Charles L. Wildman,
Interim Conference Minister
Pastoral Letter Index
February 3, 2003
To: The Pastors and Moderators of the Connecticut Conference
From: Davida Foy Crabtree, Conference Minister
Grace and peace to you, and to God's world in the name of Jesus Christ!
So much has transpired since many of us were together at Annual Meeting. We have tried to keep people informed through the use of our web page (www.ctucc.org) and through a variety of listservs on our FIDO network (Faith Information Delivered Online). I hope that you have utilized these tools for your church's benefit. Here are some updates.
Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders of Connecticut have agreed to hold a statewide event for Christians on Sunday, February 23 at 4 p.m. at Immanuel Congregational Church, UCC, corner of Woodland Street and Farmington Avenue in Hartford. We have agreed that we are opposed to war as a solution to the challenges facing our nation and world, and offer this event so that we might learn and reflect together about those challenges and Christian teaching. We recognize that not all will agree with us, but in conscience we believe we must seek to lead our denominations and our ecumenical witness so that our teaching is clear. We hope you will join us. (See enclosed)
As most of you know, we have experienced the convergence of multiple concerns at SLCC this winter. We are in transition, seeking a new Director. Joyce Yarrow, an experienced manager and active member of South Church in Middletown, is on board as Transition Director, working partially at the Lake and partially through our office. The search committee is being formed as I write this. The SLCC Board has been doing excellent work both in filling needs (such as recruiting deans and preparing the brochure) and in reviewing policy and direction in preparation for a new leader.
Soundings: There will be multiple opportunities in February and March for people who care about the Lake to meet with Board members to express their hopes and concerns. These have been published in CONNtact and are up on our website. Please be sure someone from your church attends.
Health Center: When we went to press with the February issue of CONNtact, we had only had the reports from the state and local fire marshals. Now we have the insurance investigator's report, and all agree: it was of unknown origin, and there were no signs of accelerants. The UCC Insurance Board program continues its good work, and will provide for rebuilding and meeting today's code requirements. We will use a temporary solution for this summer to ensure that we are not rushed and are planning well.
Justin's Death: Most of you know that Justin Ramos, 21, died at Silver Lake early in January. He had been on summer staff for four years and was an integral part of the SLCC community, as attested by the presence of hundreds of Lakers at his memorial services. His family, Rich and Debbie Forselius and their children, have asked that they be allowed some privacy about the circumstances of his death and we respect that request. When he died, he had been working at the Lake for several months, assisting with property tasks. We all owe a great debt to Mike White, property manager there, whose ministry with the SL community has been outstanding throughout these weeks.
We remain concerned about the well-being of those who were close to Justin, and ask that you identify and make contact with young people currently or formerly part of your congregation who may be struggling as a result of this event. We have collected email addresses. Through a few pastors who have been chaplains in the summer, we are trying to network and stay close.
Summer: Thanks to many volunteers, but especially the SLCC Board, the summer brochure is on schedule. We have decided that as soon as the information goes to the printer, we will post the information on the SLCC page of the Conference website. We are not able to take registrations on line, but thought it would be helpful to families to be able to plan their summers if they had access to the information as soon as possible. Please note that we will be able to take Visa and Mastercard for registration.
This is a year when we need you, as leaders, to prompt several members of your church to serve as counselors at Silver Lake for a week. That is always true, yet the need is especially great this year. It is not likely to happen without your urging!
I give thanks for the property and casualty program of the Conferences of the UCC Insurance Board. Perhaps you are not aware that this ministry is owned by the Conferences and was developed in order to provide the best coverage at the lowest cost for all our churches. Given the state of the insurance industry, we are fortunate to have the UCC IB in place. Without them, our process of dealing with difficult claims would be onerous and potentially adversarial at times. With them, we have professionals on "our side", who work with us in times of need.
This year, many insurance companies have non-renewed policies on camps, isolated wood frame churches in rural areas, and inner city churches. They have declined to cover sexual misconduct liability. Because of the IB program, none of this is true for us in the UCC. Through your participation, you not only get the best deal, but also strengthen others' ministries.
Some of you may have read a recent publication from a special interest group noting that First Church of Christ in Wethersfield has been evaluating its affiliations, including that with the UCC. The report erroneously stated that "Both Crabtree and UCC President John Thomas have been invited to speak on why the church should remain, but as The Witness was sent to press neither had expressed an urgent interest or made a date." In fact, over the past two years I have spoken with the leaders of the church on multiple occasions and written letters repeatedly requesting the opportunity for President John Thomas and me to meet with the members of the congregation. It is indeed the case that I declined to send anyone to one particular forum focused solely on social issues, and am enclosing my letter to the church leaders so that you can understand my reasoning. Following the publication of these errors of fact, we received an invitation to present the UCC, and within the next few weeks, John and I will do so.
I want to affirm here, as I have on so many other occasions, that as the Body of Christ, we come together with many differing gifts and perspectives. Our oneness in Christ is given by him as a sign to the world of our spiritual maturity and inclusiveness, our freedom and covenant bonds in Christ himself. We may sometimes disagree with one another, yet in those diverse understandings of applying the Gospel to life today, we can build one another up. That is my sense of our mutual calling as we seek to live as his Body in the midst of a world that needs our witness.
It has been a long time since I have written to you of the pastoral concerns in our Conference family. One of the reasons for that is a concern that has been expressed by some hospital chaplains. We all know that the old routine of a pastor simply stopping at the hospital and finding out which members are there has been set aside. The reason is state privacy laws, which apply to institutions although not to individuals, as I understand it. The concern is that people may not have agreed to their being included in prayer specifically by name. Obviously this concern would also apply to local churches.
Now, I need to remind us that the Church must be the Church of Jesus Christ at the same time at which we wish to respect the law. We are in the process of looking at these issues, and will let you know our best thinking in the future. If any of our churches have developed new ways of handling public prayer, it would be helpful to know those.
So, since it has been so long, and because of the concern raised, I will share with you only those 2003 pastoral matters that are either public record or in which we have explicit permission.
We hold in prayer:
Rev. Joseph Neville, Western Regional Minister, has announced his resignation to become interim at Center Church in New Haven. This was not entirely unexpected, as we had known of his yearning to return to parish ministry. Before coming to Connecticut, Joe was an intentional interim in the Massachusetts Conference.
The farewell event for Joe will be held on February 27 at 7 p.m. at the Congregational Church of Naugatuck. Directions are on our web site. [Map] Contributions to a gift for Joe may be sent to the Missionary Society of Connecticut at our office with that notation. A search committee is being formed, and the position has been advertised. Every effort is being expended to have an interim in place as soon as possible and to make this transition smoothly. If we go for a period of time without an interim, the rest of our staff will provide services to the region.
On January 2, we welcomed Jim Morgan as new Associate Conference Minister for Wider Church Ministries. Jim brings great skill, experience and personality to the position, and I know you will appreciate him as you get to know him. Back in September, we welcomed Charlie Kuchenbrod as ACM for Administration. He too has brought a raft of experience and skill, a dry wit and a love of the UCC to his position - many of you have already met him!
In November, we held a few events to inform people about the capital campaign that is in its preliminary, proposed phase. Since then, we have learned that great numbers of people to whom invitations were mailed never received them. We did not know this before the recent letters about the campaign were sent - indeed it was those letters that prompted people to say "what events?" We are mightily embarrassed, although the invitations were indeed turned over to the USPS directly from the hands of one of our staff!
We hope that the January issue of CONNtact has been helpful to you in learning about the pressing needs we hope to address through this special effort. We know that it is hard to maintain a spiritual focus on abundance during this time of economic hardship. Yet, as any number of people have said to us, we believe this campaign is a sign of hope and faith in a social context where people seem to be living by fear. These are times for us to get our priorities in order personally and institutionally. We hope for the participation of every church in this campaign, which is projected to begin its church phase in 2004, with pledges being paid over three to five years.
We who are your staff know that many of our churches and people are experiencing difficult financial challenges, as are the Conference and the national setting of the Church. Please call on us if there is any way we can be helpful to you. Your Regional Minister stands ready to assist. Amy Beveridge is our Stewardship Specialist, working through our main office, or email@example.com. Don Campbell is our Planned Giving Ministry Specialist, and he works out of his home office: 860-739-6304, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Jim Morgan is Associate Conference Minister for Wider Church Ministries, email@example.com. And Charlie Kuchenbrod is ACM for Administration, firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that if you are outside the Hartford calling area, we can be reached toll free at 866-FOR-CUCC (367-2822).
I urge you to be as steadfast as possible in your support for Our Church's Wider Mission. Through your Conference and the global and national mission of the UCC, we seek to minister with the poorest of the poor, the churches with the greatest needs, and thousands and thousands who are invisible to the powerful. You can imagine that this economic downturn is hardest on them, and your support and care are needed now more than ever. It would be most helpful if you would email, phone or mail us an update of your church's expected giving for 2003: email@example.com. You can also complete this form on the Conference web site.