Conference Calling 38

December 2013

Doug GoodwinAlthough it is not one of the usual Biblical texts we read during Advent, my practice of Bible reading at breakfast each morning led me to Matthew 6:25-34, a wonderful pre-Christmas message. It was one of about six scripture passages that I memorized in Sunday School and for which I received a highly coveted coloured sticker. The King James poetry still beautifully resonates in my head. It struck me for the first time how remarkable it is that from among the hundreds of central Biblical texts that might have been memorized, my church felt children needed to have this one as part of their soul memory for the rest of their lives. I am glad they did.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

The BC Conference Executive agreed to provide immediate financial assistance to The Centre at Naramata. The Conference will forward $2.6 million over the next year to the Centre. The money will be used to pay the existing bank and other debt of $1.8 million, with the balance to cover urgently required maintenance expenses and likely operating losses in 2014. Monies beyond $2.6 million, up to $ 4 million, will be considered in the future if the Centre meets key objectives in its business plan and operations. It is hoped that this new partnership between the Centre and Conference will allow it to move forward building upon its history as a valuable place of Christian experiential learning, acknowledging at the same time that major changes will have to happen in order for it to have a viable future in this changing social landscape.

(from Jacob Black-Lock) In November we hosted two Evolve Conferences for Youth, Young Adults, and their leaders. Our theme was Evolve.OurWorld, exploring taking our faith out into the world, seeking justice, making a difference, and spreading the light. We gathered for Evolve.Stillwood November 1-3, at Stillwood Conference Centre on Cultus Lake with 61 Junior Youth (grades 7-9) and 19 facilitators and youth leaders. At this event we juxtaposed scripture and video clips from popular culture to see some emerging issues that exist in the world and were inspired to become compassionate leaders for change. Evolve.Naramata took place November 8-11 at Naramata Centre with 69 Senior Youth (grades 10-12), 24 Young Adults, 15 YAYA leaders, 23 event facilitators, and 21 other guests including members of the Executive of BC Conference who met at the same time to learn more about youth and their issues. At this event we took part in a variety of high quality workshops in which we engaged in some of the many practices of our United Church faith community, learned valuable skills for leadership, and were empowered to respond to emerging social issues. Overall, we had an amazing time learning, playing, and growing in faith as a congregation of young people in the United Church.

Many United Church folk attended the Truth and Reconciliation gathering in Vancouver in September, including members of the Conference Executive which held a special meeting to enable broader participation at the gathering. A large youth and young adult contingent was also on hand. Thank you to Kathy Hogman who helped inform and organize the Conference so we could all better participate.

A variety of singers and comedians entertained an appreciative crowd at the George Massey Theatre in New Westminster in October, a fund-raising event for the Mission and Service Fund. $4,700 was sent to the M&S Fund to support the work of the United Church in Canada and abroad.

In reflecting on decision-making by the Conference Executive, I have noticed that two positive values are often at play, sometimes in conflict with one another. One is the value of “equity”, that is, the sense that there should be a rough balance, some kind of equality and equal sharing between the different parts of the Conference. Everyone should have their fair share of the pie. The other value is “mission”, that is, the sense that there is something that needs doing, that resources and energy need to be focused, that there is a shared purpose to be fulfilled. While both values are a part of almost every decision, it is clear that the Executive presently leans more in the direction of “mission.” It sees itself as people from all areas and constituencies who gather not to ensure their own groups get their “fair share” but to discern and support common mission. Most decisions are based primarily on what needs to be achieved and what needs to be built for the future rather than dividing up time and resources between what is presently in place. It is too simplistic to see all Executive decisions as choices between only these two values, but I have found it a helpful lens to better understand the work Conference — and all of us — do.

Marc Coulombe began work as the Conference Minister for the Lower Mainland on September 1 and is now working full time. Marc joins the Personnel Team of staff (Treena Duncan, Brenda Wolff, Bill Laurie, Ivy Thomas, George Meier) who work together to provide support and administration to our ministry personnel and congregations. Jacob Black-Lock is leaving his job as Receptionist at the end of December to return to full time studies at Simon Fraser University. The Receptionist role will be filled on a temporary basis while decisions are made about whether a slightly different role is needed at the Conference office. 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.’ In late October and early November Doug Goodwin served as “coopted staff” at the World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, Korea, working primarily with the plenary presentations. Treena Duncan, Doris Kizinna and George Meier are all beginning to plan for sabbaticals in 2014. Conference staff are entitled to a sabbatical every five years.

The second “Sowing Promise” leadership development program began in October with its first session; the second takes place in late April 2014. Sowing Promise is designed for those employed in ministry, looking with respect into the mysteries of ministry, developing skills and strategies that will help, and finding relationships to sustain. Led by former Moderator, Peter Short, and planned by a team of BC Conference folk, this event has proved to be a very positive and even transformative one for those who have participated.

Both Cariboo and Prince Rupert Presbyteries have been talking about changing into the kind of Presbyteries they really want to be and have the capacity to be. In meetings first with Chris Corrigan, then with Doug Goodwin, it has become clear that both Presbyteries wish to be primarily places of mutual support for the congregations and leaders of the Presbyteries. Work that involves judging one another is to be minimized while the work of mutual learning, shared mission, and fellowship is to be emphasized. Instead of being managers of a church system, the Presbyteries want to be supportive colleagues in mission. In January new Conference staff will be hired to both help the Presbyteries do the work they wish to do, as well as ensure the administrative life of the church happens well.

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 will be distributed and on the Conference web site later in January.

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Doug Goodwin, Executive Secretary