Lake Union President Maurice Valentine explains the union is blessed to serve as the nexus of ministry in our region. "The union serves as a hub for all, working to keep Jesus Christ as central to our efforts and energies."
Many events continued online and several of our institutions, such as Andrews University have weathered the pandemic very well. Multiple events such as the United Prayer Conference were successfully held virtually and plans are to make the prayer conference a more regular event. Our hospital system, AMITA Health, held a "mission at home" to help the community with mental and physical needs.
Later on, Valentine reviewed the results of an anonymous poll from the last meeting where the topic of race relations was on the agenda. Some of the findings were:
Lake Union Executive Secretary Steven Poenitz reports that many of our new members are coming primarily from Texas and Georgia along with a scattering of mid-west and southern states. On the other hand, Lake Union members are moving primarily south but most prominently to Georgia, Florida and Ohio.
Overall, the Lake Union member levels have dipped by 393 with the transfers out of our union territory and the limited baptisms and professions of faith due to Covid-19 restrictions. As of the end of 2020, the membership is 88,505, down from 88,898 at the beginning of the year.
Also of note was the lower number of deaths in the union last year. In 2020, there were 616 deaths, compared to 636 in 2019.
Treasurer Glynn Scott began his report saying, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live there.” Psalm 24:1. This is the Bible verse stenciled on the wall of the Lake Union Treasury department and what keeps the staff mission focused on the work that they do.
“God’s blessing truly rested on His people and upon us as a union territory and field,” says Scott, during his presentation of the Lake Union budget.
Here are the key takeaways:
"Praise the Lord! Evangelism continues to take place," says Carmelo Mercado, Vice President for Multicultural ministry. Among other events, he talked about the Hispanic evangelistic series with Alejandro Bullon, which resulted in several baptisms. Mercado mentioned plans for upcoming events for Hispanic women, youth and a unity summit hosted by Lake Region and Michigan Conference pastors in Detroit. "The pastors are excited to be working together to move the work forward, and that's the bottom line," says Mercado.
In his report for Wisconsin Conference, President Titus Naftanaila shared, “Our mission wasn't stopped, and many churches are involved in community projects.”
From Wisconsin Academy students clearing cars for nurses at a hospital on one of the coldest days of the year to organizing and participating in blood drives, all ages of Wisconsin members are community-focused.
Although the conference had a goal to welcome 200-300 new members, Naftanaila says Wisconsin was able to add around 80 people. He acknowledges, it was “less than our goal for last year but still precious souls were added to our churches in this time.” The conference is looking to grow more by intentionally “replanting churches to rebuilding the community spirit we used to have before Covid-19 and invite our members and guests back into our fellowship.”
Contributing to the Wisconsin report, Naftanaila invited Jonathan Fetrick, Wisconsin Academy Church pastor and the conference’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director to share about a new project to reach missing members. “The Shepherds Initiative is really for all of the churches in North America and I'm rolling it out union by union,” explains Fetrick. “The basic idea is that if you have a missing member who's in your area. It's easy to try to contact them and encourage them to come back.”
In his report, President Ron Aguilera says that their focus is on building healthy connections. "Who you are connecting with is extremely important, not just for our leaders or pastors or teachers or staff in our offices, but Whom you are connecting to, as we become a part of a changing church community.” Aguilera emphasized the importance of continuing to be focused on mission and following their 2021 theme of “Proclaiming Jesus Passionately.”
A conference-wide proclamation event is scheduled for April called ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told,’ and he says, “I'm just excited to see what God's going to do as we move forward as we work and continue to move God's mission ahead in 2021.”
Jesus had the most perfect communication department, and the Lake Union communication department strives towards their mission in helping to spread the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. This video report highlights how the department responded to the challenging events of 2020.
New executive member
Brian Stephan, from the Wisconsin Conference, was voted as the newest member of the Lake Union Executive Committee.
Five Candidates Voted for Ordination
Along with the voting of ordination recommendations, a motion to extend Lake Union Emeritus credentials through December 31, 2022 due to the postponement of the Constituency Session was approved.