Church News You Can Use

When it comes to church giving, I love financial transparency and I assume you do too. If you don’t, feel free to skip this monthly missive, but not before reading the next sentence. If I haven’t said it to you in person at your church yet, let me say it here in writing:

Thank you for your church’s financial support of “Our Church’s Wider Mission,” and in particular, for what we call your “Basic Support,” which funds our work in the Michigan Conference, as well as the National Setting.

Those Basic Support OCWM dollars function for us in the same way that pledges do in a congregation or any other organization. They fund our ministry to recruit the best pastors (in the midst of a historic clergy shortage), to nurture people with a call to ministry (through scholarships and vocational encouragement amidst the hardest religious landscape I can remember), to care for the pastors we already have (many of whom are preaching at more than one church, or working other demanding jobs), and to support our amazing volunteer lay leaders with practical programs that address the specific questions I hear you asking when I visit your churches.

It is your Basic Support that allows our staff to do all they do; whether it is a scheduled Sunday visit from me as your Conference Minister, or a late night call to an Associate Conference Minister who jumps in her car to provide care and a last minute sermon to a church whose pastor has passed away. This past year, I was honored to revive the Michigan Conference practice of making clergy Emergency Assistance grants for medical expenses and other crises, and also to tend to the creative spirits of our pastors with a three-day Preaching Retreat this past May.  READ MORE 

If our Conference ministry has touched you in any way, if there is anything we can do better, or if you have more questions about where your UCC gifts are going, just let me know. As I begin my second year as your Conference Minister, I feel blessed to equip, empower, encourage and connect our churches as together we serve God and neighbor. Thank you for your Basic Support in the past, and for prayerfully considering what you will share in the future.

Peace and Blessings,

Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel

Michigan Conference Minister

Michigan Conference Annual Meeting

October 28, 2023

9:00am – 3:00pm

Plymouth UCC,

4010 Kalamazoo Ave SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49508

We are so excited to join together for our 2023 Annual Meeting in-person!

Looking forward to seeing you as we come together for worship with Conference Minister Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel, fellowship over fantastic food, and our keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Claire Bamberg, who will be sharing her insights on how vitality is linked to the life of our congregations.

For more details about content and overnight accommodations READ MORE

Full email offers many Fall Programming opportunities across the Conference

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I recall when I started in ministry, my mentors were fond of saying “There is no such thing as part time ministry.” They assumed most pastors would and should work full time in one church back in the ancient days when phones were still attached to walls and had not yet learned how to be cameras.

How things have changed. As a pastor, and now as a Conference Minister, I see the shift to part time ministry speeding up. As churches get smaller, so do resources. Part time ministry is nothing new, but I know it feels new to the churches and clergy that are moving into it.

In the worst cases, clergy hours are cut but church expectations remain the same. The “dispensable hours” never seem to fall on Sundays when pastors are still expected to show up to preach in an ever-shortening work week that assumes a serious sermon will still sprout straight from the head of Zeus or, God help us, from an A.I. chat bot. Obviously that is not the ideal and we can do better.

This is why I am so excited to bring the nation’s leading expert on part time ministry to the Michigan Conference for a special event on September 30.

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  • Copy of the Book and lunch are included with in-person registration
  • FREE for Part Time clergy
  • online participation also available
  • recording available for 30 days for all registered participants to share with their local churches
  • $25 for 3 or more attendees from your local church – Bring a TEAM of your lay leaders!!

REGISTER NOW for September 30 from 10:00am – 2:00pm

Read our August update

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The General Synod of our denomination is a fiery and feisty family reunion on steroids without the fried chicken. We skip the picnic in order to briefly study, hotly debate and hastily vote on the most controversial ethical issues of the day, all while reenacting deep seeded generational family drama during public worship on a giant stage, at enormous expense, which is why we are only allowed to do it every other year. In fact, this July, the Synod voted (early, often and on malfunctioning voting machines) to extend the time between national gatherings to three years. The main argument was cost, but I would lift up exhaustion. And yet, I can’t wait to attend the next one.

The schedule runs from 6:30 AM until 9:30 PM, in a huge convention center chosen for its ability to guarantee the worst possible weather (sweltering heat, unbreathable air and thunderstorm bursts are all encouraged to apply) over the July 4 holiday weekend when most people would not want to attend a church convention, which serves as the final purity test of the spiritual worthiness of the quirky and committed delegates who say “Here I am, Lord, send me!” These 700 delegates get to sit in a security-patrolled area in the middle of the arena, all roped inside, while thousands of synod visitors and staff get to run around free and unsupervised outside the pen, observing the behavior and appearance of the delegates like livestock at a 4 H convention. “Look, that bull over at microphone #1. He is snorting and getting testy!” says one visitor to another. “But those hogs have been sleeping straight through plenary, probably dehydrated and malnourished, judging by all the candy wrappers.” 

Just to be clear, these examples did not come from the Michigan Conference, where our table consisted of sparkly rainbow unicorns who took detailed notes, pranced to their potty breaks in a timely manner and never missed a vote. Anonymous sources report that the Michigan Conference’s daily table decorations, (featuring our lakes, local flowers, Vernor’s ginger ale and cat toys), our late night Synod Socials and our 6:30 AM caucuses attended by Santa Clause caused a breakout of the sin of envy throughout the entire denomination.  Read More


Read our July update

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June 29, 2023

Greetings beloved colleagues,

I am writing to announce that our Annual Meeting of the Michigan Conference United Church of Christ will be held on Saturday, October 28the 2023 at Plymouth United Church of Christ in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It will be a perfect venue for us to connect in person and celebrate the covenant that makes us stronger together.

A block of rooms will be available at the Drury Inn nearby. If you are planning on arriving Friday and staying over at the Drury, a casual mixer will be held there Friday evening. It will be an enjoyable way to reconnect with other colleagues before the conference.

We’re confident that this year’s conference will be inspiring to you, especially as we continue to emerge from the tiring and often lingering effects of Covid. Many of us are still trying to gain our bearings as to where God is leading us in these challenging times of change.

To assist us in refining our direction, our keynote speaker Claire Bamberg will be sharing her insights on how vitality is linked to the life of our congregations. Claire is an ordained minister, licensed mental health professional, certified mediator, professional certified coach, a systems and developmental theory expert, and an engaging speaker.    READ MORE

I hope you will join us!
In God’s enlivening love,

Rev. Dr. Diane Baker

Moderator, Michigan Conference UCC

Senior Pastor, Bethel UCC, Waterford

One year ago, the moving truck delivered my belongings to Grand Rapids, where we accidentally bought a historic home. Thus began the unpacking and preparation for my new role as Michigan Conference Minister. That first summer, everything in my new garden was a surprise, as I reaped the benefits of gardeners who came before me, both at home and in my ministry. I survived my first Michigan winter, which felt longer than it probably was, since snow followed me to every church I visited. Eventually, I was rewarded with my first Michigan Spring, which was a spectacular way to spend a weekend. 

What a difference a year makes. The horrors of moving feel like a distant memory, unless you look at my basement, where I have hidden a few boxes I have yet to unpack. Still, I consider myself to be properly moved in, because these same boxes remained unpacked at my old house. It feels good to be settled. 

Today, on the first day of my second summer in my Michigan garden, I have the thrill of seeing shoots of green growth from seeds that I may have planted. Although my neighbor informs me that some of these may be weeds, at least they are now my weeds, in the gloriously green landscape I now call my home. Next week, when the national church gathers for General Synod in Indianapolis, I will be proud to invite others, as you all invited me, to consider a call to serve in the Michigan Conference, where the grass really is greener.

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Read our June update

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