Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Conference today is immersed in new life

By Kristine Zakarison - Conference Moderator

Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” tells of a child who became the first object he looked upon each day—the object became part of him for the day or for years—lilacs, grass, morning glories, white and red clover, the phoebe bird’s song, lambs, foals, calves, fish, water plants and more.

Kristine Zakarison
Kristine Zakarison

Whitman describes all the elements the child notices that become a part of him—animals, friends, the natural world, family, his thoughts and feelings, his barely understood yearnings—the rhythm of his life.  In paying attention to the little details, the child becomes not only aware of, but also immersed in the Sacred Now of the world, an immediate experience of God.

As we pray or immerse ourselves in the life of our congregations and conference, we look, feel and notice deeply; we speak and listen to God, and, gradually, we change ourselves, and God changes us.  Like the child in Whitman’s poem, we become, over time, something new.

Jesus told of a sower.  Some seed fell on the path.  Birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. When the sun rose, it was scorched and withered for lack of roots.  Some seed fell among thorns.  The thorns grew up, choked it and it produced no grain. Some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up, grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear” (Mark 4: 3-9).

We are both sower and the ground waiting to be sown.  We go through our lives casting seeds in both intended and unintended places.   Are we aware of the seeds we have sown?  Through our words, actions, interactions and lifestyle, can we be aware of seeds we sow?  Likewise, we are the soil that is constantly sown with all kinds of seeds we receive or don’t receive. 

Sometimes good seeds hit parched, spent soil and can’t yield much.  We have good intentions, but we can’t seem to follow through.  Other times, seeds we’d prefer not to cultivate seem to hit the richest pay dirt of all—perhaps seeds of anger, apathy or self-absorption—to become weeds that choke out everything else in sight.

 I have a teacher who says, “Attention is a gift we give to that which we intend to cultivate.” Through our attention and action, what kind of seeds are we sowing?  What kinds of seeds have been sown within us?  As the body of Christ, we go to the wounded place.  We look with a deep, loving gaze at our beautiful, fragile planet, crying out for our concern.  We place our attention in those places and moments, in which God cries along with us for compassionate engagement or a fresh start.  We begin again to sow, cultivate and tend, so wild, abundant life, filled with grace, can be born anew in our midst.

In my year as conference moderator, I have seen many seeds sown and begin to grow, aware that the body consists of many members.

Perhaps the greatest gift of being moderator is getting to know members of this wonderful body and be a part of helping that body work together.  Our Annual Meeting theme, “Connections, Reflections, Directions” is an apt description of not only how the physical body works but also how our body has sought to work in the past year.

A healthy physical body is one in which all “parts” are in the feedback loop.  The sensory awareness and communication among members is strong, and so when there is stimulus to the body, it is disseminated and there is a response. Through efficiency of neural and other physiological networks, the body reflects information to the entire system.  When a direction is taken—whether a taking a single step to open our mind, heart and spirit to prayer, or extending our hand to help another—the entire body has come together in a wondrous interactive engagement.

I see our conference body working together to be a connected, reflective, responsive body, able to take initiative and direction through engaging and communicating with one another.

We have taken a significant step toward this goal in assessing our communications and technology patterns and structures, understanding how individuals, local churches, committees and the conference communicate. Consultant Kathleen Hosfeld is helping us establish technology standards to communicate more effectively and do ministry together—not only to spread the word about our work but also to create ways we can be a body better able to connect and reflect with one another and venture in exciting new directions.

This past year, the conference stabilized its budget and is planning with clarity for the future. We voted to support the partnership of our Conference, Pilgrim Firs Camp and Conference Center, and the national UCC Justice and Witness Ministries to create an Environmental Justice Center at Pilgrim Firs as a national resource.

It is an exciting time to be part of Conference work, thanks to astute, energetic, visionary leadership of Conference Minister, the Rev. Michael Denton, board leadership, staff and all who contribute to building up of the body of each church, community, the conference, the United Church of Christ and ultimately the body of Christ.

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © April 2011





Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share