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Last fall, I received word as Moderator for the Florida Disciples Regional Church that a grant had been approved to fund a collaboration event among leaders of the Southeast Regional Fellowship (SERF) of which our region is a part. It would be held at Christmount Christian Assembly at Black Mountain, North Carolina on March 1-3, 2018 with the Rev. Rebecca Hale (former interim Regional Minister for Florida prior to the calling of the Rev. Juan Rodriguez) serving as facilitator.

As Moderator, I would also serve on the planning team for the historical event. SERF is one of five fellowship areas in the United States and Canada created by the College of Regional Ministers in an effort to strengthen not only regional ministries but also to help lead adaptive change for the church’s witness. It is made up of eight regions – Alabama/Northwest Florida, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Up to this point in my ministry, outside of work being done by the Hispanic Convencion with these eight regions and the hiring of a Reconciliation Director for a year or two, SERF has pretty much been under the radar for most local congregations.

Having returned from Black Mountain late Saturday night, I can honestly say that the time was well-spent. I headed to North Carolina wondering how much good could be accomplished in such a short period of time. Meeting with close to fifty leaders from the eight regions along with their regional ministers, we unpacked the pressing issues and needs faced in each region as well as the gifts each of these regions can offer to the body of Christ.

Too often we can get caught up with what is happening in our own region without thinking of our brothers and sisters who live elsewhere. Our region has come a long way over the past four years and we have met challenges in the past two years that many of these regions are now facing. We have gifts we can share! But there are also areas where we now can call upon our other regions in SERF and draw from their gifts. The three-day event opened the door for us to establish relationships that will carry us into future discussions as we begin to now focus on four broad areas of collaborative work that we identified: leadership development, communication, pro-reconciliation/anti-racism work, and re-framing structures to meet the needs of the church.

Collaboration, not competition, is a difference-maker. In this face-to-face gathering, we were able to witness passionate Disciples who are ready to face the challenges before us so that we may be an effective and faithful instrument for God’s work. Thanks be to God!

Thanks for affording me the opportunity to serve!