Written by Michael Stroud as part of the monthly historical article celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Southeast Conference.
O Creator God, who brings into being things that once did not exist and redeems and strengthens those things that do, we come to You in humble thanksgiving for the 50 years You have granted us as a people known as the Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Especially, we thank You for the witness of the American Missionary Association and its potent stand for the Gospel, for an educated ministry and laity, and for the moral uplift that impacted so many communities over the years;
We thank You for the fervor and brightness of the Christian Connection and Congregational Methodist heritages, with their clarion call for repentance and holiness in all our lives, and their steadfast conviction that Your church should have all voices represented, not just those ordained;
We thank You for the arrival in our midst of the German Evangelicals and the Swiss Reformed, whose hearty theology and love for the Gospel helped to steady our course during turbulent times when we could easily have forgotten that Your church is set apart for the redemption of our world;
We thank You for the inter-cultural transportation of Northern Congregationalism to our territory, bringing with it an openness to further insight into Your truth, the tolerance that is requisite to peaceful living, and its keen appreciation for society and the need always to reform it to conform to the life of Your Realm;
We thank You for the contributions smaller groups have made over the years to our life together, especially those of Korean and Welsh descent, those congregations formerly of the Baptist tradition, and those forward-looking churches of the emergent movement;
We thank You for the great intensity and magnificent emotional power of our Afro-centric congregations, for their vitality in their respective locales, and for their deep and abiding concern for the welfare of African-Americans and others;
We thank You for the new churches that have been started since our denomination was founded over a half century ago, with a special thanks for their loyalty to us and their desire to hold together “maintenance and mission” in a creative dialogue that should inspire all of us;
We thank You for bringing to us people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, freeing them from fear, anger, and all forms of negativity toward an acceptance of who they are and a fitting for Your service in our time;
We thank You for the countless men and women who have given of their time and resources over several decades to provide leadership for all our churches, associations, and this Conference, in the full knowledge that none of our fellowship and covenant would have been possible otherwise;
We thank You for the lives of, and service from, our executives: Jesse Dollar, William Andes, Emmett Floyd, Horace Sills, Roger Knight, Edwin Mehlhaff, Timothy Downs, Randall Hyvonen, and June Boutwell, along with those of other staff members throughout the years;
We thank You for our ecumenical partners in several denominations throughout our region and for the chance to work cooperatively where possible to achieve common goals, such as ministerial placement and disaster relief;
We thank You for the chance to gather at least annually to celebrate our work, make new friends and renew old ones, and for the chances for our churches to get together for a common witness on certain occasions, such as joint Maundy Thursday services;
We thank You, above all, for the great duty and privilege of following Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, wherever He leads us. O Lord, keep us in Your care and in the great arms of Your most precious church, now and to the end of our days, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.