It is SUCH a privilege to visit ecumenical partners and especially our sister denomination, the United Church of Christ. The people of Maine extended such deep hospitality to me, from registration, where Anne Hodgman immediately recognized my name when I gave it to her and came out from around the table to give me a hug and welcome me, all through the entire event to having supper with Deborah Blood, Conference Minister, Saturday evening. I found a great similarity in ethos and culture between the two UCCs. There were few people who didn’t have some connection to the Maritimes or Atlantic Canada. Whether that was a grandparent who used to live here and married and moved or someone who moved for work 100 years ago, and as someone said, just 10 years ago, all you needed was ID to move back and forth across the border, so there was lots of that happening. As an aside, is there anyone more humourless than border crossing people? On both sides. 😉
As we in the United Church of Canada, and especially in Maritime Conference, move to a different structure, it is heartening to discover that smaller can be BETTER! They have a non-representational Board of Directors, which is a change from when each association (similar to our presbyteries) used to elect representatives, so they have already moved into a system that is similar to what we are moving into with Regions. The Maine Association is able to meet in a church rather than an arena! And they do ALL of their business in one day. The items of business were familiar: budgets, camping ministries, mission and visitors from Guatemala. Speakouts highlighting various things, reports on nominations, stories of how the UCC impacts the country and world, and the ‘State of the Conference’ message, along with two separate workshop times. The meals this year were ‘farm to table,’ so everything fresh and delicious. No packaged foods, well aside from the chips that came with our wraps on Saturday.
The day before the business meeting, there is a retreat for both clergy and lay delegates. This year it was ‘The Spiritual Practice of Storytelling.’ Valerie Tutson led us through a process which was engaging, emotional and deeply spiritual; I will write more on that in a separate post.
I left feeling connected, uplifted and spiritually fed, thank you Maine UCC Conference!