By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
It’s official. Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ
was overwhelmingly approved at the Saturday Annual Meeting as the new name for the new Conference.
Provisionally called Together, As One
, the new Conference is being formed by the union of the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island Conferences. General Synod, the national denominational gathering, voted in June to approve replacing the three conferences with one Conference effective Jan. 1, 2020.
Following the Synod vote, all that remained for Annual Meeting voters to do to bring the new Conference into being was to officially approve the new name, and to make some necessary bylaw changes in the three historic bodies.
After conducting two surveys in which Southern New England Conference
was the hands-down favorite, and gathering feedback in a variety of other settings, the new Board of Directors recommended the name to Annual Meeting. (See related article: 'Southern New England Conference' Recommended as New Name, July 18, 2019
“The feedback was not ambiguous. Maybe this is why we already have a name in lights,” said Board member Hannah Brown, indicating the lighted “SNEUCC” letters on the stage.
|"The feedback (on a name) was not ambiguous. Maybe this is why we already have a name in lights." - Hannah Brown
Delegates from the three states voted overwhelmingly in favor of the name at a plenary session Saturday, Nov. 2, at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA.
On Friday evening, the three historic conferences held their own individual plenary sessions – with members of the other conferences in the room as witnesses – to finish up the final business of each as an individual conference.
The Rhode Island Conference – which has been operating as both a Conference and an Association – had to take several steps to separate the two. They approved bylaws for the new Rhode Island Association, to which clergy and churches belong, and which will be an Association of the Southern New England Conference. They also had to change the bylaws of the historic Rhode Island Conference, which will continue to exist as a legal entity to manage endowments and physical properties. Those changes were overwhelmingly approved.
Massachusetts also had to make bylaw changes to allow the historic Massachusetts Conference to continue to exist after Jan. 1 as a legal entity to manage endowments and physical properties in that state, changes that were also easily approved.
|For the separate Conference sessions, delegates used color-coded vote cards.
The vote took a different shape for delegates from Connecticut. The finances and properties of the Connecticut Conference have long been managed by two legal entities: The Missionary Society of Connecticut, and the Trustees of the Fund for Ministers. The “Connecticut Conference” has existed solely as an ecclesial body of the United Church of Christ; one that cannot continue to exist with the formation of the new Southern New England Conference.
For that reason, delegates in that state voted to dissolve the Connecticut Conference; the Missionary Society of Connecticut will continue to manage endowments and properties in that state.
"It's been a day of both sad and happy moments. When I raised my card to dissolve the Connecticut Conference, there was a sadness, but also joy for new possibilities,” said Paul Goodman, pastor of the Plantsville Congregational Church in Connecticut.
|Rhode Island Transitional Conference Minister Marilyn Kendrix
On Saturday, delegates got an update on the general plans for staffing the new Conference from Vice Moderator Ian Tosh, a member of a staffing team that has put together an outline for a new staff structure.
The outline calls for one Executive Conference Minister, who would oversee two other executives: one for operations, and one for administration and policy. The Operations person would oversee Outdoor Ministries, Program Ministries and Regional Ministries. The Administration and Policy person would oversee Financial Ministries. Program Ministries would include Innovation, Discipleship, Communications and Justice and Mercy.
Tosh noted that he was not presenting an organizational chart, saying the next steps are up to an implementation team which includes the three current Conference Ministers, a human resources team and a human resources consultant.
“The details are to be defined,” he said. “We don’t know, as this gets put together, exactly what each position will be and what they will be doing.”
Tosh said there would be a time of transition through 2020 and into 2021. He went into more detail about the proposed structure in an online hearing prior to the meeting – a recording is available here
View the slides from Tosh's Powerpoint presentation here.
Executive Conference Minister Search Committee
While the implementation team is working on building a new staff, an Executive Conference Minister Search Committee will be working to find a new leader for the new Conference. The members of the new search committee were announced at the meeting Saturday, and they were commissioned for their work.
The three current Conference Ministers – Kent Siladi, Marilyn Kendrix and Don Remick – will serve as bridge Conference Ministers during 2020, working with a staffing implementation team to move toward a new staffing structure. All three have announced that they will not seek the executive position. (See related: New Conference Will Have New Leader
, April 23, 2019
The search committee members are: Rev. Dr. Maritza Angulo de Gonzalez, Rev. Jack Perkins Davidson, Ms. Persephone Hall, Ms. Brittany LaFleur, Rev. Dr. Mary Luti, Rev. Jenn Macy, Ms. Xaniyah Sanders, Rev. Timoth Sylvia, and Rev. Chontell Washington (who will serve as chair).
Photos by Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane