The following information was shared by Liz Gilbert who attended the UCC NH Conference Annual Meeting in October, 2018

My big takeaway that I had, from attending the NH Conference UCC annual meeting, was one of a connection to other UCC congregations in NH, and a feeling of being greater together, with our church being a part of a bigger spiritual body in Christ.  We’re all on the same team, so to speak, on the same mission to serve God.

In the breakout session that I attended, Rev Ray spoke of the church being an anchor.  I found this word choice to be so powerful and comforting in today’s chaotic world.

I’d like to share the mission of the NH Conference of the United Church of Christ

Our Mission is to worship, work, and pray with the congregations of our Conference and with mission partners in our denomination and throughout the world, so that together we practice the love of Jesus Christ.

Our Vision is a world that seeks compassion, justice, and peace for all people, a faith that celebrates the Holy Spirit as the source of joy, growth and healing, and a church that offers to all a dwelling place with God and for God.

The following information was shared by Pat Harris who attended the UCC NH Conference Annual Meeting in October, 2018

NEW HAMPSHIRE CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

VISION STATEMNT: Our vision is a world that seeks compassion, justice and peace for all people, a faith that celebrates the Holy Spirit as the source of joy, growth and healing, and a church that offers to all a dwelling place with God and for God.

UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST HISTORY

MOTTO: That they may all be one. (John 17:22) I have honored my followers just as you have honored me, in order that they may be one with each other, just as we are one.

1957: Evangelical and Reformed Church and Congregational Christian Churches.

One in Christ, richly diverse in most other ways.  African Americans, Armenians, Asians, European Americans, Hispanics, native Hawaiians, Hungarians, Native Americans and Samoans are among the many who have shaped our denomination.

A hallmark of the UCC and each of its four root denominations is  an historical commitment to freeing people as much as possible so they could worship God.  This came from the theological belief that each person is called into relationship with Christ.  This understanding was also reflected in the UCC’s commitment to work in society, by founding schools, hospitals, relief organizations, and overseas missions. The UCC has a long history in social justice: helping to abolish slavery, advocating the rights of women (including ordination), opposing racism, establishing ethnic congregations, advocating justice for all persons, regardless of race, gender or sexual identity .

Within the NH Conference, the Madbury church is home to Maranatha Indonesian UCC congregation. This month, the church in Lancaster, NH became the 1500th in our denomination to declare itself Open and Affirming, a process that lets all who approach the doors of the church know they will receive a warm welcome, regardless of whom they love.

The basic unit of the UCC is the local church.  The Congregational church of Hollis is one of 134 local congregations comprising the NH Conference UCC.  We are among the 22 churches who make up the Hillsborough Association of the NH Conference.  NH has seven Associations and it is those associations who have responsibility for authorizing the ordained, commissioned and licensed clergy who serve in the denomination, and holding them accountable to the marks of faithful and effective ministry that are the standard in our denomination.

The fourth element in this covenantal relationship that is the UCC is the General Synod, the bi-annual gathering of delegates, conference and national staff for the purpose of worship, reports, resolutions and election of officers. It is the NH Conference annual meeting on steroids.  NH sends 13 delegates, as well as our Conference Minister and any guests who care to attend.  Synod meets this June in Milwaukee, WI.

The most important word to remember in understanding the polity of the UCC is COVENANT:  Each entity within the UCC is tied to all the others through covenant. In covenant we agree to respect, support and partner with each other.  There is no Hierarchy in the UCC.  None. Decisions made by General Synod, for instance, are not binding on any local church, association or conference.  Each congregation is totally self-governing.   Each calls its pastor, negotiating each aspect of the contract.  Each owns its property and makes decisions about worship, outreach, programs, and finances without interference from the association, conference or national offices.  At the same time, each level of the UCC, local church, association, conference and national, relies on the others for support, resources and guidance.  When it’s time for a congregation to call a new pastor, the conference guides the search committee, chosen by the members of the church, through the process of looking for and calling the person who is the best match for their church.  The decision to call and retain the pastor is solely the local church’s.  The conference offers workshops on all manner of issues facing the church, from how to manage the finances of the church to   music, faith formation, immigration and Bible study.  In exchange, local church members serve on various association and conference committees to do the work needed in the wider church.  For instance, Rev. Tanya serves on the worship committee for the conference annual meeting and was one of the leaders of the spectacular worship service last October.  She also serves on the executive committee of the association.  I co-chair the committee on church and ministry for the association, the body charged with oversight of clergy serving churches in our association and those preparing for the ministry.  Every local church member is invited to get involved in one or more of the many opportunities for service and growth.  As it happens, I chair the nominating committee if the conference so if you’d like to hear more about these opportunities, I’d be very happy to talk with you.

The United Church of Christ has been my home, my spiritual dwelling place, for my entire adult life and I cannot imagine it being otherwise for these reasons: The UCC is a place where everyone is not only welcome, but also affirmed, respected and allowed to be themselves, without judgment; The UCC encourages questions and recognizes that no one person, doctrine or religion has a lock on the truth.  While we affirm our belief in one God, in Jesus Christ as the sole head of the church, and the Holy Spirit as God’s own spirit breathed into each person and enveloping us as the air gently wafting in our midst, we are open to the truth others see in their faith traditions and practices.  For me, the UCC is the home that continues to love and shape me and empowers me daily to grow more fully into the person God created me to be.  I hope you allow it to be that home for you, as well, as you open yourselves to learning more about our denomination and experiencing it in whatever way best fits your life.

The following information was shared by Susan Benz regarding the Horton Center where the UCC NH Conference Annual Meeting was held in October, 2018

I was lucky enough to see the Horton Center  for the first time as a chaperone for some confirmands a few years back for a Confirmation Retreat. Horton Center is primarily a summer camp with program for children, teens, and adults that sits atop Pine Mountain in the heart of the Presidential Range near Gorham, New Hampshire. This is truly God’s country – and the area and vistas are magnificent.  Susan encourages anyone who has the opportunity to visit this camp and see for yourself the reason that they experience strong repeat camper attendance each summer.  They offer programs that may include hiking, canoeing, and rock climbing, intermixed with reminders of God’s presence and activity in our lives.

In addition to the use by the UCC as a summer camp, the Horton Center can be rented for short term retreats and to enjoy an ‘Outdoor’ Ministry experience. Tim Hughes is the Acting Director, and from his speech to us at the conference, he noted that ‘standing on Chapel rock or gazing up at the immense sky full of stars on Pinkham Ledge, one can’t help but be moved by the stunning beauty and the miracle of God’s creation all around’.

While all campers and staffers who attend a camp or a retreat love the Horton Center, the numbers of new campers has dropped each year for several years. Their budget currently has an operational  shortfall which has been mitigated by carefully managing expenses and needed maintenance. While they are brainstorming ideas to increase campership by better marketing, the reality is that they also need creative ways to streamline their expenses.

Some of their current plans include: shortening the weeks of the camp sessions, having multiple camp sessions running at the same time, and finally, combining the resources at the UCC Camp in Maine – Pilgrim Lodge as well as other New England UCC camps.  Additionally, they are looking to expand the weeks that the Camp is open to offer more availability for retreats for individual churches. A quick look at their website shows sessions offered virtually all year for 2019. They are hopeful that with increased communication about the benefits of using the Horton Center, coupled with a Capital Campaign to raise money for improvements, the camp will run successfully for the years to come.

© 2019 The Congregational Church of Hollis, UCC