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A Quartet of Synod Glimpses

by Dorothy Crockett, Member in Discernment, United Church University City -San Diego

 

Dorothy Crockett

Dorothy Crockett

God’s Vision: Gathering, Hearing the Call

From the western shores of Hawaii and the eastern shores of New Jersey, 39 Members in Discernment (MID) (previously known as candidates for ordination), gathered in Irvine for two days prior to the GS29 Conference.

Hosted by the national office of Ministerial Excellence, Support, and Authorization (MESA), the Rev/ Kathleen Clark (Minister for Members in Discernment) welcomed them for two days of interacting.  These 39 people came to share their worship resources, ask questions about specialized ministries and chaplaincy, participate in workshops and sessions, and discuss visions of their future call.

On the first day, we participated in simultaneous workshops, breaking into small groups.  Topics included: Creating Your Own Profile; Ministry from 35,000 Feet, Pastoring in a Rural Area; and Benefits that Take Care of You, Your Family, and Your Future. The second day was filled with four sessions, followed by a feed-back of each.

In the first session, topics were: Bi-vocational ministry; Missional Communities in the UCC, Art and Church and What would a UCC Orthodoxy look like?  Topics in the second session included: How to be a Pastor and a Parent; Culture and Ministry; When Evangelism and Identification Intersect and  Preaching the Lectionary-to Do or Not to Do?

Self-Care in Ministry, Laughing, Partners, and Chaplaincy were the third session topics. In the fourth session, Christian Youth and Family; Small Churches and Fund-raising; Ministry in Call; and Worship were the topics.  In each session, a person served as a convener and another as a scribe.

On Wednesday, members of the Lakota tribe from South Dakota led worship, introducing the practice of smudging to purify the spirit.  They demonstrated the use of an eagle feather to waif the smoke of prayers upward.  They also showed a medicine wheel, with the plume of an eagle attached to it.

The closing worship of Thursday, centered around a poem/prayer, guided imagery, music, Communion, and an anointing of oil.  One of the participants from Hawaii led a prayer with “aloha,” meaning “love,” and “the spirit’s breath.”

On Friday morning, we participated in a reception and conversation with President and General Minister, Rev. Geoffrey Black.  We joined in with class members, who are studying UCC’s History and Polity.  Many questions and answers were exchanged.

Meeting these inspirational people – both the staff, and the MIDs – is one of the best (learning) experiences to take away from the combined GS29 memories.  Thank you, to the combined MESA team, for making it possible!

God’s Vision: Ripples, Widening the Circle

GS29!

Synod, is of course, an event to see, hear, and feel on a multitude of levels.  It includes resolutions on the National level, delegates from each Conference and Association, and the thousands of members from Local Churches.  Yet, in experiencing it for the first time, one truly senses a rippling effect.  We share connections – and the circle widens.

As a first-time attendee and volunteer, it became assuring to put a name and face together with some one who matches many e-mails I received.  Too, seeing familiar faces from my church and sharing meals with new acquaintances stretched the circle.  Discussing the resolutions and plenary sessions was informative and uplifting, while relaxing a bit over a cup of tea with a volunteer chairperson.

Volunteering gave me insight into the two-year process to plan and collaborate on all the details that make Synod so successful.  Work, indeed; yet fun because of the community of service.  In showing up for your task, your volunteer manager kindly explains it, and actually thanks you for volunteering, as do tons of delegates.  This attitude assures cooperation and appreciation.

As a registered visitor, I could attend workshops, roam the Exhibit Hall, sit in on the Plenary meetings, or meet a friend.  Together we could digest both a meal and the events of the day.  What is the heated resolution today?

In this huge gathering of UCC visitors, I was able to renew acquaintances and meet new ones.  I was able to extend my network to include national resources from all walks of the Church.  They range from the Local Church to Global Ministries, and in-between.  We are all part of this wider circle.

My most impressive reflections of GS29 are both the Worship services and the Plenary sessions.  Our services must be God-pleasing, with the diversity, inclusion, international music, and beauty, to name a few factors that broaden the circle.

The Plenary sessions, in a different manner, must also be God-pleasing.  Here, we agree to disagree, treat others with respect and dignity, and feel free to laugh or express anger or impatience.  We can be the children of God and stand in that wide circle.

Attending Synod is a way to be open to God’s wide arms.  Attending Synod is a way to continue to hear God’s still-speaking voice.  Attending Synod is one way of feeling this ripple and the widening of UCC.

God’s Vision:  Volunteering, Just Say Yes!

As preparation for GS29 drew close, the call went out for volunteers.  Co-chairs Rev. Paul Kittlaus and Janet Vandevender asked if  300 could volunteer?  By June 28, when GS 29 began, more than 430 answered that call, showing up in Long Beach!

For me, many recommended this experience for diverse reasons.  Long Beach is close, geographically, and it’s the first time GS is in California.  It would be my first time experience at GS.  And, as a Member in Discernment (MID), I would learn so much. I’m adventurous and open, so I was ready for this.

This adventure became a testimony of faith.  Obstacle questions came up: where would I stay?  And, could I fit it in my budget?  As I took the leap of faith by saying, “YES,” to volunteering, God’s provision – and angels – stepped in.

Diana Owings (Volunteer Recruitment Co-Chair) informed Robinmarie McClement (Hospitality Co-Chair) of my dilemma.  Within two weeks, she called me to ask questions and discuss details for a Host Family.  A week later, she sent an e-mail with my host’s name, address and phone number.  And, that was a blessed experience!

As a Volunteer, I signed up to Usher (Robert Stapp), do Child Care (Suzie Bjork), be a Roving Floor Greeter (Rosemary Henderson) do a shift as a Cookie Runner (Sharon Kayser) and serve as a Floor Steward (Karen Miller).  Behind the scenes activity informs you of the “inside work” and is an opportunity to meet people who are jewels!

In 2015, as you make plans for GS30 to travel to Cleveland, Ohio, be sure to include time to say, “YES!” to volunteering.  You’ll be grateful you did.  I know I am!

God’s Vision: Extravagant Welcome, More Than Cookies

Prior to attending GS 29, I read and heard of the tradition of the United Church of Christ (UCC) serving cookies throughout their conference, held every other year.  The cookies are the hallmark of UCC’s extravagant welcome at each Synod Conference.

However, my experience went over the top in terms of hospitality!  Yes.  Of course the cookies were there – and the wide variety of them tasted delectable.  What is extravagant for the first time attendee, however, truly is a welcome that is unmatched, anywhere.  It extends to all – females and males, young and old, clergy and layperson, delegate and volunteer, LGBT and heterosexual, all cultures, racial backgrounds, ethnicities, state or national origin, or whatever.  ALL ARE WELCOME!

From Registration check-in to service with a smile (“Can I help you find something?”   “Here it is on this diagram”) to introductions to others with common interests and the friendly exchange of business cards and resources for us to utilize upon returning to our ministries, that hospitality continued.  The amount of resources found in the Exhibit Hall were incredible.

As a volunteer, I was able to experience the heart-felt welcome of my Host Family through the Bed & Breakfast Volunteer Project (Paul Lance).

More than 3000 people were in attendance at GS29, 5000 at Sunday worship!  I believe each and every one of them enjoyed this UCC “extravagant welcome.”  If you have yet to attend a Synod conference, make plans for 2015, so  you too, can experience this WELCOME!

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