Deadline to apply for Be the Church has been extended to August 2, 2019. Apply here.
Deadline to apply for Be the Church has been extended to August 2, 2019. Apply here.
United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries has extended the deadline to Dec. 31, 2019, for UCC congregations assembling Church World Service Emergency Cleanup Buckets to apply for Matching Grants of up to $250.
Members of the denomination can assist hurricane and other disaster relief efforts by pre-assembling these supplies that are warehoused by CWS, ready to be shipped at a moment’s notice when the need arises.
UCC Disaster Ministries will consider Matching Grant applications for other kinds of CWS Kits, such as CWS School Kits, but is giving priority to groups assembling CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets. That’s because the need for them is great and they are harder to keep stocked up. Plus they cost more to put together.
“For families facing the muck and ruin that a disaster has caused to their homes, CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets are more than just relief supplies, they are an expression of love and symbol of hope for the future,” said Zach Wolgemuth, UCC Disaster Ministries executive. “It’s energizing to see congregations engaged in hands-on ways, reaching out to people they will likely never meet.”
2019 marks the fifth year UCC Disaster Ministries has offered the Matching Grants. The ministry will fund participating and qualifying congregations up to $250 per congregation on a first-come, first-served basis to congregations that raise $250 in cash and in-kind gifts for CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets.
Not a UCC congregation or group? Partner with a UCC church near you!
From Dee Moore, Member in Discernment Central Congregational UCC; Topeka, KS
After taking a look at everything that I had the opportunity to participate in at the 32nd Synod, there were a few items that stood out.
The gathering of so many UCC members of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds was a blessing. The Ministers who spoke during the Synod were all very dynamic.
The Keynote speaker’s presentation gave me a deeper understanding of poverty and the need for affordable housing in all areas of our nation. Mr. Desmond’s compassion and empathy toward the families in his novel shown through in his speaking. I will be following up with our community JUMP organizers regarding this topic.
The opportunity for reparation with the Ho-Chunk people was a special blessing. To see the UCC honor those whose sacrifice was forced upon them was a great place to begin healing.
As I listened to the passage of so many wonderful resolutions, I felt a sense of pride for our denomination’s willingness to name the problems our nation faces daily and to attempt to be part of the solutions. The March in support of immigrants was especially impactful.
The controversy regarding the inclusion of the “faithful and welcoming” in the exhibition hall was a concern for many. The Polity of the UCC allows all churches to operate independently at the local level. That includes churches who would condemn my mortal soul to hell, prevent LGBTQ+ seminarians from being ordained and as far as I can tell, not allow women the right to ordination or access to the pulpit. This is within their rights under UCC Polity.
What I see as the goal of the f&w congregations is to remain faithful to the Bible as the written word of God, circa 40-60AD. That being said, in 2019 it certainly seems that the UCC would not agree with the actions of members of a body which would still consider the LGBTQ+ community as not worthy.
Will the UCC continue to embrace these historical churches? Of course! Will they be in the exhibition hall in Kansas City? Yes. Will the conversation about belonging and covenantal relationships within the UCC continue to be challenged? It will be and it is through this process that we all grow in our faith.
Plans to share my Synod experience are:
1. educate our congregation about the Evicted text
2. Receive training about the ONA Process
3. share my Synod experience with my congregation (Gage and I have a plan for this)
Thank you for the opportunity to attend the Synod. *
Dee’s thanks go to the Brown Endowment Fund administered by United Church Funds; read more about the Brown Fund here https://ucfunds.org/the-brown-endowment/
As some of you may already know, this was my second time serving as a General Synod delegate. In many ways it was very similar to the 2017 Synod in Baltimore- extravagantly welcoming hosts, inspiring speakers, uplifting worship, and of course the long plenary sessions. In contrast, one resolution this Synod held uneasiness over us as we considered whether to allow exhibit space to “Faithful and Welcoming,” a traditionally conservative portion of the UCC, or to deny them this privilege and practice exclusion for the sake of comfort.
To me, the question this posed was “to what extent do we love our neighbors even if we see their viewpoint as morally wrong?” and whether this includes platform for them to speak. After some deliberations, the resolution was tabled. My initial reaction was relief that this difficult and weighty decision was out of my hands, but as I began to look outside of myself I noticed people pained by the fact that they felt unheard.
While we remain focused on our own thoughts and reflections, we often forget that those around us have different stories and experiences that drive their decisions. Synod this year has reminded me that we must practice listening, even when we think we have heard enough, because it might make a difference beyond what we personally experience.
This is my second time attending the General Synod, the first being in 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland and like the previous gathering, it was an enjoyable and meaningful experience. It was good to get to spend some face-to-face time with my fellow KO conference attendees and delegates who live far distances from me as well as get to know some of the folks of the other conferences, including the Missouri synod with whom we will be hosting the big conference in 2021!
Like the last synod, I enjoyed worship most. I appreciated getting to experience the representations of different cultures, one of my favorites being the children who danced in rhythm to sacred Native American drum and chant. I also loved that people of different shapes and sizes were welcomed to perform their expressions of worship in liturgical dance.
It’s always interesting to hear the different viewpoints that are shared during the Speak Out sessions and during resolution discussions as different people share their views. I admired and felt proud of our KO delegate Emily Rix who bravely approached the microphone and requested additional time for discussion on one committee’s resolution as some of the people who wished to be heard did not get a chance to speak, as the resolution (from Committee 8) had been tabled earlier.
The committee I was assigned to was Committee 3: “Addressing the State of Global Forced Migration: Historical and Contemporary Context.” 30 people per minute on average are forced to flee their homes. Some of the causes for forced migration include war, gang violence, human trafficking and climate change. The United States as well as other countries contribute to the creation of the conditions that force people to leave their homelands. Angel Rivera-Agusto, one of the attendees of the session spoke passionately about how people desire to stay in their homeland, but home is no longer a safe place for them. Angel shared a quote that Michael Galant wrote in Common Dreams May 24, 2019 edition. “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” This quote summed up for me the heart of this issue, especially in light of the people at our southern borders who are seeking refuge.
The resolution passed, calling upon members of the United Church of Christ in all settings to take seriously the matter of global forced migration through prayer, education and active engagement and to advocate for the US Administration and Congress to promote actively the principles of the United Nations’ Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration.
One of the most heart-felt experiences for me at this General Synod was an interaction I had with a man from the (conservative) Faithful and Welcoming (F&W) exhibit table. Inspired by one of my fellow delegates who had shared with me his thoughts on the importance of keeping a relationship open to those with theological differences and how earlier he was able to have a good conversation with one of the F & W representatives, I decided to approach their table as well. Mutual respect and listening occurred during the conversation I had. The gentleman I talked with seemed genuinely caring and interested in being open to ongoing conversation with people of the LGBTQ+ community. In spite of our theological differences, I felt a kinship between us. I also gave thoughtful consideration to a point that Andy Lang, executive director of the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ made: churches that were previously not open and affirming became so after having ongoing conversation with the open and affirming representatives. LGBTQ+ youth belong to these non-open and affirming congregations. They may be without a faith community otherwise. These same UCC congregations may later become open and affirming. I am thankful that the UCC continues to make room for dialog.
Another General Synod has ended, and it was a delight to be in Milwaukee with KO delegates, Members in Discernment, Co-chairs for the 2021 Local Arrangements Committee, and visitors, including two youth. The weather was delightful in fact, I am so accustomed to being hot at a General Synod, based on the temperature when I arrived in Milwaukee, I was sure it had to be for a different meeting! I have assured people, that’s not likely to be the case in Kansas City in July 2021!
Everyone asks, “How was Synod?” and the answer is it depends on who you ask and what your past experiences have been. I think everyone agrees that the Wisconsin Conference was a great host; the volunteers were well organized, friendly and gracious. The business of General Synod at least the resolutions when the Synod was speaking to the world, was in my mind predictable. This is not meant to be a negative comment; only that it is clear where the General Synod is on the social gospel and it is easy to predict how the delegates will vote on most of the resolutions that are speaking to the world on social justice concerns.
Less clear and predictable is how the General Synod manages our own internal life and how our internal denominational life mirrors our external rhetoric and justice commitments. This was on full display as the General Synod wrestled with what is referred to as Committee 8 and in the re-nomination of the John Dorhauer for a second term as General Minister and President. Others have reflected on Committee 8 and you will read more about that in the reflections in the upcoming weeks in the “postcards. Here is a link so you will know what the resolution is all about https://www.uccfiles.com/synod/2019/resolutions/8-Stewardship-of-Exhibit-Space.pdf.
John Dorhauer was elected for a second term by a very narrow margin. Honestly, I am still processing this; again, this was not a surprise as there were questions about the re-nomination going into Synod. There was a request from the floor that John commit to not seeking a third term which he did, but still the vote was close; John exceeding the 60% threshold needed for election by only 30 votes. https://www.ucc.org/news_two_united_church_of_christ_national_officers_elected_monday_morning_in_milwaukee_06232019
My “postcard” at some point in the next three weeks will try and take a “balcony view” on both experiences that were big challenges for the General Synod.
For now, read how these delegates and a Member in Discernment and experienced Synod. This week, you’ll hear from:
Bobbie Henderson, Associate Delegate as KO Vice President who will give you a blow by blow account of just the facts of what happened each day
Then you’ll read the experiences of :
Conference Moderator’s Meeting: Rev. Gordon Rankin and Rev. Donna Pupillo, Co-conveners
First Plenary: Welcome, Introductions, Approval of Agenda
Open & Affirming Dinner: Andy Lang, O&A Coalition Executive Director, discussing the Coalition’s stance on the Resolution regarding disallowing the Faithful and Welcoming Coalition to host a booth in the GS Exhibit Hall.
Second Plenary: More introductions, including global partners, former UCC leaders.
The relevance of the church cannot be judged by the way we’ve done it historically. Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson
Day Two, Saturday, June 22
Conference Caucus (6:45 am): K-O delegation caucused with other regional conferences. Included get acquainted experience and the reminder that in upcoming committee conversations regarding resolutions, it never hurts to introduce one’s thoughts with, “I wonder . . . “
Third Plenary: Opened with brief worship and nomination of John Dorhauer to second term as General Minister & President.
Keynote: Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City:
The Eviction Lab at Princeton University has built the first nationwide database of evictions. Find out how many evictions happen in your community. Create custom maps, charts, and reports. Share facts with your neighbors and elected officials.
Day Three, Sunday, June 23
Community Worship: Rev. Traci Blackmon
Day Four, Monday, June 24
Conference Caucuses (6:45 am)
Fourth Plenary: Elections – Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, Associate General Minister, Global Engagement (succeeding the retiring James Moos); Rev. John Dorhauer, election to a second term as General Minister & President.
Resolutions: Full titles and content of resolutions can be found at https://www.synod2019.org/en/uccsynod2019/Resolutions
Other: Introduction of Trinity UCC, Chicago
UCC Everywhere: A web development project offered to UCC congregations. Apply here to become a pilot congregation
Antoinette Brown Celebration: Awards Ceremony
Three Great Loves – update
Day Five, Tuesday, June 25
Conference Caucuses (6:45 am) Andy Lang, O&A Coalition Executive Director, explaining the Coalition’s position on the resolution to prevent the Faithful and Welcoming Coalition from having space in Exhibit Hall. The Coalition does not support the resolution.
Invitation to 2021 General Synod – Kansas-Oklahoma Conference and Missouri Mid-south Conference delegates extended invitation to Kansas City, MO to be held July 16-20, 2021.
Final Announcements & Adjournment
Milwaukee, Wisconsin was a very welcoming city to the UCC delegates to the National Synod. Everyone I encountered during the entire seven days was friendly, helpful and considerate. Kudos to the organizers of this event and the citizens of Milwaukee!
I attended two “Be the Church Conversations” on Friday, June 21. The first one was entitled “How is the UCC Different from Other Denominations”. I found it to be very interesting and informational. I realized I should have taken a polity class on the UCC before coming to synod! The autonomy of the local church was emphasized. A list of 10 points describing the UCC was handed out. I picked up numerous copies and will share with the Women’s Fellowship Group when I give a presentation to them on August 1, 2019.
The second conversation was entitled “How Can Churches Prepare for Climate Change Discussion as a 2020 Election Issue?” I received many suggestions to use in approaching my congregation about this issue. One was a Youtube session by Katherine Hayhoe, an evangelical minister’s wife, and the other were book suggestions, The Green Boat by Mary Pipher, God is Green by Robert E. Shore-Goss, and Grounded by Diana Butler Bass. The leader encouraged us to engage young people to bring this issue to the congregation. As was stated, “ The earth has a fever. We need to make it better. We need to do this for you and well as the younger generation.”
I was assigned to Committee 5, which reviewed a proposed resolution regarding the use of plastic foam and a resolution in support for the energy innovation and carbon dividend act of 2019. Spirited discussion was had on both resolutions and both passed with minimal amendments. The leader of our discussion emphasized from the beginning that time was a social justice issue and that we need to pay attention to how we use it and share it. When approaching our congregations about the plastic foam issue, it was suggested to have a knowledgeable person speak to the congregation about a trash to treasure program and how to recycle. Training is the name of the game. The church needs to be aware of the issue and the environmental concerns facing our planet. We can’t afford to have the earth filled with trash and ignore the problem.
Participating in the interfaith protest march to the Milwaukee ICE office on Monday, June 24, was the highlight of the Synod. We peacefully walked down the sidewalks of downtown Milwaukee holding posters, singing and chanting. Once we arrived at the ICE office, Rev. Traci Blackmon led us in song and chants and gave an inspirational message. Lines of fellow delegates marched in front of the ICE office, across the street and on the side street. It may have been a hot and humid afternoon, but no one doubted the importance of what we were doing.
All of the worship services were beautiful in their own way. The music was thoughtfully chosen; the speakers brought home their points. The most inspiring service, however, was the service of holy communion on June 23, 2019. The choir was inspirational, singing many beautiful anthems while communion was administered. The preacher for the afternoon service, Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister, Justice and Local Church Ministries, stirred our passion as she encouraged us to do our heart and soul work by bringing out all the colors of the world. She said “God is calling us to shine! We live in God’s creation and we need to act like it!” My favorite remark of her’s was “Justice is what love looks like in public”. She gave us so much to think about and act upon, not only within ourselves but in our churches.
I would be remiss if I did not mention all the diversity within the UCC. It was absolutely a glorious sight to see all the people from different races, genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations come together as one. As a white, heterosexual, 60+ aged female, I was definitely not in the majority. I was enlightened and saddened to hear people speak about oppressions they endured, most of which I had never encountered. Yet each of us has experienced discrimination in some way. Not one person is immune. What we all need is empathy and the will to rectify the discrimination. As Rev. Blackmon said, “We are blessed when we care.”
As I drove home from the airport on Wednesday, June 26, I was thrilled to see that wheat harvest had started. I was home. Life is slower here in Inman, Ks. Our congregation is in a small farming community. Many issues addressed at synod will not be a topic of conversation in our church. Yet we do have concerns shared by other congregations, like attracting young people, keeping Sunday School going, having a youth program, serving an aging congregation, ministering to those in our area of the world. I came home confident in knowing that St. Peter’s UCC is a relevant congregation in Inman, KS and, with God’s help, will be shining for many years to come.
I feel fortunate to have been asked to attend General Synod as a delegate from the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference. My first Synod was two years ago in Baltimore, shortly after I started Seminary. I have grown so much over the past two years and have had some amazing opportunities, and when I was asked if I would be interested in serving as a committee chairperson in Milwaukee. I knew it would be a lot of work, but I said yes! I’m glad that I did.
Being exposed to the resolution process at General Synod meant that I learned how decisions are made within our denomination. I saw the professionalism and care of those who brought new ideas and suggestions to make the UCC a more inviting place for all. I served on the committee that welcomed two groups: the UCC Mental Health Network, and the Collectives de UCC Latinx Ministries, into General Synod as “historically underrepresented groups.” This means that these groups will now have a bigger voice at the next Synod, with their own delegates able to speak to the issues that are important to the United Church of Christ from their own context. As a facilitator, I helped guide the process the delegates went through to make this decision, and it was a great learning experience.
I am in my last year of Seminary and am serving Peace United Church of Christ in Alma. It would have been easy for me to spend my entire time here in Kansas, never being exposed to the wider church and to everything that makes us UCC. I know these experiences will make me a better pastor. I am grateful to have met so many new people, and to reconnect with others. General Synod is an opportunity to hear nationally known preachers and speakers, to engage with our national leaders, and to see first-hand the important work we are doing at all levels of the United Church of Christ. While I won’t be a delegate next Synod, I can’t wait to attend the next one in Kansas City. I am hooked!
My thanks to the Conference for helping me get to Milwaukee and for connecting me to the wider community of faith.
Thinking of a personal theme for me as I contemplate my experience at the 32nd General Synod, the word “conversations” is what comes to the forefront of my mind. I had so, so many rich and deep conversations with many different people. I feel enriched by these interactions, even the most difficult one. One of the most difficult ones was with the Linda Thompson, wife of the president of Faithful and Welcoming Churches, about Resolution 8. After talking for well over an hour, we ended with a hug and sincere “I love you”s. The pain and discomfort were real, so was the connection.
The second most difficult was the last afternoon in our hotel lobby. I saw Jen sitting with her bags surrounding her. I greeted her wishing her safe travels. She looked troubled and said she was never coming to another Synod. I sat down and heard some of her story. Jen is a transgender woman from the Baltimore area. She feels celebrated in her home church and is living out her calling in children’s ministry. She came to General Synod and was shocked by the LGBTQ+ controversy still roiling on the national stage. I can identify. It is frustrating to leave the microcosm of our home churches to discover that only 31% of the United Church of Christ is Open and Affirming. I told her that I hope she would go home and resume her call to ministry. I also told her that I hoped in two years she would come back. We need Jen’s voice.
Through many of the conversations over these days of Synod I learned something else. I learned that discernment really never ends. I talked with pastors who are retiring, working to discern what is next. I talked with people transitioning from one position to another. I also talked with other Members-In-Discernment who, like myself, are working to discern their first call.
I was astounded by the sheer magnitude of the event. I enjoyed the artists who created their art throughout the Synod based on the inspiration by what they witnessed around them. There was a visual artist who created a beautiful painting, a poet and a musician who composed two songs in honor of the 32nd Synod.
It was interesting to me to witness our denomination’s polity in action on the national stage. I have a deeper understanding and love for the UCC as a result of this experience. I love that the same vein of social justice I experience in my home church, Church of the Open Arms, is also thrumming throughout the National UCC. I am grateful to Edith Guffey and the Brown Endowment for making this experience possible for me and 54 other MIDs. The two greatest surprises I had were the percentage of ONA churches in the UCC (let me say again, 31%), and meeting members of First United Church of Christ Second Life. This is a church in full standing and they exist only in virtual reality. I was fascinated by this. As they showed me their sanctuary and meditation circle, I kind of felt like I was in a game of World of Warcrafts (WOW)
I appreciated the plenary sessions and seeing the business of the greater church in action. I enjoyed visiting with many of the vendors in the exhibit hall. I feel so blessed to get to know those of our own conference. The biggest thing I take away from the experience is the prompting of the Holy Spirit in conversation with others. Especially, perhaps, the most difficult ones.