Conference Calling 39

March 2014

Doug GoodwinFriends: I do not spend a lot of time reading the book of Deuteronomy. But it has come up in my morning devotional time so I am reading through it now. As I do so each morning I am often reminded why I avoid it.

It is sometimes hard to hear ancient wisdom and not dismiss it too quickly, especially those parts that grind up against our present values. At such times I remind myself of what we say in our congregation, that we are “hosting” scripture.

Scripture is treated as a respected guest… and guests are to be heard in the best possible light, not in our most critical. Sometimes I find myself really stretching in order to hear a good word; occasionally even stretching is not enough. Usually, though, struggling with a text produces an unexpected reward, a gift of the Spirit, not always obvious on the surface but mysteriously appearing from some deep, inner place. It makes even the toughest reading worth it.


A gathering of Youth and Young Adult Leaders was recently held on Bowen Island. This “Be Still” event was a quiet time of retreat, contemplation, connections and gentle conversations. Meanwhile, youth leaders across the Conference are gearing up in their plans for youth retreats this spring.


In April, 2013 a hundred folk participated in a two-day workshop with Eric Law on the basics of becoming an intercultural congregation. Knowledgeable input, balanced with practical exercises, made for a high energy and very positive experience. “We want more of this!” was the common cry. Also, thanks to assistance from the Conference, four people were able to be part of the Behold Conference on Intercultural Ministries in Halifax in October. Very creative and (sometimes) relevant! Finally, on Sunday, February 9, folk from five “ethnic” congregations enjoyed a Fun, Food and Fellowship day at Vancouver Japanese United Church. No business, no minutes; no speeches; lots of fun and fellowship.


Conference’s Property Resource Team (PRT) is working closely with six congregations, each of whom are aiming to redevelop their church building as part of a mixed-use residential complex on the church property, as a way of achieving financial sustainability. Each project has been professionally assessed and found to be viable. Based on these findings each of these congregations has asked the PRT to move the projects to the next stage and engage a Developer on their behalf. All the Presbyteries involved have given the congregations approval to proceed. The PRT will continue to work closely with the six congregations, providing leadership and oversight to each of the development projects, as the congregations ready themselves for transformation and determine how to best use their new facilities to live into new of doing ministry and being in community. The six congregations are: Brechin United, Nanaimo (Comox-Nanaimo Presbytery), First United, White Rock (Fraser Presbytery), Mount Paul United, Kamloops (Kamloops-Okanagan Presbytery), Oakridge United, Vancouver (Vancouver South Presbytery), Brighouse United, Richmond, BC (Vancouver South Presbytery), West Burnaby United, Metrotown area, (Westminster Presbytery).


While I do not think it will turn our church upside down, the new Effective Leadership initiative is one of the largest changes to happen in the United Church for a very long time. On behalf of the whole church, BC Conference has developed and is piloting a new way of taking care of our ministry personnel. The administration work of dealing with recruitment, training, recognizing, calling, and overseeing ministry personnel has now shifted from the shoulders of Presbyteries to the Conference. Conference has added staff and developed new procedures to ensure this happens well. While there will be a time of transition, Presbyteries should become freed up to focus more on mission discernment and support rather than the administration of personnel. Thank you to Treena Duncan who is overseeing this transition, Brenda Wolff who has seen her job change dramatically, and particularly to Thom Dennett and Brenda Fawkes who have been working on a short-term basis to develop make this vision into a very concrete, effective reality.


In the “be careful what you pray for” category, all those prayers for “change” in our church seem to be bearing fruit. I have already mentioned the Effective Leadership initiative. Cooperation between Conference, Presbyteries and congregations has established ProVision Funds which now have almost $6 million set aside to provide income for Presbytery-focused projects. Development plans are well-underway for six congregations that might not have been able to develop on their own. Cariboo and Prince Rupert Presbytery are adopting new terms of reference for what they really want to do when they meet together or separately. And recognizing that not all “change” is unambiguously good, we can also see a major restructuring going on at The Centre at Naramata while the Vancouver School of Theology is selling its iconic Iona Building and moving it operations. There is no doubt that “change” is the new normal.


We have now hired several new Conference staff. Two staff will work in Cariboo and Prince Rupert Presbyteries. Victoria Andrews-Fillier will be working full time in personnel and pastoral relations work. Deb Bentham is working halftime helping the presbyteries and congregations discern and plan their mission.  Patricia Vickers has been hired halftime to support our Native Ministries work. Meanwhile, Wally Hargrave continues halftime providing pastoral care and worship to congregations and villages that do not have settled ministry in Prince Rupert Presbytery. At the Burnaby office we are looking for a new Receptionist. At the moment we are glad to have Stefanie Seto and Bryna Andressen fill in at the reception desk. Bill Laurie is off on a temporary medical leave in order to give his shoulders time to recover from a debilitating condition called 'adhesive capsulitis' or ‘Frozen Shoulder.’ During his absence Thom Dennett has been hired to fill in. Doris Kizinna, meanwhile, recently traveled to Mexico and Guatemala which is quickly becoming a home away from home.


The General Meeting of BC Conference is being held in 2014 at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo from May 22-25. As usual, it begins immediately after dinner on Thursday, May 22, and ends after worship late Sunday morning, May 25. Graham Brownmiller is heading up the Agenda and Planning team that is preparing the theme, logistics, worship and business for the meeting. All members of Presbyteries are also members of the Conference and encouraged to attend. More detailed information and on-line registration will be distributed and on the Conference web site later in February.


Do not forget to check out the BC Conference web site for regular notices of events, courses, and workshops.

Also, “Friend” our Facebook page.