We’re announcing a new venture for CCIW and the Illinois Conference of the UCC! It will begin in 2019 as a school for commissioned ministers.
Built on a foundation of God’s life-changing love, we offer to feed God’s sheep and God’s shepherds. In these days of rapid change, Christ’s church has new needs for ministerial leadership. We are calling and equipping “home-grown” talent, gifted laity in the congregation. We help them to discern their call to ministry in the context of intentional, sacramental community and help them to gain the ability to become faithful, effective pastors. We are convinced this ministry will change the lives of leaders and of congregations, moving from surviving to thriving.
What will it look like?
We are forming the first group of students, called a cohort. The first experience for each cohort will be a weekend spiritual retreat. The focus of the retreat will be discerning a call to ministry. There will be a scriptural study of call – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, the disciples. There will be opportunities to practice deep listening and to engage in Circles of Trust (ala Parker Palmer), a version of a Quaker clearness committee.
Courses in the first year will likely include Basic Bible – origins, meaning, the Canon, interpretation – Hebrew scriptures in the winter/spring session and New Testament in the fall session. These courses will be offered online. The summer intensive will likely include a week-long in-depth study of a particular book of the Bible such as Ezekiel, the Gospel of John, the Psalms. We would like the intensive courses to be open to everyone – clergy and laity – led by some of the most gifted seminary professors today. During that week, there will be additional opportunities for the School’s first cohort to continue deepening their spiritual journey together.
They will journey through the three-year process together as they take classes online in the spring and fall, gather for the intensive classes each summer and have the support of a mentor, a spiritual director, and a life coach.
Through these experiences, we will help rural congregations and other small congregations in need of ministerial leadership. This includes our racial-ethnic congregations. We will emphasize the raising up of leaders from within our congregations, recognizing the gifts of the laity.
We will place an emphasis on Pro-reconciling, anti-racist approaches, seeking to understand our place in God’s diverse creation. We have a strong, 20-year history of providing anti-racism training in our Region. That tradition continues.
What outcomes will we see?
We’ll ask our students to tell us a story about a life that’s been changed. We recently asked our School for Ministry Board to tell us the stories they would expect to hear when we are being faithful to God’s call in our work together. This is what they said –
Story A – I had a career and during this time I knew I had things I might share through the church. I was uncertain but thought I might have a call to ministry. What to do with it? In my association with others in a similar situation, I became a lot more certain regarding the call. I learned many things I didn’t know and found I could be helpful to others. The relationships are carrying on.
Story B- I retired early. While I was working I preached in several churches in the community. I came to the Disciples of Christ church and they encouraged me to consider pastoring them. They encouraged me to attend The School for Ministry. I was reluctant, but now I appreciate how much there is to learn and I am empowered to learn more as I pastor. Understanding the depth and breadth of scripture and the history in it has been a very rich experience. I learned there is more to pastoring than preaching. I know more about healthy spiritual growth and mission/outreach in the community.
Story C – Is there a call for me? I know seminary is not for me. In the School for Ministry I can deepen my faith, receive knowledge to become a competent minister. It fits with the time and money I can give. I’m not sure I’ll serve a congregation, but I have developed a great skill set. It helps me to serve more effectively as a layperson.
The Region of IL & WI and the Illinois Conference are offering generous subsidies for the students to greatly reduce the cost of attending the School for Ministry. A new minister can afford to take classes and does not have to travel to take each class.
We’re creating the next crop of ministers – a new way of education for a new day in ministry.
A gifted and passionate Board is leading this start-up ministry. Please pray for this great group of servants as this new ministry is being formed. These are exciting times!
Watch this space for more updates and the expanding horizons of the School for Ministry.