Pandemic helped prompt Conference minister’s calling

The Rev. Lillian Daniel is the new Conference minister of the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ.

She started work July 1, bringing extensive experience as a local church pastor, author, preacher and teacher.

The Rev. Lillian Daniel

She has been a minister to four UCC congregations — most recently First Congregational UCC, Dubuque, Iowa, where she was senior pastor from 2016 to 2022.

Daniel said the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in her interest in Conference ministry. It revealed, in new ways, the struggles of local churches and their clergy — and the importance of wider-church connections.

Prompted by pandemic

“I’ve always loved being a local church pastor and I never imagined being a Conference minister, until the pandemic,” she said. COVID-19 hit just after she joined the Committee on Ministry of the UCC’s Eastern Iowa Association. “Our committee continued, online and on the phone, reaching out to clergy, and I got a different window into the work of Conference staff.

“Being a pastor during COVID was a nightmare. We were all called upon to learn skills that had nothing to do with our call to ministry. We spent hours in meetings making plans for things that didn’t happen, and then we spent hours coming up with new plans. I have never worked harder and to less effect. 

“But COVID hit all our churches and pastors differently. In my own case, we already had the technology in place. There were other churches that had early access to public health information, and there were plenty of clergy with better ideas than the ones I was coming up with.

“Looking back, there was so much more we could have done together had we known how long this would last. But none of us was psychic and I like to think we all learned lessons. In the midst of that taxing and exhausting experience, I saw the possibilities of connection and the importance of relationships for both clergy and churches, moving forward.”

Books, pastorates

Daniel was a founding member of the Stillspeaking Writers’ Group, source of the UCC’s popular Daily Devotional and other resources. Her books include “Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To,” “When ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Is Not Enough,” “Tell It Like It Is: Reclaiming the Practice of Testimony” and “This Odd and Wondrous Calling.”

She has also served as:

She teaches UCC history and polity at Chicago Theological Seminary, where she is also on the Board of Trustees, and has taught preaching at three other seminaries. She holds degrees from Bryn Mawr College (1988), Yale Divinity School (1993) and Hartford International University for Religion and Peace (2004). She was ordained in 1993.

‘Connector,’ ‘celebrator’

Daniel has already begun making the rounds of Michigan’s 135 UCC congregations.

“The part of this new ministry in Michigan I am most called to,” she said, “is to be a pastor to pastors, a connector to congregations and a celebrator of the Holy Spirit that knits us together, whether we know it or not.”

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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