There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. ~ Psalm 46:4

The theme for our UCC General Synod 2017, held in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, was focused around images of streams and water, but I spent a lot of time at my first General Synod up on the mountaintop being inspired by our denomination! Thousands from across the country (and abroad) came together at the Baltimore Convention Center June 30-July 4 for this bi-annual event. Delegates discerned resolutions of witness, church structure, and function. Delegates and visitors were given opportunities to stand up for issues that called for a faithful witness in Baltimore. There were daily times to be together for inspirational worship and workshops featuring creative ways to be in ministry. Leaders from the national office spoke at gatherings to let us know what they are doing to support local churches on issues and program ministries. Our own Rev. John Tyler was a delegate from the Wisconsin Conference. A few (a very few!) of the highlights for me included:
 
          *Rev Traci Blackmon when accepting the nomination for Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries said:  As the bent over woman approaches Jesus out of the metaphorical balcony of her society, Jesus declared her healed before he touched her. Why is that? It was her being called into community. We are called to make room, and not just space. We need not only wider aisles but wider welcome. I believe justice is possible because Jesus is real.
          *The Justice and Witness Ministries presented its major social justice award (Movement Makers Award) to the "International Indigenous Youth Council" for the movement they launched at Standing Rock.
          *At the "Open and Affirming" gathering, I learned that First Congregational was the 76th church in the denomination to vote to be "open and affirming". (LGBTQ welcoming) Today there are 1,461 congregations with this stated designation. Rev. Naomi Leaphart challenged us to not become complacent: Are our doors really open wide? Who are we still willing to sacrifice? If they are not well, neither is the church.
          *Guided in large part by the voices of youth, delegates enthusiastically passed a resolution of witness urging the recognition of gun violence as a public health emergency deserving of federal funding for scientific research.
          *Rev. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President, challenged the church to work for a more just world through the lens of 3 great loves: Love of Neighbor, Love of Children, and Love of Creation. Working together we can transform the world united in purpose and mission.
 
So you may be wondering why I call it a "mountain top experience". Sometimes in our daily life, in one congregation, in one city, we can wonder if our faith work really makes a difference. It was such an inspiring experience to be gathered with so many others working towards the same vision of God's kin-dom and to see some of the differences we really DO make in the world when we work together. I left feeling proud, inspired, and challenged to continue to bring the model of Jesus to my own faith life and I am grateful we do this work together at First Congregational!
 
A final word - General Synod 2019 will be in Milwaukee. I hope that you will choose to take this opportunity to come to some portion of Synod to be inspired by the larger church! We will share details with you as soon as they become available.
 
There is INDEED a river whose streams make glad the city of God and I'm proud that the UCC is instrumental in stirring the waters!
~ Ann Beaty

Posted on July 18, 2017 at 9:45 am in Featured Content.

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