UCC Members In Discernment gathering offers identity, clarity to future clergy
Some were 60 and 70 years of age and navigating an exciting career change, while others were in their 20s and beginning their first occupation. They are a handful of the denomination’s Members in Discernment (MIDs), who were welcomed to the United Church of Christ national offices in Cleveland to cultivate new relationships with each other and with national staff during a three-day gathering as part of their preparation to lead the church.
“It was a diverse group of folks coming from a variety of backgrounds,” said the Rev. Kathy Clark, UCC minister for members in discernment, Local Church Ministries. “It was a good generationally-mixed group and a diverse group.”
The UCC welcomed about 30 Members in Discernment (MIDs) to this annual gathering, which took place from mid-day Wednesday, March 11, through mid-day Friday, March 13. Most of the attendees were from the Midwest and Central sections of the United States.
“I appreciate that the national offices and the MESA team made themselves accessible to MIDS this week,” said Megan Snell, a participant of the event and member in discernment from the Southern California-Nevada Conference of the UCC. “Each was eager to offer support, hear about MIDs experiences, and facilitate conversations regarding important ministry concerns.”
As it does every year, Local Church Ministries’ staff brings MIDs from different parts of the country together to make connections with each other, the wider church, and with the staff who serve the national setting of the UCC. Last year, the ministry hosted a group of about 50 people from the Eastern Region, though Clark said the gathering might not be geographically based next year.
Said Clark, “God is still calling people who have tremendous talents and experiences. Ministry goes on in exciting new ways under the next leadership of clergy—from hospital, to local church, to community organizing and homeless ministry—grounded in worship and prayer.”
The MIDs met with church officers, took part in scavenger hunt, worshipped together and engaged in conversations about where their journeys might take them.
Among the topics the MIDs were anxious to discuss: Safe spaces and ministry for LGBT and gender issues, re-visioning the church by anticipating the next 40 years, places where church can exist beyond the conventional walls, empowering lay leaders, incorporating art forms in worship as a way of storytelling, and bi-vocational ministry.
“As a part of this year’s planning team [for the gathering], and as an MID myself, I felt blessed to have a time to meet more of my colleagues in ministry, each equipped with different, valuable gifts,” Snell said. “I left Cleveland this afternoon with a renewed sense of denominational identity, clarity of call to ministry, and pride in the values of the UCC.”
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