It is an honor and a privilege to serve the churches of Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and West Virginia as moderator for the next two years. I grew up in the United Church of Christ and, except for seven years when my husband and I lived in Michigan, I’ve been part of the Ohio Conference my entire life. And yet, when I was first asked to accept this six-year commitment of vice moderator, moderator, and past moderator, I hesitated because my connections across the conference are not as extensive or as strong as many others.
There are reasons for this. The last eight years of my professional life before my retirement at the end of 2013, were as the President and CEO of the UCC Insurance Board, so while I lived in the Cleveland area, my focus was national rather than within my own association or conference. Those years were immediately preceded by the previously mentioned years in Michigan. That meant a total of fifteen years where I wasn’t involved within our conference.
And yet the roots run deep and the pull to accept the responsibility was strong. I grew up at St. Paul’s UCC in St. Marys, Ohio, with parents that were continually involved with the United Church of Christ, serving locally, within the association and conference, and nationally. My mother preceded me as conference moderator back in the 1980’s and my father served as moderator of the Northwest Ohio Association. It’s impossible to remember or list all of the ways they have served the church, both in formal positions and around the edges. While both of them have passed on, some of you, especially in Northwest, may remember them: Mary and Phil Maurer. So, the spirit that urged me to say “yes” was echoed strongly by the voices of my parents. I doubt either of them ever said “no” to a request from any part of the church.
So here we are. It’s good that I have had two years to become familiar with the issues that confront us. Two years to make new friends and get reacquainted with some of you that I had known previously. Two years to learn from Mindy Quellhorst during her term as moderator, and from others serving in leadership in the conference.
I’ve learned that these are interesting times for the wider church in these states, with a fair share of challenge, but also with intriguing possibilities that are beginning to break forth. In a few short days, we’ll bid a fond farewell to Pilgrim Hills, where so many of us – myself included – grew in faith as we participated in camping programs of the Ohio Conference. The promising possibility in this is that we will finally have the financial capacity to invest in Templed Hills so that it can be a hospitable site for outdoor ministry and also a gathering place for churches, associations, and others.
We’ll also be hearing soon from the Vision Team which is composed of representatives from each association and from the conference. They are working to faithfully discern where God is leading as they imagine an organizational model of the church that is a connected, covenantal church living the mission of Jesus Christ throughout our region.
So, interesting times, indeed. I look forward to working with all of you as we make our way through these next two years together. I’m sure the challenges will continue, but our still-speaking God will also continue to bring us promising possibilities.
I welcome all of you to the journey and request your prayers and support!