Grace and peace, dear saints of the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences.

I pray that whether it is so powerful that you reach for sunglasses or so faint that you squint to seek it — the glorious light and hope of Easter abide with you.

Executive Conference Minister Brigit Stevens has named the specialized portion of my new ministry portfolio “curator of culture of call.” I’ll be listening and gathering stories and paying attention to how the followers of Jesus in the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences of the United Church of Christ are experiencing themselves as called by God to particular ways of being and doing.

As you used your own voice to say yes to your baptismal vows at confirmation or as you joined your congregation, your “yes” was a yes to a call. We are each and all called to use the gifts God has given us for ministry in the service of others.

How do we experience our calls? How do we talk about them? How do we put them in motion? How do we feed and fuel them? How do we strengthen and stretch them? My ministry of listening/gathering/attending in the congregations of the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences will be a ministry of presence in congregations, partnering with you in paying powerful attention to each person’s call. 

I’ll also be listening, gathering, and attending to particular calls. As the entire Body of Christ changes shape, as congregations change shape, more and more ministers serving congregations will be bi-vocational, earning some of their living in another way. Pastors will more often be discovered close at hand, a short distance away or even already within the congregation. Congregations with fewer members may seek bi-vocational ministry for the first time in a long while. Congregations just beginning are most often served by bi-vocational ministers, too. I’m looking forward to listening to and gathering stories from and paying attention to persons who might be wondering about this particular kind of “yes!”

I’ll also be bringing this listening/gathering/attention ministry to our congregations as members look both around and within for the persons who would be ready to step up and serve in the absence of an authorized minister. Who might preach? Who might offer spiritual care? Who might teach? 

I’ll also bring this listening/gathering/attending ministry to congregations as members look and listen around and within for calls to ordained ministry. Our geographic area in the UCC is not lavishly served by our national pastoral search process. We certainly recruit diligently. And we need to be not only on the look-out, but also on the look-in! I look forward to collaborating with our Committees on Ministry as I cheer on the holy work of looking in.

I’ll watch for your invitations and conversation-starters in my inbox. I look forward to serving you in the holy work of listening, gathering, and paying attention.