Submitted by Rev. Dr. Don Longbottom, Conference Minister
CM Report September 2019
Recently it has been my privilege to preach and provide pastoral care in a number of our more rural congregations and I have been really impressed with their energy and spiritual vitality. The picture that accompanies this report is from last Sunday at Redeemer UCC in Zuehl, TX. I preached there twice during Rev. Lee Zillmann’s absence due to medical issues. Thankfully, Lee is recovering and the congregation is both blessed and healthy due to a very significant extent as a result of his faithful labor over many years. My conclusion, based on these recent experiences, is that the demise of the “rural congregation” has been vastly overstated.
Turning to a sadder note, I am increasingly concerned about the weaponization of language that is occurring all around us. It seems that Americans have lost the ability to talk with one another respectfully regarding their differences. Speaking of the UCC and our motto “All Are Welcome Here,” I am wondering what is it that God would have us to do in this situation and circumstance? As this church year progresses, I would invite our leaders here in South Central to begin addressing this issue. What can you do to address the uncivil discourse in our country today?
As Conference Minister, I continue to log around 2,000 miles each month as I seek to practice what I call “Connectional Caring.” This means being present for Association meetings, clergy gatherings, special celebrations by our congregations and a variety of other important venues. Although usually by plane, I try to connect with our New Orleans congregations on a monthly basis. Most Sunday mornings will find me preaching in one of our congregations.
An additional piece of the aforementioned mileage is in pursuit of “Pastoral Care and Consultation.” Being a clergy person is not an easy vocation as the demands are heavy and frequently the emotional and financial compensation are less than overwhelming. I would urge that all congregations institute a “Clergy Appreciation Sunday” during which they make sure their pastors experience love and acceptance. A little appreciation of the balance of the church staff would also be appreciated.
As time has passed I find myself more and more involved in “consultation” with pastors and on occasion with congregational leadership. The UCC today is in a difficult period where the demands are heavy and the resources lite. The emotional climate in the nation is quite harsh and this unfortunately but frequently finds its way into our congregations. I consider it an honor to assist our clergy as they seek to do God’s work in such times. They have and certainly deserve my deep respect and affection.
Despite the challenging nature of our times, it is my duty nevertheless to call upon all of you to support your camp and conference. During the next few days I will be reaching out to clergy and congregations asking each to sign on as a “Friend of the Conference,” and also to schedule a “Conference Sunday” during which a special offering for conference work is to be received. As a conference, we also continue to solicit your budgetary support. This request is made in the humble recognition that the preponderance of our congregations are experiencing financial challenges. We ask only that you do the best you are able.
Time moves quickly and it seems like yesterday that I began my ministry among you. Early into my fourth year, I marvel at the honor of serving you. I continue to be amazed by this wondrous calling. As a congregational pastor I considered being a Conference Minister to be the last position I would ever wish to hold. I was wrong and it continues to be a joyful experience and I thank you for the honor.
This article will also serve as my report to the SCC Board of Directors during our September 13-15, 2019 meeting at Slumber Falls Camp.
Peace and Grace,
Dr. Don Longbottom
SCC Conference Minister