I hope you all have had a meaningful Christmas season, touched by the spirit and full of joy!
I have decided that for the remainder of my term as moderator I will use my monthly space in the conference newsletter to share news from board meetings when one has occurred in the previous month. Minutes are posted to the website, but there is always a lag while we wait for them to be approved at the subsequent board meeting. Plus, relying on that source requires you to remember to search for them, so it is preferable to simply provide a summary in the newsletter.
Our meeting on December 7 was our first full meeting since new board members were elected at the Annual Gathering in September and since Rev. David Long-Higgins began as Transitional Conference Minister. We had a short meeting after the Annual Gathering and an orientation session for incoming board members in November.
One important decision reached at the December meeting of the board was that it is time to begin the search process for a full-time position to lead our camp and conference programs. Joyce Oyler continues to serve in a transitional capacity and will do so until the search is complete later in 2019. She is eligible to apply for the new permanent position. We appreciate her ongoing efforts on our behalf.
The board had delayed a decision on when to begin this search while it considered a recommendation from the Faith Formation team that arrived earlier in 2018. The team proposed adding a second position to focus specifically on faith formation initiatives. Much as this appealed to us, we have now concluded that we don’t have the financial means for two positions, even if one were part-time. We then pondered whether we should seek someone that could reasonably fill both roles. Doing that, however, risked selecting someone that wasn’t especially effective in either area. Given the investments that have been made into renovating Templed Hills and the need for outdoor ministry and other conference programs to be self-sustaining, our search will be for a person with gifts and experience in camping and conference ministries. Vice Moderator David Plant from Northwest Ohio will lead the search committee. If you have someone to suggest for the committee, please let us know.
The board also unanimously supported an opportunity to collaborate with the Indiana-Kentucky and Southern Illinois Conferences in a three-year test of a shared Communication Director. A grant request has been submitted to cover half of the cost of the position so the conference expense will be modest. Among the areas of attention will be social media and newsletter content, website design and regular updates, and coaching in the use of video-conferencing, email platforms and financial vitality platforms. We are excited at the impact that this position can have in improving communications and our use of technology.
Another decision was to pledge $25,000 from the conference to a campaign of the national setting of the United Church of Christ. Shaping Our Future is a $4 million campaign to provide financial resources to meet technology, communications, and leadership goals of the denomination. $2.75 million in support has already been secured for the campaign and the conferences have each been asked to make contributions in order to reach the goal. As we discussed the request, it was clear to all of us that there wasn’t a ready source of funds within the conference in order to make this commitment to national. Then a board member suggested that perhaps we should do what happens in her local church and association: make leadership pledges and then invite others to join us. All board members present either made an immediate gift toward the Shaping Our Future campaign or made a pledge. We now have pledges totaling $2020! In the coming weeks we will be inviting churches and individuals to assist us in meeting the conference pledge. We hope you will respond generously.
The board also discussed the projected shortfall by UCCR in managing the Templed Hills camp during 2018 and their forecast for 2019. The executive committee was asked to engage with UCCR to understand the assumptions being used and, more importantly, the strategies to boost revenues and control costs. That work is underway and will be reported on at the February meeting.
The next two meetings of the board are February 22 and May 17.
Blessings and peace!
Moderator, Ohio Conference