Custer Community Church members,
In January and February, I hope you will join Custer Community Church for an intentional Season of Discernment. Like many churches, 2020 presented a variety of challenges to our community and congregation, and so as we begin 2021, we will do so with an intentional time for our congregation to be in discernment together about its future. Because true discernment is a spiritual practice of creating hospitable spaces, asking awakening questions, holding silence, reflecting theologically together, and listening for the voice of our still speaking God, we will do this work as a congregation with Rev. Ellis Arnold, Associate Conference Minister, serving as a host for four conversations over a period of two months. All who are committed to creating a community, embracing mystery, telling our stories, praying with and for one another, and thinking about, playing with, and dreaming about what God is calling us to next, are asked to make a commitment to participate. The hope and expectation in the process of discernment will lead to clarity regarding the next most faithful step for Custer Community Church.
Those who are committed to the work of discernment are asked to make a commitment to be at all four sessions. Each will take place on Zoom and are scheduled for Wednesdays, January 13th, 27th and February, 10th & 24th, from 6-7:30 pm Mountain Time. We ask that you access zoom via computer or smart phone so that we can see one another via video in addition to being able to hear one another. We hope that if you do not have technology for Zoom in from your own home, that you will reach out and partner safely with someone else in the congregation so that you can log in alongside them and participate together. Before each session, participants will be asked to do some “homework.” For the first session, please come prepared to share with others a brief story in response to this prompt: Tell us about a time when you most clearly felt the Spirit of God.
While the congregation is engaged in its own Season of Discernment, Pastor Dustin will also be engaged in a Season of Discernment. As recommended by the UCC South Dakota Committee on Ministry, a group we have been working with closely since February 2020, Pastor Dustin has been granted Discernment Leave from January 1 – March 1, during which time he will be relieved of his usual responsibilities so that he can focus on his own discernment work. The Council’s expectation is that in early March, those from the congregation who have been in discernment group mentioned above will meet with Pastor Dustin regarding the next faithful step for the Church and make plans for moving forward.
During the Season of Discernment, the Council has made arrangements for Custer Community Church to partner with Spirit of Peace UCC for Sunday morning worship and other church activities such as Sunday School and Bible study. This partnership with Spirit of Peace will allow Custer Community Church to BE Church and allow the chance to build relationships with the Wider UCC. It will also allow us to continue to be a worshipping community while Pastor Dustin is on leave. Rev. Charles Owens, pastor of Spirit of Peace, is available for pastoral care for our congregation, and in the event of death within the congregation, Pastor Pam, will be available to officiate.
An Update on the Wider United Church of Christ
The Black Hills Association meeting was hosted by our church, and it was a great event. We had two different associate conference ministers join us for Sunday morning’s worship service and for the afternoon meeting. At that meeting, First Congregational Church of Chadron requested to join the Black Hills Association and was accepted. It was decided that on Saturday, October 5th, I would lead a retreat to help the association develop a clearer sense of mission and brainstorm new ministries. Dee Anderson became the association moderator and our own Paul Nettinga is set to become the vice-moderator.
Through our two mission workshops, the South Dakota Conference board came up with the following mission statement: “To live into God’s extravagant welcome and advocate for justice so that all know love, safety, belonging and dignity.” There will be more information about the new mission statement and the process that was used to craft it at the annual meeting.
Speaking of which, the annual meeting will be June 14th, 15th, and 16th in Omaha. Our church’s delegates are Hunter Rice, Vachel Rice, and Martha Schilling. And, of course, I will be attending as your pastor and as a member of the conference board of directors.
In fact, I will be gone from the 12th through the 27th in order to attend both the annual conference meeting in Omaha as well as the General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Milwaukee. And not just me – Hunter Rice and my wife, Pam, are also General Synod delegates for the South Dakota conference.
You can read more about Hunter’s participation in the wider church at:
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