For Rev. Ron Degges, a long-held distant study of the general church inspired him to apply for a position with Disciples Home Missions (DHM) that would require him to trade southern California for central Indiana. He began his ministry with DHM in January of 2009.
Now, after eight years as the president of DHM, and 43 total years of ordained ministry, Degges will officially retire on August 31.
Degges’ ministerial experiences across the country prepared him well for his role at DHM – for which he travelled seven out of every ten days, serving as a representative of DHM and the denomination across the world. In his work with congregations, regions, and ecumenical and interfaith partners, Degges estimated that ninety percent of his work was what he calls “futuring.”
“The vast majority of my time has been focused on constructing, architecting the future of the Church. My time is spent in small groups of individuals, dreaming about what the church can be – not what it was or is, but what it can be, and what we want it to be.”
Degges’ considers the one of DHM’s greatest accomplishments towards building that new future to be their development of ministries in partnership with congregations and regions.
A prominent example of this kind of networked ministry is Green Chalice, the DHM program for creation care. Originally, it existed as a project in the Kentucky region. “DHM’s role,” Degges said, “was to North American-ize that program” by partnering with the Kentucky region to share Green Chalice across the United States and Canada. Since that partnership began in 2011, Green Chalice has expanded and partnered with national organizations like Blessed Tomorrow (of which it is a founding partner).
Degges’ leadership also helped DHM reimagine its own role in the life of the Church, by rebranding itself with a new logo and slogan: “Disciples Hands-On Mission.”
“Church can be filled with a whole lot of talk, but unless we translate that talk into action, then we’ve missed something. It’ll just be a resounding gong or a clanging symbol – nothing. DHM helps the Church put feet on the ground in congregational and regional life.”
One way that Degges contributed to that translation of words into action is the collection of letters and statements he worked on with ecumenical and interfaith partners in response to tragic world events.
“I’m proud of those statements because they’re a way to speak to the church and world in a way that creates a better ground for everyone to live on. We’re so deeply divided sometimes, and I think the Church is the answer. We have our work cut out for us, still…but the church has to speak. The church cannot remain silent in the presence of violence. We have an obligation to speak up, and then we have to translate it into action.”
For more reflections on his eight years with DHM, read Rev. Degges’ blog on the DHM website.
Degges is succeeded by Rev. Sotello Long, who previously served as the regional minister in South Carolina.