In January 2022, the Conference Ministers of the four Pennsylvania Conferences gathered to discuss the urgency of issues confronting all settings of the UCC. We met with an eye toward confronting the divisions and hostilities of our world, and listening with a deep sense of our responsibility to answer Jesus’ prayer, ‘that they may all be one. We identified the spiritual hunger of our church people and pastors and the call to support and develop the local church. We dreamed about new ways to serve Jesus and our churches by drawing on the strength and giftedness of our clergy, congregations, leaders, and Conference staff.
We are not the church that we were when the denomination was formed in 1957 and our current contexts of ministry are different. The pandemic exacerbated the challenges we face. We acknowledge our responsibility to provide support and nourishment to the local church. We recognize our duty to find and develop the leadership needs of our congregations. We own the very real financial challenges that impact the future of our ministries.
Our four conferences share these challenges. Our response to them is strongest when we respond in partnership with each other. The “Keystone Study Group,” a group of representatives from all four PA Conferences, was created to explore the possibilities of responding as one.
The first Keystone Study meeting took place October 15, 2022. The Group engaged in community building, learned of some of the statistical results of a February 2022 clergy survey, formed a group covenant, and designed expectations and possible next steps. At the November 2022 meeting, the Study Group named hopes, dreams and blocking forces to the possibility of a merged Conference, created a plan of action for future meetings, and began thinking about the form and function of a new Conference. The Study Group will meet every other month through 2023 with an eye toward crafting discussion and information sharing opportunities around our Conferences as soon as practical.
The PSEC representatives of the Keystone Study Group are Mr. Charles Kuthuru (Moderator), Rev. Melissa Burkhart (Vice-Moderator), Ms. Caroline Bashore (Consistory Secretary), Rev. Robert Fogal (Consistory Treasurer) and staff members Revs. Bill Worley, Kevin McLemore and Cean James.
You are invited to connect with us by email, at Keystone.Conference.Project@gmail.com. You may also use the postal service and direct mailing the Keystone Working Group through your own area Conference Office.
At the beginning of September 2023, this letter was mailed via USPS to all authorized ministers in PSEC and all consistory presidents. The text of the letter was also placed in the September 10 Communitas bulletin insert, with a notice in the previous week’s eNews email asking churches to include this special Communitas in their weekly bulletin.