Written by Bennie E. Whiten, Jr.
After four years of retirement, and keeping what I thought was a low profile for the last two, I find myself singing Gene Autry's old song, "Back In The Saddle Again."
But this is a new kind of saddle for me. I've served on and chaired national boards or directorates in the UCC's old structure. I even worked for the creation of some of them, but was never a staff member.
Now, I have agreed to serve as acting executive minister of Wider Church Ministries while the search for a new executive minister is underway.
To date it has been an interesting and, for the most part, satisfying experience. Nevertheless, always lurking in the forefront of consciousness are the words of Ferlinghetti, "The world is a beautiful place/ to be born into/ if you don't mind happiness/ not always being so very much fun."
My wife who was Presbyterian until she married me would say that I'm just acknowledging that we too share in Calvin's heritage.
I was blessed to find a competent, dedicated, hard working staff in place, and they're teaching me the things I need to know. I pray that enough synapses remain open to enable me to receive what they're transmitting.
I've also been heartened by the words of encouragement and support received from many persons. Many of them were new to me, but some were not, and there were a couple of persons with whom I'd had no contact for nearly four decades.
This is also a learning opportunity in a different kind of way since WCM is in partnership with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) through the Common Global Ministries Board. While I've known and worked with Disciples clergy, that denomination had little institutional presence in the geographic areas where I previously served. As in any relationship there have been differences and tensions, but it's my prayer that we'll fi nd ways to be in a continued relationship characterized by trust, candor and a strengthened sense of covenant.
I'm mindful of the fact that I began this ministry two-and- a-half weeks before the beginning of Lent, a season of the church year that many Protestant denominations have discovered or rediscovered in my lifetime. But too often its observance has stressed self-denial without much examination or deprivation without reflection. If during this reflective time we can gain greater clarity about our calling to ministry and mission and develop plans and strategies that enable us to achieve certain goals we may also gain a deeper appreciation of those who have gone before us.
We also know that beyond Lent and Good Friday there is Easter and the joyous resurrection. Christ lives and so do we. Let us live joyfully, faithfully and steadfastly proclaiming in word and deed the reign of our God.
Retired Massachusetts Conference Minister the Rev. Bennie E. Whiten, Jr., is acting executive minister of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries.