McCallister Reflects on Nine Years of Changes

4/11/2017
By Tiffany Vail

The Rev. Da Vita McCallisterEditor's Note: Conference Minister The Rev. Kent Siladi sent a letter to churches on April 10 announcing the upcoming departure of The Rev. Da Vita D. McCallister, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership and Vitality from the staff. Read his letter here.

HARTFORD - When the Rev. Da Vita D. McCallister came on to the Connecticut Conference staff almost 10 years ago, she recalls, she wasn't just the only person of color on the senior staff in CT - she was the only person of color serving in a senior Conference staff position in all of New England.

"Everyplace I went professionally it was just me," she said. "And, I was under 40. I was the youngest person on the staff, the only person of color on the senior staff, and a woman in a male dominated field."

As she prepares to leave the Conference staff for a call to a local church, McCallister says she is so glad that so much has changed.

"The thing I’m the most proud of is that our staff has multiple people of color; the New England region has people of color on staff. That means more to me than anything," she said.

None of that was accidental. First, Day credits former Conference Minister Davida Foy Crabtree with having the vision to create a senior level youth ministry position, for which she pursued Day. That, she, said, meant she was part of the decision making when it came to things that had an impact on the Conference's systems and culture.

"I could be part of the dialogue. Being there in a senior staff position, not just there to run a program, meant that I could effect the institution of the Connecticut Conference," she said.

Day recalls her first few years on the staff spending a lot of time at the Silver Lake Conference Center in the summer, spending time with the deans and the conferees, which she says later gave her the connections and credibility to start the Annual Youth Revival, now the largest intergenerational event in the Conference. Other programs she started were the Rev. Dr. Joseph Clemmons Job Training Program (JCT) and Thinking About Working For God (TAWFG). The JCT program was designed to diversify the applicant pool for SLCC summer staff by introducing youth of color to Silver Lake while providing them with skills for future employment. These programs, she said, are nurturing a new generation of church leaders, many of color, something desperately needed in a denomination with so few clergy under 40.

"Now we have a pipeline of kids of color, a viable pool of candidates when Silver Lake is seeking staff ," she said. That kind of impact, Day said, is what leaves her most proud.

"How many possibilities are lost when women are not hired to be in  executive positions where dramatic change is possible? How many opportunities are denied when same-gender-loving people are not engaged in senior level staff searches where systemic change is possible? How many prospects are missed when people of color are not included in the search process for leadership positions where indelible change is possible?" she asked. “Diversity in senior level positions creates the possibility for both institutional and cultural transformation.”
 
Day McCallisterDay was initially called as the Associate Conference Minister for Youth and Young Adult Ministry. After Crabtree retired and The Rev. Kent Siladi came on board as Conference Minister, she moved on to become the Associate Conference Minister for Leadership and Vitality, tasked with overseeing leadership development and congregational vitality in the Conference. She  founded the Racial Justice Ministry, which is now a signature program of the Conference and has official partnerships with three other Conferences, a number expected to grow to five.

That program, she said, will go on without her.

"There is no question that this conference is committed to the work of racial justice. We have a Board of Directors that is committed to this work, a Conference Minister who is committed to that work, a racial justice board that is committed, and an entire network of trained facilitators who are committed to this work. This is a ministry of the Conference," she said.

Day said in the same way that a change in leadership can help a church that is growing from a pastoral size church to a program size church, her leaving will help the Racial Justice Ministry to grow.

When asked about the impact of her departure she replied:  "I believe in this Conference, and I believe in the Holy Spirit. I have answered the call of the Holy Spirit to return to the local church.  I offer my deep thanks and gratitude for all I have learned in the Connecticut Conference and my prayerful support for what comes next.  I trust the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us ALL."


Tiffany Vail is Associate Conference Minister for Communications for the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island Conferences of the United Church of Christ.