FROM THE CHAIRPERSON, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, DONALD H. KETCHAM
There are 18 members of the Board of Directors, plus sup- port staff. The members were dedicated and participated fully in all decisions. At our meet- ings we had almost 100% atten- dance. I would like to thank each person on the Board for their service to the wider church and its ministry.
We could not do our work without the superb guid- ance of our Conference Minister, Davida Foy Crabtree, Charlie Kuchenbrod, Associate Conference Minister for Administration, Peggy Wright, Assistant to the Conference minister and Sue Furness, Administrative Assistant. A special note of appreciation is due the vol- unteer Treasurer of the Conference, Robert Giles. Bob completes his six-year term and will be sorely missed. His knowledge and balanced Christian spirit have been invaluable to the Board and the Conference.
The Board followed up on the resolutions passed at the 135th Annual Meeting of the Connecticut Conference. As part of this follow up, I sent a letter to the President of the United States and our Senators expressing our concern that a resolution to the Iraq crisis be sought using peaceful means. The resolution “Advocating Peace and Reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula” was recommended for action to the 24th General Synod of the United Church of Christ.
This year our Board retreat was held at Ingraham House on Saturday, February 8. Our theme was a little different. Instead of an organizational theme, our focus was theological. Our goal was to deepen our understanding of the nature and mission of the church so that the Board might be guided and empowered by that vision. Our involvement in Bible study and discussion of a United Church theological document on the church was refreshing and led us to a common understanding of the mission and vision of the church.
Early in the year we welcomed James Morgan as our new Associate Conference Minister for Wider Ministries. Jim is a member of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, U.C.C. It is good to have him aboard.
We were sad to receive the resignations of Dana Fisher, Director of the Silver Lake Conference Center, and Joe Neville, Western Regional Minister. “Fond farewell” receptions were held for both, with the usual laughter and tears. The dedicated and skillful Silver Lake Board, chaired by Ron Brown, got busy immedi- ately. Members took care of many details before staff assistance was secured. Joyce Yarrow, a member of South Church in Middletown, was chosen as Transition Director of Silver Lake. Chris Mereschuk, a student at Andover Newton Theological School and long-time friend of Silver Lake, accepted the job of Summer Conference Camp Director, and Matt Peters served as Summer Assistant Director. A Search Committee was formed to recommend a candidate for Western Regional Minister.
It came to the attention of the Board that there was some confusion and concern regarding the selection
process for Interim Ministers. As a result, a Task Force was formed in May 2002. Joan Kratzert, Vice Chair of the Board, was our representative. This group com- pleted its report and presented it to the Board. The Board reviewed the recommendations and voted to accept them.
It was felt that the resolutions process needed to be reviewed and therefore a task force was formed to make recommendations to the Board. Chair of the Committee, Scott Morrow, presented the report, which was received by the Board with thanks. Some changes in Bylaws have been suggested and a task force has been formed comprised of Elizabeth (Betty) Leete, Chairperson, Joan Burgess, Jane Chittock and David Schneider.
In December, the Minister of the Conference received word that the Health Center had burned to the ground over night. This was a tremendous shock. In January, Justin Ramos, a well-liked worker at Silver Lake died. This sent shock waves throughout the Conference and especially affected our youth, many of whom attended the wake and funeral for Justin. Mike White, Justin’s supervisor, spoke at the funeral. His words were very special and comforting. Members of the staff provided grief counseling. With all that has happened at Silver Lake this year, it has been wonder- ful to experience the outpouring of support from so many in so many ways.
In April, the Board dealt with a budget that needed to be drastically cut. The projected income was much lower than expected, due to lower OCWM sharing and a significantly lower investment return. Our Conference Minister and Minister of Administration spent many hours trying to make income and expens- es come together. By the Board meeting, there were some important decisions to be made. The Board members, in executive session, had a wide-ranging dis- cussion about the future and worked their way to a balanced budget. Alan Green, past Chair of the Board, led the Board in my absence. The Board went to work with a hopeful yet realistic mind set. What was expect- ed to be a tense and tough meeting turned out to be one of the most fruitful of the year. The Board rose to the occasion, as did the staff.
During the year, the Board received regular up dates from the Capital Campaign Committee. Much progress was made. An excellent logo was designed, an informative PowerPoint presentation was developed, and informative receptions were held around the Conference. Our thanks to the Committee, especially Hugh and Kate McLean, Chairpersons of the Campaign, and Diane Ciba, who provided expert staff support. For a number of reasons, it was decided not to bring the Campaign to a vote at this year’s Annual Meeting. The Board and Committee felt that we need- ed more time under these economic conditions to inform members of the conference and potential key donors of the identified needs represented by the Campaign.
As you can see, it was a very busy year. I would like to thank the Board for allowing me to be its Chairperson. It has been an honor and a privilege. We faced many challenges and, by God’s grace, we were able to meet these challenges with hope as a result of our faith in Christ who gives us the foundation for all hope. We journey together made bold by hope for we reassured by our “Sovereign who forevermore shall reign.”
FROM THE CONFERENCE TREASURER, ROBERT GILES
This is my sixth and final report to you as your Conference Treasurer. Some wise persons who came before us under- stood the importance of change and put a six-year limit on consecutive terms of the Conference Treasurer. It is a good poli- cy.
I am going to use this report to reflect a bit on the past six years and also to take a look at the near-term future. I started in my role as Treasurer in a time of uncertainty. As the first “volunteer” Conference Treasurer in many years, my position was part of the overall organiza- tional restructuring of the Conference. I now step aside in a time of uncertainty. With the investment markets continuing to struggle and with many churches of the Conference struggling financially, the amount of operating lifeblood of the Conference – money pledged by the local churches to Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) - is shrink- ing.
What has happened during the past six years in the Conference Treasurer’s realm.
We began by revamping our accounting system to
more appropriately reflect the activity of the reorga- nized Conference.
The Conference approved the institution of a
“total return” policy to help smooth out the peaks and valleys of available income from the Conference’s significant endowment funds.
In 1998, for the first time in anyone’s memory we
reached the point where the Auditor’s Opinion on the annual financial statements was without qualifi- cation.
We began fully recognizing depreciation in our
income statements and on our balance sheets.
We took significant strides toward a better under-
standing of the financial data put before the Board and the Annual Meeting.
We focused attention on the Silver Lake
Conference Center program and financials so that we better understand and have better control over this, the largest single asset and program within the Conference.
We completed a front-to-back review and revision
of the financial policies of the Conference. We have come a long way!
And how did we accomplish all of this? Through the dedication of many individuals, some on the Conference staff and many in volunteer roles serv- ing on boards and committees of the Conference. From the staff side, the dedication of Yamini Desai has stood out during my tenure as Treasurer. She has been well supported by Yolanda Montano and has worked with immediate direction from the Associate Conference Minister for Administration –
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Ken Ulmer and most recently, Charlie Kuchenbrod. What lies ahead?
For the near-term, I believe the Conference is facing some very difficult decisions. The financial support necessary to carry out all of the programs the Conference staff and Board of Directors believe are critical to the fulfillment of our role as a Christian organization in the local and world communities is not presently available, nor is it projected to be in the near-term. Earnings from investments are declining as the long-term bear market takes its toll, even with a total return policy in place. It will get better sometime, but we are faced with at least a few years of reduced income from investments. Set this side-by-side with the fact that following two years – 1999 and 2000 – when the Basic Support goal set by the Conference for OCWM was surpassed, we have now had two consecutive years when this critical goal has been missed. We are currently looking at 2003 projections that suggest an even more dramat- ic decline in OCWM support from the churches this year.
So, just as our local churches are being faced with issues created by income levels that fall short of the demands of expenses, the Conference is forced to consider program cutbacks, personnel cutbacks and cutbacks in our support of other agencies and the national setting of UCC.
We cannot do it all. Do we continue with our major financial support of the national setting (63% of all OCWM dollars received by our Conference) at the cost of local programs and support for our Conference churches and pastors? Or do we contin- ue the current level of local support and reduce the support we have historically provided to the national setting? One way or another, these questions are at the heart of the decision. It is not an easy situation to resolve. But we will resolve it and we will move forward
I appreciate your support over the past six years and I thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve your Connecticut Conference.
In August 2003, I will have completed my sixth year as Regional Minister.
FROM NORTHERN REGIONAL MINISTER, REV. JUDITH H J O RT H
In the past six years, 32 churches out of the 83 in the Northern Region have welcomed new senior, solo or co-pastoral leadership. Currently there are 11 more in the search process. In addition, 18 churches have new associ- ate pastors and there are seven in the search process for a new AP. While search committees receive fewer profiles than in the past, the good news is that there are still fine candidates, experienced as well as just completing seminary.
However, there is a shortage of authorized ministers. I am grateful that two recent seminary graduates have taken the initiative to stimulate interest in ordained
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ministry among younger adults. Rev. Mark Diters and Rev. Kristen Kleiman led a °Maybe Ministry°± group from Connecticut to General Synod this summer. This venture has been helped by administrative sup- port from the conference and financial grants from some of the associations and churches. I also see increased commitment to support authorized min- istry in the vote of Farmington Valley to double fel- lowship dues, with the increase going to scholarships.
In a variety of ways, churches are working on how to live as a Christian community rather than simply a collection of individuals, each on his or her own spir- itual journey. A few churches are using consultants to help them write behavioral covenants so there can be a free flow of information - open respectful discus- sions, differences of opinion worked through without choosing sides and committed follow through on decisions. They want a community that acknowledges rather than hides differences of opinion in order to be hospitable.
In some churches there are individuals who find it difficult to compromise or disagree, which can be generally upsetting to community life. This is nothing new. What is changing, is that increasingly a pastoral relations committee or board of deacons or a church council is confronting such individuals and setting limits on his/her behavior, rather than leaving it to the pastor.
I keep hearing from churches that can't find enough volunteers who will make 3-year commitments to boards and committees. However, the younger adults will commit to short-term, high-intensity taskforces. A couple of churches have a new governance structure that addresses those issues. Currently, I am working with one family/pastoral-style church and one pro- gram-style church to provide Saturday morning work- shops in which each church would simply tell the why-and-how details and evaluation of their switch to a streamlined governance structure.
Increasingly, churches are beginning to think and work regionally. In May, the Hartford Association invited UCC churches in the towns that belong to the Capitol Region Council of Governments to hear Myron Orfield speak on Connecticut Metropatterns. There is a good representation of Hartford Association churches in the Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice. However, it is more difficult for the churches in the outer sub- urbs to understand how thinking regionally is in their self-interest. Myron Orfield°Øs maps vividly show how all types of communities are hurt by the way the state is growing. The maps can be viewed on the CenterEdge web site that can be reached via Links at www.ctucc.org. The Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice is committed to work- ing for regional and statewide reforms. There are models for change in other states from which we are learning.
Life is not easy in the churches. We are living in interesting times, but churches are responding with creativity to the challenges facing them. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is energy. Working with Pastors and Laity who struggle to live our faith in their churches and our world in these days energizes me. It could be the Holy Spirit working in and through them.
Grace and peace, Judy