Written by Barb Powell
For the first time ever, seminary graduates, ministers and staff members from all 38 conferences of the United Church of Christ came together intentionally in a 90-minute meet-and-greet at General Synod 2013 in Long Beach, Calif. The Search and Call Fair was the vision of the UCC’s Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization team (MESA).
The event allowed conference leaders to connect with recent seminary graduates and authorized ministers, and offered some insight into the nuances of the search and call process.
“The Search and Call Fair allows everyone -- conference staff, recent seminary graduates, current authorized ministers -- to put names to faces,” said the Rev. Holly Millershank, MESA team leader. “More importantly, this event gave a chance for folks to ask questions about the search an call process that are specific to each conference, because there are subtle differences.”
For Justin Busch-Hammond, a recent graduate of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, a UCC-related seminary in New Brighton, Minn., the fair gave him some comfort regarding the process of finding a call. “I’ve been on the UCC website searching for a church for the past few months now, and it’s just nice to see the faces of the conference staff, learn about their process and get a chance to network.”
“As the person who handles the search and call process for the conference, this is a fantastic way to meet people and to talk about the conference in person, since the majority of our process is done via email,” said the Rev. Barbara Libby, who recently finished her call as Interim Associate Conference Minister for the Connecticut Conference. “For the recent seminary graduate, they are trusting in the process that there is a right church out there for them, and in looking around the room and speaking with both current ministers and recent graduates, I’m reminded how big the UCC is and that there are so many churches that are in need of ministers.”
“I’m thrilled by this fair,” said C.B. Stewart, a recent graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City who is currently serving a church in Brooklyn. “It allowed me to see the culture and understand the tone of each conference. It was daunting at times spending hours behind a computer scanning the numerous minister openings and wondering if that church was the right church.”
In looking to the future, Millershank is hopeful for more events like this one. “The fair has been an overwhelming success,” she said. “There were lines waiting for the doors to open, and based upon the feedback that we’ve received so far, we will build a better event for Synod 2015.”