Dear friends and colleagues,
I greet you in the light of Christ and the love of God. In this season of Epiphany I am especially grateful for your ministry – it is a beautiful expression of the incarnation of Christ in this world. Thank you for your faithful witness to the Gospel in these challenging times, and for your persistent reminder of the “extra measure of grace” by which we are called to live.
Thank you, as well, for your generous support of Our Church’s Wider Mission. In 2018, the congregations of the Wisconsin Conference collectively supported our OCWM needs so that our budget was met and our ministry was fulfilled. On behalf of a grateful Board of Directors, an engaged and devoted staff, and an incredible array of lay leaders throughout associations and across the Conference, I want to thank you for the strength of our ministry and the wide reach of our mission.
Most of you are aware that Associate Conference Minister Rev. Joanne Thomson will retire at the end of July. In the coming months we will keep you posted as to ways you can celebrate this milestone with her. I’m delighted that Joanne will lead us in the closing worship at our Annual Meeting gathering April 5-6. After many years of Church Development and Renewal work, Joanne nimbly shifted her focus to the care of clergy and congregations throughout the Southwest Association. In addition, she took on significant project work, perhaps most notably the coordinating of our thriving Communities of Practice program. Her work has been exceptional all around, and we will treasure these last months of her ministry among us!
In the meantime, you will be glad to know we have assembled a terrific Associate Conference Minister (ACM) Search Team including: Ms. Ann Dolan, Rev. Manda Stack, Mr. Lynn Breedlove, the almost Rev. Christine Wilke, Rev. Bob Ullman, Chairperson Rev. Phil Haslanger and myself. The team has nearly completed the Description Materials for this position, and we will launch the search by the end of January. The application deadline is set for March 31, and we anticipate the interview process to take place in April and May. Ideally, we intend to have a settled called minister in time for a smooth transition in mid-summer.
I want to share with you my plan for some changes in our “field” staff deployment. By “field” staff I am referring to those who handle Search & Call, clergy care, congregational guidance, and (in conjunction with Church and Ministry) all Ecclesiastical matters. Currently, in addition to Joanne’s work in the Southwest Association, Rev. Rob MacDougall covers the Northwest Association and Rev. Jane Anderson supports both the Northeast and Southeast Associations (with approximately ¼ of my time dedicated to resourcing these Associations as well).
I remain deeply committed to this robust level of “field” staff because it allows us to most effectively support our congregations and clergy. What concerns me about our current configuration is that our ACM “church load” is a bit unbalanced, with one ACM carrying upwards of 110 churches. We have mitigated this, in large part, by assigning our other field staff more project work. But this coming transition provides an ideal opportunity to better balance our field coverage.
First of all, the plan is to keep all Association boundaries in place! The Northwest Association will continue to be served by Rob. The Northeast Association will continue to be served by Jane, along with the Milwaukee and West Bend Districts of the Southeast Association. The Southwest Association will be served by the new settled ACM, who will also have responsibility for the Burlington and Waukesha Districts of the Southeast Association. Please see the map for a visual and numerical description.
Essentially the geographical staffing responsibilities in the Southeast Association will be shared by two ACM’s – what I am referring to as an Eastern ACM (Jane) and a Southern ACM (yet to be named). In addition, I will continue to provide some Search and Call support to both of these regions. Let me offer sincere gratitude to our Southeast Association Administrative Team and Church and Ministry Committee for their willingness to creatively adapt to this new model.
I recognize change can bring questions, concerns and sometimes anxiety. I ask two things of you . . . I ask your trust in this decision. It is well thought out, we have vetted it thoroughly with Association leaders, and our collaborative staff spirit lends itself well to this arrangement. I also ask you to address any feedback, concerns or questions to me. I am available to you by phone, email or in person, and will appreciate hearing from you!
With gratitude for the bond we share in Christ and with gladness for the hope of our future,
Rev. Franz Rigert