Conference Calling 34

November 2012

Dear Friends,

Doug GoodwinPre-reading this Sunday’s gospel text (Luke 21:25-36), I was struck, probably for the first time, that in the face of distress and confusion, fear and foreboding, the roar of sea and waves and the shaking of the very heavens, we are asked to “stand up and raise our heads because our redemption is drawing near.” In times of deep trouble, when it looks like the whole world (or, perhaps, just our world) is about to end, our stance is upright, faces raised, up-lifted not pressed down, buoyed up not depressed, looking to salvation not to destruction.

We look to the One who comes not to those who are left, the One ahead rather than the one long past. Strange that we begin every Christian year in Advent not chronologically but at the end – that often very scary end – and we do so with faces turned upward, a posture of praise, hope and even joy, for we know what is unknowable: that the healing of the world is very near at hand indeed.


In the “be careful what you wish for” department, those praying for some sign that change can actually happen in the church are having at least some of those prayers answered. On many fronts the work of BC Conference has seen, and will continue to see, significant change. I like to say that if you were a visitor from Mars you might not notice huge differences but for any of us connected with the work of the United Church in BC it is hard to miss. Almost all of the following stories involve a changing church.


Monies from the sale of properties have now established “ProVision Funds” totaling over $6 million in five of our ten Presbyteries. As properties are sold in other Presbyteries, additional funds can be established. ProVision Funds are used to meet the priorities determined by each Presbytery. Presbyteries without their own fund can draw upon a Conference-wide fund which will be operational early in 2013.


The General Council has authorized a change in the way ministry personnel matters are treated in the church, shifting primary responsibility for them from Presbyteries to Conferences. This is in response to the nationwide complaint that Presbyteries are overburdened with personnel issues, especially ones related to discipline. BC Conference has been anticipating this shift since it made “leadership” its priority in 2004 with a focus on ministry personnel. Since then Conference has built a professional “Personnel Team” that provides a wide range of personnel support and accountability systems. More is to be done in the New Year.


In the coming year the Conference will be shifting toward more proactive leadership development and training. While still improving our ability to do good personnel management, more emphasis will be put on recruitment, education, training, mentoring, coaching and general support of church leaders. This work will likely involve new partnerships with Vancouver School of Theology and Naramata Centre. We are anticipating this new stream of work will grow slowly over the next few years and programs like the successful “Sowing Promise, Growing Leaders” will become more prevalent.


The new Property Resource Team of Terry Harrison and Justen Harcourt (from Colliers International) is working with a number of congregations through the Conference on developing plans to better use church properties. Some, though not all, of these projects will likely result in property development ventures. The Team is also working with First United Church, Vancouver, on re-visioning plans for its eventual development.


The Conference has taken primary responsibility for ensuring the successful operation of Camps Fircom and Pringle in a cooperative, shared venture. A central governing board will meet soon which will work closely with local volunteers, sharing resources and building upon past successes and traditions. The Conference led the redevelopment of both camps in an $11-million rebuilding program. It is now also supported with a $10-million endowment which generates regular financial support.


In the first half of 2013 we will be reviewing how we carry out the work of Prince Rupert Presbytery, Native Ministries, and the Coastal Marine Mission. Chris Corrigan has been hired to work with local people to figure out what we can realistically achieve, what works and what doesn’t, and what the options are for moving forward. We will also be meeting with the local communities who benefit from our Mobile Counsellor work to see if they wish us to continue that service for another two years.


Doris Kizinna reports: We evolved in 2012… a great group of 60 Grade 7-9’s and their leaders gathered at Stillwood Conference Centre at Cultus Lake during the last weekend of October for deep conversations about “Who God is?”, fun, amazing food, an epic dance and many happy memories. The long weekend in November saw 140 folks gather in Naramata, Grade 10-12’s, young adults and youth leaders from every corner of BC Conference including Gitsegukla, Nelson, Parksville, Victoria and the Lower Mainland.  Special guest, Moderator Gary Paterson, joined us for the first two days of Evolve and got us all into a circle dance of swirling energy singing “We are marching in the light of God”.  Thanks to all who helped create these events where spiritual formation and building a vibrant community of faith were beautifully mastered.  Our leaders are amazing!


BC Conference continues to host a regular gathering of representatives of many churches and denominations in the Lower Mainland to help plan for the national gathering of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Vancouver September 17-22, 2013. A number of smaller events will also be held over the coming year throughout BC. United Church folk are strongly encouraged to take part in the public events associated with the gathering as a sign of our hope for reconciliation with aboriginal peoples in this country. Find out more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Keep in touch with BC events at Reconciliation Canada.


Bill Laurie added responsibilities for Victoria Presbytery to his existing work in Comox-Nanaimo Presbytery. Beth Wertz resigned as Assistant to the Finance Minister and Ruth Stebbing resigned as Assistant to the Executive Secretary in June. Beth was replaced by Jennifer Eastwood and Ruth with Scott Reynolds, who moved from his Receptionist position. Jacob Black-Lock was hired as Receptionist and support for Youth and Young Adult work. Clare Hill left his Native Ministries position effective November 1 in light of the upcoming review of that work and his desire to focus on his personal and community life. Michael Hare (Prince Rupert Presbytery) is also leaving effective December 31, 2012. Paul Davis (Cariboo Presbytery) has decided to retire effective January 31, 2013. We anticipate hiring a Conference Camp Coordinator and a Conference Minister for the Lower Mainland in 2013.

- Doug Goodwin, Executive Secretary

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