This is one of a series of reflections on the joint gathering of the board members of Together, As One Board with the members of the boards of the historic Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences. Find them all here.
If you don’t know Woodstock, CT, which is tucked into the upper right hand pocket of Connecticut where Rhode Island and Massachusetts meet, then it is helpful to know that it appears sort of magically out of a series of winding, tree-lined roads. One minute, you’re not sure you’re anywhere — you’re waiting for the “clunk" noise of Google Maps to tell you it’s rerouting — and then abruptly, you’re there. You’ve arrived.
Woodstock is one of those New England towns with a grand central street with large homes along one side, a Victorian academy at one end and at the other, an historic home, Roseland Cottage, which is sort of a cross between a cuckoo clock and the place that the witch in “Hansel and Gretel” would have lived. The First Congregational Church of Woodstock is the iconic white meeting house just down and across the street from Roseland.
And it’s here that over the last few years, the three historic conferences of southern New England, have met to discuss what it might be like to become one, new conference.
This has asked each conference to travel through some unfamiliar country, to be sure. In its own way, it’s asked us to imagine some major re-routing. But over the years of these gatherings, both here and in so many other places, I don’t think any of us have heard that dispiriting “clunk” warning us that we have truly lost our way, or the voice urging us to turn back and retrace our steps.
The first meetings were harder. It was telling, in its own way, that when we first gathered, we made time on the agenda for collaborative “three way" work, then each found separate spaces in the church building at the end of the day to meet by ourselves — to do the “real stuff." There was the tension of a tri-lateral summit rather than the love of a family reunion.
It feels warmer now. We’ve also come to agree that it is living into God’s future that is the “real stuff.” When we try to articulate what that is as distinct conferences, it’s clear that we hope for the same things: vibrant, creative churches that know about one another and find ways to work together, committed to making disciples and living as Christians in ways that make God’s love and justice real.
As a member of the Connecticut Conference board for the whole journey up to this point, it’s amazing to see the new leaders that have already emerged, a combination of skilled and insightful people (lay and clergy) with tremendously powerful voices who found a way to join the process, and well-known, trusted folks from the other conferences who were simply new to me.
This weekend, I realized I had made the shift from thinking “Wow, they have some really good leaders” to “Wow, we have some really good leaders.”
If the collaborative work that I’ve gotten to be a part of is any indication, what’s coming is going to be a lot more helpful, multi-vocal, and fun than may first appear.
I don’t entirely know how we got here, but I think we’re there. We’ve arrived. And it’s thrilling.
The Rev. Max Grant is the senior pastor of the Second Congregational Church of Greenwich
We invite users of this website to post comments in response to posts published here. In order to maintain a respectful community, we insist that comments be polite, respectful and tolerant of opposing viewpoints. We reserve the right to remove comments that are hostile, hateful or abusive to others, or that constitute personal attacks. In the interest of transparency, we highly recommend that users comment using their full names. For those who feel a need for more anonymity, however, we will allow posts using first names and last initial.