I thought a lot about Going Deeper, our Plymouth annual theme, as I met with colleagues and delegates at the Rocky Mountain Conference Annual Meeting (now called Annual Celebration) in Grand Junction last Thursday through Saturday. And I thought about the Conference’s idea that all of our churches, which span Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah are radically connected. “Radical” comes from the Latin radix, which means root, so radical connection means that our roots are intertwined. And we’re even more than connected…like a clone of aspen trees, we share the same DNA. We are all part of the church universal, the UCC, and the Rocky Mountain Conference.
Our congregations include a rural church with a handful of members and is lay-led because they cannot afford to pay a part-time pastor, a Samoan immigrant church, and a Japanese-American Church … all in Utah, a church in Wyoming with 100 members that still manages to send more than 10 percent of its annual operating expenses for Our Church’s Wider Mission – which is how we support the mission and ministry of the Rocky Mountain Conference and the UCC both domestically and abroad. It is tough work to do ministry in these churches!
One of the things that thrilled me most (beside hearing our keynote speaker, John Dominic Crossan) was our two amazing conference clergy: Sue Artt, our conference minister, and Erin Gilmore, our associate conference minister (who grew up here at Plymouth and is Sally and Terry Gilmore’s daughter). Sue and Erin provide phenomenal conference leadership! They are gifted and grace-filled clergy leaders, and we are blessed to have them! They are not afraid to think outside the box, to try new things, and to step back and ask what God is doing in the midst of our churches. And if that wasn’t enough, our wonderful conference and retreat center in the Black Forest, La Foret, is not only out of debt, but has new energy and new programs thanks in large part to Larry McCulloch (one of our members at Plymouth), who serves as executive director.
Being the church in the 21st century is a challenge, but you are making a palpable difference in making it possible! Because of your generosity, Plymouth’s giving to Our Church’s Wider Mission is number one in the Rocky Mountain Conference! You are enabling conference staff excellence and leadership and making it available to smaller churches who don’t have the same resources we do at Plymouth. Through OCWM Basic Support and the four special offerings of the UCC and other denominational support, last year we gave over $115,000! Way to go, Plymouth!
You may never meet a Samoan UCC family living in Utah or see the work Sue and Erin do in revitalizing small churches or see the transformed lives of campers at La Foret, but rest assured: your giving is changing lives. Thank you for your generosity and for your commitment to the vision of the progressive church in our region and in God’s world.
We are all part of the same cluster of trees, and we are interdependent not only on each other, but on the grace of God to keep us growing.
P.S. Thanks to our lay delegates: Vicki & Wendy Thompson and Nic Redavid! And thanks to the 30 Plymouth folks who demonstrated against gun violence in Old Town Square Sunday afternoon!
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal.