Together, We are the Church on the Move

Michael J. Readinger

The United Church of Christ meets every other year at General Synod to conduct its business. At this year’s recently concluded Synod, there were elections, resolutions of witness, prudential resolutions, speak outs, worship services and music, optional events, educational intensives, implementation conversations, hearings, and much more. But there were no cookies this year! There were no hugs, no after-hours meetings, no chances to see old friends or make new friends in person. These were many of the drawbacks of this special edition, virtual General Synod 33, held July 11-18. On the upside, we had great attendance. Delegates, sponsors, exhibitors, and vendors were able to participate at a much lower cost. So many people who were never able to participate in the past were able to be a part of this great event.

So today, we are the Church as it is, and it was a different church and a different General Synod than we have ever seen before. This virtual, special edition General Synod has been taxing and tiring, it has been unsettling and comforting, it has been unique and familiar. It has been vintage UCC in nature, and everything we could always expect and knew we would see. Love, acceptance, controversy, laughter, tears, music, prayers and more. So, today, we are the church as it is today. What church do we want to be in the future?

What became clear to me during this General Synod is that we are a church on the move. (I totally stole this line from UCC General Minister and President John Dorhauer’s “State of the Church” speech.) We may not be adding new churches and more members every day, but that does not mean this church is not growing. Our associated and affiliated ministries are growing, and they are radically altering the manner in which they care for their stakeholders. Our ministry partners are creating new ways to serve the local churches, the people in the pews, and our world. Our UCC leaders are constantly working with their teams at the national church offices to ensure that their work remains relevant and sustainable, and that they are accountable to the mission, vision, and values of the UCC.

CHHSM plays a part in all this work, and we are committed to being on the move along side this denomination and all the other partners in ministry. Together, we are all moving to become anti-racist people, an anti-racist church, and anti-racist organizations.  The resolutions we discussed, passed, or defeated all addressed justice issues that are at the core of our denomination. Our optional events lifted up the work of all segments of the denomination. Our educational events, our committee meetings, and our debates all proved that we are a church united. Even when we disagree.

Yes, together we are the Church on the move. Who knows exactly where we will go, or how or when we will get there? Who can say if it will make us bigger, stronger, or more sustainable? I am not sure if that really matters, as long as we remain a dynamic presence in the faith community. The best way to do that is to continue to work together. All of us, all the time, on the move.

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CHHSM Board and Staff are grieved to learn of the death of our friend and colleague, Greg Watson, who died in October 2022. Greg was vice president of operations for Embrace Living Communities, based in Oak Brook, Ill.Greg was a graduate of CHHSM’s Nollau Leadership Institute, class of 2018-2019, and was consecrated as a Diakonal Minister during our 2019 Annual Gathering in Chicago. In an article about his class in June 2018 — not long after the group’s first retreat — Greg said, “The best part is not only beginning the process of clarifying your calling; but also, understanding and accepting one’s personal strength. Recognition of one’s ‘true' self enables us to serve from a place of wholeness.”Greg also served on the CHHSM Board of Directors, and was a beloved friend and colleague to many in the CHHSM family. Embrace Living stated on its website, “Greg was an outstanding servant leader for 17 years at Embrace Living Communities. He will be greatly missed.”CHHSM sends its prayers and love to Greg’s friends, family, and Embrace Living colleagues. ... See MoreSee Less
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