Connecting Beyond the Local Church

CrabtreeDavida Foy Crabtree completes her service as the Interim Conference Minister for the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ later this month.  As one who has benefited from her leadership, I share her parting prayer (the prayer originally circulated in the e-Celebrate newsletter dated September 3, 2014):

Behold, God, your Conference, the United Church of Christ in Florida! Filled with life and hope, struggling at times to see the future, but faithful and strong, these Your people are a gift to one another. I pray for them that they would discover more about each other, ways to strengthen one another, a shared vision and shared mission for faithful witness and ministry.

Holy One, You have given them every gift under the sun. Among them are carpenters, film makers, lawyers, bloggers, technicians and teachers, pastors and chaplains, CPAs and environmentalists, faculty, students and visionaries. If only they knew each other, what a ministry of transformation they would have in this beautiful yet troubled state. In gratitude I lift up Your Conference staff and elected leaders and all their giftedness and dedication. I give you thanks for each church, each authorized minister, every member in discernment, each and every member of all these churches, for together they make up the UCC part of the Body of Christ in this place. Grant them a disciplined curiosity, a wild focus, a daring to dream of the meaning of their life together!

O Good and Gracious God, as the Florida Conference awaits your Spirit’s anointing of the one who will be their new leader, I give you thanks for the privilege of serving among them, for I have found them a joy. Their churches of every size have given me hope, even when they face into trouble, for their leaders orient them toward faithfulness and toward You. I have loved this children’s choir, and that Big Plan, these dreams of gardens and those determinations to reach new people, and so much more. I will leave here, O loving God, with thankfulness for the opportunity to use my gifts to work alongside both You and them, building a foundation for the future. Now give them daring, help them challenge one another into a new way of being, and teach them a deep hospitality for their new leader who will minister to this Conference in new ways for new days. In the name of Christ whose Body we are! Amen.

So What?

Davida’s prayer encourages me to make an effort to connect with more “carpenters, film makers, lawyers, bloggers, technicians and teachers, pastors and chaplains, CPAs and environmentalists, faculty, students and visionaries” (and more!) who are a part of the Florida Conference of the UCC.  I trust that such an adventure will benefit those involved while strengthening the Conference.

Set aside some time this week to think about the group/network/denomination/fellowship of churches your local congregation participates in, focusing on how you might deepen your involvement with those beyond your local congregation.  This exercise in intentional connectionalism has the potential to benefit all who follow the Way of Jesus, and adds value whether or not you are denominational, post-denominational, or non-denominational.

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