Charles L. Wildman,
Interim Conference Minister
Pastoral Letter Index
|Davida Foy Crabtree, Conference Minister|
TO: The Ordained Ministers and Moderators of our Churches
FROM: Davida Foy Crabtree, Conference Minister
Grace and peace to you who are stewards of God's grace in the name of Jesus Christ!
Last week I made a pilgrimage to Ground Zero. As I walked, I found myself lost deep in prayer for all who had died and for their families and co-workers. Murmuring names of those whom I knew had been lost, I might have seemed like a street person, but for my clothing. My eyes looked upward from time to time, at buildings shredded and charred by hate. At other times, lost in thought and prayer, I'm not sure my eyes looked anywhere but inside myself. Rarely am I speechless, but there, even with four good Conference Minister colleagues, I had nothing to say. I still don't. But I want you to know I've been there on your behalf, carrying your prayers and your own stillness before the ruins.
For most of us, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and Epiphany will be different this year. Simpler, perhaps. Holding on a little tighter to family. Getting clearer about who we are and to Whom we belong. Mostly, it will be a matter of nuance and shadow, depth and earnestness of prayer, a wondering about God's intent for us in these times. We are all challenged to a deeper theological engagement, a theological struggle, jihad, in our inner lives even as we seek to be bold in our proclamation of the good news of God's great gifts. Such struggles are the stuff of which faithfulness is born. May your jihad be rich and challenging, leading toward the brilliant, almost blinding joy of Christ born anew in the midst of this awful and awe-ful world!
While in NYC, the Conference Ministers of CT, NY and Central Atlantic met with Florence Coppola, our national UCC disaster ministries executive. We talked about our UCC response, which is largely through Church World Service. In that cooperative effort, various denominations have niche ministries and take the lead when their niche is the primary one. Our UCC responsibility is technological disasters, and there are increasing signs that we will be called upon very soon in this situation. So Florence and her team of volunteers are gearing up.
It is probably important that I remind you of two important facts: first, we are not first responders to this kind of disaster, but rather are the ones who step in for the long haul, particularly offering spiritual and emotional counseling long after everyone else has gone home. And secondly, every penny raised in our special offerings goes directly to work related to the disaster or crisis, because your regular mission giving through Our Church's Wider Mission provides the staffing and the structure to facilitate that. So when your church gives to Hope from the Rubble or the Afghanistan special offering, none of that money goes for administration or salaries; all of it goes for special ministries in Christ's name (and yours!) directly to those affected by the situation. Some of it is kept for long term needs, for training and counseling, etc. and we make no bones about that. It's the right, effective and faithful thing to do.
So thank you for your gifts to date of over $120,000 for Hope from the Rubble, and $1,500 for Afghanistan. The way we work in Afghanistan, by the way, is through Church World Service and Action by Churches Together, a carefully coordinated response providing shelter right now for 15,000 families (105,000 people) and six months of food supplies, which are purchased in that region and trucked in. A shelter kit costs $90, and a food supply kit is $256. We need to increase our support of Afghan refugees in Pakistan as winter approaches, just as we need to pay attention to the needs of the poor here at home this winter. Please urge your members to give generously. This is one of the ways to work for peace and for international understanding.
Last winter, the Conference Board adopted our own Disaster Response Plan, thanks to the good work of Gordon Bates and a special committee. Until now, we've had trouble locating enough people to work on the various aspects of its implementation. Because we are not a locale where disasters are common (such as they were in Southern California when I was there!), folks didn't seem very concerned. Perhaps out of this recent experience, there might be some in your church who would be willing to join the effort. Call or email Gordon at email@example.com if you can help us find willing persons, or maybe you are one yourself!
November 27 - "Rest in the Storm: Self-Care Strategies for Clergy by Dr. Kirk Jones of Andover Newton: 9:15-1:15 including lunch; $8.00; at South Congregational/First Baptist Church, 90 Main Street, New Britain.
An Advent Quiet Day will be scheduled as well as other events after January 1.
Our three days in Danielson were stimulating, somber and moving, with occasional times of levity mixed in. Dr. Dale Bishop and Dr. Jane Smith provided great substance for our thought as they reflected on the situation in the middle east and on Islam globally and in this country. Two resolutions came to the floor in response to September 11, and you have received those in the mail. Remember two things about resolutions: they speak to the churches and set policy for the Conference. Hence, you are encouraged as churches to study them, take them seriously, and implement those portions that come to have meaning for you.
One of the moving moments came as we gave the Lay Ministry Award to 11 year old Samantha Leathers, of our West Avon church. As she responded, many found tears in their eyes, and gave thanks to God for the sign of hope she represents. Another came as 216 youth were commissioned for their workday, and later when they returned with their report. Thanks to Merrillyn Garcia, youth specialist of the Conference, for her marvelous gifts in making this event happen!
A number of moments of levity came on Saturday night as we played our UCC game show. With the Revs. David Peters, Bob Naylor and Lillian Daniel as contestants and yours truly as the sequin-bedecked host, the evening was a great, roaring success. Let's just say that David Peters ran away with the prize! If we can ever put the time together, our hope is to make the questions/answers available on a CD so you can play it at your church. We may actually reprise the show next year with new topics. We'll see whether I can come up with another evening gown.
We now have a toll free number for the Conference office - at last! It only works within CT. Dial 1-866-367-2822, or if you forget that, it's 1-866-FOR-CUCC.
Please use it only when it is a toll call for you so we don't waste precious dollars!
The Rev. Judy Hjorth, Northern Regional Minister, began her sabbatical on November 1 and will return on February 1. Interim RM while she is gone is the Rev. Barbara Libby, who can be reached at either 860-233-5564, or at the above toll free number. Barbara will also serve as interim for Joe Neville and Kent Siladi when they go on their respective sabbaticals.
A workshop and a presentation at Annual Meeting urged churches to begin their work now on possible "partnership campaigns" to meet local capital needs in concert with the proposed upcoming Conference campaign.
We have begun advertising for a Capital Campaign Coordinator who will bring research, coordination and logistics skills to the task of preparing for the possibility of a campaign. The position description is available from Ken Ulmer at the office, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Silver Lake, our architect, Jeff Riley of Centerbrook Architects, has led 30 of us through three workshops resulting in a design for a wonderful new building to meet several major needs. If supported by the Conference next fall, and by the ensuing Campaign, we will have a new adult-friendly, family facility for up to 36 people, a year-round kitchen and dining facility that can appropriately seat between 50 and 400 people at tables, conference and break-out rooms, and a roofed area for play in inclement weather. This new building would free the present social hall for uses implied by its name, and would have a wonderful vista of the lake itself. The next steps to make this dream a reality include a campaign committee, careful costing out of the design, and a comprehensive financial feasibility study to be conducted by VanderWyden Associates of Ohio, our consultant.
Meanwhile, the second and third cabins at SLCC have been built, thanks to First Church, Glastonbury and South Glastonbury, and Southbury. Now we have the beginning of a village! Dana Fisher tells me that she believes we have commitments for 16 out of the 20 cabins needed. (It's a little difficult to tell sometimes whether a church has made a commitment or is just sounding enthusiastic.) We may actually have found a licensed electrician who would offer his services to wire the cabins. Now I need to focus my prayers on a contractor to offer to do the pilings for the foundations!
Also, we would be greatly helped if there were a person with organizational and building skills who could serve as the volunteer coordinator for this project. I imagine this person serving as liaison with churches as they gear up, with building teams as they organize themselves, and with Mike and Dana at SLCC to coordinate plans and carry out the actual building. As it is now, the two of them are spending so much time on the cabins that other aspects of the ministry there are not getting the attention they need. Know anyone?
We hold in prayer:
The brochure we enclose invites us all to celebrate the inauguration of this new relationship among denominations on January 20th as the national celebration takes place in Memphis, TN. Let's join in the festivity!