From the Pastor’s Desk

Greetings to you in the name of Christ,

June is an exciting time in the life of the United Church of Christ. Did you know that on June 25th our denomination will be celebrating its 58th anniversary? June 25, 1957 was the historic day that the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Christian and Congregational Church merged to form the United Church of Christ. The merger came about in the midst of the ecumenical movement, drawing from John 17:21 “that they may all be one”. Each of the four precursor denominations brought their own distinct style and focus to the new denomination, and it is in the variety of gifts that the UCC finds its greatest strength. Of course, for E&R churches, one of the great advantages of the merger was the new autonomy that the Congregational structure offered. Each church has the right to govern itself as it sees fit. But, despite how it is sometimes presented, this doesn’t mean that we get to do whatever we want. The United Church of Christ is an entity that exists through the covenantal relationships of its member congregations.

At this year’s confirmation retreat the youth and adult leaders participated in an activity where about 100 of us sat in a circle and created a giant web made of string, with each of us holding on to the string. Then we had an adult lay down in the center of the web. In unison, we all lifted the strings up, and we were able to lift the person off the ground. But when people began to let their string go slack, dropped it, or it broke, the person began to fall until they eventually were back on the ground. Each of us holding onto those strings represented one of the churches in our denomination. Some of us were bigger, others smaller; some were strong, others of us not so much; but it took each of us pulling our own weight to make it work. When our connections to the others broke or weakened the larger “Church” faltered and fell. It was a really great visual for how our denomination works (or doesn’t). An individual congregation “works” when all of its members are involved, participate and help to do the work of the church. Our Southeast Association (of which we are a part) and the Wisconsin Conference works when all of its member churches work together in the decision making, mission, and ministry. St. John participates in the Association through my work on the Southeast Association Mission Team, through our participation at this year’s annual association meeting in Kewaskum (Thank you Eric & Sue Hillstrom for serving as delegates), and through our financial contributions to the ministry and mission of the Association. We also have the opportunity to participate in the Conference level decision making, mission and ministry by sending delegates to the Annual Meeting (St. John is allowed 2 delegates in addition to the pastor), and our financial contributions to Our Churches Wider Mission (OCWM). From the Annual meeting, individuals are nominated for the opportunity to serve as delegates at the General Synod (our national meeting held every two years) to represent and be the voices for the Wisconsin Conference. All of these points of connection offer us ways to both strengthen and be strengthened by our covenantal partners.

Sometimes, points on that web need encouragement or places are identified where new points on the web are needed. That is when all of the other points need to step up. On June 21st, the Sunday before our denomination’s anniversary we will be collecting a special “Strengthen the Church” offering. Monies collected from this offering are split between the conference and nation levels. These funds support youth ministries and full-time leaders for new churches in parts of the country where the UCC voice has not been heard. As God calls our congregations to be the “church” in new ways, your generosity will plant new churches, awaken new ideas in existing churches and develop the spiritual life in our youth and young adults.

We are part of an amazing thing happening in the world. We are invited to participate in God’s work of justice and righteousness in the world. Let’s remember to answer a resounding YES! to the mission and ministry of God through the work of the Church.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Tara