The Discernment & Formation Process
Since General Synod 2005, the term “Discernment & Formation” is used to describe the period of preparation, assessment and discernment that precedes a decision by an Association to permit a person to seek an Ordainable call in the United Church of Christ. The Committee on Formation of the Northeast Association (NEA) acts on behalf of the entire UCC and is called to counsel, evaluate and discern each candidate’s call, gifts and preparation for ordained ministry within the UCC. The local NEA church where the candidate is a member sponsors the candidate through the process, and is responsible for providing nurture and support, opportunities to grow in the Marks of Readiness and candid feedback. Many other entities contribute to ministerial formation. Becoming familiar with and following the NEA requirements is the responsibility of the candidate seeking ordination. Additionally, it is the candidate’s responsibility to convey expectations to others who contribute on their behalf throughout the process. The COF greatly appreciates the roles each play in the discernment decision the COF makes on behalf of the entire UCC.
General Time Line and Overview of Requirements
The Committee on Formation accepts people into the Discernment & Formation Process from many faith backgrounds. It feels deep experience with, understanding of and love for the UCC is crucial in people who would lead its local churches. Therefore, the COF will be especially attentive to the depth and breadth of each applicant’s experience of church life and their discernment and decision-making process if they are coming from another or no faith tradition. Plans to gain leadership experience in the UCC should be formulated as soon as a call to authorized ministry is perceived.
We estimate this process will take three years to complete. In some circumstances, people with significant ministerial, seminary and life experiences and the ability to demonstrate Ministerial Readiness may move more quickly through the process. You must be an active member of an NEA church for one year before being recommended by that local church to the COF. You must remain an active member of this sponsoring church for the entire time you are in the process. The NEA recommends that candidates prepare to be received into the Discernment & Formation Process during their first year in seminary. Some candidates may seek to begin this process even before their seminary education begins. Candidates who move to the NEA and seek to be admitted into the process here are expected to develop a Marks of Readiness Roadmap with the pastor of their new local church and to take steps toward preparation for ordination that conform with these guidelines in advance of completing the required one year of membership in an NEA church.