As the 2018 Tri-Conference Annual Meeting draws closer, buzz about “the vote” seems to be increasing. Have you heard it? Have you felt it? For some of us this conversation has been going on for what seems forever yet, for others it is fresh and new. One thing is certain though. On June 16th, each of us, as individual conferences, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, will decide whether or not we will pursue a future together, “Living the Love and Justice of Jesus”.
What will life be like beyond the vote? If the vote is no, in my humble opinion, it will be much the same as it has been. The regionally deployed Associate Conference Ministers will go about supporting the ministries of the churches in their assigned associations. Program and administrative staff will continue the work they have been doing. You see, for the past two or three years, we have been engaging across conference borders on numerous projects. We have worked together on Super Saturday’s, Annual Meetings, CE Certification, Search & Call, Communities of Practice, Youth @Synod, Regional Youth Event, Racial Justice Training, Communication, Unified Fitness Reviews as well other projects and programs.
We share a common bond and a common mission that “United in Spirit and guided by God’s grace, we welcome all, love all and seek justice for all”. In working together, learning from one another and sharing ministries we are living into Jesus’ call to discipleship.
What will life be beyond the vote? All the above said, if the vote is yes, there will be some differences over time. A new Board of Directors will be formed, offices and staffing patterns will be evaluated along with innumerable other details that can only be addressed after the vote. This link will bring you to frequently asked questions that have been asked during this season of discernment: https://www.macucc.org/files/ta1+documents/together+as+one+faq+180316clean_nowatermark.pdf
Perhaps most important in all of this, no matter how the vote goes at Annual Meeting, is that we all need to seriously discern how we relate to each other, not only as Conferences of the United Church of Christ, but as children of God, called upon to further the mission and ministry of Jesus in the world.
We can talk until the cows come home about structure, process and strategy and get stuck in the weeds missing the fundamental nature of what is truly important in supporting something new. Steve Zuieback posted an article that best speaks to components of creating successful change in organizations. To move forward with a strong foundation, it is crucial to build strong relationships, with strong values relative to the people within the organization. It is important to have a shared purpose, meaning and values within the organization. And perhaps most critical is information, how it is shared and utilized in decision making and how transparent it is to everyone in the system.
I invite all of us to step out of the weeds in the coming two weeks. Reach out to someone across the border of your Conference, get to know them and what they and their Conference value, connect with someone on the TA1 team, a Board member or a Conference staff person. Ask questions, read the FAQ document and pray. God bless us all as we seek to fulfill God’s vision and purpose for us.
Rev. Ellie Richardson is the Associate Conference Minister for Lay and Clergy Leadership Development for the Massachusetts Conference, UCC.
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