; charset=UTF-8" /> Kaleidoscope II : Connecting Voices
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Kaleidoscope II


by Mary Domb Mikkelson, Connecting Voices Editor

     It might well have been anticlimactic, this sequel to last year’s “hit” Gathering, to the nomination of a new Conference Minister.  It was anything but. 

     “The World as Our Altar:  Engaging Life Through Worship, the Gathering’s theme, proclaimed boldly, proudly, in song and dance, in prayer and sermon, in word and deed, called us to, in Félix Villanueva’s words, take our faith out into the streets, making of our lives living worship and, as another Felix (Carrion, Coordinator of UCC’s The Stillspeaking Ministry) recently wrote, to use the outpouring of the Spirit upon us to get on with the things that need to be accomplished here on earth.

     The two days (June 3 and 4, 2011) of the Gathering provided participants with a numinous montage of images and ideas.   From blue-shawled liturgical dancers bearing pitchers of “living water” to be shared with all to the rhythmic enchantment the Choir of the First Samoan Congregational Christian Church of San Diego’s music (which clarified with every note the meaning of “lift up”), the heartfelt “Amazing Grace” of the Peppermint Ridge Singers and the foot-tapping, hand-clapping rendition of “I Want to be Ready (to walk in Jerusalem just like John),” we were encouraged to, in the manner of Psalm 100, “make a joyful noise to God…worship God with gladness…enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, God’s courts with praise…then to go out into the world and put all that gladness to work, to “…go with joy to love the world and live the way we pray.”

     It was a Gathering of special moments – from the keynote speech (and subsequent sermon) of Tom Long, “one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world,” to the young people who shared their music, charmed everyone with their openness and caring and “worked the gathering” (greeting, “passing the plate,” presenting the items collected for those served by Centro Romero’s border ministry – blankets, warm socks, toothpaste, etc.).

     It was, as well, a Gathering of special, often unsettling concepts (“Christianity isn’t about your comfort”) and descriptions – (“worship gathered around the intrusive and disruptive word of God”).  Emphasis was placed on the changing and soon to change face of worship.  In addressing this Dr. Long spoke of those things Christians need to hold on to, among them the connection between worship and action, and those they need to change.  The latter included reclaiming the intrinsic sense of drama in worship, finding in service the palpable expression of the word and mystery of God and making worship more eclectic.  Commenting that “the measure of Christian hymns is whether “you feel better at the end than at the start,” he encouraged those responsible for choosing church music to constantly ask themselves, “of all that is available, what is best to use for this moment and this place?”

     Held at Torrey Pines Christian Church (DOC) in La Jolla, California, a campus of incredible beauty and stately Italian brick buildings, Annual Gathering 2011 also featured workshops, lots and lots of workshops, on topics such as “The Escalating Danger of Islamophobia,” “Creating Multisensory Worship in a Diverse World,” “Church Hospitality Means more than Coffee Time” and “From Pew Sitter to PR Person:  Making it Up as I Go Along.”  Others addressed the sacrament of communion; the importance of the funeral service; multi-cultural, multi-racial understanding; mindful eating; safe churches; accessibility, spiritual friends circles, going green, music and worship and “Worship, GLEE Style”…and those were just for starters.   Questions, observations and discussions, becoming “table talk,” continued long after the sessions ended, challenging presenter and listener alike and drawing interested observers into ongoing  conversation.   

     There was business to take care of, too, of course – motions to make, second and vote on, budgets to adopt, people to recognize (among them the SCNC Distinguished Laywomen for 2011), new churches to celebrate (5 of them – with more “in the works,” honors to bestow, people to thank for (among them Ann Feaver and Paul Tellstrom) or welcome to service (including new Moderator Foai Tanuvasa) and decisions to be made.  There were programs to promote, books to peruse, ministries to explain and share, etc. – all the necessary underpinnings that bolster the practice and sharing of faith and faith’s works.  And, most important, there were friends old and new to greet, soon-to-be-friends to meet, stories and communion to share, dreams to encourage, plans to make and paths to follow.  It was, in a word, a great coming together.  And, no, it certainly wasn’t anticlimactic.

     And then, out into the world we went…with singing and joy, walking in the light of God.  Siyahamba!

View more pictures from Annual Gathering here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150195209571599.301505.84646241598&l=bf809315a6

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