New Journey UCC Launches “New Connections”

Rev. Jill Warner of New Journey UCC in Hutchinson long has observed colleagues in rural churches dashing from church to church on any given Sunday to make sure each congregation had a minister in the pulpit.

Then, an unlikely conversation with an individual from a mega-church sparked a realization for her.

“I asked this person how many ministers they had for the church’s multiple locations and the response was ‘One’!” says Warner. “They simply had invested in the technology to bring one pastor to all locations. While this was long before COVID, I immediately thought ‘Why couldn’t we do this for rural ministry?'”

Fast forward to 2024. Warner recently applied for and received a Vital Worship, Vital Preaching Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc.) for “New Connections.” Warner says the initiative aims to create a digital worship resource for congregations that don’t have a pastor, congregations between pastors, areas where there isn’t a UCC or progressive Christian church, or people who may want to worship but aren’t comfortable in a church.

“This resource isn’t going to be voyeuristic,” Warner says. “It’s different than a livestream where you’re watching someone else’s service. Our worship services will be intentionally designed to pause so congregations can insert their own community-specific rituals, messages, or prayers. It’s a participatory worship experience.” Music is also available for congregations who need that worship component.

Warner says that in this post-Covid time it felt especially important to try new ideas. “As the church changes so drastically, many congregations struggle to afford a full-time minister. We want this to be one potential answer.”

New Connections will offer its first worship service for Ash Wednesday. St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Plato, MN, and United Faith Community Church in Buffalo are two of the partners engaged to date to test and offer feedback. Eventually, five worship services in 2024 will be available free of charge (with donations accepted) on New Journey’s website.

On April 13, New Journey UCC will host a New Connections workshop in Hutchinson for clergy and lay people from the Minnesota Conference interested in collaborating through video technology. Watch for more details in an upcoming edition of COMMA.

If your congregation is interested in being part of New Connections, contact Rev. Warner at pastor@newjourneyucc.org.

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023