Charles L. Wildman,
Interim Conference Minister
Pastoral Letter Index
December 18, 2000
Rev. Don Sevetson,
Acting Conference Minister
Nov. 2000 - Feb. 2001
TO: The Ministers and Moderators of Connecticut Churches
Dear Colleagues in Ministry:
We come to the end of the year 2000, a year unlike any other. It began as the start of a new millennium (or did it?). It included a rare leap year day (leap year day - the birthday, in 1968, of the youngest of the three Sevetson children - does not happen in years ending in 00, except every 400 years). The final weeks have included a presidential election decision on hold for more than five weeks, a presidential resignation in Israel, and, not finished yet, the year winds up with that periodic challenge to church program planning, Christmas and New Years Eve days that occur on Sunday.
At least when we get to 2001 everyone will agree on one thing - that the new millennium has begun! But we also know God has more surprises in store for us in the year ahead.
Having joined you to serve as Acting Conference Minister during Davida's sabbatical, I have been impressed by the renewal of unity and spirit in the Connecticut Conference since my last staff stint in 1996-7. The Annual Meeting in October was energizing. The staff and Board of Directors are confident and positive. A sense of welcome and warmth is evident. The future looks promising.
But not without problems. Life is never without problems. Even success brings with it new challenges. Fortunately, many of the problems with which we now struggle, and the ones coming clearer on the horizon, are those generated by vision and hope. They may be no less difficult than the ones stemming from decline, but instead they grow out of a desire to do more, to minister with greater impact, to live out our faith. They are better described as opportunities. We have them across the state, both among the congregations and at the setting of the conference. We have the chance, and the responsibility, to respond to them.
January will start happily as we welcome Carole Carlson, our new Associate Conference Minister for Clergy Concerns. Shortly thereafter the Search Committee which has been formed for the new ACM for Local Church Ministries will begin its work. We hope to have the staff person in place by late summer. Other plans and dreams are afoot, and we will share them with you in ConnTact, on our Web Site, and in these periodic letters.
We hold in prayer:
Be sure to let us know if there are other matters of personal and pastoral concern that ought to be shared among you.
This letter includes communications from Alan Green, the chair of our Board of Directors, and ACM Hal Chorpenning. Be sure to peruse them carefully, and see to it that they are passed along to others who need to see them.
Lou (my wife) and I have enjoyed our first few weeks among you in Connecticut (except for freezing rain). It has been almost (but not quite!) enough fun to make me wonder whether I should have retired three years ago. One of the pleasures of ministerial retirement is that you can read a book all the way through. Most of mine have been either mystery or history, and three stand out as ones I want to recommend to you: Garry Wills is the author of the first two: St. Augustine, a brief, readable, fascinating biography of one of the most important shapers of the Christian tradition, and A Necessary Evil, a "history of American distrust of government". This latter book is a helpful and accessible exploration of many of the ideas and individuals behind our current national struggles, including such issues as church-state separation and gun control.
The other book is a bigger project, to be read in smaller segments over several weeks and months. It is The Cousin's Wars, by Kevin Phillips (of West Goshen CT) and it takes the reader through the English Civil War, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War. He takes seriously (more than any secular historian I have read) the role of religious belief and affiliation in public life. And Phillips has done the research. He knows who was Congregational (leading participants in all three conflicts), who was Anglican (always on the opposing side), who was Presbyterian, German Reformed, and all the rest.
During the month I've been here I've been in touch with enough of our pastors and congregations to be reminded of what a panoply of emotions are evoked by the holiday season - all the way from deep grief to overwhelming joy. Wherever you, and your congregation, are, whatever you are caught up in, my prayer for us all is conveyed by a rewritten phrase of the old Advent song Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: "Christ, be born in us again". May it be so as this unique year concludes.
In the spirit of this holy season,
Donald J. Sevetson,
Acting Conference Minister
Please also read this end-of-the-year letter from Hal Chorpenning, Associate Conference Minister for Mission Interpretation and Media Relations.