‘The consistent theme is love’: In new year, UCC National Setting builds on ‘one-staff model’
As the calendar turned to 2024, the United Church of Christ national ministry teams began working under three new sets of names, unified by a theme of “love.”
Love of Service. Love of Church. Love of Neighbor. These are the overarching designations — connected to the heart of the UCC’s mission and vision — that identify the many, diverse ministries performed by the national staff.
“The responsibilities of the units and their names are based on the mission, vision and purpose statements of the UCC,” said General Minister and President the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson. “The Purpose Statement, the UCC reason for being, is drawn from a passage in Matthew’s Gospel: ‘To love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.’”
The mission and vision statements likewise refer specifically to unity and love.
“The consistent theme is love,” Thompson said. “The church emphasizes and moves on the love of God given freely to us.”
Unified governance, unified staff
These new names for the National Setting’s ministry groups come amid a continued focus on a “one-staff model,” borne out of a shift toward unified governance.
For the last several years, teams fell into organizational categories that nominally reflected the UCC’s Covenanted Ministries — the corporations of Local Church Ministries, Wider Church Ministries, and Justice and Witness Ministries.
When General Synod amended the bylaws in 2017 to change the denominational leadership structure, the UCC’s governing body removed the connection of executive ministers to a specific corporation. Since then, the General and Minister President role has served as CEO, assigning the duties of the Associate General Ministers elected by Synod.
All of this has led to opportunities for the National Setting to zero in on a unified staffing model that is intended to invite more flexibility and collaboration between its ministries.
“The realities of the work of the National Setting needed to be unified along the same lines of the governance model,” Thompson said. “Having the ministries and programs of the national ministries align with the corporate identities was perpetuating some of the siloing experienced in the previous staffing model.”
Thus, the new year brought new names to organize the work of the UCC national staff.
“As I began to think about what are the next steps of what it looks like for us to be one, solid organization, I felt that we really need to be thinking and be intentional as one staff,” Thompson said.
Organization of teams
The three groupings that now define the work of the National Setting include the following departments:
Love of Service
- General Minister and President’s Office
- Financial Services
- General Counsel
- Human Resources
- Marketing and Communications
- Hospitality Ministries and Event Services
- Church Building & Loan Fund
- UCC Resources
- Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations
Love of Church
- Associate General Minister’s Office
- Center for Analytics, Research & Development, and Data
- Faith Education, Innovation and Formation
- The Pilgrim Press
- Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization
- Education and Faithful Action Ministries
Love of Neighbor
- Associate General Minister’s Office
- Global Ministries (UCC staff)
- Global H.O.P.E.
- Gender and Sexuality Justice Ministries
- Office of Public Policy and Advocacy (Washington, D.C.)
- United Nations Office
These designations point directly toward the UCC’s mission and vision — or “what’s on our walls,” as Thompson put it.
She recalled that in the past year, during her nomination and election as General Minister and President, people would sometimes ask if she was going to change or shift the mission and vision of the UCC. But, Thompson indicates, what the denomination needs is to continue living into the current mission, vision and purpose statements.
‘Justice permeates everything we do’
In this arrangement, Thompson and the Love of Service teams perform the administrative and strategic duties of the National Setting.
The Rev. Shari Prestemon, new Acting Associate General Minister, oversees the Love of Neighbor ministry teams. The work of these departments include advocacy, mission and accompaniment for national and international issues.
They represent “a fantastic set of ministries that are transformational and meaningful,” Prestemon said. “The term ‘Love of Neighbor’ invites us to keep the central mandate front and center of who we’re called to be as people of faith and congregations.”
Currently, the other Associate General Minister office is vacant, following the resignation of the Rev. Traci Blackmon in December. That role, once filled, will head the Love of Church unit, which includes teams responsible for education, worship, clergy and congregational resources and support.
Various justice-focused ministries fall under all three Loves.
As Thompson noted, “Justice permeates every single thing we do.”
Prestemon echoed those sentiments.
“Justice is an element that rings through all of the UCC: pursuit of justice and naming of injustice, advocacy, work to build the kind of world that our sacred texts describe,” she said. “That’s a thread that runs through each new unit.”
Over the next several months, updates to the ucc.org website will reflect these changes, along with a new main menu navigation that follows best practices for digital accessibility.
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