; charset=UTF-8" /> 2014 Annual Gathering Report from the Conference Board Chair : Connecting Voices
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2014 Annual Gathering Report from the Conference Board Chair

Mike Zarro2014 Annual Gathering of the United Church of Christ in the Southern California Nevada Conference: Message from the Chair

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matt. 28:20

Ever wonder what the eleven guys on the mountaintop were thinking when Jesus laid down the Mission Statement?  Make disciples of the Romans?  Dude, they just crucified you!  Deal with the Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans, neo-Platonists, Gnostics, and all other sects and philosophies of the age?  Their leaders will try to discredit us to keep hold of their followers!  Of course, the God we see in Christ instills exemplary faith in the Centurion, brings living water to the Samaritan woman at the well, and is with us as we meet the challenges of this age.  As the United Church of Christ in the Southern California Nevada Conference, we recently developed this Mission Statement to help guide and inspire our continuing commitment: “To embody a covenant of extravagant Christian love that empowers leaders, congregations and communities in pursuit of a just world.”

The retreat at which this Mission Statement was developed provided great insight into the creativity, devotion and inspiration that ensues when we gather in the Conference setting.  I once heard a modern prophet exclaim to another at an ecumenical service: “The message of faith and love you follow as a Jew inspires me to be a better Christian!”  I believe this heightened insight into the divine that results from sharing with other faith traditions is also very much at work when we gather together the constituents of the Conference.  We are an interestingly diverse group, and the chorus that rang out during our discernment was much greater than the sum of the voices that created it.  We learned from and inspired one another in a beautiful way, and came to understand we share these important Core Values:

• Building Community: We experience covenant through extravagant hospitality that connects us in interdependent inclusive Christian community;

• Equipping Leaders: We empower educated, innovative and ethical lay & clergy leaders for ministry;

• Building the Future: We are mission centric and relational;

• Seeking Justice: Our faith demands that we seek justice.

We have organized our Board into four “Mission Teams,” each emphasizing one of these core values.  When challenges have arisen relating to our border ministry, our process now includes break-out sessions during which our Mission Teams can address the issues with special emphasis on the core value they embody.  As we are looking for ways to support and enhance our new Pilgrim Pines structure, our mission-centric approach helps to assure we pursue new ideas that are consistent with who we are as a Conference.  This new structure has also helped us address the mission priorities set by those who have preceded us.

Our recent endeavors were enlightened by the efforts of the Conference leaders at our 2012 visioning.  Under the inspired leadership of my predecessor Michael Barrett, the Board set these priorities:  “(1) leadership development at all Conference levels; (2) enhanced focus on Justice Issues; (3) continued emphasis upon Youth and Young Adult Ministries; and (4) attention to issues bearing on development, education, and importance of Progressive Theology.”  To pursue these priorities, our predecessors identified four needed task forces: “(1) Justice Issues; (2) Leadership Development and Church Support; (3) Structuring the Board to Focus on Missional Priorities; and (4) Structuring Financial Stability.”   It was with this guidance in mind that we structured the Board as outlined above, forming task-based sub-groups around Justice, Equipping Leaders and financial stability (Building the Future).  We added Loving Community as a complement, establishing an Ambassador Program modeled after the community building work that was so successful for Synod.

Building on what we learn as we implement the mission-centric Board structure, we have developed new by-laws that we will be working on next year to allow us to focus upon the skills needed to pursue mission priorities.  The Board is working on a mission-based budget model, and ways we might enhance OCWM and other stewardship opportunities.  We are also challenging us all to consider renewing the Covenant between the Conference and the member congregations consistent with the urgent need to further our mission to seek justice in a complex new millennium.  From my perspective, we have engaged an inspiring team of ministers and staff in the Conference setting.  I am honored to serve with a talented Executive Committee and Board of Directors committed to justice.  I look forward to further service with you all; you are indeed the Body of Christ with us through this age empowering the Conference community to pursue a just world.

 

Other Annual Gathering Reports:

Report from the Conference Board Chair

Report from the Executive Associate Conference Minister

Report from the Associate Conference Minister for Church Relations

Report from the Conference Youth Minister

Report from the Acting Young Adult Ministries Coordinator

Report form the Urban Mission New Church Start Planter

 

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