Ohio Conference UCC Moderator’s Report by Rev. Melinda Quellhorst
My mind is on a lot these days — how we continue to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” in the world in which we live, in our local churches and communities, in the wider United Church of Christ in Ohio and beyond. And so with those thoughts of discernment — about what and who we are called to be and do — that I share with you my update as moderator of the Ohio Conference UCC.
Our last Ohio Conference Board of Directors meeting in December (which you may have read about in our last report) continued a now three-year dialogue about our outdoor ministry program and two properties — Pilgrim Hills and Templed Hills. As you may know, significant financial strain three years ago caused the board to make many significant changes to this program — the hiring of United Camps, Conferences and Retreats (UCCR) to manage our Pilgrim Hills property, consolidating all our camping programs to one site, Pilgrim Hills, and putting Templed Hills on “sabbatical” while the board considered its options regarding the best course of action regarding these properties.
Visitors, representatives from the Ohio Conference, board members and conference and association staff met for a productive discussion at that December meeting that took into consideration recent, significant financial developments and contemplated a bigger, programmatic question: How might the Ohio Conference UCC foster faith formation as an integral part of its vision and mission?
Both small groups and the board as a whole discussed many ideas and determined that further reflection was needed. The board appointed two task forces that would report back at our February 17 meeting. The first group was charged with designing a year-long discernment process that would put faith formation in the center of our vision and mission. This team includes Robert Burtt III, division of outdoor ministries chair; Nicole Havelka, Ohio Conference staff; and board members Kevan Franklin, Jay McMillen and Cynthia Tyson.
The camp research task force was asked to further investigate the Templed Hills and Pilgrim Hills properties (such as the amount of repairs both facilities need) and then suggest which property is the most viable and feasible at which to continue programming in the future. Board treasurer Sam Buehrer, Vice Moderator Cathy Green and Board Member Tom Brownfield are serving on this task force.
Both of these task forces will consider the significant losses in funding that the Ohio Conference UCC has sustained in the past two years, which Treasurer Sam Buehrer described in his September 2016 Treasurers Report. The largest portion of our funding comes from Our Church’s Wider Mission, which in the Ohio UCC is collected by our associations and then a portion of which is passed on to the conference and the national church.
On February 17, the board will vote on the recommendations of this research task force, which will involve selling one or both camps. This decision will NOT affect the 2017 outdoor ministries and faith formation programming at Pilgrim Hills. Registration for this year’s summer programming has already launched — you may see our complete catalogue and online registration on our website.
We are moving forward into this sacred discussion about how we may best equip the faith formation ministries of the local and wider church throughout the Ohio Conference UCC. Please pray for your Board of Directors as we meet on February 17 as we have very tough decisions to make.
Rev. Melinda Quellhorst
Moderator of the Ohio Conference
Pastor of Grace United Church of Christ in Lancaster, Ohio