Wisconsin Conference Report – April 2013
Update to the UCC-UEK Forum—April 2013
Wisconsin Conference Partnership Activities
2012 was one of our richest years in partnership, and the first half of 2013 also has had and will have some great connections. Some of the items below have already been reported, but I’ll provide a brief update of our activities.
- In early 2012 the chair of our board of directors and I were guests of the EKiR for their Synod and officially signed a partnership agreement with them, after long having an Association partnership with one of their Kirchenkreis and many informal connections and relationships. We were welcomed with great hospitality.
- Following the EKiR Synod we attended the publishing event of the books of the lectures given for the Nollau 200th birthday celebration in 2010. This event was in Reichenbach and was held in the Nollau/Immigration museum adjacent to the Johanneskirche where Nollau was baptized. Again, a wonderful welcome and visits in Berlin with EKBO officials and Goerlitz to meet the new General Superintendent, Dr. Martin Herche.
- In June we welcomed the Bishop of the EKBO, along with the head of the Berlin Mission Society, the president of the EKBO board and the ecumenical officer. They also visited in Penn Central, so their time with us was short, but we enjoyed a very good conversation and several dinners that included my predecessor, Frederick Trost, who gave a detailed history of the WI Conference partnership with the Church in Goerlitz.
- In July and August we hosted two young persons from Reichenbach. I took them to the National Youth Event. They spent 5 weeks at Moon Beach Camp getting to know camp life and sharing with family campers. Ann and I then took them for their first experience of camping and canoeing in the Boundary Waters. They spent some time with us in Madison and then were hosted by Jerry Paul and other contacts in St. Louis where they visited the North American Nollau sites. The young woman who came, Charlotte Wiesener, is the daughter of the pastor at Johanneskirche, Reichenbach.
- Our biggest effort of 2012 was a Colloquy which the WI Conference planned for a group of 16 pastors, primarily from the Rhineland (with some from Westphalia). Dr. Susanne Witthoeft-Wolf, director of pastoral education, was their leader and Christine Busch and Max Koryani, both well known to the UCC were also on the trip. The theme was the function of “confession” in forming faith today. Bryan Sirchio and Joanne Thomson from Wisconsin were speakers along with John Thomas and Lee Barrett. This event was held at the WI Conference Pilgrim Center retreat center. We enjoyed this event very much and the group also visited Madison and Chicago.
- Our Gospel Music partnership with the Church in Eberswalde in the EKBO, organized and directed by Dr. Fritz West, saw another musical tour, this one with our Wisconsin Conference “Gospellers” going to Germany and Poland to perform concerts with their partner group from Eberswalde. We had thought this would be the final exchange, but it now looks like this rich partnership opportunity may continue.
- 2013 got off to a quick start with two events occurring at the same time. I was invited to the inauguration of Manfred Rekowsky as Praeses of the EKiR but could not go, because we were hosting several EKBO guests during the same week. Lisa Hart of our staff went and attended the inauguration event as well as a seminar on the Heidelberg Catechism.
- Our EKBO partners came to us in late February. They included Christoph Wiesener, pastor in Reichenbach, Johannes Johne, CEO of a diakonal institution in the Reichenbach area and Joachim Muehle, the cultural officer for the county where the Nollau Museum is located. We had a great time in WI, with them getting to drive snowmobiles, and Pf. Wiesener getting to see Moon Beach Camps, where his daughter spent the summer. We had several gatherings with pastors. These three then went with me to the CHHSM 75th anniversary in Oak Brook, IL. The main purpose of their trip was to present 21 professional banners depicting the history of Ludwig Eduard Nollau (founder of the Evangelical Synod of North America’s forerunner, the Kirchenverein des Westens in St. Louis in 1840.) This beautiful gift was presented to the UCC and entrusted to CHHSM. (You will probably see some banners at our meeting.) The EKBO folks spoke along with another German delegation from the EKiR.
- Special and deep thanks to Bryan Sickbert and Bill Johnson and other CHHSM leaders for a great event, but especially for honoring our German heritage in diaconal ministry. This was done at great cost to CHHSM but was so important and so well-received, as our CHHSM agencies were able to experience our history as a living connection.
- Also, thanks to CHHSM for maintaining clear church connections, especially in the worship service at Elmhurst College!
- Now we get ready for the next visit to WI. A delegation is coming from the EKBO for my retirement, and it includes Dr. Herche, Generalsuperintendent who will speak and make his first U.S. visit. Also coming are longtime Goerlitz friends, including Pf. Albrecht Naumann.