From the Conference Minister: Rev. Charles L. Wildman
Charles L. Wildman
Interim Conference Minister
In his life and work, American architect and urban planner, Daniel H. Burnham (1846-1912) embodied his famous advice,
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's (sic) blood… Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.
So, I am excited about the Fall Annual Meeting theme selected by our planning committee, "Go Big, Embrace God's Plan!" Inspiration for this title came from UCC General Minister and President Geoffrey Black's new "Bold, Inspirational Goals" (BIGs) identity campaign for the UCC. What are the BIGs? Aspirations for our future as a ministry of Jesus Christ, nationally and as Connecticut Conference. The BIGs are presented elsewhere in this issue of ConnTact.
It has been my experience that congregations that dream big dreams about their ministries achieve exciting results. Those churches that hunker down, in the face of shrinking numbers or major crises, struggle for years. Proverbs 29:18 reminds us that where there is no vision, the people perish. The vision discussed is God's vision through scripture, tradition and current revelation; the vision given through our Still Speaking God.
God's vision for big and bold futures often challenges us in disturbing ways. From early years, I felt what I since have understood as a holy nudge to pursue a vocation in ordained ministry. As a youth and young adult, I tried to follow other paths that promised greater material and social rewards. I envisioned being a great philanthropist one day, helping the Church in that way. I rejected the image of "the minister" that society projects in television sitcoms and common life. I indeed wanted to be one of the boys! My youth minister in those days has since said that he did not see me as one of those who would go into "The Ministry."
My path in early years led me into one confusing dead end after another. Life held little intrinsic meaning. Personal relationships failed. Academic life lacked interest. Finally brought to my knees, I bowed in acceptance of what I came to understand was God's bold plan for my life. And literally, from that moment on, the puzzle pieces fell together and joy took up permanent residence in my soul. All these years later, no matter how distressing a particular ministry moment might be, I remain energized by the meaning and privilege of serving in ordained ministry in the United Church of Christ.
God's bold vision or plan for your life might well lead you in a different direction from mine. But ministry is ministry, no matter what the setting. God still can minister through us in literally every life setting.
The same is true for congregations as well as individuals. God's bold, inspirational goals can awaken dying faith communities to new life and mission. And sometimes, in the dying, resurrection happens. Take the Shelton Congregational Church that recently closed its doors after a brilliant ministry through many generations. God's bold vision for Shelton, in the face of their end-of-life stage, was to give financial support from their endowment to important ministries, including the Connecticut Conference. So, in dying, Shelton lives on as a tangible inspiration to the rest of us.
God's ways are not our ways: life out of death; meaning from despair; courage from discouragement. Out of crisis, exciting challenge; new occasions, new duties; in all, joy and a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, for the former things have passed away(Rev. 21:1).
I cannot wait to see what big goals are in store for the coming new era in the life of our Connecticut Conference and the entire United Church of Christ.
God makes no small plans!
The Rev. Charles L. Wildman is Interim Conference Minister of the Connecticut Conference, UCC.