Incoming Conference Minister aims to bring energy, passion to Wisconsin churches
Encouraged by his exceptional promise as minister, leader, and colleague, the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ called one of its own, the Rev. Franz S. Rigert, to serve as the next conference minister.
Rigert, born and raised in Wisconsin, officially begins his called term on Jan. 1, 2015, but he’s already at work. In recent weeks, Rigert has traveled across the state, meeting UCC ministers and lay people from congregations in all associations, and sharing his vision for the future.
“My vision for the role of conference minister is primarily pastoral—to be a servant leader who connects relationally and spiritually with our clergy colleagues and lay leaders,” Rigert said. “As ‘minister unto ministers,’ I aim to lift up the hope of the Gospel for our congregations and to lead with joyful energy and passionate faith.”
Rigert also believes it is a “misnomer” that today’s culture doesn’t have time for church. “The UCC is perfectly positioned to welcome those who seek a relevant faith—one that speaks to their minds and tugs at their hearts,” he said.
The nearly-unanimous choice to lead the conference, Rigert was elected at a special meeting in Wisconsin Rapids in November. He brings a mix of pastoral, spiritual, and relational skills to his new ministry, and has a strong record of service and accomplishment in the parish and in wider-church and ecumenical settings.
His education could have taken him to the courtroom, but he was called to the pulpit. Rigert studied pre-law and religion at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1989. Declining the chance to attend the University of Wisconsin Law School, he went to Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., and was ordained in 1992.
Rigert served as associate minister at Kingwood United Methodist Church in Buffalo Grove, Ill., until a call in 1995 to serve Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Grafton, Wis. While at Pilgrim, Rigert led 25 domestic and international mission trips, and helped grow the church from 300 to 740 active members.
Steve Hirby, chair of the Wisconsin Conference Board of Directors, summarized the excitement of the conference to work with Rigert in the coming years.
“Franz has just the right combination of gifts, experience, and vision to bring now, as the Conference and its churches seek to move faithfully and with vitality into God’s future. All of us on the board look forward to working with him as we strive to lead the Wisconsin Conference, its churches, and its people towards that ‘new thing’ that God is calling us to.”
Hirby said that as the conference looks toward the future, “we have faith that our Stillpeaking God is at work in the deep, overwhelming forces that are now reshaping our culture, society, and spirituality, including the church itself. We trust that whatever changes God is bringing into our midst in these times, the local church will be at the heart of it. So the work of the Conference in supporting congregations through working with and for their pastors and lay leaders is paramount.”
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