Conference Calling 6

December 2005


I suppose it may be the preacher/pastor in me but I did not want this awe-filled season to go by without being able to offer a prayer for all of you, that the One we await may find a path through the planning and shopping, the Christmas songs and twinkling lights, the feasting and the visiting, and come in ways as wondrous and strange as a baby in a manger.


The deadline for submissions regarding the Camp Future project is almost upon us (December 31). In January a small group will meet to review the submissions, look for the best ideas, and put together a proposal to take to Presbyteries and congregations who own or operate the camps. The goal is to develop as much as possible a joint plan for the future of church camping in BC Conference. Final decisions rest with the Conference Executive when it meets in November 2006.


The four Lower Mainland Presbyteries are considering a proposal from BC Conference that the Conference financially support specialized work in each of the Presbyteries that focus upon mission enhancement and “special initiatives to ensure Presbytery administration and oversight of the congregations and ministries within their bounds is effective, fair and consistent.” BC Conference already supports Victoria and Comox-Nanaimo Presbyteries financially. It supports Cariboo, Kamloops-Okanagan, Kootenay, and Prince Rupert Presbyteries with staff.


Finding gifted people from throughout the Conference for work within the Conference ministries and committees is often a difficult task. In 2006 this task will be led by Ray McGinnis. Ray will be keeping track of the gifts and interests of people within the Conference and putting them in touch with ministries that might need their energy and efforts.


“My visits to Presbyteries and congregations since late August have been delight-filled experiences. Our United Church in BC appears to be vigorous and changing, offering faithful expressions of Christ’s communities. I have been warmly welcomed and blessed by the many people that make up our church. Thank you all for this happy time. May God’s richest blessing be with you during the coming Holy Season.”


When I met with the Conference retirees for lunch two weeks ago, I was able to suggest that one of the tasks the church needs them to do is identify young people who should consider a call into Christian ministry. I am struck by how we have tended to rely upon people self-identifying themselves as ministers, rather than taking on the responsibility of calling people into ministry. What might happen if each congregation saw as a significant part of its ministry the calling of people, especially young people, into ministry?


Much work has been happening over the past months to renew the mission and structure of United Church Health Services, which operates three clinics and hospitals in northern BC. Dr. Heather Clarke has been visiting the communities and talking to anyone related to health care in order to put this ministry on a firmer, more modern, footing. The plan is to incorporate this ministry by the summer of 2006. A search is also on for a new Executive Director to replace the Acting ED, Dr. Peter Newbery.


BC Conference is in pretty good shape financially. Knowing that we cannot expect continually increased grants from the national church, we are trying to achieve small budget surpluses each year in order to save up for coming years. Over the past few years we have been able to achieve about a 3-4% surplus. This saving is one way to ensure BC Conference can still afford to carry out its valuable ministry in the future. We have also improved our investment practices and, of course, have been very judicious about our expenditures.


On the day of my last Conference Calling a large gathering of BC Conference folk and many others met at First United Church to give thanks to God for the life and witness of Bob Stewart. It was quite an amazing gathering; obviously Bob had helped shape the lives of many in our Conference and in the professional archive community. Since that time we found out that Bob’s love of the church’s history and records will continue to be felt – in his will Bob left a significant part of his estate to the work of archives nationally and within BC Conference. A search for a new archivist has now begun. In the meantime, Grant Bracewell is serving as Acting Archivist.


BC Conference is joining with Kootenay Presbytery to financially support that Presbytery’s Mutual Ministry work until the end of June 2006. Special monies from Conference and Presbytery, along with Mission Support funds granted by the Conference Home Missions Committee, will enable this innovative ministry to continue beyond the end of 2005 when the original funds would have run out.


When BC Conference meets in our General Meeting May 25-28, 2006 in Esquimalt we will likely spend a significant time preparing for the General Council gathering that meets later in August. We will also be using a workshop format to look at and/or play with a large number of themes facing us as a church. Watch for registration forms later in the new year.


All Congregations take note: there is a new requirement for official donation receipts. On each receipt, the following must appear: “Canada Revenue Agency”


Check out the BC Conference web site for the times and places of worship services this Christmas.

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