May 17, 2024

As you read this, I am returning from the second annual, four-day, Michigan Conference Clergy Preaching retreat at beautiful Tower Hill Camp on the dunes of Lake Michigan. For this event all clergy participants received generous scholarships to reduce the cost of the event, through a Brown grant but mostly by what your local churches give through the “Basic Support” designation of “Our Church’s Wider Mission.” (OCWM)

There are many ways to support the denomination within OCWM. Through special envelope offerings such as the Christmas Fund (which the Michigan Conference sends straight to the national Pension Board to help retired clergy in need) or One Great Hour of Sharing (that we send straight to the National Setting of the UCC for their ministry of disaster relief.) But it is your “Basic Support” gift within OCWM that stays most local and allows us to equip, encourage and connect the churches and clergy of the Michigan Conference, responding to real needs, right here and right now.

One way we do that is attending to the care of our clergy. This is the focus of Rev. Cheryl Burke, our Associate Conference Minister of Clergy Care and Formation. Under her leadership, in the last two months we have launched thirteen new caring clergy groups. Six of these groups are led by committed clergy volunteers, the rest are led by staff. No pastor should have to do this work alone, nor should our Committees on Ministry. This is why Cheryl is meeting with them all, to connect us in best practices and community.

The care of congregations is the focus for Rev. Lawrence Richardson, our Associate Conference Minister of Church Vitality and Transitions. He meets with governing boards about strategy, vision and revitalization. When churches are seeking a pastor, he helps recruit candidates and connect our search committees to the person that God has already called. This week, he co-led the preaching retreat with me. Where does that fall in his job description? Under the category of “We’re all part of a team and we help each other out.”

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