The Massachusetts Conference Board of Directors began a prayer vigil on Friday, Dec. 16 which they will maintain each day through January 7, the day they are to meet with the Connecticut and Rhode Island Boards.
"Each day, a designated member will pray for 30 minutes that the Board may make wise and courageous decisions with respect to the current proposal to align the Massachusetts Conference with the Connecticut and Rhode Island Conferences through restructuring and to give new shape to the world of the Church," said Board Chair Vard Johnson.
The Boards voted in September, 2015, to call on the three Conferences to enter into a year-long Season of Discernment to consider whether the conferences are being called into greater collaboration. Since then, numerous conversations have been held at Conference Annual Meetings, Super Saturdays, Association meetings and other gatherings, and a survey indicated support for greater cooperation. On January 7, the Boards will vote on whether to bring a proposal to the historic joint Annual Meeting of the three Conferences in June.
During this Season of Discernment, the Boards have had before them the prophetic words of Isaiah: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, Do you not perceive it.” Isaiah 43:18-19.
The Massachusetts Board has also considered the words of Theologian Walter Wink, through his work, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium, (Galilee Doubleday, 2012):
Johnson said that in preparation for this time to "believe the future into being," the Board read and discussed Beyond Resistance by United Church of Christ Minister and President, John Dorhauer, and Waiting for God’s New Thing by Methodist futurist Gil Rendle. They have begun to read The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian McLaren. The Board twice went into retreat with Cameron Trimble, Executive Director of the Center for Progressive Renewal, to seek transformation in a rapidly and radically changing world. They listened attentively at the three most recent Annual Meetings of the MACUCC to the Church speaking through the voices of Yvette Flunder, Nadia Bolz Weber, and Otis Moss III, and visited several local congregations for inspiration, vitality and vision, he said.
“Intercession visualizes an alternative future to the one apparently fated by the momentum of current forces. Prayer infuses the air of a time yet to be into the suffocating atmosphere of the present… Intercession changes the world and it changes what is possible to God… It creates an island of relative freedom in a world gripped by an unholy necessity. A new force field appears that was hitherto only potential. The entire configuration changes as the result of the change of a single part. A space opens in the praying person, permitting God to act without violating human freedom. The change in even one person thus changes what God can thereby do in that world… History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being.” Pp. 185-187
"The Board’s prayer vigil is in keeping with the Board’s service as a community of faith as well as a governing body," said Johnson. "Board members love to worship together. We listen deeply to one another, laugh a lot together, and hold one another in high regard, even - perhaps especially - when we disagree. The Holy Spirit is palpable when we gather. So it does not surprise me that the Board would want to walk through this final month of discernment by praying in this way. To be on our knees before God as we believe the future into being is so infused with Christian hope that it becomes an occasion of great joy."
For more information, visit: http://www.macucc.org/rimact
Tiffany Vail is the Associate Conference Minister for Communications for the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ.