By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
Ever since the historic June vote by Annual Meeting delegates from the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences to join together in forming a new conference, the new Together, As One board and staff members have been working to build relationships, share information, align ministries and attend to all the details the transition requires.
Barbara Lemmel, who leads the Tending the Fire program, has facilitated several gatherings of the Together, As One Board of Directors and the lead staff from the three Conferences. Those gatherings have focused on learning about the values and cultures present in the current conferences, building relationships across current conference lines, and beginning more concrete steps to work on what the new conference will look like.
A governance team has been working with the United Church of Christ national setting to craft the necessary resolution to form the new conference, which will be presented to General Synod in June.
Finance staff from each of the three conferences have been working together and with Board members on the due diligence process, in which they share information on a wide array of financial and legal matters. This information will also be used to finalize the documentation needed to present to the Attorneys General in each state.
Committees have been formed to work on various aspects of creating the new Conference. The following Together, As One Board members and others have been placed on those committees, and they may recruit additional members:
Executive: Cleo Graham, Calvin Price, Corey Sanderson, Jocelyn Gardner Spencer, Grace Steere, Ian Tosh
Governance: Hannah Brown, David Lincicome, Linda Mesler, Frances Munro
Nominating/Volunteer Development: Philomena Hare, Linda Sable
In discussing the Synod resolution with legal counsel at the national setting of the United Church of Christ, it was made clear that forming a new Conference will actually take the form of two separate processes:
creating a new non-profit organization, as was approved by delegates in June, to manage financial and legal aspects of bringing the three historic conferences together; and
forming a new UCC conference as an ecclesiastical entity, replacing the historic conferences in the eyes of the denomination.
What this means is that while the three historic conferences will continue to exist legally to handle existing endowments, the new UCC Conference will replace those historic conferences in church matters. The Associations of the three historic conferences, which determine standing of clergy, for example, will automatically become members of the new conference.
The Boards of the three conferences will be voting on a formal motion to ask Synod to approve the new conference over the next several weeks. Early next year, legal counsel will consult with the three Attorneys General to make sure the proposed corporate bylaws meet all their requirements. Later in 2019, following the Synod vote, the new conference will be legally incorporated.
The Together, As One board, in the meantime, will continue its conversations regarding the timeline for selecting executive leadership for the new Conference and developing a staff structure and unified budget.
That new budget will need to go to delegates at the next joint Annual Meeting planned for Nov. 1 – 2 at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA. The meeting is not returning to the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, MA, because that venue is now owned by MGM Springfield, which has opened a casino there. The conferences have a long history of speaking out in opposition to casino gambling.