We are the Maine Conference, UCC!
Please feel free to duplicate and use as an informational piece.
Welcome to the Maine Conference, United Church of Christ!
We are 160 congregations spread throughout the state of Maine. We gather in large Cathedral-like churches with sizable congregations, and we unite in the Meeting Houses of small rural communities. On Sundays we will hear from our Sanctuaries traditional hymns as well as contemporary Christian music. From our pulpits we will hear Good News preached which can comfort our souls, prick our conscience, and provoke deep spiritual reflection. We are a Christian community of faith--all 25,000 of us.
Throughout each week we find each other serving our churches, our ten Associations, and our Conference. We are a committed laity and clergy working together to build up the realm of God in our midst. Whether we are stocking a food pantry, singing songs of praise, splashing in Lake Cobbosseecontee, or reroofing a seminary in Honduras, we are people united in Christ. We are also a diverse community, a people of integrity, as we express our faith and struggle with the difficult issues that face our churches, our communities, our state, country, and world.
The Conference is served by a Conference Minister and two Associate Conference Ministers." The Conference Ministry staff provide service and support to ministers and congregations throughout the state. However, in the areas of ministerial search and call, conflict mediation, and Church and Ministry issues, they divide the Conference geographically; Rev. Susie Craig works with the Kennebec Valley, Hancock-Waldo, MidCoast, and York Associatons, while Rev. Rick Cowles works with the Cumberland, Franklin and Oxford-Union Associations and Rev. Darren Morgan works with the Penobscot-Piscataquis, Aroostook and Washington Associations.
The Conference is also served by a competent staff, including: Mark Schussler, Business Manager; Beth Campbell, Ministries Assistant; Anne Hodgman, Resource Center Director; Heidi Bennett, Adminstration and Finance Assistant; and Bryan Breault, Director of Outdoor Ministries, Rev. Mollie Landers Associate Director of Outdoor Ministries and Karen Steelhammer, Administrative Assistant of Outdoor Ministries.. Each and every staff member of the Maine Conference UCC serves the churches, the Associations, and Jesus Christ.
This piece is designed as a resource to further describe who we are and what we do. Please feel free to make copies and distribute it widely. Use it as a resource for church members as well as potential members.
Blessings upon you and your congregation as we share in our common ministry.
Richard W. Cowles, Jr., Interim Conference Minister
Susan Craig, Associate Conference Minister
Darren L. Morgan, Associate Conference Minister for Small Church Development
Who We Are
On any given Sunday in Maine, about 9,360 worshipers may be found in the more than 160 UCC churches scattered across the state (a day's drive from one end to the other). We gather in buildings dating from 1730 to 1994. In the shadow of majestic mountains, on the rugged, rockbound coast, in fertile valleys and fields, in mill towns and downtowns, we gather together in work and worship.
These churches range in membership from four to over a thousand; some are yoked parishes, others have multi-staffed ministries. The average OCWM (Our Churches Wider Mission) giving local churches, represents 5.3% of current expenses and an additional 5.2% of current expenses goes to other mission giving. In addition to supporting strong local churches, we join together in the following facilities and relationships.
PROGRAMS, PROPERTIES AND RELATIONSHIPS
Pilgrim Lodge: Nestled on the shores of Lake Cobbosseecontee in West Gardiner, more than a dozen cozy cabins linked by a rustic boardwalk annually welcome hundreds of children, youth and church families for summer camping experiences designed to nurture spiritual challenge and growth. Pilgrim Lodge also is becoming a site for individual churches to hold retreats.
The Maine Conference Center: This is the main office of the Maine Conference UCC, and it is located in Augusta, Maine. The Resource Center is also located at the Conference Center. The Conference Center is the business office for all the UCC church in the state of Maine and offers meeting rooms for groups from member churches and associations as well as other groups from the community at large..
Resource Center: The Resource Center provides print and audio-visual resources for all areas of church life and mission to individuals and congregations. Each church receives a catalog of video resources, along with twice-yearly supplements. Trained staff are available to recommend Sunday School curricula, Bible study resources, books and videos which cover a wide range of topics.
The Maine School of Ministry provides continuing educational opportunities for members and pastors alike as well as courses organized to nurture and train new generations of pastoral leaders for our churches.
State Youth Council: The Council is comprised of all the high school aged youth in the Maine Conference and led by an Executive Council of eight elected youth with three adult advisors. This group holds two retreats a year, leads one of the worship services at Annual Meeting, and offers opportunities for our youth to gather together in fellowship throughout the year as well as supporting participation in regional and national youth events. A member of the Executive Council sits on the Coordinating Council.
Resourcing the Local Church: The Coordinating Council appoints the members of the Resourcing the Local Church Committee. This committee maintains a policy for, and oversees the disbursement of, the income from Capital Campaign gifts that are designated for the Resourcing the Local Church Endowment Fund. Applications for these funds may be obtained from the Conference Office. (1-800-244-0937)
Honduras Partnership: The Conference has a growing relationship with the Evangelical and Reformed Church of Honduras and its social service arms. This has been a challenging and rewarding mission activity which has included work team visits, Honduran visits to Maine, and funding assistance for various projects.
Maine Ministerial Relief Society: Provides confidential, emergency financial assistance to Maine UCC clergy and their families through a fund which is administered by trustees from the Maine Conference.
Maine Council of Churches: The Maine Council of Churches is involved with issues related to social service and social justice. The Maine Council of Churches provides a unified voice for Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. It annually sponsors Seeds of Promise, an ecumenical conference, and offers workshops for Christian education.
United Church of Canada: Through the exchanging of visitors for Annual Meetings and occasional clergy retreats, the Maine Conference maintains a friendly relationship with the Maritime Province of the United Church of Canada.
Maine Seacoast Mission: This is a multi-denominational effort that provides ministers and ministry to the coastal and island churches of downeast Maine. With its flagship vessel, the Sunbeam, Maine Seacoast Mission helps connect often-isolated islanders and brings relief to the needy.
The Wilson Center: Named after author Dorothy Clark Wilson, the Wilson Center is the home of the Maine Christian Association and provides Protestant chaplaincy to the University of Maine at Orono. Supported in part by the Maine Conference, many of the Wilson Center's recent chaplains have been UCC clergy.
History and Background
Carved from the receding glacier of the Ice Age, Maine gradually took shape. Jagged edges of the drowned coast emerged, scattering islands, safe harbors and dangerous reefs along its length. Melting ice poured toward the sea, forming great rivers. Millions of tons of rubble created pockets for lakes and ponds. Gradually birch trees migrated from the south, followed by pines and spruce and then maple and other hardwoods. Forest animals, land and sea birds and hardy plants gradually claimed residence throughout the area. The result has been a state that is harsh and demanding, incredibly beautiful and exceedingly rich in natural resources.
People came to the area also. The earliest, or Stone Age culture, is sometimes known as the Red Clay people because of their practice of using clay stained red from iron oxide. More recently the Wabanaki (the People of Dawn) settled throughout the more southern areas and the Micmac in the north of what was to become New England. They greeted the European traders and settlers. Very quickly, however, the indigenous people were either killed, or forced to flee westward and adopt English culture. With the exception of three reservations, the Europeans claimed possession of all the land.
Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820. Since then it has had political independence, but it has remained in many ways much like a colony. Initially, trading practices and later manufacturing and lumbering interests from away have come to Maine and provided jobs but also exploited its natural and human resources and took away much of the profit. Still today, Maine ranks thirty-eighth in the country in average wages.
Power within the state has traditionally been in "Yankee" hands, immigrants of English descent. Working people from French-Canadian areas have come into the state to work in the mills and lumbering industries. More recently, immigrants from Eastern Europe and Asian countries have moved to Maine. Although they still individually and collectively form only a small percentage of the population, today over seventy languages are spoken in Maine.
From the time before Maine was an independent state, African Americans lived here. Many of them were freed slaves or those fleeing slavery through the underground railway route through the state. Others came to find work on the ships sailing out of Maine ports, or as teachers, ministers and as other professions. Although their numbers are few, they have been an integral part of Maine's story from the seventeenth century on.
The English settlers brought their churches, notably the Puritan Parish system, and many Congregational churches trace their roots back to the early and mid sixteen and seventeen hundreds. In 1826, Maine Congregationalists established the first state conference in the country. From the beginning, the Conference had an ecumenical stance. It sought conversation and ties with Congregational churches throughout the country and in England and with our Protestant denominations in Maine.
It also expressed concern about issues of social justice. At its annual meetings, throughout the nineteenth century, delegates passed resolutions supporting peace, and William Ladd of Maine founded the American Peace Society in 1828 to illustrate the inconsistency of war with Christianity.
They supported temperance efforts. And generally they supported emancipation, although not all agreed that immediate emancipation was the way to proceed. As the Conference moved into the twentieth century, delegates urged are from of the social order during the Depression, advocated for a world court, supported conscientious objection and recommended birth control.
Early in the century, the first Congregational woman was ordained in Maine - the Reverend Isabelle Phelps. Today, out of a total of 243 ordained UCC ministers, fifty-eight are women.
Following the General Synod of 1957, when the Congregationalists and Evangelical and Reformed delegates voted to become the United Church of Christ, the Maine Conference approved the merger, although a few congregations either did not vote or voted not to join the new body. Today some churches are still members of the Maine Conference but not of the United Church of Christ.
In 1992, the Conference voted to implement a five-year capital campaign to repair, upgrade, and expand Rockcraft, Pilgrim Lodge, and the Pennell/Resource Center. In addition, the campaign created an endowment fund to help local churches make needed improvements and develop leadership, set aside scholarship funds for seminary students, and contributes to new church development and community projects. It also provided for our share to the national church Make A Difference! Campaign!
A NEW BEGINNING
In 1993, the Conference embarked upon a period of self-examination, to assess the pastoral and structural needs of the Conference. Following the departure of a Conference Minister and Associate Conference Minister, who had served for nearly two decades, the Board of Directors appointed a Transition Team. Over the next two years, meetings were held with every congregation, every Association, every division and committee or other group within the Conference that wished to have its concerns, questions and visions heard. Taking the results of those numerous gatherings, the Transition Team fashioned a Vision Statement for the Conference, which was adopted at the 1995 Annual Meeting.
The Vision Statement set the tone and ethos for proceeding to develop a new structure for the Conference which would reflect the relational vision of shared ministry. At a spirit-filled Special Meeting of the Conference in Waterville in June of 1996, the new structure was adopted.
In 1996, the Maine Conference committed to a visionary and daring challenge that we believe is consistent with both the Gospel message of the new realm of God and the longings of church members; to embody a church deeply rooted in our relationship with God, caring and nurturing one another and committed to serve the world in love and justice. All of our voices also must become part of the dialogue that shapes the future of the church and world. We want to model how to be a church together and we are prepared to work together.
In 2013 the Conference is in transition once again. With the Coordinating Council the New Dimensions Transition Team is embarking upon a renewed search to discern the most faithful leadership models of staffing and governance that will best help us follow where God is leading. We have a new Vision and Mission Statement and Mission Plan. We believe that God is calling us to move forward together. May it be so!
Structure of the Maine Conference UCC
Presently, we govern our work as a conference through three areas of Ministry as: Spiritual Life (Relating to God), Witness Life (Relating to Gods World), and Community Life (Relating to One Another). Each of these areas has its own commission, and a Coordinating Council for Conference Life has responsibility for coordination of the work of the Commissions and setting policy for the Conference.
Each Commission is composed of 15 members, one from each Association, plus 4 at-large members to be elected at the Annual Meeting of the Conference. The Commission Chairperson is chosen by the Nominating Committee and elected at the Conference Annual Meeting. The individual Commissions are charged with responsibilities and programming which relate to their area of ministry. The Commissions determine how to accomplish their tasks, not by doing it all themselves, but by involving others in on-going committees, or more short-term task groups.
Commission for Spiritual Life (Relating to God)
Areas of responsibility:
Christian Study and Nurture
Leadership Development and Renewal
Church Leaders' Convocation
New Clergy Gatherings
Church and Ministry
Pilgrim Lodge Ministries
Commission for Witness Life (Relating to God's World)
Our Mission is: Serving human need, Peace and justice, Integrity of Creation
Evangelism in these settings: Global, National, State-wide, Local
Areas of responsibility:
Commission for Community Life (Relating to One Another)
Areas of responsibility:
Mission Team on Small Church Development and Support
Resource Center Ministry Team
Youth Ministry Team
Women of the Maine Conference
Coordinating Council for Conference Life
The Coordinating Council for Conference Life is composed of the Officers of the Conference (elected at Annual Meeting): Moderator, Vice-Moderator, Clerk, Treasurer, one person chosen from/by each Commission, one representative from each Association, a representative of the State Youth Council, a representative of the Board of Trustees, the Chair of the Personnel and Finance Committee, and 4 members at large..
This body supports the work of the Commissions by attending to the business of the Conference. It acts on behalf of the Conference between Annual Meetings. In addition to its regularly assigned duties, it establishes Search Committees for the hiring of paid staff, when necessary.
An Executive Committee, consisting of the Officers of the Conference and each Commission's representative to the Coordinating Council, functions on behalf of the Coordinating Council between its meetings.
Coordinating Council areas of responsibility include:
Board of Trustees
Properties - program Commissions report site needs to this body
Communications: Publications, Marketing & Public Relations
Long Range Planning & Evaluation
Maine Ministerial Relief Society
Conflict Response Team
Building a loving and faithful community – respecting, challenging, empowering and supporting one another – that follows Christ into the world to the glory of God for the benefit of all
Moving Forward Together for the Love of God and the World
In order to live out our mission we will be guided by the following priorities:
- We will nurture disciples and develop leaders in and for our churches.
- We will support Pilgrim Lodge and its continued development as a physical and spiritual center where God and nature meet to provide a welcoming and engaging experience for children, youth, and adults from many of Maine’s churches.
- We commit to building and/or supporting ministries, structures and programs that will identify, nurture, train and guide persons, such as the Maine School of Ministry (formerly the Academy for Congregational Life and Leadership), to lead our churches as pastoral and other elected leaders.
- We will strengthen local churches for mission.
- We will strengthen and continually update the Resource Center to make it more accessible to individuals and congregations.
- We will provide increasing opportunities to engage in mission through the Honduras Partnership, conference-wide trips to areas of mutual mission around the world, engaging in Disaster Response trips, and involvement in wider UCC events (State, Regional and National Youth Events).
- We will analyze, assess and plan changes to conference structure, staff deployment and priorities to strengthen local churches.
- We will ask our Commissions to help local congregations develop new strategies to address the needs of local churches with aging congregations, part-time ministers, and faltering revenues.
- We will witness to the Oneness of Christ through strengthening the bond between all settings of the United Church of Christ, all settings of the ecumenical church and with all people of faith from other communions and traditions.
- We will work for justice and peace and the integrity of God’s creation.
- We will establish an Inclusion Team to help local churches that are already ONA to grow into this identity and mission as well as to guide local churches considering becoming ONA to enter and complete the process.
- We will reach out to those outside the traditional religious communities, employing non-traditional means to communicate the theology and social, economic, and cultural concerns of the United Church of Christ in Maine.
- We will develop a conference wide outreach ministry that will connect and empower local churches.
- We will strengthen the mission and ministry of the Maine Conference UCC for the purpose of strengthening the mission and ministry of local churches and associations.
- We will assess Conference commissions, programs, administrative and staff structure and suggest changes that will strengthen our mutual mission.
- We will invest in and utilize technology to communicate with our congregations and all those whom we seek to reach with the Good News of God’s expansive love as well as to more efficiently administer the needs of the Conference.
- We will address, establish and organize a stewardship education ministry to engage local churches in meeting the financial aspects of our mutual mission.
- We will transform the idea of a conference office into the vision of a conference center where we can meet, learn, and share together.
CHURCHES OF THE CONFERENCE
Fort Fairfield, Fed.
Auburn, High Street
Auburn, Sixth Street
Falmouth, Foreside Community
Portland, State Street
Portland, Stevens Ave
Scarborough, Blue Point
Westbrook, Highland Lake
Westbrook, Prides Corner
Deer Isle, First
Deer Isle, Sunset
Isle au Haut
Northeast Harbor & Seal Harbor
Kennebec Valley Association:
Harrison & No Bridgton
Bangor, All Souls
Bangor, Hammond Street