Submitted by Rev. John Mobley. regional minister for Alabama-Northwest Florida region
BLACK MOUNTAIN, NC (March 3, 2018) – On March 1-3, 2018, representatives from all eight regions in the Southeast Regional Fellowship (SERF) gathered at Christmount Christian Assembly for a SERF Collaboration Event. Elected officers and other appointed persons from the eight regions, in addition to staff persons, spent time together to build relationships, worship together, learn about one another, and think creatively about possible avenues of future ministry together. The Regions in SERF include Alabama-Northwest Florida, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Rev. Rebecca Hale, executive vice president with National Benevolent Association, served as the facilitator for the event. Rev. Hale used the image of a neighborhood to help participants focus on the larger community they share in SERF. Each regional team named its strengths and growing edges, and actually created a house that displayed the unique gifts and character of its region. The houses, made of large cardboard panels, were placed beside one another, just as houses in neighborhoods are adjacent. Rev. Hale encouraged the participants to imagine the “town square” in this community of houses. In this town square would be places of service and gathering for the common good of the whole community.
In the days leading up to the SERF Collaboration Event, participants were given devotionals that had been written by members of a planning team, which worked with Rev. Hale for several months in designing the event. Each region had been given some pre-event work, in the form of a survey which gathered information about the needs, gifts, and pressing issues in each region. This information was compiled and shared with participants in advance of the event.
Early in the event the gathered body claimed a verse from Ephesians 3:20 as the inspirational foundation for the entire event: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine…”
Participants were joined for portions of the event by video with Rev. Cathy Myers Wirt, president of the College of Regional Ministers, who helped set the conversations into the larger context of collaborative ministries that are happening across the life of the church. Rev. Myers Wirt spoke to the importance of conversations such as this in these days of rapid change and limited resources.
On the second day of the event, four broad areas of collaborative work were defined that would be in the SERF “town square,” and which would guide future conversations together: leadership development, communication, pro-reconciliation/anti-racism work, and re-framing structures to meet the needs of the church. A team of people that includes all eight regions was named to give leadership to the collaborative conversations that will continue into the future. Plans are being made to have future meetings, both electronically and in person.
Participants in this event were enthusiastic about the value of their time together. They were challenged to name reasons “why” this time was important, and for what purpose it might serve their ministries as regions. The relationships that were nurtured in these days of being together were affirmed as being critical to future collaborative work. There was a sense of spiritual kinship and unity that was understood to be part of the Disciples calling to be a movement for wholeness in the world. One stated goal was to strengthen and equip each of the regions through collaboration, so that each region may be an effective and faithful instrument for God’s work in the world. Participants left the meeting hopeful as they imagined the possibilities that exist for SERF.
The SERF Collaboration Event was made possible by a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation. Those gathered acknowledged and expressed gratitude for the legacy of Oreon E. Scott and for the trustees of the foundation who regarded the collaborative conversations in SERF as important for the life and ministry of the church.