“There Is Nothing New Under the Sun”
It is easy to use the scripture from Ecclesiastes as a way of determining that all efforts are futile. I choose to view it from a different side. While that scripture reminds us that times and places across the centuries may seem eerily alike, for me, it is a call to me that getting close to God requires a persistence of focus no matter how long some things, perhaps all things, have been going on. We are, to paraphrase another scripture, in a long race and we are to be in it for all our lives.
In the last weeks we went from the cry, “How long O Lord” under the Covid19 restrictions, to the renewed, smack in our face, awareness of persistent racism and its manifestations in all our lives. But even if circumstances and perhaps solutions/opportunities are not necessarily “new” doesn’t mean we are powerless or can’t imagine a better way. Our task is to respond, in faithfulness. Others more eloquent than I will write regarding Covid19 and for the critical needs for addressing the systemic racism so I am not going to attempt to address those in these brief bullet points. I will instead, encourage you encourage you to pay attention to your various sources of Association, Conference and National UCC communications on them. And despite its often maligned intentions, use your different forms of communication from phone, to facebook, to news agencies, to list serves for provocative thinking about how we might move conversation forward in any of our endeavors together to make us “one body”, equally members of it.
What I can speak to with some confidence is that your Conference, a whole of the Associations, has been working several initiatives that we wanted you to be up-to-date on, even as they too, change quickly as next steps are identified.
- • Moving the on-site camping program to a virtual camp comes with a new time dimension and a cost. You can find out about the “virtual program” by looking at the Outdoor Ministry article. The board will be taking up at its next meetings cost projections and deficit costs that are impacted by having no revenue during the summertime. While the five year plan was to subsidize our camps toward an eventual “break even” point, this years lack of income will nearly double the original deficit planned for. Fortunately, prudent investment from the sale of one camp a year and a half ago give us some leeway, but that will mean redoubling our efforts for growth next year.
- • The Vision Document presented to the Conference 20 months ago is being energized by a calling together of all the judicatories Executive Committee Teams for continued work on cooperative ministries and restructuring opportunities. Collaborative groups have been formed to address a variety of issues that will enable us to work better together that will drive any structural change. A timeline of three months for more specific, concrete next steps forward is being worked on.
- • A request from our siblings in SONKA led to a working group that helps us begin to model how we might better work together in several areas. Living Waters and the Conference are aiding with some specific short-term financial needs. All associations have offered some other collaborative areas for joint ministry. SONKA is working on things like possible movement of offices, collaborative financial accounting arrangements, and joint communication strategies to better utilize resources. Thanks to all for a willingness to lift one another up in times of challenge.
- • A Lilly Grant has been forwarded in the effort to see if we, should we be fortunate enough to receive it, can dive deep into uncovering some of the best practices for creating thriving churches.
- • Faith Formation (funded through the conference but run by a collaborative working group) continues to hold sessions and train facilitators for local churches. There have also been monthly “resourcing” zoom meetings to aid local churches in providing continuing Faith Formation experiences in the local church.
- • Our fall annual meeting will use on-line, “virtual” means to conduct necessary business. Please continue to keep September 25/26 open on your calendar for our “Annual Conference Meeting” until final plans are announced by the end of this month. Further, there are plans for several quarterly inspirational and conversational virtual events throughout the coming year to facilitate preparation for the joint meeting/event with our DOC brothers and sisters in 2021 that was originally planned for this year.
- • Each Association continues to offer meaningful and useful experiences for you to be a part of. Be sure and carefully review all communications for those opportunities that will help you to grow in faith and wisdom.