By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
FRAMINGHAM, MA - Twenty-five members of the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences spent 23 hours on retreat together Sunday and Monday, exploring with one another the distinct cultures of their conferences and envisioning what a brand new, unified conference might look like.
The retreat was facilitated by Barb Lemmel, the Director of the Tending the Fire
program and a United Methodist pastor and consultant. It was held at the Edwards House Meeting & Retreat Center, which is part of the Massachusetts Conference property.
Friday evening and Saturday morning, the staff took turns filling in a timeline of the history of the three conferences, lifting up moments that had somehow impacted the life and culture of each organization. The staff were able to do some "myth-busting" when it came to stories they had heard about one another, and to see that the same moments in denominational history did not necessarily have the same impact in each setting.
The group then spent time reflecting on and sharing what they see as the strengths and weaknesses of each conference, and what some of the major differences are in how the staffs are configured and how they interact with their boards. They also discussed what qualities they would want to see in a new conference.
The annual meetings of the three conferences voted last June overwhelmingly in favor of the idea of moving toward forming a new conference together. Since then, a planning team has developed a Vision, Mission and Purpose statement for the new conference, and is working on new bylaws and other governance documents. Those documents have received initial approval by the three conference boards, and will go back to the boards for final approval over the coming weeks. Those documents will then be made public in preparation for votes at the second combined annual meeting, being held June 15 - 16. Updates are regularly posted here