Charles L. Wildman,
Interim Conference Minister
Pastoral Letter Index
December 28, 2004
To: The Ministers and Moderators of the Churches
From: Rev. Dr. Davida Foy Crabtree, Conference Minister
Greetings in this season of wonder and awe, this Christmastide when we know most fully the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of the still-speaking God in the tiny baby who grew up to transform the world! I write to you in the name of that child, Jesus Christ, who unites us in the United Church of Christ.
What an amazing Advent this has been! As I drive around Connecticut I pass church after church with red and black banners waving in the December winds. I watch television and see advertisements that for the United Church of Christ that move me deeply, even though I have seen them dozens of times before. I pick up newspapers and find print ads our churches have developed to build on the campaign. I drive on 95 south and see a billboard reminding the world that “God does not exclude.”
As one minister said to me, “this is the best thing the UCC has done in all the years I’ve been associated with it – and that is since my birth!” I hope you feel the same way, joyous at the evangelical outreach this campaign signals, and moved by the comments found on the UCC websites from people who never knew there was a Christian church so determined to welcome them -- “no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey.”
Now is the moment for every one of our churches to recommit to evangelism and transformation in its own life so that the alienated and hurt will truly be welcome among us. For all the publicity resulting from the network decisions on top of the ads themselves, it will still require a major effort by all of us to make it clear that we really mean it – every person is welcome in our churches! And they need to be able to find our churches and identify them as UCC.
I am pleased to announce the addition of three new Regional Ministers as of April 1, 2005. They will join Rev. Kent Siladi, Coordinator of the RM’s, who will serve the new South Central Region (New Haven, New Haven East, Middlesex and Central associations) and Rev. Susan Townsley, who will serve the new Southwest Region (Fairfield County) and carry the portfolio for Transformational Leadership.
Rev. Raymond Hargrove will be the Regional Minister for the new North Central Region (Hartford County), carrying the portfolio of Church Development and Multiracial Multicultural Concerns. Raymond comes to us from Florida and (previously) from the Southern Conference, where he has served a total of more than 13 years as an Associate Conference Minister.
Rev. Lois Happe will return to Connecticut to serve the new Eastern Region (Tolland, Windham and New London Associations) and be responsible for encouraging us all in Urban and Justice Ministries. She has most recently been the pastor of the Westhampton, MA Congregational Church, UCC, having served previously in campus ministry and institutional chaplaincies.
Rev. Michael Ciba, pastor of Mill Plain Union Church, UCC in Waterbury, will be the new RM for the Valley-Northwest Region (Naugatuck Valley and Litchfield county) and will urge us to pay attention to Evangelism and UCC Identity. Mike has been the chair of the Naugatuck Valley Committee on Ministry, and has served churches in Ohio as well as Connecticut.
We are grateful to the search committee for their stepping up to the difficult process of discernment because we had excellent candidates all around. There will be more biographical information and photos of all three of the new RM’s up on our web page shortly at www.ctucc.org. I hope you will welcome them warmly as they begin their ministries among us on April 1 (no fooling!)
If you would consider receiving these pastoral letters by email instead of hard copy, please send an email to Sue Furness at email@example.com. It helps us conserve staff time, money and trees.
We have had a wonderful dynamic of stability and refreshment in our staff team over the past nine years. And so it is with both regret for us and joy for him that I remind you that Rev. Gordon Bates, who has served with us in two different capacities for the past seven years, most recently as Associate Conference Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, will retire this week. His retirement festivities will take place on Sunday, February 6th from 3 to 5 pm at First Church in Glastonbury, 2183 Main Street. I urge you to attend. If you would like to contribute to a gift for him, just send a check to Missionary Society of Connecticut, with “Bates” on the memo line. We hope you will join us on February 6th.
In addition, we have received a letter from Rev. Carole Carlson, Associate Conference Minister for Clergy Concerns for the past four years, setting her retirement date as June 30, 2005. Carole has also made major contributions to our staff team, and as the time nears for her retirement, we will announce plans for a party in her honor.
A number of our churches will be engaging in conversation over the next few months about the resolutions adopted at annual meeting. With this letter, I enclose a document developed by Gordon Bates that annotates the Whereas section of the resolution and then lays the resolution as originally proposed next to the language adopted by the delegates. We think this may be helpful if concerns arise about what was actually voted. In addition, I am enclosing the letter I will be sending to the legislature after they reconvene as required by the resolution. I thought it might be helpful for you to see the nature of that communication now.
We hold in prayer a number of people among us:
Rev. Susanna Griefen, AP at Saugatuck in Westport, whose father died in November. Rev. Gary and Martha Brown of First Church in Stamford, as they grieve the death of Martha’s father last month. A pastoral family in major transition due in part to depression, and another pastoral family struggling with the impact of long-term depression on their life and work. Rev. Judi Cooke, AP at Newington, as she and her family celebrate the birth of their son, Jamison Vaughn Cooke, on December 7th. Rev. Arthur Higgins is recovering well at home after surgery in mid-December.
We are about to move into the new Health and Welcome Center, and have just about $15,000 yet to raise to enter it debt-free, plus volunteers to help side it. This month we learned that Rev. Harold Smith has committed another $50,000 to this Center (on top of his previous gift of $256,000!) We are profoundly grateful for his and all gifts that help sustain SLCC as a vital ministry for the churches and youth of Connecticut!
SLCC projects mailing the summer brochure in mid-February this year, and will be accepting on-line registration for the first time. Watch your mail for more information. Summer is shaping up wonderfully!
We all continue to hold in our prayers the people in the eight countries of Southern Asia that have been devastated by the tsunami that resulted from the fourth largest recorded earthquake. The death toll has reached 67,000 and continues to rise. Infrastructures, homes, businesses and whole communities have been destroyed. Food, shelter, clean drinking water and medical help are in short supply.
The United Church of Christ has sent an initial $10,000 each to Church World Service and Action by Churches Together towards disaster relief in the Southeast and South Asia area devastated by the tsunami. One Great Hour of Sharing monies will be used to respond to this crisis. Donations may be made for this relief effort through the Connecticut Conference office. Make checks payable to “Missionary Society of Connecticut” and send them to 125 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105. Please mark Tsunami Relief in the memo area. You may also make donations directly online at www.ucc.org.