Re-Connecting to Re-Imagine: UMAC 2023

Todd Rossnagel
August 22, 2023

Dear Communicators of The United Methodist Church,

My 18-year-old son is fond of saying, 'It's been a minute,' which simply indicates it's been a long time. So, as he would say, it's been a minute since we've been together. 

The last time we gathered together, in-person, for a UMAC was in 2019 in St. Louis, MO, just before the Special Called Session. I do not have to tell you how much has changed since then, both in our world and our denomination. 

But we have a chance to gather together again, October 22-25, in Charleston, South Carolina

And I cannot begin to express how excited I am to gather together and see each of you for UMAC23. And as much fun as we are planning to have in the beautiful Holy City of Charleston, South Carolina, in late October (hint, hint: it's gorgeous that time of year!), there is also a tremendous amount of discernment and visioning that is taking place at all levels of communication work in the UMC. 

There's no question - we stand at the crossroads of what was and what is yet to be, and our collective role as communicators takes on a profound significance.

We've heard the phrase "liminal time," caught between the echoes of the past and the anticipation of the future. And, we find ourselves in a metamorphosis that hopes to be as impactful as it is transformative. As communicators, our critical question becomes: How do we effectively translate a potentially momentous transition that we've yet to realize to our diverse and widespread congregations?

Our answer lies within our most powerful tool, which just so happens to be our salt and light, our storytelling prowess. 

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Just as a masterful storyteller introduces their audience to the past, so must we, the stewards of our church's narrative, acquaint our audience with the legacy that precedes us. I lean on the wisdom of Bob Marley, "In this bright future, you can't forget your past."

The narratives within The United Methodist Church embody faith, unity, and an unwavering commitment to serving others in the name of Jesus. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to share these stories and to do so in hopes that they will guide our future journey.

However, the ever-changing media landscape, where our communication methods shift rapidly with each smartphone swipe, presents us with the challenge of staying current and impactful.

That's why the opportunity to gather at UMAC is invaluable. 

After every UMAC annual meeting, I emerge invigorated, armed with fresh perspectives, and empowered with newfound skills that enrich and enhance my work in the Louisiana Conference. 

And while the speakers will undoubtedly share unparalleled insight from topics such as disinformation and artificial intelligence, the true magic lies in those little moments; that moment when you catch up with a colleague while getting coffee or when you ask a fellow communicator at lunch, "So what's working for you these days?", or when you meet a new friend who shares unique insight on that topic you've been curious about for so long. 

It's a camaraderie that binds us and strengthens us. 

As much as this is a season of liminality (the first time I have ever used that word), it's also a season of preparation. General Conference 2024 is only 35 weeks away, and because we know communicators have questions, we have partnered with United Methodist Communications for a series of GC24 preparation discussions. Together, we will explore everything expected at General Conference and more. 

So, my fellow communicators, I invite you to beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, this October for UMAC23. (Did I mention how beautiful it is in Charleston in October?) 

Come for wisdom and inspiration, come for insights and knowledge that will sharpen your skills, and most importantly, come for the connections. 

In this time of transformation, when the story of our church unfolds before us, let us gather as storytellers, listeners, and visionaries to shape our future narrative. Together, let us embrace the beautiful uncertainty of our liminal times and illuminate the path to what lies beyond.

See you in Charleston!

All my best, 
Rev. Todd Rossnagel
Chairperson, UMAC
Director of Communications, Louisiana Conference 
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