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Scott’s Column: Across Nebraska

Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
June 14 2018

Across Nebraska

Last Thursday, after Ron Butler’s memorial service, Sebastian and I left town on our first trip just the two of us, heading across Nebraska to attend the Annual Gathering of the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ in Ogallala.

Our first night we spent in a hotel in Grand Island, where I was reminded how much fun a hotel can be for a kid—riding in an elevator, pushing the luggage cart, jumping on the bed, etc.  Friday morning, we stopped in North Platte to watch the shunting of train cars at the Bailey Rail Yard, the world’s largest (this was a second visit for both of us, and Sebastian said it was his favourite part of the trip).  And we climbed on the old trains on exhibit at Cody Park, before heading on to Ogallala’s First Congregational Church. 

The focus of the meeting was children’s and youth ministries.  The keynote speakers talked about various innovative ideas and programs that have worked in different settings.  The workshops included one on social media by Katie Miller, who also provided the music for the meeting.

This was also our first conference gathering since the implementation of the Tri-Conference with Iowa and South Dakota and our new conference staff, who met many people for the first time.  We heard updates and growing pains on how that work is going.  I’m excited by how these combined ministry projects and new relationships are already enriching wider church work.

Among the business, I was elected Vice Chair of the Conference Board, with the expectation that I’ll be chair in a year.

This year Conferences are considering ratification of changes to the UCC Constitution approved by General Synod last year.  The votes so far have been mixed.  I opposed some of those changes last year and spoke against them at the Conference meeting.  The Nebraska Conference voted not to ratify.  My opposition is around the elimination of the Collegium of Officers, the centralization of power and authority in the General Minister and President, and the fact that the changes have been implemented before being ratified.

The meeting closed with a picnic and worship at Lake Ogallala.  This was a beautiful end to the event, and the best way to close I’ve experienced, as usually people are looking at their watches ready to run off.  One virtue of the meeting being in the far west is that more people stay the night and so linger for conversations and fellowship.  Much thanks to Rev. Lisa Hadler and her congregation for hosting a great meeting.

After the picnic Sebastian and I walked on the beach at Lake Mac and threw rocks in the water.  On Sunday we traveled a little farther west to climb Windlass Hill on the Oregon Trail and visit Ash Hollow before heading on to Kearney where his godmother lives so we could spend time with her.

Monday morning we toured the Kearney Arch and then spent most of the day at Pioneer Village in Minden.  That place is fabulous, and I can’t believe it took me eight years to get there.  Sebastian enjoyed himself—playing on old fashioned phones, climbing aboard old boats and streetcars, pretending to be the teacher in the school house, etc.  He kept saying “I want to see more tractors” or “I want to see more cars” and this was a place to fulfill those wishes.

We were glad to get home, just before the thunderstorms Monday night, but we enjoyed our trek across Nebraska.