Conference Calling 37

September 2013

From: Doug Goodwin, Executive Secretary


It was during my breakfast Bible reading of Lamentations when the call came that the new dining hall and kitchen at Camp Fircom had burned down, the result of that night’s lightning storm. How appropriate that all I had to do was glance down to the page open in front of me to read the disbelieve and shock, frustration and pain, that so many must have been feeling at that very moment. Like those over two millennia ago, and like Jews in the synagogue who hear it read annually, we find ourselves laying this and all of our losses before God in painful poetry. There is solidarity in loss, a solidarity shared not only with one another but with the One who not only hears but knows deep loss, too, through the death of Jesus on the cross.


With cooler, rainy weather and a downpour of phone calls and e-mails, it is clear that the slow, glorious summer break is now ending. Constant at the office during the summer was Katie Purych, who is now discovering that the pace of office life is significantly different in September than it was in July. Despite working all summer Katie also managed to perform in a professional play and move her home. Jennifer Eastwood was in the office a lot, too, but managed a couple of weeks relaxing at home. Brenda Wolff vacationed in the Kootenays, her first time in BC east of Osoyoos. I started vacationing in June with a trip to visit my son in Vienna, then hung out at the office until a two week road trip through Kelowna, Vanderhoof, and Banff, golfing, paddling, and visiting friends along the way. Treena Duncan also went paddling this summer before heading to the Greenbelt Festival in England in August. Nellie Tang spent some of the summer supervising a computer upgrade in the office but is planning a trip to Los Angeles in October to visit family. Doris Kizinna sold her Vancouver home and moved to Fort Langley along with her mother. Perhaps the most exciting summer, though, was Jacob Black-Lock’s who not only visited the Netherlands and England before attending the Greenbelt Festival but also became engaged to Élan Asselstine. Congratulations, Jacob and Élan!


It was in January 2009 that BC Conference first contacted Lower Mainland church leaders to gather to start planning for the participation of the churches at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission national gathering in Vancouver. Since then we have hosted regular gatherings of the newly formed Ecumenical Ambassadors group. Now, 4 ½ years later, it is finally here! We are encouraging as many United Church folk as possible to attend at least part of this historic gathering. In particular, consider attending the worship service at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church on Sunday, September 22, at 8:00 a.m., followed by the Walk for Reconciliation. BC Conference will also make a short but important “Gesture of Reconciliation” to the Commission, probably on Thursday, September 19, at 5:00 p.m. Check out the Reconciliation Week events at:


Since 2005 BC Conference has recognized that the development and support of leaders is one of the most important tasks the church can engage in during this time of rapid change. This has guided much of the work of the Conference over the years. With the unexpected gift of the Jardine Bequest we are now ramping up this work in a major way. Keith Howard has just begun work in this area, joining with Treena Duncan in continuing and greatly expanding the work already underway. Over the next couple of months plans for this work will become clearer but we are expecting greater support for lay leadership as well as ministry personnel, more targeted programming offerings, greater coordination between the Naramata Centre, the Vancouver School of Theology, and the Conference, better recruitment for leadership, as well as more support for mentoring and coaching for those in leadership roles.


Marc Coulombe began work as the Conference Minister for the Lower Mainland on September 1. Marc’s job will almost solely be devoted to personnel support, working with others in pastoral relations and related areas. In order to transition from his existing employment Marc is beginning to work two days a week but this will increase gradually to full time over the next two months. Marc joins the Personnel Team of staff (Treena Duncan, Brenda Wolff, Bill Laurie, Ivy Thomas, and George Meier).  


Conference-managed Camp Fircom lost its three-year old dining hall to fire after a heavy lightning storm at the end of August. No one was hurt but the building has been completely lost. Ian Fraser is working closely with Fircom's Executive Director, Jeff Willis, and staff to find an interim kitchen and dining hall and accommodate fall bookings. Fircom will be in need of continued support in all forms in the days and months ahead.


It is anticipated that Conference support for ministries in the northern half of the Conference will look different in the near future. Chris Corrigan has been working with Prince Rupert and Cariboo Presbyteries, as well as Native Ministries, to see how both the necessary and the desired work can be done best. Decision-making with these groups will take place this fall. While I like to say that “if you came from Mars you would not likely notice any difference,” those on the inside likely will. The goal of these changes is not to save money. It is to reshape life together so management and administration take the back seat and the things people really want to do and have the capacity to do will become front and centre. Among other changes already underway, Vancouver Coastal Health has decided to take over the operation of the two hospitals the United Church through the United Church Health Services Society has been operating for generations in Bella Bella and Bella Coola. This transition will take place early in the new year.


The BC Conference Executive meets September 17 by conference telephone call. In November it will meet at the Naramata Centre along with the youth Evolve gathering, helping the Executive get a better sense of the youth and young adult ministry in the Conference. This is one way the Executive is “listening to the ownership” to ensure it is as well-informed as possible about the life of the whole church. At past meetings it has heard directly from people from ethnic and intercultural ministries, retired ministry personnel, Presbyteries, emerging forms of church, and others.


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