Written by Michelle Carter
More than 700 gathered in Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 26-29, to "Proclaim the Lord's Favor" at a FAITHWORKS weekend of the Kansas-Oklahoma and Missouri Mid-South conferences, which merged their annual meetings for the event.
UCC Associate General Minister Edith Guffey (c.), visits with Missouri Mid-South Moderator Carol Keller (r.) and Conference Minister Gayle Engle. Ivan Horn photo
The celebration, intended to nurture fellowship and faith in the body of Christ, attracted children, youth and adults from Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kansas and Oklahoma.
"FAITHWORKS 2000 was a spirit-filled UCC family reunion in the heartland!" says Missouri Mid-South Conference Minister, the Rev. A. Gayle Engel. "We experienced joyous music, inspiring messages, moving accounts of faith and hope-filled moments. ... Surely we left Kansas City encouraged, renewed and better equipped for millennium ministry as we live confidently into God's promised future."
Sharing leadership in the three-day celebration were Kennon Callahan, a nationally known church trainer and author; the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, theologian and professor at UCC-related Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Mo., and two members of the UCC leadership collegium, the Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, and Edith A. Guffey, Associate General Minister, who returned to her Kansas roots for the event.
In a workshop on church leadership for the 21st century, Callahan described healthy congregations as those which focus ministry around two questions: Who is our mission? and What are the strengths God gives us? In today's culture, people are looking for health, hope and home, he said, adding that a major mission field is the one outside our own doors.
"This session was truly outstanding," said Evelyn Rose of First Congregational UCC in Little Rock, who serves as vice moderator for Missouri Mid-South Conference. "We wondered why certain things happen in the church and Dr. Callahan had answers that made sense."
Kinnamon, preaching at the opening session, defined grace as the common element in baptism and challenged those present to share that "amazing grace" with others in this rich mission field.
The conferences met separately only once during the weekend, for two hours on Friday afternoon, when the Kansas-Oklahoma group handled all its usual annual meeting business, including the adoption of a budget. Missouri Mid-South, which alternates its annual meetings between business sessions one year and FAITHWORKS the next, gathered separately to discuss its Camp Master Plan during that period.
"Reshaping our annual meeting with Missouri Mid-South provided both conferences with a wider variety of opportunities within the FAITHWORKS format,"says Kansas-Oklahoma Conference Minister the Rev. John Krueger. "The highlight for me was the faith-sharing luncheon. Twelve people described their faith journeys, the paths they followed seeking to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We were all uplifted."
One of those 12 presenters was the Rev. Russell Bennett of Fellowship Congregational Church in Tulsa, Okla., who saw the faith-sharing as an opportunity to "make a connection. Sometimes we can get pretty abstract in the church, but these stories were personal. It was a chance to see how God is a part of the work we do every day."
Bennett also gave high marks to the 36 seminars offered throughout the weekend as "quality, how-to-do-it workshops we could never have afforded if the conferences hadn't gone together."
Michelle Carter, a member of Congregational UCC, Belmont, Calif., is a professional newspaper consultant.