By Jessica Connor
The new structure for Connectional Ministries now not only has its framework, but its people in place.
Nearly 90 people from all over South Carolina headed to Virginia Wingard United Methodist Church, Columbia, on Aug. 20 to establish the organization of the new Conference Connectional Ministries, as well as conduct orientation and training for the scores of people who will be serving.
Judge Cynthia Williams was unanimously elected chair of the CCM, with the Rev. Narcie Jeter as vice chair and the Rev. Steven King as secretary.
Voted in at Annual Conference in June, the CCM completely changes the old model, which featured a large Conference Council of Connectional Ministries responsible for connecting local churches with the conference. The new model creates a smaller, 100-member entity renamed the CCM, comprising representatives from each of the 12 new District Connectional Ministries bodies organized into four separate areas of ministry (ALDO, or Advocacy, Lay Leadership, Discipleship and Outreach).
The CCM fully comes into operation in January, but members of the new body and the outgoing body (including existing boards and agencies that will be morphed into the new ministry areas) are working in tandem between now and then to be organized and ready for when the time comes.
In addition to electing CCM officers Aug. 20, the body also elected chairs of the CCM s four ministry areas, or ALDO. Advocacy s chair is the Rev. Amiri Hooker, Lay Leadership s chair is Joe Heyward, Discipleship s chair is the Rev. Kristen Richardson-Frick and Outreach s chair is Rhonda Jones.
The training session began with a welcome by the Rev. Willie Teague, director of Connectional Ministries, who helped craft the new structure. Teague noted that the strong turnout bodes very well for the success of the effort. He also said it is the most diverse group he s ever worked with, with the diversity coming by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not by intent.
Then the Rev. Cathy Joens, congregational specialist, led the 86-person group in a team-building exercise, giving each person a puzzle piece and having them divide into their ministry areas and put the pieces together to form a body. The puzzle exercise was difficult “ only one of the four groups came close to completing the effort in the allotted time “ but that s just how piecing together the new structure will work, Joens told the crowd.
As we seek to discern what God is calling us to do, not our own agenda, we need to be working together, Joens said.
Paraphrasing the Rev. Susan Leonard-Ray, Anderson District Superintendent, Joens urged everyone present to be patient throughout this discernment process.
When we are in the midst of change and fixing to do something wonderful, there is a time ¦of chaos, Joens said. That s what this day is really all about. We re not going to come away with all the answers, but we ll have a strong spirit of cooperation in spite of this.
After election of officers, the Rev. Kathy James led the group in an orientation, doing a fishbowl Ã la Salkehatchie Summer Service where five people had the chance to come on stage and voice their hopes, fears, excitement and confusion. Comments ran the gamut.
The Rev. Amiri Hooker, Hartsville District, said he hopes the new structure will help get things that are launched in the General Church get more seamlessly to the local church. (James said CCM members should think of their role as one of a conduit.)
The Rev. Ken Nelson, congregational specialist, said he hopes the new structure will help people get beyond the labels of the conference does this or the district does this to embrace we re all in this together.
The Rev. Jim Elder, Rock Hill District, said he wants the CCM to truly be the voice of the people.
I hope it will be a bottom-up, not a top-down group, Elder said.
Bernie Mazyck, Charleston District, agreed, citing our call to help the church be real and relevant in the lives of God s people. Now, he said, the people have a voice.
This put the emphasis on the local church, Mazyck said. For so long we ve been told what we re going to do, what we re going to pay.
Several spoke about trusting in the Lord to carve the path.
Earle Rowland, Florence District, cited the passage in Genesis 12 when God told Abraham He wanted him to leave all he knew and go to a land God will show him. Rowland said there is bound to be much confusion as the CCM establishes, but when we trust in God, all will be fine.
Nancy Rivers, Orangeburg District, agreed: What could we do if we move ourselves out of the way a little bit? ¦God has a special plan for all of us.
James Williams, Florence District, said we are all the body of Christ “ just because you are the arm does not mean you are less important than the leg.
We cannot put God in a box and then come back and get Him whenever we want, Williams said, urging people to beware EGO “ Edging God Out “ and rely on faith. We can t do anything for ourselves.
Others are overcome with excitement about what could be.
Alvin Glen, Walterboro District, said he is excited about the new possibilities that will come, offering one thought: what if we took all the little churches that are within three miles of each other, combined them, and used the old building for outreach?
The Rev. Jeri-Katherine Warden, Columbia District, is also excited. For her, the opportunity to question systems will likely be very liberating.
We have the ability to shape things, and we can do this not just by announcing this is the latest United Methodist idea but by showing through being the hands and feet, she said.
CCM meetings in 2012 have been set for Feb. 11 and Oct. 6.