This New Year of 2017 begins a new era for the Southeast Conference as we enter our 51st year. We have not closed our conference office but we have moved to a virtual office. A couple of weeks ago, June and I sent out a letter to all the churches with pertinent information you need to know concerning the move to a virtual office.
The work of the Conference and the conference minister continues. But we are learning to do things differently to address the changing circumstances in which we find ourselves. I have always been fond of the passage of scripture in Esther 4:14, where Mordecai, knowing his people were being threatened, went to Queen Esther and said to her, “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.” Having become the Conference Moderator and Board Chair at the 2016 Annual Meeting, I have come to appreciate the sentiment of those words even more.
Having had the opportunity to look behind the scenes, aided by a great staff, attorney and CPA, the Southeast Conference, with Rev. June Boutwell as our Designated Conference Minister, has made great strides. Her leadership and guidance coupled with her financial, administrative, and UCC experience made her just the right person “for such a time as this.” This is evidenced by this being the theme for the 2014 Conference Annual Meeting, where she was installed, and these past three years.
The work of the incoming Interim Conference Minister, Rev. Marie Bacchiocchi, will be to build upon the great work of Rev. June, and then shepherding the conference to a vision of ministry to meet our changing circumstances. I commend the work of the Interim Search Committee and the Board for I too believe Rev. Marie is the right person to do the work “for such a time as this.”
Today, the conference faces 2017 in a sound and sustainable financial and administrative position. But this is a beginning–we have not arrived! The work of the Conference is an ongoing journey. To ensure our abilities to continue to be effective in missions and ministry requires the ongoing commitment and support of local UCC congregations through Our Church’s Wider Mission (OWCM) basic financial support and by those who serve the conference on Boards and Committees and other ministries. The future holds much that is needed to meet the continually changing challenges we will face and ministry opportunities with which we will be presented.
To paraphrase what Mordecai said to Esther, “Who knows, maybe you have come to a royal position as a member of that part of the Body of Christ we know as the Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ for such a time as this!”
God is still speaking! But we need your help to ensure that the voice of God is heard in our local churches, communities, Conference, and the United Church of Christ.