Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Reimagining, For the Love of Church

Andi Lloyd

As I begin my final year at the Andover Newton Theological Seminary at Yale Divinity School, I am delighted to be part of this wonderful work of reimagining church. I came to the Reimagining Church project because it brings together two loves of my professional life. The first is a deep love of the messy, complicated, sometimes-excruciating process of institutional change. I found this love in my previous career - where, before heading to divinity school to pursue a call to ordained ministry in the United Church of Christ, I was a professor and the dean of the faculty at Middlebury College in Vermont. One of my first projects, as dean, was to help to guide a process of reimagining faculty governance. We were in search of nimbleness, clarity about roles and responsibilities, and a way for faculty to have an effective voice in the issues that mattered to them. That project was playing out against the backdrop of a rapidly changing landscape of higher education - a landscape that included increasingly vocal wonderings about the future of elite liberal arts colleges. Good governance felt necessary amidst those pressures.

The other love I bring to this work is a love for church - for the beautiful work of discerning how to be the body of Christ in this moment. This love is, perhaps, unsurprising, as I feel called to pastoral ministry and see my future unfolding in a local church. Central to that call is a belief that the world needs Church - that the Christian faith has important things to say about the problems that confront us as humans on this planet. At the same time, I’m keenly aware of the ways in which the world of Church these days resembles the world of liberal arts colleges that I’ve just left behind. Like higher education, the landscape of faith is loud with anxiety about the future of Church. That fear pulls us backwards; the world needs us to be moving forwards. All of that is to say: the work of the Reimagining Church project feels challenging - and necessary - and deeply exciting.

I’m thrilled to be partnered on this journey with Asylum Hill Congregational Church (, a UCC church in Hartford, Connecticut. AHCC held its first worship service on March 12, 1865; 166 years later, and the church is still going strong. Members come from across the Greater Hartford area to worship in the Gothic-style church building on Asylum Avenue. AHCC is an open and affirming congregation with a deep commitment to working for a more just, equitable, and inclusive world. They are a church that understands their story to be continually unfolding - their vision is “growing Christians today for the Church of tomorrow.” I look forward to working with them to imagine what that might look like.