Are you called to ministry?

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When Christians talk about a “call,” we mean that God is calling us—in our mind and heart—to take an action or make a choice with our lives. The Latin word for “call” — vocatio — is the root of a word often used to describe a call that leads us into a way of life: a “vocation.” A call to ministry includes the community’s recognition of and calling forth gifts for ministry. One of the distinguishing aspects of ministry in the United Church of Christ is the affirmation that ministerial leadership is always defined by an ongoing sacred covenant among the minister, the congregation and the denomination; thus ministry is more communal than individual, and the call to authorized ministry is always discerned with others.

A great theologian from the early days of the United Church of Christ, H. Richard Niebuhr, identified four aspects of a vocation:
1. The call to be a Christian is the beginning of any call to ministry, including yours.
2. The secret call between God and you, when you feel an inward invitation to become a minister.
3. The providential call when you recognize that God has given you specific gifts–intellectual, spiritual, psychological, and moral–that God wants you to use in ministry.
4. The ecclesiastical call (from the Greek word ekklesios, meaning church or assembly) when the community affirms your call, helps you prepare for ministry, and then ordains or commissions you for that ministry.

On Sunday, February 28th 2016, St. John’s United Church of Christ will receive a special offering that benefits our three regional seminaries Chicago, Eden and United (CUE). The CUE Regional Seminary Support Program brings together over 2,000 United Church of Christ churches in mid-America, Local Church Ministries, and Chicago, United, and Eden Theological Seminaries, our three United Church of Christ seminaries in this region.
Our mission is to:
1. Strengthen the relationship between our churches and our seminaries.
2. Further the mission and work of these seminaries.
3. Provide financial support for our seminaries.

We live in challenging times and we recognize the vital impact of our seminaries as they:
1. Prepare leaders for church and society.
2. Increase theological thought and scholarship.
3. Provide multiple resources to the local churches.

Current seminary statistics show that:
1. Tuition and scholarships currently pay for about 32% of the total costs of seminary education each year.
2. The CUE Seminary Support Program raised about $547,000 in 2014, covering another 7% of these costs.

One Booth for All

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I cast my ballot today and I encourage you to do the same. I have my fair share of experience in politics and policy-making. In college I served as a staffer to a first-term member of the Bundestag who later went on to becoming Germany’s Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development. I ran campaigns and chaired political organizations in different states. Since I was naturalized as an American citizen in 2014 this is my first go-around in primaries of a presidential election cycle in this country.

As a pastor I cannot tell you who to vote for. Like everybody else I have strong opinions about topics and persons. The political arena is competitive. Ideas and personalities are supposed to wash out the best through the process of competition. As a Christian I recognize that Pontius Pilate hit the nail on the head when he asked: “What is wisdom?” – There is not the one “Christian answer” or the best “Christian candidate”. There is not the one wisdom!

In the church we have millionaires and homeless. We have persons paying social security tax and persons receiving social security benefits. We have immigrants and life-long residents. We have liberals and conservatives. We have gun rights supporters and gun control supporters. We have women who had abortions and persons who oppose that option. We are a reflection of society.

The body of Christ is not a political party and it must not act like one. There is no Christian party that is better than another. Christians support and serve in different parties. And members of different parties live together in the church. When I walked into the county annex to vote this morning the first question they asked was: “What party?” – After my response I proceeded to one of the booths. And guess what: Those booths are the same for everybody. There is only one booth for all. Nobody is better here than anybody else.

Church and voting booth have a lot in common after all. God calls us to live responsibly the life we have been given. Part of that responsibility is to take part in the political process. Let your voice be heard and make your vote count.

SOUPER BOWL of Caring

Please join us this Sunday, February 14 (Valentine’s Day) for our annual SOUPER Bowl of Caring immediately following our morning worship service.  The Women’s Guild will provide a hot soup lunch and members are asked to bring a dessert to share.  The live and silent auction will take place after the soup lunch in the Parish Hall.  All proceeds go directly to our local Helping Hands.

 

Reminder that February is one of our two months that we gather non-perishable food items for Helping Hands.  A wooden crate is located in the church Narthex for your donations.

souper bowl of caring

 

South Central Conference interim minister stepping down

When Douglas Anders retired as South Central Conference Minister last summer, the Rev. Anna Kreisle Humble was found to hold the office for the interim. In the United Church of Christ, Interim Ministry is the ministry provided to a local church or other ministry setting during a pastoral vacancy. A conference is much like a local church in times of transition. It needs to work through certain issues. Some of the tasks during the interim time may include:
– Coming to Terms with History
– Discovering a New Identity
– Allowing Needed Leadership Change
– Reaffirming Connections with the United Church of Christ
– Commitment to New Directions in Ministry

The Rev. Anna Kreisle Humble, interim conference minister of the South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ (Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi) has submitted the following letter of resignation:

“Dearest Friends of the South Central Conference,
With the heaviest of heart, I write this letter to tender my resignation, effective March 5, 2016. After much prayer and conversation with my husband, we have come the conclusion that my role has become too burdensome for me to finish out the final months of my contract. We have been grieved by the amount of hostility I have experienced since coming into my position. Still, I am at peace knowing that I worked tirelessly to put the wellbeing of children and the entire conference before my own professional gain. This ethic forced me to surface systemic ills that have made me a target, but my conscience, my pastoral covenant of confidentiality, and my faith simply would not allow me to do otherwise. I pray you understand.

I humbly ask for your forgiveness for any disappointment this may cause, and for any work that I have left undone. I want to sincerely thank all of those who believed in me and have shown me extraordinary kindnesses over the past seven months, and for the continued support of our Board of Directors. I know hiring a young woman took a leap of faith for many of you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your faith in me. I mourn that I was not able to stay and use my gifts, but I look forward to stepping away to spend more time being a mother to my two precious children.

I ask that you please join me in prayer for our South Central Conference Board of Directors in this next chapter, who has so impressed me at our retreat this January with their integrity, their work ethic, and their deep desire to do what is best for you and Christ’s Church. I also ask you to pray for all the pastors, congregations, and saints that make up our South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ. I wish God’s peace upon each one of you.

Peace be with you,

Rev. Anna Kreisle Humble
Interim Conference Minister
South Central Conference
United Church of Christ”

UCC and Boy Scouts re-establish a formal relationship

The United Church of Christ and the Boy Scouts of America re-established a formal relationship on Oct. 5 2015 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding local UCC congregations chartering Scout troops.

Signed by Michael B. Surbaugh, BSA chief scout executive, and the Rev. John C. Dorhauer, UCC general minister and president, the document affirms the recently-adopted BSA resolution that removed the restriction on gay adult leaders and employees, and formally states that UCC congregations chartering BSA units can conduct scouting programs according to their own values of inclusion and extravagant welcome for all.

“As a former Boy Scout growing up, and one committed to the open and affirming ministry of the United Church of Christ, it brought me a great deal of pride and satisfaction to be able to sign my name to that memorandum of understanding,” said Dorhauer. “I am grateful to Mike Schuenemeyer for the hard work that he did over the last few years to bring this historic document to us, to help the Boy Scouts understand how important this is.”

The memorandum follows several months of renewed efforts by a UCC working group, headed by Schuenemeyer –– UCC executive for health and wholeness advocacy –– and the Boy Scouts of America to re-establish a partnership. The negotiations began in earnest following the July 2015 BSA policy change.

In the July policy change, Robert M. Gates, national president of the BSA, said, “Everyone associated with scouting agrees to follow national policies and comply with BSA’s behavioral standards; no youth may be denied membership to our organization on the basis of sexual orientation; and no council can deny a charter to a unit that is following the beliefs of its religious chartering organization.”

The UCC had pulled back from any formal ties and had withdrawn its letter of endorsement in 2001 because of BSA policies of excluding boys and men based on sexual orientation. The BSA changed its policy regarding youth in 2013.

“This is significant moment in the relationship between the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA),” said Schuenemeyer. “With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, we are entering a new time of mutual cooperation and collaboration as a direct result of the policy changes the BSA has initiated, opening their doors to full, inclusive participation of youth and adults no matter their sexual orientation.”

The MOU states, in part, that “the United Church of Christ and the Boy Scouts of America will work cooperatively with each other within the policies and regulations of each organization to establish and nurture scouting units as an expression of the nurture and outreach of the ministry of the United Church of Christ and its member congregations so that boys, young adults, and adults may grow in their relationships with God, develop into responsible citizens, serve the needs of others, and develop personal fitness to achieve their greatest potential.”

“Since its founding more than 100 years ago, scouting has been important to many congregations in United Church of Christ. Today UCC congregations sponsor more than 1,000 units of scouting with nearly 28,000 participants,” Schuenemeyer said. “Our commitments to justice and the inclusion of all people in the life of the church continue to call us to engage in actions that promote a just and peaceful world that affirms the gifts and ministry of each individual. That is why we welcome this opportunity to engage with colleagues in Scouting, the UCC and other faith traditions to foster inclusive Scouting programs.”
Written by Barb Powell

Read the text of the Memorandum of Understanding.