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||Feb. 27, 2019
We speak often, here in the Florida Conference, about the availability of grants and awards. We have grants for seminary students; we have grants for special programming in the conference; we have grants for local settings who want to try an innovative ministry. We have grants for special youth programming; we have grants for church camp scholarships; we have grants for interfaith ministry; we have a loan program for congregations who wish to engage in certain building projects.
Here's the thing … . Most of those grant dollars have zero impact on our operating budget. On the one hand, that's good news. We're able to provide a multitude of experiences to people across the life of the Conference without spending operating funds. On the other hand, none of those dollars help us meet our budget on an annual basis, either. And that's what we need to think about for a moment today. Consider this your invitation to think about generosity.
Per Capita dues and voluntary giving to Our Church's Wider Mission (OCWM) are the basis of our annual spending plan that pays for staff, programming and the work of the standing committees of the Florida Conference. We reduced our facility cost significantly when we moved in 2016 from downtown Orlando to University Boulevard. This has been a real blessing to us, and we enjoy having a quality space in which to work and meet. I asked a group of people recently whether they thought we should follow what is becoming a bit of a trend and sell our facility in favor of establishing a "virtual office" setup that could at least serve our workspace needs. The reply was a resounding "no" along with feedback that the University Boulevard site brings added value to our common life.
Our biggest expense is, of course, staffing the Florida Conference. Like almost any local church, the staff line in our operating budget is the greatest. Here in Florida we have staff who help local settings and pastors every day with administrative and resource needs, and we have ministerial staff who provide expertise in the pastoral support and organizational needs of local churches, chaplains, and lay volunteers involved in the life of the church for the sake of a vital witness to the Gospel of Jesus.
The financial books for 2018 are closed now and under review. We finished in the red. (For folks who don't crunch numbers: that's not a good thing. It means we spent more than we took in, despite our best stewardship of gifts). The Finance committee has been charged with examining our spending patterns while asking how to sustain the ministry of the Florida Conference well into the future. As difficult a project as that appears, and it is difficult in practical terms, the answer is really simple. Your partners in ministry across the Florida Conference need to know that the covenant that binds us in mutual ministry will also fund us for sustainable presence across the state. OCWM and Per Capita dues are the way that happens, and I ask you to look at your church budget and seek to increase your congregation's giving by 1 percent or 2 percent or more each year so we can keep pace with a changing economy.
Someone asked recently, "Why should we give dollars to the Florida Conference?," and the answer came back clearly from another volunteer: "We give dollars to the Florida Conference because we are part of something bigger than ourselves, and what we do together matters."
I love that answer, and I invite you to consider it. With your generosity, we fund the staffing model of the Florida Conference. The staff provides leadership, counsel, programming and support to the ministry of local settings and authorized ministers. While administering the life of the Conference organization, grants are made that engage, empower and equip ministries and learning experiences that might otherwise not be possible.
It's a rich and diverse palette we are privileged to work with, and we seldom look at it from far enough away to see how it all works. And work, it does! But it all starts with Per Capita dues, Our Church's Wider Mission, a shared covenant, and your generosity. So let this be our encouragement, that "we are part of something bigger than ourselves, and what we do together matters."
It's time to balance the budget. Please encourage generosity in your place of worship.
Be at peace, and be in touch, won't you.
Rev. John Vertigan
Q & A session with Orange County sheriff March 4 at Florida Church House
Orange County Sheriff John Mina will be at the Florida Church House at 9300 University Blvd., Orlando, FL 32817 on Monday, March 4, for a "Meet the Sheriff" Q & A session with the public beginning at 6 p.m. All are welcome.
The event is one of a handful of "Meet the Sheriff" sessions in locations across Central Florida in February and March. For information on other sessions, visit the Sheriff's Office's website at https://www.ocso.com/The-Daily-Briefing.
Don't forget church Yearbook reports are due Feb. 28
We're asking all churches in the Florida Conference to please submit their reports by no later than the end of the day on Thursday, Feb. 28. The Data Hub will close, and churches will no longer be able to enter their reports after midnight on Wednesday, March 6.
For detailed instructions on submitting your Yearbook reports -> click here ->.
UCC Disaster Ministries
offers new 2018 summary
In 2018, Disaster Ministries supported survivors in 26 countries and more than 16 states and U.S territories with $2 million in disaster recovery.
UCC Disaster Ministries is pleased to introduce an attractive new ministry summary of our support for the long-term recovery of disaster survivors across the United States and around the world in 2018.
In just a few pages, you'll find facts and figures, ministry specifics, volunteer and client stories, photos and "what's next" for each location. -> Read more! | Download the summary ->
Professional ethics education offerings for Spring 2019
Online Boundary Training through the Center for Progressive Renewal — Learn from denominational experts and the team at the Center for Progressive Renewal (CPR) about the need for and management of excellent boundaries. Each unit will contain specific learning objectives, reflections based on theological foundations, case studies, best practices and video interactions. Participants will write 250-word reflections after each unit and a 600- to 1,000-word reflection at the conclusion of the course. Upon review by the CPR staff, participants will receive a certificate in Boundary Training for Clergy as well as a packet containing their reflections that can be turned in to their conference or denominational offices to verify their completion of the course. This counts as three units of professional ethics education in the Florida Conference. Cost is normally $199, but, for a limited time, if you add the coupon code BOUNDARY, you can take this training for $99. -> Register now! ->
Feb. 27-April 9 — Professional Boundaries and Ministerial Self-Care from PATHWAYS online and asynchronous. Cost is $295. This counts as three units of professional ethics education in the Florida Conference and three Continuing Education Units for those whose employment requires them. In this course, ethics and their application for professional pastoral ministers are explored. We will consider the boundaries that define the relationships between professional pastoral minister and congregants. -> 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 email@example.com for credit.
More training opportunities through PATHWAYS
PATHWAYS Theological, Inc. is an affordable and accessible online program in progressive theology. Participants are not bound by geography and have a flexible time schedule over the course of each week. The weekly readings and the facilitated accompanying online forum offer a practical, open-minded education and create a learner-centered environment where participants can bring their own questions and wisdom.
March 6-April 16 — The Stories of Christian Saints and Sinners. Cost is $295. This course provides an overview of the more than 2,000-year history of the Christian church in chronological order and in themes or patterns within the history.
May 1-June 11 — Spiritual Care of Self and Others. Cost is $295. This course is an opportunity for participants to explore their understanding of self as members of a Christian community and to develop skills to teach and support others about specific aspects of the Christian tradition that support self-care.
May 1-June 11 — New Testament Hermeneutics. Cost is $295. This course provides an overview of the more than 2,000-year history of the Christian church in chronological order and in themes or patterns within the history.
May 1-July 20 — UCC History & Polity. Cost is $595. Explore the history, polity, theologies and practices of the United Church of Christ and its predecessor denominations. Successful completion of this course will fulfill the history and polity requirement for Members in Discernment or those seeking privilege of call in many UCC associations and conferences, including the Florida Conference. Outside of Florida, please check with your association or conference to verify before enrolling.
To register for any of the above courses -> Click here! ->
Get ready for Endangered Species Day on May 17
This year, International Endangered Species Day is May 17th. Creation Justice Ministries has developed -> a bulletin insert and toolkit -> to help your faith community celebrate.
First approved by the U.S. Senate in 2006, the purpose of Endangered Species Day is to expand awareness of the importance of protecting endangered species, to promote habitat conservation, to share success stories of species recovery, and to highlight the everyday actions people can take.
On May 17 (and throughout the month of May), faith communities, conservation organizations, schools, zoos and aquariums, parks, wildlife refuges, botanic gardens, and other groups throughout the country will participate in events and activities to celebrate this national day of recognition.
-> Download the bulletin insert -> and/or -> the toolkit for your church's green team -> and find accompanying faith-based resources at www.creationjustice.org/endangered.
Coral Gables church hosts Ancient Celtic Gifts with Rev. John Bell
Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ will host Ancient Celtic Gifts with Rev. John Bell March 29-31.
Bell is an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland and a member of the Iona Community. He lectures, preaches and conducts seminars across denominations. He is a hymn writer, musician, author and occasional broadcaster, but he retains a primary passion for congregational song. He is based in Glasgow and works with his colleagues in the areas of music, worship and spirituality.
The event begins with a lecture March 29, from 7-9 p.m., at the church entitled "In Praise of a Global God (Singable Songs from Around The World)". There are additional lectures March 30 and 31, including a free lecture March 31 starting at 9:45 a.m.
Florida UCC pastors can obtain free tickets to all the lectures and events by emailing Megan Smith at MeganS@gablesucc.org or by calling (305) 448-7421, extension 119. All others can purchase tickets and get additional additional details -> here ->.
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:
- Lakewood United Church of Christ, St. Petersburg
Rev. Kim Wells, pastor
- Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ, St. Petersburg
Rev. Larry Shutske, designated pastor
- Trinity United Church of Christ, St. Petersburg
Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, 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. Brian Fertig, chaplain, Federal Department of Corrections FCC Coleman, Wildwood
Save the date
Oct. 10-12: 2019 Annual Gathering of the Florida Conference, Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive, 8001 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819. Stay tuned for details and registration.