Annual Meeting Speakers Lay Out the Challenge

Rev. Steve Sterner speaks at conference/ContributedMADISON — Acknowledging the “good old days” are over, keynoters the Rev. Steve Sterner and the Rev. Cameron Trimble insisted that bright days are ahead for the United Church of Christ: if the UCC accepts the challenge to adopt new ways. Opening and closing the meeting to the energetic strains of “Revive Us Again,” 463 leaders of the Conference’s churches heard a clear call for a revival of existing congregations and for planting new ones in Connecticut.

“If the 1950s come back again, we’ve got churches ready for it,” joked Sterner, who is executive minister for the UCC’s Local Church Ministries agency. The Connecticut has been protected to a great extent from the social changes in the United States — protected by substantial financial endowments and by relatively large congregations — that protection is not sufficient to sustain the church into the future. Sterner summoned church leaders to embrace new ways of thinking, beyond “technical” fixes for immediate problems.

It’s not just about adding new musical styles or displays projected on a screen, he said. “People don’t come to church to see PowerPoint or sing praise songs, they come to find meaning.” The Church Sterner sees emerging in the future is one that is mission driven, and which has a clear vision of the future it desires. It focuses on creating and transforming disciples rather than attracting members; the use of technology is a part of its ethos. It builds community and relationships, it looks to change the world through networking and the nurture of faith.

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