I have been thinking about the song “Auld Lang Syne” partly as the old year passes, partly in recognition of my father’s Scots heritage, and partly as I begin the process of saying farewell to the Southeast Conference. I want to assure you that old acquaintance will not be forgot as I move to the next ministry to which God calls me. I will carry each place and each person in my heart and will carry your stories-both hopeful and revealing-to the next place I will go.
I will continue to hold the Southeast Conference and its diverse ministries and settings in prayer as you move into the interim period. When I was called as the Conference Minister for a designated three year term, it was with the understanding that my role would be to work with the Board of Directors to take a deep look at the organizational structure, administrative functions, and ministries of the Southeast Conference. We did not know at that time what that deep look might reveal to us.
My work here has been to ensure the organization was in compliance with its own by-laws, to ensure appropriate fiscal responsibility and accountability by the Board and staff, to foster and strengthen relationships with the Conference Office, to connect various ministries to each other and the wider church, and to help the standing committees of the Board operate as effectively and efficiently as possible. That has resulted in the segregation of all restricted and donor designated funds; restoring the Board to its mandated membership requirements; assisting 18 churches in their search for pastoral leadership; the celebration of the 50th anniversary of this Conference; completion of a two year restructure of the Commission on Ministry; and a balanced budget for 2017, among other things.
None of this could have been accomplished without the capable leadership and creative energy of those who have served during my tenure. Moderators Jim Crabb, Jennifer Austin, Gwen Thomas, and JR Finney; Commission on Ministry Chairs Lawrence Clark and Valerie Coe Lowder; all the members of the Board of Directors; and all those who have told stories, provided sound counsel, and been there in informative and supportive ways. I have much to be grateful for as I prepare to resume my wanderings in ministry. Please know how profoundly grateful I am to have had the privilege to serve you all and the blessing of getting to know you and this remarkable setting of ministry.
As you enter a time of interim ministry and begin the work of discerning God’s vision for the ministry of this Conference and doing the strategic planning necessary to build that road, I will be with you in Spirit. I leave you with the theme of the National Youth Event this past summer from Hebrews 11:1-3 (CEV) Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. It was their faith that made our ancestors pleasing to God. Because of our faith, we know that the world was made at God’s command. We also know that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen.
As we all enter a new year and a new season of ministry, may you find hope in God’s eternal presence and the eyes to see what is revealed for your mission and ministry-personally, in your local church, in the Southeast Conference, in the United Church of Christ, and even unto the ends of the earth. Blessed Be.