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Mike Denton has accepted call to a Massachusetts church

Mike Denton announced in June his resignation as conference minster and his plans to begin serving as minister at South Congregational Church in Pittsfield, Mass., in September, after 14 years of serving the conference. He began in January 2008.

Mike Denton prepares to move to Massachusetts.

While he will officially start working there the second half of September, he, Lauren and Leo will move there Sept. 1, so Leo can start school.  Mike will work remotely for his last month.

In September 2019, the 20th anniversary of his ordination, he realized he was halfway through his ordained ministry career.

In his resignation letter, he said his work with the PNC has been rewarding. He and Lauren Cannon, a pastor at Keystone UCC in Seattle, married during the time and welcomed son Leo.

“When I was in seminary, I’d never thought about doing regional work. I expected to spend my entire career in small, urban churches called to service and advocacy, he said, noting that his ordination anniversary started him wondering about serving another congregation.

He and Lauren discussed moving close to family back East someday. Lauren was coming close to a decade of work at Keystone UCC.

That December, his sister learned she had lymphoma and family seemed far away. That furthered his motivation to find a congregation closer to family.

On Ash Wednesday 2020, Mike began preparing congregations for the pandemic.

“We all did the best we could with what we had and, with God’s help, we did some amazing things,” he said.
We brought our loaves and our fishes and were blessed with abundance. In the middle of so much loss, grieving and disruption we supported each other and our neighbors.”

He guided the conference through the uncertainty.

“I’d never been prouder to be part of any group of people, ever,” Mike said.

By fall 2020, his sister’s treatments were going well and she’s in remission now, but family still felt far away with other health and life challenges that year, including deaths from COVID. Mike also faced some health challenges that made family seem far away.

As the pandemic began, hw was home with his family of three for a month for the first time in 15 years. While he has enjoyed the travel as conference minister, he appreciated the time with family.

“Sometime in the late fall of 2020, we decided to be open to what the Spirit might do. I put my profile together and started searching for a local church position,” Mike said.

South Congregational Church in Pittsfield, Mass is a designated, three-fourths time position with a church that feeds about 700 families weekly through its food pantry. They are consolidating with another church in town, First Church of Christ (UCC), to form something new together.

“The challenges and the gifts of these churches and this place call out to me. The opportunity to be no more than a day’s drive from our family is exciting and a relief,” he said.

“As with any significant change, there are some other feelings mixed in, too. Even though we’ll be closer to family, we’ll miss all those we’ve served with, played with, and grown with here. Moving to Pittsfield will be starting over in many ways. It’s going to be exciting, and it’s going to be hard.”

Mike is aware that the conference is at a complex moment in its life.

“The turnover in local churches is unprecedented. Rich and challenging conversations are emerging about our budget, our commitment to being an anti-racist conference, restructuring and how best to provide our camps with the support and accountability they need,” he said.

“There’s always a lot going on in our conference, and, like any ministry, there has always been more to do than our capacity would allow,” Mike reflected.

He believes the conference is prepared to take the next steps. Over the last 14 years, he has seen more people claim the conference as their own.

“Instead of complaining about what wasn’t being done, the people of this conference have pulled together and done some amazing things. People are doing more and more to self-organize around interests, support and causes,” Mike pointed out.

“Our collective response to the onset of the pandemic didn’t come out of nowhere. We’d been working at developing and investing in the skills we used for years,” he waid. “The pandemic allowed us to practice all those things we’d learned and those same learnings will be helpful, now.”

He praised the skills of conference staff, the boards and committees for being ready to work, learn, listen and try new things.

The denomination is coming alongside the PNC to help it through this time.

“This conference, your conference, is ready to be open to what the Spirit might do,” Mike affirmed.

The board will soon announce plans for the conference through this transitional time.

He closed his letter of resignation with words he has often shared as he made announcements during the pandemic:  “Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let that one out slowly, too, closing with saying, “My wonderful, beautiful, Siblings in Christ, I look forward to seeing where the Spirit will lead us all.”


Pacific NW Conference United Church of Christ News © August 2022


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