The Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island Conferences of the United Church of Christ voted decisively on Saturday, June 17, to move ahead toward forming a new combined Conference, so that they may have a stronger voice speaking for justice and may more effectively carry out mission and ministry together.
The votes, taken at the first-ever joint annual meeting of the three bodies, mean that Conference leaders will now develop a formal proposal for a new Conference which will be brought before a second joint Annual Meeting a year from now in Springfield, MA.
The votes were taken at separate, simultaneous Conference plenary sessions on the afternoon of Saturday, June 17, at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. More than 1,000 people – lay and clergy from the three Conferences – gathered for the two-day meeting, with most of their time spent together in worship, joint plenary, hearings and shared meals. The Massachusetts and Connecticut votes were nearly unanimous; Rhode Island delegates approved the measure by a wide margin.
“I believe that the impact of the United Church of Christ in Southern New England was enhanced today by the affirmative votes of our three conferences,” said The Rev. Barbara Libby, Interim Conference Minister of the Rhode Island Conference. “Now that we know, we can move ahead to put flesh on the bones of this imagined new conference. What a unique and awesome opportunity we have as we move into the future together.” Dorhauer told delegates that the entire denomination was watching with interest to see what would happen in southern New England. If delegates in 2018 approve the new Conference proposal, it will then be presented to General Synod, the national gathering of the UCC, in 2019. The boundaries of the conferences of the United Church of Christ have not changed since the denomination was formed in 1957.
Since the founding of the Missionary Society of Connecticut in 1798, Congregational churches across the state have been sharing in covenanted partnership. Today, the CT Conference serves about 230 congregations and more than 65,000 people in the state’s churches. In fact, the UCC is the largest Protestant denomination in Connecticut. Nationally, the UCC has more than 5,000 congregations with nearly 1 million members.
Let us together, as one, respond with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to face the challenges that lie ahead,” said Rev. Kent Siladi, CT Conference Minister, “Come, Holy Spirit, come.”