FROM THE SOUTHEASTERN REGIONAL MINISTER, REV. KENT SILADI
“Hope is the strongest dri- ving force for a people. Hope which brings about change, which provides new realities, is what opens our road to free- dom” - Oscar Arias
This has been an “interest- ing” year in the life of our world, our nation, our state and our Conference. Our tumultuous world, our nation’s response to that tumult and the ways in which our pastors and congregations have struggled with these precarious times has led those of us who serve on your Conference staff to be in discernment about how best to work in partnership with you, the members of the Connecticut Conference.
During this past year I was blessed with a sabbatical leave. During that time I had the opportunity to do focused reading on “transformation” and to spend time with an ecumenical delegation in Colombia. Our partners in Colombia are a people of hope – in spite of all of the pain and suffering, the violence and the conflict, their faith has transformed my own understanding of this word “hope”. It is, as Oscar Arias says, “the strongest driving force for a people”. I have witnessed this firsthand among our partners and I have seen signs of hope among our pastors and churches of the Southeastern Region.
Our hope, of course, is in God. I have seen many signs that our churches have placed their hope in God. I witness this in what could be described as “simple” acts of love and mercy. I witness this hope expressed as Search Committees engage in their work with prayer and reliance on God’s Spirit. I wit- ness hope in congregations addressing the question, “To what is God calling us in this time and in these days?” I witness God’s hope expressed in our work with youth and children. I witness God’s hope as congregations seek to find new ways to be the church and to recognize that the times that we live in call upon us to allow God to give birth to some- thing new. I witness hope in people answering God’s call to become ordained to Christian ministry. I see hope in people becoming alive in the faith and rec- ognizing that Christians are not called to be “better” than others, but rather are called to be “different.”
I continue to be blessed by the relationships that have been built over these last six years of service as a Regional Minister. I work with a wonderful group of colleagues on the Conference staff and with gifted pastors and laypersons who find hope in God and in one another.
There are challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for us as we continue our journey of hope. How will we overcome the trend towards isolation- ism and instead look towards new ways of building community? What do we understand to be the dis- tinctive and particular aspect of the Gospel that the United Church of Christ, through your local church and other settings of the church, addresses? How can we move into the future filled with hope instead of with fear and trembling? How can we proclaim, in ways that those who have no faith community under-
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stand, that we believe “God is still speaking,” so that they might receive an extravagant welcome into Christ’s church?
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in our mutual ministries and partnerships into the future that God has awaiting us!
FROM THE PRESIDENT AND CEO, NEW SAMARITAN CORP., ALAN GREEN
Greetings, As I begin my tenure as President, first and foremost, I acknowl- edge with appreciation the creativity, foresight and perseverance displayed over the years by The Rev. Arthur Higgins founder of New Samaritan Corporation and the family of corporations, and Betsey Reid, recently retired President and Chief Executive Officer of the New Samaritan Corporation.
I thank Arthur for understanding the need for a char- itable, not-for-profit corporation to develop and man- age affordable housing for people and families unable to afford housing in the market place. His ideas began as he was the Assistant Conference Minister for Church and Society for the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ. The cor- poration began with minimal financial resources and with humble surroundings. It has now developed into the largest nonprofit corporation of its type in Connecticut, and probably New England. He addressed this important need and I thank him for his dedication and commitment.
Betsey, as everyone here knows her, is truly amazing. Over the years, she took and developed this corpora- tion in several different ways. She started as a volun- teer and later became President of New Samaritan Corporation. Then in 1991, she became the second President of Elderly Housing Management Corporation and Community Housing Management Corporation. During the past 30-plus years of associa- tion with the company, she developed policies and procedures, hired and led a staff of over 500 employ- ees, oversaw several office moves, grew the annual budget to more than $40 million and managed the development of over 2,000 housing units at more than 70 sites, so that we are now managing more than 3500 units of different types of housing for the elder- ly and supportive housing for people of all ages with special needs. Additionally, she helped to develop and later manage Mansfield Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, a 97-bed, skilled nursing home with a staff of more than 130 employees.
Betsey’s ability to pay attention to the big picture, as well as the little details, is what makes her truly amaz- ing. This year at our Annual Dinner, we recognized her many accomplishments with the Arthur Higgins Award. I truly have a formidable task in front of me to continue the established management and leadership that have made this corporation what it is today.
After my first eight months of tenure as President, I will briefly describe several new initiatives that build on past accomplishments but also move New
Samaritan into the future. They are: An assessment of our financial position and reporting
The focus of the work will be on improving the
description of the New Samaritan and the affiliated corporation’s financial position. We are a very large and complex organization and now is an opportune time to review our financial structure so that staff and the various Boards understand our financial position for management and asset development purposes.
The human resource function of the corporation - We have experienced considerable growth over the past 10 years and with that comes the need to make human resources a part of the business function of the several corporations of New Samaritan.
Strategic planning – We created a strategic planning committee, which began in February with a planning session retreat. The focus of this retreat, which included members of senior staff and the Boards, was to address how our family of corporations is orga- nized and identify a list of topics, issues and concerns we think should be considered as part of the strategic planning process. We also are developing a mission statement for the organization as a whole.
My ultimate objective as President is to continue the rich traditions established by Arthur and Betsey with an eye on planned and sustained growth. I also expect to improve our resource capacity to grow by taking advantage of opportunities to expand our funding base.
My initiatives and vision for the future take into account the good work and contributions of an exceptionally dedicated staff. Presently, the senior staff is working on opening 160 new units of housing throughout the state. We have also recently submitted two applications to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, which if successful will create financing for 30 more units of elderly housing in two new communities. We have recently been asked to take on the management of more than 50 units of supportive housing in several of cities.
We are busy as we continue to be the best at what we do best - providing quality, affordable housing. Although this is significant task, we are ready for the challenge and opportunity. Working together our dream continues.
God Bless, Alan E. Green
FROM THE ASSOCIATE CONFERENCE MINISTER, A D M I N I S T R AT I O N , CHARLIE KUCHENBROD
I was called to this posi- tion in September of last year. Management is my vocation and I have had several previous manage- ment ministries. Now, in a sense, my ministry is min- istry! My role is to be the steward of the small slice of God’s estate that is entrusted to the Connecticut Conference. The resources I have charge of include money, property, and the talents of staff. These resources are not mine, nor do I direct the application of
most of them. I keep track of resources and make sure they are appropriately maintained and utilized. Sometimes stewardship is pretty mundane. We have to have a system for paying people or the Conference couldn’t function. Sometimes steward- ship is exciting, as when imagining the opportuni- ties to use resources in innovative ways. I’ll return to this last point.
There is another element to my position: I get to help stewards at member congregations who have the same responsibilities that I have. Providing financial, property, and human resource manage- ment support to congregations is one of the most gratifying parts of my job.
My focus has been learning about the resources I am the steward of and the systems in place to man- age these resources. Drinking from a fire hose is an apt analogy. It is not possible to absorb everything all at once! It is also sometimes a messy process. Here is a small illustration. The Missionary Society of Connecticut is the trustee of just over one hun- dred bequests, meaning that we manage the invest- ment of the assets and distribution of investment returns. About 97 are routine and the rest, well, the rest aren’t. A much, much larger illustration: In October I presented the 2003 budget to the Annual Meeting and gave a pretty good imitation of some- one who understood what he was talking about. Then I had the dubious distinction of uncovering a forecasting error that had led to a significant over- statement of investment returns. This necessitated a great deal of expense reduction.
This also brings me back to when stewardship is exciting. In an era of constrained resources, one option would be to do less and less of the same work you have done in the past. Another option is to find new ways to manage God’s estate. Congregations are directing fewer of their resources to and through The Connecticut Conference. We are challenged to discern the most faithful way to serve. It is not clear yet to which new directions the discernment process may point, but I am looking forward to the journey.
Peace, Charlie Kuchenbrod
FROM THE ASSOCIATE CONFERENCE MINISTER, JUSTICE & WITNESS, REV. GORDON BATES
Two phrases, among many others, most succinctly characterize the Connecticut Conference in 2002 from the standpoint of the Office of Justice/Witness Ministries: “passionate concern” and “struggling to be faithful.”
Passion and concern were heard and seen in the voice and face of Ann Pratt, a lay member of the Bridgewater Congregational Church as we talked about the potential of a new interfaith coalition in the Hartford area to work together on justice issues. Her energy, mingled with that of Judith Hjorth, our Regional Minister for the Northern Region, and a host of other laity and clergy, issued in a covenanti- ng service for over 30 member churches, synagogues
and mosques on January 30, 2003. The Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition took its place along- side the Naugatuck Valley Project in the Western Region of the Conference and the Southeastern Region’s United Action Interfaith Coalition. All three groups have UCC churches involved.
The struggle to be faithful was experienced in the monthly meetings of the Public Education Advocacy Group, a Conference “Focus Community” that keeps its eye on the health of our public school system. Led by Everett Watson, a member of the Willimantic Congregational Church, PEAG carries on the long- standing commitment of the traditions that lie behind the United Church of Christ: the Congregational, the Christian, the Evangelical and the Reformed, all of which were deeply concerned about maintaining strong and free public education- al systems in this nation. Two other advocacy groups were hard at work interpreting and applying the Gospel to world and local events in 2002, the Open and Affirming Ministries, now led by Rev. Sarah Verasco, an Associate Pastor of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church; and the Just Peace Focus Community, led by Rev. Allie Perry, a member of the Andover Newton Theological School faculty.
Passion and concern were evident in the animated discussions of the Justice/Witness Ministry Team members, led by Rev. Lee Ireland, as they gathered monthly to reflect, on behalf of the Conference churches, on our common call to justice ministries of all kinds. As they reported on their contacts with representative congregations, the dots that outline the wide variety of service and compassion being offered in Christ’s name around the Conference were connected. Covenant to Care, Refugee Resettlement, Habitat for Humanity, prison visita- tion, food pantries, vigils for peace, prayer shawls, testimonies at the State Capitol arranged by Kim Harrison, our Conference Policy Advocate, health kits for Iraqi children, Advent and Lenten Programs on peacemaking and racism: each effort adding a small drop into the ocean of witness to God’s amaz- ing grace and love.
The struggle to be faithful is evident in the phone calls and e-mails requesting information about hate crimes legislation, becoming an open and affirming church, environmental concerns, domestic violence, legislative updates, becoming a just peace church, peaceful alternatives to violence and many of the other issues that face our world today. Some calls are looking for specific information; others seek a friendly ear, a sympathetic sounding board, a place to feel safe discussing their concerns and issues.
Passion and concern were evident in the faces of the protestors who expressed their opposition to the impending war in Iraq week after week, hoping to avoid needless death and suffering; faces of clergy and laity alike, advocating for a “third way” between fight and flight. Some were even passionate enough to risk arrest and incarceration to voice their opin- ion. Concern was shared by those churches willing to open their doors to all those who felt threatened when the war started; those who because of the color of their skin or the manner of their speech or the look of their clothing felt unsafe out in the open.
So we have worked for the past year: passionately concerned; struggling to be faithful; empowered by the grace of God; part of a long line of those who have been persuaded, against all odds, that “God
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