Wisconsin Annual Conference 2015

The Annual Meeting of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ, held at Green Lake Conference Center, began on Friday June 12th. Opening worship included the Installation of Rev. Franz Rigert as Conference Minister. About 350 UCCers from all parts of Wisconsin and beyond gathered for fellowship. We gathered for education and heard calls for action. We reviewed the budget and we were introduced to the new staff and assignments, including Joanne Thompson as Associate Minister of the Southwest Association.

Ben Guess, a Collegium Officer of the United Church of Christ was present. He thanked the Wisconsin Conference for the strong financial giving to the National Setting of the Church. He said we were one of the stronger partners in ministry among the conferences. He preached on Friday night reminding us that we find our unity in Christ and that unity always includes justice. We are a risk-taking church, and he said there is a deep yearning to make a difference, particularly among young people. 

Rev. Eric Elnes, Senior Minister at Countryside UCC Omaha, NE, led the Wisconsin Conference attendees through “The Dark Woods.” We began with The Gift of Uncertainty. Too many of us fear failure probably more than anything else except perhaps death. We are called to affirm our faith understanding at the base of the cross, where we can stand together and find common ground. This common ground is a useful metaphor when talking about the religious and political divide in the country.  

Eric’s second session was the “Misfit Community” or those called to fail. Actually, heaven is the heart of struggle.  God is more than the struggle; God is working to lead us to deal with crisis. He had a funny way of describing conflicts. God has given half of the tools to us and half to our enemies. It is as though there are two groups of escaped slaves; fundamentalists and main-liners. Music and social justice might bring us together as well as the recognition that the other has gifts to offer. 

We do not remember all the times we fell down when we were learning to walk or skate or ski. We got up and tried again and again. Most of the time we do not do this alone; we do this with our parents, teachers, and friends.  Eric calls us to remember our early failures to give us courage for the current struggles we face “in the dark woods”. Failure is a gift of the dark woods.

Jim Williams who is the chair of Finance Committee came up to the podium and said, “Fear not, peace be with you.” The good news for the Wisconsin Conference is a settled conference minister. Rev. Franz Rigert along with the strong covenantal relationships between laity and clergy lays a foundation for trust. With trust, comes peace and generosity and a heart for mission.

The Capital Campaign was a highlight of Saturday morning. We sang camp songs and actually it was a pep rally for the camping program. Both Moon Beach and Pilgrim Center have a claim to nurturing faith formation in young and old and doing so in the context of outdoors in God’s creation.  We are blessed to have two camps in the Wisconsin Conference.  $1.7million has been pledged to date.

We celebrated with the Lay Academy graduates for this year. This is a strong program for the Wisconsin Conference. Our churches are stronger with more knowledgeable leaders with a focus on pastoral ministry and prophetic witness.

There were many workshops to choose from at the meeting. I chose to attend “What is the Doctrine of Discovery?” The Doctrine of Discovery is a Papal Bull issued in 1493 to claim religious and secular power over people whose land was “discovered” by European explorers. I also attended the workshop on Lydia and Paul led by Rev. Eric Elnes. He sees a model of leadership development and mentoring in Lydia and Paul. I hope you will take the opportunity to talk to those who attended and find out more about the workshops.

There are so many ways we are connected within the webs of our churches. Lay Academy, Fairhaven in Whitewater, Moon Beach, Pilgrim Center, and Southwest Association Bethlehem Partnership are just some of the web that binds us together in mission and ministry.

Finally, it was a true gift to greet colleagues and friends from some 20 plus years ago when John and I served in the Northwest Association in La Crosse and Park Falls.


 ~ Jeanne Tyler   


Posted on June 16, 2015 at 9:36 am in Featured Content.

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