The theme of the annual meeting of the Southeast Conference of the United Church Christ (UCC) was “That We May All Be One.” The Southeast Conference is comprised of 54 congregations from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, some in South Carolina, and the eastern part of Mississippi.
The 136 participants attended workshops, worship services, business meetings and enjoyed renewing acquaintances at meal times and social events. Although two workshops were held Thursday, May 30, the main conference was held Friday through Sunday, May 31-June 2 in the Pleasant Hill Community Church, UCC buildings and neighboring Uplands Village facilities.
The United Church of Christ denomination was formed from four faiths — Congregational, Christian, Evangelical and Reformed — in 1957 with the national church based in Cleveland, OH. The UCC is a “church of firsts;” the first historically white denomination to ordain an African-American, the first to ordain a woman, the first to ordain an openly gay man and the first Christian church to affirm the right of same-gender couples to marry.
The opening worship included welcomes from the Rev. Char Burch, transitional Southeast Conference minister, and the Rev. John Dorhauer, general minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Burch began as the transitional conference minister for the Southeast Conference in January 2019. Originally from Eastern Pennsylvania, she grew up in the United Church of Christ, specializing in interim ministry, resulting in 36 years of serving as interim minister for local churches and interim conference staff positions in the Northern California-Nevada, Hawaii, Pacific Northwest, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri Mid-South, Penn Central and Penn West Conferences. With her husband, Larry Burch, she now makes Pleasant Hill her home.
The Rev. Dorhauer began his ministry serving First Congregational United Church of Christ and Zion United Church of Christ in rural Missouri. He then served as associate conference minister in the Missouri Mid-South Conference and conference minister of the Southwest Conference of the UCC prior to his election as general minister and president.
The afternoon business meeting was followed by a Polynesian/Hawaiian themed pig roast sponsored by Uplands Village. Workshops followed dinner with an opportunity for a hike around Village trails for those needing a physical break. More hikes were provided on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Twenty-four workshops offered opportunities to learn about: theological diversity, welcoming veterans, gender issues, church marketing, the SE conference, self-care, global ministries, a community solar array, stewardship, social and environmental justice, mental health stigmas, the UCC, green churches, retirement, calls to ministry, boundaries awareness and support for immigrants.
An expo in the Heritage Hall provided opportunities for delegates and visitors to learn more about related ministries and purchase fair trade products. The Pleasant Hill Historical Society of the Cumberlands provided docents to guide those interested around Pioneer Hall Museum, and Uplands Village offered tours of their facilities.
The Pleasant Hill Noters, a group of dulcimer players, accompanied by violin and harmonica, played as all gathered for a celebratory luncheon on Saturday. At this time 35 ministers were recognized for special ordination anniversaries and churches for contributing to all five of the United Church of Christ special offerings during the year.
Celebrating 60 years of ordination each were Tom Eckert, Will Rabert and Pat Robbennolt of the PH Community Church. The Pleasant Hill Community Church, UCC was one of the top contributors to our church’s wider mission and among the “5 for 5” churches as well. May’s Café of Uplands Village supplied the food for all meals and social activities. A combined choir composed of the Community Choir and conference visitors was organized and led by Pastor Glenna Shepherd at the major worship service on Saturday.
Hosting such a large, diverse conference was a major undertaking for the local PH Community Church. Rebecca Seldomridge chaired the Planning Committee; Pastor Glenna Shepherd designed the worship services; Martha Forlenza chaired the home team of many volunteers who assisted; Diana Riggs provided amazing music; Maria Duran kept the church clean throughout the meeting; Don Smith served as parliamentarian for the meetings, and Wayne Edwards provided the flower arrangement in the sanctuary.
Workshop leaders included Marie Fortune, Gail Ford, Sue Peeples, and Pastor Glenna Shepherd of the Community Church. Sharon Weible opened the Pioneer Museum and Tom Mitchell led hikes. A host of other Church members provided countless other services before, during and after the meetings. They took great pride in showing off their small piece of paradise here on the Plateau.
This week in Pleasant Hill:
Wednesdays, 9-11 a.m. — Sorting books for the used book sale, books and volunteers needed. Call Ted or Marty at 277-5853. Donations accepted.
Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 2-5 p.m. Pioneer Hall Museum is open for visits until the end of October. If you have visitors at any other time, feel free to call Sharon at 277-5226 or Chris at 277-3742. They will try to arrange a special tour. Visit www.pioneerhallmuseum.net.
Wednesday, June 19, 5 p.m. — Documentary: Orange Revolution – Presidential elections in Ukraine in Room 4, PH Community Church, UCC Main St. and Church Dr. in Pleasant Hill.
Wednesdays, 6 p.m. — Bible study and prayer at the Pleasant Hill Baptist Mission at 39 Browntown Rd. near Main St.
Thursday, June 20, noon, Friendshipment to Cuba discussion in Adshead Hall of Fletcher House.
Thursday, June 20, 7 p.m. — Community Bridge, Fletcher House Dining Room. All welcome. Call 277-5005.