Having trouble viewing this email? Click here March 14, 2018

Conference Call

Rev. John VertiganI've been away for a number of days at meetings in the national setting of the United Church of Christ.

At the Council of Conference Ministers, a cohort of my colleagues from across the church, we took steps toward innovative approaches to ministry that will especially benefit conferences that have only one staff person. Imagine a conference with a geography like ours that has only one staff person! They are out there, and they need help. We hope our actions might provide that help.

At the annual meeting of the United Church of Christ Insurance Association, on whose board I sit, I came away with the old maxim that "property and liability insurance is boring until you need it." That said, I offer a reminder to churches to know what your insurance policy covers and doesn't cover, what the size of your deductible is, and to seek a policy review from the UCC Insurance Board if you haven't done so in the last few years. Maybe you'll want to do this before the upcoming hurricane season. This is important.

Finally, at a meeting of the United Church of Christ Board of Directors, we reviewed past actions and collaborated on steps toward a shared future where the local church remains the primary unit and primary focus of the church's ministry. I left feeling hopeful about this intention of the national church.

I was dearly looking forward to returning to the office today and being with my staff team. That's when it happened. I went to the garage, started the car, and the red light came on. Not the "change oil" light or the "inflate tires" light. The red light. ("Danger Will Robinson" for those old enough to know what that means.) So much for normalcy. Or maybe that is normalcy. We make a plan, and then life happens.

How we respond is how we create a life worth living. I could be angry. I could be frustrated. I could feel put upon. I could feel any number of things. Depending on the "red light" of any given day, I could feel marginalized, ignored, humbled, attacked, disregarded, mistreated, snubbed, neglected, wronged, victimized … . Fill in your emotion here. On any given day, any of these might work.

Today, as I take the car to the dealer service department and miss another half day in the office, I'm going to choose a word that will most likely make for a better day. "Gentle." I'm going to be gentle with myself; I'm going to acknowledge that things happen that I don't need to take personally, and I'm going to do my best to let go of negative emotions and feelings that will only bring me down or hold me back from living the full life God intends for me. Maybe you can do the same when your red light comes on.

"Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace my fears relieved,
How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed."

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

Rev. John Vertigan
The Rev. John Vertigan
Conference Minister

Register now for Youth Pilgrimage to Franklinton Center at Bricks

If you're looking for something unique to do this summer, come join us on a journey of exploration, enlightenment and multiculturalism as we take a pilgrimage to Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, N.C., June 10-14.

Once a slave plantation that was transformed into one of the first accredited schools for African Americans in the South, Franklinton Center at Bricks has a rich and interesting history.

The historic landmark of the United Church of Christ today serves as a conference, retreat and educational facility focusing on justice advocacy and leadership development. It also serves the local community through various projects, including food justice and literacy outreach and programming. You can learn more about the Franklinton Center here and on YouTube here.

Don't miss your chance to immerse yourself in an informative, interactive Christian learning experience that just might change the way you see the world. We only have room for 45 youths and 10 chaperones (one adult per youth group please). This Youth Pilgrimage to Franklinton Center at Bricks is first-come, first-served, and registration will close when all available slots are filled. So don't delay. -> Register today!->

This event is being subsidized by the Florida Conference's Wilson Fund. Cost is just $150 per person, which includes bus transportation to and from Franklinton Center at Bricks, lodgings at the center, all meals and all programs and activities at the center. You can download a promotional flyer here.

For more information, contact Rev. Dr. Sheila Guillaume at sheilag@uccfla.org.

Webinar details how congregations can save up to 30% on power

Did you know that most congregations can cut energy costs by up to 30 percent by investing strategically in efficient equipment, facility upgrades and maintenance?

The EPA's ENERGY STAR program can help congregations do this with their staff, free tools, trainings and technical support. You can learn more by attending a webinar the afternoon of March 28. It will give an overview of how congregations can make optimal use of EPA tools such as Portfolio Manager, which can benchmark and track energy and water use as well as savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, there is the Action Workbook for Congregations that offers all sorts of practical strategies and information.

The presenter of this webinar will be Jerry Lawson, national manager for ENERGY STAR Small Business & Congregations at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The webinar will be hosted by the Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt, who oversees the UCC's Creation Justice Churches program as the minister for environmental justice. -> Register today! ->

March for Our Lives

UCC youth planning to join March for Our Lives

In the Minnesota Conference, it's a number of essays; in the Southwest Conference, it began with a Facebook post. Those are just two items powering UCC youth participation in the gun violence prevention rally, March For Our Lives, created, inspired by, and led by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, survivors of one of the deadliest mass school shootings in U.S. history. -> Read more! ->

UCC at March for Our Lives

On March 24, the students and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington, DC, to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today. -> Read more | More on gun violence | Free graphics ->.

Register today for Florida UCC Women's Conference

The theme for this year's Florida UCC Women's Conference is "Planting Seeds".

During the conference, we will plant seeds as we explore ideas for expanding the activities and actions we are offering in our churches throughout the state. A few of the planned presentation topics are community justice action, storytelling, and white consciousness.

There also will be time at the conference for socializing, recognition and celebration of our Lay Woman of the Year, meal sharing, friendship building and fun!

The mission study topic for 2018-2019, Haiti, also will be introduced. The guest speaker will be from the Be Like Brit Foundation, Inc. The foundation's mission is "to continue the compassion of Britney Gengel by serving the children of Haiti through sustaining a safe, nurturing home rooted in the virtues of faith, hope and love while developing a sense of social responsibility, community involvement and unconditional love." Service project donations will be collected for the foundation.

All Florida UCC women are welcome to attend the conference, whether or not your church has an organized women's group. It will take place May 4-6 at Chateau Elan Hotel and Conference Center in Sebring.

-> Register online today! ->


-> Download the paper registration form -> and mail it in with a check.

If you have questions, please contact Registrar Barb Coons at (239) 549-8283 or kayebarb3344@aol.com.

Free workshop to focus on church future that embraces creativity

Come join us May 2, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for "Sacred Habits," a free workshop with Rev. Chad Abbott at the Florida Church House, 9300 University Blvd., Orlando, FL 32817.

Rev. Abbott is conference minister for the United Church of Christ in Indiana and Kentucky. Having served congregations in both the United Methodist and United Church of Christ traditions, he is a pastor at heart. He has written a couple of books, his latest Sacred Habits: The Rise of the Creative Clergy. He is passionate about local churches, pastors and spirituality. He is a trained labyrinth facilitator, spiritual director and storyteller.

Chad will speak on topics raised in his latest book. At a time when the church in the United States is struggling to make sense of its place in the public square, a space of inquiry is needed that intersects the work of religion scholars and local church pastors. What will the future of the church look like, and is there hope for transformation? Abbott's book and the workshop focus on an emerging future for the church, one that embraces creativity and experimentation in the pastorate in the midst of a context of rapid decline.

This workshop, which includes lunch, is being underwritten by the Wilson Fund, a fund of the Florida Conference. However, registration is required by April 18.

This workshop satisfies one unit of the Professional Ethics training requirements for authorized ministers in the Florida Conference. -> Register today! ->

2018 National ONA Gathering

Registration now open for 2018 National ONA Gathering

Registration is now open for National Open and Affirming Gathering, June 27-30 at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, TX! Join us for this annual family reunion of our growing movement of LGBTQ-affirming communities in the United Church of Christ. Help us welcome ONA church #1500, and renew our commitment to become a church where everyone is welcome, wanted and needed, and no one left behind!

This year's theme is "Living Our Covenant Beyond Boundaries." We live in a time of great danger and great opportunity. The Trump Administration is threatening the basic rights for which the LGBTQ community and our allies fought for years. Violence against transgender Americans is on the rise. Research shows that anti-LGBTQ feelings, which had been declining steadily for two decades, are creeping upward again. And ONA congregations are challenged not only to defend their LGBTQ neighbors, but all whose lives and human dignity are under attack.

If there was ever a year when National ONA Gathering was needed, this is it!

Our keynoter is the Rev. Justo González II, a leader in the UCC's Sanctuary Movement, who will challenge us to renew and expand our ONA covenants. Stay tuned more about the program in the coming weeks.

More information and registration are at www.openandaffirming.org/ona-gathering. If you have any questions, please contact us at ona@openandaffirming.org.

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. Dr. Bruce Irwin — On Sunday, April 22, at 9:30 a.m., a Service of Installation will be held for Rev. Dr. Bruce Irwin at First Congregational Church UCC, 2401 S.E. Sidonia St., Port St. Lucie, FL 34952. Ministers and 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:

  • Union Congregational Church, West Palm Beach
    Rev. Dr. Sheila Guillaume, pastor
  • Windermere Union Church
    Rev. Barton Buchanan, pastor
    Mr. Marcelino Rivera, licensed minister
  • First Congregational Church, Winter Park
    Rev. Shawn Garvey, pastor
    Rev. Dr. Sherie Lindamood, associate 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. Misti Johnson-Arce, chaplain/senior ACPE supervisor, VITAS Innovative Hospice Care for Broward and Palm Beach

Save the date

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

May 2: "Sacred Habits" workshop with Chad Abbott, Florida Church House, Orlando -> Register ->

May 4-6: 2018 Florida UCC Women Annual Conference, "Planting Seeds," Chateau Elan Hotel and Conference Center, Sebring, FL. -> Register online -> | -> Download mail-in registration form ->

June 10-14: Florida Conference Youth Pilgrimage to Franklinton Center at Bricks, Whitakers, NC. -> Register -> | -> Download event flyer ->

Oct. 11-13: 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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