Story contributed by the Revs. Janet Forbes (Highlands Ranch) and Dave McConnell (Bozeman)
Shared Futures Committee Co-Chairs
The Mountain Sky Shared Futures Committee met Thursday and Friday, Feb. 26 and 27, 2015, at the Rocky Mountain Conference Office. Bishop Elaine Stanovsky invited the 12-person team from the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone conferences to engage this process toward a vision.
- What vision of vital ministry do the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone Conferences share?
- Is there value in the two conferences pursuing vital ministry together?
- Propose and lead a process by which leaders of both conferences can receive the report of the Committee and discern God’s will in response to the proposal for merger.
- Advise me of its findings and the outcome of their work to inform future planning and action.
The Shared Futures Committee affirmed very quickly that most of the current and future ministry challenges are shared. The two conferences have much in common. Even with the particularities of founding stories and the distinctness of the cultures, both conference ministry contexts are the same.
The two conferences have been sharing friendship, ministry, appointments, and learning for many years. We acknowledged urgency for the Yellowstone Conference and a growing fragility for the Rocky Mountain Conference, knowing that a vital future for ministry in this area will require painful change, whether we do it together or not.
Even though the committee is focused on mission and vision for vital ministry, not the technical concerns of merger, we did express those anxieties to each other as part of shedding in the process of corporate spiritual discernment. We laughed about some of the stereotypes that have distanced us from one another.
Through worship, story-telling, discernment, and sharing sacraments, we became spiritual friends in spiritual community. What a great place to launch inquiry about God’s future calling to the Mountain Sky.
The Rev. Debbie Schmidt, of Whitefish, Montana, said during the meetings she felt, “the Spirit working through us and creating a sense of being in this together, of connectedness. We’re developing strong friendships with people from the Rocky Mountain Conference and a sense of being called together.”
It was an energizing gathering.