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Reflections on General Synod

Rev. Nicole Lamarche, Rev. Jackie Hibbard, Kathy Stutzman



 

Pastor Nicole


I suspect that those of us who attended the 34th General Synod of the United Church of Christ will be processing the experience for a while. It included beautiful and difficult moments. And we made history as we elected the first woman to be the Minister and President of the UCC! Yay Karen Georgia Thompson!


Like many large gatherings, we haven’t been together in person since 2019 so there was both an electric energy and a palpable anxiety. As you know, most churches were hit hard by the pandemic and many of our UCC churches feel like we are just starting to come out of something that forever changed us, in ways we are still trying to understand. I cherish the encounters I had- the planned ones and the unplanned meetings. Hugs in the hallway with seminary friends from decades ago. Conversation at the coffee cart that led me to Donna who serves in New England and whom it turns out I met many years ago when she was first discerning a call to ministry. She wanted me to know she finally found her way into the parish! Chit chat at the Open and Affirming Dinner led me to Don from Southern California who founded the Still Speaking Players, and he made me laugh really hard! We celebrated how much art is needed in hard times. Discussion at the hotel restaurant connected me to Seth, the new UCC Minister for Economic Justice who can’t wait to help some of the bigger dreams come alive! I feel lifted up by the reminder that our church in Boulder is but one cell, one movement, within a bigger organism that is doing so much good in the world!

Kathy, Jackie, and I gave formal presentations and many, many informal ones over meals and between sessions and in the back of the plenary. People were eager to meet us, to ask us questions and to cheer on the resolution and the movement to end gun violence. I loved hearing someone shout to Kathy, “There’s the Guns to Gardens lady!”

There were 17 mass shootings recorded just over the Fourth of July weekend, so there wasn’t debate about the problem. Mostly there was grief about gun violence and also an eagerness for the hope that we were bringing. People couldn’t wait to hear about actions that could be taken! Even some who identified as conservative Christians and who celebrated their gun ownership found themselves in the movement and one person named Dave, from Illinois spoke in front of the whole plenary about his support of the resolution and how he could bring it back to his community.

By the final day, we were exhausted and navigating the rules and the dynamic of Synod was challenging but at each step we were guided with love, by kind people who were even more tired than we were. And at the end, it was clear that the whole group, all of the United Church of Christ, is now claiming this work! It was no longer just “ours” but now held by the whole Body of Christ as part of the call for each of us and everyone of our congregations! On Tuesday July 4th, Jackie and I went on stage, and I shook and tears streamed as Jackie spoke before 800 people and the resolution passed by the largest margin of any of them. And after it was all done, we met in a smaller room and shared with a group from all over the country what next steps might be for what was called Implementation Conversations. We heard great ideas, made connections, took emails, answered questions and I left certain that our efforts had made a difference. This is part of what it means for progressive Christians to proselytize! Building the movement of more love and justice!


Thank you Community UCC for being a church that is willing to act! Thank you for being willing to be bold and to not let thoughts and prayers be enough!


Peace to you,

Pastor Nicole


 

Pastor Jackie


Thank you for making it possible for me to attend General Synod earlier this month. I am still processing our time there. Our Guns to Gardens Resolution passage and the enthusiastic support of it was an amazing experience. You heard some of that in the services last Sunday. It’s a movement beyond us now and the Spirit is moving in profound ways! I am struck with what can happen when we get out of the way, let go of doubt and fear, and let the Spirit do its work.


The other takeaway for me is the wideness and depth of the United Church of Christ. Attending Synod gave me a wider perspective on the denomination as a whole and the impact we make. Issues from Climate Justice, Reproductive Health, addressing Transgender rights, white supremacy, reparations, supporting harm reduction, and more were prayerfully considered and debated. We learned about the 5th stream of the UCC that helped form the denomination that had been left out of our history, but is now embraced and included. We met beautiful people from across the country involved in ministries that impact so many lives. It made me proud to be a part of this denomination that, while still learning and evolving, takes seriously the call to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.


 

Kathy Stutzman


I wish I could have bottled up the love, gratitude, care and excitement we experienced at Synod 34 to share with all of you. In March 2021, we started a movement when we listened, followed the Spirit, and acted as people of faith. We, CUCC demonstrated that action is possible and possibilities bring action and action brings hope. At Synod, we witnessed action ignite hope as an entire body of people found possibilities for themselves and their communities.


We experienced gratitude as hundreds of representatives seeking answers for their communities moved from despair, distraction and overwhelm to possibilities. The excitement was palatable and was expressed over and over again as the movement that started here spread. To witness despair shift to action was a privilege and to experience that gratitude was an honor. And while I can’t bottle up the love, gratitude, care and excitement we felt at Synod - I can thank you all. You said yes. CUCC acted as a body of faith and said we can do something. And that action demonstrated and ignited a movement - all because you said yes. Thank you.


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