By Tiffany Vail
Associate for Communication, Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
Changing Lives was the theme of the 212th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, and it was a theme that resonated throughout the day-long event held Saturday, June 18 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center.
Conference churches were invited to take up special collections for tornado relief, and the initial wave of donations was taken during the Annual Meeting offering. Dozens of churches also brought cards and posters offering the people of western Massachusetts their support.
Find out how your church can help now: www.macucc.org/tornadoes
(The slideshow shown at the meeting is also now available on this page.)
NEW: $48,000 collected for tornado relief - see related article
NEW: Article on where the money collected for tornado relief will go.
In addition, delegates approved reducing the amount of Our Church’s Wider Mission Basic Support that is passed on to the national setting of the church from 55% to 53%. The percentage had previously been reduced from 60% to 55% in 2009.
Treasurer Walter Kreil explained that the Conference was facing a $211,000 deficit in the 2012 budget if it did not take such drastic actions.
“There was no good or easy options for eliminating a deficit of this magnitude, and your Board prayed and struggled at length over how to respond,” Kreil said. “The proposed balanced budget comes at a considerable cost.”
In response to eliminating funding in the area of Hispanic Ministries, the Board of Directors announced a new fundraising effort to support those ministries outside of the Conference budget. Lisa DePaz, who has worked closely with her husband in the program, expressed confidence in that effort, announcing “the best is yet to come” for the ministries currently active in Jamaica Plain, Lowell and Worcester as well as Everett, Soutbridge and Lawrence.
Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Capital Campaign
In response to that loss, this Annual Meeting marked the kickoff of a $3.5 million Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Endowment Capital Campaign, and Associate Conference Minister Andy Gustafson announced that $610,850 had already been donated or pledged to the campaign.
Delegates also approved a bylaw change that resulted in the dissolution of the Massachusetts State Women’s Fellowship. Proposers explained that the role of women in churches has evolved so much and that there was no longer a need for a separate fellowship dedicated largely in part to training them for leadership roles.
“Women are now involved in all aspects of our churches,” said Martha Crawford of the First Parish of Westwood.
No freedom from change
In his remarks, Board of Directors Chair Dick Harter challenged delegates to think about how much their churches have already changed over the past 10 years.
“God does not promise freedom from change or freedom from challenge. God does not promise freedom from tornadoes or economic dislocation. These are real. These are with us, Harter said.