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The latest news from the Montana-Northern Wyoming UCC Conference of the UCC
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E-News September 18, 2015

God-seeds

As we prepared for our 130th Conference Annual meeting, my “God-seed” reflections delved into who we are as a Conference.  Our most recent ENews was on August 14.  I realize that my 6-part “God-seed” series on “who we have said we are as a Conference” needs a final installment.  It is just as well to have waited until after our Conference Annual Meeting.  Our gathering of nearly 100 delegates, pastors, and visitors during the weekend of August 21-23 at First UCC Billings was a living testimony of our sixth common identity affirmation: we are a people caring to grow with others.
Being together for Conference Annual Meeting is all about caring to grow with others:
     Churches were invited to bring display boards that showed some of what was happening in their local congregation. 
     Some new connections were made between various churches as people found common interests between congregations.
     Our business session may have been lengthy, but for many it felt like it was an expression of how much we are growing as people of faith. 
     Read the reports, such as Committee for Outdoor Ministries, where Tom Norquist and Kim Harris share how deeply significant this ministry is to over 120 children each summer. 
     See budget figures that balance a need to support who and what we all want to be as a Conference with how we can work towards a balanced budget. 
     Affirm our covenants with two ministries with which are closely related, Intermountain Children’s Home and Rocky Mountain College. 
     Celebrate the recent relationship and learnings from being in Partnership with the Montana Region Disciples of Christ and look forward to what may unfold in other ways of ecumenical relationship with the Region.
     With a bit of prompting from our keynote leader, Rocky Mountain Conference’s Rev. Sue Artt, people shared Identity and Vision ideas with each other.  There were wonderful statements of what it means to be people growing together with others.

Some additional opportunities to grow in faith with others included an art session with a local graffiti artist, an introduction to downtown street life from the Community Relations police officer, and a mission trip to talk with staff and residents at the Tumbleweed program for homeless youth.
 
Growing together in faith is something that happens when we are gathered together and, too, when we are out-and-at-it in the world.  Most often we are out-an-at-it on our own, sustained by knowledge that we are part of a larger movement of faith.  It is grand to share pieces of that movement among us, and to get charged-up for the ministries ahead.  And so it is that we are a people caring to grow in faith with others.
 
Graffiti Art Project at 130th Conference Annual Meeting, First UCC, Billings, MT
Reports, Posters, Materials, and Session Information now available on our web site.
 

Syria Refugee Needs

 
The world has awakened to a one of its pressing refugee crises, the Syrian crisis.  In a recent statement, our UCC Global Ministries executive minister, Rev. Jim Moos, reminded us that the United Church of Christ is present to refugees throughout the world even in times when their horrors are not being reported by the media.   Our UCC has an emphasis on ministry with the world’s most marginalized peoples.  Consequently, we are most likely to be present in situations that no one else wants to touch and where there are even fewer means of support. This includes being present with the Syrian refugees.  We, in the UCC were involved with the refugees even before it hit the news a few weeks ago.  As our UCC Global Ministries has always said, “by the time it hits the news, we have already been there on the ground with the presence of the Church.”
 
I have been asked what we can do as a Conference. 

1. Undoubtedly, there are many faithful responses among us. In my household, we have discussed whether we might be able to host a refugee family. 
2. Our UCC Global Ministries offers news and response options:   
3. Some churches and individuals have taken upon themselves to counter the anti-Islam voices that sometimes are heard in American society, by studying Islam and by reaching out to Moslems in their communities.  Yes, there are Moslems in Montana and N.Wyoming.  Another advocacy opportunity is present to us in the form of signing a petition asking our U.S. Administration to allow in more refugees.
4. In addition to these faithful individual responses to the Syrian refugee crisis, I wonder if there is a desire among us to further inform, support, and engage each other? The Conference office has the technical resources through the internet to provide an opportunity to be in conversation together about the Syrian refugee crisis. A conversation would require setting an agenda and finding some facilitators.  Send an email to marc@mnwcucc.org by September 22 if you are interested in helping to make a Conference sponsored conversation happen.  
  • September 18-20 Men’s Retreat, Camp Mimanagish
  • Sept. 20, Marc Stewart preaches for Stewardship Day at Big Timber
  • Sept. 20, Suicide Prevention Walk, MT-NWy UCC as sponsor (Billings)
  • Sept. 24, Committee for Outdoor Ministries, Conference Office, 6 pm
  • Sept. 27, Molt UCC Harvest Dinner and fundraiser for Camp scholarships
  • Sept. 27, Marc worships at Froid UCC
  • Sept. 29, East area clergy gathering, Sidney People’s UCC, 9:30 am
  • Sept. 22 – 30, Marc on church visits: Billings to Missoula, to Kalispell, to Plentywood, to Glendive, to Billings and places in between
  • October 8, Central area clergy gathering, Worden Bethlehem UCC, 10 am
  • Oct. 15 – 17 Conference Youth Retreat, Camp Mimanagish
  • November 13 – 14, Board of Directors, Great Falls

Prayer Concerns

 
Our prayers of tender mercies and fortitude are with Laura Folkwein at the loss of her father; Bill Hawk at the loss of his daughter, Terisa; Jim Petersen at the loss of Cathy; Doug Johnson at the loss of his father; and, with the family Bill Michaels. 
 
Our prayers of fortitude and healing be with Steve Gordon as he recovers from a heart attack; and, Rev. Len Shaktus as he is fitted with a prosthetic leg.
 
Prayers of expectation and hope are with Laura Folkwein in her calling to Missoula University UCC to be a Small Group Minister; and, Rev. Roger Lynn in his new call to Helena Plymouth UCC.
 
Prayer of patience and wisdom with our churches in the midst of pastoral transition: Great Falls UCC, Kalispell UCC, Plentywood UCC, Baker UCC, Broadus UCC, Sheridan UCC, Buffalo UCC, Red Lodge UCC, Big Timber UCC.

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