Survey Indicates Support for Tri-conference Collaboration, Possible Merger
Over the last past 9 months, 555 people responding to a survey have indicated their support for the concept of a greater partnership or possible merger of the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences.
In all, 73% of respondents indicated they were in favor of pursuing a proposal to either federate or merge. Included in that is the 191 (43.5%) who responded “yes, when can we start” and another 129 (29.4%) who chose “I think we should go for it, but I have some hesitations.”
Another 85 people (19%) indicated they were not sure; 24 people (5.4%) said it was “probably a bad idea” and 10 (2.3%) said “no way.”
“There is support for moving forward,” said Connecticut Conference Minister The Rev. Kent J. Siladi. “It is our hope that this year of discernment has provided good conversations and questions that have led us in a direction that affirms that God is calling us to exploring further a united mission and ministry. For those who have said, ‘I’m not sure’ we hope to provide more clarity as we move forward together.”
"I find the results of the recent survey very encouraging," said The Rev. Corey J. Sanderson, Vice President of the Massachusetts Conference Board of Directors. "People sense the newness bubbling up in this ‘yeasty’ time of being Christ’s church. Like our denomination’s historic ‘firsts’, where faithful people leaned forward to discern God’s leading, we too hear that beckoning even though the maps have yet to be fully drawn."
Rhode Island Interim Conference Minister The Rev. Barbara Libby agreed.
“The survey responses lead us to believe early on that there was a willingness and openness to try something new, to imagine a new kind of Conference for the future, and to continue to discern where God wants us to go,” Libby said. “Although not everyone was positive or excited about the challenges implicit in a ‘new thing’ we heard from a wide variety of views and are appreciative that folks took the survey and shared their input.”
Using feedback from the survey, a planning team consisting of the three Conference Ministers and representatives from the three Boards is developing a proposal to be presented to a joint Board meeting in January. The Boards will vote on whether to bring that proposal to the joint Annual Meeting of the three Conferences in June.
Siladi said he appreciated the thoughtful responses of many who took the survey, and said the words from many of the comments that were made are being used in the proposal.
“These responses have helped the three Boards of Directors in the discernment process. As we prepare to meet at a joint Board meeting the beginning of January we are indebted to those who have shared their comments, concerns and insights with us,” he said.
Siladi said particularly exciting was the strong agreement in the response to the question: “If the Conference were to invest resources in new ministries, what would you identify as the highest priorities”? Respondents overwhelmingly identified:
Opportunities for shared mission/outreach/witness
Facilitating connections among our churches-- matching expertise with need
Opportunities for shared learning/spiritual growth.
“The yearning for interdependence and building relationships was strongly articulated by the respondents,” Silaid said. “This verified support for creating something new.”
The three Board of Directors voted in the fall of 2015 to enter into a year-long Season of Discernment to discuss the possibility of greater cooperation between the three Conferences, including federating or merging. The survey was launched in February of 2016, and discussions about the idea have been held at Conference Annual Meetings, Super Saturdays, Association meetings and other gatherings. Background information can be found at macucc.org/rimact, ricucc.org/rimact or ctucc.org/rimact.