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PNC leaders find new patterns for its meetings

Moderator’s Report - Peter Ilgenfritz

“We can’t do this again! We can’t!” 

Here we were, doing it again. 

Peter Ilgenfritz

It was the same old pattern.  The meeting began with great connection, vision, dreaming and energy, but after the lunch break, as the conversation turned to plans on what to do next, all that energy we’d experienced fled the room. 

We turned to making long to-do lists, agonizing over all we had to do, remembering everything that we’d once tried that hadn’t work.   Hopelessness and despair descended like thick fog over our morning mountaintop clarity and excitement.

It had happened to us before—one, three, five—too many times.  This time we were headed that same way again until someone interrupted our pattern and said, “Stop.  We have to stop.  We can’t do this one more time.”

For the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as moderator of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ.   I am grateful for the board members who have taught me so much and enabled me to learn and grow with you. 

I am grateful for the Conference’s support in enabling the conference leadership to work with a leadership coach, Posy Gering, who has helped us find new questions and make new patterns for our meeting.

It has been a true gift to team with Wendy Blight, vice moderator, Mike Denton, our conference minister and Courtney Stange-Tregear, minister of church vitality, as we have helped lead our board of directors into the new.  I am thankful for a great new leadership waiting in the wings with Wendy Blight as moderator and Hillary Coleman as vice moderator after Annual Meeting. 

After a year of coming up against some familiar barriers, something began to shift this past year.  In the hard and holy work that is the work of transformation, we started as a board and Conference leadership to be transformed. We were thrust out of our comfort zones and familiar patterns. 

We met at Pilgrim Firs for Annual Meeting and had a fall gathering at Camp N-Sid-Sen in September.  On that first night on Lake Coeur d’Alene, we gathered for Courtney’s installation not on comfortable chairs inside but on benches down by the lakeshore.  The sun set.  We had to lean in close to help each other see read the hymns and liturgy with our flashlights.  When Mike invited Courtney to see who was gathered, he invited us to shine our lights up towards the stars above, and suddenly, we could see.  We could see each other and all that was here that we had missed. 

As Roberta Rominger noted afterwards, “It was a perfect expression of who we are and are becoming as Conference.”

God is here in and among us.  We are stepping forth into the dark on the little boat of this Conference and helping us in our life together to deepen relationship and live into more vital ways of being as church.

On that day, last month when the Board fell back into our same-old, same-old routines, we did something different.  We stopped.  We put down our to-do lists, raised our heads from our hands, unclenched our fists, and became curious about what we were doing. 

We talked about our fears.  We acknowledged that as a board we had a lot invested in our time, energy, histories in holding this work together and keeping it going. 

We remembered however that our call wasn’t to keep things going as they’d always been, but to do things differently, to lead into change. 

This coming year, I hope that wherever we are, we will look around and see who’s out here with us.  To see it is truly God, Christ in our midst. 

Then I hope we will step forth into the dark—into mystery, transformation and grace—where Christ is ever leading us to go: into a new life together, a way of being Conference and church that we have never imagined before.


Pacific Northwest United Church News © April-May 2018


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