Reflections from MN Conference Annual Meeting

From Brigh Niccum:

Attending the UCC Annual Meeting was a very good experience for me. I learned a lot about how the UCC functions and what’s currently going on in the church. I definitely didn’t expect to have as much fun as I did. Everyone there, the other youth delegates especially, were very welcoming. I definitely didn’t guess that my experience at the meeting would include unlimited softserve ice cream at meals, several intense Ultimate Frisbee games, and a flashmob featuring an interpretation of the Resurrection choreographed to the Beatles’ Hello/Goodbye. It was a great experience and I hope I will be able to attend next year.

From Jake Schlagel:

This was my first year at the annual meeting, and I really didn’t know what to expect. I wondered just how diverse the UCC is, and whether the other churches there would be very similar to First Church. After spending a day and a half getting to know only some of the three hundred delegates and guests at the conference, I’ve come to feel that my denomination is richly diverse, but also able to come together in the most important ways. The wealth of workshops (over forty of them!), the engaging speakers, and most of all the interesting individuals that I spoke with impressed me with a wealth of knowledge from many places in the world and in life. But when addressing social issues like the marriage ban and voter ID amendment on this Fall’s ballot; hunger; homelessness; education; and peace, these divergent views and varied backgrounds all came together in the same spirit, voting for some strongly worded political support and continuing missions of service.
I’ve come away from the conference refreshed, hopeful, and proud to say that I worship with the UCC.

From Bonnie Johnson:

Thank you, First Church, for sending me as a delegate to the 50th Annual Meeting of the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ.  It was my honor and my joy to be there representing you.  I take pride in saying this was my 48th Annual Meeting and I realize how much a part of who I am these experiences have been.

Being at an annual meeting really helps one know who the Minnesota Conference is and what it does.   The 135 UCC churches in Minnesota with over 30,000 members have these Strategic Mission Priorities:  1-  Healthy, vital congregations  2- Leadership development for clergy and laity 3- Faith formation of children, youth and adults  4- Increased capacity for Christian service and witness.   We learned how these are being carried out by presentations and through over 40 workshops.  All the while we enjoyed good music, food and fellowship.  Several things stood out for me:  The quality of the Conference Staff and the dedication of the volunteers in many areas;   Learning in detail what a vital Youth Ministry we have now, including an invigorated and improved Pilgrim Point;   Hearing  and meeting Geoffrey Black, President and General Minister of the UCC;  Receiving the anniversary book written and complied by Clyde Steckel plus Clyde’s grand sermon, “Falling in Love with the Annual Meeting”!

I came home inspired and energized and would urge others to attend another year.

From Maggie George: 

I thought the Annual Meeting was great.  The business parts of the meeting went smoothly and quickly.  There were great breakout sessions.  I went to a workshop where they reviewed the Ecumenical Advocacy Days which is a weekend in Washington D.C. with progressive Christians.  The first two days attendees are briefed and educated on the issues and policies on which congress should hear from people of faith.  Then on the last day the attendees visit with their respective senators and representatives to share their points of view.  They tackle immigration issues, economic issues, health, housing, education, budgets, taxes, etc.  It is a great way to get to know others and to be involved in working for the good.

I went to another workshop to get training on how to have conversations about the anti-marriage amendment.  One of the things I learned there was that it is twice as important to have conversations with folks you think want to defeat the amendment as to talk with folks who support the ban on same sex marriage.  Because we want to be sure they are on our side of the issue and stay there and that they actually vote.  Getting to supporters and keeping them in the vote NO frame of mind and getting them to the polls will do us more good than spending lots of energy trying to convince people who are totally against us.  Not to say that we ignore them but our big energy should be with those who are supporters.

Finally, I was very pleased that the Conference took a stand to defeat the Voter ID amendment as well.  This is also a matter of justice.  The voter ID — voter suppression — will disenfranchise many voters and it will make it harder to cast a vote.  Think of those without any other need or access to a government issued photo id or those whose id does not keep up with where they are living.  College students away from home during the school year would not have a government issued photo id with their current address.  Transgender persons who present differently than their photo id would show would also have trouble voting and would certainly face greater scrutiny.   It would impede low income people in their right to vote as well.

First Church was well represented at the Annual Meeting and received recognition for our leadership working to defeat the amendments including our fund raising.  We were also in the list of congregations which gave 5 for 5 giving — to each of the 5 annual appeals to support Our Churches Wider Mission, One Great Hour of Sharing, Strengthen the Church, Neighbors in Need and The Christmas Fund.  I’m proud to be associated with First Church when I attend such gatherings.

It is great to see what other congregations are doing as well and talk with them about their missions and settings.  I realize I’m a church geek because I love church gatherings like this.

 

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