was in Christ, reconciling the world to God… and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation.” (II Cor. 5. 19)
FROM THE ASSOCIATE CONFERENCE MINISTER, CLERGY CONCERNS, REV.CAROLE CARLSON
It may seem peculiar to begin this report by not- ing that I experience hope for Christ’s church in rather unusual places: those necessary—but all too often tedious and bor- ing—events called “meet- ings.” I refer specifically to our 15 Association Committees on Ministry and the Conference Committee on Ministry. A significant amount of my time is devoted to training events and workshops to support the vital ecclesiasti- cal work of these dedicated Committee members.
The United Church of Christ is absolutely unique among denominations in the processes we follow to deal with authorization for ordained, commissioned, and licensed ministry. In our covenantal pattern, decision-making flows back and forth between the local church and the Association. The local church nurtures candidates for ministry. The local church calls pastors. The Association gathers for ecclesiasti- cal examinations and for celebrations of ordinations and installations. The Association delegates to its Committee on Ministry many responsibilities, including: oversight of candidates preparing for ministry; Periodic Support Consultations for clergy; record-keeping of clergy credentials; Situational Support Consultations between a pastor and a local church; and—when necessary—Fitness Reviews. (The UCC Manual on Ministry, which guides the work of the Committees, is now available on www.ucc.org.)
A Spirit-filled, challenging retreat for students in- care was a new feature of our joint ecclesiastical work this past year, and the evaluations were so posi- tive that plans are already underway for a similar event in 2004. I am very grateful to Rev. John Danner and Career Counselor Lindsey Huddleston, both from Saugatuck Church in Westport, for their exceptional leadership.
And even though Committees on Ministry occasion- ally must deal with painful instances of clergy mis- conduct, our emphasis is on prevention. Response to our Conference Clergy Misconduct Prevention Training has been positive, and we rejoice that 338 clergy have completed Phase One. Reverends Barbara Libby, Mark Heilshorn, Ron Brown, Bonnie Bardot, Beverly Weinhold, and Lee Moore all were certified this past year as “trainers.” They bring strong teaching skills to their work, as do our long- time trainers: Reverends Sue Prichard, Dave Jarvis, Cynthia Terry, Barbara Blodgett, Gordon Rankin, and Linda Lea Snyder. New video and print resources will enable us to develop more advanced training modules for Phase Two.
Our clergy find spiritual and intellectual nurture in a variety of continuing education events. Many are
enrolled in advanced degree programs. Others par- ticipate in seminary-sponsored opportunities, including the excellent events sponsored by the Conference Seminary Support Committee. This past year we offered two new retreats: one for Senior Pastors and one for Associates. We also make avail- able the two-year Colleague Program for “First Parish Pastors.” Conference staff have facilitated— and will continue to do so—worship services for and with our pastors throughout the state. And I am always open to suggestions for new programs to assist our pastors.
I am blessed to be in relationship with so many hope-filled pastors, and I continuously give thanks for their ministry, as well as the ministries of my wonderful colleagues on the Conference staff.
FROM THE ASSOCIATE CONFERENCE MINISTER, WIDER CHURCH, JIM MORGAN
I was called to the Conference as Associate Conference Minister for Wider Church Ministry at the beginning of the year. I can honestly say, it’s like no job I’ve ever had. From my work with the Wider Church Ministry team and the Stewardship and Planned Giving Ministries, to writing for and editing our monthly ConnTact publication and doing OCWM mission interpreta- tion with some of our churches, there’s rarely a dull moment.
There have been significant changes in the Wider Church Ministry team.
My predecessor, Hal Chorpenning, left in the spring of last year, and Norma Comins stepped down as Chairperson after several years of strong leadership. New Co-Chairs, Elizabeth McCosh-Lilie and Jill Shaw, are providing continued vision and direction to the team.
A few team highlights from the past year include workshops that were offered at Annual Meeting 2002, focused on mission and education in Korea, Colombia, Africa and the Middle East; responding to a request from Church World Service by collect- ing materials for over 1,500 school kits and raising more than $8,000 for desks; publication of the updated Global Awareness Resources booklet, a compilation of mission and missionary information; and participation in Spring Planting, offering a workshop in this new setting.
The Colombia and Korea Partnership Committees were both vitally active and engaged, building rela- tionships and focusing attention on two troubled areas of the world where we can make a difference.
Members of the Colombia Partnership team accom- panied a Witness for Peace delegation to Colombia, where they saw firsthand the ongoing struggle for justice and peace. At Annual Meeting, a report and workshop were presented, with the focus on First Church of Christ, Middletown - the first UCC church in Connecticut to partner directly with a
local church in Colombia – as a model for potential involvement of other UCC churches. The partner- ship also joined in the Colombia Mobilization last fall, as well as a peace action at United Technologies in Hartford in March of this year. Also in March, two religious leaders from the Arauca province spoke at Church of the Redeemer in New Haven about their work promoting dialogue and reconcili- ation. And in April, the committee presented Ricardo Esquivia, director of Justapaz, our partner church agency for the Mennonite Church in Colombia, at First Church in Middletown.
The Korea Partnership Co-Chairs Rev. Linda Barnes and Roger Babbitt assumed leadership of the team from the capable hands of Rev. Paige Besse-Rankin. Sacred Journey 2002 saw a delegation of Connecticut youth travel to Korea. On Easter Sunday, Roger flew to Korea, where he represented the Conference at the spring meeting of Kyung-ki Presbytery, and presented a check from Glastonbury church to help in the fight against tuberculosis. This past summer, we welcomed a delegation of 26 Koreans – adults and youth - in a joint mission pro- ject hosted by Connecticut partner churches. And at General Synod 24, a resolution on peace and reuni- fication on the Korean Peninsula, started by the Korea Partnership and presented by the Connecticut Conference, was approved by the dele- gates.
The day-to-day activities in the Stewardship area remain in the capable hands of Amy Beveridge. She maintains program resources, as well as creating and promoting Stewardship development events in con- junction with her counterparts in the National UCC office.
Our Planned Giving Specialist, Don Campbell, resigned from the position in the spring. I am most grateful for the counsel he gave me during our few months together. Initial steps have been taken to create a Planned Giving Advisory Council, in an effort to increase sharing with local churches and the Conference.
It has been an exciting year for me. I’m delighted to have the privilege of doing work that comes from the heart. The support of Conference staff col- leagues, as well as the various members of my “extracurricular” groups, has been an invaluable blessing. I look forward to getting out among more of our churches. I hope we have a chance to meet. Peace,
FROM THE ASSOCIATE CON- FERENCE MINISTER, LOCAL CHURCH MINISTRIES, KATHY PETERS
Hope for the world, hope for this Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ has been embodied for me in the people I have encountered and the churches I have engaged with over this past year.
The lay woman so excited by
a presentation about rotation curriculum at a CAUCE work-
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shop that she has volunteered to reorganize her church’s Sunday school.
The little girl who enthusiastically asked me, the
guest preacher, to help her to carry her snack because she just had to get to junior choir practice, now!
The Christian Educators and Youth Minister of our
conference who work many more hours than they are paid for, to ensure that our young people have quality programs and know that they are loved and cared for by our God.
The youth of this state who engage in mission work
that makes a difference through their local churches.
A Sunday school class of sixth grade boys so
engaged in acting out the story of Jesus as a boy in the temple that more than one of them was willing to play Mary.
The CT Association of United Church Educators
(CAUCE) crafting a resolution to affirm the vital ministry of our educators and youth workers.
The Consultants to Congregations working to help
congregations talk to one another and act together as the Body of Christ.
The three new church start pastors, the Rev.
Persida Rivera-Mendez, the Rev. Ho Jun Chang and the Rev. John Selders, faithfully bringing a word of hope and love to their communities of faith through circumstances that are often challenging.
The Conference staff coming together for Bible
study during their lunch hour.
The Local Church Ministry Team working together
with three local churches to put on a workshop for church moderators.
The Partners in Education consultants willingness
to work with local church to enhance educational ministries.
The Associates in Christian Education (ACE) pro-
gram graduates who complete their year of work and study and are asking for more!
The churches offering alternative times for their
congregations to worship and study.
The staff of the office of Local Church Ministries
who are there always to resource local churches. “You have Questions……We have Resources!!”
The pastor who introduced me to the image of
God as an “instigator”!
The educators and pastors who struggle to help
their committees, their teachers, their congregations to be engaged in the often difficult work of being the church in a time when the demands of the world often call folks to other “consuming passions”.
In Christ, the hope of the world, we have a brother for this journey of hope as we venture into the future. We have many signs of hope in our midst, yet we have much to do to embody what it truly means to be a people of God, a people of hope for the years to come. In the words of the hymn “Hope for the World” may “we render back the love (God’s ) mercy gave us; take back our lives and use them as you will.”
FROM THE INTERIM WESTERN REGIONAL MINISTER, REV. LARK HAPKE
It has been a joyful experi- ence to join the Connecticut Conference staff for this brief period of Interim ministry in the Western Region! I arrived in late March and very quickly found the plate full of work within the five Associations of the region---primarily meeting with Committees on Ministry, clergy groups and search committees. I was then, and continue to be, deeply grate- ful for the warm welcome I have received, as well as the collegial and cooperative spirit that I encountered in countless situations and settings with clergy, laity and my colleagues on the Conference staff.
Over the past three months, I have become fairly well acquainted with Western Connecticut as I traveled the region at the pace of nearly 1,500 miles per month. I've learned well the phrase "If you don't know where it is, you can't get there." In the process of finding my way, there have been wonderful discoveries! It doesn't take long to realize the depth of faithfulness lived out by so many of the congregations and clergy of this wonderful Conference. Across the board, I've encoun- tered a wide variety of laity who are devoting major resources of time, talent and stewardship to their local churches and beyond. It has also been a gift to minis- ter with such a fine cadre of clergy who are deeply commitment to their roles and responsibilities in serv- ing the Church of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of it all, there is so much to celebrate when it comes to the vitality of the vision, amazing resiliency, and ceaseless ministry of prayer, pastoral care, and prophetic voice embodied by the work of the congregations and clergy of the Connecticut Conference. There are, too, any number of situations and individuals who are experiencing a host of prob- lems and substantial challenges. As I review these many encounters of just a few short months, I have come to understand so much of what we know as the distress and conflict within the Church these days to be about the process of change. While this sounds like a rather simple read on the complexities of the cir- cumstances that many of us deal with (shrinking resources, lengthy pastoral transitions, confusing pri- orities, and polarizing strife), I have come to believe that the experience of change is at the core of the journey of faith. All of us do, to one degree or anoth- er, live in the 'land of steady habits' and it takes a fair amount of courage and wisdom to recognize that change is the norm and not the exception of what it means to be faithful. God invites us to embrace and be embraced by the One who "makes all things new", the One of death and resurrection, the One whose gift of grace never changes. Wherever you or your congregation are on the journey, I hope and pray that you are learning to enjoy this remarkable trust walk of transformation on which God leads and guides us.
It has been a privilege to listen to the many joys and sorrows, compliments and complaints, accomplish- ments and failures spoken throughout the Western Region. One of the striking threads of the conversa-
tion is much ado and anxiety about the state of "the Conference.” In many ways, the conversation, when all is said and done, to some degree begs the question: and just who is "Conference?” Is it we, them, or us? Undoubtedly, the conversation brings about rich reflection on the quality of relationships and covenants within and between our congregations, cler- gy, conferences and denomination. There seem to be no immediate answers or quick fixes. What we do have is a polity that allows and encourages each of us - all of us – to take ownership in what it is and what it means to be the United Church of Christ, in the form of congregations, associations and conferences, for our time. What is our mission? Where is our mission? Who is calling us to mission? And........ how is the God of grace and love speaking to us this day to not lose heart, and to be of good courage in the struggle for justice and peace?
By the time you read this, I will be on my way and you will be getting acquainted with your new Regional Minister. I pray for you all the very best. Thank you for the honor of ministering with you and among you for these months.
Blessings and Shalom.
FROM THE CAPITAL CAMPAIGN PLANNING COMMITTEE, KATE & HUGH MCLEAN
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to plant,
and a time to pluck up what is planted
Every successful capital campaign has three phases: Visioning, Listening, and Gifting. Many people over the past several of years have been involved in the visioning process, especially in articu- lating the future ministry needs at Silver Lake Conference Center. Other ministry needs for the future were also lifted up: increasing the capacity of our churches to be in ministry with at-risk school-age children, increasing the endowment for seminary stu- dent scholarships, and supporting the national UCC effort to assist our so-called “challenged” confer- ences.
During the past year, the Capital Campaign Planning Committee met regularly to develop a proposed Capital Campaign – Now For the Future – that would fund these four ministry opportunities, at a cost of $20 million. The Conference Board of Directors approved this proposal in September 2002, thus com- pleting the Visioning Phase of the proposed capital campaign.
At the 2002 Annual Meeting, we reported on this process and presented a slide show and case for sup- port that announced the beginning of the Listening Phase of the campaign. The committee also present-
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