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Conference Call

Rev. John VertiganIt's not too late! Give a gift of ministry that will happen in the Florida Conference. You still have time to make a gift to our Friends of the Conference annual appeal via our online donation portal that will strengthen and sustain ministry in the Florida Conference.

As you consider your year-end giving options, we invite your generosity and thank you for your commitment to a progressive witness in the Sunshine State. To give, follow the link above, or visit our website at http://www.uccfla.org and click the red "donate" button in the upper right portion of any page, or remit a check made out to the Florida Conference before Dec. 31, 2017, to 9300 University Blvd., Orlando, FL 32817.

May your Christmas season be blessed with all good things, and your New Year be filled with hope.

Be at peace and be in touch, won't you.

Rev. John Vertigan
The Rev. John Vertigan
Conference Minister

Don't miss the free 'Examining White Privilege' workshop Jan. 11

"Racism is the preeminent social justice issue of our time," Rev. Dr. Alice Hunt, president and associate professor of Biblical Hermeneutics and Religious Leadership at Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS), said recently after the school released the short video "White Privilege Glasses", designed to highlight the pervasiveness of racism and white privilege in our society. "The purpose of this spot is to challenge people to see the oppressive ubiquity of racism in our world — and inspire dialogue."

Rev. Alice HuntHunt will lead a workshop entitled "Examining White Privilege" Jan. 11, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Florida Church House, 9300 University Blvd., Orlando, FL 32817.

"While the project isn't focused on audiences of color but on white people instead," Hunt added, the school wants to share the video widely. To that end, it is supplementing the video with additional resources. The seminary has discussion guides and other materials available for schools, churches and organizations that wish to have their own discussions on racial privilege.

To view the video now, click here.

"At CTS, we believe the racial divide will only change when [people] not only understand the concepts of privilege but together begin to identify and correct the systems that advantage one group over the other," said Rhonda Brown, CTS vice president for advancement. "We intend for 'White Privilege Glasses' to spark discussions about a very serious issue. 'White Privilege Glasses' is not just a video; it's a movement."

Admission to this workshop is free, and lunch will be provided. Costs related to this event will be underwritten by the Wilson Fund, a fund of the Florida Conference. Authorized ministers with standing in the Florida Conference may count this as one unit of professional ethics training.

If you are traveling from outside of the Central Florida area to attend this workshop and would like to stay over the night before, we've arranged for discounted accommodations at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn for $119 per night, which includes breakfast for one person. Please call the Conference office and ask for Dave Cyril by no later than Jan. 6 if you wish to reserve a room, or you may email dcyril@uccfla.org.

For more information and to register -> click here! ->

Attention church treasurers: Year-end deadlines nearing

The end of 2017 is fast approaching, and we need your help to make our year-end bookkeeping and crediting as efficient and timely as possible.

We appreciate you sending the remainder of your 2017 OCWM and Per Capita funds as soon as possible on a check dated on or before Dec. 31. Funds must arrive at the Florida Conference office on or before Jan. 10, 2018, to receive credit for 2017 giving to the Conference and for the Conference to receive credit at the national setting.

Please make every effort to meet these deadlines.

The Florida Conference needs you!

Are you called to be a one of the many people all over the state who support the Florida Conference with their time and talents?

We still have an immediate need to fill two positions. We are looking for a treasurer and a male layperson from the southeast part of the state to serve on the Florida Conference Committee on Church and Ministry.

If you wish to nominate yourself or someone else, please complete a nomination form and email it to dcyril@uccfla.org or mail it to The Florida Conference UCC, 9300 University Blvd., Orlando, FL 32817.

-> Download the nomination form as a Word document ->

-> Download the nomination form as a pdf ->

Volunteers need transportation so that they can travel to meetings roughly quarterly and typically at the Conference office at the address above. Meetings sometimes require an overnight stay, with the Conference providing accommodations. If you have questions, please call the Conference office at (407) 835-7501.

We are hoping to start 2018 with a full slate of volunteer leaders. Please send in your nominations today!

2017 Walk on Water Youth Retreat

Just shy of 100 youths and chaperones attended the 2017 Walk on Water Youth Retreat in West Palm Beach.

Register now for 2018 Walk on Water Youth Retreat

The Florida Conference Walk on Water Youth Retreat is scheduled for Jan. 19-21 at Union Congregational Church, 5088 Summit Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL 33415. Cost is $50 per person.

Once again this year, Rev. Drew Willard, pastor of United Church of Christ at The Villages, will regale us all with his unique brand of storytelling on the beach. In addition, Rev. Neal Watkins from The Community Church of Vero Beach will be the featured musician for "Friday Night Live," and UCC Ecumenical and Interfaith Minister Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson will be our special guest on Saturday. Conference Minister Rev. John Vertigan will wrap up the event with a sermon at the closing worship service on Sunday.

And at Walk on Water, everyone is invited to take part in the experience. Every youth group is encouraged to participate and contribute to the event, whether that be in the form of helping to prepare meals or getting up on stage and sharing special gifts during the Youth Talent Show. Plus, WOW will include a youth-led beach worship service, as well as fun and fellowship around the evening bonfires, creative play and other fun activities.

So please, spread the word! Come rekindle friendships with participants from previous years, and make new friends, too!

All participants are asked to bring bedding, toiletries, plastic utensils, towels, snacks to share, beachwear and comfortable attire for outdoor activities in the evening.

Registration deadline is Jan. 15. No exceptions! -> Register here today! ->

For more information, download the event flyer or contact Rev. Dr. Sheila Guillaume at sheilag@uccfla.org.

Social media ethics workshop scheduled Jan. 25

The Florida Conference will sponsor a social media ethics workshop, worth one unit of professional ethics (boundary) training, Jan. 25, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., live via Zoom videoconference.

Participants will join from their home computers for three hours and then write a one-page reflection paper for submission to the Committee on Church and Ministry. This workshop covers basic ethical concerns about using social media and also best practices for authorized ministers. Limit 10 participants. Cost is $25. -> Register today!

West Palm Beach church takes 'Just Peace' journey

What does it mean for us to claim the Prince of Peace in times like these? How do we reconcile the Good News of the Prince of Peace with news we read each day of unjust tax bills, increased threats of war with North Korea, famine in South Sudan, and the pervasiveness of sexual assault against women in our society?

Advent is the season when we wrestle honestly with the darkness and sin in our world. It is a time when we wait in the tension between this darkness and the hope we proclaim. At times we can feel helpless, challenged to find hope amidst such violence and pain. -> Read more! ->

2017 Clergy Day Away with the CIW

UCC President and General Minister Rev. John Dorhauer and Executive Minister of Justice & Witness Ministries Rev. Traci Blackmon joined almost three dozen UCC clergy from the Florida Conference in Immokalee Dec. 7 to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and its Fair Food Program and learn about the CIW's plans for 2018.

National day of fasting planned to support CIW and boycott of Wendy's

On Jan. 18, faith leaders from around the country will join together for National Day of Fasting and Witness in protest of Wendy's executives' ongoing refusal to join the Fair Food Program.

The fast will take place on the 20th anniversary of the breaking of the 30-day hunger strike undertaken by six workers in 1998, when the Coalition of Immokalee Workers was calling for a dialogue with growers to end poverty and violence in the fields. The hunger strike was finally broken when former President Jimmy Carter and Bishop John Nevins of the Catholic Diocese of Venice intervened, and called upon people to join with farmworkers to bring justice to U.S. agriculture. -> Learn more! ->

AFF Spring internship application deadline extended to Dec. 29

Are you, or someone you know, interested in living and working alongside the farmworkers that are changing the agricultural industry? Looking to connect with university students and faith communities across the nation that support farmworker rights? Excited about learning from and contributing to one of the most successful worker-led human rights movements of our time? If you or someone you know is interested in an opportunity like this, then look no further and consider applying to intern in Immokalee!

The Alliance for Fair Food (AFF), ally organization to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), is seeking interns to live and work at the heartland of the Fair Food Campaign this upcoming spring 2018 season. Interns should be flexible to organize with an array of Fair Food allies including, but not limited to, university and high school students, communities of faith (at both a local and national level), and food justice organizations from around the country.

A minimum commitment of 3-5 months is preferred, and start dates are flexible. Interns receive free housing and a modest monthly stipend. The application deadline is Dec. 29. For more information and to read the complete position description, visit the AFF website.

Church, Florida Conference offer free workshop by acclaimed storyteller

TutsonFirst Congregational United Church of Christ in Sarasota and the Florida Conference will sponsor a workshop by acclaimed storyteller Valerie Tutson Feb. 3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at First Congregational UCC, 1031 S. Euclid Ave., Sarasota, FL 34237.

During the workshop, "Storytelling as a Spiritual Practice," Valerie will invite participants to explore and experience the wonder of stories — our own and others.

"I tell stories from around the world with an emphasis on black traditions," Tutson says. "My stories include African folktales, both researched and gathered on my trips to west and south Africa, African American History, including underground railroad and blacks during the revolutionary period and the civil rights movement. I tell personal stories of growing up bi-racial, and retell Bible stories in a unique style."

Admission is free, and lunch will be served. However, registration is required, and the registration deadline is Jan. 31. A free will offering will take place at the end of the workshop to defray costs.

Valerie also will share in worship at the First Congregational UCC from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Feb. 4, in celebration of Black History Month. For more information, you may call the church at (941) 953-7044. -> Register today! ->

Naples United Church of Christ to host visiting scholars

Naples United Church of Christ will host two visiting scholars in January and February of 2018.

On Jan. 25 at 7 p.m., enjoy an evening with visiting scholar Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His topic will be "Triumph of Christianity." Learn how Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, going from just a handful of illiterate, lower-class day laborers in a remote rural outpost to becoming the official religion of the entire Roman Empire in just four centuries. A $15 donation is requested.

You may purchase tickets from the church website at naplesucc.org. Look for the "Purchase Tickets Now" button toward the center of the home page.

Then, on the weekend of Feb. 16-18, Dr. Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale University Divinity School and Founding Director of Yale Center for Faith and Culture, is the featured guest at a patrons' dinner and open lecture Saturday. He will also preach at both services Sunday and give a short follow-up lecture on Sunday afternoon.

For more information, call the church office at (239) 261-5469.

Rev. Bert Lawrence dies in Sebring

The Rev. Thomas Albert "Bert" Lawrence died in Sebring on Oct. 19 at the age of 98. He was the beloved husband of the late Amy Jane (Snow) Lawrence; father of Sharon (Thomas) McDonald and Thomas A. (Pamela) Lawrence, Jr.; and grandfather of Thomas III, Victoria and Kristen Lawrence.

Bert's parents were Emily Thomas and William "Lawrie" Lawrence of Cornwall, England. As a youngster, he was a member of the renowned "Lawrence Family Band," which traveled the eastern United States and Canada in the vaudeville years as the "World's Largest Musical Family." Bert could play almost any musical instrument you could blow into. He was also the comic in the act. Yet, at the age of 19, he left vaudeville; his calling was not the theater, but the church.

His ministry extended almost 70 years. He served first in parishes in Maine, Massachusetts and Nebraska. In 1960, he brought his family to Avon Park, Fla., where he became the minister of Christian education for the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ. The job included being the director of the camp at Lake Byrd Lodge. He also served as associate conference minister for the Western Pennsylvania Conference for six years.

His light did not fade as he grew older. Even in his 90s, he was still preaching occasionally, baptizing babies and performing marriages. A bit of the old vaudevillian poked through as he enjoyed running a monthly "Fun Night" at his church. But he was ever a gentleman and a true Christian — a teacher, a minister and a constant friend.

A memorial service was held at Emmanuel United Church of Christ, on Oct. 28.

Transitions and upcoming ordinations/installations/ecclesiastical councils

The Constitution of the United Church of Christ affirms that we believe that "God calls the whole church and every member to participate in and extend the ministry of Jesus Christ" and that "God calls certain of its members to various forms of ministry in and on behalf of the Church for which ecclesiastical authorization is required by the Church." Persons seeking authorization as ordained, commissioned or licensed ministers must meet certain requirements, including being approved by authorized clergy who hold standing in the UCC and lay members of UCC congregations gathered as an ecclesiastical council. This body gathers for the purpose of hearing an individual's faith pilgrimage, theology and understanding of UCC history and polity as they seek to discern whether or not this person has the gifts and calling as an authorized minister in the United Church of Christ. Please take advantage of an opportunity to participate in this important part of our covenantal relationship as members of the United Church of Christ.

  • Service of Installation for Rev. Bill Dunlap — On Sunday, Jan. 21, at 10 a.m., you are invited to join in the Service of Installation for Rev. Bill Dunlap at Deltona United Church of Christ, 1649 Providence Blvd., Deltona, FL 32725. Ministers are invited to attend in robes and red stoles, and all members of Florida Conference congregations are cordially invited to be present.
  • Service of Installation for Revs. David and Deborah Kaiser-Cross — On Sunday, Jan. 28, at 4 p.m., you are invited to join in the Service of Installation for Revs. David and Deborah Kaiser-Cross at Naples United Church of Christ, 5200 Crayton Road, Naples, FL 34103. Ministers are invited to attend in robes and red stoles, and all members of Florida Conference congregations are cordially invited to be present.

Prayers for churches and ministers

We invite you to join us in praying for the churches of your Conference. Each issue of e-Celebrate will contain the names of the churches we hope you will pray for personally and as a congregation. Meditate on them, pray for them, and sense your oneness together as the Body of Christ that is the United Church of Christ in Florida. This issue's churches:

  • First Congregational Church, Port St. Lucie
    Rev. Bruce Irwin, pastor
  • Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ, St. Petersburg
    Rev. Larry Shutske, supply minister
  • First Congregational United Church of Christ of Sarasota
    Rev. Dr. Wes Bixby, pastor

We also remember those in specialized ministry settings outside the local church whose presence provides spiritual care and support to many who are in need:

  • Rev. Anthony Britten-Campbell, chaplain, All Children's Hospital, Pastoral Care

Save the date

Jan. 11, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: "Examining Privilege with Rev. Dr. Alice Hunt," Florida Church House, 9300 University Blvd., Orlando, FL 32817. Lunch provided. -> Register ->

Jan. 19-21, 2018: Walk on Water Youth Event, Union Congregational United Church of Christ, West Palm Beach, FL -> Event flyer | Register ->

Jan. 25, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Social media ethics workshop, live via Zoom videoconference. -> Register ->

Feb. 3, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: "Storytelling as a Spiritual Practice" workshop by Valerie Tutson at First Congregational UCC, 1031 S. Euclid Ave., Sarasota, FL 34237. Lunch provided. -> Register ->

April 3-4, 2018: 2018 Florida Conference Clergy Retreat, "The Theology of Play," The Retreat at Silver Springs, Silver Springs, FL. -> Register ->

May 2, 2018: "Sacred Habits" with Chad Abbott, Florida Church House, Orlando

Oct. 11-13, 2018: 2018 Annual Gathering of the Florida Conference, Naples United Church of Christ

e-Celebrate archive

UCC in Florida website

UCC national site

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