Annual Report of the
Wisconsin Conference Minister -- 2011
Grace and hope to you in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Thank you for the opportunity to be included in your congregation's annual report as a means of remaining connected and honoring our covenant through our four Associations, the Wisconsin Conference, national United Church of Christ, and a variety of UCC and ecumenical partners.
2011 has been one of the most challenging years in the now nearly 50 year history of the Wisconsin Conference, as we have lived into significant changes.
Association Transitions: The four Association offices have been closed and two regional Associate Conference Ministers now serve where we have had four Association Ministers. Association Moderators and divisions/teams have stepped up to take on much of the Association programming, and staff has begun to work in different ways to provide support to Church and Ministry Committees, Search and Call, and pastoral care. A "Common Life Team" made up of Association and Conference leaders met to provide feedback on changes and suggestions to help Associations work together more effectively. Moderators' conference calls have helped communication.
Support of Clergy: New groups were formed for clergy to work together on issues in their ministries and to offer intentional support and accountability. These groups are staffed with facilitators trained through the Samaritan Counseling Center. Two new groups have formed and two Development Groups in the Southwest Association continue. Association clergy are also forming new cluster and interest groups.
Lay spiritual Growth and Leadership: Lay Academy continues to draw together lay leaders from congregations to learn from some of the finest teachers in the UCC. We said 'good bye' to Gail O'Neal, who retired this year, but the program hasn't missed a beat under Debbie Payden's leadership. The energy in the building on the Friday/Saturday Lay Academy weekends is inspiring. Online courses in "UCC History and Polity" continue to be very popular. Youth events offer formation in the faith for teens in our congregations.
Annual Meeting: The Annual Meeting of the Wisconsin Conference brought us speakers from the "emerging church" and challenges to find ways to reach a rapidly changing culture. The Thursday prior to Annual Meeting focused on immigration and was led by UCC professor, Eleazar Fernandez of United Seminary. The 2012 Annual Meeting is June 8-10 at Green Lake Conference Center. The program is on interfaith understanding among Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The Thursday Seminar is at Pilgrim Center and will feature the UCC General Minister and President, Geoffrey Black.
Ecumenical Partnerships: We welcomed Christine Busch and Manfred Rekowsky to our Annual Meeting as representatives of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland in Germany. We signed a new ecumenical partnership agreement with this church that was the home to many of our UCC ancestors in the Evangelical and Reformed tradition. Conference representatives will be at the EKiR Synod in Germany in January 2012 to complete the signing of the agreement.
Church Development and Renewal: Training was offered to congregational teams from congregations seeking renewal, including workshops in "Five Practices" for renewal. We continue to support several intentional church renewal projects and the congregation of Grace UCC in Milwaukee. A disappointment for the year was the closing of the La Vina congregation in Waukesha. We continue to work with some of the members of that congregation in the hope of renewing a ministry with Latino Christians.
Outdoor Ministry: Both Pilgrim Center and Moon Beach Camp had full camping programs during the past summer and both sites continue to host full retreat schedules. Look for the camp brochures early in the year and sign up for the 2012 camping season.
General Synod: Our delegation represented us in Tampa as the UCC took historic action to move to a "unified governance" model for our national setting. This new structure will provide a more flexible decision-making process and significant financial savings. The Synod also elected three new officers for our church. Invite a General Synod delegate to visit your church and report.
Staff Transitions: The church is founded on relationships, beginning with our relationship to Christ and, through Christ, with one another. 2011 has been a year of so many staffing changes and changes in significant relationships in both the Conference and Associations. Two members of our support staff with more than 25 years of service each left the staff, Carol Martell in the Conference office and Carol Mirshak in the Southwest Association. Association Minister, Jeanny House, and Acting Association Minister, Karen Elizabeth King no longer serve with us in those roles. Gail O'Neal, the leader of our education and Lay Academy program, retired in the summer after 14 years of service. Each change brought the grief of loss of relationships.
While he is a member of the staff of United Church Camps, Inc., I want to mention with great appreciation Jeff Puhlmann-Becker, who was, for 26 years, the managing director of Pilgrim Center. Jeff will leave his ministry at the end of the year and will be deeply missed for his leadership and hospitality at the camp. Retiring at the end of 2011 is Southwest Association Minister, Bob Mutton. Bob has served the Conference and Association for 35 years. A lectureship in theology and the practice of pastoral ministry has been established in Bob's honor, and the first event will be in 2012.
We have also been joined by new persons on our staff, welcoming Kent Ulery as the Associate Conference Minister working with the two southern Associations, Debbie Payden as Director of Lay Academy, and Deb Simon as Communications Director. I am very grateful to all of our staff. All have taken on additional work, and all have worked hard to make the new structures work and to continue service to churches.
Thank you for your ministry and especially for your support of Our Church's Wider Ministry (OCWM) and the Special Offerings of the UCC and other special appeals. The heart of our UCC is the congregation, and I am grateful to live in covenant with you. Thank you especially for your prayers as we move forward together.
Wishing you many blessings.
David S. Moyer