Charles L. Wildman,
Interim Conference Minister
Pastoral Letter Index
December 8, 2009
To: The Authorized Ministers and Moderators
From: Rev. Dr. Davida Foy Crabtree
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, the One whose birth we await and whose life and ministry lead us.
I write with three updates for you, and invite you and your churches to reflect on them and prayerfully consider participation.
As you are most likely aware, your Conference (like many of our churches) is facing challenging times financially. The convergence of decline in endowment income due to the market changes and in the churches’ giving through Our Church’s Wider Mission has already resulted in more staff reductions and the elimination of program expenditures in large part. It will be at least three years before the endowment income recovers, and some churches are unable to contemplate restoring their OCWM contributions yet.
Knowing that the present conditions most likely mean severe cuts in services and staffing to our churches exactly at a time when they are most needed, the Fall Meeting authorized the establishment of a Special Commission on Conference Sustainability. Its mandate is to study the sustainability of the Conference financially under current models of support, to develop alternate models of financial sustainability, to place its work in the context of the importance of the mission of the national and global ministries of the Church, and to make recommendations to the Board of Directors for preventing and, if necessary, responding to future revenue deficits. The Commission is now being formed (from over 100 stellar names submitted!) and we anticipate its first meeting in January, an interim report at the Spring Meeting on May 8th in Madison, and a more complete report at the Fall Meeting.
At the Fall Meeting, 60 trained facilitators led 30 Sacred Conversations on Race. The intent was to give our 500+ attendees a taste of what such conversations can be like, a way to conduct them that will help lead our churches toward transformation in their own lives, and to energize people to go home and initiate this important work. Judging from the responses we have had, your members are eager for more and deeper conversations, for added ways of increasing understanding of the impact of racism on each of us, and for actions they can undertake that will work toward ending racism.
The facilitators were trained by Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, Minister for Racial Justice with our national UCC. In accepting their assignment and training, they committed themselves to utilize their skills among our churches and begin Sacred Conversations there. In addition, A Sacred Conversations Ministry Team is being drawn together to provide added guidance and resourcing for the churches, pastors, educators and for the Conference as a whole. So if you would like assistance as you develop your own Sacred Conversations on Race, please contact Cecile Gilson (email@example.com) and we will do all that we can to help.
We have heard the following comments since the meeting: “I have come away less cynical than I was when I arrived.” “I was impressed with the professionalism of the process.” “We need to do this in our own church – carry on conversations rather than just run educational programs.” I write to encourage you to participate as a church!
On May 8th we will gather at First Congregational Church, UCC, in Madison to be inspired around themes of vitality and growth in local churches. Our keynoters will be Rev. Steve Sterner, executive minister for Local Church Ministries nationally, and Rev. Cameron Trimble, co-director, The Center for Progressive Renewal. Both of them are known for both their frank assessments and their inspired equipping of churches and leaders for the new day that is upon us. You will be startled out of any complacency into which you may have sunk and sparked to new creativity and readiness to meet the challenge!
Finally, a word of thanks to you for your caring messages, prayers and understanding as my husband, David, and I have made this difficult journey of 18 months through our two diagnoses of cancer. We are now within three weeks of the end of David’s treatments, and while we cannot know what the future holds for him, we have learned through this long road that we are not alone but accompanied by God in amazing ways. And so we enter the future in faith and trust. I have worked through all these long months and am ready to take a break and begin to restore my own energy and stamina. So in late December and again in early March I will be taking a bit of vacation. I thank you again for all your prayers for both of us, and for the cards and notes which have meant so much. I hope that through my public reflections, others have learned more about cancer and the toll it takes, the spirituality of the journey, and the kinds of outreach the church might offer to make faith and community more accessible to those facing such a situation. Blessings on you all as you minister so closely with so many!