nurturing ucc Identity

Communicating passion for the oneness of the Body of Christ. 

that they may all be one (John 17:21)

IMG_7580.jpeg

Art in Downtown Los Angeles

When I think of Christ's work through the church  I think of some incredible art I have seen in sacred and secular spaces alike.  

In a hotel and office building in Downtown Los Angeles there is a wall covered in tiny teal and purple people.  They form a lattice pattern by each one holding up the feet of the person above them with their hands.  To me this is a visual expression of our oneness through Christ.  We aren't just all connected passively, but Christ invites each of us to support our neighbor-to lift them up so they can live out their baptismal call.

 

In San Francisco at Grace Episcopal Cathedral there once were thousands of rainbow colored threads that dropped down from the ceiling. Although there were so many threads of so many different colors when viewing the art they all appeared as one.  Discerning the presence and identity of any one string on its own was a futile effort.  The threads were only beautiful because they were together.  To me this is another visual expression of not only our oneness in Christ, but the beauty of our shared witness as the church.  

 

As someone answering a vocational call to ministry I view my role as lifting others up in God's loving spirit.  When we in ministry offer expressions of God's unconditional love through sharing Christ's messages we acknowledge that we are able to lift each other up because it is Christ alone walking alongside us all.

(Acknowledging Jesus Christ as the sole Head of the Church.) 

IMG_1021.jpeg

Art at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco 

My home church is Desert Palm United Church of Christ where I am blessed to serve and to be a member (Holding active membership in a Local Church of the United Church of Christ.)

IMG_0117.jpeg
Primary_Blue@2x.png
IMG_0113.jpeg

Participating in the Various setting of the UCC, including Local Churches, Associations, Conferences, General Synods, and global ministries.

  • Serve as an ambassador for our traditions and denomination through introducing  the UCC to ASU students, faculty, and administration-the vast majority of my students who are involved with UCC@ASU had no prior knowledge of the UCC

  • Preaching at our churches and building relationships across our Southwest Conference as I connect congregations to the work of our campus ministry

  • Am actively convening a working group of UCC campus ministers and chaplains from across the country to share our learnings in our contexts and collaborate around a consistent UCC witness on college campuses

  • Have worked with multiple UCC congregations in California and at Desert Palm in how to broadcast our distinct UCC identity to the world to grow the church (Knowing and appreciating UCC history, polity, and theology.)

  • Served as a 2021 General Synod delegate from the Southwest Conference of the UCC and presented a petition to the plenary

  • Was a guest on a UCC podcast where I shared about my learnings with online ministry with the larger church (https://www.blackforestcommunitychurch.org/jhltb#season4episode1)

I recognize and embrace my call to local church ministry as a branch of our larger UCC witness and shared ministry.  In all my ministry settings I will look to partnering with our conference for new ways to engage our communities and for ways to inspire and share ideas and resources with all our member churches.

I view all my ministry as in and on behalf of the UCC.  This is why I am so honored and excited to serve as the Campus Minister for Arizona State University.  Collegiate ministry offers us an incredible opportunity to bridge the local church, our conference, and our larger community so in need of our witness anew.  This is also a wonderful space in which I am able to invite my colleagues from other traditions and faiths to be a part of interfaith dialogue and collaboration.

Collegiate ministry is an ongoing passion of mine, but also a meaningful aspect of my call to local church ministry.  I don't believe campus ministries should be independent beings-they need to be rooted in the local church.  We are not able to nurture a new generation of faith if the participants are never fully included or connected with the larger church family. For the young and old alike the opportunity to worship together and grow in their faith together is tranformative and purposeful.

Campus ministry also offers us essential opportunities to develop advancements and innovations for how we engage those beyond the walls of our church.

My Commitment to the Search & Call Process

A transformative aspect of my experience as a Member-in-Discernment has been that I am open to following God's call wherever it might present itself. I am committed to answering my call to pastor a local congregation and I believe in the UCC Search and Call process and am committed to exploring opportunities for ministry across our church. I believe that by looking broadly I can find a congregation that is the best fit for my call and my gifts. I am thankful for my husband's support of my commitment to this process and we are both humbled by how the Holy Spirit has made us more open to where God might lead us to serve.  

UCC@ASU-Pennant Logo-2.png

UCC@ASU logo and theme I created for our campus ministry

Screen Shot 2021-07-11 at 5.45.21 PM.png

Presenting to the online 2021 General Synod 

(Knowing and appreciating UCC history, polity, and theology.)

Andrew Ponder Williams and I have worked together in the Campus Ministry Program sponsored by Desert Palm United Church of Christ and the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ.  This ministry is primarily focused on the Arizona State University Campus in Tempe, Arizona.  Andrew initiated the program in the Spring of 2020 and In these few months of development he has given life and direction to this work.  He has reached out to all the Churches in the Southwest Conference, developed a core of students who meet and make connections to others, established a presence and leadership among other religious groups and the LGBTQ community, and developed  an ongoing series of Podcasts available on line.  This accomplishment reflects the qualities of his person through keen awareness, initiative, enthusiasm, careful planning, and engaging others to join as a community in this work.  All these gifts are guided by an open and forward looking faith and deep commitment to the Church.  I personally enjoy working as a member of the support committee and relish our meetings which he uses for consultation and reflection on the progress of the ministry.Andrew’s skills and vision  in developing his capacity in ministry are integrated deeply in his very person and reflect a rich capacity for continuing growth.

 

Rev. James W. Ewing, Ph.D.

Retired UCC Clergy

Exhibiting a commitment to the core values of the UCC:

 

continuing testament-the photo below is of the tunnel Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walked through to safely get to the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City.  I am grateful for our emphasis on celebrating that God is still speaking-especially through the voices of yesterday and today that call on us all to tear down racism and reimagine our society.

 

extravagant welcome-the photo below is of some of my former University of California-Irvine students offering a free cookie and encouragement to every student who walked by as a way to invite others to join our campus ministry.

 

changing lives-the photo below is also from my UCI campus ministry and our weekly dinner group where students could come for a free meal and experience a safe space to share about and explore their faith.  

IMG_0653.jpeg
IMG_0427.jpeg

Continuing Testament 

Extravagant Welcome

IMG_2158.jpeg

Changing Lives

I have the privilege of serving on the Desert Palm Discernment Committee for Andrew Ponder Williams which I believe gives me insight into Andrew’s education plans and goals as well as his role as his current role as youth minister.  I have been greatly impressed with Andrew’s process and decision making in class courses he has already taken and his plans for completion of the remaining classes.  His commitment and energy to complete his classes has been at a remarkable pace. His energy and enthusiasm in working with the youth has been inspiring.  I co-host as the second adult with Andrew and the youth once a month and am so impressed with how engaged as well as rapport there is between Andrew and the young people.  He has shown his creativity and problem solving in the manner he has dealt with behavior issues.  In particular, he created a covenant for each youth to agree and sign, the co-hosts were also involved along with the parents.  It was introduced to the youth with a history and understanding of UCC people being covenant people and what that means.   Found this to be very impressive and meaningful and the covenant continues to serve as a reminder when needed.  Andrew has also participated in Sunday morning worship as worship leader or preacher very effectively.  Andrew has been an excellent addition to the Desert Palm UCC staff and I look forward to seeing him being approved by the Southwest Conference, UCC Ecclesiastical Council to seek ordination in pastoral ministry.   

 

Jo Vredenburg

Desert Palm Discernment Committee member