; charset=UTF-8" /> Bright Shiny Seeds: Neal Washburn’s Ecclesiastical Council and Other Highlights of the Southern Association’s Annual Meeting : Connecting Voices
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Bright Shiny Seeds: Neal Washburn’s Ecclesiastical Council and Other Highlights of the Southern Association’s Annual Meeting

by Mary Domb Mikkelson, Senior Editor Connecting Voices

Neal Washburn

     “Look!  Something shiny!”

     Asked about his seemingly boundless energy and the myriad directions in which he expends it, Neal Washburn pointed skyward, conveying with both words and gesture the excitement of yet another new toy, another star to follow, another way to enrich the lives of UCC’s youth.

     “Something shiny” summed the day up neatly, from Neal’s Ecclesiastical Council (affirming him as a Commissioned Minister of Youth) to the installation of the Southern Association’s new officers and enthusiastic reports of “success stories” and opportunities to serve – from conference, association and individual churches, alike.

     Here, too, Neal set the tone, speaking of his personal “cloud of witnesses,” the “seed planters” who so greatly influenced the direction of his life – parents who encouraged service and faithfulness, “Gram,” whose “message” was of faith and love, the minister whose “seeds” promoted curiosity, questioning and study.  Then there were Dexter, the youth leader whose ministry inspired Neal’s, and the folks at various church camps.  Among the seeds they planted were outdoor ministry, guitar music, worship as a celebration to God, listening, patience, love, acceptance, community and communion.  There were many others, of course, among them wife Pam and children Whitney, Evan and Annalise, who planted “the seeds of love, parenting, patience, helping, holding, joy, letting go, trusting, and so much more.”

     The roots took hold, commissioned ministry the obvious blooms.

     As the day’s program continued, seeds – and that which has flowered from them – emerged as a unifying theme.  We heard plans for an Annual Gathering (May 11) to be held at Samoan Congregational Church in Carson, CA, a church moving toward full inclusion in the UCC.  And, of course, there was word of Synod 29, coming to Long Beach June 28 through July 2.  In recent months speakers at and letters to local churches have planted seeds of service and community encouraging participation in and volunteering at Synod.  Hoping for 300 volunteers, the local arrangements team now has over 1000!  Summer camp got a big mention, too, and again volunteering starred; the program has gone to an all-volunteer model.  Also new is a week called “Big Feet, Little Feet,” in which children are encouraged to “bring grandparents or parents to camp” and share the experience with them from their youthful perspective.   From little seeds, big hopes and dreams keep growing!

Southern Association Officers: Front, left to right - Rev. Ross Putnam, Judy Shimamoto, Dante Griggs, Judy Wilkinson; Back, left to right - Santina Poor, Rev. Scott Landis, Neal Washburn, Susan "Sam" Buchenau, Joanne Skinner

     Attention turned next to the presentation of the Southern Association’s new officers.  Judy Shimanoto from Pioneer Ocean View UCC took over as Moderator, Dante Griggs, Christian Fellowship, as Vice-Moderator, Rev. Scott Landis, Mission Hills UCC, as Past Moderator, Susan (“Sam”) Buchenau, UCC La Mesa, as Treasurer and Joanne Skinner, also of UCC La Mesa, as a Member at Large, joining returning members Lois Myers, Mission Hills (Registrar), Ross Putnam, Mission Hills (Historian), Neal Washburn, Pilgrim UCC (Youth) and Members at Large Carmen Miner, Christian Fellowship and Bruce Ramet, Mission Hills.  Also added were three new members of the Church & Ministry Committee – Rev. Darryl Kistler (Kensington UCC), Rev. Paula Elizabeth (Mission Hills – serving University Christian) and Rev. David Auten (Ramona).  New to the Nominating Committee are Rev. Landis and Judy Wilkinson, UCUC.  Seeds still to be planted…stay tuned!

     Rev. Carlos Correa Bernier, Association Conference Minister for Border & Latino Ministries spoke next, reporting on Centro Romero (a border ministry of the UCC)’s programs, among them immigration reform, children traveling alone (“Fifty thousand kids, ages 6 to 15, a year seeking parents who escaped their homelands and can’t return for political reasons”) and sex trafficking.  Plans for the next edition of another program, “Christmas Beyond Borders,” which brought clothing, school supplies, toys and lots of love to 1200 impoverished Tijuana children in 2012, are already underway.  Shoes, shoes and more shoes are wanted – you see, with shoes, the youngsters can go to school.  Speaking of seeds…

     The program ended with “shout-outs” of church events and successes – involvement in Mission 4/1 Earth (http://www.ucc.org/news/mission-for-one-earth-website.html), Youth Uniting in Mission at Pilgrim Pines, the San Diego Partnership of Church’s 30th Anniversary April 20-21 and a variety of others.  For this writer the most exciting was a report from Pam Price of Alpine Community Church.  Two years ago her small church decided to do something about the scarcity of youth in the congregation.  The seeds they planted –details of their program coming soon in Connecting Voices! – have flowered beautifully, attracting an average of 45 young people per meeting and garnering recognition as Alpine’s outstanding youth program from the local Chamber of Commerce.

     Seeds…flowers…the UCC (at every level) at its finest.   And on every level, “Look!  Something shiny!”

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