As a Conference Staff, we’ve always traveled. The sheer size of our Conference—about 300,000 square miles—demands it. With two full-time Conference Ministers, two full-time non-clergy staff, and one part-time Outdoor Ministry employee, it’s a challenge, but one that we recognize as the most important of our era.
It’s a relatively unique challenge, too, at least for Conferences in the West. As we go East, the Conferences get geographically smaller, and the staffs get much larger (say, about 20 staff for an area of around 10,000 square miles). This is not a criticism or a commentary on those Conferences, as they often have double, triple, or quadruple the churches to serve, and four or five times the amount of congregants (which, fortunately for them, also means a proportionate donor-base). This is just the challenge we are called to meet in the RMC.
Technologies like Zoom have certainly made it easier for us in the RMC to connect without being face to face, but there’s no substitute for providing ministry in person. The physical presence of our Conference Ministers at our churches fully affirms the fact that we are committed to and invested in the health and wellness of our churches and pastors.
This value is long-held. Since her tenure began in the summer of 2013, Rev. Sue Artt has been all over the map, and travels once a week, on average, to be with our churches and Associations. Because of this, we’ve grown the connections within the Conference, but until now, we’d plateaued with regards to our availability to be where we are needed.
Now, after installing Rev. Erin Gilmore as Associate Conference Minister in accordance with our 21st-Century Leadership Model, our availability will increase exponentially.
In fact, it is already surging: This weekend, while Sue is at Wheatland UCC in Wheatland, Wyoming, celebrating the Installation of Rev. Joe Bair, Erin will be in Bountiful, Utah, helping to Install Rev. Jodi Bushdiecker at Bountiful Community UCC. The rest of the year is equally eventful, with Sue and Erin traveling to all five Associations for meetings, ordinations, installations, search & call visits, vitality consultations, and more. Erin, in particular, will be a constant presence in the Western and Intermountain Associations, lifting up our churches who have been patient as we created and implemented better ways to serve them.
While it’s a bit different from how things are done in most Conference, it’s long overdue in the RMC. In other words, this isn’t just a nice-to-have, a gift from the Conference Ministers. For Erin and Sue, it is their Number #1 Calling. As Sue puts it, “for both Erin and me, traveling to be with our churches and pastors is absolutely critical to our shared work. We view it as modeling the love of all that Christ has invoked us to create.”
As visits are planned, they’ll be made known through our newsletter, website, and social-media posts. This summer and beyond, look for Erin and Sue (and Cory and Gigi) at a church near you!