Conference Calling 4

September 2005


Some of the staff of BC Conference met Monday to catch up with one another and share perspectives on the present life of our church. You will be pleased to know that we as staff have a tendency to want to rush off and solve things, get things done, respond to every crisis, every need, every worry – fix the church. Luckily the lectionary readings lately provide a different perspective, telling about Israel’s meanderings in the wilderness, looking a little lost, worried and often grumbling. And story after story is the same: God is with you. God is the one leading. God is the pillar of cloud and fire before you. At God’s word life-giving water comes even from a rock. It is not up to you! Who would ever have planned that?

We are busy as Conference staff… and we work hard to ensure we are busy with the right things. But it is God who is really at work, that strange work of presence and absence, calling and letting loose, cross and resurrection. What a wonderful work to behold, to honour, and to participate in.

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And now some Conference news


It is said that the only thing constant is change… and whether that is true or not everywhere it certainly seems to be true at the Conference office. David Anderson is now working as Ministry Personnel at Eagle Ridge United Church; Keith Howard is working for at least the next year and a half at the General Council office; the Audio Visual Library (AVEL) has moved to Winnipeg; and three of our Burnaby staff have moved office spaces within our office home.


With David Anderson now at Eagle Ridge the Lower Mainland presbyteries have been left without direct Conference support. I have been working with the Chairs of the four Lower Mainland presbyteries on what renewed support might look like. I have already promised that a similar budget amount will be available as when David was on staff. We will be meeting again soon, after which the presbyteries themselves will be directly involved in helping determine how Conference might best support the important ministries of these presbyteries.


Many in BC Conference are not aware that we operate three hospitals and clinics in small BC communities: Hazelton, Bella Coola, and Bella Bella. A recent review concluded that the United Church still has a very valuable health care ministry in these places so we have been working hard over the past year to reshape UCHS to ensure it has a firm foundation for the decade ahead. A specialist has been hired to put new governance and administrative structures in place. We are advertising for a new Executive Director to head our operations. And we are diligently searching for doctors and nurses who would like to practice their calling in a Christian medical setting. Many thanks to our legal counsel, Jon Jessiman, for providing steady and reliable guidance throughout this complicated, but exciting, mission venture.


Congregations and missions that receive Mission Support grants will be applying for support using new forms this year. These forms are longer than previous years but are intended to ask the tough mission-focused questions that will help presbyteries make well-informed decisions regarding these grants. Decisions about mission are never simply a matter of “the bottom line” of a financial statement. The information gathered should enable presbyteries to exercise their responsibility to provide effective oversight even better.


The good news is – many congregational trustee boards are recognizing that their role in providing responsible leadership about congregational property is an important and legally accountable job. The bad news is – it is hard work! Trustees can find a huge amount of help in the Trustee Handbook, available on-line at: Trustees Handbook


Our new Chair of the Stewardship Committee is Elsie Manley-Casimir. Lucky us: Elsie returns to BC from her work at the General Council office heading up the stewardship portfolio. While talking to Elsie recently I was reminded of my own struggles with tithing. When first married (and nearly penniless students) my wife and I tithed 10%. Funny, though, that as we earned more money our tithe decreased. I guess there were many reasons for that, including children and greatly increased personal expenses. Truthfully, in recent years I found myself scared to get back to that 10% level. Part of the problem – albeit a small part – was knowing 10% of what? Gross income? The paycheck? Our Finance Council Chair, Barb Gregg, helped me: you tithe 10% of Line 260 (taxable income) of your income tax return – simple and clear. And so I do: Line 260, divide by ten, and I use the preauthorized givings method (PAR) to get that amount in monthly installments to my congregation. I know that I am not a naturally generous person so I appreciate the discipline and gift of the tithe to make sure I am fair to my church and to God in my finances.


Expect to find the new Conference Directory (contact information) and the Minutes from the 2005 General Meeting in your mail box within the next couple of weeks. We are putting the finishing touches on both right now and plan to have them to the printer very soon. Of course, the Minutes will be online and the online Directory is updated every month.


The next General Meeting of BC Conference will be held May 25-28, 2006, place to be announced soon. An Agenda and Planning team is presently being put together, chaired by Karen Verveda of Sharon United Church, Langley. Keep in mind that any Proposals you wish to send to the General Council (which meets in the summer of 2006) need to go through your presbytery before being considered by the Conference at this meeting. It is usually a long process (intended to be long in order to allow time for wisdom to accumulate) so plan now to begin the Proposal process.


There is still time to sign up for the Archie Open Golf Tournament, a fund-raiser of the BC Conference, VST, and Anglican archives. The irony is: I am a cosponsor of the tournament with Bishop Michael Ingham, but the first time I ever golfed was at this event last year. This year I hope to break 155.


I have not memorized many of the Psalms (or much of the Bible, for that matter) but the cadences of Psalm 51 often come to mind, especially verse 12: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit” (yes, I am old enough to have the King James in memory). One thing I notice these days are those ministry personnel and other leaders who seem to be encircled by “the joy of God’s salvation.” It is beautiful to see… and wonderful to be around. I am sure that it is nurtured by prayer, scripture reading, meditation… perhaps other disciplines, too. I am also sure it is supported by the prayers of others, prayers of the church community for one another. Wherever it comes from, it is a gift to the church. Thank you.

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