Written by Ginny Brown Daniel
February - March 2009
Uncertain times not a hindrance
Many groups within the UCC are wrestling with change and the challenges faced today and in our future. The UCC 2030 Clergy Network, a group comprising UCC ministers under the age of 40, is approaching these challenges with the ideals of their UCC foreparents in hand and heart, and with the creativity that inspires the UCC.
They formed in 2005 in order to discuss the blessings and needs of the UCC from the perspective of a new generation of clergy. Although in 2006 only 6 percent of all UCC clergy were under the age of 40, members come from all 39 conferences and embody the diversity of the UCC. Theologically they are conservative, liberal and everywhere in between. They represent Philippino, African American, German, Samoan, Native American, Southern, Western and New England cultures. They serve in hospitals, the military, colleges and churches. They choose to have children and they choose not to have children. They are transgendered, gay, straight, bisexual and lesbian.
Today the UCC 2030 Network provides a collective voice on needs of healthcare, restructuring the denomination, alternative paths to ministry, evangelizing in our postmodern culture and defining what it means to be an open and affirming just peace denomination - all questions with which the UCC is currently wrestling.
The Rev. Amy Sens, a member of the 2030 Clergy Network in the Central Atlantic Conference, says, "I think 2030 clergy take on an important role bridging between the modern and the postmodern shape of the church. We know and appreciate the gifts of the church, but also have the ability to see things from the point of view of our generations."
Among the questions the group hopes to address are the following:
How can we live into our identity as a United Church of Christ rather than as Congregational, Christian, Evangelical or Reformed first and then UCC?
Will there be enough clergy to serve all our churches?
Will the importance of theological education continue to be valued by all branches of the UCC?
Will the associations and conferences hold their same historic roles and responsibilities or will they adapt to a postmodern culture?
Will the UCC keep up with technology enough to use social networking and communication tools to reach out to and sustain spiritual nurture of all people?
Will some UCC churches live off their endowments while others merely scrape enough money together to pay the quarterly bills?
Will there be a different burning theological question tearing at the seams of the UCC or will we continue to wrestle with the inclusion or exclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members?
Will the historically diverse churches and denominational organizations preserve the ethnicities of our different cultures?
Will creative seminary scholarships be formed so that clergy don’t graduate with massive debt and so smaller churches and conferences can benefit from the giftedness of these clergy?
The Rev. Ginny Brown Daniel is pastor of Plymouth UCC in Spring, Texas.
For more information about the 2030 Clergy Network go to www.2030clergy.net or its Facebook page, "UCC 2030 Clergy Network." The 2030 Clergy Network will sponsor a number of events at General Synod 27 in Grand Rapids, Mich.