HARTFORD, FRAMINGHAM, and PROVIDENCE (02/23/2016) -- The Conference Ministers and Board of Directors leaders of the three UCC Conferences of Southern New England invited the saints of the three states to contribute their ideas and insights about a future of mutual ministry. They provided an online survey, but more importantly, called for conversations in local church Councils and youth groups, in clergy fellowships and association meetings, and of course in meetings of the conferences. "We are partners with you in this time of discernment," they said, "and we hope that these multiple conversations will help us discern where God is leading us in this time."
The letter comes as Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island consider the possibility of merging or federating. The three Boards of Directors voted last September to consider options in a "season of discernment," seeing it as a true inquiry into the mind and heart of God.
In addition to a copy of the resolution, the authors provided a "Frequently Asked Questions" resource, noting both that the question is an open one and that the hopes are to provide greater resources to local churches.
The letter's authors — Rhode Island's Conference Minister the Rev. Barbara Libby, and Board Chair the Rev. George Peters; Connecticut's Conference Minister the Rev. Kent Siladi, Board Chair Mr. Mark Engstrom, and Board Representative the Rev. Jocelyn Gardner-Spencer; and Massachusetts Conference Minister the Rev. Dr. Jim Antal and Board Chair the Rev. Angela Menke Ballou — will conduct a "fireside chat" during the upcoming Super Saturday lunch hour on March 12th at Killingly High School. Register here for that event, which features Justice and Witness Ministries Executive the Rev. Traci Blackmon as the keynote speaker.
The full letter follows:
February 23, 2016
To the Saints of the Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts Conferences of the UCC:
Grace and peace to you!
Living as we are in a time where the witness of the United Church of Christ has never been more important, and recognizing your commitment as a member and leader of the UCC in southern New England, we hope to spark your imagination and invite you into a conversation about the partnership we have begun to build among our three Conferences.
Following several years of cooperation and months of conversation, in September 2015 the Boards of the Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts Conferences each voted unanimously to initiate a "season of discernment" as we listen to how God may be calling our three conferences to engage in a deeper partnership, including the possibility of creating a federation or merger. We have attached that common resolution with this letter.
We invite you to participate in one or more of the many opportunities now being created as part of this discernment. Register for Super Saturday (March 12, 2016) and over lunch you will hear more why this initiative is important and how it can benefit the local church. This year, Super Saturday is a joint effort of our three Conferences.
We invite you to have a conversation in your congregation. You might want to set aside a time at your Council/Executive Committee to engage in conversation. Invite your youth group into the conversation and discernment. Clergy groups might want to set one of your regular meeting and devote it to this topic. We are contacting Association leaders and encouraging communities of practice to participate in this discernment. This will also be a focus at our Conference Annual Meetings. We are partners with you in this time of discernment and we hope that these multiple conversations will help us discern where God is leading us in this time.
We also hope that every one of you – whether or not you participate in one or more of these conversations - will take a few minutes to respond to this survey we've created so that we have the possibility of hearing from everyone: https://www.research.net/r/RIMACT While the survey allows for anonymity, we structured it so that we could evaluate the responses Conference by Conference.
Also attached to this letter is a copy of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
Thank you for the faithful way you witness to the values and vision of the United Church of Christ. We are honored to be among the leaders of the UCC in Southern New England, and look forward to engaging with you as we discern together how God may be calling us to live into Jesus hope "that they may all be one."
- Barbara Libby, RI Conference, Interim Conference Minister
- George Peters, RI Conference, Board Chair
- Kent Siladi, CT Conference, Conference Minister
- Mark Engstrom, CT Conference, Board Chair
- Jocelyn Gardner-Spencer, CT Conference, Board Rep
- Angie Menke Ballou, MA Conference, Board Chair
- Jim Antal, MA Conference, Conference Minister