This is the first of several posts that I hope to share about my journey to General Synod 28 in Tampa, Florida. I’m aware that many of our churches in the United Church of Christ don’t really understand what goes on at this meeting — or how to pronounce that weird church word synod. I hope that through a series of posts I can share what this denomination means to me and why I’m so excited about being at this gathering of the wider church. So, I’ll start by sharing part of the article I shared in the church newsletter expressing my enthusiasm.
I am delegate for the Maine Conference. What does that mean? I’m so glad you asked. General Synod currently happens every two years. It’s when all of the local churches, associations and conferences get together for worship and business. Yes, it’s when we balance a budget and elect officers – but it’s also when we try to embrace the Holy Spirit encouraging us to be a multicultural, inclusive, justice-seeking church. That’s where I come in. I’m a delegate that has been selected (and voted in) by the delegates and clergy in standing at last year’s Annual Meeting of the Maine Conference. That doesn’t mean that I go to Synod with the agenda of the Maine Conference or even the local church I serve. Instead, as delegates in any meeting in the UCC, we vote with our faith. We wrestle together with where we are as individuals with the issues that face us.The issues usually come in the form of resolutions. (There are always exceptions in God’s church.) In the United Church of Christ, a resolution starts with the Annual Meeting of some local church. When that church votes together, they have to gather other churches to feel the same way. There’s a little bit of red tape there but eventually with enough enthusiasm it can come to the General Synod as a resolution. In Tampa, as a delegate, I will randomly be assigned to a committee that discerns any one of the 13 resolutions which include issues from clergy healthcare to the words we use in baptism to mindful eating to adoption for LGBT parents to a theological commission for local churches. We pray. We vote. We make decisions about who the United Church of Christ will be, but here’s where it’s confusing. That’s the public face of the denomination. These resolutions help our clergy and leaders articulate who we are now, but they do not change the local church. Our local churches are autonomous so that we get to be excited or ignore what happens at General Synod. That’s oversimplifying but the heart of our faith in the United Church of Christ is that we trust that God does indeed have more light to shine in each of our voices.Admittedly, I hope we get excited. I hope that we understand that God is bigger than our local church. God is moving all of us in this crazy covenant to find more of God’s love and peace in this world. General Synod is an opportunity to see what the churches in Guam and Texas and the Dakotas are doing. It’s an opportunity to connect and be inspired. I’m grateful for this opportunity and hope you’ll share my enthusiasm as I pour over the pages and pages of these resolutions.
Admittedly, that’s nearly the entire article. I guess I’m wordy when I’m excited. So, with these words, I leave tomorrow morning on the earliest flight imaginable out of Maine to arrive in the sticky humidity of Florida. I will zip instantly to be with the 2030 Clergy Network for their Pre-Synod Gathering where I’ll be fed with other young clergy in our denomination. I’m looking forward to this as part of what is exciting about these gatherings is the family reunion experience. For me, that family has mostly been created on Facebook (which is odd to me too) and The Young Clergy Women Project where there is some overlap. I’m looking forward to looking at these people in the eyes and getting to know them beyond the typed words we’ve shared upon many screens.
On Friday, the real business begins. The Maine Delegation will meet early in the morning to discuss the matters that await us that day. (There is some frightening horror that these meetings will happen in the 6 am hour. Lord have mercy.) I have been assigned to Committee #3 where I will get to consider with other faithful people the question of Putting Our Money Where Our Values Are. Between you and me, I really wanted to be on the committee that discussed this question on baptism. I think that will be some really interesting conversation, especially for a church nerd like me. Still, I know that this resolution is important and reflects a practice we’re trying to embrace in all of our churches about where we invest and how we care of the resources entrusted to us. I’m am curious to see what will happen at this gathering. I’m excited to be part of the process and very hopeful that you won’t see too much of me in the live feed. Nonetheless, if you’re interested in seeing how this work of the Spirit unfolds, the entire event will be broadcast over the internet here. Of course, I will also share my unfolding insights as the Spirit moves in this little internet home.