You Are Welcome Here
Pastor Susan's Notes
I attended the Annual Meeting of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCC) on Friday and Saturday, June 7th and 8th, 2019, at Elmhurst College. Each church is allowed their pastor, two delegates, and one youth delegate to represent their local church. Next year the meeting is at Augustana College and perhaps we’ll have a full delegation attending. Our church is under the umbrella of the Fox Valley Association which is one of five Associations of the Illinois Conference: Fox Valley, Chicago Metropolitan, Eastern, Western and Prairie Associations. Every Conference, roughly divided by geographical lines in the United States, relies on support through Our Churches Wider Mission - OCWM - offerings. Although considered one of five special offerings of the UCC, it is the one that supports the Conferences and Denomination directly for staffing and resources. Our church has its financial obligation to the Conference and Denomination built into the budget – although we are not at a level they wish us to be, we do pledge and follow through on that pledge. Any who wish to give or pledge to OCWM, there is a line on your giving envelope.
That being said, it’s not just our United Church of Christ, but other denominations, as well, where attendance and giving is down - across the board. Churches of all kinds, everywhere, are closing or closed. It is a downward trend for local churches and their denominational counterparts.
I gave this update, now revised, on Sunday, June 9th, 2019, during the Announcement time before worship and lifted up two ‘take-aways’ from the Illinois Conference Annual meeting:
1. There seems to be change coming in how the Illinois Conference will be operating in the future. I am not sure how that will take form – recently they hinted at staff changes at that level, less resources available, and possibly closing the church camps (Pilgrim Park & Tower Hill) – or consolidation of any or all of the above - but I am not clear where they are going.
2. No matter what happens at the Conference and Association levels, I pray WE are clear where we are going as a church! We have a lot of positive things going on and continue to thrive and work and I pray we can persist and sustain.
The workshop I attended on 6/7/19 gave me hope. The Rev. Elizabeth Dilley, from the denomination office in Cleveland, presented a booklet they produced called: A Sure Foundation: Resources for the Relationship Between Pastors and Congregations. I enjoyed hearing about, and was grateful for, a resource that encourages local churches and their pastors to be healthy churches of Jesus Christ. I hope to order a copy to read what ‘best practices’ are for healthy congregations in the United Church of Christ – a denomination I grew up in, and am grateful to be serving. I am convinced the United Church of Christ has much to offer in a divided and hurting world. Our church is no exception.
Even with the recent adjustments beyond our control – having Bill Burns and Diana York-McQueen resign their positions in the same month due to their life changes - I find it refreshing, and have a sense of peace, to be in the midst of “not knowing” but being very clear about “knowing” that God is leading us.
Pray. Listen. Repeat.