. Bob Molsberry and his wife, Ann, think that as grandparents they should be part of their families' lives, not occasional visitors just two to three times each year. That's the primary reason why Molsberry tendered his resignation as minister of the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ, effective April 30. He leaves the Buckeye State to become an interim senior pastor in St. Louis, closer to his two grandchildren, and will serve Peace (formerly Evangelical) UCC in Webster Groves, near Eden Seminary.
"If my disability has taught me anything, it is that life is short and fragile, and love of family is precious," said Molsberry, who uses a wheelchair and competes in Paralympic events. "My new congregation will have to share me with Molly and Graysen, my two grandchildren. My wife, also ordained, is currently part-time interim associate minister on staff at St. Lucas UCC in St. Louis."
With Molsberry's resignation, 10 of the UCC's 38 conferences are searching for a conference minister. Connecticut recently concluded its search, calling Florida Conference Minister, the Rev. Kent Siladi, Florida Conference Minister. The vote on his nomination is April 20. Some conferences are already discussing the possibility of sharing staff and resources with their regional neighbors as they consider different options during the church's time of transition.
"There are conferences with upcoming retirements of their ministers, so there's conversation about what other models might be experimented with as we look at transition and new ways to be a conference," said the Rev. Susan Towner-Larsen, the UCC's minister for conference relations.
The west-coast conferences first discussed the idea more than a year ago, first bringing together leaders from the Northern California-Nevada, Southern California-Nevada, Pacific Northwest and Southwest conferences , and later including the Rocky Mountain, Montana-Northern Wyoming, Central Pacific and Hawaii conferences in further dialogue. The conferences were specific about forming a committee for fitness review in the western region. The southern states are further along. In early November, the four UCC conferences in the south — the Southern, South Central, Southeast and Florida Conferences — met in Orlando, bringing together leaders from the conference boards and national staff to brainstorm new ways of cooperation and collaboration.
When he came to Ohio almost six years ago, Molsberry noticed the chatter about transition within the church, and in spite of engaging those issues non-stop, he says the rate of change continues to accelerate in all settings.
"In general, it is my opinion that leadership in the church — myself included — is not doing enough to address the cultural, financial, structural, and theological changes that are coming at us faster and faster these days," he said. "We're always playing catch-up. In Heifetz's words, this is a time for adaptive change, not just technical tinkering. We need to reinvent how we do church."
Molsberry has worked on Unified Governance with the national staff, with UCC Disabilities Ministries, the Council of Conference Ministers, and the CUE (Chicago, United, and Eden Seminaries) Board. He was also involved in planning last year's "Search and Call" event for authorizing ministry into the 21st century. Molsberry said he is excited to bring his experience at the conference and national levels of the UCC to his work with the local congregation.