A persistent concern for ministers serving in settings beyond the local church is the deep disconnection and isolation many feel from their Associations and Conferences. Meetings take place on days and times when they have shifts to cover. Communities of Practice are developed for local church pastors or retired clergy, but rarely for them. Often, their home churches don’t recognize their ministries.
Committees on Ministry are in a unique position to provide such care for ministers serving in specialized settings. Upcoming Conference and Association meetings may provide an opportunity to recognize ministers serving in specialized settings. The Central Association of the Southern California-Nevada Conference recently recognized all of its ministers serving in settings other than local churches with the following litany, which is shared with permission and encouragement to adapt to your context:
LITANY FOR MINISTERS IN SPECIALIZED SETTINGS
One: We walk the lonely halls of hospitals, extended care facilities, of rest homes and hospices saying silent prayers and making progress reports on the spiritual health of patients and residents.
Many: We miss you in our places of worship on Sunday morning. We long to see you in the pew, hear your concerns and offer our support.
One: We often go unnoticed, keeping to ourselves, quietly praying with families and patients as they are so vulnerable. We go into hospital rooms and patient’s homes announcing ourselves never really sure of what the reception will be: anger, skepticism, hurt, pain.
Many: We wonder where you are when we do not see you at the Christmas Eve service, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or the many special celebrations of the Church. And yet we know that God has placed you into the special places in people’s lives.
One: Some of us serve the men and women who wear our nation’s cloth. Whether Reserve, National Guard or Active Duty, since the events of 9/11 all of us are called and stretched as we minister to separated families, those suffering from PTS and Moral Injury.
Many: While we miss you we also know that you do a ministry that many of us cannot comprehend or even begin to understand. Your gifts and talents are different, they are unique.
One: Often we have such a short time with a person and we find them at a point between life and death, a pivotal point in their lives not knowing where to reach out, not knowing how they will be received or if they will be judged.
Many: You may not know it, we may not have said it enough, we are blessed to have each and everyone of you, in the variety of ways that you serve in and on behalf of the United Church of Christ, to minister in our name and for our sake.
One: We cherish your good thoughts, your prayers and your encouragement as we stretch the ministry of Jesus Christ beyond the four walls of our sanctuaries into places known and unknown.
Gracious and eternal One, we give you thanks for the ministry you showed us in Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, and the many ways he reached out to those who needed him: the leper, the woman at the well, the man born blind, the orphan children and so many others. We give you thanks for the unique expressions of your Good News in the world. Remind each of us that we are yours and that we are each bearers of that Good News in our own and unmatched ways. This day and every day, strengthen us to support and encourage one another in our ministry to your creations in the many wonderful and extraordinary forms and shapes that it may take. Amen.
INTRODUCE MINISTERS IN SPECIALIZED SETTINGS OF MINISTRY:
O most holy and gracious one, we give you thanks daily for the opportunity to bring your Good News to the creation and your people. We are so thankful that you are still speaking and that you speak to many of us in new ways, ways that move us to the halls of hospitals, the bedsides of the ill, to men and women in uniform, to yoga studios and groups seeking spiritual direction. You are finding us in difficult counseling sessions, extended care facilities and guiding people in career decisions. You are encouraging us to think in new and spirited ways, ways that are unique and different and yet still bringing kinfolk to you. Guide us, strengthen us and inspire us as we work towards creating a just world for all. May our efforts be blessed by your Son, and your ever powerful spirit as you open our eyes and our ears to the changing landscape of ministry as we embrace those called to all settings where your words of hope and joy are shared. In your Holy Name we pray, amen.
Does your Association have ministers serving as chaplains in hospitals, hospices, schools, universities, seminaries, the military, or other places in the wider church? How do you show your care for them and for their important ministry? How might they receive this sort of recognition?
Other COM News:
The MESA Team is dedicated to supporting your vital COM work through regular trainings offered online.
- On September 20 from 7:00 – 8:30pm ET, explore the Ministry of COMs.
- On October 23 from 7:00 – 8:30pm ET, best practices for Departure Ethics will be shared.
- On October 30 from 7:00 – 8:30pm ET, learn about the process of Ecclesiastical Councils.
Each training is hosted by a member of the MESA Team, with space on Zoom for up to 50 participants. No registration is required; click on the title of the training you want to attend at the time it is scheduled to start.
Blessings and gratitude,
The Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization Team
Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ