On a single weekend just before Christmas, I had the privilege of being with two of our congregations in the Minnesota Conference.
The first was a very large congregation in the metro area. This church has multiple staff and has nearly completed major improvements to their sizable facility. The atmosphere during my visit to this particular church was charged with excitement and joy as they celebrated huge accomplishments and looked forward to expanded ministry.
The second visit was to a much smaller congregation far from the Twin Cities. Currently conducting a search process for a part-time pastor, they are engaged in deep discernment about the future of their church, where many have worshiped for multiple generations over decades of time. Their love and care for their church shone through, from the beautiful sanctuary adorned with lights and poinsettias to the small group clustered around a table sharing coffee and laughter.
On the surface, these two churches could not have been more different from one another. Their size, their location, their capacity and the nature of their worries are vastly dissimilar. Yet I saw in both ministries a fervent desire to share the Good News and to be Christ’s Church with faithfulness and love. Both of these congregations inspired me and left me profoundly grateful for their ministries.
In the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ we have an amazing diversity of congregations. We are large and small, rural and metropolitan, progressive and conservative. Our pastors are full-time and part-time, ordained and licensed. While some congregations worry about just having enough to pay the electric bill, others enjoy multiple staff members and a seemingly endless store of possibilities.
We are diverse in all these way and more. Yet despite all our differences, we share one extraordinary purpose: to know and grow the extravagant love and mercy of God made real to us in Jesus Christ. This is our common cause. This is our daily mission as Church and disciples. And no matter how large or how small our congregation, each of us has a vital role in this remarkable endeavor.
As a new year begins, I lift prayers for each of our congregations, for those who provide leadership to our vast ministries, and for all you who embody Christ’s gathered Church. May you know just how precious your unique ministry is to this faithful adventure we share. May you experience the sustaining strength of God and the Holy Spirit’s stirring of your imaginations. And may you have full confidence in God’s plan to give you a future brimming with hope.
God bless you, each and all.
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister