From our Designated Conference Minister

Dear members and friends of the Southwest Conference,

Grace and peace to you. I hope this letter finds you prospering even as your soul is getting along well!

This week 2017 OCWM pledge forms were sent to our congregations. The moment has arrived for UCC churches to make their financial commitments to the ministries of the Southwest Conference for the coming year. Many of you give to Our Church's Wider Mission (OCWM) through your local church. Thank you! I want to tell you about a few of the ways your OCWM dollars equipped congregations and clergy for their best possible ministry, and how you have been transforming the world for justice and peace.

Conference staff has assisted eleven (11) congregations (or 22% of our churches) with a Search & Call process. The Office of Ministerial Excellence, Support, and Authorization calculates those services to be worth $10,000 per church if purchased outside of our conference.  

I will have visited all of our congregations by year’s end, the majority within my first six months here, and many of you more than once. In some of those moments I’ve supported you through difficult times. And in many more of those moments we’ve celebrated your accomplishments and shared your joy together.

Our specialized ministers (chaplains, spiritual directors, non-parish clergy, etc.) enjoyed a two-day convocation with Rev. Stephen Boyd, and at least 30 retired clergy will enjoy lunch together, renew relationships, make new friends, and engage in a Q&A on Nov. 1 – all hosted by the SWC.

The Mission and Church Vitality Committee (f.k.a. the Mission Planning Board) re-imagined its purpose, and imagined a conference made up of communities as well as congregations. Stories, comments and suggestions are being gathered as a visioning group imagines the next incarnation of Lay Academy.

Rich and Barb Doerrer-Peacock, Sarah Tevis Townes, and Len Sylvester went to Atlanta for boundary trainer training. We’ve updated the courses for clergy and laity.

Youth and Outdoor ministry has been rekindled by some energetic 16 to 25-year-olds passionate about camp and the life-long relationships forged there. A most generous legacy gift from South Mountain Community Church will fund their ministry vision well into our future.

You now receive all conference communications via our website and our social media platforms. In the Loop generates itself weekly via rss feeds from those postings, streamlining editing, enhancing navigation, and freeing staff time for more relational tasks.

We are going green! Real dishes and flatware have replaced paper products in the office. Directories, registrations, and follow-up ‘packets’ have all gone digital.  

The Committees on Church and Ministry A (COCAM) nurtures and oversees ministers and ministries. Gina Kozak and Nathan Watts are our newest Members in Discernment. Butch Sliker was licensed for ministry. Rev. Derrick Elliot and Rev. Bonnie McNair were ordained. Rev. Tom Martinez, Rev. Pat Bobo, and Rev. Paul Whitlock (Nov. 6) were installed in their new pastorates. COCAM B is on the road visiting with and listening to church members.

Our entrepreneurial/new church start pastors are receiving group and individual coaching and support through a new contract with the Center for Progressive Renewal. That partnership gives them access to support, webinars, and other resources for their particular calling.

Conference staff are now trained in MissionInsite technology, a powerful tool that can provide you with detailed information about your neighbors and neighborhoods for strategic growth. Eli Johnson, our newest staff member, will be glad to send you a MissionInsite report just for the asking.

At this year’s annual meeting we lifted up and celebrated new ministries and innovation lab congregations and enjoyed our time faithfully and playfully in covenant together.

We brought churches and conferences from around the UCC to Nogales in a powerful witness for migrant justice, immigration reform, border demilitarization, and inclusion!  Rev. Dr. Randy Mayer, Nathan Watts, and national staff member Noel Andersen were instrumental in designing the events. And we have financially supported our border congregations and our sanctuary congregations in their humanitarian ministries.

25% of your OCWM dollars, as well as your 5 for 5 offerings, were sent to the national setting of the UCC for an even broader ministry impact, across the denomination, throughout the world.

Every church in the conference – including your church - benefits from and is blessed by your financial support of the Southwest Conference. Every church in the conference including your church can point to at least one paragraph in this letter and say, “He’s talking about us.”

We have expanded our ministry offerings to you and to our clergy this year. I've asked our churches to increase their financial support for the Southwest Conference in 2017 by 1% over last year's pledge. Will you support me in that request? All you need to do is increase your personal pledge to your congregation by 1% this coming year. It's just that easy. We can do this!

Maybe God is nudging you to make a personal pledge to the Southwest Conference over and above your annual pledge to your congregation. Just call the conference office (602-468-3830) to make your pledge today. Your gifts - through your church and through direct giving to the Southwest Conference - will help your Conference continue what we’ve started, and position us to engage opportunities God has yet to show us in the coming year. As you prayerfully consider your level of OCWM support, I am praying for you and for your church’s ministry. Together we are transforming the world.

Thanks for giving me these few minutes to let you know what you have been up to through your generous OCWM support for .  

In covenant with you,