It was with great hope and profound gratitude that the Center for Progressive Renewal was launched this year. The urgent need to renew the Progressive Church prompted us to begin work even before the organization had been formed officially. We often have described this year as building a plane while flying it at the speed of sound. Nevertheless, the results have been exciting, and we are well on our way to building a lasting organization that will make the national impact needed to renew the Progressive Church.
This past year, the Center for Progressive Renewal (CPR) team assembled an unprecedented portfolio of leadership and church development resources that includes:
A proven process for assessing, recruiting, training and coaching church leaders, with more than 3,500 people engaged in the process.
A team of the nation’s best leadership and church development consultants, coaches and trainers dedicated to working with conferences and congregations across all denominations.
An online learning center offering seminary course work, workshops and more than two dozen webinars.
An innovative business management and executive skills program to equip church leaders with critical business skills.
A national database of more than 4,000 prospective church leaders representing more than 20 denominations.
The fourth annual New Church Leadership Institute, offering training to a record-breaking audience of church planters and renewal specialists.
In 2010, we established a solid foundation by developing the infrastructure, systems and programming needed to effectively recruit, train and coach church leaders and teaching them the skills to plant and renew churches. As we prepare for 2011, we will build on this foundation by expanding nationally, partnering with seminaries and universities, and continuing to develop innovative ways to train and equip church leaders.
This has been an amazing year. The work has been rewarding, challenging and, at times, overwhelming. With a great, diverse and gifted board and staff, we are excited about what we will be able to do.
Thank you for the privilege to do this ministry. DOWNLOAD Full PDF Now!
New Church Leadership Institute refuels think tank of new, revitalizing churches
Written by Jeff Woodard August 31, 2010
The Rev. Carol Vaccariello clearly appreciated the validation she received in sharing her perspective at the New Church Leadership Institute 2010 conference Aug. 9-13 in Decatur, Ga.
“Not one person looked at me as if I were crazy,” says Vaccariello, ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and an advocate of creating a bridge among Western, Eastern and indigenous spiritual traditions.
“The Institute provides a safe, energized think tank and the experiential opportunities that can easily be transported home,” says Vaccariello. “Since I pastor both a revitalizing church and mentor a new church start, there is always more to learn.”
The event was presented by the UCC-supported Center for Progressive Renewal (CPR) and focused on the "seven secrets" of vital, progressive, transformational church leadership.
“We are re-imagining the church; this is not just for new-church leaders," says the Rev. Cameron Trimble, the center’s CEO and executive director who has led the event the past three years.
Vaccariello says she was heartened to learn that the new church start she mentors is not the only contemplative gathering around – and she’s already anticipating next year’s meeting. “Thanks to Cameron and (the Rev.) Michael Piazza and the whole team that made this the powerful experience that it was,” says Vaccariello. “I look forward to more.”
The seven secrets, as presented at the conference, are defined as: 1) assets - beginning where you are; 2) vision – seeing where you are going; 3) mission – turning the church inside out; 4) communication – from identity formation to market saturation; 5) connection – creating transformational community; 6) "adMinistryation" – managing for mission; and 7) transformational worship – the heartbeat of a vital and vibrant church.
Attendees recited a conference-concluding covenant that reads: “I have answered the call of God to strengthen and build up the progressive and inclusive Church in America. I will join the effort to reclaim Christianity as a faith of extravagant grace, radical inclusion, relentless compassion and fierce peace and justice.”
The covenant includes a vow for those committed to do so to partner with the CPR in praying for the renewal of the Progressive Church; raising voices as witnesses for the inclusive Church; contributing energy and resources to the work of renewal; and continuing to learn and grow as church leaders.
Keynote speakers represented the UCC, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Episcopal Church, the Alliance of Baptists and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Among them were Doug Pagitt, "a major speaker, mover and thinker," says Trimble. Pagitt is founder of Solomon's Porch, a holistic mission-based Christian community in Minneapolis.
Other speakers included the Rev. Yvette Flunder, senior pastor of City of Refuge UCC in San Francisco; the Stephen L. Sterner, executive minister for the UCC's Local Church Ministries; Doug Pagett, author and founder of Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis, Minn,; the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, UCC communication director; the Rev. Dwight D. Andrews, senior minister of First Congregational UCC in Atlanta; the Rev. Da Vita D. McCallister of the UCC's Connecticut Conference; and Lisa DePaz, the CPR's director of Hispanic ministry.
The date for the 2011 conference is Aug. 2-5; the site has not yet been determined.
Renewal and reinvention UCC president Geoffrey Black
by Amy Frykholm with Christian Century August 10, 2010
Geoffrey Black has completed his first year as president of the United Church of Christ at a time when the UCC has been emphasizing youth and technology as well as theology and social justice. Like many mainline denominations, the UCC's membership has continued to decline in numbers.
Who have been your models in ministry?
I grew up in Philadelphia in a working-class family whose religious life revolved around a progressive Baptist church. The pastor of that church was E. Luther Cunningham. He was the first African American to serve as the civil service commissioner, and he was important in integrating the city's workforce in the 1950s.
Cunningham went to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he was a classmate of Kwame Nkrumahundefinedthe founder of the nation of Ghana. When Ghana became an independent nation in 1957, our pastor went there for the celebration. That was very exciting for our church, and the experience has shaped my international sensibility. The first time I left the country, I went straight to Ghana. I learned that ministry was more than preaching on Sundayundefinedit was about engagement in the life of the whole community. It was about justice.
How do you interpret the falling membership numbers in the UCC and other mainline Protestant churches?
The Protestant mainline and the UCC are going through a period of rediscovering what makes us committed to and enthusiastic about the gospel. We have to dig deeper. We cannot rely on the props of the past. America is changing, and we have lost the language that conveys the centrality and compelling message of Christian faith. We have to find a new language that speaks to the realities that human beings are facing.
How should denominations adapt?
More than ever we need voices of reason and deep spirituality. The voices of intolerance and hatred are loud. We need to articulate an alternative. For example, immigrants are going to be the focus of a lot of hostility. We are going to need to find a way to rebuild American society with immigrants as an integral part. There is an innate need for our voices. The racial divide in American Protestantism between historically black, Hispanic and white churches needs to dissolve. We need to find strength in the partnerships. In the midst of the decline, these are crucial things that we can be aboutundefinedand that may or may not lead to growth.
What in particular does the UCC need to do?
I was a conference minister for the UCC in New York. The entire industrial north has seen population shifts because of the demise of industry. That is a factor in the decline in the UCC's numbers. That's where all of our churches were, and the people aren't there anymore. We need to accept that reality and ask, where are the people now? Our task is to catch up with them and try again to reach out to them with the gospel. It is an increasingly secular environment, so it is not the same task it was a hundred years ago.
I was just talking with a colleague who is working on starting a new church. She said, "We've decided not to build the community around worship as a primary element. Not that we are not going to do worship or be worshipful, but we've decided that the way to engage people might be through service and dialogue."
She talked about how the church members had engaged in a service project and then had worship and reflection at the end of the day. They had volunteers who had come out of desire to do service. Those people were bowled over and very much interested in the worship aspect, but they never would have responded to an invitation to come to a worship service.
In the Protestant mainline, we've not been attentive to a creative approach to evangelism. To a lot of people, that's the e-word. If you say evangelism, manipulative forms of proselytizing come to mind. And that negative sort of evangelism still goes on. People shy away from it. But we have to find ways of sharing the gospel.
The UCC recently decided to make an effort to start new churches. How did that come about?
We have launched an ecumenical, nonprofit parachurch organization to work on starting and revitalizing churches. It is called the Center for Progressive Renewal. We've decided to do this work ecumenically with the Disciples of Christ, the Episcopal Church and other partners.
We've come to the conclusion that we need to start progressive churchesundefinedchurches that are open and affirming, churches that are about radical inclusivityundefinedmulticultural, multiracial, justice-oriented churches that don't have reservations about being those things. Our identity is crystallizing as a progressive denomination that tries to embrace a spectrum of theological views. That may sound like a contradiction, but this is Christianity: we think it is important to stay in covenantal relationships with the whole Christian family, whose members may be in different places theologically. But the things we share in common are far more important.
What strikes you, looking back, about the controversy involving two members of the UCC: Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama?
The tragedy of that situation was that one person's relationship with his faith communion was a victim of an intensely racialized environment. We were hurt and disappointed that Barack Obama was forced to make the choice [to break with his church and his pastor]. I don't fault him for that; it just lifts up the tragedy of how damaging racism can be. The only goal [of Obama's critics] was to stop him from being president. The people who wanted to stop him went to extreme ends. Our relationship with one of our members was a casualty of that reality. Believe me, Barack Obama would be welcome home any time.
Several denominations are now divided over the issue of ordaining gays and lesbians. How would you regard the UCC's experience of having affirmed the place of gays in ministry?
It can be a painful ordeal to reach the conclusion that God is calling you to be an inclusive denomination, to include all people and to make that "all" mean people who have sexual orientations that have been shunned by the Christian tradition. But there is great joy, excitement and fulfillment in doing that. People should be able to experience the blessing of community and have the sense that they are loved by God. Pain occurs when there are brothers and sisters who cannot accept that. But doing what you discern is God willundefinedthere is no greater fulfillment than that.
Ironically, there is no Christian community without gay and lesbian people. As long as you are reaching out, preaching the gospel and baptizing people, people are going to grow up in the church, and some of them are going to discover that they are gay or lesbian. This is not something that can ever be expunged from a dynamic community.
Those who are seeking closure on this issue are in our prayers. It is not over for us, because the issue of inclusivity ultimately becomes a congregational issue. While at the national level and in many of our conferences the issue seems to be decided, there are still many local churches that struggle with it. But at least there is some clarity and direction for those who remain a part of the UCC.
Amy Frykholm is special correspondent for the Christian Century.
Energized and Enlivened at New Church Leadership Institute
Susan Mitchell presenting at NCLI
CTUCC at NCLI
The Connecticut Conference sent a healthy delegation to the New Church Leadership Institute, including staff members the Rev. Michael Ciba, the Rev. Da Vita McCallister (one of the NCLI presenters), and the Rev. Sarah Verasco. About seven CTUCC pastors attended, including Joyce O. Crutchfield.
Conference staff participation was funded in part by a gift from Hugh and Kate McLean and an award from the Brown Grant Committee.
by Joyce O. Crutchfield
ATLANTA, GA (09/21/2010) -- In my youth, one of the first assignments upon returning to school was to write about “What I did on my summer vacation.” The experiences varied greatly from nothing much to excellent adventures. Well, in that vein, I would like to share my most excellent summer adventure.
It all began in May at one of the best CT UCC Annual Meetings I’ve attended. Although the presenters, Rev. Steve Sterner and Rev. Cameron Trimble, provided some sobering statistics about the current trends in churches, they also provided inspiration AND a chance to learn new skills. God is yet again creating something new and exciting.
The Center for Progressive Renewal (CPR) is a fairly new ministry that is focused on enlivening and creating, with God, responsive and progressive leaders for our churches so that churches may be God’s hands, feet, and hearts in the world providing extravagant welcome to all people. Their mission is “to renew Progressive Christianity by training new entrepreneurial leaders, supporting the birth of new liberal/progressive congregations, and by renewing and strengthening existing progressive churches.” Part of the resuscitation process began in May with the basic question, “Why are you a Christian?”
I was startled by this question. I realized how easy it is to lose contact with the very real, vibrant presence of God in busyness of life – even life in the church. Renewal was waiting for me in Georgia at CPR’s New Church Leadership Institute in August.
From the moment I arrived I felt hope, I saw joy, I heard laughter and prayers. There was energy and aliveness throughout the week. The participants came from places far and near. This community itself was a beautiful mosaic of the great diversity of God’s creation. People came in faith to learn, grow, and worship. All were ministers of God’s love, whether ordained or not. The Holy Spirit stirred our hearts and opened our minds to possibilities.
This was a time of collaboration of wisdom, spirit, and skills among the speakers and participants. The speakers passionately shared their faith, knowledge and experiences. They generously gave of their time and talents. As participants, we were encouraged to think creatively, challenge our assumptions and trust in our still speaking God. We were all reminded that ordained ministers are NOT the only ministers of the church. Clergy and laity are in this together and need one other to be our best selves. Embracing all people helps us to grow into the people God has created us all to be – God’s children.
We concluded the Institute by adopting this Covenant of Hope:
“I have answered the call of God to strengthen and build up the progressive and inclusive Church in America. I will join the effort to reclaim Christianity as a faith of: extravagant grace, radical inclusion, relentless compassion and fierce peace and justice. In partnership with the Center for Progressive Renewal I promise to: pray for the renewal of the Progressive Church, raise my voice as a witness for the inclusive Church, contribute my energy and resources to the work of renewal, continue to study, learn and grow as a leader in the Progressive Church, and make a difference! Because I am a center for progressive renewal in the Church of Jesus Christ.”
The Rev. Joyce O. Crutchfield is transitional pastor at Center Congregational Church UCC in Manchester.
The mission of The Center for Progressive Renewal is to renew Christianity by training new entrepreneurial leaders, supporting the birth of new congregations, and by renewing and strengthening existing churches.