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Board welcomes PNC to a new ministry of vitality

By Peter Ilgenfritz, Moderator, PNC

The PNC Board of Directors met Sept. 16 and 17, sitting around tables with bright blue, yellow and green tablecloths with red flowers in glass vases, bottles of water and wine on the table, shiny silverware and sparkling wine glasses.  Looking out the tall glass windows of Congregational Church of Mercer Island, we saw tall green trees.

Congregational Church of Mercer Island hosted PNC Board members at their recent meeting.  Photo courtesy of Peter Ilgenfritz

During the dinner of green beans and golden potatoes, chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese and wrapped in bacon, there were three amazing solos expressing longing, hoping and daring.  It was a feast for the heart, body and spirit—a true feast.

As we gathered, board members and church members stood in a circle, and shared our names and all the places we had come from to be in this one place together.

We named our hope and our question that we are asking as a Board and Conference:  What is “vitality”?  Where is it found?  How can it be nurtured? 

That evening and in the morning that followed, we moved from asking a theoretical, analytical question to living into an experience, being immersed in the experience, life and vitality that came to us in the setting of grace that the church had set for us.  We heard the stories shared of a church exploring new ways to risk being and engaging their community.  We were fed in so many ways.

Biscuits, fruit, pie flowers spoke of church’s warm welcome. Photo courtesy of Peter Ilgenfritz

At the end of our evening we gathered in a circle one more time and shared what we had experienced, and the ways we had experienced and witnessed vitality in our midst—in music, food, community, vulnerability, authenticity, risk and stories. 

We remarked that this work of “vitality” doesn’t mean another “to-do” to put our already overwhelming lists of “to-do’s” we all have, but an invitation to a way to be—open, curious, questioning, inviting.  We made a necklace of the words that we shared and learned with each other that night as church and board. 

The next morning the board surrounded Courtney Stange-Tregear, our new Minister for Church Vitality, and blessed her at the beginning of her ministry with what we are learning together about vitality. 

This is an exciting, vital season in the life of our Conference.  It is a time, yes, as these times are of challenge and change, of endings and beginnings.  It is a season that we see, feel and know outside in the turning to fall and within us in the change that is life and our own.

We invite the people around the Conference to join with us to explore “vitality” this coming year.  Where do we find it? 

Board bless Courtney Stange-Tregear as she begins ministry. Photo courtesy of Andrew Conley-Holcomb

We need to open ourselves to being immersed in it, to wonder what stands in the way that hinders its blooming.  We invite members of the PNC to risk with us as we engage this year in new ways of being together as Conference at our Annual Meeting Saturday to Sunday, April 29 to May 1, at Pilgrim Firs and in conversation and learning with us in a fall gathering at N-Sid-Sen.  

Most important, we ask members of the PNC to pray with us and for us all as we learn together what it means to be church in this time—our times—of challenge and change. 

God is at work.  God is calling us to make a clearing, to make some space, and mark this time in the falling of leaves and the rising that it heralds for the newness that is God. 

We give thanks for each of person in the PNC and their ministries of vitality and grace and for our ministry together.  We are here with everyone in the PNC along the way.  

For information, call 206-484-9814 or email


Copyright © September 2016 - Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News


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