September 2019

This month’s COMma offers a slightly different perspective – a personal story from Rev. Stephen Boyd, our Denominational Endorser and Minister for Chaplains and Ministers in Specialized Settings:

I attended the Annual Gathering of the Southern California Nevada Conference this past June and was reminded of something that I have heard on many of my trips throughout the UCC. I was sitting in on a small group discussion of ministers in specialized settings, mostly chaplains, who shared that they felt forgotten by their Associations and the Conference. This was not the first time that I had heard this, nor do I think that it will be the last. However, as part of the MESA Team considerable work has been done to work more closely with our ministers doing ministry beyond the Local Church.

It is easy for our chaplains, pastoral counselors, ministers working in non-profits, and the many other settings of ministry that we find today to get lost and overlooked. Many of our ministers in specialized settings work the weekends and are unable to attend Sunday worship at their Local Church of membership. Often, the work-week has been incredibly taxing and the minister needs the weekend to recharge in order to effectively minister in the week ahead. Additionally, Associations and Conferences often complain that they do not see these ministers at Association meeting and Conference Annual Gatherings. And when I challenge the ministers with this, they will share that more often than not the programs at those meetings focus more on the ministers in Local Churches and they feel that the content does not really apply to them.

Some time ago these conversations were alive and well in the Central Association of the Southern California Nevada Conference. At one point, there was an opportunity to share about this concern and out of that discussion the Executive Committee of the Association decided that the next Spring Meeting would be dedicated to the ministers in specialized settings. The Executive Committee sent out a questionnaire to those serving in specialized settings asking if they would be willing to share a short testimonial about their ministry. The Chair received between 15-17 responses and asked that they prepare about a 5 minute presentation about their ministry setting.

While the Chair of the Executive Committee connected with the ministers, I wrote a worship service and liturgy to celebrate these ministries. The Executive Committee decided that there would be a short business meeting and that this celebration would be the program for that Meeting. It was quite a success. Not only did the specialized ministers feel like they were included and celebrated in the life of the Association, but it was an education for the Association members who had no idea of the variety of settings where our clergy minister. The ceremony ended with gathering all who had given testimony in the front of the sanctuary and those attending laying hands on them as we closed in prayer. It was quite a moving tribute and recognition of important ministries that are being done in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ.

A liturgy celebrating a four-way covenant with a minister serving in a specialized ministry setting can be found here.


Questions for Reflection:
How do your COMs work in partnership with your ministers serving in specialized settings? How might you integrate their needs for connection and continuing education into the overall goals of your committee’s work? To whom in these ministries does your committee need to reach out?


Other COM News:
The MESA Team is hard at work finalizing Section 3 Resources for the Manual on Ministry. Each month, we will use this newsletter to inform you of uploaded resources available at the Manual on Ministry page. Access these materials from the website as needed; over time they will be updated periodically, with most recent revisions noted at the bottom of the document. Current resources have a blue stained glass banner and are easily identified as Section 3 Resources. Recent uploads include:

Section 2: 1 Members in Discernment

  • MID Advisor Best Practices
  • Sample Outlines of Portfolio Presentations and Ordination Papers

Section 2: 3 Ordained Ministerial Standing

  • Leave of Absence Application Form
  • Sample LOA Covenant
  • Exempt Standing Application Form
  • Sample Exempt Standing Covenant

Section 2: 5 Calls, Covenants, and Endorsements

  • Guidelines for Discerning an Ordainable Call
  • 3-Way Covenant Template
  • Four-Way Covenant Template
  • Understanding Ordination Vs. Endorsement
  • Endorsement Guidelines for Federal Government Chaplaincy
  • Guidelines for Transfer of Endorsement – Federal Government Chaplains
  • Application for Continued Ecclesiastical Endorsement
  • Guidelines for Discerning an Authorizable Call
  • Liturgy in Celebration of a Four-Way Covenant
  • Template for Letter of Endorsement, ACPE
  • Endorsement Guidelines for Chaplain Candidate Program
  • Application for Ecclesiastical Endorsement for Professional Organizations
  • Application for Continued Ecclesiastical Endorsement for Professional Organizations

Section 2: 6 Accountability and Support

  • How to Report Clergy Ethics Violations
  • Fitness Review Reporting Form
  • Sample Agenda for Fitness Review Adjudication Meetings


The MESA Team is dedicated to supporting your vital COM work through regular trainings offered online. Please check this site regularly for updates. MESA will host several sessions introducing the new Manual on Ministry to the Church in 2019. This year, we are requiring advance registration, so click the link at least one hour in advance of the training (but as early as desired). Here are some upcoming trainings:
Below are the upcoming offerings:

  • Please note that the training for Situational Support Consultations has been rescheduled to early 2020.
  • October 1, 7:00 – 9:00pm ET, Fitness Review/Response Team Training with Elizabeth Dilley. This training provides an overview of the Fitness Review Process, with an emphasis on the role of the Response Team.
  • October 23, 7:00 – 8:30pm ET, Ecclesiastical Councils with Stephen Boyd. This webinar addresses the appropriate timing, purpose, and scope of an Ecclesiastical Council. One of the final steps before ministerial authorization, an Ecclesiastical Council is an opportunity for an Association to meet and communally discern a Member in Discernment’s readiness for Ordination.
Categories: Column COMma

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