UCC legal team turns to music to talk clergy ethics
All the world is a stage.
United Church of Christ legal counselors Don Clark and Heather Kimmel have taken that idea by Shakespeare to heart, writing and producing a musical to creatively engage their audience and communicate an important message.
“Clergy Ethics: The Musical” is the production. The stage is the biennial Authorizing Ministry in the 21st Century event this week in Savannah, Ga, which has gathered more than 150 clergy and conference leaders to discuss best practices for supporting UCC ministers.
The curtain on the presentation, written and produced by the Office of General Counsel of the UCC, goes up Friday evening, Dec. 5, for one night only. The cast is made up of leaders from across the church.
“Heather and I wanted to present this material in an engaging way and hence the idea of using music and incorporating some humor was born,” Clark said.
Prominent clergy in the UCC, including the Rev. Alice Hunt (President of Chicago Theological Seminary), the Rev. Cameron Trimble (Co-director of the Center for Progressive Renewal), the Rev. Davida Crabtree (former UCC Conference Minister in Connecticut) and the Rev. Jim Antal (UCC Conference Minister in Massachusetts), will make costumed cameo appearances in scenes raising important ethical issues.
“We are using some popular songs to illustrate or underscore important ethical issues,” Clark said. “For example, the musical will explore issues of sexual ethics using songs such as ‘If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right’ (a 1972 song by Luther Ingram) and financial ethics using songs such as ‘Mercedes Benz’ (Janis Joplin’s 1970 track).”
The UCC Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization (MESA) team, led by the Rev. Holly Millershank, supported the production, with Millershank and the Rev. Elizabeth Dilley, UCC minister for ministers in local churches, managing the stage and appearing in the performance.
AM21, which was previously known as Search and Call until 2012, brings conference and denominational staff together to raise questions and to seek common solutions to best support authorized ministers and Committees on Ministry in the UCC.
This year’s event centers on preparation for authorized ministry, preparation for ministerial transition, and the preparations needed for robust Committee on Ministry work.
“Authorizing Ministry in the 21st Century was the perfect place to debut the presentation, given the importance of the issues and that it is a gathering of leadership throughout the conferences of the UCC,” Clark said.
This isn’t the first UCC theatrical production by Clark, who wrote and produced “Amistad: The Trial,” a dramatic and costumed presentation of the roles UCC forebears played in the historic event. That production was featured at General Synod 2007 in Hartford.
As for future productions, Clark said his office “will offer other theater-style productions [based on] how the spirit may move us to address significant issues of our time.”
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