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Connections and stability were the two themes that I heard when I was asked to be the Transitional Conference Minister in January 2019. It made sense to me. I began by visiting churches 3 out of 4 Sundays a month. I kept a list to be sure I visited everyone. Then in March 2020, COVID hit: churches shut down, travel was suspended, and many churches were left on my “to visit” list. In 2019, I worked with Heather to find ways to bring more organization and stability to the Conference ministry. Then COVID hit and in addition, we witnessed many visual images of racial injustice. Therefore, as staff, we needed to move in other directions to provide support, information, and encouragement in different ways. Our faith reminds us that mission and ministry is never stagnant, but always ongoing and changing as the world around us changes.
This is my last article for the Conference Connection as Transitional Conference Minister. On September 27, Rev. Kimberly Wood will begin as Conference Minister. I am excited for Rev. Wood! This is an amazing Conference that includes some unique and dedicated communities of faith and clergy that provide varying witnesses to God’s deeply rooted love for all people. She will be blessed as she has the opportunity to meet you, learn some of the histories of churches that have laid the foundation for the present, and hear of your hopes for the future.
I want to thank you for your graciousness toward me. In the UCC Book of Worship, there is a Service of Farewell that we commonly use in local churches when a pastor leaves. The Service includes sentences asking for forgiveness of mistakes made. Yes, I have made some mistakes, failed to provide support to some who needed it, and did not fulfill the expectations that I had created for myself. I ask your forgiveness and hope that my shortcomings are not placed upon Rev. Wood as she begins.
Another part of the Service of Farewell is the vows of release, acknowledging that the professional relationship is concluding. That means that as of September 27, I will no longer be answering the current Conference Minister phone number – it will be Rev. Wood’s phone number. I will also no longer have a Conference email address. Questions and requests for the Conference Minister will go directly to Rev. Wood (however, nothing changes for Rev. Heather Fosburgh’s contact information or position). I will also “disappear for a while” from Conference events, including zoom meetings, as Rev. Wood builds relationships within the Conference.
Let me conclude by saying “thank you!” You have been a gift to me! I have so appreciated and been enriched by the opportunity to visit churches, hear stories, and work with some amazing church leaders. I also need to publicly thank the Conference staff who have taught me much and supported the work we have done together: Don Harris as Director of Communications; Minister Carrole Moss as Generosity Coordinator; and Rev. Heather Fosburgh, as Associate Conference Minister and Administrator. They have taught me much and have been constantly supportive as we have worked together to support the mission and ministry of the Southeast Conference. I am grateful!
As I retire again, be assured that you will all continue in my prayers as we work to be active witnesses to God’s presence and God’s love, working to create the beloved community.
Blessings, Char Burch