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Annual Meeting has business and spiritual sides

To reflect on the theme “Connect – connecting to God, to one another and to our wider communities,” Jane Sorenson, Annual Meeting planning chair, asks churches to bring “heartening, comforting or challenging” quotes, short enough to fit on a business card.

Annual Meeting 2011 was at University Congregational UCC in Seattle.

In business, delegates will discuss and vote on two resolutions at the Pacific Northwest Conference Annual Meeting—Friday to Sunday, April 27 to 29, at the Pasco Red Lion Hotel and Conference Center—that help PNC connect on spiritual and economic justice issues.

Delegates will also review PNC’s budget, which dropped from $563,000 in 2010 to just about $500,000, said Stewardship Committee chair Edie Lackland.

“It means we won’t be able to have additional staff we need,” she said.  “The drop is because of the general economy, churches in transition temporarily diverting their Our Churches Wider Mission pledges for the search costs, and aging, exemplified by one church losing 17 members in two years to death.”

As part of the worship, churches will bring their pledges, she said.

Another business item is a resolution, “Toward a Unified Governance in the National Setting of the United Church of Christ,” which changes the UCC constitution and bylaws.  Each of the 38 conferences is being asked to ratify it. 

Delegates will also vote on a recommendation of the Church Development Committee to accept Liberation Ministries in Seattle as a new congregation.

In addition to business, the Annual Meeting provides education through speakers, workshops and worship.

The keynote speakers are Elizabeth Dilley of First Congregational UCC in Red Oak, Iowa, and J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of Local Church Ministries (LCM).

Elizabeth Dilley
Elizabeth Dilley

As pastor of a small, thriving, progressive church, Dilley will share how small and rural churches can change the world.  With a bachelor’s in educational theatre at New York University and a master of divinity in 2003 at Pacific School of Religion, she combines a love of liturgy with background in theatre to enliven church life.

She teaches about small churches at the Center for Progressive Renewal, and is involved in Red Oak on the school board, a mentoring board, the local theatre and the ministerial fellowship.

Dilley will lead a Saturday workshop on “What Makes a Vital Church of Any Size?”

Ben Guess
Ben Guess

In 2000, Guess began as communications director for the national UCC Justice and Witness Ministries.  He edited United Church News and directed the UCC’s Publishing, Identity and Communication Ministry, before heading Local Church Ministries.

He earned a bachelor’s in journalism at the University of Kentucky, a master of divinity in 1991 at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and a doctor of ministries in preaching in 2001 at Chicago Theological Seminary.  Guess, who began his career at the Bowling Green Daily News and served 12 years as pastor in Kentucky, will lead a Friday workshop on “Christian Faith Formation beyond Sunday School.”

The economic justice resolutions delegates will consider come from PNC’s Justice and Witness Ministries Committee.

One calls for the PNC and its churches to “divest from Bank of America and other harmful banks” because some of the largest banks act in ways that conflict with UCC social justice values.  The resolution challenges Bank of America for investing in the coal industry, a “threat to public health and climate stability,” and for its subprime lending excesses, its exorbitant pay of top executives, its paying no federal taxes two recent years and its acting in ways that undermine a just economy.

That resolution urges the PNC to transfer its business to an institution more aligned with “God’s call to act justly” and to investigate practices of other financial institutions they use or choose.

The second JWM resolution says corporations should not have the same rights as people, which the U.S. Supreme Court granted in a 2010 ruling.  Since then “corporations have flooded the political marketplace with their money, crowding out voices of individuals and jeopardizing the democracy we hold dear.”

It calls for the PNC to urge the U.S. Congress “to pass and send to states an amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing that a corporation shall not be considered a person eligible for rights accorded to human beings and the use of money to influence elections or acts of public officials shall not be considered a protected form of speech.” The PNC is to send the resolution to General Synod.

Dan Stern, chair of the Church Development Committee (CDC), said the committee recommends that Liberation Ministries in the Madrona neighborhood of Seattle become a PNC congregation.  He said the CDC has worked with this faith community that wants to affiliate with the UCC. 

Liberation Ministries describes itself as “a multicultural, charismatic and radically inclusive church.”  While its 40 members are predominantly African-American gays, it includes lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight people diverse age, ethnic and socio-economic groups.  Members include people who are “seeking, agnostic and Muslim,” but exploring Christian faith.  Its ListServ includes 200 people.

The founder and pastor, Darrell Goodwin, grew up and was ordained in the Church of God in Christ.  He is associate dean of students in student development at Seattle University and previously director of student life at Creighton University. 

He earned a bachelor’s in human development and theology from Boston College, a master’s in higher education and student affairs administration from the University of Vermont, a master’s in transforming spirituality from Seattle University.  He is a doctoral candidate at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

As part of connecting with the wider community in the Tri-Cities area, delegates are to  bring personal hygiene items and school supplies for youth to deliver to My Friend’s Place, Pasco Schools’ Migrant Worker Outreach, Martha’s Cupboard, Mesa Elementary School and other groups.

For a worship centerpiece, churches are sending one yard of fabric that represents them.  In addition, anyone who has taken table centerpieces in previous years will bring them to share in the worship space.

Delegates will also bring Legos no smaller than six-prong “to build something wonderfully and uniquely ours,” said Sorenson.  After the meeting the Legos will be donated to charity.

Annual Meeting will also include commissioning of National Youth Event participants, and a dinner to celebrate Randy Crowe’s 22-year ministry at N-Sid Sen.

Workshops include information on what pastors learn in boundary training, led by Tara Barber; “Just World—Soul by Soul,” led by Tom Thresher; “Different Worship Styles,” “Marriage Equality,” “UCC 101” on the conference and wider UCC;  “The Spiritual Practice of Retreat,” “At the Intersection of Faith and Money: Oikocredit,” “Justice in Action” by three local churches, “Digital Safe Church,” and “UCC Young Adult Service Communities.”

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Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © April-May 2012





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