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Moderator lends perspective, leads bylaws discussion

Moderator Tara Leininger opened the PNC Annual Meeting April 29 at First Congregational UCC in Bellingham reporting that there were 126 delegates from 39 of the Conference’s 75 churches, establishing a quorum.

Tara Leininger reports on developments since last AM, top.
Steve Jerbi notes that online is not secondary for young, bottom.

“We are the church when we gather. Christ unites us as we gather in love, truth, hope and community. There is messiness. It’s what it means to be human with different experiences,” she said, pointing out that there are rules and guidelines for being in relationship, and the greatest is love.

“If what is spoken is not spoken in love, we need to love the one speaking and take the truth to heart, remembering. Who we are and that we are gathering as church. I am here to pray for and with you,” she said.

“We are to treat each other with respect and do what my grandmother told me to do, act with good manners,” Tara continued. “We are to talk and work together. Our agenda is our guideline. We are to act with the guide or our parliamentarian, Cheryl Lindsay of the national UCC.  We are to treat each other with dignity, courtesy and Christ’s love.”

The first action was to approve a by-laws change so those attending online could participate and vote.

“Online was never the same during Covid. We did heavy lifting with technology to make it happen. There is financial impact to having hybrid meetings,” Tara commented, inviting discussion.

David Anderson of United Churches of Olympia said staff had gone above and beyond to implement hybrid meetings and it takes additional work and expense. Hybrid costs more.

Jim CastroLang, retired, said having voice and vote is important so we can hear voices of those online.

Andrew Conley-Holcom of Admiral in Seattle, asked how it would affect the choice of where Annual Meetings are held.

Amara Oden of Suquamish said that for 20 years in five churches as a mother raising three children and working full time she found her first experience of Annual Meeting online broadened the table to those who are a vital part of the church but unable to get away.

Leah Atkinson Bilinski of Fauntleroy in Seattle said there are costs to be accessible for those online and “we need to pay for a quality experience.”

Robert Anderson of Guemes Island said “it’s not my cup of tea” and called for balancing the inclusivity with the need for privacy, concerned about theft and abuse of information. He urged that there be mechanisms built in for protections.

Indigo Brown, vice moderator, said  Zoom is hackable but can be shut down.

Steve Jerbi, of University Congregational UCC in Seattle, told of the joy of working with youth ministry and as parent of two disabled teens. For this generation, online is not a secondary expression, but increases accessibility.

Kate Forrester of Plymouth UCC in Seattle is new to the denomination, coming from the Catholic tradition, which she said is resistant to change. She urged moving forward.

Kelle Brown of Plymouth UCC said she thought the process of engaging people equitably online and she understands the need for gatekeeping, but also believes there is need to keep the church open and adaptive.

The Annual Meeting delegates voted to approve accepting participation of voting delegates online.

In the moderator’s report, Tara said, “I liked being moderator with the challenges. The work was not easy but I worked with the best people on the board who dedicated time to the conference. I am also thankful to the staff and Courtney in a time of transition. Even though the conference minister position was in flux, Courtney was to there put out fires.

Mark Boyd transitioned between from being managing director at N-Sid-Sen to being managing director at Pilgrim Firs, providing stability and growth of camps as places of renewal. Arlene Hobson and Andy Warren if there was a problem or concern they contacted the moderator, board, acting conference minister so someone’s voice would be heard and someone would listen, Tara said.

“The entire conference cared for well and nurtured members,” she said. “I tried my best to make judgment calls. I watched for feedback.”

She pointed out that pastors and lay leaders didn’t have to “go it alone.” There were regular online groups for moderators and financial officers.

“Tiny Metaline Falls Congregational UCC’s church council has had the same 12 people for 17 years,” Tara observed. “Whether a little church or a church of 1,000 needed help we had resources to offer loving and caring.”

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Pacific Northwest Conference Summer United Church News copyright © June 2023


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