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by Eric Anderson
HARTFORD (03/04/2013) -- The Connecticut Conference Minister Search Committee and Board of Directors announced today the recommendation of the Rev. Kent Siladi, the Florida Conference Minister and a former Regional Minister in Connecticut, to be the next Conference Minister. The Board plans to issue a formal call to a Special Meeting to be held on April 20th, at which time Conference ministers and delegates will be asked to formally vote to extend the call to him.
In a brochure being circulated to leaders throughout the Conference, Board chair Sara Sneed declared, "We are enthusiastic in our recommendation that the Conference call the Rev. Kent Siladi as our Conference Minister. We believe that he is the right person to step into this vitally important role with faith, experience, wisdom, and sense of humor. He is the leader we need 'for such a time as this!'"
A Connecticut native, Siladi grew up in Stamford, where he was raised to become member of First Congregational Church UCC. His fourth grade Sunday School teacher, Minnie Elliot, asked him to stay after class one day. With fear and trembling, he did, and she told him, "You're going to be a minister."
"From that point forward," Siladi said, "I really felt the call to ministry at a very early age. When I was fourteen I preached my first sermon at that church."
After graduating from Nasson College and Yale Divinity School, he began his ministry as associate pastor at the Congregational Church of Brookfield UCC. He went on to serve as pastor of the North Guilford Congregational Church UCC, and then accepted the call to be a Connecticut Conference Regional Minister. In 2007 he began his service as Florida's Conference Minister, where he learned even more about leadership and about the creative energy of the church.
"The Spirit of God is moving in creative ways. God's Spirit has not stopped moving," he said, and that invites, indeed demands, trying new things. "We've got to experiment all over the place."
"They key component of experimentation," he said, "is we need to ask ourselves when something fails miserably, 'What did we learn?'" The learnings contain the seeds for the next effort, the next option, the next experiment, and a new way of life for the Church.
The Seach Committee praised Siladi's pastoral sense, vision, ability to foster relationships, and theological integrity. "Kent is a down-to-earth inspirational preacher," they said in the brochure, "whose experience in various settings of the church helps him to relate to diverse groups of people in a way that is natural and welcoming."
What, he asks, is the big idea that will animate the Connecticut Conference into the future?
A critical question for him, and one that resonated in the Search Committee, is: Who isn't at the table? Who isn't here? "There are serious justice issues that we will need to address together," he said: violence and racism among them. During Siladi's tenure in Florida, a neighborhood watch volunteer shot and killed an African American teen, Trayvon Martin, claiming self-defense. He comes to a Connecticut Conference still shocked by the gunfire deaths in Newtown, where a lone gunman claimed the lives of his mother, himself, six educators, and twenty first graders last December.
Although Siladi has spent much of life in Connecticut, he recognizes the challenge of learning this context of ministry afresh, but it does not daunt him. "It's a great time to be in ministry," he smiled, "because of so many challenges that are before us."
Kent Siladi is a devoted husband to Laura and father to Katrina and MaryAnn, and overjoyed to be the newly minted grandfather of Riley. The most important thing to know about him is:
"I have a great love for and passion for the Church, and a deep love and affection for Jesus. And at the end of the day, when we think about what Christianity is, it's about Jesus, and following Jesus."
The Rev. Eric S. Anderson is Minister of Communications and Technology for the Connecticut Conference UCC.