In the midst of this season of Lent there is a calling to pause, listen and watch for the movement of the Spirit and breathe deeply the presence of God.
In those moments my reflections wander to the movement of God’s Spirit in the last weeks and months.
When I visited each Association Fall Meeting I talked about the current moment in the evolution and journey towards coming together into a new Conference: Together As One (TA1). I spoke of the need in this early phase to build relationships that are based in trust and vulnerability. And I spoke of the importance of sharing information that offers clarity and transparency around our priorities and philosophies and approaches. And I spoke of our focus of deepening our connection to the God given vision that gives us collective identity and purpose. It is crucial to build this foundation before we step into the work of determining structures, and strategies and programs and staffing.
That work continues. And so much more has begun to emerge on that foundation in the last few months.
Barbara Lemmel, who leads our Tending the Fire Program, has continued as a facilitator and guide to our conversations at the Board and Staff level, helping us build that foundation and plan the next steps.
The Board of Directors has formed and continues to form committees: Vision Implementation, Staffing, Finance, Personnel, Executive, Mission Effectiveness and Measurement, Communication, Governance, Annual Meeting, Nominating.
These committees have begun to meet to develop their plan for their process. They are seeking and gathering information and data both within our 3 Conferences and from those who are ‘outside our box’. Their work is still very preliminary and very active.
A Resolution has been crafted with input from our national UCC legal counsel and has been submitted to the UCC General Synod business committee requesting the authorization for a new geographic Conference comprised in the geography of our 3 states. Read related article
Staff has been gathered and approached to offer verbal and written input to the Board committees because of their familiarity with the ministries, needs and impacts within each of our Conferences.
Input and ideas from gatherings throughout our conferences is being revisited to provide a lens into the insights and longings of our clergy and churches. While at the same time we are seeking perspectives from beyond our familiar church/conference world and culture to help us perceive the insights and longings that may call us to new worlds and cultures.
Timelines are being reconsidered to determine a brave and faithful way forward as we evolve into what TA1 can become.
Plans are being developed for our November 1 and 2, 2019 Annual Meeting which will be a powerful and poignant time of endings and beginnings. (And remember, there is no joint Annual Meeting this June.)
Conversations and collaborations are flourishing across the borders of our 3 Conferences among our staffs and conference leadership. These include a full scope of our ministries from justice and witness (economic, racial, LGBTQ, environmental, and beyond), search and call times of transition for churches, implementing the new Manual on Ministry, best practices for interim ministry, boundary awareness trainings, racial justice approaches, Hispanic ministries, innovations in faith formation for children, youth and adults, outdoor ministries, disaster resource and response, visioning/vitality/innovation approaches, coaching, conflict resilience, stewardship, finances and fundraising and Committees on Ministry, and more. And while some are just dipping into the surface of these, others have gone for deep and life changing dives.
Conversations have begun to look at our strategies around the best use of our annual major events and programs.
We have received and engaged a Lilly Grant that fully aligns with our TA1 vision. Read related article
The Boards of Ministerial Aid have come together to learn from each other’s best thinking and approaches to caring for our clergy and their families.
We are comparing notes and approaches to leadership development for clergy and laity.
We are delving deeply into the complex aspects of our various approaches to budgeting to find that common synergy that will fuel us forward.
And we have held paradoxical emotions in gentle tension, for this is a time of grieving and excitement. Change always holds both pain and possibility in dynamic flow.
And through it all I am deeply impressed and immensely grateful to our staff and TA1 leadership. They are an extraordinary group of people who are being asked to carry a complex and heavy load both in their schedules and hearts. Watching them I know that we have the “right people on the bus.” And, personally, I am grateful to be able to work with Kent Siladi and Marilyn Kendrix. We’ve had more than a little time together and I have come to count on them as mentors, colleagues, creative thinkers, astute observers, and friends.
And, above it all I am thankful to God. This Lenten time is built on wilderness experiences. It is the essence of spiritual journeys that they move us through times of intense dryness and emptiness and intense joy and fulness. And Christ is there. God is good…All the time All the time…God is good.
The Rev. Don Remick is the Transitional Interim Conference Minister for the Massachusetts Conference, UCC
Updates on the Together As One process, along with background information, are posted here
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