This summary is written by Board of Directors Chair Rev. Scott Jones, and not the official minutes of the meeting.

On a lovely, sunny, autumn day, your Nebraska Conference Board of Directors gathered for a meeting at Vine Congregational Church in Lincoln Saturday, November 9. We declared this coming April 19 a Climate Change Sabbath, authorized scholarships for continuing education and student loan debt, and chose our first priority for in-depth discussion to be the education and training of our ministers. This is a recap of the highlights of our meeting and not our official minutes.

We began by sharing what is happening in our churches and communities and sending notes of concern, prayer, thanks, and celebration. Our churches are doing exciting things, like Friedens UCC in Goehner which partnered with the local high school to develop their Facebook page and United Congregational Church in Grand Island that provided key leadership for Grand Island’s first ever LGBTQ Pride Festival. We also thank those who sent us written reports ahead of time, including the Youth and Outdoor Ministry Committee, the Living Waters Association, and our partners in the Iowa Conference. We hope to improve communications across our various settings so that we might more effectively minister together.

Executive Conference Minister Brigit Stevens then presented the four priority areas that we developed out of our Board Retreat in September. The Nebraska Conference in the year(s) ahead will be focused on: 1) Healthy Clergy and Pastoral Leadership, 2) Healthy Congregations and Lay Leadership, 3) a Healthy Conference, and 4) a Healthy Creation and World. The Board determined that the first priority we will discuss in-depth at our February meeting will be the education and training of our ministers. This topic includes what structures do we need for training licensed lay ministers and how do we promote continuing education.

We can report that our finances are quite good. We currently have $176,000 in our checking account at the Cornhusker Bank in Lincoln and our investments, managed out of Norfolk, total $1.2 million dollars. The latter have experienced an 18.38% return in 2019. We are about to withdraw cash to cover next year’s budget, continuing our recent trend of banking money ahead of time in case of a market downturn. In fact, we anticipate extra cash on hand. At our February meeting we will determine whether to roll this cash into investments or use it for expanding ministry programming.

We currently have $12,000 in Disaster Relief Funds that are available for churches. If your church has been impacted by a disaster or your congregation has a disaster response ministry that needs some funding, please contact Associate Conference Minister Darrell Goodwin. We are also pleased to report that Rev. Coral Parmenter has agreed to be our Disaster Response Coordinator for the Nebraska Conference!

Our Clip Higgins Endowment is currently $91,500. We voted to make available between $5,000-$8,000 this year. Any authorized minister with standing in any of our three associations may apply for a share of these funds to offset continuing education costs or to help pay for student loan debt. Look for an application form to be available very soon. We’ve appointed a sub-committee that will be developing permanent procedures for us going forward so that we effectively use these funds to support healthy ministry in Nebraska.

Our annual meeting keynote speaker will be Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, who is the Director for Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs for the City of Philadelphia and a faculty member in the Theology and Religious Studies Department at Villanova University. She will focus on helping our churches strategically build community partnerships.

General Minister and President John Dorhauer requested that the Nebraska Conference participate in the UCC’s Shaping our Future campaign, which is raising funds to support a variety of new initiatives in the national setting around evangelism, infrastructure, and leadership development. The Board will decide on this request in February and has asked Michael Cich-Jones, member of Omaha, First Central and chair of the development committee of the national UCC Board of Directors, to be present to speak to us about it. We also briefly discussed the new UCC initiative around medical debt forgiveness and delayed to February a discussion of how we might participate.

Currently we need to appoint 2 members to the Kaleo on the River board and 4 members to the Youth and Outdoor Ministry Committee. Know anyone to recommend?

In response to last year’s catastrophic flooding, the Board has declared this coming April 19 to be a “Climate Change Sabbath” for the Nebraska Conference. Rev. Jessica Palys of Hastings, First has taken the lead in developing a Climate Change Toolkit for our congregations to use when celebrating this event. Look for the Toolkit to be sent out in December. One initiative we will be promoting is tree planting for Arbor Day. We are in conversation with the Arbor Day Foundation to partner with them.

Rev. Brigit Stevens reported on her trip to Washington with the Council of Conference Ministers to lobby on behalf of families separated at the border. She also updated us on the new website, which should launch very soon, and the decision by the Tri-Conference Ministries Board of Directors to hire a new Finance Director.

For 2020 we’ve established these meeting times and locations (all Central Time):
Feb. 15 Zoom meeting from 10am-1pm
April 4 10am-3pm, Kamp Kaleo, 46872 Willow Springs Rd, Burwell, NE
June 12 Noon-?, meeting before the Annual Gathering at Grand Island UCC
Sept. 11-12 Retreat from 3pm-3pm, Camp Comeca, 75670 Rd 417, Cozad, NE
Nov. 7 10am-3pm, Goehner Friedens UCC, 1010 Bessie St, Goehner, NE

Please let me know if you have a report for or request of the Board.

And please keep your conference staff and board of directors in your prayers, as we strive “to live into God’s extravagant welcome and advocate for justice, so that all know love, safety, belonging, and dignity.”

Scott Jones
Conference Board Chair

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