"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." Isaiah 60:1 I greet you in the spirit of Epiphany, a season that brings light into the darkness and incarnates love into a broken and fragile world. Perhaps the greatest gift the three wise men could offer us was their bold willingness to follow a star and be led by the light. This is a time in the history of the Church when God’s faithful remnant must look for light, listen for guidance and long for the nudge of the Holy Spirit to help us reimagine what it means to BE THE CHURCH in this time and place.
Every day, the mission and ministry of our wider United Church of Christ affects lives near and far. Together, our spiritual values and inclusive theology, our mission dollars and commitment to justice make a real difference in this world. Spiritually progressive people resonate and partner with us!
In practice, the daily task of the Wisconsin Conference is to connect, resource and support local churches, pastors and leaders. In 2022, keeping pulpits filled was a real challenge. Fortunately, the Conference continued to attract pastoral candidates from around the country as the Conference staff worked tirelessly to support more than 50 searches. Conference programs thrived, including Supportive Ministries, Conflict Transformation Team, Unified MID Team for Members in Discernment, Damascus Project and Catalyst Grants, which helps congregations build partnerships in their local communities to serve the common good. Project grants totaled $31,794 in 2022.
Our justice work continues. The Creation Care Team is engaging congregations in the Kairos Call to Action. The WISE movement - Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive and Engaged for mental health - is gaining traction. We are rolling out a new anti-racism training curriculum through the Damascus Project and continuing our efforts toward Indigenous justice with the Ho Chunk Nation.
The Daycholah Center at Green Lake will soon become our new Conference headquarters. Later in January, the Conference will close on a $2.4 million agreement with United Church Camps Inc. to transfer the Daycholah Center deed to the Conference, thereby alleviating much of UCCI’s debt and allowing for a robust multiyear reboot of our Outdoor Ministries. We now have an accepted purchase offer for the Conference office in DeForest, with plans in place to convert it to a Holistic Health Clinic. We expect that the office transition to Daycholah will take place by early spring, although most staff work will continue to be done remotely.
The Conference board of directors is deeply grateful for your congregation’s commitment to Our Church’s Wider Mission, and we continue to grow the Wisconsin Foundation UCC, which now manages the assets of several congregations. We invite you to explore this option for your church. We also launched the Leadership Forward capital campaign focusing on long-term funding for three essential Conference ministries: Damascus Project, Catalyst Grants and Ministerial Assistance.
Finally, 2022 brought several significant staffing transitions. In September, we welcomed the Rev. Rachel Bauman as the new associate conference minister in the Southern region. In January, we are excited to welcome the Rev. Michael Jones as the next associate conference minister in the Northwest, succeeding the retired Rev. Rob MacDougall. We also hired an excellent new part- time annual meeting planner, Jaime Craig, and are thrilled to announce (along with the Minnesota Conference) the calling of a new Damascus Project director, the Rev. Stephanie Perdew.
Submitted with a heart full of gratitude and hope,
Rev. Franz Rigert
In 1957 St. John’s Evangelical and Reformed Church became St. John’s United Church of Christ as a result of a merger. The denominations of the Congregational Christian Church, along with Evangelical and Reformed Church joined to form United Church of Christ. UCC is a distinct and diverse community of Christians that came together as one church. They joined faith and actions and currently are over 5,000 churches with nearly one million members across the U.S. The UCC serves God in the co-creation of a just and sustainable world. The UCC is a church of "firsts," a church of extravagant welcome, and a church where "…they may all be one".