Two years and three months of ministry together has provided ample opportunities for readers of the monthly Informer to learn that denominational affiliations are very important to me. Congregations I’ve served, during the past fifty years, have been enriched tremendously by their denominational relationships (ELCA, UCC and PCUSA) and my personal, career in ministry would not have been possible without the rich, meaningful, personal relationships I’ve enjoyed as a direct result of denominational engagements and the resultant connections I’ve been blessed to experience.
The summer of 2019 is no exception, as the 32nd General Synod of the United Church of Christ will convene at the beautiful Wisconsin Center, in Milwaukee, WI, on Friday of this week and will conclude on June 25th . During this five-day meeting, around 3,000 registered attendees, including 677 delegates, other visitors and scores of ecumenical guests will make several key decisions on behalf of the entire UCC.
The theme for the 32nd General Synod is based on the scripture Matthew 5:16 “In the same way let your light shine before others.” “When we light just one candle in the darkness, it illuminates dimly, but when many candles are lit, and all let their lights shine, together we can bring brightness to the world.” ― The Rev. Franz Rigert, Wisconsin Conference Minister.
The spiritual component of the five-day event will be led by a dynamic team of four women preachers. The Rev. Traci Blackmon, associate general minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries, will be preaching during Sunday’s community worship, June 23. The Rev. Kaji Spellman Douša, senior pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church (DOC/UCC) in Manhattan, is heading up opening worship Friday, June 21. The Rev. Sharon Lee Mei-Shem MacArthur, serving as acting pastor of Berkeley Chinese Community Church, will be the worship leader Monday, June 24, and The Rev. Amy K. Butler, senior minister of The Riverside Church, New York City, will preach during closing worship, Tuesday, June 25.
The delegates and others, who will be granted “voice without vote,” will engage in deliberations regarding approximately 25 Resolutions including: A Resolution to Abolish the Growth and Existence of Private Prisons, Reaffirming the UCC’s Commitment to Interreligious Relations, and Deploring Religious Bigotry, A Resolution Regarding the Use of Plastic Fom (i.e. Styrofoam), A Resolution on Support for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, and many other equally important resolutions that are far too numerous to mention, in this limited space. The presentation of a Resolution at General Synod is by no means assurance that it will be adopted. Some of the several resolutions will be strongly opposed but will, nevertheless, generate creative tension and dialogue which tends to result in clearer understands of opposing points of view. Such creative tension is not uncommon within the UCC.
General Synod 32 promises to be a wonderful educational, inspirational and growth experience for all attendees, including those of us from St. John. Clyde Donovan will attend the synod, as an elected delegate, representing the Illinois South Conference. Christy Pursell will attend, by virtue of her staff position with the IS Conference and I plan to attend, as an invited special guest, by virtue of my prior service as a General Synod Moderator.
As many of you are aware, one of the key Focus Points of our currently extant Interim Ministry Process is CONNECTIONS; an opportunity for the congregation to reexamine the strength of its relationships with the regional and national church and with other external entities. My fervent prayer is that a much larger number of St. John Church members will devote some time, each year, to attending and becoming more closely involved with the UCC denomination, by attending one or more of the regional, and/or national meetings. These are meetings attended by scores of other UCC congregants and where very important decisions are made that directly impact the St. John congregation. Participating in these decisions can help to enrich the quality of one’s church/faith experience. I have learned, from my personal experiences that friendships and relationships established in such settings yield benefits that accrue for a lifetime.
Please pray for our safe travels throughout the week and pray for all General Synod attendees that God may bless our many efforts to be the Body of Christ.