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Moderator sets forth the new ideas for PNC, invites donations

Peter Ilgengritz offers reflections.

A year and a half ago the PNC took a big step and invested in hiring a minister of church vitality to serve us. Conference leaders knew there was something about nurturing vitality that was integral to our ministry, even if they were not sure where that was going to lead us, or how we could pay for and sustain that work for the long term. It felt like a moment to take a risk and step into the new.

Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, more than 80 of us from the PNC gathered for a brand new kind of coming together at our beautiful UCC church camp N-Sid-Sen in Idaho.

As a conference, we’ve been in a time of deep change. Our old patterns and ways of doing things no longer serve us. The old work we did is different from the ministry we need to be doing today. We have been living into turning our little boat of the PNC through the wind of change for many years, and I have been part of that intentional work for a year and a half, as I’ve served as moderator.

We’ve had partial successes, familiar failures and a return to old, comfortable patterns.  At the Fall Gathering, something new happened.

Today, the PNC has new clarity that vitality begins with deepening relationships with one another. As our churches, communities, and world face huge challenges, we know we are strengthened by our ability to stand together and not apart. At our Fall Gathering, we had a chance to talk in small groups and build deeper connections around issues in ministry, social justice, faith practices that concern us and the communities where we live and serve.  I’m thankful to David Anderson and Carol Coleman for convening some of those conversations.

The heart of the work we are doing and the work of change the church is called into was embodied for me in our installation service for Courtney Stange-Treager on Friday night. Instead of gathering where I thought we would—on comfortable chairs lined up in neat rows in the beautiful room above us—we gathered on wooden benches in the outdoor chapel on the shore of the lake.

It was 6:30 p.m. The sun had set. It would soon be dark. I wondered what we were doing there. As dusk turned to twilight, then deep dark, speakers had to use cell phones to light up texts and sermons. It seemed needlessly messy and difficult. We couldn’t see a thing.

When we blessed Courtney and celebrated her new role in conference leadership, Conference Minister Mike Denton invited her to step down the center aisle where we were gathered in the dark. He invited those with cell phones and flash lights to shine the lights up towards the sky.

Suddenly, the whole space was alight, a sparkling of shadows and light, and all of us together. Then I got it. This was exactly where we needed to be, not in our “usual” space in rows on comfortable chairs, but here on the lake shore where we needed to hold lights for one another, so we could sing, where we needed to experience the discomfort of the new, and the wonder of sitting in the dark seeing and not seeing the way ahead. It was an installation service I’ll not forget.

As church, we are called into the new by the Spirit of God who is always calling us into new creation. There will be challenging, disorienting, freeing, exciting and terrifying times ahead. It will be full of wonder if we keep our eyes open. On the lake shore looking into the dark, we cannot see our way. But the light is here. God is here with us. Together with God, we are finding our ways into more life-giving, relational, communal, freeing ways to be and gather together.

There our conference experienced that newness. We found we need each other, and we are better because of it. Together the PNC is lighting a way forward to deeper connections that will strengthen our communities.

Please be a Friend of the PNC, so together we can support the UCC, singing of vitality, deeper connection and relationship through our region.

Send support to 325 N 125th St. Seattle, WA. 98133.


Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ News © November-December 2017



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