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Conference Call

Rev. John Vertigan
I recently attended the 2018 Faith Leaders Conference of the Florida Council of Churches and was pleased to note that nearly a quarter of the participants in the Friday teaching sessions were from your Florida Conference staff and local UCC churches. Our commitment to justice was apparent, and I am grateful for those who took time to attend as we shared our hopes for a more racially just society as well as our firm belief that the Church is uniquely positioned in our culture to be an agent of change toward mutuality and equality among God's people.

The Thursday evening worship service included a covenant sharing that I found inspiring and which I include here for your future use if you, too, find it worthwhile.

Ecumenical covenant for unity in social action*

LEADER: As you sent disciples into every land, O God, gather them now, from across the Sunshine State and even from the ends of the earth, into one fellowship that chooses your purposes, labors in your Kingdom, and praises your name, in one faith, hope and love.

PEOPLE: Strengthen us, O Lord, to receive the gift promised by your Son, the gift of the Holy Spirit. As that gift has guided your people down through the ages, so let your Spirit rest upon us once again, empowering us to bring light, healing, forgiveness, justice, and peace to this broken land.

ALL: Amen.

LEADER: Make us one, Lord, in our eagerness to speak good news and set all captives free. Let us speak the words of love to one another and to all creation. Let us rejoice in our individuality, but let us be unified in spirit.

PEOPLE: Once again, let our sons and our daughters prophesy. Once again, let our elderly dream dreams and our youth see visions. Once again, let your good news go forth in all tongues, that all people everywhere may understand the message we bear on behalf of Jesus Christ.

ALL: Amen.

LEADER: Make us one, Lord, in love for and work with the poor, the hurt, and the downtrodden so that the words of the prophet may live again: let justice roll down like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

PEOPLE: Reconcile us to one another even as you were, by Christ Jesus, reconciled to all humankind. May our neighbors and our citizens see in us and through us that the power of love has triumphed once and for all over chaos and injustice, sin and death; that Jesus is Lord, and that he has promised forgiveness and salvation to all who seek him.

ALL: Amen.

LEADER: Strengthen us, O Lord, as the church; bind us together in spirit and mutual love, and guide us by your Holy Spirit. Let each one of us be assured that here in your church, if nowhere else in this confused and contradictory world, we are loved, accepted and redeemed. Help us to know that here in your church we are brought close to the great truth that You, O God, are love and the power of Your love will save all of us.

PEOPLE: In the name of our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sustainer:

ALL: Amen, amen, and amen.

*Adapted from Garth House, (Litanies for All Occasions. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1989) and The Worshipbook (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1970).

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

Rev. John Vertigan
Conference Minister

Hurry! 2018 OCWM and Per Capita deadlines are almost here

The end of 2018 is fast approaching, and we need your help to make our year-end bookkeeping and crediting as efficient and timely as possible.

Please make every effort to send your 2018 OCWM and Per Capita funds on a check dated on or before Dec. 31, 2018. The funds must arrive at the Florida Conference office on or before Jan. 10, 2019, to receive credit for 2018 giving to the conference and for the conference to receive credit at the national setting.

Please make every effort to meet this deadline or, perhaps, remit the remainder of your 2018 giving early in December!

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Beth Shedden at bshedden@uccfla.org or call (407) 835-7501 during office hours Tuesday through Friday.

Thank you for your commitment to the United Church of Christ and for your attention to this end-of-the-year request.

Climate a moral issue

UCC leaders respond to new federal climate change report

United Church of Christ justice leaders have responded to a dire climate change report — released Friday, Nov. 23, by U.S. Global Change Research Program — that gives a detailed analysis of the effect of climate change on every facet of life in the United States.

"Climate change is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us," the report reads in part.

The Rev. James Antal, special advisor on climate change to the UCC general minister and president and longtime creation justice advocate, said the findings prompt immediate action. As Massachusetts conference minister, Antal authored the 2017 General Synod resolution that calls upon UCC churches and congregants to speak out about the "moral issue" of climate change.

"The time has come for people of faith to embrace climate change as a moral issue," Antal said. "It's up to us to compel civic, municipal, educational, health, business, state, and federal leaders to embrace the available robust responses to climate change that are already at our disposal." -> Read more! ->

Professional ethics education offerings for Winter 2019

Jan. 24 — Social Media Ethics (online) with Neal Watkins and Rev. Leigh McCaffrey, 1-3 p.m. Cost is $25. Participants join from their local 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 in using social media and also best practices for authorized ministers. Limit 12 participants. -> Register now! ->

Feb. 2 — Clergy Confidentiality and Mandatory Reporting with UCC General Counsel Heather Kimmel, 1-4 p.m. at the Florida Church House, 9300 University Blvd., Orlando, FL 32817. Cost is $20. Do you know what information that has been obtained in carrying out ministerial responsibilities clergy may be required to share? Do you know the difference between a secret, a confidence and a privileged communication? All this and more will be covered in the presentation. -> Register now! ->

March 25 — Roles and Relationships (online) with Rev. Leigh McCaffrey, 1-4 p.m. Cost is $25. Participants join from their local computers for three hours. This workshop will explore power and vulnerability, dual relationships, the pulpit, and personal needs and self-care. Once you have registered, you will be sent directions for using ZOOM videoconferencing, which you can join from your laptop, tablet or smartphone. After the workshop, you will be asked to submit a one-page reflection paper to the Committee on Church and Ministry. Limit 12 participants. -> Register now! ->

Online Webinars through the Insurance Board (if your church has a policy with them): -> Insurance Board "Safe Conduct Workbench" ->.

The following courses together would constitute one unit of professional ethics education:

Hello I'm Sam: Learn the types of molesters, their methods and how they use them to manipulate their co-workers, parents and children — all to meet their own needs. Also, how to spot potentially dangerous interactions between adults and children.

Navigate the Murky Waters of Sexual Harassment: Learn how to prevent, detect and report sexual harassment.

Abuse Prevention Refresher: Build on knowledge and learn new information about how sexual abuse occurs, using red flags, preventing false allegations, preventing sexual activity, and apply what you know. Available in Spanish and French.

Now You're a Supervisor: (Supervisors only) Learn what constitutes workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation, plus legal requirements and concepts.

Duty to Report, Mandated Reporter: Learn why reporting abuse and neglect is critical, legal responsibilities, what types of conduct must be reported, and how to report it.

If you participate in boundary/ethics education or training in another work setting, please send receipts or certificates to lmccaffrey@uccfla.org for credit.

2019 Shared Scholar lecture and seminar at Sanibel UCC

NewellThe Sanibel and Captiva Interfaith Shared Scholar Committee is pleased to announce that the 2019 Shared Scholar will be the Rev. Dr. John Philip Newell. He will present a lecture entitled "Faiths Finding Faith in Each Other" on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, at 7 p.m. at the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ, 2050 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33857. A reception and book signing will follow.

In addition, on Friday, Jan. 25, at 10 a.m., Newell will lead a seminar entitled "A Celtic Vision of the Sacred Earth." There is no charge to attend either the lecture or the seminar, and all are welcome. A light lunch will be served following the seminar.

Newell is a poet, peacemaker and scholar, internationally acclaimed for his work in the field of Celtic spirituality. In 2011 he received the Contemplative Voices Award from the Shalem Institute in Washington, D.C., in recognition of his commitment to spirituality and peacemaking. The co-founder of Salva Terra: A Vision Towards Earth's Healing, Newell is an ordained Church of Scotland minister and has written more than 15 books.

The Shared Scholar Committee is sponsored by five congregations on Sanibel and Captiva: Bat Yam – Temple of the Islands, Captiva Chapel by the Sea, The Christian Science Church of Sanibel, Saint Michael and All Angels, and Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ. The Shared Scholar Lecture Series is also supported by the Leo Rosner Foundation.

For additional information, contact the church office at (239) 472-0497.

Clergy information reviews due by end of December

Authorized ministers (ordained, licensed, commissioned, retired) are reminded to complete the information review found -> here -> before the end of December. Here is a 10-minute task that you can count as accomplished! There is nothing to download; just click on the link, fill in the blanks and submit.

New United Church Funds planned giving webinar available

In the fourth installment in the planned giving webinar series from United Church Funds, Milly Hernandez, client service team leader and planned giving associate, and Don Hill, president of Don Hill Consulting, explain the key aspects of charitable gift annuities, one of the most popular ways to make a planned gift. You can watch the webinar and download the PDF presentation -> here ->.

Former New Port Richey pastor passes away

Rev. Mark Hamilton, who served as pastor at Community Congregational Church United Church of Christ in New Port Richey until he retired in 2014, died of acute myeloid leukemia at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, on Nov. 26.

A memorial service will be held at the Second Congregational Church, 51 Main St., Newcastle, ME, on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 1 p.m. A reception will held in the fellowship hall of the church immediately following the service.

Rev. Hamilton was ordained in 1985. In addition to the church in New Port Richey, he served the Storrs Congregational Church, Storrs, CT; Trinity Congregational Church, Gloucester, MA; and the First Congregational Church in Methuen, MA and Rochester, NH.

Mark is survived by his wife, Sally, and his two sons, Justin Hamilton and Nathaniel Hamilton. Condolences may be sent to the family at 555 State Route 129, Walpole, ME 04573.

Conference office holiday schedule

Your Florida Conference office will be closed Dec. 14, from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26, and from Dec. 28 through Jan. 1, 2019, in observance of the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays. The office will be open on Thursday, Dec. 27, and it will reopen next year on Jan. 2, 2019.

Of course, even when the office is closed, we are available via cell phone for any urgent matters. We wish all of you a safe and happy holiday season!

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 Church of North Miami Congregational
    Rev. Harvey Lockhart, pastor
  • North Port Community United Church of Christ
    Rev. Attila Szemesi, pastor
  • First Congregational United Church of Christ, Ocala
    Rev. Dr. Harold McSwain, Jr., 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. Vonshelle Beneby, chaplain, VITAS Innovative Hospice Care Volusia-Flagler

Save the date

Jan. 24-25, 2019: 2019 Shared Scholar lecture and seminar featuring Rev. Dr. John Philip Newell, Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ, 2050 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33857. There is no charge to attend. For additional information, contact the church office at (239) 472-0497.

Feb. 8-9, 2019: "Ancient Texts Inspiring New Spiritual Practices" with Celene Lillie and Natalie Rene Perkins, First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1031 S. Euclid Ave., Sarasota, FL 34237. -> Details and registration ->

Feb. 19-21, 2019: 2019 Academy of Parish Clergy Annual Conference, Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center, 1601 Alafaya Trail, Oviedo, FL 32765. -> Details and registration ->

e-Celebrate archive

UCC in Florida website

UCC national site

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