Board of Directors grapples with changing context of ministry


Dawn Hammond

9/30/2011

As reported by Dawn Hammond, Associate Conference Minister and Staff to the Board

After spending much of the spring wrestling with the need to reduce the Conference budget, the men and women who represent you on the MACUCC Board of Directors stepped back for a longer view last week.

Rooted in the grace of God, the mission of the Conference is to nurture church vitality and covenant, to make God’s love and justice real. With this in mind, at their September meeting, the Board turned its attention once again to the rapidly-changing context in which the churches and clergy of the Conference are carrying out their ministries. The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Minister and President, briefly reviewed some of the significant ways the Conferences volunteers and staff have responded to these changes over the past 10-15 years:

  • The growing significance of New Clergy Groups, Communities of Practice, and other lateral connections among pastors and churches;
  • support for churches to become adept with new communications technologies;
  • colloquies and events on leadership and adaptive change;
  • programs to give church leaders the skills and resources to help members grow in their faith and in missional engagement;
  • two capital campaigns, including the current campaign to create an endowment for pastoral excellence.

However, the cultural, demographic and economic landscape continues to evolve rapidly. Dr. Antal and Board Chair Mr. Dick Harter raised the question: What strategic and generative vision and leadership is God calling forth from the Board of Directors today?

Board members affirmed two efforts in which they are currently engaged. Members of the Finance and Development Committee are working to envision a possible new financial structure for the Conference, realizing that the decades-old system of Basic Support and Dues is confusing, archaic and contains a built-in incentive for membership decline. Members of the Program Committee are awaiting web design work on a tool that will allow church leaders, if they choose, to track a handful of key data items linked to church vitality, to see what they can learn over time from taking note of these numbers. They will invite a small group of churches to test the tool and see where it needs revision before deployment – if you are interested in being a part of this test group, please let me know!

The Board has also given its blessing to the Crossroads Massachusetts program, which will offer each participating local congregation an opportunity to thoroughly assess its strengths and challenges, engage in faithful discernment and make a bold decision about its future direction. (See http://www.macucc.org/crossroads) If you are interested in this program and have not yet spoken about it with your Regional Associate Conference Minister, please do so soon – the application deadline is October 31.

Out of the wide-ranging conversation about vision and call, two commitments emerged: to continue to find new ways and contexts in which to listen to clergy, lay leaders, and Conference staff; and to develop more consistent practices by which the Board might regularly assess its work in light of the mission statement.

The Treasurer reported that Basic Support receipts are running about 7 % behind last year at this time, expenses are at or below budgeted levels, and Pilgrim Day Camp enrollments and revenues increased by about 15% over 2011. Actions taken by the Board included a recommendation that the Annual Meeting ratify the UCC Consitutional changes voted by General Synod in July, affirmation of policies on health and safety standards for programs involving minors and on offering child care stipends (rather than child care) for Conference events, and elections to program commissions.

And, my report would not be complete if I neglected to mention the Rev. John Zehring’s deeply grounding worship based on the Parable of the Sower, or community-building time involving 18 Board members, 17 chairs, and revelations such as which members of the group sing while driving, try to speak more than one language, and eat peanut butter more than 5 times weekly!

Your Board members seek to act faithfully on your behalf. If you would like to reach any of them, email links may be found here http://www.macucc.org/pages/detail/2315 .

 



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