Submitted by Rev. John Mobley, regional minister for Alabama/Northwest Florida
Leaders from the eight southeastern regions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gathered at Christmount in Black Mountain, NC, for a collaboration event on Feb. 28-March 2, 2019. A variety of leaders, elected officers, and several regional ministry staff persons from the SERF regions (Alabama-Northwest Florida, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia) came together to build on the collaboration efforts that began at a similar event in 2018. The goal was to come away with concrete actions that give life to the shared commitment to collaborate in seeking to be faithful to God as the SERF regions serve in the roles to which they have been called.
The co-leaders for the event were Rev. Dr. Beth Dobyns (KY) and Gloria Carr (TN), both of whom had been enlisted at the first event in 2018 to give leadership to next steps in SERF collaboration. The theme of “Common Threads” was used to remind participants that they are a key part of a magnificent piece of art, like the individual pieces of a quilt. Each region was asked to name its own gifts and reflect on its contribution to the common life of SERF. Each participant was asked to work at one of four tables during the event, with each table representing an area for possible collaboration in SERF, which had been named in 2018. The four tables for collaboration included: racial reconciliation; communication; leadership development; and vision and planning.
Each of the tables successfully charted next steps with concrete actions named and persons assigned to provide leadership. A Facebook page was created. A gifts survey was launched. An event to train trainers in each region to build their capacity for leading in pro-reconciliation/anti-racism efforts was planned for Atlanta in early May. A “SERFing Leadership Development Conference” is being planned for Atlanta in the early fall of 2020. A database of resources that can be shared across regional lines is being cultivated. There is a shared commitment to ongoing communication through video-conferencing as each of these initiatives is nurtured into a full expression of collaboration.
Leaders reminded participants of the scripture in which Jesus teaches that new wineskins are needed for new wine. The group recognized that the ways of functioning faithfully in the past are very likely not the most efficient ways to function today. Affirming their common calling to make Disciples in Jesus’ name, the leaders from these SERF regions embraced each other as co-laborers in the ministry to which they have been called. Participants clearly felt a growing bond with other leaders, across regional lines, as they engaged in meaningful conversations and planned for ways that the SERF regions can maximize their gifts for the common good.
The SERF collaboration events in 2018 and 2019 were made possible by grants received from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation.