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Moderator focuses on building covenant in conference

Believing in the idea of the wider church since his youth, Brandon Duran has been living out that commitment as vice moderator last year, moderator this year and past moderator next year.

Brandon Duran
Brandon Duran

“Remaining connected to the wider community of faith is important to walking the path of Christ,” he said in an interview, reflecting on his year as moderator.

As vice moderator, Duran, who is director of children, youth and family ministries at Plymouth Church in Seattle, spent a year learning what he might do as moderator and how the committees work and interrelate.

“As members of the United Church of Christ, a united and uniting church, we affirm the role of covenant, the idea that each expression of the church listens, hears and carefully considers each others’ advice, counsel and requests,” he writes in his letter inviting PNC churches to the 2012 Annual Meeting.

“As moderator, I find that covenant is vital for the work of the Board of Directors and all conference committees,” he said.  “Covenant feels both so fragile and so powerful.

“Covenant needs consistent attention.  We can easily give just lip service to it.  We need to balance giving it consistent attention without it becoming so common place that we take it for granted,” he pointed out.

Duran said one of his initial impressions of the UCC was the use of the phrase from Jesus’ prayer in John 17, “that they may all be one.”

He was drawn by this, particularly in his youth.

The prayer continues, he said, with the “so that,” connecting unity to a purpose and not as an end in itself.

“In a similar fashion, I think our covenant is critical to our identity, but I don’t think our goal should be to maintain the covenant for covenant’s sake.  This is seen in the 1997 PNC vision statement.”

He also thinks the conference is coming to a time to ask again about its vision and purpose: “May we be one in order that we may...”.

“The ideal of covenant and its significance needs consistent attention so the conference and congregations understand what it is, but it can’t be the only thing we talk about,” he said, explaining that covenant exists for helping define and shape the relationships within and among those in the conference, so “we follow the path of Christ.”

“The communication report presented last year by consultant Katherine Hosfeld said there are points of connection that work, and places they have broken down creating bottlenecks for communication.

Duran sees a major need for building connections between and among the local churches, beyond each church’s connections to the conference itself.

“Congregations connecting with each other is a way for them to connect with the life of the conference,” he said.

While the conference office  has resources to share with the congregations, each congregation also has resources to share with each other, he suggested. 

“The structures of the conference are the means to help them share,” said Duran, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies in 1999 at Azusa Pacific University and  a master of divinity in 2004 at Fuller Seminary.  He also  taught English and science in China for a year and later taught theology and English two years in Caracas, Venezuela before coming to the PNC.

“As I began connecting with the conference when I first came to the PNC to serve the Seattle Taiwanese Christian UCC Church, I began to connect with the conference to find resources.  Now I’m convinced the sharing is two-way, and multi-way,” he said.

Large and small churches each have ideas, resources and inspiring things to say to enrich other churches.

“The role of committees and the conference is to help facilitate that sharing,” he said. 

As moderator, he has tried to lift up the vision of the conference and the board of directors in the bylaws and constitution, approved in 1997. 

He hopes that vision informs and inspires goals for each committee.

Some highlights of the 2011-12 board, committee and task force actions have been selecting Mark Boyd as the new director of N-Sid-Sen Camp and Conference Center on Lake Coeur d’Alene; arranging for the celebration of Randy Crowe’s retirement from that role, working with the Stewardship Committee on adjusting financial policies, continuing conversation on implementing insights from the communication report, and encouraging churches to participate in the national UCC Mission I Initiative to address hunger.

Administrative and program decisions have also included grant requests from the Church Development Committee, personnel guidelines from the Personnel Committee, clarifying the mission of Global Ministries and the possibility of welcoming Liberation Ministries in Seattle as a new PNC church.

The board has met eight times, including use of tele- and video-conferencing to increase participation, and has held two Conference Councils.

“We have begun discussions about how to make our board and committee structure more effective, more connected and more responsible to the conference vision.

“The PNC Annual Meeting is the perfect venue for us to connect with each other and with the still speaking God,” he said about his anticipation of the gathering.  “When we come together as churches as a conference we find comfort in the shared struggles and inspiration in sparks of new life God is ever creating.”

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Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © April-May 2012





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