By Rev. Philip Hart
It was just over three years ago that I arrived in Ohio to serve as the Conference Minister again. When I arrived, we knew of some of the issues that would be addressed over these last three years, but as many of you know, it is the “unexpected” that usually defines the times. We knew we would have to work with our Outdoor Ministry and camp program, but I did not realize that it would be just a few weeks after I arrived that the program would be in such financial crisis.
We took steps to stabilize the ministry and then began to look at how we might create an effective, meaningful, sustainable ministry for the future. I am happy those plans and hard work have become reality. Now we are at a place where we can make choices, not driven by the bottom line of a financial form but guided by what we believe will be best for all of our churches and people.
We have been working on the issue of how we will organize the “wider church” in our Conference and how we can form ourselves in a way to propel ministry and the love of God rather than simply exist. This work will continue, and I am hopeful for our future. It will be important that we have broad, honest conversations and that we work with each other in a graceful and loving way. We see in our society, and especially our politics, a move towards disunity and harsh criticism when we disagree. I hope we can be an example of how a large group of people can discern a way forward that benefits us all.
Of course, the best things in this kind of work are the relationships and the people you get to work with. I have been so blessed to work with our staff, Board, authorized ministers and local churches. Thank you for your love and commitment to the Good News. I will continue to pray for you all.
What’s next for me? Well, for years I have been working on the idea of creating an “innovation lab” project where we can create the “space” to support and encourage innovation and creativity in the UCC and other progressive faith movements. It’s time for me to cast myself into this ministry and see where it can go. I have to say I am a bit nervous but very excited about it. We will “roll out” the ministry this fall, and I will make sure you know about it.
I’m sitting in my apartment now, surrounded by boxes, getting ready to move to another location here in Columbus. It is an end. It is a beginning. The scripture that comes to my mind is “we live and move and have my being in God” and that is how I plan to move forward.
So I close with my favorite prayer and the hope that we will always be able to utter it with great faith and enthusiasm.
“For all that has been,
For all that is to come,
Blessings to you all.