pic: chapel of Corticela, Santiago de Compostela cathedral
137th Conference Annual Meeting
Conference Minister’s Report
It may not be how we imagined it would be, 2022. And this is the difficulty, isn’t it? What is happening in our world sometimes seems unimaginable. Some people have called 2022 an “annus horribillis.” I understand how this has been a horrible year.
We might have imagined that in 2022, CoVid would have been a thing of the past. Instead, CoVid caught up to many of us and our loved ones. Indeed, we had hoped to be together in-person for our 137th Conference Annual Meeting.
We might have imagined ourselves drawn together as a people. We might have expected we might be able to get beyond partisan politics and cultural divisions. Yet, it more often feels like it takes all of our energy to stay insulated in our safe, like-minded circles with people we already know.
We might have imagined we could go back like it was in our lives, and in our churches before the pandemic. It is clear, however, that just going back is not an option. Something different is unfolding even though it has not yet taken a recognizable form.
Our “thresholds” CAM theme offers a focus point for these times. When the theme was suggested, I remembered an abstract art piece that depicted the absurdity of an open doorway set out in the middle of a desert. Like, sure, these times might draw our curiosity but is there really anything that will be different on the other side?
The 137th Conference Annual Meeting will be be held virtually Sept. 23-25. Register by 9:00 am Thursday, September 22, 2022. No cost. Registration is a 2-step process where you will also receive a link to sign up for the Zoom virtual meeting platform. You will then be sent your Zoom password. If you lose your Zoom password you can register anytime.
All CAM information is available on our www.mnwcucc.org website under the CAM tab.
Friday, September 23
2 - 3 pm. Opening Worship, Marc Stewart preaching
4 - 5:30 pm Thresholds: Finding Ourselves Here
7 - 8:30 pm Thresholds: Who We Are in This Time and Place
Saturday, September 24
10 - noon. Conference Business Session
2 - 3:30 Thresholds: What We Need to Move Forward
Sunday, September 25
Worship with your own congregation, which may include a CAM liturgy and sermon video from Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, Associate General Minister for the United Church of Christ.
At the conclusion of this year’s Conference Annual Meeting, I will finish my term of service as Conference Moderator. It has been an honor to serve alongside the Rev. Dr. Marc Stewart and a Board of Directors of highly gifted folks who are passionate about the ministry of the church…. and I mean PASSIONATE! I am grateful for the trust that has been placed in me and the grace
that has been extended. I look forward to continuing to serve with and among you in a new capacity as I anticipate continuing on the Board as an at-large member and, should the Board choose, as Board Secretary. I am grateful to be handing off the responsibilities and joy of serving as Moderator to Hank Branom, trusting you elect him and he accepts. He will serve us well.
My term as Moderator began back in October of 2019 with the resignation of previous Moderator, the Rev. Tracy Heilman. I’ve ended serving a bit longer than usual as I completed Tracy’s term and was elected into my own, two-year term. As many of us know, none of us can see into the future. That reality has hit us all so clearly over the last two-plus years as we’ve all scrambled to figure out how to live and serve in the midst of a pandemic. We are still learning about the long-term impact of all of the shut-downs, quick advancements of technology, loss of relationship, and major shifts... read more, click here
Outdoor Ministry Report
137th Conference Annual Meeting
The 2022 Conference Annual Meeting theme, “Thresholds: Moving with Courage into the Unknown,” captures the journey of the Committee for Outdoor Ministries since 2019. I want to take this opportunity to update our Conference on Committee for Outdoor Ministry’s (COM) evolving work to continue the important mission of providing transformational experiences to campers of all ages away from the busyness of everyday life. This is a long-standing ministry in the Conference. COM is working on a vision for Outdoor Ministry which emphasizes programming and puts the mission energy in the wilderness experience rather than in maintaining a venue.
As we stood at the threshold in 2020, like the Israelites in their journey to the promised land in Exodus, we were tasked with the development of a new way to do Outdoor Ministry. Like them, we had to decide what to carry with us from the past, and what to leave behind. We faced some hard choices. We faced the fear of the unknown in dealing with the reticence of many to meet at new venues because of deep ties to a special place. We faced the fear of pleasing those who wanted new adventures in new places believing that camp relationships were the key to the experience. And we faced the daunting task of providing a unique and transformational experience on a break-even budget. And as we opened the door for our journey, we were met with a world pandemic which threatened to cancel all possibilities. In 2020, COM pledged to make Youth programming available and to do what we could to offer Adult programming. With that pledge, COM worked to develop a partnership with Christikon for Youth Programming.
That partnership gave vitality to a difficult situation. COM feels that it made great strides in 2020 and 2021 taking positive steps in meeting challenges and establishing a foundation to move forward. Even with inflation forcing registration increases in 2022, the MNWCUCC Outdoor Ministry grew and prospered, and again, laid a firm foundation for the future of this vital Conference Mission.
According to the Conference Bylaws, the Church and Ministry Commission assists the Conference Minister in the work of pastoral placement, pastoral crisis, and church and ministry matters. The Commission has the responsibility related to authorized ministers and oversees all matters relating to standing and authorization for ministry. All questions of discipline of ministers are addressed by the Commission. All actions on congregational standing shall first be considered by the Commission and recommendations for changes in standing be confirmed by the Montana-Northern Wyoming Association and Conference. (abbreviated list of responsibilities). read more, click here
Rev. Teressa Clark
137th Conference Annual Meeting
Appointed as Treasurer of the Montana N. Wyoming Conference Board of Directors on the 31st of August, my report is based on just two weeks of diving headlong into the Conference’s finances.
The first thing I want to say is “thank-you.” Thank-you to every person and congregation who has contributed to the Conference through Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM), local church dues, special offerings, and other contributions. Your donations are a bright spot in the financial picture.
EARNINGS ON INVESTMENTS After years of positive earnings on investments by the Conference, the losses on investments in 2022 have been hard to swallow – not just for the Conference but for investors everywhere. I urge you to remember that all investments are made for the long term. For the Montana Northern Wyoming Conference, the long term has meant significant earnings on investments. We have drawn on the earnings for at least the last few years. As our Conference Minister retires and a Transitional Conference Minister comes in, we will be drawing more heavily from those earnings. I am grateful for all who gave to the Conference to help ensure longer term vitality. I am thankful for those who invested the funds wisely.
PROPOSED BUDGET 2023 The proposed budget is, to quote a member of the Board of Directors, “courageous.” The numbers are an expression of the Board’s gratitude for the leadership we have had and a commitment to doing what we can for a fruitful time of transition.
There are significant increases in three categories of expenses
Just wait until you see the video report that Amy Carter and friends put together for the Green Team. . . we are excited to share with you during the Conference Annual Meeting some of the discussions and activities to which our care for the earth has led us.
Do you have plans for October 8 at 2 p.m.? If not, consider joining us for the next Green Team meeting. We meet on zoom. At that meeting, we plan to report on our individual and church creation justice activities. We also plan to have a post card writing party. We want to encourage folks who care about creation justice to vote. Would you like to join us? Just contact Jennifer Pennfield at the Conference Office to be included in the invitation to our meeting.
Rocky Mountan College, one of our Conference mission partners is historically related to the United Church of Christ from our earliest years of coming to this territory. Hear Rev. Kim Woeste greetings to our 2022 CAM.
We are moving into long-term recovery assistance with continued needs. Mold mitigation is crucial, especially in Red Lodge, where tenants are responsible for mold mitigation. Our brand new Conference Disaster Response Team is working with the churches and national Disaster Ministries to help match needs and resources. The Conference Disaster Response Team includes: Carol Mick (Mayflower UCC), Pastor Joshua Rau (Sidney/Savage), Tim Small (Mayflower UCC Billings), Rev. Pam Peterson (Red Lodge), and Conference Minister Marc Stewart. Additional participants and team members are needed. Please contact Marc for more information.
We would like to adopt 3 - 5 homes to repair. Would you like to volunteer?
Rev. Teressa Clark, a retired minister who recently moved to Billings from Iowa, has joined with Rev. Brent Long and and Rev. Dwight Welch in the preaching team providing supply ministry here. Teressa is also our new Conference treasurer.
The Bible is a complex and difficult book to understand. Drawing on biblical scholarship and the ancient well of Christian tradition, Meghan Good helps readers consider why the Bible matters. We will wrestle with questions like, "Are all the stories of the bible true? What do we make of all the violence in the Bible?" The author writes with humor and candor, and the book is full of rich and valuable understandings.
Spiritual Director, Barbara Gulick, recently offered a mini-retreat at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings. Barbara led an encounter with the evocative paintings of Montana artist Michael Haykin as he responds in despair and hope to the COVID pandemic, and the painting-inspired poetry of Jessica Argyle through the practices of Visio Divina and Lectio Divina.
Vicki Waddington is providing supply ministry this fall. She was trained as a pastor at the Claremont School of Theology and now lives in Miles City. She recently retired after 20 years, most recently as pastor of Hobson, Harlowton, Moore, and Judith Gap for 6 years.
Buffalo Union Congregational United Church of Christ
Great Falls First Congregational UCC and the MT-NWy Conference UCC cordially invite you to the ordination of Sara MacGilvra Branom happening on Friday, Octoer 21, 6:30 pm. The service will also be available online.
At a congregtional meeting on September 18, Rev. Charles Wei has called to be the settled pastor with the church after having served as a designsted pastor for a year. Congratulations Rev. Wei and Plymouth UCC.
"Helping Hands" our partnership with Sheridan Police. As they are not allowed to accept money, the church fundraises and gives them gift cards so they can help people they meet on the streets. The police have helped hungry people, cold people, stranded people, people broke down on the highway, and people in neighboring communities. Our Mission: To love God, and to love all our neighbors as ourselves. An Open & Affirming church!
Getting ready for the new school year, Pastor Robert Shy offers a blessing of the backpacks for children.
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.
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
Download for your congregation's stewardship efforts. Materials include practical tools such as logos, commitment cards, bulletin inserts, and letters, and provide resources for preaching and teaching about stewardship throughout the year.
Prayers with our pastors and congregations in flood-affected areas: Rev. Dr. Pam Peterson and Red Lodge Community UCC, Rev. Meg Hatch with Absarokee Community UCC.
Prayers with those congregations among us who seek pastors.
Prayers of hope and healing with Gavin, Phll (pastor with Farifield) and Jodi Maxwell's son as he receives a second liver transplant.