Retiring Conference Minister and President The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal was presented with the Andy Gustafson Award at this year's Annual Meeting Recognition Luncheon on Saturday, June 16, 2018.
Andy Gustafson, who served as Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship & Financial Development, and who died in May, 2014, inspired countless UCC members, pastors and congregations to live more abundantly, to hope without constraint, to share with joy and enthusiasm the gifts God has given them, and to wake up each morning with gratitude and generosity in their hearts. His life testified to resilience, humility, and a love for the church committed to making visible the transforming light of God.
The Andy Gustafson Award was established in 2015 and is given each year to a member of the Massachusetts Conference who embodies these characteristics.
The selection team said the following about Antal:
Abundance is at the heart of Jim Antal’s ministry and leadership. He shares the perspective of mentor and friend, Henri Nouwen: “God's Kingdom is a place of abundance where every generous act overflows its original bounds and becomes part of the unbounded grace of God at work in the world.” In his 2016 Annual Report letter, Jim encouraged us to ask, “What would you do if you were brave and faithful?” He then urged us to call upon the extraordinary power God has given us, “recognizing that – with God – all things are possible.” And in his recent book, Climate Church, Climate World, he speaks to a wider audience of God’s call to the Church in our generation to respond faithfully to the climate crisis, affirming, “The gifts of the Holy Spirit empower us to accomplish more than we could ask or imagine.”
Allied to a theology of abundance is Jim’s fierce commitment to hope. Whether rejecting a scarcity mentality, a narrow-minded narrative of church decline, or pessimism in the face of global climate change, Jim Antal is relentlessly hopeful. Recipients of Jim Antal emails know his characteristic sign off, “sharing the yoke of defiant hope.” In Climate Church, Climate World, he says, “I continue to believe that the most important contribution people of faith can and must make as humanity confronts the climate crisis is to proclaim hope.” Clarifying that hope isn’t the same as optimism – an attitude that carries with it no cost or risk – he quotes from the prophet Jeremiah about God giving us a future with hope, and adds, “Deep-seated hope is what we need, and what God intends for us.” In many ways, Jim has pushed us to claim this promise, hoping actively by putting our faith into action.
A person who takes no greater pleasure than laughing at himself – and what a hearty and distinctive laugh he has! – Jim Antal has manifested and brought to the mission and ministry of the Massachusetts Conference a joy that is undeniably infectious. We offer our enduring thanks for his leveraging of his gifts to identify, equip, and empower so many of us in the use of ours, in the service of God’s mission and the special calling God has for each and all of us. In him and through him the transforming light of God has indeed been made visible!
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