Charles L. Wildman,
Interim Conference Minister
Pastoral Letter Index
December 29, 1999
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, born that the world might know God!
I write as we await the secular worlds Y2K. For all the hype of the entrepreneurs who would sell us a months supply of provisions, a generator and a culture of fear, for all the expectation of the biggest bash of the century, it looks more and more like it will be a fizzle. For some of us, the real countdown to the millennium began on the first Sunday in Advent this year. Saturday night, December 1, 2000 will be the real millennial eve and the first Sunday in Advent, 2000 will begin the new millennium of Christ.
I say that not to be sassy and smart, which is how it could sound to some. I say it to remind us that as Christians we begin and end our years differently than the secular world. We hear a different melody all through the buying season. We anticipate a deeper love and higher hope than those marketed by the purveyors of the winter festival now known as Christmas.
Dont think Im one who wants to return to the puritan days of no ornamentation! Like many of you, I enjoy the winter festival I festoon the house with greens and red ribbon, put up the trees, pull out the antique family ornaments as well as those from friends and family. I enjoy the giving, and even enjoy the shopping and choosing. In my mind, however, I keep the distinction clear between the winter festival and the real Christmas.
So I have a proposition for you. How about if next Christmas Day there is a service of worship around 9:30 or 10 in the morning in all our churches? Invite members to bring their families who are visiting. Encourage them to save their gifts until after they have gathered in adoration at Christs first birth of the new millennium. Provide them with support for teaching their children the real meaning of Christmas (perhaps children could each open one gift before worship or on Christmas Eve). Begin now in planning.
One year when I was in parish ministry and Christmas fell on a Sunday,
attendance was appalling. The deacons and I decided to offer a Christmas Day service every year along the lines of that described above. Within two years, it had become a favorite service and parents welcomed the opportunity to teach their children a new tradition. Soon it was a full sanctuary! Lets use this year as an opportunity to teach our members
about the different understanding of meaning that we cherish as Christians!
At my request, the Conference Board of Directors has voted to approve a special coin collection for this spring to support the mission of the Amistad. Amistad Sunday is March 12 this year, the Launch is March 25, and in late May it will have its trial sail in preparation for her first official voyage as one of the lead tall ships in the Opsail event in New York Harbor on July 4th. We are working with Amistad America in developing a coin box that individuals and families can place on their dining table for a series of weeks. I want to encourage you to alert the appropriate leaders in your church to this opportunity to connect your members with this great story of their heritage. A special mailing will be sent to every church by the end of February with boxes and instructions.
The following are the approximate dates of the Amistads visit to Connecticut ports:
New London: July 11-14
New Haven: July 15 24 (Home port)
Hartford: July 28 August 14
New Haven: August 18 25
Bridgeport: August 26 September 1
New Haven: September 2 October 8
The festivities surrounding the Launch of the vessel will include the actual launch at 11 a.m. on March 25, events at the Seaport that afternoon, followed by a gala dinner in the evening. As a board member, I am responsible to sell some tables at the dinner. The cost is $250 per person (remember, this is a fundraiser in which every dollar will go to Amistad). If you or anyone in your church would like to be there for this event to be hosted and emceed by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, please call me!
At its November retreat the Board of Directors began its work in following up on Annual Meeting. They focused on a number of potential goals for the next year or two. One of those is continuing both implementation and evaluation of the "new design". It is clear that some adjustments need to be made at certain points, while still affirming the spirit of the design. They have asked the regional and associate conference ministers to work with me in thinking about what would work better. We want to enhance the relational aspects of the design, particularly to enable the regional ministers to spend more time and energy in greater depth with churches and pastors. That either means realigning the regions, or finding discrete elements in their job descriptions that could be given to someone else. Maybe both. In any case, I think it will definitely mean an increase in staffing, much as we wanted to avoid that to ensure our faithfulness in other forms of mission as well. If you have insights youd like to share, nows the time! Send them to me via email or regular mail or fax.
Following my most recent pastoral letter, the administrators at Church Homes did meet with the pastors of the founding churches plus a representative from Christian Activities Council. Shortly after that, the union raised issues about the racial composition of the residents and of the managerial levels at CHI facilities. Since then, things have continued to be at an impasse. Our pastors are willing to serve in a facilitative or mediating role if they can, and continue to offer to do so.
The Revs. Kent Siladi, SE Regional Minister, and Jerry Streets, Church of Christ in Yale, will be traveling to Colombia from January 28 to February 4 as our representatives in a small delegation to activate the partnership we began last year with the Mennonites there. A new development is the addition of the Central Atlantic Conference to the partnership. Two of their members will also be on the delegation. Your mission dollars are at work through this partnership, currently building some fish ponds to initiate a fish breeding industry among the displaced refugees. There will be opportunities to gather with Kent and Jerry after their return to learn more about Colombia and our mission there.
I will be engaged in the process of performance reviews for the regional ministers and associate conference ministers over the course of the next six weeks. If you have feedback to give me about their ministries among you, it will be welcome. As in the past, anonymous submissions will not be read. Signed ones will be taken seriously, and will be kept confidential as to source.
Congratulations to Center Church, New Haven, on their vote to become an Open and Affirming Church.
Kudos also to First Church, South Windsor, for responding to their pastors invitation to spend New Years Eve together. Art Dunham thought perhaps 20 people would sign up for a bus trip to see the Springfield lights, have a progressive dinner at three homes and then go to Bushnell Park in Hartford for the fireworks. They ended up with 46 and a waiting list!
Dick and Anne Griffis leave on January 15 for a three month volunteer stint at American College in Madurai, India.
We hold in prayer:
With this letter comes a flyer for an important event on March 4, 2000. A Day of Sharing is a chance for people from our churches who are involved in ecumenical and interreligious ventures to share and to learn. UCC President John Thomas, and Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Zikmund, Hartford Seminary President, will be our key speakers.
The idea for this day is simple. Our churches are deeply involved in ecumenical and interfaith cooperation soup kitchens, Thanksgiving services, etc. yet we rarely affirm local ecumenism officially and even more rarely equip people to do it well. Heres a chance, so bring your stories of delight and disappointment, and join us in North Haven!
Entering the Year To Care (my version of Y2K), with hope and joy in Christs ministry,
Davida Foy Crabtree
P.S. We are holding the following dates for the Annual Meeting: October 20-22, 2000.