pic: tree with heart near home of El Greco, Toledo
Dissolution Announcement of Montana Association of Christians (Churches) that I wrote as MAC President, October 18:
Ways that communities of faith connect with each other are constantly changing. For 50 years, the Montana Association of Christians (Churches), MAC, was graced to be one of the ways the Spirit dwelt in unity of purpose in Montana. Called together to pray, connect, and transform, we found ourselves strengthened and empowered in ecumenical relationship. We were various denominational judicatories, Catholic and Protestant, united in caring and advocating for others, particularly those in most need, as a way of serving Christ.
MAC’s seven remaining member judicatories have been in discernment in recent years about where the Spirit is leading in our ecumenical relationships. We know there are many new relational connections expressing unity in mission and leadership through various agreements, covenants, and partnerships formed among our national denominations. Within Montana, many of our local communities have become ecumenical as churches share ministers between denominations, work together in the wider community, and even yoke congregations. It is obvious that there are many new ways of being ecumenical that have come to life, by the grace of God.
The Spirit draws together where unity needs to happen, and our faith calls us to make room for the emergence of ecumenical community without clinging to the past. Jesus’ prayer, “That they may all may be one,” bore fruit within MAC, and it will forever move people of faith in new forms of unity. Now, however, our MAC form of being together is coming to a holy closure. In February 2023, Articles of Dissolution will be completed to end MAC. We seek to gracefully accede to ecumenicity taking new forms.
MAC’s legacy has been built with persistent faith and unyielding hope of many people over our 50 years of life. These years of ecumenical connections through MAC have been so purposeful, and now we trust the promises of what happens in resurrection evidenced in Christ Jesus. New forms of being together are emergent. We celebrate that numerous agencies have donned mantels of care that MAC felt called to engage. Two organizations which live the values of MAC will each receive a 50% share of our approximately $80,000 of remaining assets: the Northern Rockies Institute of Theology and the Montana Food Bank Network.
We remember that so much has been accomplished through MAC. We need time to grieve the end of a familiar form of being together, even as we celebrate the emerging modes of unity. On January 16, 2023, in what would have otherwise been a MAC Legislative Day, we will gather for a service of thanksgiving: “MAC Celebrates 50 years: holy closure and new beginnings, unity in Christ continues.” This will be held at Plymouth Congregational Church UCC, Helena at 10:30 am, followed by a brunch at the church, and a cake at the State Capitol rotunda. Save the date, as more information will be forthcoming in December.
Yes, we have been enriched by MAC. Dare we say that Montana has been enriched, for the sake of the Gospel, by MAC’s 50-year stint as one of the forms in which the Spirit has dwelled? The gift that gave us unity of purpose is never over. At our October 17, 2022 MAC Council meeting, Articles of Dissolution were unanimously approved in recognition that the Spirit, calling people of faith together, is taking new forms. Our devotion for this meeting included a poem by Bruce Sanquin: The Thin Filament Within, from Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics. Perhaps there is familiarity in the last verse with how God is working here: Draw our greening souls upwards, in love with light, and drive our roots deep, allured by sacred darkness. Grow us. We consent to your evolutionary grace.
If you are interested or would like to nominate someone who you know for Conference leadership, please email Conference Minister Marc Stewart firstname.lastname@example.org or Conference Moderator, Hank Branom email@example.com
Most urgent: Two committees of the Conference, which together, make Outdoor Ministries happen, (Committee for Outdoor Ministries and Faith Formation Committee) need chairpeople if this work is to continue into next years camp season.
Vice-Moderator: 2 year term on Board and Executive Committee
Committee for Outdoor Ministries Chairperson: 2 year term, also on Board
Faith Formation Chairperson: 2-year term, also on Board
Our Conference Green Team met on October 18, 2022 by zoom.
We have found the book, Cathedral on Fire, to be provocative. Today, we discussed the final chapter, a chapter about the importance of genealogy in the Bible, and how considering the generations that have come before and will come after relates to creation justice. None of us deals with young people in our local church, but we are glad that there are young people who care about healing the earth, who speak out, and who act.
We talked a lot about how to talk with folk about issues of climate justice, especially people for whom those issues have an economic impact. We would like to see people try making Meatless Monday part of their routine, but what if that impacted a rancher’s income? We would like to see people have access to local meat sustainably grown, but that is easier in Montana than in many parts of our country and world.
Illa Dee said she supports organizations that make a difference in Climate issues. She supports Yellowstone Valley Citizen’s Council because she believes they do a good job locally to bring up climate issues, and make voices heard.
Charles has been discussing with folk of the Helena church how to develop part of the church property, and that may involve planting trees. Their Church Council will be watching a video about solar energy; they just purchased energy efficient boilers.
Patty suggested that the Helena church might explore more about becoming a Climate Justice Church, since they are already exploring projects that help the environment. (The steps to become a Climate Justice Church are on our conference web page, and are also at ucc.org. Two churches in the Conference, University UCC in Missoula, and Mayflower Congregational UCC, already have the designation of Climate Justice Churches.)
We talked about some ways we may spend some of the money to which our group has access:
Planting trees on property of churches or church members
Patty and Cheryl have been sending paper cranes to congresspeople. They now hang an individual crane on a string and decorate the crane with beads, so the crane may be something a legislator might more likely hang in her/his office. They hope to send these to all senators. The cost to each legislator is $4.90, so they could use help with postage. (The crane paper, beads, envelopes, and other components have been donated.)
Next meeting of the Green Team will be November 15 on zoom. Please put this on your calendar and plan to join us. At that meeting, we hope to decide about using our group funds, and also to choose a new book to read together. (Many folk have suggested reading the book, Braiding Sweet Grass.)
Our fledgling Disaster Response Team continues to support flood recovery in Stillwater and Carbon Counties. The Long Term Recovery Group in Red Lodge is chaired by Team member Rev, Dr. Pam Peterson and was recently awarded a $8000 Lowes Community Grant. Documenting and assessing repair costs on homes continues to be a daunting task. Team member Tim Small has been able to get some work accomplished with contractors. Team member Pastor Joshua Rau is drafting a Conference Disaster Ministries Response Protocol statement. We are moving into long-term recovery assistance with continued needs. Additional participants and team members are needed. Please contact Marc for more information.
With winter soon coming, and snow in the forecast along the Beartooths, needs will become more apparent. Local efforts have not been ready for volunteer crews, but we are keeping posted.
Volodymyr, who recently fled Odessa, at the start of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, arrived in Billings on October 11th. Here, he was reunited with his brother after decades of separation.
Rev. Lisa Harmon with Billings First Congregational Church, and Rev. Amy Carter with Mayflower Congregational Church, have made his flight possible. God of the refugee and immigrant, we praise you for the ability to be your hands and feet here on earth!
Regular inquiry sessions help prepare new members:∙
Ever wonder how things get done around the church? Are we non-denominational or part of a denomination? How do you become a member? Why would you become a member? What does ONA mean and why are we that?
The campaign to raise funds for the UCC solar panel is well underway. So far we’ve raised $14,000 towards our final goal of $23,000 to fully fund the panels. Think about those who have brought light into your life, and make a donation to honor them. Thank you in advance for your generosity.
Just in time for it's new fall Wednesday evening meal and worship time, People's UCC has its building now lit up at night.
There is a serious lack of trained clergy available for rural or part-time positions. Some churches may not receive any inquiries after a year of looking. Keep our vacant churches in your care and prayer. Look within your congregations, too, who may be open to leading people in worship and pastoral care. We are also advertising these vacancies in Christian Century online. Conference Minister Marc Stewart will be visiting the Eden Theological Seminary campus on November 9 to recruit students.
Broadus Powder River UCC, searching with ELCA to share a pastor; no profiles surfaced from either UCC or ELCA
Baker UCC has a new church profile especially developed for rural churches. but has received less than one profile a year since becoming vacant in 2013