General Synod Withdrawal
Wow! What a whirlwind it was! Personally, I am witnessing a whole lot of withdrawal from the UCC General Synod 31 that just concluded in Baltimore, Md. For those of you who have never attended a General Synod, let me try to explain what it is like. Those of you who have been will understand.
First, it was a gathering of nearly 3,000 UCC folks from across the world who came together to conduct the Church’s business. There were more than 700 delegates, a handful of associate delegates and about 2,000 visitors. The delegates (and many visitors) spent nearly 20 hours in the plenary sessions and conducted more than 40 votes on various issues brought before them. Each resolution was discussed, debated, deliberated and finally voted on. Almost all of them were passed. In many cases, a wide array of voices spoke for and against these resolutions, constitution and by-law changes, and other business matters we needed to deal with as Church. What struck me the most was that, despite our differing opinions, people listened to and respected the voices of others. The collective wisdom of the entire Church was on display.
Second, for the first time in several years, Synod was a gathering of 12 of our CHHSM member ministries in a communal exhibit area. There were so many wonderful meetings and conversations with visitors to the area, as well as with each other. It seems like more Church people are engaged with the health and human service ministries of the UCC these days. There were hundreds of visits to our exhibit area’s web-based interactive map of all our ministry sites, and nearly 250 CHHSM umbrellas were distributed to Synod goers who stopped at our exhibit to find out more information. Internally, our CHHSM exhibitors told tales of successes and opportunities, held generative talks about the shape of ministry in the future, and supported each other by sharing best practices for service and new theories in care. All of this was presented with our shared value of faith-based ministry.
Third, it was a time of prophetic witness for us as an organization, as we co-sponsored the Valerie Russell Lecture where Dr. Camara Jones enlightened us on the effects of racism on health in the United States. And we co-sponsored the Wholeness and Human Service Luncheon where we shared the nature of all the health and well-being settings of the national UCC ministries. Finally, we sponsored a resolution of witness calling for medical research into gun violence and recognition of gun violence as a national health epidemic. At the same time, CHHSM continued to send out the links to our Medicaid advocacy materials by email and on Facebook so that we can be a voice to prevent this important program from the cuts Congress is proposing.
Overall, General Synod is an exhausting event, with days starting before 8 a.m. and often ending after 10 p.m. There were amazing worship services every day that showcased the theological, musical and preaching brilliance of the UCC. These worship experiences, doing the work of the Church, seeing old friends and making new ones helped me (and many others) push past being tired to a new level of energy and commitment to this great denomination. In all of the events, board and business meetings, resolutions, conversations, lectures, meals and workshops, it was clear that this United Church of Christ is committed to creating a just world for all. It was also clear that we are united in our love for children, our neighbors and the earth! With each step of my General Synod 31 experience, I kept thinking about which of the Three Great Loves I was seeing in action. It finally occurred to me that all three great loves were there in everything I saw!
So yes, although it was exhausting, it was also enriching. I am experiencing withdrawal from my Church family and I can hardly wait for GS 32 in Milwaukee in 2019.
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