UNCO, a group process in which about 85 people present on Friday of the Ohio Conference Annual Gathering produced hundreds of ideas for conversation that were collected on a giant poster-paper covered wall. Rev. Ryan Taylor-Byers and Nicole Havelka connected like ideas and formed a “mind map” which revealed a dozen topics on which participants facilitated their own conversations.
Each of three sessions offered four topics from which participants could choose to discuss. Racial justice issues, digital media for congregations, climate change and worship in small membership churches, drew large crowds. If more than one topic was interesting during a session, participants were encouraged to move between the conversation. That way everyone goes away with what they need!
As the afternoon drew to a close, each group shared notes and the gathering was invited to keep the conversations going online, via videoconference, or even in person, if they wished. Immediately a group wanting to explore equipment, best practices and possibilities for use of media to support their ministries was formed with the Rev. Luke Lindon serving as convener. First step was to set up a Facebook group to continue their discussions — which has already been happening. Please join that group if you are interested in this conversation.
The energy and sharing of personal and professional concerns and ideas made for a unusual and unconventional afternoon – an Ohio Conference UNCO!
Another kind of listening took place after the annual business meeting on Saturday of the Annual Gathering. Led by Dr. John Savage, retired United Methodist pastor, and founder of LEAD leadership and consulting services, 16 table groups of 6 persons each worked on “a well formed outcome.” Groups were asked to consider what about the Ohio Conference and its Associations wanted to keep, what should be discontinued, and what help they needed to achieve the desired outcome. Another piece of the process was to differentiate between wishes, wants, and musts.
Two hours filled with intent discussion and thoughtful perspectives were not enough. But each group, deliberately structured to have two persons — each with a different, self-identified personality type — worked steadily at sharing information, ideas, concerns, and of course, dreams about our mutual ministries.
Feedback from these listening sessions was collated after the gathering and provided to the Conference Vision Team to add to their continuing work to re-imagine the structure and ministry of the Ohio Conference for today and years to come.
The combination of UNCO’s spontaneous reflection around shared interests, and work on well-formed outcomes created unexpected and unusual opportunities to hear, to speak, to be heard, and to ponder together about what’s ahead for our ministries. Many thanks to the planning team which generated these listening opportunities. It was a meeting without parallel and one to cherish!
Interim Ohio UCC Conference Minister