; charset=UTF-8" /> ECUMENICAL AND INTERFAITH NEWS – April : Connecting Voices
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(Submitted by the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee of the Southern California Nevada Conference, UCC, and the Pacific Southwest Region, DOC)

EIRCGetting DOC’ers and UCC’ers Together: A Summer Evening at the Hollywood Bowl

     The Hollywood Bowl is one of the wonderful things that greater Los Angeles has to offer.  There’s nothing like an evening at the Bowl under the stars for relaxation, fellowship, and enjoyment of really good music.  Our EIRC Committee would like to invite all Disciples and United Church of Christ clergy and laity to an evening at the Bowl—either in later July, after General Assembly and General Synod, or in August, or in early September.  The program for each summer evening is available on the internet—artists range from John Williams to Willie Nelson to Queen Latifah to Itzhak Perlman to Kristin Chenoweth to the Tschaikovsky Spectacular( with fireworks) to the Blue Man Group to, of course, the inimitable Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic.  We would purchase the cheaper tickets higher up in the stands and arrive early enough to eat together.  (Tickets start at $22)

     Let’s do it!  Our committee will be glad to coordinate arrangements, give you hints on parking, purchase the tickets, etc., on the basis of hearing from you as to whether you are coming, bringing anyone else from your congregation, and especially what are your first and second choices for the night we should choose.  We free church folks may be small but we’re mighty—and we know how to have fun.  But in our busy lives we don’t get together as often as we should, especially given our joint commitment to be one church.  Please write Jeff Utter at hefffer@earthlink.net, or call him at 626-794-1839 if you would like to join us at the Bowl this summer.

Another Opportunity for DOC-UCC Contact: General Synod in Long Beach, June 28 to July 2

     Our denominations hold their biennial national meetings in the same year—it might be nice if they were in alternate years, or if we could at least, at some point, come together nationally, as we did at least once before.   The Disciples will be gathering in Orlando, Florida, July 13-17, under the theme, “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.”   Disciples do impressively put themselves out to get to their Assembly, even when it is on the other side of the country.  But those who are not traveling to Orlando should consider spending a day at the UCC General Synod, which convenes at the Long Beach Convention Center on June 28.   Seven hundred volunteers from the UCC conference are working to make this an excellent experience.  You can get a sense of how the UCC is the same and how different in what it emphasizes in worship, service, advocacy, etc.—and talk to dedicated UCC’ers.  Our EIRC committee is making a contribution to the Synod by working with Dr. Jim Findlay and his spiritual practice group to provide space and time at the First Congregational Church of Long Beach for delegates and visitors who wish to come aside from the business and fellowship of the Synod for silence, prayer, and meditation.  We could use help with seeing that this happens.  Again, call Jeff at the number above or write to Jim at james.findlay@csun.edu.

Congratulations to our Church People of the Year!

     At the annual Chapman University Founder’s Day, Rev. Mildred Butler, pastor of the United Christian Church (DOC) in Los Angeles, and Rev. Joe McGowan, pastor of the Altadena Community Church (UCC) were honored for their outstanding witness and contributions.  Those of us who are blessed to know both extend our special love and congratulations to Mildred and Joe and wish them increased strength and true guidance as their ministry among us continues.

God is Always Doing Something New

     When the board of directors of the Pacific Southwest Region met on March 23, they were told of a large influx of funds—millions of dollars–resulting from the sale of some church properties.  There was sober recognition of both the opportunity and the responsibility represented by these resources, and a promise on the part of the regional ministers Don and Susan to use them in ways that further new ministries and the Gospel of Christ.  A great deal of this money comes from the termination of long-established Caucasian congregations.  This phenomenon is present around the country.  The number of Disciples attending worship regularly—most, by virtue of history, of Caucasian background—has dropped from 1.2 million in 1980 to about 400,000 currently.   Contributions to the Disciples Mission Fund have dropped correspondingly.  The picture is very similar in the United Church of Christ.  

     And yet, around the country and especially here in Southern California, the Region has its hands full with Latino and Korean congregations desiring to associate with the Disciples.  And most of the candidates to appear before the Committee on Ministry seeking some kind of under care status or certification as clergy leaders are also from these “minority” groups.  One can’t help but be impressed by the seriousness, dedication, and strong faith of these candidates, and by what they report about the growth of the congregations they are leading.  But their economic resources are limited, and rightfully many of the new funds available to the Region will be channeled in their direction.   

     But someone ought to ask the question what all this means?  Why has what the DOC and the UCC have to offer become, over the past decades, so much less attractive to Caucasian people in this country, and yet so very attractive to many from other ethnic groups?  Is there an authentic biblical element of evangelism, of witness to the centrality of Jesus Christ, which over these decades has, for some reason, faltered among us in the dominant ethnic population?  Or is it that as congregations develop over long periods of time, other aspects of Christian faith and life tend to become more important, and evangelistic outreach less important?  Or can and should we Caucasian DOC and UCC Christians seek to recover, by learning from our Latino and Korean and Filipino and African-American sisters and brothers, some of the single-minded seriousness about Christ which is so evident in so many of them?   

     It’s worth pondering, no?  In any case, we can find comfort and hope that God is always doing a new thing, and never leaves Himself without witnesses.

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