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7 Questions on Leadership with Patrick Duggan

Name: Patrick Duggan

Title: Executive Director

Organisation: United Church of Christ Church Building & Loan Fund

The Reverend Doctor Patrick Garnet Duggan, an authorized minister with Full Standing in the United Church of Christ, has served as Executive Director of the UCC Church Building and Loan Fund (CB&LF) since 2012. Founded in 1853, CB&LF is the first national church building society in the United States.

The Fund offers loans, capital campaigns and consulting services for the financing and redevelopment of real estate owned by UCC and other Christian churches in the United States. In 2013, CB&LF became the first UCC financial institution to implement an impact investment policy. In 2018, CB&LF launched the Adese (Ah-DEH-seh) Fellowship, a catalytic experience for emerging spiritual entrepreneurs.

A blogger, a preacher, and a transformational denominational executive, Dr. Duggan asserts that he is “on a mission to enable church leaders and congregations to live into God’s economy”. This thinking guides CB&LF’s work at the leading edge of American Christianity, namely, helping churches to reimagine, redevelop and re-deploy their real estate so that these assets continue to have strong social impact and remain 100% mission-focused.

A native New Yorker, Dr. Duggan earned the Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University, and both the Master of Divinity degree and Doctor of Ministry from the New York Theological Seminary. Dr. Duggan and his wife Patricia, a retired school administrator, have three adult sons and four grandchildren.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Patrick's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

No matter how much it confronts me, I am viscerally offended and outraged by any form of injustice, from the smallest act of unkindness, to rhetoric that distorts truth, to those multi-generational forces of evil that have plagued humanity for centuries.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

One night as a child of about 10 years old, affected by the daily news of the Civil Rights movement, the assassinations of Kennedy and King, the violent resistance to supremacy, and the violent responses of supremacists, I dreamed that I was speaking before a crowd of thousands.

I woke up in the middle of the night, and with a deep sense of fear I realized two things in that moment: that I was going to speak before thousands, and I was going to pour out my life in service to humanity. I did not know then that I would become ordained clergy, nor that I would help hundreds of congregations to advance the mission of the church in ways that would advance the justice that Jesus proclaims in Luke 4.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Morning- 5:30am - 6:30am get up, prayer/meditation, breakfast, start work at 9:00am

Lunch - 30 minutes sometime betw. 12noon & 2pm

Afternoon - Work until 6pm or 6:30pm

Dinner -

Outdoor walk - 8pm - 9:30pm

Reading/TV - 9:30pm - 12:30am


4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Until the end of June 2023, I had been bi-vocational (pastoral ministry & church real estate) for almost 30 years. For 5 years, I struggled with the notion of retiring from the pastoral ministry even though I had a clear sense that God was leading me in a new direction. The problem was that even though I knew my effectiveness as a pastor was declining, I never stopped coming up with new ministry ideas (still has not stopped). It was not until a few months ago that I realized that effectiveness as a leader is not only competency-, talent-, or skills-driven. Effectiveness as a leader also has to do with the alignment of the person with the possibilities/pitfalls of the position & place. No matter how skilled and capable a leader is, there comes a time when another leader's skills, capabilities and life circumstances are a better fit for the effectiveness of the organization.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

I first read "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggeman in 1989. Brueggeman was the first theologian I read that understands the Old Testament as the work of Divine justice to vanquish the Empire of oppression and death to establish the righteous reign of God on earth.

Let me explain with less "churchy" language.

Many citizens in the US have the distorted understanding that the "separation of church and state" ideal that is a paragon of US governance also applies to a separation of "spiritual and secular" or "politics and religion". While purist 17th century Enlightenment-thinking would affirm that these ideas are similar, Brueggeman argues that for the God we meet in the Holy Bible, there is no such separation.

As Psalm 24:1-2 clearly states, everything on earth belongs to God. There is no spiritual evil, political evil, religious evil, or secular evil. There is only evil, which is essentially the result of a broken relationship with God. For Brueggeman, the meta-narrative of the Bible is how God re-establishes a right relationship with humanity so that together, God and humanity will vanquish evil. Brueggeman shifted my thinking about the power of religious faith to transform the world for good.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Do not be so sure that it is impossible to talk or work with those who you perceive as rivals, opponents, enemies, or adversaries. The greatest learnings sometimes are those that are revealed to you by people who don't like you, agree with you or are against you.

Until and unless YOU have been relentless at efforts to initiate dialogue (because we often expect the so-called "one who is wrong" to initiate conversation) you cannot claim that it is impossible to come to an understanding. While it is convenient to cast all blame on your opponent, it is irresponsible and unproductive to remain in that thinking because it excuses you from taking any action. You may be on the right side of a cause but that does not exempt you from using your agency to obtain justice.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

In 2007, St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, located in Louisville, Kentucky, formed MOLO Village Community Development Corporation to support residents in a neighborhood with a 76% poverty rate, 41% unemployment, and among the highest incarceration rates in the US. Facing closure due to health code violations, the historic church launched a neighborhood revitalization initiative, envisioning that healing the community first was the path to restoring church property. In 2013, St. Peter’s applied to the UCC Church Building & Loan Fund (CB&LF) for a $1 million loan to start what was estimated as a $10 million restoration of their 120-year old church building. CB&LF helped St. Peter’s realize that while historic restoration was a noble objective, it was outrageously expensive and would not enhance the ability of the church to advance its mission of eliminating poverty and creating abundance for local residents. Instead, CB&LF advised the church to subdivide the city block that it is located on, build a commercial/retail facility on one lot as Phase One of the church development plan, and then restore/rebuild the church building as Phase Two of the plan. Supported by CB&LF’s Partners in Vision program, St. Peter’s/MOLO did just that. The church built a new 30,000sf, $7.8M building (The Village @ West Jefferson) that includes a 75-child day care facility, an entrepreneurship program, a health equities institute and clinic, a credit union, a restaurant, offices for the local housing authority and expanded offices for MOLO CDC. This new facility meets community needs, created over 100 local jobs and improves the quality of life for all neighborhood residents. CB&LF’s $1.575M loan leveraged a total of $6.225M in grants, tax credits, and participation loans from three other church extension funds. The grants and tax credits will ultimately represent over $3.6M in equity for St. Peter’s/MOLO. In addition, MOLO will have access to excess cash flow of $50K-$75K each year to support and grow MOLO’s programs. Through local support of this project, St. Peter’s was also able to demolish the rear portion of the deteriorating church building, reducing the rehabilitation cost by over 85% and is now in the pre-development phase of an estimated $5M renovation of the church building. This project is arguably the most impactful church building project in the 170-year history of CB&LF.

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