Our Common Life…

As I write this, I am sitting in the Cleveland airport waiting for a plane and I am reminded once again how grateful I am for your having given me the opportunity to do this work.

I was in Cleveland to attend a meeting of the Board of Directors of Local Church Ministries, one of the Covenanted Ministries of the United Church of Christ. Talk about ironic. For days before I left Sioux City, I lived in near mortal dread of having to make the trip to Cleveland. I turned over every stone I could find looking for an excuse, any excuse, not to have to go to yet another church meeting. And yet once I found myself in Cleveland, not five minutes into the meeting, I was worshipping with my fellow board members and the national staff in the spare beauty of the extraordinary Amistad Chapel, genuinely thankful for the opportunity to be where I was. I was captured by a spirit of wonder and amazement at the breadth and scope of the ministry that Local Church Ministries does.

Sure, there were moments of absolutely mind-numbing boredom. There were times when I want to pull my hair out in frustration. There were times when I was absolutely certain the only thing worse than a church committee meeting was when a church committee is trying to run a large corporation. We spent bewildering amounts of time arguing passionately over the most picayune of matters: whether some word in a motion should be capitalized or not or whether a comma should really be a semicolon.

But enough complaining. Somehow, amid all the boring moments and the picayune arguments, real Christ-centered, faithful ministry actually got done. And this is a celebration of that ministry.  In this era of ever-tightening budgets and dwindling amounts of OCWM support, we were where to buy avodart online able to do some wonderful things. For example, we were able to:

  1. Fund a program to provide counselling and assistance to United Church of Crhist military chaplains who have served on active duty in combat zones and who suffer the same trauma-based problems as the men and women they serve with.
  2. Provide assistance to 14 new or struggling congregations from throughout the UCC.
  3. Fund a scholarship program for students at historically black colleges affiliated with the UCC.
  4. Complete the first stage of the Faith Practices curriculum project.
  5. Provide assistance for the development of a program to help first-call pastors from throughout the UCC grow and develop into their ministry.

There was more, for sure, but these are just some of the things I can call readily to mind as I wait for my plane to be called.

The point of this piece is not to be a complete catalog of what we did during the two days we met. The minutes and my formal report to the Conference Board of Directors will take care of that. Rather the point is this. It’s easy for us to wonder just what it is that the wider church does for us, to question what happens to those OCWM dollars that we contribute. Why do we do it? What do we get out of it? These are not easy questions to answer in the abstract. Sometimes, you just have to see the wider ministry of the United Church of Christ it in action to be reminded of why me make the sacrifices that we do.

I wish everyone could have the opportunity I have had to serve on a national church board. If they had, they could see what I have seen. Despite its messiness, despite the frustations and the seemingly pointless arguments, real ministry somehow gets done. No matter what we may sometimes think, the Holy Spirit is present here.

Tony Stoik, Association Conference Minister/Western Iowa

2 Responses to Our Common Life…

  1. Dorothy Noer says:

    Thanks for your work and your travels.

  2. Kenneth E. Briggs Jr. says:

    Tony… From my point of view I was always excited to head to a meeting with a national church board. I was the first if not only uniformed military chaplain to be elected to a national board. I served for I think 9 years on the Board of Homeland Ministries. I was a part of the vote to purchase the building that houses our national offices in Cleveland. I was excited when we voted to build the hotel next to that office building and build our meeting spaces within that structure. That saved the church money by having our own meeting and housing space. We paid off the hotel far faster then people thought we would. Out of those meetings I have been a part of many of our UCC ministries around the United States and been blessed by them. I am always proud to say I am a member of the United Church of Christ. I was also a part of the work for our New Century Hymnal which I enjoy more each year. There are so many things about the richness of our ministry for Jesus Christ in the United Church of Christ that I will never be anything but excited to be a part of it. Thank you for your service.

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