PEN announces pilot project for middle judicatory church leaders

Nov 01, 2013 | Pastoral Excellence Network

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The Pastoral Excellence Network promotes and equips peer learning among clergy in every setting of the church’s life. On October 8 and 9, 2013, new Regional and Associate Conference Ministers serving across the country in the United Church of Christ gathered for a 24-hour retreat in the midst of autumn colors at River’s Edge, a retreat center of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Cleveland, to launch Communities of Practice. These small groups, comprised of three or four new Associate Conference Ministers (ACM) and a more seasoned ACM, who serves as a group facilitator, will meet monthly for a minimum of two years using an online meeting platform as well as gathering face to face once a year for an overnight retreat.

During this first 24-hour retreat, groups immersed themselves in drafting the covenant that will guide their life together. Each member brought to opening worship a symbol representing their region of the country and another symbol expressing their hope and aspiration for their experience in a Community of Practice. In their small groups, ACMs shared stories with one another about their journey in faith and ministry and about the current setting in which they serve. In our final session, group members reflected together on a challenge in ministry and a joy, drawing on a poem as inspiration.

Think like a tree

Soak up the sun
Affirm life's magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.

by Karen I. Shragg

This pilot project is a partnership of MESA, the office of Ministerial Excellence, Support, and Accountability in the national setting of the United Church of Christ, and the Pastoral Excellence Network. It represents the beginning of an intentional focus on supporting and strengthening Regional Ministers across the country.

Our hope is that eventually every clergyperson at every level of the church’s life will be surrounded by the support and guidance they need to stand tall, grow strong, stay deeply rooted, feel refreshed, be graceful, and emerge renewed in faith and ministry.

The poem, “Think like a tree,” is used by permission of the author, Karen I. Shragg. Her latest book of poems is The Wolf Within: Poems to Awaken and Inspire in Times Like These.

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