fter a brief Advent reflection, I want to remind you about the coming staff transitions.
Each year, we are given the opportunity to learn again the lean lessons of Advent: watchful waiting, sustained hope, untempered joy, limitless love, and passionate peace. All are ongoing mysteries. In contrast to our culture’s accent on extravagance, Advent’s lessons are spare. And I, for one, must re-learn each of these – again and again. Each year, I so look forward to Advent because I know how much I need what the Advent scriptures, hymns, and liturgies offer.
Amidst the increased demands, the shorter days, the assault on our senses and the co-opting of Christ’s story for other purposes, I pray that Advent will be a time when you, too, will dwell on these lessons. And I trust that as you do, your ministry will prosper, and God’s mission will be advanced.
Just as Advent is a time of “coming” – we are quickly approaching a time of Conference staff transition. Since last May, when I first shared with you the plans for these transitions, the Conference staff, Commissions and Board along with the leaders in many of our Associations have been preparing. I thought that everyone might benefit from a brief rehearsal of the changes that will take place when the new year arrives.
The Rev. Don Remick, now a half-time Associate Conference Minister (ACM), will become a full-time ACM. Don's focus as a regional ACM will shift from the 47 churches in the Northeast to the 75 churches in the Southeast. Don will take over from the Rev. Wendy Vander Hart her current responsibilities for planning the Conference Annual Meeting. Wendy, in addition to her work with the 72 churches in the Metropolitan Boston Association, will take over from Don his work with the 47 churches in the Northeast region (Andover and Essex Associations). This will give Wendy about the same number of churches as the Rev. Peter Wells has been working with for the past several years. Don will also take over many of the responsibilities currently overseen by the Rev. Dale Hempen, including coordinating search and call, helping coordinate interims, and coordinating Boundary Awareness Training. The work of the Evangelism and Vitality Commission which Paul Nickerson has overseen will now be guided by Don.
As we live into God’s future together, many of us will be adjusting to these changes, and all of us will be holding both Dale and Paul in our hearts as we wish them well. While none of us know what God has in store, we can be confident that all the gifts that God has given us will be called upon. Please continue to pray for all who are involved in and affected by these transitions, and continue to be both compassionate and patient as staff and Association and Conference leaders adjust to these changes.
I look forward to continuing to minister with you as we advance God’s mission for the Conference and for the ministries of our churches together. Thank you for all that you do through your church and through the Conference.
With gratitude and in hope,
Minister and President
Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
Jim Antal is a denominational leader, activist and public theologian. He led the 360 churches of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ from 2006 to his retirement in 2018. An environmental activist from the first Earth Day in 1970, ...