From Sun Lakes UCC

Report on the Southwest Conference U.C.C.  April 17-18, 2015

The Annual Meeting of our Southwest Conference was held April 17 through April 18, 2015. This meeting marked the Fiftieth Anniversary of the U.C.C. South West Conference.  The meeting also marked the last SW Conference meeting for Rev. Dr. Dorhauer as Conference Minister.  Rev. Dorhauer has been nominated to be the President and General Minister of the entire U.C.C.  He will be moving to Cleveland to begin his new duties in late Summer.  Pastor Vern and Audrey and Gil Hendry attended as delegates.  The Conference was held at the Church of the Red Rocks in Sedona, AZ.  It was well attended with over 200 delegates, speakers and Conference officials.

The expression “God is still speaking!” was never more in evidence than at this conference.  God spoke to everyone through the thoughts, words and deeds of all of the attendees.  Plus God spoke to us through the land around the Church.  The main convocations and worship services were held in the Sanctuary.  If you have not been to the Church of the Red Rocks picture a sanctuary about the size of ours, a bit longer with the pulpit on the left side and the choir loft on the right.  Directly behind the pulpit and the choir is a full wall mural of the most stunning, rugged, detailed Sedona landscape you can imagine.  When people enter the Sanctuary for the first time, they just stop in awe.  The mural medium is Nature itself and the Artist is God.

The theme of the Conference was “Restoring Creation” and used Psalm 24:1 as the Biblical verse: The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof….  Both of the Keynote speeches Friday and Saturday were on environmental awareness and what we, the people of the Earth, are doing to our environment.  As one of the speakers put it, we all subscribe to the first two commandments with the second one requiring us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Our neighbors include not only the folks living next door but also the air we breathe, the water we drink, etc.  Plus we owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave a livable environment for them.  Several of the seminars dealt with environmental issues such as monitoring our carbon footprint and global warming.  Other seminars dealt with investing, a Taste of the Lay Academy (by Pastor Vern), Welcoming Strangers, Offering Sanctuary to People and Centering Prayer in an Active Life.

Business Sessions covered the annual reports of the various operations of the Conference.  Three new churches were welcomed into the SWC: the Peace United Church of Christ in El Paso, TX, the Silver City UCC in Silver City, NM and the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa Phoenix (a congregation of island immigrants).  Pastor Vern, Audrey and Gil were very proud to accept the presentation to Sun Lakes UCC of both the 7 X 7 award and recognition of our Church becoming one of the three Congregations in the SWC that became Open and Affirming this year.  The two other Churches are the Church of the Palms in Sun City and Congregational Church of the Valley in Scottsdale.

Based on the reports of the activities of the SWC, we should all be very proud that we are a part of one of the most vibrant and active Conferences in the UCC Denomination.  Merriam-Webster defines Diversity as:  “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements : variety; especially: the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization...”The diversity of people at the Conference clearly stated that the UCC SWC is Open and Affirming and our welcome is extravagant to all.  When Audrey and I arrived for the welcoming dinner Thursday evening we did not know anybody.  The lady at the registration table said “Just walk up to someone and start talking.” We did and we met many open and friendly people during the conference.

- Gil and Audrey Hendry