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Put Yourself in the Picture: Synod 2013 Story VI: A Palpable Power

Why do UCCers gather together every two years, traveling long distances to plunge headlong into the intensity and immensity of a General Synod?  Why should YOU attend?  What’s in it for YOU?  

     Gregg Brekke, Editor of the United Church News, summed his “why” up succinctly when writing of his very first Synod in 2009.  “We seek an experience of God’s peace – through worship, renewed connections, new relationships and an immersion into our identity as people of the UCC.”

     The editors of Connecting Voices recently asked a number of past attendees (delegates and visitors, clergy and laypeople alike) about their “whys” and their Synod experiences – what “coming together” meant to them.  Their responses will be presented in a series of mini-articles over the next few months.  We hope that, stirred to “go and do likewise,” YOU will join us at Synod 29 in Long Beach, CA.

A Palpable Power:  Synod Story VI
by Janet Vandevender, Claremont United Church of Christ, Claremont, CA

     I have been to many Synods, probably 8 or so, beginning in 1975. My husband Paul and I have been involved in the UCC at several settings and in several locations so synod is often a reunion for us, a chance to see folks we have not seen in awhile, and to hear of their journeys of faith.

     I have only been a delegate once – in Atlanta when our Conference sponsored the resolution supporting equal marriage rights for all. Every other time I have attended as a non-delegate. I always find the synod to be a stimulating event.  This past year, I found the recognition of the honored lay women to be extraordinary. The mindfulness of the staff, the recognition that included all women not just those of us named, and the connection of those recognized with Biblical stories were quite moving to me. The story teller brought it all to life.

     I am always grateful for disagreement among attendees about important issues that the synod tackles. That we are not of one opinion is so important– and that we engage each other and our understandings is a large part of what draws me into the UCC and has kept me here.

     The power of those of us who follow Jesus as understood by the UCC is palpable when we gather in such a big, diverse, cross-continental group. One of the most moving things for me is always the many languages in which we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Worship in this context shows me every time that this faith I profess has touched so many and calls us all beyond ourselves to faith and action.

     Janet Vandevender, a member of Claremont UCC, lives at Pilgrim Place with husband Rev. Paul Kittlaus.  The mother of four living children and grandmother of four, she chaired the SCNC Conference Minister Search Committee and is currently co-chairing, with her husband, the local arrangements committee for General Synod 29.

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