Conference Calling 22

June 2009


I've have attended almost every General Meeting of BC Conference for the past thirty years. Always it is an exciting, inspiring, fun, and enlivening time. This year was no exception. My only regret was not having the time to stop for very long at a time to "be present" and simply enjoy what the Psalmist surely was talking about in Psalm 133: "How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the previous oil on the head, running down upon the beard....." Without really knowing what oil flowing on a beard feels like, I love that Psalm. Even in times of disagreement (and disagreement is an integral part of community life), we found ourselves united in song, in confession, in praise, in worry, in vision, in wonderment, in hope. "How very good and pleasant..."


Just over 500 people attended the 80th General Meeting of BC Conference May 21-24 at the Sportsplex in Langley. Evaluations almost unanimously agreed that our theme speaker, Peter Short, was the heart of the event, although several other parts of the meeting figure very prominently in people's minds. There was the recognition and apology for past wrong done to Vancouver Japanese United Church (see more information below). Lively music, imaginative worship, a gracious welcome from the Sto:l? Nation, clowns, some animated table group discussions, and, for some, sushi at lunch were all appreciated. For the minutes of the meeting, the audio of Peter Short's addresses, and additional meeting information, check out the BC Conference web site


A ceremony of recognition and apology for a past wrong committed against the Vancouver Japanese United Church was held at the General Meeting. The story of the sale of the former church property, and the text of the "recognition," "apology," and "response", ,is posted on the BC Conference web site. On June 24 at 7:00 p.m. there will be a special worship service at Vancouver Japanese United Church so many more members of the congregation and others from the church might be able to join in this significant event. You are invited to attend, as well, at 4010 Victoria Drive, Vancouver.


In the past months BC Conference has arranged the sale of two church properties, the former Renfrew United Church and the former St. John's United Church, both in Vancouver. Both sales are expected to be completed this summer. The Conference is presently in conversation with Vancouver-Burrard Presbytery about how the proceeds from these sales might benefit Presbytery work and mission, as well as Conference work and other mission initiative throughout the province. While the closure of congregations is a cause for grief, the opportunity to turn a property asset into a financial one means that "mission" can become a more dominant value than "maintenance." In the past year two congregations which closed their doors were also transferred to ethnic ministry congregations. Although they have been in the building for a while now, the transfer of the former St. Paul's United (Burnaby) to Korean United was finalized. The former Oak Avenue United Church was transferred to Amazing Grace (Taiwanese) United Church.


Arrangements have been made with the real estate company, Colliers International, to provide free property development consultation for congregations. Up to three face to face meetings with experts in the field are available to talk about how your congregation might sell or develop your property to meet your longer range goals. While consultation is free, congregations might be expected to pay travel and/or accommodation costs if they are significant. If you are interested in finding out more about this service, send me an e-mail.


In April the Conference hosted a gathering of presbytery folk who have agreed to offer leadership in the area of spiritual care. This is one of the ways that the Conference supports the presbyteries in discerning and implementing ways to care for one another. It was a great gathering, offering support and resources to participants. All left feeling very hopeful! During that gathering, participants took time to say a prayer for all ministry personnel in the Conference, by name... a powerful experience of the Spirit.


On April 1 George Meier began his halftime work as the Conference Minister: Kootenay Presbytery. On July 1 Ivy Thomas begins her time work as Conference Minister: Kamloops-Okanagan Presbytery. Just this week Beth Wertz began her three-day-a-week job as the Assistant to the Finance Minister, replacing Graham Brownmiller (who is heading to the North Thompson Pastoral Charge to begin his work as the Ordered Minister on July 1). Within days we also expect to hire a full time Assistant to the Executive Secretary, replacing Christine Ackermann who left in February. Thank you to Ross Guthrie who has been ably serving as a part time Assistant through a very busy time of year! Treena Duncan has returned from her three month sabbatical (how quickly time flies!). Thank you to Kim MacMillan who so quickly returned from retirement to fill in for Treena during her time away. On July 1 BC Conference will have sixteen staff people, as well as a number of contract people doing various tasks large and small.


In beginning his time as Conference Minister Kootenay Presbytery, George Meier, attended an ethics training led by Marie Fortune, Founder of the FaithTrust Institute, on Healthy Boundaries for Clergy and Spiritual Teachers. Rather than understanding boundaries as oppressive and dangerous, boundaries were treated as a joy and a way to stay attentive to the tasks of ministry. He highly recommends the DVD series created by the FaithTrust Institute called A Sacred Trust: Boundary Issues for Clergy and Spiritual Teachers.

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