Subject Sent Date
Your Ministry Makes a Difference September 7, 2017
August Summer August 18, 2017
Sacred Montana Summer June 29, 2017
CAM in Helena June 1, 2017
Kick-off Camp May 23, 2017
Camp Mimanagish Season                                                                                                   May 12, 2017
CAM Hotels Need to be Reserved by May 9 May 1, 2017
All Conference gathering in Helena April 19, 2017
Being a WISE Congregation April 16, 2017
Conference Changes March 17, 2017     
Listening Sessions Happening February 9, 2017
A Conference Story January 20, 2017
Faith Formation Coordinator Introduction December 21, 2016   
Christmas Greetings December 15, 2016
New Aspirations and Designs December 4, 2016
Closing and Opening November 5, 2016
eNews MT-NWy UCC Inspirations September 27, 2016
Highlights of a Great Camp Season August 27, 2016
Summer interns return to Eden Seminary August 3, 2016
Summer Ministries July 2, 2016
Camp Mimanagish News June 13, 2016
Shared Resources from Conference Annual Meeting May 3, 2016
eNews for MT-NWy UCC: Being the Conference April 6, 2016
Faith Forms MT-NWY UCC News March 10, 2016
Change at Camp Mimanagish February 4, 2016
MNWC Christmas Greeting December 17, 2015
I Got it Now December 7, 2015
Grace at Thanksgiving November 24, 2015
eNews Got Minister? November 9, 2015
How do you use your church building? October 25, 2015
What we say we are about October 15, 2015
Conference eNews October 6 October 7, 2015
eNews and Refugee Care MT-NWy Conference UCC September 17, 2015
MT-NWy eNews August 14 August 14, 2015
MT-NWy eNews August 6 August 15, 2015
MT-NWy UCC News July 31, 2015
Conference Annual Meeting Early Bird Registration July 20, 2015
Feedback from Listening Sessions, CAM and More from the Conference July 17, 2015
At the UCC Conference we are Open and Accepting July 9, 2015
Prayers for Charelston, General Synod and more from UCC Conference June 29, 2015
Conference Annual Meeting, Communications and more from UCC Conference June 19, 2015
Listening Sessions and more from UCC Conference May 16, 2015
Conference Annual Meeting and more from UCC Conference May 8, 2015
Retirement Webinar, Conference Meetings and more from UCC Conference April 30, 2015


18 June 2015
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
My heart experienced the unimaginable late last night as the sun began to set in some places, and before the moon could peak through weary cloud-cast skies in others.
The very thing I fight and organize against—a deeply masked and far reaching culture of violence in our society has descended upon the steps of my family and matriculated its way into the sanctuary of the church. Last night during bible study and prayer service, a gunman entered the historical Mother Emmanuel AME church of Charleston, SC and opened fire on the 11 persons gathered there. There were only two survivors.
With deep sorrow, I write to share that my beloved first cousin was among the 9 fatalities. Her death was confirmed this morning and the unspeakable grief of this loss has knocked me and my family off kilter.
C.S. Lewis wrote that “it is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box…” But suppose your life depended on that invisible rope that is your faith? Today, the weight of that invisible rope tugs at my trembling heart and such invisible faith is tested as we walk through the valleys of the shadows of death all around us. We are reassured to fear not evil, but to trust in the rod and the staff for comfort, protection, guidance and perhaps understanding when the morning comes.
Please keep my family, Mother Emmanuel congregation, and all those impacted by this rampant culture of violence in the center of your prayers.
Let us come together for such a time as this to the sacred clearing—no matter our faith or practice, and be on one accord in the spirit of love, hope, and healing to seek justice and peace for these and other victims of hatred and violence.
Let us put our faith to action and be more than empty drums that have long lost their melodies or arrangements. Let us remove our instruments from the poplar trees and call the people, the public officials, and yes, the church to action to address the festering sores of racism, classism and militarism—as they intersect this culture of violence. How can we begin to eradicate this evil without acknowledging the realities of racialized policing, hate crimes, and the disproportionate acts of violence against Black and Brown bodies?
Alas, it is morning and tear filled dew drops fall fresh upon my face, with eyes watching God and a soulful lament. Our hearts are troubled, but our faith remains steadfast, trusting and believing in the reconciling power of God for the brokenhearted and the oppressed.
Yours in faith & justice,
Rev. Waltrina Middleton, United Church of Christ
National Minister for Youth Advocacy and Leadership

Day 1 in Cleveland is in the books. Marc met with Conference Ministers. Trudi met with Conference Moderators which included dinner with the officers of the Church Geoffrey Black, LInda Jaramillo, Ben Guess and Jim Moos. It was great the visit with leadership in person. Elaine and Trudi attended an inspirational worship in Amistad Chaple. The sermon was given by Rev. Traci Blackmon of Ferguson, MO. and the Church officers officiated Communion. Such an inspiring start to our Synod trip.

Day 2 in Cleveland has flown by. Trudi spent the morning finishing the Moderator Session. East delegate, Rick Thompson from Glasgow has joined Marc, Trudi and Elaine. West delegate, Lacy Spencer will join us tomorrow. Carol Shipley from Great Falls has been hard at work with the national Board. Carol represents the Conference so well. Today John Dorhauer of the Southwest Conference was nominated to be the next UCC General MInister and President and James Moos who hails from North Dakota was nominated for a second term as Executive MInister for Global Ministries. The day ended with a wonderful worship. The Youth at Synod shared their energy with us during the evening. It was an inspirational day. The work of Synod has begun.

Day 3  in Cleveland was marked by celebration and a lot of rain.  They Synod celebrated 67 new Church starts of the past 2 years.  That is 20 more Church starts than celebrated at the 29th General Synod in Long Beach in 2013.  A landmark celebration occured as we celebrated the Equal Marriage Rights victory in the U.S. Supreme Court.  We also celbrated a successful time fo the National Church over the past two years as the Officers gave their reports.  We were treated to a wonderful keynote by Pulitzer prize journalist Connie Schultz.  The afternoon was spent in workships followed by the Gala fundraiser.  Another great day in Cleveland.

Day 4 in Cleveland was a very busy day. We spent the morning in Committee meetings preparing resolutions for the business meetings which start was on the committee to look at socially responsible investments. Rick's committee dealt with the Israeli/Pakistan issues. Lacy's committee dealt with the resolution on changing racially demeaning sports mascots. Marc's committee dealt with good stewardship of outer space and a late resolution surrounding LGBT issues. Carol was Board Liaison and Trudi was a member of the Committee on the resolutions addressing racially discriminatory mass incarceration and the new Jim Crow laws. This afternoon, we attended the General Synod worship service which was very inspirational. The day ended with Marc and Trudi doing the Search and Call booth promoting MNWC to prospective ministers. The Synod business meetings and the election of national officers and Board members is tomorrow.

Day 5 in Cleveland marked the beginning of the business sessions. First came a presentation on the budget and the vote on the percent of OCWM to go to the National setting. Dr. Paul Raushenbush gave the keynote address. We passed the resolution to partner with the United Church of Canada and a compassionate resolution giving support and prayer to Charleston. In addition to the business of resolutions, we honored the ministries of President and General Minister Geoffrey Black and Executive Minister Linda Jaramillo as they retire. We heard the results of the study on the frequency of General Synod. We elected a new President and General Minister and re-elected Rev. Jim Moos for another term as Minister of Global Ministries. The day ended with a wonderful worship. One day left to do a lot of business. It will be a busy day.


April 15, 2015

To:       Churches and Members of the Montana Northern Wyoming Conference UCC

From:   Trudi Downer, Moderator

            Montana Northern Wyoming Conference

Re:       Conference Update

            Upcoming Events


Fellow Members of the Montana Northern Wyoming Conference UCC:

                Thank you so much for the patience and support you have given your Conference Leadership since our last Conference Annual Meeting. Your leadership has been busy since the first of the year working to smoothly transition from the Partnership back to an independent Conference/Association. The three priorities that were set by the Board of Directors were: Finances, Communication/Technology, and Conference Identity.

What have we been doing?

                The majority of our time has been dedicated to putting our financial house in order for an audit of the Partnership and the Conference so that we can finalize our 2014 and 2015 budgets and set a preliminary budget for 2016. We are now moving to our other two priorities.

  • We have established weekly e-news bulletins to keep everyone informed. Marc Stewart is handling this in the beginning. Soon it will be formatted and coordinated by a new staff person.
  • Marc has been traveling to network with Churches throughout the Conference.
  • We have built a new webpage and Facebook page for the Conference. We plan that these pages be a way to spread news, information and ideas for all of our Churches. We welcome all Churches to use these pages to keep in touch.
  • The next step in communication is to create an opportunity for the Board to listen to Churches and members, learn all about the good things happening in our Conference, learn how the Board can facilitate what needs to be done in the Conference, and to find out how Churches want the Conference to move forward.
  • An updated Board of Directors contact list with short bios and pictures is being distributed.
  • The Conference Identity task force has been working to study the MNWC Mission Statement, to get examples of how other unified Conference/Associations operate and to compile guides for doing Conference/Association and Church work.
  • We are in the process of hiring staff and naming necessary task forces and committees to do the work of the Conference/Association.
  • As a result, two added task forces are beginning – a committee to study the By-Laws and a committee to study personnel policies and job descriptions.

I pray that local Churches and members will join with Conference Leaders take up the challenge to move forward together to live as the 21st Century Community of Faith.

Now here is what we need you to do:

While the Board and Staff continue the transition to an independent Conference/Association, we want to find out what mission and ministry is going on in the Conference and use these positives to build the foundation of a stronger mission and ministry for the Montana Northern Wyoming Conference/Association.

First, we ask each Church to take time to celebrate its ministry and mission:


Local Church Celebration of Ministry and Mission:

  • Prior to your area Listening session, take time to brainstorm and celebrate your faith community – Accent the positives of your local Church Mission and Ministry. Let’s not play the “blame game.” We want to work from the strong vital things we are doing and put past failures and shortcomings to rest as we move forward. Use these questions to guide your discussion:
  1. What are you doing that is vital in mission?
  2. What would you like to do?
  3. What ideas and successes do you have to share with others?
  4. What questions would you like to ask conference leaders?
  5. How do you see us moving forward as a Conference/Association?

Sharing the Load:

Once we have each taken our local inventory, we want to join together in area listening sessions to share what we have learned with others and to have an opportunity to talk to Conference leaders about what we need to do to move forward. The Board will coordinate sessions throughout the Conference at a variety of locations and dates. The invitation is open to attend any or all of the sessions as your time, schedule and locations permit.

Conference Area Listening Sessions:

  • Fellowship and sharing with other Churches and Conference Leaders – We are looking to see what we have learned, successes of the past not looking to lay blame for shortcomings.
  1. Listening Sessions in all areas of the Conference/Association from May1, 2015 to June 10, 2015
  2. Board members will find a host site and date,
  3. Areas will coordinate dates. A timeframe has been assigned to accommodate the attendance of the Conference Minister at all sessions and for Conference Leaders to attend in as many areas as possible.:

                                    East     May 1, 2015 to May 13, 2015 – Neil Lindorff, Susan Watterson

                                                Area 1   Glasgow, Plentywood, Froid, Medicine Lake

                                                Area 2   Sidney, Savage, Glendive, Miles City, Baker

                                    Central /Wyoming       May 14, 2015 to May 27, 2015

                                                Area 3 – Spencer Morris, Robert Shy

                                                            Hardin, Broadus, Colstrip, Buffalo, Sheridan

                                                Area 4 – Tracy Heilman, Trudi Downer

                                                            Bozeman, Big Timber, Columbus, Absarokee


                                                Area 5, 6 – Trudi Downer, Steve Gordon

                                                Area 5 Billings First, Ballantine, Red Lodge

                                                Area 6 Mayflower, Molt, Worden, Custer

                                    West    May 28, 2015 to June 10, 2015

                                                Area 7 – Gus Byrom, Sandy Van Zyl

                                                            Helena, Butte, Missoula, Kalispell

                                                Area 8 – David Munson, Ray Young, Carol Shipley

                                                            Great Falls Area


Joining together as a Conference/Association to move forward!


Board of Directors Work


  • Board of Directors meeting June 12-13, 2015, in Butte with Karen Georgia Thompson, National Ecumenical Officer to analyze the information, finalize the transition work, make preparations for the 2015 Conference Annual Meeting and to arrange closure for the Partnership.

Conference Annual Meeting


As a result of the end of the Partnership and the work being done to move forward as a Conference/Association, the Board of Directors has set aside the by-law stipulation of a Conference Annual Meeting in April, May or June to hold the 2015 meeting in August or September. A survey has been sent out electronically for folks to give input on the date. The meeting will be held in Billings following meetings in Helena (2013), Bozeman (2014) and Missoula (2014). This will be the time to finalize By-Laws, Board/ Committee structure, hold elections, celebrate our mission and ministry and begin to move forward.



Download this file (moderator0424.pdf)moderator0424.pdf[ ]94 kB

Greetings Everyone,

Following is an invitation to the upcoming Pre-Retirement Webinar to be held on Thursday, May 14, 2015.


Download this file (RetWebAgendaMay.pdf)RetWebAgendaMay.pdf[Agenda]339 kB
Download this file (RetWebInvite5142013.pdf)RetWebInvite5142013.pdf[Invitation and Information]430 kB

Board of Directors Visits throughout the Conference
Your Montana-N.Wyoming Association/Conference UCC Board of Directors is visiting in 8 gathering places around the Conference between May 1 and June 15.  Teams of Board members will join Conference Minister, Rev, Stewart, to visit with pastors and church leaders for conversations.  We hope that each gathering, in addition to reconnecting with each other, will provide a bit of time for Board members
    1.  to tell about progress with our financial, communication, and identity/mission priorities,
    2.  respond to questions about the transitions occurring over the past year, and
    3.  engage everyone in further conversations about what could be next among us as an Association/Conference and what we might look
            forward to.
Invitations to participate will be sent to all churches when the 8 venues are confirmed.

God-seeds in the MT-N.Wy Conference UCC

These next few E-News editions starting this week will highlight your 11 Board of Director members.  This week you can learn a bit about
    our Moderator, Trudi Downer
    our Vice-Moderator, Gus Byrom
    our Human Resources Commission Chair, Rev. David Munson
    our Youth and Young Adult Chair, Spencer Morris
    our West area rep, Rev. Sandy VanZyl
    our East area rep, Rev. Neil Lindorff

Their auto-bio's and some pics are in the attached pdf file.

Download this file (Board Bio's.pdf)Board Bio's.pdf[ ]1516 kB

Please fill put this online survey regarding chosing a time for our late summer Conference Annual Meeting:
Survey Response request regarding our 2015 Conference Annual Meeting date:

God-seeds in the Montana-N.Wyoming Conference UCC

Marc Ian Stewart

What are signs that Easter hope in the world will make a difference?

I found three real signs of Easter hope this weekend.  Walt Gulick and I agreed to take the 11:30 PM to 1:30 AM Easter vigil time slots at First Church in Billings UCC.  Inspired a recent Sunday morning forum series on human trafficking, Walt and I kept vigil on the front steps facing downtown Billings main drag, 27th Street.  We had nourishment bars, chips, and candy to share with passersby.  On that early Saturday morning I saw the real hope of Easter.  It was a “trinity” of hope, as it were.

1. Three young men stopped by, talked a bit, and accepted our offer to some food.  They filled a coat pocket with nourishment bars.  It did not even look like he had a wallet, but one young man reached into his pocket for whatever money he had.  He took my hand and insisted on dropping in a half-fist-full of various coins.  Who knows what he could have bought with his last bit of change?  I told him that the gift of his presence in this world was the only thing he needed to offer.  He returned thanks with genuine humility and gratitude, not to me but to his Creator God. 

2. A homeless couple stopped by later.  The man had just been released from 6 weeks in jail and had nowhere to go but to walk the streets.  He was cautious about accepting our offer of nourishment bars, but he did want to talk.  His companion walked on out of sight, but he stayed.  He told stories of his life that may have made us wonder how we could live through what he experienced.  He even wondered aloud whether it was even worth his living through some of those experiences.  But he did live through below-zero nights on the streets, and delirious drunken stupors, and chronic mental illness.  This background was not what most real in his story.  If there was any desperation in what he had to share with Walt and I, it was that he wanted us to know, from a verse he had memorized, that God was with him: his faith, hope and love. 

3.  That there is genuine living of faith happening so far from, yet so close to, our sanctuary doors gives me hope beyond hope.  I have heard the Easter message, now I am off to worship to praise God for having ears to see, eyes to see, and hands to touch the faith, hope, and love that is in the living Christ.

What do you hear, see, and touch of the living Christ?  I invited you to share so that we can tell each other that hope is real.

The Committee on Outdoor Ministries is looking for help from anyone that would like to jump up to camp and lend a hand in the very exciting Bath House remodel. Starting as soon as this week Camp Director Tom Norquist will be up there working on the prep work to start the project. No special skills are necessary as Tom will provide excellent direction for those willing to participate.  

Please contact Tom N. at camp 406.932.6311 or by email at




The Conference Spring Youth Retreat will be held May 1-3, 2015 at Mayflower UCC in Billings. We will begin Friday evening with dinner and end after church on Sunday afternoon. We will be exploring the theme fo Trash to Treasure by springing into summer with a new step. We will exploring how to turn trash into treasure and before we throw something out maybe we should look at how to repurpose it not only the THINGS in our lives, but our LIVES as well. We will be doing a mission project with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore to see how they are repurposing everyday to help families and repurposing some treasured games and activities as well! Bring friends and come enjoy a weekend filled with fun and fellowship!

 To register visit

Questions or more information call Kimmie at 406-855-4317 or email at

Download this file (55148928a6423-spring_youth_retreat_2015.pdf)Spring Youth Retreat Flyer[ ]690 kB

E-News March 21

Montana-N.Wyoming Conference UCC

Various events and vital church links, especially #1:

 1. Survey Response request regarding our 2015 Conference Annual Meeting date:

 2. Boundary Training available for clergy and other church leaders, held in Bozeman and Billings:

3. Montana based Continuing Education

4. Online Classes offered through our Seminaries and Church Renewal programs

            Center for Progressive Renewal:

Pacific School of Religion:

            Andover Newton Theological School:

            Chicago Theological Seminary:

Lancaster Theological Seminary:

UCC Polity Class offered at General Synod:


Chicago Theological Seminary is pleased to announce the 2015 Spring Conference, “Selma at 50: Still Marching.” The conference, taking place on campus Friday April 24 and Saturday April 25, will trace a thread through the legacy of civil rights activism to current activist movements in Chicago and around the country to inspire a new generation of leaders working toward a more just society in our lifetime.  The conference will include keynote addresses from Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and award winning author of The New Jim Crow Michelle Alexander. The event will also feature a closing plenary session, practical workshops and special performances and events. For more information or to register, please visit

6. Wear Orange Wednesday April 15: No Kid Hungry Montana

7. UCC Justice Witness Ministries and Pacific NW Conference UCC sponsor an Enviromental Justice Workshop, May 13-15, N-Sid-Sen Camp

8. Stewardship Resources for download from the Ecumenical Stewardship Center

God-speed from the MT-NWy Conference UCC

Marc Stewart

If you could only hear the amazing stories of faith among us that bless my soul.  For example, last Sunday I was preaching at Kalispell Community Congregational UCC.  Some of the things I told got people sharing all types of stories, some right in the middle of the service! Now, that’s the type of preaching I like doing.  

One story I shared came from our First UCC Billings adult forum the previous Sunday, when we discussed Human Trafficking in our region.  That forum moved a few us at First UCC Billings to commit to an Easter morning vigil (1:30 AM – 3:00 AM) on the outside steps of the church to offer food and presence to night visitors.  

Kalispell leaders spoke up about their study, the previous Sunday, too, which was also about Human Trafficking.  They wondered aloud if maybe Kalispell and Billings, and perhaps Sidney and Glendive might support some outreach, especially to young people caught up in the sex trade aspect of Human Trafficking.  So relevant in this whole discussion were some experiences shared by one of Kalispell’s young adult members who works for Big Brother/Big Sister mentoring program.  

The next day, Monday, I visited one of our semi-retired conference leaders.  He asked what happened to the Kalispell Church building that the MT-NWy Conference UCC helped the buy some years ago.  This took the Sunday sermon and coffee hour stories one more step up “Jacob’s Ladder” (as we sometimes sing).  I was able to share the story of Kalispell selling its old building to someone who donated it for use as a shelter for homeless youth.  You can read about it in an article from the “Daily InterLake.”


It is amazing to hear the similarities of outreach concerns that churches express independent of each other.  It is far more than “serendipity” that reveals our shared interests.  Common faith stories in this MT-NWy Conference and in the wider United Church of Christ are going to move us to care about the common concerns, even when we as different as east and west, north and south, small and large.  Like written in that great hymn based on the writings of Paul “in Christ there is no east or west,” our faith story is so common among us that we can be a real strength to each other in carrying out our missions and ministries.

Planning for our 2015 Conference Annual Meeting is underway. (Please use the survey link in the #1 note at the top of this newsletter to give your input on a meeting date.) The theme of the program is still being developed, but one activity that would be good for us to do: every congregation is requested to put together a display table that shows the work and ministry of its church.   The stories that will be shared will definitely be the stories of faith at work. We will likely find that there are some common stories among us.  Come and share, and feed…for our lives thirst and hunger in this Conference, to partake of the work of faith that fulfills and satisfies.

Download this file (E-News March 20.pdf)E-News March 20.pdf[ ]94 kB

E-News March 15

Conference Minister Report

March 13-14, 2015 Board of Directors

Conference Minister ¾ Time Management  (ave. 50 hours/week)

Travel: 6 hours/week average --12% of time, $1191.79 expenses

1. Car rental to Helena/Bozeman/Butte/Missoula/Kalispell/Fairfield/Great Falls

4 nights hotels, 3 nights hosted, 14 meals, Thrifty rental, fuel

            2. Cape Air to Sidney  MT,  2 nights hosted,  4 meals

            3. Delta to Los Angeles (reimbursed by Retirement Housing Foundation)

            4. Personal auto to Big Timber (2x), Red Lodge (2x), Columbus (2x), Worden

                        780 miles

Board of Directors support request

1. Communicate with congregation moderators and pastors to assess how/when

the Conference Minister can best be present with the church

            2. Request that congregations assist in hosting (housing) Conference Minister

during visits

Office Administration:  6 ¾ hours/week average--13% of time

1. Office: Conference Staffing: 4 of 5 positions filled

Job descriptions written and advertised

            Contracts prepared

                        Elaine Black:   Finance Secretary--$6000 for 400 hrs/yr + $3400 benefits

Registrar--$3750 for 250 hours/year

Facilities Manager--$1300 for 150 hours

                        Sonya Greef:   Accountant--$4800 for 250 hours

Communications Manager--$6000 for 400 hours

                        Dan Petersen: WEB and office tech manager--$2,250 for 150 hours

                        Unfilled: Executive Secretary--$7500 for 500 hours

Total 2015 support staff compensation: $35,000 for 2100 hrs/yr or 40.4 hrs/wk

2. Camp Mimanagish staffing: 6 of 6 positions filled

                        Tom Norquist: Camp Director--$9400 + $1000 benefits

                        Kim Harris: Program Manager --$6800 + $1000 benefits

                        Elaine Black: Camp Administrator--$3800 for 300 hours

                        Jonna Mandeville: Camp cook--$40 per day up to $4000 total cook budget

                                    and fill-in cook--$40 per day from total cook budget

            Henry Crist: Camp Assistant--$1960 for 64 – 70 days

3. Program and Ministry staffing: 2 of 2 positions filled                  

Kim Harris: Youth/Young Adult director--$2400

Marc Stewart: Conference Minister--$76,500 for ¾ time

Board of Director’s support request

            1. Assess Conference Minister job description and compensation

Board of Director’s Action

            1. Affirm Conference Minister’s personnel choices 

            2. Vote on staff compensation packages

Human Resources Personnel Tasks

            (David Munson, Carol Shipley, Gus Byrom, vacant—HR professional)

            Create Human Resources Task Force

            2014 Evaluations

            Write Human Resource Personnel manual

Conference Board and Commissions:  7 ¾ hrs/wk average--16% of time

Meet and set agendas with board and commission chairs, Review minutes 

Attend Board and Commission meetings.  BoD (1), COM (3), CMC (2)

Visit with Board members (9)

Prepare reports to Board and Commissions  

Recruit Board members (Treasurer, Board member, General Synod

delegate) through nominating process.  

Review “best practices” for Board and Commissions and facilitate


Review historical files and email files from summer (2000+)

Oversee program staff responsibilities (Tom Norquist and Kim Harris)

Board and Commissions support request

            1. Communications regarding Board/Commission tasks between meetings

            2. Listening session participation in April – June 2015

            3. E-News and WEB site contributions

            4. By-Law revision task force

            5. Board and Commission assignments for local church check-ins

Board Actions

            1. Appoint Board of Director secretary, Taci Heilman

2. Affirm nominations (BoD—Traci Heilman, Gen. Synod—Rick


Search and Call with Churches/Pastors: 11 hrs/wk ave--22% of time

Visits with search committees (6)

Phone/email consultations with search committees (daily)

Pastor visits and phone/email consultations  (multiple, weekly)

Pastor recruitment

Board of Directors support request

            1. Interpret to MT-NWy UCC member churches the mission of the conference in

supporting Search and Call

2. Assist in raising funds for recent seminary grads loan service during their time

of serving in MT-NWy Conference UCC

Communications Priority:  5 hours/week average--10% of time

            Continued weekly E-News from Marc

            Hire Communications manager, Sonya Greef, to put face on WEB page and E-

News, start work with Dan Petersen to develop WEB meeting module and

Distance Learning module

            Continue building Conference directory and local church contact list

Communication Task Force support requested

(Trudi Downer, Neil Lindorff, Kim Harris)

            Promote communication improvements, including software and hardware funding

            Complete directory and church contact list, and US Mail recipient churches list

            Promote contributions to WEB page

            Advise and review new Conference logo

            Create communications policy manual

Identity and Mission Priority: 7 hours/week average--14% of time

            Preach identity sermon at 4 churches

            Promote identity at Eastern clergy and Yellowstone clergy cluster (20 pastors)

            Promote identity with 6 church groups, 3 clergy call phone calls, E-News content

            Explore church mission options with 7 churches

            Review UCC identity and mission resources

            Attend Retirement Housing Foundation annual meeting, Cerritos, CA

            Attend Green Team meetings of First UCC Billings

Identity and Mission Task Support requested

            (Sandy VanZyl, Susan Watterson, Spencer Morris)

            Develop process for identity discernment

            Organize and promote a follow-up “Open Source design Mission Retreat”

            Develop Annual Meeting theme around Mission and Identity

                        Churches bring display boards that show their Mission and Identity

            Work with Communications Task Force to review WEB content and design

reflecting the Conference Mission and Identity


Financial Priority:  6 ½ hours/week average--13% of time

Provision for supplementary hours for financial help: 40 hours to Elaine

Black for correcting coding errors, 20 hours to Sonya Greef for payroll

            Financial Statement reviews, research, and reconciliations still in process:

Elaine Black, Sherm Oland, Marc Stewart

            Accountant hired: Sonya Greef

            Register for discounted software, purchase QuickBooks

            Write Camp Mimanagish deficit proposal

Board actions

            1. Bank Signing Resolution, add Sherm Oland, Sonya Greef, Elaine Black, Trudi

Downer, Marc Stewart

            2. Authorization Resolution to conduct business, Elaine Black and Marc Stewart

            3. Vote on Camp Mimanagish 2014 deficit proposal

            4. Vote on Camp Mimanagish 2015 budget

            5. Review and approve 2015 financial statement through February 2015

            6. Approve up to $2500 for Louks and Glassley accounts to continue working

with us to correct 2014 financial statements and to prepare financial

information for auditor

Financial Task Force support requested

(Sherm Oland, Ray Young, Elaine Black, Robert Shy, Traci Heilman)

            Financial task force organized for investment management and stewardship

            Assist in search for a permanent Conference treasurer

            Refine 2015 draft budget

            Recommend type of audit and auditor to audit 2014 UCC finances

E-News March 1

Montana-N.Wyoming Conference UCC

Camp Mimanagish Reminder: Has your church set up its Camp Mimanagish display?  More materials can be requested from the Conference office ( and registration is also available at the conference WEB  Even if your church does not have children, there are children, youth, young adults, and others in your community you might invite. Also, we hope that each church has a contact person for communicating about Camp Mimanagish.  If you have not done so, please send their contact information to Elaine Black.  Next week’s E-News will focus on Camp Mimanagish.  Do you have story to share? Please send it to Marc Stewart by Thursday (

God-seeds of our Conference

I have been eight weeks back in active ministry with the MT-NWy Conference UCC, and it is appropriate to ask what’s happening. My calendar details, in 15-minute increments, the ministry you call me to do. This is one “barometer” of our Conference mission. 

Before looking at those details, first consider our general functions as listed in our MT-NWy Association and Conference UCC bylaws (Article II:B:1-5):

            1. Provide leadership

            2. Care for, nurture, and empower ministers and churches

            3. Facilitate connections, communications, and sharing of resources

            4. Promote the missions of our wider church

            5. Exercise ministerial authorization functions

This week’s E-News details how we live out these functions in our resolve to revitalize a ministry among us that reflects that best that we are called to be and do together.

The Board of Directors will soon meet up for the first time since the Disciples of Christ voted to dissolve the Partnership.  In a Board tele-conference last month, and in individual conversations with each Board member, I hear resolve for revitalization of relationships, mission, and ministry.  Perhaps you have noticed this movement of Spirit in previous weekly E-News blogs (archived in  There is a sense that we can relate in new ways, that we will be led into some common mission endeavors, and that ministries among us will touch upon places where God cares for us to be.

There are three immediate priorities set by the Board of Directors (my interpretations are in italics) for these first few months of being back on our own as a Conference:

            1. Establish financial accountability that enables churches and members to be assured that their resources being managed so well that they will be confident that our mutual ministry is among the most worthy gifting of which they can be part.

            2. Build communications that encourage fuller connections throughout the conference and wider church.

            3. Re-envision an identity and sense of mission that comes from places where interest and vitality among us are looking to break through.

There was an initial goal that all of these priorities could be enacted in a few months, perhaps even in a few weeks.  It has taken more attention than we had thought. Our thorough work on establishing financial accountability has shown us that it has been worth taking the time to patiently attend to the details.

Additionally, there are ongoing ministries and missions that are vital to continue, no matter what.

4. Our Search and Call ministries continue as we work with vacant churches and Commission for Church and Ministry Commission assuring that pastors are appropriately authorized to serve. I still visit pastors, congregations, and clergy clusters.

5. The Board of Directors and Commission for Outdoor Ministries are deeply engaged in their ministries (looking ahead: this coming week’s E-News will focus on Outdoor Ministries).

6. Our office administration work continues to support it all.

It sometimes seems that for all we put into these ongoing functions, there is little time left for our priorities.  But I remember that we are called to give what we can of the gifts and energies provided to this body. Let us not exhaust ourselves but live within the means of the giftedness afforded us. 

Here are some details of how I live into the ¾ time provided to me as your Conference Minister (averaged out at 50 hours per week throughout January and February 2015):

Financial Priority:  6 ½ hours (13% of time)

Review and analyze 2014 finances. Write financial protocols and procedures. Oversee and approve expenses. Adjust 2015 budget. Review endowment and investments. Write job descriptions for bookkeeper, accountant and treasurer  and then advertise and post these positions.

Communications Priority:  5 hours (10% of time)

Write and email weekly E-News.  Review software for conducting online meetings.  Coordinate with Dan Petersen on WEBsite and computer tech needs. Sort through 2000 emails stored during my “leave of absence” and move into a new email account.  Write communications job description and post position.

Identity and Mission Priority: 7 hours (14% of time)

Meet with local church leaders (10 churches).  Participate in small group mission discussions and clergy cluster meetings.  Maintain communications with the wider church.  Participating in the Montana Association of Christians legislative day and the Retirement Housing Foundation annual meeting.  Facilitate discussions around Bakken issues and Mexican mission connections.  Promote Conference in communications and conversations.

Search and Call with Churches and Pastors: 11 hours (22% of time)

Visit with Helena, Red Lodge, Big Timber, and Columbus pastoral search leaders.  Track and support pastor searches of 8 churches. Write and post summer seminarian employment ad in our seminaries for Helena PlymouthUCC.  Attend to Church and Ministry Commission assignments and ecclesiastical councils.  Visits and consult with 35 pastors.  Support various (18) church or pastoral issues.

Conference Board and Commissions:  7 ¾ hours (16% of time)

Meet and set agendas with board and commission chairs. Review minutes.  Attend Board and Commission meetings.  Prepare reports to Board and Commissions.  Recruit Board participants (Treasurer, Board member, General Synod delegate) through nominating process.  Review “best practices” for Board and Commissions and facilitate implementation.  Review historical files. Oversee program staff responsibilities (Tom Norquist and Kim Harris).

Office Administration: 6 ¾ hours (13% of time)

Survey board members for meeting times. Prioritize and respond to emails, phone calls, and mail. Maintain conference minister calendar and time analysis.  Oversee office staff responsibilities (Elaine Black).  Maintain clergy, church, Board and Commission files with new information as it comes in.  Write job description and post ad for part time executive secretary position.

Travel (also when I do sermon prep): 6 hours (12% of time)

            Visit churches and/or pastors in Billings First, Billings Mayflower, Red

Lodge, Columbus, Big Timber, Helena, Bozeman, Butte, Missoula, Kalispell,

Fairfield, Great Falls, Worden, Sidney, Savage, and a Retirement Housing

Foundation sponsored visit for the RHF annual meeting in Los Angeles.


Marc Stewart


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E-News March 7

MT-NWy Conference UCC


Prayer Notes:

We celebrate the life even as we mourn the passing of Dr. Larry Small.  Larry was a most gracious person of faith, who used his education and wisdom in service to the Church.  Within the Montana-N.Wyoming Conference UCC, we were blessed by the many books Larry authored about our church histories and conference histories.  He was also a founder of the Peace Institute at Rocky Mountain College (one of the conference missions).  Rev. Dr. Steven Gordon will officiate at a “service of memorial and thanksgiving for life” at Mayflower UCC, Billings. on Saturday, March 14, 2 PM.

Family obit placed in Bangor Daily News, with link to condolences message page:

Billings News Story

We celebrate with Pastor Phil Maxwell (Fairfield and Power UCCs) and his family, to hear the news that his 10-year old grandson, Gavin, received a liver transplant last Monday.  May healing mercies and strength be with Gavin that his body fully receive the gift of continued life possible through his transplant.

God-seeds of the Montana-N.Wyoming Conference UCC:

We were talking “camp” last week.  I was with church leaders at the Retirement Housing Foundation annual meeting in Cerritos, California (  During a break, I lifted up some of our Conference’s vital ministries that might get their attention, such as church related affordable housing (Frontier, Inc) and of course, Camp Mimanagish. 

After satisfying their curiosity about Frontier, Inc., I was asked, “How many go to Camp Mimanagish?”

I responded, “We have about 200 children and youth each summer, plus adult retreats and rental groups.”

My answer must have sounded as insignificant to them as a penny-coin change on a $999.99 purchase.  They put on their “that’s all” faces and asked, “So what is your Camp budget?”

With a certain amount of pride for the quality of Camp Mimanagish, I shared the bottom line of our expenses, “We have about a $90,000 operating budget, and a $20,000-$30,000 capital improvement budget.”

Their response was like a pedestrian scuffing a penny down the road instead of bothering to pick it up, “Seems hardly worth it.”

If they hoped to move on to another conversation, I still had another 2 cents to share:  “We probably average about 75 children each week in all Sunday Schools combined. Combining all our Conference churches, we might have 3900 hours of contact with children in a year’s worth of Sunday School.  Camp Mimanagish ministers to about 150 children and youth each summer.  A week at camp provides a child 60 hours of contact (not including sleep or horizontal hour), so our Camp is providing 9,000 hours of direct ministry to children and youth.  We also have adult camps and rental to non-UCC groups, and endowment gifts and scholarships for camp to help reduce the camp budget and registration fees.  So, for about $5/hour of contact time, Camp Mimanagish provides over 2 times more church contact for children, and for some children, it is their sole place of faith instruction and role modeling.”   

Yes, they were impressed, and they even kind of bowed down a bit.  And I thought to myself, “It’s like they suddenly recognize the value of a penny on the ground.  (or at least they are buying my 2 cents worth).”

Our Camp Mimanagish team accomplishes an impressive amount of faith-sharing and faith-modeling.  We can celebrate Camp Mimanagish as a significant mission of the MT-NWy Conference.  Indeed, our camp is a place for mission-giving and for mission work.  In the past few years, there have been work teams from University UCC Missoula, Bethlehem UCC Worden, Mayflower UCC Billings, First UCC Billings, Plymouth UCC Helena, Columbus Community UCC, Absarokee UCC, Big Timber UCC, Red Lodge UCC.  Camp Mimanagish has even welcomed in individuals from other Conferences who have asked to come and assist with camp programing or camp upkeep.

I hope you will learn everything you can about this mission that is yours. Look for more information about Camp Mimanagish on the display board that program director, Kim Harris, sent to your church.  Replacement brochures can be requested from the conference office (406.656.8688, or   See the latest camp calendar and camp descriptions, and register for camp, and read the Friends of Mimanagish (FOM) newsletter at our WEB site

In the FOM newsletter, especially check out the devotional-quality articles that Camp Director, Tom Norquist, writes.  Share your Camp interests on our FaceBook  Best of all, come and be a part of camp. You can never be too old or too young to attend Camp Mimanagish; we have consistently welcomed everyone, from 1 year old to nearly 100 years old.

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ethicsFor the Bible Tells Me So?
An Introduction to Christian Ethics
March 3rd - 10th

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Opening live seminar: Tuesday, March 3rd, 5:30 - 8:30 pm
Closing live seminar: Tuesday, March 10th, 5:30 - 8:30 pm

Early in our lives we begin to discern right from wrong, fair from unfair.  As we grow up, we discover the complexity and ambiguity that accompany our lives in the church and the world.  When we can no longer find simple answers, we turn to ethical reflection, the spiritual practice of bringing life and faith together for making difficult choices.

“For the Bible Tells Me So?: an Introduction to Christian Ethics” will introduce learners to  the tool and methods for choosing action in unfamiliar or controversial situations.  Drawing on the Bible, Christian tradition, experience, and reason, we bring our own lives into the ongoing conversation about how to live as Christians in our families, churches, and communities.  This course will allow students to explore methods of ethical reasoning which can help us act compassionately, wisely, and faithfully.

About the Instructor:

ManahanCarol2013-100Carol Manahan, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, received a B.A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic, an M.A. in Art from San Francisco State University, and an M.Div from Pacific School of Religion.  An interdisciplinary scholar in green studies who draws on the fields of environmental and agricultural ethics, religious studies, art, and geography, Carol teaches environmental ethics and natural history at California College of the Arts in Oakland And San Francisco.  

She completed her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in 2006, where she brought together environmental ethics, biblical studies, and ecology. Her dissertation on the ethics of genetic engineering in agriculture considered the scientific, economic, political and ethical concerns raise by the introduction of genetically modified corn.

Rev. Manahan also served for five years as associate conference minister for the Northern California Nevada Conference of the UCC, and she continues to consult with congregations on transition issues and to lead workshops and retreats.

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Don't miss our upcoming course/seminar:

Self-Care W/ Rev. Dr. Toni Dunbar March 23*

Pastoral Care W/ Rev. Dr. Horace Griffin  April 14 -21

*Two hour seminar


Theological Education for Leadership (TEL) Program
Pacific School of Religion

1798 Scenic Ave. Berkeley, CA 94709 | 

TEL Home  |  About  |  Courses  |  Certificates  |  Contact

Investment Opportunity

Here is an investment opportunity that is born of blessed inspiration:

           * ONE recently “approved for ordination” seminary graduate.

           * THREE congregations on the edge of revitalization that wishthey could find a pastor like this

           * $900 is the monthly school loan debt this seminary graduate is required to service

(which is a very common amount for recent seminary grads)

           *  $30-$35,000 is the total compensation package any one of these churches can

afford (salary + housing + insurance + pension)

           * PAY BACK: possible revitalization of a church among us

           * PAY BACK: affirming the ministry of an energized and talented young pastor

The time line for this investment opportunity:

Fund development by March 31, 2015,

Possible call of new pastor into ministry by mid-summer.
If you are interested in helping create a fund to service a recent seminary grad's loan so that we can attract that grad to one of our smaller revitalizing congregations in the Montana-N.Wyoming Conference UCC, contact conference minister, Marc Stewart,   (406.656.8688)

God-seed note from our Conference Office

Last week in the Conference Office, Elaine and I sat with Mr. Obert Unbem (retired endowment officer of Rocky Mountain College).  We were doing the fine-tooth comb work of teasing out meaning from our various investment financial statements.  It was really not as complicated to track the growth and use of our endowment as I thought it would be.  Still, we had the work on the table and we kept at it.  That is, we did the type of number crunching and account analysis that you might expect to happen in a conference office.

Now, imagine something completely different than this administrative financial oversight happening in the Conference office.  What could it be?  What would it look like?  Elaine, Obert, and I were introduced to at least one possibility of what could happen in this place other than administration of the Montana-N.Wyoming Conference. While we were meeting in my office we heard the outside door burst open with someone crying out in alarm.  Elaine checked on the woman who had come in. Between her hysterical cries, the woman told that she was being chased by her husband and was fearful for her life.  What a blessing that she could find safe sanctuary with us. I locked down the building and called 911. Elaine poured the woman a glass of water and soothed her as we waited.  We appreciated the Billings Police Department’s quick response and its officer’s ability to provide further assistance to our visitor.

The Conference Office is a place of administration, perhaps a hub of communication, and an archive of files and records. It is also an occasional meeting place for commissions and support groups.  It is rare that the Conference Office is a place of sanctuary and refuge, or a place of ministry to those in desperate need.  I just wanted you to know that we were “blessed to be a blessing” to someone in an unexpected way.  What a wonderful use of the resources we have invested in the Conference Office that such ministries can also happen here.  I would hope that the frequency of need for someone in distress in our neighborhood does not increase. However, I do desire that our Conference Office also be a place of ministry that serves others.  How might that happen?  What would that look like?



Montana-N.Wyoming UCC E-News from, Conference Minister, Marc Stewart
Feb 6, 2015
past weekly E-News content is posted on our Conference WEB site:
your church is invited to share this with its members

Prayers Among Us

Prayers of blessings as we keep the 10-year old grandson of Pastor Phil Maxwell (Fairfiel and Power), Gavin Maxwell (Sheridam WY), who awaits availability for a liver transplant, and for the the family of the one from who a donation will come.

Prayers of thanksgiving and joy with Kalispell Community UCC at the start of Rev. Laura Folkwein's quarter-time ministry with them.

Prayers of thanksgiving and joy with Columbus Comminity UCC at the start of Rev. Tracy Heilman's interim ministry.

Prayers of blessing and thanksgiving with Pastor John Sellers as he was called to serve St. John's UCC in Louisville KY and begins ministry with them on Ash Wednesday.

Prayers of blessing as we keep Rev. Larry Pray in our concern following his most recent series of stokes.
Prayers of fortitude as we remember the ministries of our conference leaders and conference minister.
Prayers of wisdom as the MT-NWy Association/Conference UCC gathers in ecclesiastical council on Saturday, February 7 to discern whether to ordain Liz Hoy and John Sellers.

God-seed thoughts from the Conference Minister

There is a beautiful, yet awesome, responsibility we carry as members of the United Church of Christ.  We do not have one leader, pastor or layperson, who is our authority.  We do not have one group, such as the Church Council, Conference Board of Directors, or the UCC General Synod, that is our ultimate decision-making entity.   The Montana-Northern Wyoming Association and Conference United Church of Christ is a collection of churches that agrees to be in relationship together through mutual covenant.  The ultimate authority and decision-making responsibility in the life of a United Church of Christ congregation is the gathering of church members in congregational meeting, as it happens at every congregational annual meeting, every Conference Annual Meeting, and every UCC General Synod.

How does this work?  Consider the affirmations that church members make when they join a United Church of Christ congregation.  All members:

1.     Affirm their baptism into the faith and family of Jesus Christ. 

2.     Renounce the powers of evil and desire the freedom of new life in Christ.

3.     Profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

4.     Promise, by the grace of God, to be Christ’s disciple, to follow in the way of our Savior, to resist oppression and evil, to show love and justice, and to witness to the work and word of Jesus Christ as best they are able.

5.     Promise, according to the grace given them, to grow in the Christian faith and to be faithful members of the church of Jesus Christ, celebrating Christ’s presence and furthering Christ’s mission in all the world.

6.     Promise, with the help of God, to participate in the life and mission of this family of God’s people, sharing regularly in the worship of God and enlisting in the work of the Church as it serves in the local community and the world.  (from Order for ReceptionNew Century Hymnal, pages 45-46)

Briefly, every member in the United Church of Christ has professed that they are about the same faith business as every other member.   Our congregations, Associations/Conferences, and UCC General Synod are gatherings of people who hold the same basic understanding about their relationship to God and to each other.   Here is a gathering of people who have a common faith.  This is the basis for mutual trust and affirmation.   This professed faith is our realization that God has called us into this Church.

Power in the United Church of Christ is not the exercise of one person’s wealth over another person’s interest, nor is it the domination of one person’s righteousness over another person’s vulnerability, nor is it the imposition of one person’s expertise over another person’s wanderings. 

Power in the United Church of Christ is the exercise of the gathered congregation in prayerful discernment,

conscientious relationship building, and informed decision-making. 

Churches that exercise this power know how different it is than hierarchical forms of the Church, and so want to be in relationship with similar churches.  Thus, we have 32 UCC congregations in our Association/Conference.  A few of our congregations have less than 25 members. Only 8 of our churches have full-time pastors. Yet, each is a part of that Body of Christ that cares equally for the whole.

Does the One in whom we profess faith have what it takes to live on despite the powers that be in this world?   Church life is about exploring the nature of the power that God gives us to be the body of Christ.  Our faith represents the ultimate test of the power of God.  John the Baptist, the prophet in the wilderness, took on the powers of the world, as represented by Herod, and lost his life.  Jesus lived amid the powers of this world and became our way of life, no matter what.  Consider the power of the resurrection in life as it is lived out in your church, conference, and/or national UCC participation.   Are you finding such power as this?   We have professed that this power is there, and so it is.

Marc Stewart

Links to articles on the vitality of churches

6 things your church should be doing, but probably isn’t: - jeePD1XqygFoExiO.01

15 things church needs for 2015:

God-Seed from the MT-NWy Conference

Well if I am going to be sending you WEB links to articles about what your church should be doing (see links above), then I better also name what the Conference should be doing.  I will focus this week’s E-News on the needs I have heard.  First, though, here is a report on (1) some of what I have been doing, (2) a reminder to you of priorities set by the Board of Directors, and then  (3) a list of needs told to me, and (4) some “conference minister commentary.”

1. In this first month back as your conference minister I have visited with 25 pastors and 9 groups of church leaders.  The “welcome-back” I have received from everyone has been filled with so much care for the Montana-Northern Wyoming Association and Conference and for my family and me.  I am also deeply moved by the gracious offering of suggestions for what I, and the Conference, need to be doing.

2. I understand that there are three priorities to guide us in the immediate months ahead: restoring financial services, developing an effective communications and outreach program, and claiming our Conference identity and mission. These priorities were discussed in my God-seed E-News last week

3. The needs I have heard from many of our pastors and church leaders can shape how we move through our priorities:

Need a collaborative style of leadership in the Conference and in our local churches.

Need ways to turn our differences into our strengths.

Need to more fully live a faith that is truly open and affirming.

Need to take time to “get it right” and “as soon as possible.”

Need faith formation that includes Camp Mimanagish and beyond.

Need a young adult Peace and Justice internship ministry.

Need for live worship feeds to our smallest congregations.

Need to reconfigure how we staff our ministries.

Need something other than the traditional decision-making controls and structure.

Need a “horizontal” or “grassroots” or “open source” way of working together.

Need to work more fully within our geography, perhaps in non-geographic ways.

Need to know what our Board of Directors does.

Need to have a purpose when bringing people together.

Need to hear more of what is happening in the conference.

Need young pastors and young adult church members.

Need a discernment about the purpose and location of a conference office.

Need to support various social justice work throughout the Conference: non-discrimination advocacy, immigration issues, children’s issues, climate change, the Bakken oil fields, Indian Country.

Need to develop and/or support ways of empowering interest group gatherings: Our Whole Lives trainers, LGBT members of churches, musicians, exchanges with Mexico, software support and shared technology.

Need a new Constitution and Bylaws that reforms how we structure ourselves in order to become more nimble and responsive.

Need Conference support and help churches to find the best interim pastor and right permanent pastor.

Need a dynamic WEB page, a regularly updated Facebook page, and perhaps other social technology most of us in the pews have never heard of.

4. We can do better than responding to the list of needs with, “we cannot do everything we want to do.”  I am resolved to approach our needs with new direction.  The conference leaders (Board, officers and staff) will do best to do less. Rather than taking on more ministries than we can handle, I want our Conference leaders to be supporting the ministries and interests that our churches and faithful members together might be called to handle.  That is, our Board is not the maker of ministries, nor can it be the solution to all needs among us.  

To be clear, there are just a few specific responsibilities we have in our MT-NWy Association and Conference:

authorize the ministries of individuals and churches on behalf of the Untied Church of Christ, so we help church find pastors and pastors find churches.

            be good stewards of the endowments and offerings shared with and through the Conference, so we manage the budget, endowment, and mission giving.

We also have Conference responsibilities that are less defined, and thus can provide for a long list of needs:

            offer leadership and support for church vitality and faith transformation, so we minister through Camp Mimanagish, and support various workshops and cluster meetings.

            nurture and represent the United Church of Christ identity and mission held among us, so we send delegates to general Synod and Montana Association of Christians, and Wyoming Association of Churches.


Many of the needs named to me throughout the Conference are burrowed deep with the core responsibilities of our MT-NWy Association and Conference.  We have the opportunity, in reshaping Conference life, to meet the needs that come to light. Let this Conference be a community that accepts the many needs we talk about and hear about, by providing a variety means of connection and by generously supporting worthy endeavors.  I can only imagine that faithfully discerned ministries will be self-evidently worthy of our gathered support. Indeed, I trust we will rally our support with those who bring their faithful endeavors to light.  

Looklng again at our Board: what if our Conference, beyond our “nuts and bolts” responsibilities, owns up to the need to spawn missional and faith transformational connections amongst us?   I look to the Board to be an “underwriter” of those wonderful energetic churches and individuals amongst us who seek to meet various and diverse needs.  Our Board of Directors is the custodian of our financial resources and our Conference Bylaws and Constitution.  At its best it will offer our resources and support for ministries wherever and whenever and through whomever.


Marc Stewart

MT-NWy Conference UCC

Special Opportunities

Montana Association of Christians news:
    January 26, Helena, MAC Legislative Day at the State House

    Job Posting: MAC Coordinator position 
    Contact: President of MAC, Pastor Peter Erickson, at

Application due April 9, Lilly Endowment Grant for clergy renewal
      (follow links to “National Clergy” application)

Conference Gathering to conduct Ecclesiastical Councils for Liz Hoy and John Sellers:    Feb 7, 10 AM – 2 PM, Big Timber (the presence of pastors and voting delegates from each church is requested, and visitors are most welcome)

June 26-30 Cleveland, UCC 30 National General Synod

2015 Schedule and Registration for Camp Mimanagish

July 12-15 Chicago, 2015 UCC Musicians Association Biennial National Conference,

Calling young adult candidates for the national Young Adult Service Communities network!  Six YASC communities around the country are working hard to get ready with community agencies, justice leadership workshops, congregational hospitality to welcome young adult leaders on behalf of the whole church for a year of meaningful engagement at the intersection of congregation and world.  Young adults (age 21-35) serve September 2015 – July 2016. 
Apply now at  Priority applications due February 15th.

CUE Seminary Sunday is on February 22nd (or any Sunday that works for you)
        Worship materials and information: 

God-seeds from Conference Minister, Marc Stewart   

    Three weeks back in the office for me and it is time to head out on the road.  Starting on Sunday, I will visit churches and leaders in the western part of our MT-NWy Conference: Helena (Sun-Tues), Bozeman (Tues), Butte (Wed), Missoula (Wed-Thurs), Kalispell (Fri), Great Falls (Sat-Sun), and perhaps Fairfield (Sat).  I have communicated my schedule to pastors, but if you would also like to set up a visit, let me know. Many people know me to be a relational-type of person, so you might guess that I am looking forward to reconnecting.

    Just a word from the office before I hit the road, though: our current priorities in the Conference office include: restoring financial services, developing an effective communications and outreach program, and claiming our Conference identity and mission. The Board of Directors and I will focus on each of these priorities, one at a time.  I look for us to “live within our means.”  We are small, in numbers of leaders and in budget, so we will need to devote everything we have to one priority at a time.

    During January, the Board and I are reestablishing our financial operations for the Conference.  Most of our bookkeeping and accounting was being done through the Partnership.  In recent years, we have done some constructive consolidation of accounts and streamlined budget lines.  Now, we also have an eye towards producing timely reports that are easily understood and transparent. This “nuts and bolts” work of our Conference office entails clear financial procedures, checks and balances for those handling funds, and policies to guide the development, use and reporting of our Conference endowment.  A 2015 budget for the Conference is still being developed.  As the finance task force receives more information for the 4th quarter of the 2014 Conference and Partnership financial statements, a budget can be finalized for presentation to the Conference.  

    How can you help?  First, send your OCWM and Conference dues to the Billings office (2016 Alderson Ave., Billings MT 59102).  Many thanks to our churches as they continue their OCWM support and to individuals who remember the Conference 8th Day Fund.  Second, the Financial Task Force is a small group of leaders organized by the Board of Directors as a “stop gap” measure to do the immediate work of guiding the Conference financial structure back into place.  Your interest in budgets, accounting, investments, financial services, stewardship and OCWM would be most welcome as this work continues.  Please check with Trudi Downer, moderator.  Third, the Conference needs some hands-on accounting assistance, particularly in doing payroll (our staff remain unpaid during January), and in setting up the books for our bookkeeper.  Please check with Marc Stewart ( or Trudi Downer ( Fourth, keep our Conference leadership in your prayers of gratitude and fortitude.  The Board of Directors will be meeting this coming week to review progress on our 2015 budget and financial procedures  (6+ pages of steps I have compiled with the Finance task force and prioritized for the Board).

    As you may know, the communications outreach of the Conference continues, such as this weekly E-News and through the new WEB page (  In February, after we get the financial operations in order, the Board and I will focus our prime energy on providing more effective and user-friendly communications.  We look to provide smoother WEB meeting possibilities for our Board, Commissions, and Task Forces.  Another type of communication is being developed where you may get to see highlights of Conference ministries and local church missions in video blogs.  Dan Petersen, our WEB master has been keeping us online, and more. We will work together to further develop easier ways to connect with each other as churches, individuals, and commissions.

    Concerns about our Mission and Identity are also on our mind.  I am bringing together two of our larger church senior pastors together this week to discuss their mutual interests in outreach to Mexico.  A rural church pastor has talked with me about their church hosting a weekend work gathering to help save their church building.  Our Board is working towards setting up Conference leadership visits to 6-7 areas of the Conference this Spring for sharing and listening times with churches in each area.  I am currently involved with 8 congregations seeking supply, interim or permanent pastoral leadership. Ministering to searching churches is a significant part of our identity as we proclaim that we are churches that care for each other. In March, the Board and I will be giving a priority of our time to developing our Conference approaches to Mission and Identity.

    Perhaps one of these areas of primary focus particularly interests you: Financial Operations, Communications and Outreach, Identity and Mission. If you would like to get involved, give Trudi Downer a call so you might be connected into the Conference Call meetings and/or WEB meetings of these task forces.


Marc Stewart

The Montana Association of Christians – MAC (formerly known as the Montana Association of Churches) seeks an ecumenically passionate individual to fill its new position of Coordinator. This person will have excellent written and oral communication skills as well as competence at utilizing emerging tools of technology. The MAC Coordinator will be responsible for communications, promoting the work of MAC, managing the data and files of the organization, arranging meetings, and serving as the connector between the various bodies, people, ministry teams, and partners of MAC.
 MAC Logo new
Download this file (MAC Coordinator Job Posting PDF.pdf)MAC Coordinator Position[ ]112 kB

Greetings, MT-NWy UCC Conference churches, pastors, leaders, and friends,

We are still working on putting together a 2-page email newsletter to send out each week.  For now, I am writing by email to keep you posted and to share some gratitude and hope for our common faith life.  This week's email would certainly be more than two pages of a formatted enews mailing.    As you will see in my "God-seed" note, I have included a number of excerpts from pastors' newsletter articles.  There are wonderful words of life shared among us, and some of these need to be shared further than a local church's newsletter.   Perhaps you know of news in your church newsletter that would be good to share with the rest of our churches and beyond.   As you go to our newly created WEB site, you will see a tab on the right side margin which you can use to send your news and articles to the Conference WEB.  

Marc Stewart
Conference Minister


Conference Prayer Cares:

…with the team of people from University UCC Missoula who are in Nogales, Mexico this week, led by Rev. Peter Shober.

…with Trudi Downer as she attends to her mother’s recovery from surgery.

…with Rev. Allen Adams as he moves through these tender times of loss following the death of his wife, Laverne.

…with our churches in the midst of their searches for pastors: Baker UCC, Powder River UCC Broadus, Sheridan First UCC, Red Lodge Community UCC, Big Timber UCC, Miles City United Christian UCC/DOC,  Great Falls UCC.

...with Pastor John Sellers and Liz Hoy as they prepare for their ecclesiastical councils (to be held at Big Timber UCC, as a called conference business meeting, on February 7)

…with Rev. Larry Pray as he recovers from a series of strokes,

“Much to our surprise yet another stroke hit home the day after Christmas.  It too led to a hospital stay.  Once again the hospital staff was more than surprised that somehow or other, life found a way to prevail.  As you would expect, there are both blessings and curses that made their presence known.  The good news is that I am still physically able to move.  Workouts continue.  That said, there are losses as well.  Though I can see things far away, the words I now type disappear within a moment of typing them.  Reading has become virtually impossible…  In any event, I wanted to share this with you, hoping that you might pass the word on to those who may remember me.  I am grateful for the healing power of both friendship and prayer…”   Larry

MT-NWy Conference UCC needs:

            Accountant in the Billings, MT area

            News articles and calendar items to post on our site

            Proof reader for news and WEB site

Calendar Reminders

     February 7, 10 AM - 2 PM, Big Timber UCC.  A call went out to churches and pastors to gather for the official conference business of conducting ecclesiastical council on Feb. 7 for Liz Hoy and John Sellers.  Support materials can be found at the WEB site.  (An ecclesiastical council is when the conference votes to approve a candidate for ordination on behalf the whole United Church of Christ.)


Note from Marc Stewart, Conference Minister:

    As those who have received notes or emails from me, you are used to my sign-off being “God-speed.”   As a take off from that sign-off, how about this the sign-in (ie for my weekly blog), “God-seed.”   Here I a God-seed for this week….not that it is mine, but rather the planting a faith seeds that we trust will not return empty:


Christians live the gift of authentic gratitude and humble hope, even (or perhaps especially) when the community hurts.  I have seen this to be true when I visited communities existing at the extreme edges of life: civil war raved communities in Guatemala, poverty struck communities in India, terrorist ravaged communities in the Philippines, hurricane tossed communities between Biloxi and New Orleans, economically deprived communities in Indian country.  We have our own particular hurts, even as our lives may so placidly compare with what exists in other communities.  By voice of some of our MT-NWy Conference pastors, be moved with me to gratitude and hope:


From Rev. Steve Gordon, Mayflower UCC in Billings MT, “The Log”

"Hobson's Choice" is an old figure of speech that describes any situation for which there are no alternatives. It derives from a seventeenth century English liveryman who required customers, seeking to rent a saddle horse from him, to take the next available horse or none at alL It was a hard and fast rule. As we begin a new year, what better way than to reflect on choices. Yet we are not always free to make choices we might like, because life often brings us face to face with certain limitations.  We all have limitations to face, including the acceptance of our finitude in this life. Life in the journey of faith is the ability to find the goodness of God in whatever sort of life you are given.  A person confined to a wheelchair summed it up best. "Being in a wheelchair is an inconvenience, but not knowing God is a handicap."  Like Hobson, time and life sets before us inescapable choices. The serenity prayer of the AA program says it so well: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I Cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."   As we enter this New Year, let us dare to dream. Let us make choices in hope. In whatever obstacle we encounter, let us call upon the Lord; "In all things God works for good, with those who love God." (Romans 8:28)   May the year with our Lord, 2015, be filled with God's blessings for you and yours.   Have a Blessed Year, Steve 


From Rev. David Munson, Great Falls MT UCC “The Good News”

New Year Sojourners:  "Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find eternity in the moment," urges Henry David Thoreau. The moment is God's gift to each of us. After all, faith speaks to how the past lives in God's mercy and the future remains at God's discretion. So, all that is left is the present moment.   In our busy lives we devote too much energy trying to avoid being present. We are preoccupied with thinking about what comes next. We tend to label certain moments as worthless because they don't meet our expectations of what is of value. And there are times when we carry the weight of the past with regret, not being able to do anything in the present moment.   God has wired us to take action in the moment for that is where the experience of God is always present. As the cellist Pablo Casals says, "Each second we live is a new and unique moment in the universe, a moment that never was before and never will be again."   As the new year unfolds, pledge yourself to the moment and let it teach you what it has to offer. Surrender yourself to the present and let it resonate within your soul as the Source of Life radiates with the surprises that come forth. Peace for the Journey, David 


From  Rev. Neil Lindorff, People’s Congregational UCC in Sidney MT and First UCC in Savage MT, “The Tie”

The other day I got a haircut. While waiting for my tum, I was visiting with another customer waiting. He was talking about the cold weather, the ice, and the snow. His accent did not sound like Eastern Montana, so I asked him where he was from. He was from northern Alabama and was here working in the oil field. He said that he had never spent a winter north of Memphis. His world was much different now, than he was used to. From his perspective the weather was much worse than I would have said, but it made sense from his perspective. My grandson Logan is 3 1/2 now. He has spent all of his life living in Langdon and Cavalier, North Dakota. Northeast North Dakota, 15 miles from Canada, is not known as one of the warmest and most mellow climates in the world. Their backyard in Cavalier comes up to a little river that runs through town. Of course being in Cavalier, North Dakota, the river is frozen over for four or five months of the year. Last May Logan asked where the ice on the river went. From his perspective, from spending all of his short life in northeast North Dakota, he could remember more times of the river being frozen than times of no ice on the river. His perspective on the cold, the snow, the ice, and winter weather in general is far different than the man from Alabama. We all get used to things be in certain ways. We get used to our surroundings.  Changes in our surroundings may confuse us, they may threaten our stability, for we can only compare to how things appear from our own personal perspectives. That is true of a lot of things in life. That is even true of our lives as Christians. If we do not regularly read the Bible, its perspective is seldom part of ours. If we never pray, prayer does not become part of how we look at life. If we do not worship on a regular basis, then worship can never be part of our perspective on life.  As we begin a new year, take note of where you are in your Christian faith. Take note of what things about your faith mean something to you. Think about it. Now is a good time to begin new practices, or renew old ones, that bring the perspective of our faith, of God's word, or prayer, of our community and worship into how we look at the rest of life.   Happy New Year!!! Pastor Neil


From “The Spirit of Union Congregational Church UCC” in Buffalo, WY served by Rev. John Dyce

I am moved by the children’s Christmas program offered at Union Congregational Church UCC in Buffalo, Wyoming: “Each member of the class selected a child in need from around the globe and asked whether or not that child is being welcomed into the world or relegated to the stable.  Those selected included a boy in Cambodia, a little Roma girl in Serbia, a Sudanese refugee family, Tazidi children fleeing ISIS, and a little girl in West Virginia. Our youngest members handed out pictures of the children with the words of “What Child is This.”


From staff at University UCC Missoula, Rev. Peter Shober

It is with gratitude and no small amount of admiration that we send out this letter to you as we enter into this sacred season of Christmas.  
     First off, let us send you our Christmas greetings and blessings – may the ever-birthing Christ come home again within your hearts and the hearts of those closest to you.  May the power of love overpower you, your worries, your fears and the broken places we all encounter daily.  May we rest in this ‘power of love’ and know that the forces of loveless power need not reign over our lives.  May God bless and keep us all as we travel again to the manger.
     Again, as your staff, we extend our gladness in working with you.  Our congregation is faithful, vital and innovative and that is because our shared energy has a wonderful way of connecting to the sacred story we covenant to carry forward.   We have much to celebrate together -- The energy created from our vision campaign these past years is bearing great fruit in so many ways in our congregation.  Each of the five priorities are moving forward – our youth program is robust, our spiritual formation programs are getting great traction, small group ministry is growing by leaps and bounds, our efforts at becoming a more green congregation are being aided by such things as a new roof and groups gathering to commit to more sustainable lifestyles.  Our mission activities have also greatly grown with our emerging partnership with HEPAC in Nogales, Mexico, with on-going hosting of homeless families in our church with Family Promise and with all of the many ways we serve our community and world.

Attached you will find materials for you to read and reflect upon fo rthe Ecclesiastical Council for Liz Hoy and John Sellers which is called for Sat. Feb. 7. 2015 at First Congregational Church, UCC of Big Timber.  We will begin at 10:00am and conclude by 2:00pm.  The Big Timber church has graciously agreed to host this event and to serve lunch and refreshments.  Please send them a count from you church as to how many will be attending so they have an accurate count for how much to prepare for lunch.  Read More In Attached Letter and Papers.....

Download this file (2015_01_14_14_09_07.pdf)Sellers Ordination Paper[ ]1093 kB
Download this file (2015_01_14_14_17_26.pdf)Hoy Profile[ ]918 kB
Download this file (EC Letter.pdf)EC Letter[ ]194 kB

Greetings, MT-NWy Churches and leaders,

This is a quick email in the midst of the return to the ministry I am called to here.  I hope you will read the personal letter that I have both copied and attached to this email.  This Conference Minister letter will also be sent to churches by US mail.

Marc Stewart
Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference UCC
Conference Minister

A few items of pastoral concern for those in our midst:

1) Retired pastor from Fairfield and Power UCCs, Allen Adams, suffered the death of his wife, Laverne, on Sunday. Laverne had been recently ill.  Services will be planned for May, "when the flowers are blooming" says Allen.  Their 6 grandchildren and their son and daughter will be coming in (tentatively planned for May 16 at Fairfield UCC). If you would like to send greetings, his address is PO Box 548, Fairfield, MT 59436  (

2) Our moderator, Trudi Downer, will be with her family and 93+ year old mother next week, as her mother goes into the Helena hospital for surgery and followed by rehab.  We keep Trudi and her family in our prayers, especially on Monday morning during the surgery.

Pastoral Letter from Conference Minister, Marc Stewart
Also Attached as a PDF file

Greetings: Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference Churches,

Letter and Email from: Conference Minister, Marc Stewart  (January 8, 2015)


Thank you for the many notes and calls of "welcome back.” An opportunity exists for the MT-NWy Conference to reshape itself, as we discern new possibilities of mission and ministry together.  First, I would like to be upfront with you by sharing that I will forever appreciate our Board of Directors for their recognition and graceful intervention of my need to more constructively handle my depressive mood disorder.  The Board of Directors was not free to share the details of this, but I am sharing it so that you may know what you have been providing in retaining me.  Thank you for this gift of hope and expectation. 


Second, you may be aware from recent Board of Director mailings that the past 7 months have also provided opportunity to assess the Partnership we were in with the Montana Region Disciples of Christ.  On Tuesday evening, January 6, the MT Region DOC met to affirm the recommendation of its Board of Directors that the Region leave the Partnership.  There is disappointment among MT-NWy Conference leaders and some local churches.  Please know that our Board of Directors, and I, worked hard to address the concerns that the MT Region had about our Conference and this Conference Minister.  Our ecumenical United Church of Christ spirit “that they may all be one” keeps us in hope for future ecumenical ministries, even as we realize that we were not able to maintain as deep a partnership as we had attempted here as DOC and UCC.


Third, it is so good to be back in the office and doing what I am called to here.  Lynne Simcox provided excellent Conference Ministry while I was on leave and Trudi Downer was tirelessly faithful in her over-site of Conference concerns.  The Conference Board of Directors and I are deeply grateful to Lynne and Trudi and to the National UCC leaders who stepped in for consultation.  There is more enthusiasm and hopeful expectation for renewing Conference identity and mission than ever.  


Our Conference leaders and I have our work cut out for us.  In the weeks, and immediate months ahead, we will develop the 2015 budget and continue the task forces that have been convened to address finances, mission and identity, communications and WEB presence.  Volunteer participation in these task forces is most welcome!


I do invite your questions and support.  I will keep you posted on our Conference happenings as we put together a new WEB site ( and begin sending newsletters on a regular schedule. 


Please direct your Conference communications and OCWM, Mission Offerings, and Association dues to our Montana-N. Wyoming Conference office:

            2016 Alderson Ave.

            Billings, MT  59102

Download this file (Back in Office letter copy.pdf)Pastoral Letter[ ]456 kB
December 10, 2014

To: Churches of the Montana Northern Wyoming Conference UCC
From: Trudi Downer, Moderator
       On behalf of the Board of Directors
       Montana Northern Wyoming Conference
Re: Conference Situation Review
       Partnership Ministries Status

Fellow Members of the Montana Northern Wyoming Conference UCC:

Thank you so much for your patience and support during these past six months. Your leadership has asked for your trust and has asked you to persevere with little concrete information for guidance.

I am sending you this much-needed explanation and information packet following the Conference Situation Review on October 7 and 8, 2014, and the Board of Directors meeting of November 14-15, 2014. The past few months have been extremely difficult for the Conference, the DOC Region and the Partnership. It is important that we move in a positive direction looking forward. No one person or event is to blame for the difficulty in operating the Partnership; it is a combination of many factors, and it would be futile to spend time trying to fix blame.

Your Board, with the backing of our National denomination, is committed to moving forward, 
to finding the best way to meet our fiduciary responsibilities to the Denomination, our Conference churches, and the Partnership and will be counting on the support of the entire Conference to make this happen.

The position in which we find ourselves is not where any of us wants to be, but provides an 
excellent opportunity for us to stop and reflect on what our Conference and Partnership can be. Together, we will move positively forward. 

I am attaching with this article information to more fully answer the questions which have been received from throughout the Conference:

       Report summarizing what has been happening since June 15, 2014.
       Situation Review Summary
       Task Force Information Sheet
       UCC Board of Directors Contact Information

We seek your prayer, your suggestions, and your participation. Together we can move forward.

We have launched our new Facebook Page!  
Please visit and give a share and a like!   Thanks! 


Even though all our old email addresses still work we want to make sure that you have our new ones!  Here they are!

General Mailbox -

Rev. Marc Stewart - - Conference Minister

Elaine Black - - Camp Administrator & Registrar

Kim Harris - - Program Director Camp Mimanagish

Dan Petersen - - Conference Technology / Webmaster



I am so excited to publish this new site for the Montana - Northern Wyoming Conference.   This was a very fun project for me and it is growing every day.  My goal was to build a site that was easy to maintan and also very easy for anyone to contribute content to.  That being said here are a few of the great features for you to explore. Click the bold to jump to the feature! 

Conference Calendar - Find out what is going on in the MNWC and its Congregations. 
Submit An Event - By filling out a simple form you can get your event posted on this website.  
Conference News -  Here we have put information we think is important for you to know.  Our goal is to post something here as often as we can. 
Submit An Article -  By filling out a simple form you can post an article on this website.  

Please take time to explore our site.  If you have any changes, corrections, or updates please email me at and I will get them posted ASAP for you.  

Thank You!

Dan Petersen
Conference Webmaster


MAC, the Montana Association of Christians (formerly known as the Montana Association of Churches), will hold MAC Day at the Montana Legislature in Helena on January 26.  This is an event open to all who are members of churches and denominations associated with MAC and all who are interested in MAC's mission.

MAC is an ecumenical organization of seven denominations in Montana.  MAC's mission is to respond faithfully to God's call to pray together as one, be present together in our state's broken places, and walk in the freedom and openness of the Holy Spirit.  MAC has a long history of speaking out for God's people who are the most vulnerable in our state.  Each session of the Montana Legislature MAC is present.  This session MAC will advocate in four areas:  abolishing the death penalty in favor of life without parole, caring for the welfare of children, reforming the ways prisoners are reintegrated into society, and care for immigrants.

MAC Day at the Legislature will be a time for us: to pray together, to learn about how to speak with our representatives and senators, to meet our legislators and talk with them about our concerns, to eat lunch with one another and our legislators, and to thank our legislators for their work and let them know we are praying for them.  It is an exhilarating day for us to put our faith to work, striving to make God's world a better place.

To participate, come to Helena on January 26.  Carpool with others from your church or community.  Some communities will be sending buses or vans.  Contact the MAC office for details about transportation by calling at 406-449-6010 or email at  The day begins at 8:30 a.m. at St. John's Lutheran Church, 1000 Helena Ave.  At 10:00 a.m. we move to the Capital.  Lunch is included in the day's events.  We conclude about 2:00 p.m.

The Rev Geoffrey Black will retire after completion of a full term in office, and soon to be two years of a second term, at the end of General Synod 2015. The search for his successor has begun and a committee comprised of 18-diverse members has formed to begin the work of identifying a candidate to present to the United Church of Christ Board at its spring meeting in March 2015.

Please watch the message from The Rev. Dr. Bernard R. Wilson, Chair, United Church of Christ Board.

(This article was published in the Summer 2014 Issue of the Insurance Board newsletter)

Pastors have an extraordinary intellectual and creative burden to provide a weekly sermon that inspires, cleanses and even entertains, for virtually the same audience. How much more "under the microscope" can one's efforts possibly be? For this effort we would expect there is a great deal of ownership assumed. This is my work. This is my pride and joy. This is a reflection of me and my faith. Except you (the pastor) don't own it.

Especially because of the proliferation of social media, from web pages, to Facebook,
and live streaming and YouTube, copyrights have become a live issue, and an elusive one at that. And it is an issue that should concern clergy whose pastoral role involves a large measure of literary creativity.

Section 201(b) of the Copyright Act states "(i)n the case of a work made for hire, the
employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author ...
and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright." *

Copyright law generally provides that an employer owns the work product of its employees. That means, for example, the copyright for this document, albeit authored by a single employee, belongs to the Insurance Board. If the work is created pursuant to employment, and the author is not thoroughly qualified as an "independent contractor," the work belongs to the employer. That is, the precise employment relationship matters in the determination of copyright. For clergy that can be tricky.

Therefore, based upon the principles above, the copyright for sermons produced in the
course of employment for a church, is the property of the church. Unless a Call Agreement (or other writing) makes specific provisions for copyrights, clergy may not own sermons or other work they produce "on church time."

Recently the UCC has added copyright language to its standard Call Agreement. The
language leaves copyrights with the pastor while providing an unlimited license to the
church employer. We suggest that the Call Agreement be considered a living document,
and this issue provides an example of an evolving issue for which you, pastor or congregation, may wish to have some clarity.

* -- The Essential Guide to Copyright Law for Churches, Richard R. Hammar, Christianity
Today International, 2010, p 16.