Grace and Peace to you!
It is week 4 for me in the Tri-Conference and I am learning a lot, getting to meet many of you, and generally settling into Omaha, where I am living. I am very thankful for the opportunity to come and be in ministry with you as the Interim Conference Minister for the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences. It is a big job. There are a lot of things going on and a lot of things we need to deal with over the next several months. I thought it would be good to take a moment to introduce myself to you and share a few thoughts.
I am originally from Columbus, Ohio. I am the youngest child to John and Carolyn Hart and I grew up on a small family farm west of the city. I have been in ministry for 32 years now, beginning as a local church pastor when I was 20 years old (I’m not sure what they were thinking, but I am thankful for the early start!). I have been serving as an interim/transitional Conference Minister for about the last 16 years and have now served 9 Conferences across the UCC. My education includes a degree in psychology and three Master’s degrees (Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, Master of Communications). I am a licensed social worker, an Ohio Supreme Court Certified Mediator, and was a Professor of Theology and Communications.
For my first few months in the Tri-Conference I am going to focus much of my time on listening. In my mind this is essential in Interim Conference Ministry and is especially important for us in the Tri-Conference now. We are setting up zoom meetings with all Staff, all Conference and Tri-Conference Board Members, all Association Moderators, and many others. I have also been calling local churches and pastors (mostly randomly) to say hello, connect, and see how their ministries are going.
Now why is taking this time to listen essential? First because ministry is about service and I believe the primary task of the Conference is to support and encourage the ministry of our local churches. We need to listen so we know how we can support one another and how we should use the time, gifts, and resources that we share together. Second, this time of listening is so important because “the Conference” is not just staff or boards or offices, or committees, “the/our Conference” is a “community of communities” and filled with all sorts of people, pastors, chaplains, churches, and ministries all across our states. I believe God’s calling and leading to a “community of communities” is scattered out among all of us in many pieces and parts. It is in the listening and sharing that strands of our vision are discerned. Our calling is a mosaic, a weaving that comes together in a communal story, and each of us are called to be co-authors in creating our story. So taking this time to listen to one another is essential to discovering the next chapter in the story of our pilgrimage together.
Friends if I didn’t believe in the gift of discernment, if I didn’t believe God is still speaking, or in the power of God’s Spirit to weave around us and through us in order to guide us into the next chapter of our story… if I didn’t believe all that, I wouldn’t be a Conference Minister. Actually, I wouldn’t be a minister at all.
I am thankful to be here with you. I am looking forward to being your fellow pilgrim on this journey with you. I look forward to our conversations. I look forward to being part of the story with you.
Let us be kind and brave,