The United Church of Christ Faith Education, Innovation and Formation (Faith INFO) Team has put out a call across the denomination to find individuals committed to discerning the form and function of the local Church in the 21st century.
The Justice and Local Church Ministries team is tasked with reimagining the UCC Manual on Church (MOC) to better serve congregations ministering in the world today. Faith INFO is now assembling a working group that can spend the next few years examining the ways the manual needs to be reworked and rewritten. Local Church Ministries has determined the MOC, last revised in 2004, needs to better address the changing landscapes of church and denominational life that impact many aspects of congregations, including ways that churches are formed, reformed, and live in covenant with one another.
"Faith INFO is about serving Local Congregations," said the Rev. Chris Davies, team leader. The final document will be created in service to local congregations. For example, it could be used to help define covenants. Or, what are marks of faithful local congregations? It may be a policy manual on how to do church.
"My work is to listen and affirm what the denomination needs," she continued. "These are all possibilities. We'll be listening to what the working group wants to do and making it happen."
Right now, Davies' team is focused on identifying individuals to form the working group that will lead the denomination-wide conversation on the Manual on Church. Faith INFO seeks those with a sense of call, who can listen for God's guidance, and are enthusiastic about studying UCC understandings of ecclesiology (theological understanding of the nature and structure of church) and the function of the local church. The aim—to bless the denomination with an insightful resource for local churches of today and of tomorrow.
"The challenge will be finding people who are inspired and committed to the life of the UCC, in particular to addressing to covenant and policy," Davies said. "Those involved will have to be willing to commit to a working group that could continue up to five years and last through many gatherings."
Faith INFO has issued an invitation across the wider church, seeking nominations for the working group, looking for individuals who represent diverse facets of people and positions in the United Church of Christ; including but not limited to: lay people, clergy, church planters, conference staff, affiliated ministries and beyond.
The team has sent out a call to particular constituency groups and written to every single local congregation in the denomination.
All UCC members are welcome to submit nominations, including self-nominations. In addition to contact information, the team is interested in each nominee's UCC experience and the skills and perspectives that nominee would bring to the working group. Two references are also requested.
Nominations are open now through July 1, 2019. One can apply online here.
While building the working group is critical, Davies is committed to ensuring that all interested parties in the UCC can participate in the group's conversation. So a church-wide survey is also part of the process of reimagining the MOC.
"The working group has to determine the MOC scope and function. Just as important to note, a survey will come out in early June, before General Synod, so individuals across the life of the church can participate in this information gathering process," Davies said. "We want all those who are interested to be able to add input into the scope and function of this Manual on Church for the working group."
Members of the working group will be asked to make a four-year commitment to this project, including an estimated 5–7 in-person gathering across those four years.