Debbie Rice, Lay Member Wichita United Church of Christ
Eight years ago I was contacted by then Interim Conference Minster Krista Betz and asked if I would be willing to be Conference Council Secretary. The term was just three years and the frequency of the meetings was limited. Apparently I had spoken up at a meeting and the Nominating Committee thought I could bring a different perspective to the Council. I can do just about anything short term. I had enjoyed my time as clerk for the Central Association and being secretary fit into my comfort zone. And so I said yes, and yes to three more terms.
Now don’t let speaking up deter you from volunteering. Start in your local church as a liturgist on Sundays, or help take care of the altar, or teach Sunday School for a season, like Advent or Lent. I was well into my 30’s when I first spoke as a liturgist for the first time. With knees shaking and praying the scripture wouldn’t be a passage with people, places and words hard to pronounce, I took the podium. Yet, each time I spoke I gained more confidence. I’ve become more comfortable talking about my faith and my faith traditions and standing up for what it means to be UCC. I was born UCC, baptized at the age of two in my home church, but as an adult I learned what it means to be UCC. It has been a privilege and honor to serve with persons across our Conference, persons with the same struggles, hopes and dreams whether we come from a small, large, rural or city setting.
I’ve made new friends. I have more of an appreciation for a person’s background, their knowledge and wisdom. Giving and taking is important as we move forward and that has been just a little easier to swallow and understand. I always feel energized at Annual Meeting. I’ve served with five different presidents, two treasurers, and witnessed Conference Council membership decline as we reorganized and then expand again as our needs have changed. I’ve been a part of some tough decisions that have shaped the future of our Conference. I have never felt that being a part of Conference Council was a burden or took too much of my time. And when I’ve typed up the minutes, although they be long, I wanted to paint the picture for those who were not present at a meeting so they would feel like they had been present when they read the minutes.
I don’t know how much of a different perspective I’ve brought to Council, but I do know I did ask “what about” or “what if” a few times and was listened to respectfully. Professionally and personally the season is changing for me and I am starting a new chapter in my life. Someone will replace me on Conference Council after our October Annual Meeting. My vision for the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference is to cherish the memories, but foremost, look to the future with endless possibilities, hopefulness that our voices will be heard and respected, and that we may all be one.