by J R Finney II, Board Moderator
“Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” Proverbs 11:14, “The Message”
Our Southeast Conference has a wonderfully rich history as chronicled by Michael Stroud in “Ye Shall Be Witnesses Unto Me in the Southland: The Story of the Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ, 1966-2015.” We did incredible ministry in our first 50 years. Our commitment to “love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with our God” ensured we never lost our way. Different conference ministers brought their various skills and passions to bear in leading the conference in its incredible work and we were blessed to have them.
However, as we know, being church and doing ministry has changed remarkably in recent years requiring difficult paradigm shifts to ensure that the message that “God is still Speaking” continues to be our witness changing lives and bringing hope. It has been imperative that we make the critical changes and shifts organizationally and financially to do just that. Being relatively new as Board Moderator, I was blessed to see the truth of Proverbs 11:14 in a very reassuring way as I met recently with conference staff, attorney and accountant.
Our Designated Conference Minister, Rev. June Boutwell, with her leadership, financial and organizational skills has proven to be just the right counsel we needed as our leader these last three years. As she prepares to transition from this position at the end of February 2017, we owe her a great debt of gratitude that she has been willing to take on an incredible difficult beginning of our much needed shifts. She has provided effective and critical management needed to “better our chances” going forward.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to our staff for all of their incredible efforts on behalf of the Conference: Debbie Spearman, Generosity Coordinator; Rev. Dr. Sarah Kim, Executive Director of PATHWAYS; Don Harris, Director of Communications and Chris Lyman Waldron, IT guru who has provided direction to allow technology to assist these shifts. They too “better our chances” going forward.
Many thanks to two others: Art Domby, our long time “almost encyclopedic memory” conference attorney who continues to provide wise counsel to “better our chances” going forward. And of course, many thanks to our newest counselor, Revolution Financial Services and our accountant Sandy Johns and bookkeeper Dianne Ash, whose passion for working with non-profits like us “better our chances” going forward.
I came from this meeting feeling very hopeful that the challenges before us are not overwhelming. I believe these counselors were meant for our conference “for such as time as this.” They continue to provide us with “good direction.” While June will be leaving us, the others remain. As we have undertaken our search for a new Interim Conference Minister in an effort to continue to “better our chances” going forward, we need the continuing support of all of you. We need all of our local churches to have a global outlook and support our efforts to make it known that “God is Still Speaking!”