Letter from Interim Conference Minister

One People, One Sovereign, One Familia:
The Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ

We did it! Our 2019 Annual Celebration was truly a celebration of who we are and where God is calling us as the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ. We danced in the aisles at Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel. Any time you can dance in church and in the struggles of life it is ALWAYS a good day.

Friends:

God has always most vividly spoken to me in dreams. I had this experience again in 2016. I woke up and I knew that my next call would be in Conference Ministry. I shared this with James. I knew he would be totally opposed to moving as once he settles — he settles and is good for the rest of his life.

Since “CHANGE” in our lives was only “theoretical” at that point he wasn’t thrilled but said he would support “us” and go wherever God was leading. His willingness to live into God’s will, discern and listen with me to the Whippers of the Spirit was a gift. It was SCARY.

About seven (7) months later, I received an e-mail out of the blue from Campbell Lovett, Conference Minister of the Michigan Conference, inviting me to join his staff. I did not apply for nor know there was an opening. God continues to be GOD and do what God is going to do. As is my pattern, I resisted. My congregation was thriving and we had just been named that Social Prophet Congregation of the year for Synod 2017. I resisted change in spite of God already telling me what was going to happen in my journey. How human of me.

It was James, at our kitchen table who looked me in the eye stating, “Why are you resisting? Wasn’t it you who told me that God told you that your next call would be in Conference Ministry? What I heard was, “Smack, Smack, Smack, are you going to follow where God is leading or continue to resist God’s plan which includes DRAMATIC CHANGE for your lives. Smack. Smack.”

“I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the Illinois Conference. I will create rivers of blessing from the difficulties within the Conference, Associations and your local congregations.” Isaiah 43:19 (New Living Translation with a little help from Justo.)

I am So HUMAN. We are So HUMAN. We know that things are constantly changing around us. We are certain God is Doing God’s Work and YET WE RESIST. We can either DARE to RISK BOLDLY, DISCERN and TRUST GOD or we can REFUSE to LISTEN/DISCERN/CHANGE and BECOME an OBSTICLE.

It is SCARY to be INVITED to the DANCE by a NEW PARTNER. Yet, HERE WE ARE. LET’S DANCE. If you look closely, the music is somewhat familiar, many of the dancers are the same folks we’ve danced with before and others are not. These are OUR PEOPLE. Let us not shy away from Discerning the NEXT Steps to the Dance, playing the music that honors ALL OF OUR PEOPLE and acknowledge that Some Music We like Better Than Others. We Prefer This Over That. We’d like OUR CAKE and EAT IT TOO. Yet, LIFE leads us in Comfortable and Uncomfortable paths.

We are NOT OPPOSED TO CHANGE AS LONG AS EVERYTHING STAYS THE SAME. Let the Church say Amen!

Sisters, Brothers and Siblings in Christ, I GET IT. None of us like CHANGE. Yet, God in this time and place, is calling us to speak what we already know.

  • We must shift or we will die.
  • We must DARE to RISK or WE WILL CONTINUE TO BE Stagnant.
  • We cannot afford to be Unfocused.
  • We must DISCERN and Know OUR WHY for Ministry as local congregations, clergy, Associations and as a Conference.
  • If you’d like to know more about discovering your personal and professional “WHY” see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ytFB8TrkTo.

Let us, as ONE PEOPLE of God and ONE FAMILIA (FAMILY) in the Illinois Conference DISCERN TOGETHER WHAT GOD INTENDS. WE will DISCERN TOGETHER. There is no hidden agenda. RELATIONSHIP BUILDING is OUR AGENDA. Creating a Culture of Truth & Transparency is THE AGENDA. SERVING YOU is THE AGENDA.

My commitment to the Conference Council and you is to gift you by Naming the PINK ELEPHANTS in the ROOM.

  • We can no longer avoid the hard and difficult choices before us.
  • We cannot ignore that “Covenant” seems to have lost a clear definition among us.
  • We cannot pretend that we are being gifted with OCWM dollars like we were blessed in the past.
  • We cannot ignore that EVERYONE WANTS THEIR OWN ACM but that not every congregation and ministry is willing to support us financially.
  • We can no longer ignore that everyone loves our camps yet they are draining us of resources. Either things shift or we are all dead.
  • We can no longer pretend that shifting the deck seats doesn’t mean that we’re not on the Titanic. A comprehensive restructure is needed to align our conference, association and church structures to the reality of 2019 and beyond.

I am EXCITED and SCARED to inform you that we cannot continue to be or have the same organizational structure of the past. We must discern together where God is Calling Us in the NEXT CHAPTER of OUR COMMUNAL Lives. We can do this.

I need, (as our Conference Leadership Team both lay and clergy) your wisdom, grace, support and ability to LISTEN to the Whispers of The Holy Spirit as we Discern our Future.

Warmest Regards,
Rev. Justo González, II
Interim Conference Minister
Ministro de la Conferencia Interino