Monday, June 29, 2009

Immerse Yourself

Hello from Grand Rapids. And yes, the rapids are quite grand. This is a beautiful city, and this General Synod is possibly the most laid-back one that I've attended thus far.

Last night began the committee work, where each delegate is assigned to a committee to process one or more resolutions before they're brought to the floor. My committee had some changes to the UCC Constitution and Bylaws, and while there was the predictable haggling over grammar and word choices, we had a fairly calm--albeit long--evening that actually saw the completion of our work. Hence, my morning today is freed up for me to hijack one of the computers in the exhibit hall to type this out.

Prior to the committee work was River City Saturday, where people were invited to attend a number of speakers, workshops, and performances in and around the convention center. Musicians performed at nearby Rosa Parks Park all morning and afternoon. I saw Barbara Brown Taylor in the morning (and got my copy of Leaving Church signed), heard Jim Wallis in the afternoon, and attended a workshop based on the book I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church later in the afternoon. It was a full day that culminated in the evening with a celebration of the ministry of John Thomas, our outgoing General Minister and President.

Yesterday morning were a series of "sacred conversations on race," which I mentioned a few posts down. The less I write about that, the better. I went, and was disappointed. More to follow if you really want to know.

In the afternoon was a huge worship celebration at which John Thomas preached. He included this illustration about witnessing baptisms in a river in Africa, where one native commented that they need to watch out for crocodiles whenever they do this. Rev. Thomas tied this into the Synod theme, "Immerse Yourself," and reflected on how afraid we in the UCC and in the mainline are often afraid of the crocodiles when called to immerse ourselves; afraid to share our faith and to completely immerse ourselves in what it means to follow Jesus. As much as people question whether he is being prophetic when speaking on more political issues, I've experienced him to be very prophetic when preaching to these moments, he provides a sort of counterbalance and reminds people that we shouldn't be patting ourselves on the back quite as much as we'd like.

Rev. Thomas did the same in his "farewell address" at the end of the celebration of his ministry. As much as he celebrated what he was able to do in office, he also acknowledged the shrinkage of the denomination and that he's not leaving the church in the state that he dreamed of.

There is more to do, but I was glad for the time to check in. I'll provide some further thoughts once I'm home.