2011 Southwest Conference Annual Meeting: It's About Mission

April 29 - 30, 2011
First Congregational United Church of Christ in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Delegates to the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Southwest Conference approved a new structure for the Conference, attended workshops, experienced meaningful moments throughout the meeting, and departed with renewed inspiration and passion for their ministry. The hospitality of the Albuquerque churches was evident everywhere. Delegates enjoyed delicious food and were summoned back to the meetings with gathering music, when each Albuquerque area church offered their hearts and souls in song.  

Two years of dedicated effort culminated in the approval of new bylaws by the delegates to the Annual Meeting. The greatest change brought about by the new bylaws will be the formation of the Mission Planning Board. Each church in the Conference will elect a member to serve on this Board, effectively giving each church a direct voice and a more active roll in the ministry of the Conference. The formation of an Executive Board and Ministry Teams were the major changes to the Conference structure. 

Delegates also approved a resolution that encourages an awareness of our environment and a wise use of our resources when planning fundraisers.

Cally Rogers-Witte, Executive Minister for Wider Church Ministries and Co-executive for Global Ministries, gave "flesh and bones" to the Annual Meeting theme, "It's About Mission." Cally and her staff shared what our OCWM dollars make possible around the globe. Her presentation, which included pictures of her travels and the people in various regions and countries, revealed the situations that people must endure and the continued need for our mission efforts.

Cally, who will be retiring when her term of service on the UCC Collegium of Officers expires later this year, served in the Southwest Conference as Conference Minister for 10 years. It seems fitting that she was present with us. For Dena Covey, a delegate from Shadow Rock UCC, Cally’s sermon on Friday night, was the most moving part of the weekend. 

Other members of her staff who shared with the conference were Susan Sanders, Administrator of One Great Hour of Sharing Funds; Peter Makari, Executive for the Middle East and Europe and David Coatsworth, Executive for Financial Development. They led workshops as well as speaking at the plenary sessions.

Susan Sanders presented the "coveted Blue Globe awards" at the Annual Meeting. The highest OGHS amount award went to the Church of the Red Rocks, Sedona, AZ, for donating over $8,000 in 2009. The highest per capita award went to Community Congregational Church, Tombstone, AZ, for $22.36 per member in 2009. A globe beach ball will be sent to each of these congregations. This is a tradition dating back many years. 

Brendan Mahoney, whose dedication and skills as Conference Moderator have been so evident this past year, relinquished the office to the Moderator-Elect, the Rev. Lee Milligan. Lee, pastor at Casas Adobes Congregational UCC in Tucson, shared his thoughts on the coming year:

Being Moderator, I think, will be like cooking soup: the ingredients are all here, they just have to be prepared and combined in the right proportions, some left to simmer and some heated up a little more intently, so that what comes out in the end is nourishing for all and appetizing to most. I would remind everyone that you can make a good soup without being an accredited gourmet chef.
— Rev. Lee Milligan

Lee also found out that it is possible to travel on an airplane with a gavel in your carry-on baggage without getting searched for weapons. 

The delegates elected Jane Cheek, pastor at First Congregational UCC in Prescott, to serve as the Moderator-Elect for this coming year. Jane is looking forward to being more involved in the work of the wider church, and assisting the Conference in moving into a time of new spiritual and physical growth. She states:

With new bylaws to guide us, we’ll be able to take action on some new ideas and plans to help strengthen the UCC in our conference, and bring us into the 21st century.
— Pastor Jane Cheek

Uniting with old friends and conversations, even between members who disagreed, were meaningful. A special time for Barbara Nordlund, from Scottsdale Congregational Church, was Dr. Angie Witmer's devotionals.

She was so in tune with our needs and led us to centering prayer in such an easy, loving fashion. She encouraged our participation, made it easy for everyone to participate and used gentle repetition to help us focus on what we were about. Her combination of music and prayer sang to my soul and I appreciated her being with us very much.
— Barbara Nordlund

Youth and young adult ministry were an important element at the meeting. Several young adults presented a workshop on the Young Adult Service Community program. Their work and dedication to making a difference in our world and their willingness to give up a year (or more) to be in service to others was inspirational. Tatum Covey and Allie Rowe spoke to the gathering about the importance of our SWC ministry to youth. The activism that Conference programs nurtures in our children and youth, helps to create leaders and responsible community members.  

In churches around the Conference, delegates are still talking about the workshops they attended and sharing what they learned with others in a variety of ways. The workshop on church revitalization and the strategies offered were especially valuable for our members as they as they struggle over what it means to move forward in today's world.

Talk to the delegates and clergy from your church that attended the meeting to find out more about the meeting and how you can get involved in the coming year. It’s not too early to start making plans to attend the next Annual Meeting. The 2012 Southwest Conference Annual Meeting will be hosted by The Church of the Good Shepherd in Sahuarita, Arizona in late April 2012.