by Michael Ciba
One of my favorite passages of scripture is the story of Jesus sending the disciples out to share the good news in the villages of the countryside in Matthew 10: 1-15. Jesus gives the disciples authority to confront evil and then sends them out to do what he says. He identifies who should go, where they should go, what they should say and do. He advises them how to take care of themselves while they are doing the work he wants them to do. He tells them how they should respond if things work out and how they should respond if they don’t.
This is one of the few places in the gospels where Jesus acts like the leader of an institution: articulating a vision, recruiting staff, telling them how to do the job, cautioning them about risks and pitfalls, and letting them know what to expect. “Together, As One” is a movement toward unity among the three United Church of Christ Conferences in Southern New England. It calls for leadership that is both Gospel-visionary and institutionally effective. God’s people and God’s churches need to be organized in order to accomplish God’s mission for the church in the world. The key is for institutional leadership to always exist for the sake of the mission. When the mission of the institution becomes sustaining the institution itself, the institution falls apart.
Jesus calls each of the churches in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut by name. Jesus gives us the power to resist and overcome the life-destroying forces all around us. Jesus gives all of us voice to proclaim the Good News of God’s unconditional healing love in every community. Jesus commits to providing us with the resources we need to do God’s mission. Jesus invites us to bring God’s peace to every household. Jesus also affirms that God is responsible for the outcome. Our role is to live as God calls us to live.
The purpose of Together, As One, is “To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.” God calls us to do this one thing in a thousand ways and a thousand places, faithful always to God’s call and to the integrity of those with whom we minister. Let’s get started.
Rev. Dr. Michael Ciba is the Senior Regional Minister for the CT Conference, UCC.
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