By Rev. Melinda Quellhorst, Ohio Conference Moderator and Pastor, Grace UCC, Lancaster
As Moderator of the Ohio Conference, I was honored to attend and speak at the Kirchengemenischaft (United Church of Christ Forum) in Germany in September. (Read the full speech here.) We were celebrating the 25th anniversary of our partnership with the churches in Westphalia. This forum is annual event during which we share educational papers and conversation, eat together, worship together and become friends.
Broadening our horizons, living into God’s mission and love in our lives and through our faith community is a wonderful way to share God’s grace in the world. When we open ourselves up to include others and when we learn new ways to become friends, it opens our eyes and hearts. Growing relationships, being open to new ways to be the church, the Kirchengemeinschaf has been expanding our vision of what it means to be church for more than two decades now.
I think of all the many summer camp counselors that have come from our partner church in Germany. My sons, AJ and Andy, worked at our church camps for many summers. The friendships that they have made with different young adults from the Germany partnership have been wonderful. The German counselors have spent time in our house during their free time. I also think of our newest Young Ambassador program which resulted in having one group of high school youth travel to Germany and another host a German group in Ohio this past summer. Those friendships and the learnings young people have experienced through this partnership have been so wonderful and faithful.
In the early 1990’s, my dad, The Rev. Dr. Ralph C Quellhorst, was the conference minister of the Indiana/Kentucky conference and then was called as conference minister to the Ohio Conference UCC. He knew of the Kirchengemeinschaft that the UCC General Synod had approved 10 years earlier. He had done research on the German roots of many of the Indiana/Kentucky and Ohio churches and realized that they often came from the Westphalia area. The two conferences began to work together to set up the partnership. Because of this history, I represented the Ohio Conference UCC in Haus Villigst, Germany with great pleasure.
This Ohio-German partnership is an outgrowth of a 1981 UCC General Synod resolution that declared a relationship of full communion (Kirchengemenischaft) with the “Evangelical Church of the Union” (EKU). This church was the ancestral church of many German-American pioneers who founded the Evangelical Synod of the United States, which is one of the United Church of Christ’s predecessor denominations. In 2003, the EKU joined with other “United” and Reformed churches in Germany to create a larger body, the Union of Evangelical Churches (UEK).
I look to the future with hope. Hope to build relationships that will continue to grow and flourish. Hope that builds faith and opens eyes and doors to God’s love and grace across walls that divide. Hope that calls us to live in the ways that love calls us to. Hope in opening ourselves to new experiences. Hope to be filled with the love that God fills us with.
The German Partnership is a thriving ministry of the Ohio Conference. Individuals may become a part of this dynamic and growing partnership by seeking more information about the Ohio Conference German Partnership Working Group. Churches may also explore partnership with German churches. Please direct your questions to the working group chair Sigrid Rother by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org.