Over the past month, I have been so richly blessed in my role as Regional Program Director for the Ohio Region. I wanted to thank you all for this opportunity and let you know how thrilled I am to serve God alongside you all in this capacity. This blog, and future entries, will hopefully serve as monthly check-ins and updates about what I have been up to, what I’ve seen and heard from around the region, and what I believe we can do moving forward together. Also, just quickly here at the beginning – I don’t think I’m the only one busy at work, listening to the region, and excited about the possibilities that God has laid before us. I am thankful to be doing this with so many wonderful people from all over the state!
First, I wanted to say a deep and heartfelt thank you to the staff and volunteers who have welcomed me with such grace and appreciation. From conversations with Gladys, our treasurer (who does this work in a volunteer capacity!) to meetings with regional staff Jennie, Wendy, and Ted, to phone calls with the four visiting regional ministers, everyone has been incredibly inviting and supportive and I am so grateful to everyone who has helped make this a smooth transition for me.
After hitting the ground running, I reached out to the various ministry leaders around the state. I was able to have phone calls with the chairs/co-chairs of:
Camp Christian Committee
Chi Rho Commission
Chi Rho Camp Damascus
CYF Week 2
CYF Week 3
Regional Church Council
UN Seminar 2021
Additionally, I have had email exchanges with the leaders of:
Commission on Ministry
Ohio Women’s Ministries
Chi Rho Camp Emmaus
Chi Rho Camp Corinth
CYF Week 1
There are a few leaders and ministries that I haven’t been able to connect with yet, but I know that people’s schedules are busy and am hopeful that we can find ways to connect soon!
I’ve also had phone calls with over two dozen clergy and lay leaders from around Ohio and scores of emails with good people from all over the state (and even a few from neighboring states who are cheering us on here in Ohio)!
THANK YOU all for being so willing to have conversations, even when they are hard. Thank you for reaching out and offering words of wisdom and support. Thank you for wanting to be communicating and working not just with me, but with one another as we strive to figure out our way forward in this covenantal relationship.
In my conversations with people, I strove to convey that I see so much of my role as being supportive and empowering of our ministries in the region. It was amazing to me to learn about just how many different ways that Ohio offers opportunities for people to serve, learn, grow, and give together. Most of the people involved and many of the programs themselves are run by volunteers – people who have other jobs or callings, and in their spare time, they choose to offer themselves, their skills, their time, their energy to providing the Ohio Region with avenues for us to come together to be the church that we believe God is calling us to be. I am grateful for all of these leaders who take on additional work in hope to faithfully serve others.
There were several reoccurring themes that came up in conversations with chairs/co chairs of ministry teams, individual clergy and lay leaders, and staff and personnel from the region that I see as essential for us organizationally in moving forward.
- The need for an organizational flow chart –
For a long time, we were in “survival mode” as a region. Things didn’t get done unless someone stepped up and did them. So, we adapted and people took charge and were able to successfully keep providing ministries and services to the region. As we have regained some of our stability and people have settled into roles – or as we have identified new needs and new roles – there has been a lack of clarity around who is responsible for what, who different people/groups should be working and communicating with, and what the general relationship is between the various people and committees in the region.
At times, people have felt that others may have overstepped their bounds or that their understanding of their position has been ignored or devalued by others. Mostly, I see people who are trying to live into their role as best as they can, and at times, there is overlap in the understanding or a general misunderstanding of the different roles people/committees are asked to serve in.
There have been attempts to outline a flow chart before, but there is now a renewed effort for addressing this concern and hopefully we’ll have clarity in this soon.
- Questions around financial position -
Many different ministries are not aware of what their budget may be. There is a link here to our most recent financial statement here which shows what the various ministries have on their financial line in November of 2019.
In shifting our financial bookkeeping to Treasury Services, there is a bit more of a delay in our own numbers and reporting and we are waiting for them to finish up with their year end numbers. The region will continue to publish our financial statements here. Understandably, these statements can still be confusing, and some folks may have more specific questions than what is addressed by what we have received. I have reached out to Treasury Services and look forward to a conversation with them soon about how we can read and understand our budgets better in order to help us to be good stewards of our resources. If people have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I will do my best to answer your questions or direct them to those who might be far smarter than I am and more capable in their responses.
- New Ideas!
This is what gave me the most hope. Yes, there are still hurt feelings and mistrust from many people and congregations in the region. Yes, there is confusion as to how we are structured or what our financial situation may be and what our financial forecasts may look like. But each and every person I talked with had ideas for how to move forward faithfully together.
People had ideas about so many things!
- Ways to rent out camp to make the summer program sustainable and low (or no!) cost to our youth
- Reaching out to underserved communities and inviting youth from these parts of our state to be able to attend camp for free
- Reconfiguring districts to make for easier and smoother district interactions between churches
- Finding new times and ways to connect with part time ministers
- Hosting a Neuro-Diverse camp for young people on the autism spectrum
- Hosting a retreat for Open and Affirming congregations to share their resources, invite other people/congregations into conversation and relationship
- Developing summer worship opportunities for people coming on weekends to pickup/drop off their kids
- Developing Safe Sanctuary policies and procedures for our congregations and camps as we seek to develop healthy and safe environments for people
- Providing more opportunities for service and mission in the regional youth programming
- And more!
To be clear, we may not be able to do all of these ideas. To be clear, some of these will be incredibly difficult to make happen any time soon. To be clear, some of these may not be possible at all. BUT people in Ohio are dreaming, and we are dreaming of ways that we can move forward faithfully. The ideas that I heard from people were not ways that we could reclaim former numbers or statistics from congregations or camps or conferences, but NEW ways that we could engage in our ministries faithfully. I was reminded of a paraphrase of Joel 2:28 – “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your children will prophesy, your elders will dream dreams, your youth will see visions…” It is heartening to see Ohio dream again.
We have been working on our dreams and visions for some time. The work of the Regional Transition Team (RTT) and all of the many listening sessions that they helped to guide us through has helped us prepare for a way forward. For those who may have missed it, or would like to revisit it, the report of the RTT can be found here. To rename the focuses outlined in their work, we strive to move forward by focusing on:
1. Building on the strength of our relationships with each other
2. Nurturing relationships outside of the region
3. Calling and developing leaders gifted and equipped to lead in new ways
As we use these focuses to guide us forward, I would encourage all of us to please pay attention to how the Spirit moves within us. How can we build on our existing relationships? What relationships do we have outside of the region that can help strengthen or provoke us to creative new ministries? Are there leaders that you hope to encourage and build up to help guide us in new ways and new callings?
I am always happy to take a call, work on an email, or meet up for coffee sometime to discuss your thoughts, hopes, and ideas on these themes. I’m glad to be on this journey together!
In February, I am looking forward to meeting with several different District Clergy groups, attending the Regional Elder’s Meeting, feeling rejuvenated at the Spiritual Life Retreat (more info here if you would like to attend), going through the hiring process with our summer camp staff, keynoting the CYF Winter Retreat (registration forms here) and beginning our Lenten Devotional series “From Ashes to Rejoicing!”
(Also, although I cannot be physically present, I’ll be praying for our work day at Camp Christian on February 8th)
Friends, this is a busy, but exciting journey - one that does not come with a specific end date. No regional assembly or even calling a new regional minister, which we hope to do by the end of the year, will signal the end of these focuses for us. This is an ongoing conversation that we have with one another, with the community that we strive to build together, and most importantly with God.
Thank you all for being a part of this walk and for bringing your full selves to this good and faithful work of heeding God’s call for us as followers of Christ.
Peace and Love,
Rev. Alan Dicken
Regional Program Director