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One recent wintry weekend, I decided to visit a random church in my neighborhood, and just for a change of pace, since I spend so much time visiting our Michigan UCC churches, I thought I’d go to another denomination.

I tried to forget that I was a pastor and professional church visitor, so I looked for a church the way normal people do – online, at the last minute, haphazardly and on a day with bad weather. I plugged three nearby churches into google maps and drove toward the one that looked to be starting soon but hadn’t started yet.

I circled around looking for parking, and then I circled around again, and by the time I finally parked somewhere semi-legal, my frustration was high, as I slipped on icy sidewalks toward the entrance. I’ll admit it. I was now late and coming in hot.

I know enough about historic church buildings to know that the front door they built a hundred years ago is almost never going to be the front door today, so I went to a modern office door near a staff parking area, but it was locked, and on the door was a paper sign that said something unhelpful like, “Please enter through the north narthex courtyard office staff side main entrance” and included a map of the church’s architectural blueprint with a few illegible squiggles. So I slipped along the sidewalk to a side door, also locked, and finally up the unsalted stairs to the grand gothic door, amazed that the main entrance was actually going to be the main entrance but of course it wasn’t. Pasted to that door was the same mysterious sign I had seen on all the other doors, so I circled back to door number one, which was at least made of glass and knocked on the window, and finally reluctantly pressed what might be a doorbell, that I prayed didn’t ring straight to the pulpit.

During the month of January, Conference Staff asked Michigan Conference Pastors to share priorities and strategies for how the Conference can help to equip, encourage, empower, and connect them in ministry.

The most common areas of interest were:

LGBTQIA+ (42%)

Multi-generational Ministry (36%)

Worship Resources (34%)

Racial Consciousness/Antiracism (34%)

Centering Prayer/Spiritual Practices (34%)

Part Time Ministry (32%)

Chaplaincy and Alternative Building Use were also mentioned frequently.

As email was the most common preferred method of communication (73%), we will continue to share information in the Newsletter via email, and reach out directly as more specific opportunities are created for Pastoral Support in 2024.

 

“Over the last year and a half of visiting our churches as your Conference Minister, I am convinced that our 2024 priority must be the care of our clergy.”

Our Conference Ministerial Team is seeking your help.  Pastors, please complete the 2024 Pastor Support Survey to let us know what you need.

There is space to share your wisdom, experience, and add things that we have not even thought to ask.

Even if you don’t have any unmet needs or interest in support from the Conference,  having that data that is valuable information for us too.

This quick survey is a judgment free zone.

Over the last year and a half of visiting local UCC churches in Michigan the Conference Ministerial Staff Team is convinced that our 2024 priority must be the care of our pastors. We are reorganizing our staff so that our new Associate Conference Minister Lawrence Richardson can recruit clergy for Michigan churches through Search and Call, and our long term Associate Conference Minister Cheryl Burke will focus her wisdom and experience in the area of caring for the ministers and MIDs we already have.  We are starting this process by asking pastors what they need through this short survey?

 

Church Yearbook Instructions 2024

 

This year the National Setting is offering several incentives for churches that submit both their annual Yearbook report and answer
the supplemental research questions.  (Supplemental research questions can be found on  pages 9-16 of the 2024 Church Yearbook Instructions)

 

Every church that responds to both will be entered into a random drawing for
several prizes.

 

If your church is selected we will send an email to the email address noted in the Data Hub.

Please be sure to respond to us if you receive an email.

The following prizes will be awarded:
• $100 UCC Resources Gift Card – 5 gift cards will be awarded
• One year free subscription to Access UCC (online Yearbook and Directory) – 10 subscriptions will be
awarded
• 2023 Yearbook and Directory – 10 books will be awarded
• Statistical Profile – 15 will be awarded

 

 

 

 

 

Remember that we only send this out once a month, so there is lots of important information, AND you have plenty of time to look at it before the next one comes.
In additions to Advent Connecting and Twelve Days of Christmas Resources, this month we also share some tips for PSLF (Public Service Loan Forgiveness)
Make sure you are planning ahead for January by signing up for our Jan 3 Leadership Lunch and the Jan 24 Orientation for Financial Leaders — both which will offer valuable tips and strategies to face your church finances faithfully in 2024
At our first in-person Michigan Conference Annual Meeting in years, we beat our pre-pandemic registrations and literally packed the place. In what will heretofore be referred to in church history as the “Michigan Miracle,” we ended the business session ten minutes early.

Getting to preach at worship, hearing everybody sing, and eating lunch in a noisy social hall are all blessings that I do not take for granted. I’m so grateful to the Planning Team, Conference Staff, Michigan Conference UCC Board of Directors, and our hosts at Plymouth United Church of Christ, but most of all I’m grateful to God that we didn’t have to do another Annual Meeting sitting at a screen.

Of course, screens have their place when it comes to connectivity and catching up. On our website, you’ll find my sermon from the Annual Meeting and the recording of our Keynote. On our YouTube channel, you can view last month’s lively Leadership Lunch with Bishop Will Willimon whose take on Advent preaching was both holy and hilarious. I hope these recorded resources inspire you to register for the live ones. Our December 6 Zoom at lunch time will feature Still Speaking Daily Devotional author Quinn Caldwell. His Advent devotional book All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas made him my first choice to boost the spirits of our clergy and church members during this Advent Season.

Before we get to December, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the November holiday that precedes it. Yes, I am well aware that most nations around the globe do not acknowledge the occasion. Even in our country, it is a day that is not celebrated by all people, a day with a complex history, a day that some increasingly choose to ignore and others denounce outright. But the fact is November 18 is still my birthday and I won’t condemn anyone who celebrates it with a gift to the Friends of the Michigan Conference.

In all seriousness, my heart is filled with prayers of thanksgiving for you all. In a culture of crass commercialism, consumerism, colonialism, and conflict, our brave Michigan UCC churches stand up and stand out as a lighthouse to the spiritually ship-wrecked.

Recordings of the in-person 2023 Annual Meeting can be watched from the playlist on the Michigan Conference YouTube Channel

Please share your feedback about the 2023 Annual Meeting HERE

Our first in-person Annual Meeting since 2019 was a SUCCESS!!!

151 registered participants, plus children, youth, and volunteers were present at the in-person Annual Meeting of the Michigan Conference UCC.

Fun and fellowship took place on Friday Night 10/27 at the Drury Inn & Suites where the agenda was simply to BE with one another.

War always hurts the poor. War is not the great democratizer. It is the great demolisher.

The Bible records and describes it all. There is no great violence in which economic forces do not wield their generational power to fortify their own palaces first.

Yes, there are countries that claim that all their people share and experience the same war-carrying burden. But in the USA, our wise elders remember that long ago, in the Vietnam War, our draft was dodge-able, by Republicans and Democrats alike. Who told me that? It was my father, Leon Daniel, who was a journalist, an international war correspondent, and a marine who received a Purple Heart.

Who else told me that war hurts the poor? I heard it from Israelis and Palestinians in 2017 when last I visited that land, to study and to learn. Today I hear it from faithful UCC veterans in the Midwest, who want a better and more imaginative scholarship program for their own grandchildren – one that will not leave the deep scars that their middle-aged elders carry on their heavy war-torn shoulders and psyches.

Individuals hurt and cry out in pain. Crowds hurt and cry out in pain. Some voices are heard louder than others. From Biblical times to now, the powerful party-planners use shinier wrapping paper, and better technology. Yet somehow, the subversive words of Jesus slipped through the centuries, from the agony of the cross to the mystery of a heavenly banquet where friends and enemies will have an equal seat at the table.

War always hurts the people who have the least to lose, but who among us has anything we can afford to lose when it comes to human life?

So, consider this: War always hurts someone else more than it hurts you.

If you are still alive, you know this to be true.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace.

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