by Rev. Racquel Ray,
Assoc. Minister of Congregational Life
Over the past two years, Barrington Congregational Church, UCC has been in the process of discerning the right candidate for the role of settled Associate Minister of Congregational Life. As your newly called said Associate Minister of Congregational Life I explore the question of What is a Minister of Congregational Life anyway?
There are many types of ministers and roles. Theologian, poet, and parson George Herbert (1593-1633) wrote that a pastor is always a person but is only a minister in the context of their congregation and community. It is in the specific place of congregation and community where the pastor has an identity and role (Sheldrade, 2009). There are Associate Pastors of Youth Ministry, Adult Formation, Elder Ministries, Wellness Ministries, and Children’s Ministries. There are Associate Ministers of Worship and Music. There are Associate Ministers of Outreach and Mission and Justice. An Associate Minister for Congregational Life is a minister to the congregation members from birth to grave and to the community wherein they minister.
It is my role to support our Senior Minister, Rev. Dale, in the pastoral roles of Christian work and worship. It is also my role to support and strengthen our connections with our children, youth, and families. I also help develop adult formation and fellowship, visit our homebound members, attend to the dying, and support families through the bereavement process.
Our call letter together says, “The Associate Minister of Congregational Life shall, under the direction of the Senior Minister, be responsible for the full spectrum of ministry for and to the congregation of this church and serve as preacher, teacher, and counselor for the congregation in all aspects of the life of the church. With a focus primarily on the congregational life of the Church, this minister shall be responsible to nurture all members and groups of our community so they may feel embraced by God’s love, welcome in our community, engaged in Christian fellowship, moved to explore their faith, and inspired to do God’s work within our community and out in the world.”
As I have described it, the Associate Minister of Congregational Life translates the vertical vision of the senior minister into the horizontal ministry of the congregation. If Rev. Dale has a vision for the direction of our ministry, he and I collaborate to curate programming, worship, or events to embody that vision. And, because we are a congregational community in covenant, If I have of vision for the direction of our ministry, Rev. Dale and I collaborate in the implementation as well.
How we embody God’s call to our congregation manifests in our ministries. Last week’s Blog from Rev. Dale asked us to boldly envision what ministry we could do. He said, “Think wild. Think crazy. Think big impact.” The results of that listening experiment will bring us new ideas like Wellness Ministries, using our education building for a private Christian K-8 Day School, adding solar panels to the education building to cool the church in the summer, adding electric vehicle charging stations to the commuter parking lot, or weaving our ministries into partnership with local cultural programs in the black community.
My role is to listen to those wild, crazy, big ideas and create the supporting ministries and community connections to try it. Sometimes that means that a ministry idea will not work. Sometimes it means it will not be successful at first but needs more time. And there are times when a wild, crazy, and big idea launches beautifully into its own spiritual blossom (like last year’s Christmas Story Stroll).
An Associate Minister of Congregational Life is a servant leader with a thick skin and a prophetic spirit. They are able to fail without feeling like a failure. They are able to soar without becoming untethered. They are dauntless in energy and ideas. They are anchored by prayer, filled with joy and love for the congregation. They will listen. They will hear. They will help.
So, think wild, crazy, and big ideas. Share them with us. Join us in the Christian work of ministry as we embody the new Ministry of Congregational Life at BCCUCC. We’re all in!!