One of the more enjoyable experiences I have had in ministry was participating in an executive training session at Disney World, the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. The participants received a book, Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service. It opens with this quote from Walt Disney: “In this volatile business of ours, we can ill afford to rest on our laurels, even to pause in retrospect. Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.”
Now I am aware that congregants are not customers but we are trying to do church in a very consumer oriented society. So how do we begin to look at how we offer our message in effective ways? I think that it is helpful to consider the lessons of the past but we cannot rest in this place for the call of Christ to be in the world and bearers of Gospel light is always before us leading us onward. And we are all aware that we are living in times where things are changing rapidly and we need to figure out how to accommodate and incorporate those influences in our life together as the Body of Christ.
Your newly elected Southeast Conference Board of Directors met on September 12 and 13 and began the process of looking at their own strengths in leadership and good governance with the help of Don Clark and Heather Kimmel of the office of the General Counsel of the United Church of Christ. They then looked at the work ahead to create an organizational culture and ways of doing things that will support and enhance the mission and ministry of this Conference. But we know we can’t rest on our laurels. Instead we need to look at how we move this beloved part of the church into the future God envisions for our life and ministry in this particular part of God’s creation. I hope you will be partners on this journey with our leadership group and that you will add your part to the conversation and to the work that is before us.
I continue to enjoy my ministry in this Conference. In September I participated in the Southern Region Conference Ministers meeting; attended worship at Emmanuel UCC in Greenville, SC; preached at UCC Pensacola and at Circular Congregational UCC in Charleston, SC. I have also visited with leadership at Open Table in Mobile, AL and with G. Lind Taylor at First Congregational in Savannah GA and Dr. Lawrence Evans at Midway (GA) Congregational UCC.
In October I will attend the Alabama Tennessee Association meeting in Birmingham and the 4th Annual Retired Servants Retreat hosted by the Southern and Southeast Conferences at Blowing Rock Conference Center in North Carolina. I will also be a part of Atlanta Pride, participating in the event at Victory UCC in Stone Mountain. I will be preaching at Phoenix Church in Wildersville, TN, United Church of Huntsville, AL, and First Congregational UCC in Talladega AL. I will also be in Cleveland at the UCC national offices for meetings including an ecumenical seminar on new church development.
As I travel about the Conference, I am deeply grateful for the ministries that have been and continue to be present in this place and so appreciate the welcome, the hope, and the energy of the folks I am meeting that are the backbone, heart, and hands of this wonderful gathering of God’s people. And, as Walt Disney said, “Always remember, the magic begins with you.” I offer prayers for that holy presence and invite yours for all the others that labor alongside you in the vineyard.