A Reflection from Liz Larrivee, M.Div. student from the Ann Arbor, MI, Site
As a charter member of the Ann Arbor, Michigan, extension campus M.Div. program, I value Central’s academic excellence and faith community formation through an innovative blended learning approach. The creative contextual learning-based curriculum provided hands-on new church plant experience at New Waves United Church of Christ in Traverse City, Michigan.
Shortly after completing my course work, I was invited to provide pulpit supply at Ypsilanti First Congregational UCC, a Detroit area congregation focused on community social justice advocacy, currently without a pastor. Michigan’s governor issued a Stay-At-Home order to combat COVID-19 the week after I preached my first sermon. Faced with suspending worship indefinitely, the congregation asked me to help create a weekly digital ministry worship service where I utilized the leadership skills gained during my New Waves UCC public practice placement. Weekly Zoom attendance now often exceeds attendance at the former live, traditional services.
The congregation recently supported expanding my pastoral responsibilities by applying for a UCC Bridge Grant to address community hardships caused by COVID-19. This includes utilizing cutting-edge technologies and social media in pastoral care, and the congregation’s county-wide and state-wide community social justice ministries. These are the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR), the Washtenaw Regional Organizing Coalition (WeROC), and the Open and Affirming Coalition of the Michigan UCC Conference.