High School Junior Hunter Rice received unexpected lessons in leadership and church structure during his confirmation program at Custer Community Church in Custer, SD.
Part of the confirmation lessons taught by his pastor, Rev. Dustin Bartlett, included an understanding of the inner workings of the United Church of Christ. The class attended a Black Hills Association meeting. They also learned about conference meetings and the UCC biennial General Synod meeting.
Learning about General Synod’s requirements to have diverse delegates from its conferences — particularly the requirement that 20% of the delegation be young adults (under 30 years of age) — sparked an idea in Rice and Bartlett.
“I was teaching about UCC identity and polity, and was describing how the UCC requires that 20% of a delegation to General Synod be under the age of 30,” Said Rev. Dustin Bartlett. “When [Rice] asked me, ‘Why don’t they do the conference annual meeting like that?'” Bartlett thought that Rice’s question was a good one and they talked about how to get more young people to attend the conference annual meeting. They eventually settled on this approach – each church that sent a delegate under 21 years old will be entitled to send an additional delegate beyond what they are normally allotted.
They began crafting a resolution they took to the South Dakota Conference UCC Annual Meeting in 2018. Rice, newly confirmed, and Bartlett presented their resolution that changed the conference bylaws to allow any South Dakota church who elects a delegate under age 21 to get an additional delegate to the Annual Meeting each year. The resolution passed in 2018 and will take effect at the 2019 Annual Meeting
Rice does not seem to have gotten enough of church meetings. He plans to attend again this year’s Annual Meeting, being held in Omaha, Nebraska June 14-16 as part of the first-ever Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota Joint Annual Meeting. He has also been elected as a General Synod delegate for the South Dakota Conference and will be traveling to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the first time this summer to participate in that meeting.
“I’m excited [to attend General Synod]”, Rice said. “I like new experiences and this is a new experience.”
Rice, a member of Custer Community Church since he was 3, is grateful to have learned about writing and formatting resolutions for a church meeting — which was somewhat different than the other meeting experiences he has had.
“[This experience] got me more active, taking a bigger role [in church],” he said.
When not at church, Rice plays trumpet in his school band and participates in theater, playing the role of Thomas Putnam in his high school theater production of The Crucible this spring. He is a Boy Scout, having recently earned the Eagle Scout rank. He is also a volunteer Custer Fire Department cadet, which allows him to do drills and training as well as go on some calls with the local volunteer fire department.
“I’ve been happy that I’ve been able to have the experience at the church that I have had,” he said. “It’s been nice to meet people throughout the conference and others states, too.”