Reflections on UCC Admissions Orientation 2021
Last month (August 25-September 1) the Centre for Christian Studies offered a UCC Admissions Orientation learning circle specifically designed for ministers from other denominations who are entering ministry in the United Church of Canada. Michelle Owens and Marcie Gibson brought their practical experience in United Church ministry and their critical skills in theological education to facilitate a week-long conversation about what to expect from the United Church. The circle started with the assumption that all the participants were trained and skilled ministers. Michelle drew the connection in their first session between orientation and orienteering – finding your way with a map and compass. The purpose of this circle was to ask what participants need to help them find their way through what might be unfamiliar terrain in a new denomination.
The other purpose was to create a sense of community and a support network for ministers in the admissions process. Some of the participants talked about the isolation of seeking a call to a church, not hearing from anyone, and not knowing why.
There were seventeen participants, at various stages in their admissions process. Some were already engaged in ministry with UCC congregations. Some were at the very beginning of seeking a call. Participants logged into the online circle from Quebec City, Toronto, and rural Manitoba and Ontario, as well as from Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Congo, India, and Korea. As mentioned earlier time zones were a challenge. Many participants stayed up to the middle of the night to take part. Power outages and internet issues also creates problems for some.
Chewe Mulanga started ministry with the United Church in Crystal City, in rural Manitoba, earlier this year. He was interested in increasing his knowledge of United Church doctrine and wanted to understand the systems of leadership in the United Church. He also had a goal of increasing his understanding of the UCC as an “inclusive church” and wanted to learn how to be more inclusive in his ministry.
“I would recommend that anyone seeking admission to the United Church of Canada must do this programme,” says Chewe, “because it gives an overview of what United Church of Canada is all about.”
Many of the Admissions Orientation participants particularly found the introduction to Indigenous issues, in the church and in Canadian society, and the history of Residential Schools, eye-opening. There were a lot of things to discuss in a limited amount of time.
“The facilitators made the programme more enjoyable because they gave an opportunity for participants to ask and share their thoughts” says Chewe of Marcie and Michelle. “I commend the efforts of the facilitators for their openness.”
“Above all, the course gave me an opportunity to connect with other colleagues who are in the admission process.”
For the CCS program staff it was a joy meeting this vibrant group of engaged and committed clergy. Conversations were dynamic, questions were thoughtful, prayer was heartfelt, and laughter was common. We would be thrilled to see these new friends again as United Church ministers seeking continuing education.