Dear Friends in the Ohio Conference,
I want to begin with a word of thanks to so many of you who have already greeted me warmly and, in various ways, have invited me into your lives. I look forward to many more opportunities to be with many of you whom I have not yet had a chance to meet. I am excited to hear about your lives and your ministries and to discover the ways in which our covenantal collaborations can strengthen the witness of love and justice to which we are called as followers of Jesus Christ in the expression that is the United Church of Christ.
I was so pleased to be with many of you recently at the Conference Annual Gathering. As our Conference Moderator Cathy Green shares in her report, there was a strong positive sense about a trajectory for our shared ministry. The Vision Team realizes, as do I, that there will be a need to live into some shared practices as our first way of discerning our life together in ever new forms, while nurturing the existing relationships that are so important and highly valued. More on that will come in the days ahead.
I have been thinking about how best to use this space of reflection as we journey together. Sometimes, I will offer a specific theological reflection and other times there will be a smattering of ideas that I want to test out or share for reflection and feedback. I hope that you will take these invitations to respond seriously (as I will offer the same to you). Always, my goal will be to strengthen our life together and to strengthen the life of the world (in whatever small or large ways that might get expressed).
Here are few items of focus that I want to share from these early days in my journey with you:
• I have been delighted by the invitations that have already come my way to preach. I welcome these opportunities as a way for me to offer a word of encouragement and connection across our life together. I am excited to learn about the wide variety of ministries engaged by each congregation. Especially, I want to have opportunities to express my thanks on our shared behalf for the ways in which our shared giving strengthens our common life in every setting of ministry locally and globally. I welcome your invitations to be present in this way. (Without foisting this on any congregation, I am also glad to bring my violin along and offer music if there is interest). Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• A Song to Share…We were blessed at the annual gathering by the powerful preaching of the Rev. Starksy Wilson and the musical reflections of Ken Medema who formed our sharing into song in ways that were compelling and right on target. I was honored to work with Ken on a new song, “Called To Be Family”, that I really want to encourage you to use in your local congregational worship. The link will take you to a PDF of the song. Ken only asks that you note permission for use in your bulletin in the following way: “Used by Permission Ken Medema Music kenmedema.com”
• A special note of thanks and appreciation to the folks at Westerville Community UCC for their hosting the Conference Annual Gathering. Their kindness and hospitality set the stage for a wonderful gathering.
• We received two offerings during our annual gathering time. The first offering received during the Ken Medem concert in the amount of $651.50, went to support the Poor People’s Campaign, building on the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to challenge racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation.
• The second offering received during the closing worship in the amount of $1, 100.00 will be sent to our UCC Disaster Response ministries as this ministry in our shared life seeks to help those still in the throes of recovering from devastating hurricanes nationally and globally. If your congregation is interested in providing more support for disaster response, the above link will direct you.
• Speaking of shared giving…there is a video about OCWM that may be helpful to your congregation as way to help interpret Our Church’s Wider Mission. Deep thanks to all who have faithfully shared in this way that strengthens the whole ministry of the church.
Finally, a word about prayer and the world in which we live… In my closing sermon at the annual gathering, I encouraged us all to hold our shared life in prayer. I suggested that daily we be aware of our “pinky” fingers—remembering the image from the Apostle Paul about giving special attention to that which seems weaker or insignificant as a way of remembering those most vulnerable in our midst. It is no secret that we live in a challenging time filled with polarizations of varied expressions. I believe that prayer is essential if we are to find a way by which God can fashion a new healing. May we hold one another in prayer. May we hold the world in prayer. And may we all be changed by the One who is able to fashion resurrection amid death and despair. I hold you all in my prayers.
Blessings on you all!
Rev. Dave Long-Higgins
Transitional Conference Minister
Serving the United Church of Christ in
Ohio, West Virginia and Northern Kentucky