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E-News May 2016

131st Conference Annual Meeting Digest



God-seeds, reflections from Marc Stewart  

So, what did happen at Conference Annual Meeting?  It was a time when:
       We learned each other's “faith forms.” 
       We engaged in quality worship.
       We were taught and motivated in our faith
                 by relevant speakers and through workshops.
       We accomplished the business of our MT-NWy
                 Association and Conference UCC in good order.
       Many of us left Conference Annual Meeting with an “earworm” of Bob Miller’s theme song.  (Email the Conference office for a recording and guitar chords):
              Every question seeks an answer
              Every answer lays a stone.
              Every stone builds the foundation
              To a faith that’s all my own.

This is the chorus of our “Faith Formation Theme Song.”  I could deconstruct what it means for the Montana-N.Wyoming Conference UCC:
    We have so many questions that we come with and that we find together as we consider the future;
    We are building towards our future, though it is uncertain exactly what that will be;
    We do not shy away from building up our hopes, even if it means beginning over;
    We each have something of our very own to set forth. 
Of course, this type of explanation of a song verse is evidence enough of why I am not a lyricist.  Bob Miller says it all in the final verse:
              Value all your doubt.
              Let the questions out.
              That’s how faith comes about.
                         Glimpse eternity.
                         Sense divinity.
                         God is still a mystery.
              Let your faith form.
              Think beyond the norm.
              You don’t have to conform.
                          New creation.
                          Lay the stones of faith formation.
Gus Byron, our new Conference moderator, says: As your new moderator, I look forward to serving our wonderful Conference! We are working to establish a two-day retreat date with the new board and will be releasing a full contact list soon of all of our board representatives. With the deepest gratitude toward all those who serve our churches in the Montana-N. Wyoming Conference United Church of Christ, including those who serve in the pulpit, those who staff our churches, and all those who every day rise to the occasion in your congregations, acting as the hands of Christ.
Past Conference moderator, Trudi Downer, passed the gavel, bandaids, aspirin, and crash helmet onto Gus Byrom with her prayers for the best. Gus replied:  It will be very hard to fill Trudi Downer's shoes, but fortunately under our bylaws Trudi will continue to offer guidance as an ex officio board member.
The Conference does not usually gift its out-going moderator, but when we do it is because it has been Trudi Downer. It is fair to remember that Trudi "saved" this Conference in its previous few years of restructure.  As a token of thanks, the Board invites you to join them in donating to the Carlee Downer Memorial Fund that was created 10 years ago (at the previous CAM meeting held in Sheridan) to provide special circumstance camperships.
These four-part prayers in color and image are all about faith formation. These were made at University UCC in Missoula. Each quadrant represents relationship to God: an offering to God, God's response, a response back to God, and God's response to you. Look for these prayer circles throughout this eNews.
Elaine Black, Conference Registrar and Financial Secretary, keeps the tally of delegates, friends and guests. There were 73 registrations, spanning 9 decades of age, representing 22 churches, 3 national UCC guests, plus 2 campus ministers.

Churches and church groups assisted in the creation of our CAM worship space at Sheridan Congregational UCC by making photo or picture blocks depicting faith formation activities.

Our CAM Variety Show featured 12 musicians and a poem recitation by Roger Lynn. A family group offered some gospel songs, Gary Bowers played showtunes on the church organ, and Spencer Morris, host church moderator, offered a beautiful rendition of "Danny Boy". 
Jill Bierwirth, CAM Chairperson and Interim Pastor at Big Timber First Congregational UCC, did an overwhelming amount of the organization, support, and set-up for this Annual Meeting. Jill was in the background making everything work so that we did not have to worry about the logistics. Bob Miller, Spencer Morris, and members of Buffalo and Sheridan churches provided local support. Ellen Hoy produced the PowerPoint video for our banquet time, using over 100 pictures sent in by churches. Chuck Aurand provided technical support and served as our Parliamentarian for the business meeting.  Those who attended but have not filled out an evaluation, please use this survey monkey link.
Amy Carter, Interim Sr. at University UCC Missoula, preached our opening communion worship by calling us to rejoice in our faith and community: of the great joys of coming together as a Conference is to reconnect with each other, and to hear all the great stories of the important ministries going on in our Conference. And as a clergy person, it is always wonderful to have important conversations with other clergy about the costs and the joys of ministry in the 21st century. I know that the conversations I have with many of you will still be with me for months and maybe even years to come.
We all know that the church we know is changing.  There are lots of things we love about the church that are dying. So what will be our response?  Please, please, please don’t sit back and just complain, get involved, risk something, be the church!!!

...dare greatly.  We  live in a time when we need to dare greatly.  This is not a time of timidity of soul.  So try new things, dare to be creative.  And when things go well - celebrate, and when things don’t go so well, celebrate that too.  Rejoice in the Lord always. Because it is only in trying new things and daring to do things differently will we be able to reach out to share this good news of the gospel to people who need to hear these words.
Terri Goodsell, Conference Treasurer and Chairperson of the Financial Task Force, explains the changes in our financial management, and updates delegates about the 2016 budget. Following 18 months of work by our financial team we are following "best practices." Terri was roundly applauded for her excellent oversight of our Conference and Camp budget and investments.

In addition to her report during the business session, Terri also led a hearing on finances.  Other hearings included Outdoor Ministries led by Marc Stewart and Kim Harris, and Board and Conference work led by Trudi Downer.
John Dorhauer, UCC General Minister and President, joined us by SKYPE and phone to offer greetings to the MT-NWy Conference UCC and his vision for the United Church of Christ. Everyone gathered around the video camera to greet John and affirm his recent installation.  
     Mic Dawson, moderator at First UCC Billings, wrote in her church newsletter a wonderful synopsis of John's charge to the UCC:
(John) had some interesting things to say about “dying” mainline Protestant churches.  He noted that:
     the “impulse of the UCC is to create unity where the world sees division”
          and that the Holy Spirit has not abandoned the UCC,
     we need to look outward to the community that needs what we have to offer,
     that death is not the end; that dying is a process at the end of which is
     and John described a death with dignity where legacy is honored while a
         resurrected life is contemplated.
Words for us to adhere to when reimagining how we do church.
Malcolm Himshoot, our National UCC Minister for Ministerial Transitions spoke about the best practices for churches during their time of transition and for assessing current ministries.  Some best practices for evaluation of ministries include:
1. Regular, consistent: Establishing a pattern of learning and seeking feedback can keep evaluations from ‘catastrophizing’ during times of tension or problems.
2. Holistic, not in isolation: The most effective evaluations explore all facets of a congregation’s ministry, and seek to provide honest feedback about the ministry in order to improve it for the sake of God’s realm.
3. Not anonymous: Those offering feedback should speak for themselves and not ‘some people,’ and all participants should be empowered to both speak their truth and to listen to others speaking their truths.
4. Not tied to compensation conversations: If evaluations of ministry are done in the spring, conversations about compensation would be appropriate in the fall.
5. Assessment is a shared process that might explore the following questions:
    a. Is our minister doing a good job with the Scope of Work we have invited, according to the terms of call that we mutually agreed to?
    b. Is our church advancing in the direction of the goals we set in the most recent Local Church Profile, and are these goals appropriate to our present and future?
    c. How could we better follow Christ together?
Ivy Beckwith, our National UCC Minister for Faith Formation keynoted the theme of our 131st CAM. Ivy based her presentations on two of her books:

Postmodern Children’s Ministry (Zondervan Publishing)

Formational Children’s Ministry (Baker Publishing) 

Ivy accented how family and church establish a culture of faith formation. Faith grows in community where words and actions and relationships are consistently open, affirming, forgiving, and loving.
During our lunch on Saturday, Ivy talked about the role of social media in faith formation.  In addition to naming social media tools, such as Web sites, Facebook, and Twitter, Ivy shared some thoughts of John Roberto, from the Life Long Faith project:  

Faith formation can utilize powerful web-based and digital technologies to blend face to face, interactive faith formation with virtual faith formation providing 24/7/365 faith formation for all ages and generations, anytime and anywhere.

Digital tools can empower people to connect with each other online, share their stories and faith experiences, give witness to the ways they are living their faith, create faith formation content to share with others . .

After returning to the national offices, Ivy sent an invitation to a seminar about faith formation and social media happening June 6-8 in Alexandria VA, and by WEB link. This e-Formation Conference and Webinar is sponsored by the Center for Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary (Episcopalian).
Lauren Kabat, Global Ministry Intern, returned from Chile and Peru just a few weeks ago. She worked at the Shalom Center in Chile, a Camp of our global partners, the Pentecostal Church of Chile, located on the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Their programs focus on peace education, environmental education and spiritual development. While in Chile, Lauren had the opportunity to be a part of the planning and implementation of both the summer camps and various workshops that focused on trauma healing and teaching resilience.    
Lauren told us that in the past fifty years, the Chilean people have suffered various national traumas: the military dictatorship from 1973 to 1990, high levels of childhood abuse, and the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that struck Central Chile where many died, lost their homes, and some developed fear of the almost daily occurring tremors. Though faced with these traumas and adversity, the Chilean people have demonstrated their strength and resilience.  

Together, in an ecumenical partnership, Global Ministries and the Pentecostal Church of Chile have been raising leaders within the Church to better understand and aid in the healing process following physical and emotional trauma. Lauren's missionary profile page includes links to reflections about her ecumenical service abroad.
Kim Harris, our Camp Mimanagish Program Director, offered a workshop on "Bringing the Mountaintop to our Local Churches."  Kim enriched her presentation with numerous learnings from the OMA (Outdoor Ministry Association) events she has attended, as well as from her Certification Program. 
1. Camp is Joyful! 
2. Camp is Intensely Relational
3. Camp is Structured Chaos or Patterned Freedom
4. Camp is a Place to be free to be who you are and a license to chill
5. Camp is peer and intergenerational at the same time
6. Camp hits on all the important faith practices
7. Camp is highly ritualized
8. There is Power in Fire
9. Camps are Entrepreneurial
10. Camp Cultivates Leaders
11. Camp has an expectation that you will participate
12. Camp is Lay Led
13. Camp is a Place Apart 
14. Camp is in Nature
15. Camp Provides an Opportunity for Time Alone
16. Camp Emphasizes Story and Narrative rather than Objective Truth
17. Discovery and Discernment are Highly Valued and asking questions is the Norm
         at Camp
18. Camp is a matter of Life and Death
19. Camp is a place for Males, too
20. Camp is holistic: physical, spiritual, communal, intellectual
21. The single most effective "first third of life" ministry in the church is camp
Camp Mimanagish Updates

Abraham Mulberry, will be our Camp Managing Director for this summer. Abe is a recent college graduate, son of Mike Mulberry and Tracy Heilman, and a Peace Corp volunteer who will be heading to Africa this fall. More about Abe in our June eNews.
Walk-In cooler repair costs have been raised by some generous church donations from Big Timber, Columbus, and Plentywood. Many individual donations brought the total up to the $4500 needed for this vital repair.
Camp Cleaning and Opening plans.  There will be a group from the Billings Youth Group going up to camp on Saturday, May 21 to help with Camp Opening. If anyone would like to come help the weekend of May 20-21, it is a free weekend. Register at so we can get a count for meals. Please indicate in the comment box when you register what days and times you will be at camp so we can accommodate meals and lodging if needed. We will be working on the following projects:
    General grounds clean-up including removal of trash and other items left
           over from winter. 
    Un-winterizing, organizing and cleaning of the kitchen and dining hall. 
    Un-Winterizing and cleaning of all camper and staff cabins. 
    Clean-up of Lodge porch.
    Turning on and Sanitizing the Water System. 
    Healthcare Center improvements.

Join us on Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-30 for Kick-Off Camp. We work on various work projects and spend some time retreating at camp. Cost is $35 (under 12)/$50 (12 and up). 
Some of the projects for this weekend: 
    Process downed trees and fill wood bins
    Clean up of Fire Pit and Vesper Hill
    Bury the water line by playground and drop off area. 
    Clear around propane tanks and buildings to meet Fire requirements.
    Rehab trails and roads so they are usable including Spirit Walk Path.
    Water seal decks and playground.
    Rebuild/Re-Roof Lower Camp Outhouse
    Continue Lower Camp Clean Up
    Finish Projects from previous opening weekend. 
We will also offer small programming so first time youth campers can also get a little feel of what programming at camp might feel like! If you have any questions please contact our Program Director, Kim Harris at or 406-855-4317.
May 7 Rocky Mountain College graduation
May 15  Plentywood UCC church closing, 2 pm
May 20-22 Camp Mimanagish Opening Work Weekend
May 27-29 Camp Kickoff Weekend
June 2-6 Creative Arts Camp at Mimanagish
June 9 Seasoned Adults Camp Day at Mimanagish
June 22-29 Conference Youth Mission Trip to US/Mexico Border

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