2015 Annual Report – Committee on Ministry

-from Rev. Sara Morse, Committee on Ministry, Chair

The Committee on Ministry (COM) is authorized by the Conference Bylaws (Article VII, Section: Standing Committees – Committee on Ministry) to exercise nurture and oversight of the authorized ministers of the Conference. Its work is guided by the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry, the Conference By-laws, and policies developed by the COM and approved by the Conference Board of Directors. The COM has also integrated the Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers, a document created in response to the Ministry Issues Pronouncement of General Synod 25, which sought to expand UCC definitions of learnedness and leadership in authorized ministry and to emphasize excellence in ministerial formation.

The COM meets quarterly to review the work of subcommittees, adopt policies and procedures, and consider various matters pertaining to authorized ministers. The full committee assigns some tasks – notably Ordination Examinations with the DPAM subcommittee taking the lead and formal Fitness Reviews – to panels of 7-10 COM members. Representatives of the COM and Conference staff participate in Ecclesiastical Councils, ordinations, installations, and services of farewell throughout the year.

The Executive Committee of the COM, consisting of the Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Subcommittee Chairs, and Board of Directors Liaison, along with our Conference Minister and Associate Conference Ministers, meets monthly when the full COM does not meet. The Executive Committee plans COM meetings and the annual retreat, reviews subcommittee work, and considers policy matters to propose to the full COM.

Our annual retreat was held in July at Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo, MN.  This retreat allows the COM to team build and to engage ministry issues in depth. The theme, Strangers No More: Making Connections and Being in Covenant was an in depth look at the covenantal nature of our work and how that intersects with the Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers of the United Church of Christ. Our keynote was Rev. Kathy Clark, Minister for Members in Discernment of the Ministry Excellence, Support and Authorization (MESA) Team through Local Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ.

Much of the work of the COM is accomplished through three subcommittees that meet at their discretion, though typically on a monthly basis:  Covenant, Discernment and Preparation for Authorized Ministry (DPAM), and Authorized Ministry (SAM).

The Covenant Subcommittee (Barry Hanke and Marsha Benshoof, Co -Chairs) conducts Periodic Support Consultations (PSC) with authorized clergy in the Minnesota conference. The PSC is a conversation/discussion between a member of the subcommittee and the minister, which provide an opportunity for the minister to reflect and to be supported. During the calendar year 2014, the subcommittee completed 38 PSCs. The subcommittee had some membership changes and also spent some time orienting new members. This subcommittee meets quarterly as a group and had productive discussions together including how The Marks of Faithful and Effective Ministers could be utilized during a PSC, sharing concerns that ministers wanted to bring to the Committee on Ministry or the conference, and how to handle any perceived problems that might be encountered. The PSC is a rewarding and special conversation and all subcommittee members are grateful to be able to participate in this process. During the next year, the hope is to accomplish many PSCs in order to provide support to all ministers in the conference.

The Discernment and Preparation for Authorized Ministry (DPAM) subcommittee (Rev. Dr. Richard Eick, chair) is responsible for conducting interviews for those who desire to be a “member in discernment” of the Minnesota Conference. DPAM also works with Privilege of Call and Commissioned Ministry. DPAM is responsible for conducting Ordination interviews as well as review annual reports of the status of members in discernment. DPAM is responsible for determining if a call is ordainable. This last year of work, DPAM made a special effort to integrate the Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers of the UCC into the work with Members in Discernment (MID). DPAM began distributing Journaling the Journey: Engaging the Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers of the UCC for Personal Discernment and Professional Growth to all new Members in Discernment, their pastors and advisors. It is strongly suggested that these individuals use Journaling the Journey as one important basis for their regular conversations. Second, the MID assessment forms were reconfigured, using the Marks as key markers for the yearly evaluation process. Finally, Lynne Krehbiel-Breneman chaired a Task Force which addressed the matter of DPAM’s Workload.  DPAM began considering the Task Force’s recommendations at the April 18th meeting.  Some recommendations were quickly and unanimously affirmed.  Others warrant further study and conversation.  Implementing the recommendations that are accepted will take some time and disciplined attention during the 2015-2016 Work Year.

The Subcommittee of Authorized Ministry (SAM) (Rev. Desiree Gold, chair) receives transfers of standing into the MN Conference for UCC clergy who have been called to ministries in Minnesota or have chosen to retire here, as well as applications by pastors from other denominations seeking Dual Standing or Ministerial Partner Standing. SAM is also responsible for licensing lay ministers who serve a number of local churches. SAM works with clergy seeking endorsement as hospital, nursing home, or military chaplains, including periodic reviews for accrediting agencies that require updates for these endorsements. This subcommittee also reviews the authorization of all ministers in the MN Conference, with particular attention to individuals who are no longer engaged in ministry requiring ordained ministerial standing or whose whereabouts are not known to the MN Conference. SAM also monitors the boundaries training to ensure that authorized ministers are compliant in taking this course once every three years.

I want to express deep gratitude to all of the members of this committee, our Conference Minister, Shari Prestemon, our Associate Conference Ministers, Rick Wagner and Steve Boorsma, and our Conference Support Staff, Marita Karlisch for their gifts and insights to COM.