Here’s a bit of important news that you may have missed. Our church no longer part of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. What, you say? Did we withdraw from the denomination? Hold on, did I miss a vote or something?
The answer is no to both of those questions. The reason we are no longer part of the Mass. Conference anymore is because there is no more Mass. Conference! We are now part of the brand new Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ which encompasses what were the Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island Conferences.
Discussions in this direction began around four years ago and in the ensuing years, these discussions led to joint annual meetings culminating in a resolution brought to the General Synod of the United Church of Christ to dissolve these three historic conferences in favor of a union born of all three: The Southern New England Conference.
The waters were well tested in the past three years of consolidated work and input was gathered from many sources. This was not a rush to a new system by any means. While it may come as a surprise to many, it was certainly in the wind for some time and transparency was the hallmark of this process. It is worth adding that we will likely not see any significant change at our church due to this consolidation.
Still, many may ask: Why? What was wrong with the previous table of organization that included these three historic conferences? Well, there were two basic reasons for this evolution; one positive, one not so positive.
The positive reason is that we can clearly accomplish more by consolidating our ministry than by remaining separate. Collaboration reduces redundancy and streamlining elevates efficiency. By expanding the geographical area and unifying staff, the pathways of ministry at both the conference level and the local level become more robust and networking becomes broader.
The not so positive reason is that the United Church of Christ is shrinking in numeric size and financial resources. In our structure, most financial resources remain at the local level. We have a “trickle up” system whereby the end of the food chain is the national office. Staff has already been reduced and consolidated at that level and our new conference is the natural response to this new denominational landscape at the regional level. Simply put, the old system could not be maintained.
While The Southern New England Conference officially came into being on January 1st, there are still structural and staffing changes to be decided upon. Full clarity will come as we live into this new conference over the next few years.
In the meantime, as is so often the case at the New Year, this is a particular apropos time to look back with gratitude at the legacy we inherit from the Massachusetts Conference and ahead with excited anticipation at what is now possible in our new, broader Southern New England Conference.
See you in church,