A Final Pastoral Epistle

[As many of you know, The Rev. Kent Siladi, former Conference Minister to the Connecticut Conference and the subsequent Southern New England Conference of the UCC, has retired from the office and gone to work in our denomination’s national setting.  At the end of last month he penned a thoughtful and touching note to the Conference, and I wanted to share that with you this week.  Our church bulletin and Facebook Live link can be found at the conclusion of Kent’s letter.]

As I finish my time in Conference Ministry I am writing one last time in this setting of the United Church of Christ to offer some final reflections. After serving for 23 years in Connecticut, Florida and Southern New England I have seen some dramatic and significant changes take place over the past two plus decades.

  1. Jesus is at the center. Our vision to “live the love and justice of Jesus” makes it clear who we follow. It means we model our ministries on the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We proclaim a Jesus who embodied radical love and who worked to provide a different way to live in order to make the world more just, more compassionate and more loving. We hope and pray that people see the impact of Jesus on the way we live our lives and the way in which we work towards a just world for all of God’s children. We invite people to “come and see” the way of Jesus and to join us in the transformative work of the Gospel.
  2. We need each other. The United Church of Christ was formed with a central conviction “that we may all be one”. In the midst of division and strife, in the midst of polarization and shaming we have a particular responsibility to bear witness to the oneness of humanity. Unity of course does not equal uniformity. At our core I believe over the years we have awakened to the notion that we are interdependent and that we all need one another. None of us makes it on our own. During this pandemic I think we have discovered how important our connections are and how we can resource one another.
  3. We must be clear about our “why”. Local churches are really good at telling folks what they do and how they do it. What is somewhat more elusive is the “why” of their call as a community. I am convinced that our most vibrant and vital congregations have a clear understanding and commitment to their “why”. It helps a church stay focused and to concentrate on living out their why and invites them to say no to the things that will distract them from their purpose.
  4. There is a connection between love and justice. As Dr. Cornell West has said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” Justice and love originate in and from God. Justice and love are not opposites. Nor are they completely distinct and mutually exclusive. They are both part of God in the unity of God’s being. They are both integral to God’s purposes in the world and to the very nature of the world itself. Think about the Bible’s story of God’s healing strategy—God’s work to bring healing to creation, centered on communities of people who know God’s love and share that love with other human beings. The healing strategy include — peace, loving-kindness, and justice prominent among them.
  5. The Conference setting can be a means of connecting and finding a way to provide the resources needed for ministry. The current moment has allowed the Conference to be present to congregations in providing resources needed for the times in which we live. Conference itself contains the notion “to confer” and we are able in this setting to bring people together for a common vision and common purpose.

It has been a privilege to be a leader in the Conference setting. I have loved working with a staff that is committed to a vision and values that I believe are needed now. My life has been changed by the many relationships that I have built with so many good and faithful people over the years. I will miss this kind of ministry no doubt and I also am looking forward with some excitement and trepidation towards the future.

I will continue to support the mission and ministry of the Southern New England Conference as it moves forward. Meister Eckhart has said, “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you’ – it will be enough.”

Thank you!

Sunday August 9 Bulletin
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