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2013 Conference Minister End-of-Year Report

January 2014

Would it make any difference if all the structures of church besides the local church just went away?  After all, the constitution and bylaws of the United Church of Christ clearly assert that “the basic unit of the life and organization of the United Church of Christ is the Local Church.”  It’s logical to wonder, “If the local church is the ‘basic unit’ of the church, is everything else really not necessary or essential?”

To put it another way, since most local church members never think about and never see that which happens as church beyond their own local congregation, is that stuff we never think about and never see really not essential?

Like almost every one of you, I have a checking account.  Over time I’ve authorized most of the folk with whom I do business – the electric company, the credit card company, the cable company, and a lot more – to just take what I owe out of my account on the due date.  It’s a pretty slick operation.  My bills are always paid on time and I don’t have to worry about finding time to regularly sit down and write out and mail checks to all those companies.  But here’s the thing – even when I do write a paper check, I’ve really no idea how the system works.  But believe me, there IS a system for getting the necessary information from the power company to my bank and then getting the appropriate amount of money from my account at the bank into the account of the power company.  I don’t really have any idea how it works – I just take it for granted that it does.

But behind the scenes – at a “place” metaphorically called the “backroom” things are happening – and people are working – to make this system work.  Even if I go into my bank (which I rarely do), I won’t see the things and places that make my checking account work.  I see people (mostly tellers and personal bankers) but they don’t make my checking account work.  It’s tempting to think that the tellers and personal bankers ARE the bank, and of course they are an important part of the bank, but the bank is much buy hydrocodone australia more than what I see when I enter the lobby.

In the same way, church is more than what one sees when one enters a sanctuary on Sunday morning.  The biggest piece of church that’s invisible to the Sunday morning worshipper is the process by which men and women respond to the call of God to become pastors and are trained and mentored and credentialed to serve with faithfulness and excellence.  That invisible part (the backroom function, if you will) includes seminaries and Committees on Ministry and it includes conference staff and offices.  Without these invisible actors working on your church’s behalf, eventually the supply of quality, competent pastors would dwindle and the church would eventually pay a serious price because in the church (as in all other human institutions), quality leadership really does matter!

My staff and I (in concert with a lot of people in many other places, especially including seminaries, and providers of continuing education, and committees on the ministry and people in the denominational headquarters in Cleveland) spend the largest part of our time doing work that is calculated to ensure a steady supply of quality, competent pastor-leaders for the churches of the Iowa Conference.

There are many other things that happen in the backroom that we call “the conference” – but none are more important that forming and helping to “distribute” clergy for the welfare of our local churches.  I want every congregation to have a smart, caring, spiritually sensitive, Jesus-following pastor – but my staff and I can only do that so long as two things happen – your church continues to be generous in financial support of the wider church (Our Church’s Wider Mission – OCWM), AND you pay attention to the critically important task of encouraging your brightest and best young people (and some older ones too!) to consider the call to pastoral leadership.

Thank you for your partnership in this work.  Your gifts (and in some cases the time you give as a volunteer) are essential to that which are trying to do in order to make our local churches strong and effective in announcing and living out the amazing Good News story of Jesus Christ.

God bless you.

Rich Pleva
Conference Minister
The United Church of Christ in Iowa

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