Thursday, April 29, 2010


Final Meeting of North Texas Conference Communications Commission

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Communications Strategy And Tactics Await Annual Conference

Today's meeting of the North Texas Conference (NTC) Communications Commission, at the NTC Ministry Center in Plano, was its last scheduled meeting before Annual Conference at Wichita Falls in early June.

There, at Annual Conference, members from the six districts of NTC will evaluate, discuss and vote on an elaborate Strategic Plan to overhaul and streamline the Conference with a view toward increased effectiveness in ministry. Once the Strategic Plan is passed, many existing NTC organizations, such as the Communications Commission, could undergo substantial change in structure, personnel and day-to-day operations.

A few of these Conference sub groups, those not mandated by the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline (BOD), might even be terminated or transformed beyond recognition. Fortunately for the Communications Commission, the BOD does mandate a Communications Commission or something similar, but even that level of "safety" leaves open possibilities that could spell significant change.

Unfortunately, no one seems to have much input on just what to expect once the Strategic Plan is approved and implementation begins. A military analogy might suggest that the strategy is there, but the tactics have yet to be developed or announced.

At today's Commission meeting, the two people most likely to have input on all this were present, but neither could provide details or put flesh on the bones of the skeleton that most of us view as the Strategic Plan.

The Rev. Dr. Joan LaBarr, NTC Communications Director for the past several years, and a member of the Extended Cabinet, has blazed new trails in communications for NTC, but she retires soon after Annual Conference.

The Rev. Dr. Sheron Patterson has been appointed by the Bishop as Communications Officer under the Strategic Plan reorganization. This seemingly slight change in the title of NTC's highest-level communicator might suggest that other changes, however slight or however significant, might be in the offing.

In any case, both LaBarr and Patterson told members of the Commission that only time will provide the answer to questions about the nature of communications under the Strategic Plan reorganization. However, both seemed upbeat and optimistic.

To commemorate LaBarr's upcoming retirement, and to honor her with a gift for her unique ministry of communications and significant personal interaction with communicators all over the Conference, members of the Commission presented her with a Canon video camera for her post-retirement ministry, which kicks off soon after Annual Conference with an extended mission trip to Southeast Asia.

For many at today's meeting, the atmosphere was bittersweet, in part because an era was ending, and also because of uncertainty about fallout from the Strategic Plan.

As acting chair today, I asked Dr. Patterson to dismiss the Commission meeting with prayer, but first I tried to illuminate the perceived darkness a bit by quoting a recent Facebook admonition by David Stanton, my brother-in-Christ at Tinney Chapel UMC. I told Dr. Patterson that pastors should not have to please everyone all the time, and that if she followed God, we--as NTC communicators--would follow her!

Thank you, David, and thank you, Dr. LaBarr and Dr. Patterson.


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