November 23, 2015
A conversation/workshop with our brothers and sisters in the Conference last Saturday followed by a Forum talk and Sunday sermon, created one wonderful weekend with our new Conference President and General Minister John Dorhauer.
Saturday, 60 folks from around the Conference assembled for a morning conversation with John and afternoon workshops offered topics from church finances and Justice Leadership Intern Program to working with small groups. John shared several initiatives he has launched in what is clearly a good, substantial, fast start since his confirmation at July Synod and starting his work with us in September:
1. A pilot program of Still Speaking 2.0 for communicating with us. Our Conference will be guinea pigs for this initiative starting this coming week.
2. A year long media campaign of ‘bold public witness.’ The first will be based around Black Lives Matter and another will focus around climate change that may involve Pilgrim Firs.
3. Thirty members of his staff are randomly calling local churches to listen, ask how they can be helpful and work with and for us, instead of selling central made programs.
4. A 20 session curriculum on white privilege will be ready by September, 2016.
5. By March, 2016, a strategic planning group of 40 and under members will present a plan on where they’d like to see the UCC in 10 years.
In all groups, he stressed the importance of the UCC, that our voice and mission matter and that the Holy Spirit invests herself in each new generation to ensure its relevance. His clear message is that our best days are still ahead.
His sermon focused on the passage from Acts that “God shows no partiality,” clearly central to Rev Dorhauer’s ministry. He noted in his Saturday remarks that a UCC “edge” had been its early adoption of marriage equality and stated during his sermon that he was proud of Plymouth as “a beacon of light and hope” on this issue.
He also emphasized the importance of both ecumenical and interfaith work. He assembled a working group of Unitarians, Reformed Jews and Muslims to address common issues and noted appreciated events of standing in solidarity with Muslims.
In response to questions about what Plymouth could do, Rev. Dorhauer said that as an established church we should continue doing what we are doing and do it very well. In response to further questions on the role of the post-modern church, he suggested using our funds to support a leader of a post-modern church start. He noted that during his term as Southwest Conference Minister they had spun off six such new church starts.
All in all, I believe folks felt very positive about our new leader—his energy, his eloquence, his knowledge and love of the UCC. His vision, optimism, admonition to not see change as a threat and his fast start are impressive. If you missed any of this, check the Plymouth website to listen. You’ll be glad you did! –Edie Lackland