At our January 23 congregational meeting, we will celebrate the completion by our Religious Education Coordinator, Santi Matthews, of all the requirements to officially become an “authorized minister” of the UCC. In addition to a year of coursework, paper writing, etc., the program includes a discernment process under the supervision of a Committee on Ministry (clergy people from UCC’s Southern Conference). Having completed all these requirements means that Santi is now eligible to be ordained!
In short, this means she is eligible to be declared an official member of the UCC clergy, able to lead the church’s worship services, sacraments and rites (communion, baptism, weddings, memorials etc.). To be ordained as an authorized minister, a person must 1. complete the UCC’s program requirements, and then 2. be offered an official Call Agreement (a “covenanted” employee contract) from a congregation within the UCC denomination.
What does this mean for Santi?
According to the UCC, “an ordained minister is authorized by an Association of the United Church of Christ to preach and teach the gospel, to administer the sacraments and rites of the church, and to exercise pastoral care and leadership. An ordained minister is a representative minister of the United Church of Christ and is in covenant with the local church where she holds UCC membership, the calling body where she is engaged in ministry, and the Association acting on behalf of the United Church of Christ.”
You could say that ordination is a covenant between God, the congregation, and the person seeking ordination. Santi has felt God’s call on her life, has committed to following that call by way of completing the technical steps, and is now awaiting a church that will affirm her as ordained clergy. She has completed the first part of the two-part process to become ordained. The second part requires a local church to “call her” to a position.
What does this mean for the CUCC Congregation?
As our Pastor, I enjoy working alongside Santi and am very supportive of her spiritual journey and her call to ordained ministry. From the beginning, Santi has been clear about her desire to stay at CUCC, where she has served our congregation with passion, creativity, and love for the past 14 years. CUCC will need to decide if we, as a congregation, want to ordain her to serve our church as a minister (her title would be worked out later.) To ordain her, we would offer her a Call Agreement, which would authorize her to perform ministerial duties. This change requires a ⅔ vote at a congregational meeting.
On January 23 we will have a congregational meeting on Zoom at 12:15pm. At that meeting, we will discuss in detail the significance of Santi’s eligibility for ordination and her evolving role at CUCC. While we will not vote on her call at this meeting, we will explore the possibility and have ample time for questions and prayer.
Despite the on-going pandemic, CUCC is on a trajectory of growth. We had eleven new members join in 2021 and we raised more pledges last year than the year before as a result of the hard work put forth by the stewardship committee. We have also grown spiritually and relationally during the pandemic and we bring those important lessons with us into the future.
Council understands that as we emerge from the pandemic with a new sense of what’s possible, it’s more important than ever to start visioning and planning. Now is the time to set goals and gain clarity on who God is calling us to be and how God is calling us to serve.
As we prayerfully consider Santi’s continued ministry at our church, we are thankful that God is raising up leaders among us, at a time when we need more compassionate, competent, caring, and courageous leaders.
God’s Spirit is with you.