Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Random Points of Conference-ness

Some notes and thoughts from last weekend's Conference Annual Meeting:

  • One highlight was the theme presentations. The theme speaker was John Ikerd and he was wonderful. He spoke about sustainability and agriculture and ethics and economics. One concept that stood out was that "it makes no economic sense to do anything for others which doesn't benefit us". It is a powerful conscience that can stand up and say "the system is broken".
  • Another definite highlight was the celebration of becoming an Affirming Ministry. As part of that celebration we recounted the history of getting to this point in our time. We also took time to lament the church's history of heterosexism/homophobia. Then we had a celebration with rainbow flags and liturgy and made a covenant to be a safe place, an affirming place, a welcoming place. During both the lament and the celebration there were tears in some eyes.
  • One of the highlights of conference every year is the music. Music that we don't get to sing in small congregations that are reluctant to try new music, music sung by hundreds of voices at once, music that enlivens the soul and quickens the heart.
  • $14.03 per resident member (using 2006 statistics). That is all it takes to fund the Conference Budget. Admittedly a more useful number would be $ per identifiable giver, but still that is remarkably low. Yes that money comes, in the end, from local congregations (through assessments to Presbytery which in turn assesses congregations for the cost of running Presbyteries) and therefore comes out of funds available for local work. But still $14.03 per resident member!
  • A constant struggle with these meetings is that there is too much crammed into too short a period. a 13 hour day on Friday and a 9 hour day on Saturday (often with meetings over meal times) coupled with a 2 hour session on Thursday and a 1.5 hour worship on Sunday. Not to mention an 8 hour drive each way... (and children who don't often go to sleep easily in hotel rooms)
  • And even with all that time there was not enough time set aside for business -- or too much set aside for other (yes important and meaningful) things so there were 2 proposals that didn't even get looked at before being referred to the Executive
  • How many times do we have to hear various ways of saying "we don't do it that way" or fear of change/newness?
  • But at least we can laugh at ourselves. OR at least some of us can.
  • Oh and I guess I should mention that at the Presbytery meeting on Saturday I was installed as chair of Presbytery for 2008-09

ETA: The "official" summary statement from the meeting is here


  1. ... it's funny ... over the last five years since I started a Masters in Rural Development, I have been saying over and over and over - "the system is broken" - and have been increasingly marginalized ... last year the International Rural Church Association held its meeting in Brandon, and only little old me, came from the United Church in Manitoba despite trying for OVER A YEAR to invite folks to come ... the key note speaker at our Conference??? John Ikerd ... and yes, he is wonderful and very personable and very passionate and knowledgable ...

    The saddest thing for me Gord, is that as we celebrate becoming a safe place, there are more and more of us who are being pushed out by a church that is ANYTHING but safe for us ...

    Personally, I can think of better places to spend my 14.03, then on the cost of Conference ... donating it to the Local Food Bank would be a better bang for MY buck ...

    I'm afraid we're shuffling the deck chairs and listening to the band as the Titanic continues its inexorable descent in to the depths ... As, I've said before - I'd rather brave the swim to the Carpathia, then risk drowning doing nothing ...

    thanks for the reflections though ... peace brother.

  2. I'm so glad the Affirming celebration went well and that you were duly covenanted as our Presbytery chair.

    What happened with the "Let's skip a year of Conference" motion? I'm assuming it didn't pass, but was the discussion at least a bit more encouraging?

  3. AH Sue, the discussion was a rehash of same-old same-old. And a bit of frustration that it had come up again.

    Wayne Sanderson had an interesting suggestion--change the period to 18 months instead of annually. THen we have 2 in 3 years and can easily fulfill the Manual requirement to meet prior to GC. It had no better reception.