Leaders attend Connectional Table's Fall Retreat

October 03, 2022

The Connectional Table hosted its Fall Leadership Retreat on Sept. 24, 2022. The retreat is an annual training for the chairs of the Conference’s boards, committees, and agencies. 
Keynote speaker for this year’s event was Rev. Dr. Jay Williams, who serves Union Church in Boston and is head of the delegation to the General and Jurisdictional conferences. 
Dr. Williams, who also serves on the Vision Forward Team, began by defining leadership.
“I think we all know by now that leadership is much more than a position. It’s more than a list of responsibilities,” he said. “One might think of leadership as a spiritual practice, as a means of grace that allows us to go from here to there – wherever God is calling us.
“A leader is a follower of Christ who guides (shepherds, nurturers) others in the way.”
Dr. Williams acknowledged that these are challenging and liminal times for the Church. 
We have been waiting, he said, for the pandemic to end, for worship attendance and giving to rise, for the General and Jurisdictional conferences that will determine the future of the denomination to take place …
But, Dr. Williams said, quoting June Jordan’s “Poem for South African Women,” “We are the ones that we have been waiting for.”
“What if the wait is over because we are the ones that we have been waiting for to do what is necessary to get us from here to there?” he said. “Part of leadership is claiming who we are and whose we are, and that the gifts and the graces in this room are sufficient for the tasks that are ahead.”
The Connectional Table is responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on requests for funding under the programming budget (Fund 2). The Connectional Table’s recommendations are then passed to the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA), which develops the proposed budget for the Conference.
Connectional Table Chair Rev. René Perez, who serves Wesley UMC in Falmouth, MA, walked leaders through some of the practical information they need to prepare budget proposals for review by the Connectional Table including deadlines and forms (see resources below).  
Rev. Perez reminded attendees that the Strategic Plan is “a live, working document for us,” and serves as “the as a guide as we look at the budget [proposals].” 
“We are committed to looking at every budget that comes to us,” he said.  
Director of Connectional Ministries Rev. Ashley Johnson reminded board and committee chairs that they are supported by liaisons both from the Connectional Table and the Committee on Leadership/Nominations. 
“What we hope is more known today, is that we are in this together,” she said. “There are people who are assigned to your committee, who are there to serve as a source of support. There will always be people there that you can reach out to as a ‘first person’ to ask questions, so we can figure things out together.”
Connectional Table member Steve Dry then walked chairs through a “nuts and bolts” review of the budget process and offered advice on how each group can make its budget proposal most effective. 
“[The Connectional Table] has been on a journey over last seven years trying to make the budgeting process more effective, values driven, and aligned with our [Conference] mission and vision,” he said. 
Budget requests are due each year on March 1. Information will be sent to chairs early next year with specific steps for completing their budget proposals. 
Conference Commission on Religion and Race Chair Rev. Effie McAvoy, who also serves on the Connectional Table, spoke about the importance of being willing to talk about racism. 
Rev. McAvoy, who serves Shepherd of the Valley UMC in Hope, RI, spoke of the trainings that CCORR has conducted across the Conference in recent years. 
“One of the things we’ve learned, is that oftentimes when we talk about race, systemic racism, and white supremacy it makes people terribly, terribly uncomfortable, because people make the assumption that when we mention these things that we are calling them racists, however that is not what we are saying” she said.
“Racism, and the disparities it causes, is real,” Rev. McAvoy said. “It’s real within the life of our churches and in the communities where we live. It’s real, and it’s necessary for us as leaders in the church not to pussyfoot around that and not to be afraid to talk clearly about what those things mean.”
Rev. McAvoy also talked about RS-22-225 REGARDING THE HISTORY OF REDLINING, RACE COVENANTS, AND SUNDOWN TOWNS IN NEW ENGLAND, which was adopted by Annual Conference in June. 
The resolution asks churches to research and understand the history of race-based restrictions on housing opportunities in their communities and understand their church’s role, if any, in those policies. 
The point, Rev. McAvoy said, is “not to wallow in sorrow and self-blame, but to realize that, historically, these happen … and today in our context we are called to bring forth healing.”
“While the specifics of how to do that vary based on context,” she said. “CCORR is willing to help you vision and dream about how to recognize the history of harm [in order] to bring forth healing.”
In offering his reflections on the retreat, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar said:
“I am grateful to René and Ashley and this leadership team for bringing us to this conversation today. In my 10 years, this is one of the most wonderful conversations we’ve had, across the board, for which I am grateful to all of you,” he said. 
“We are in a hopeful place because of the partnership the Connectional Table is having with the Vision Forward Team. I hope and pray that you, together, work on this so [we can move forward],” the bishop said. 


NEAC leadership structure
Leadership Orientation Essentials
NEAC payment voucher (Excel)
Reimbursement form
2024 Budget proposal template (Word)
NEAC volunteer conflict of Interest form (online form)
*Documents are PDFs unless otherwise indicated. Those documents that are not PDFs will download before opening.
Additional links
NEAC Strategic Plan
New England Declaration
Annual Conference Journals
e-newsletter archives
Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map by State
Members of Boards, Committees and Agencies
These are links to some of the books cited during the retreat
  • My Grandmother’s House” by Yolanda Pierce, dean of Howard University School of Divinity
  • Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein 
  • Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy” by Rachel Ricketts