Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
As I write on Monday evening, 2,751 delegates to the Thirty-first General Synod of the United Church of Christ are about to begin the evening session with a “speak out!” (open-mic time for delegates to express themselves to the gathering), a “theological reflector,” and an important address from our President and General Minister, Rev. John Dorhauer. Entitled, “The Three Loves,” Rev. Dorhauer gave a preview of this theme on Saturday morning, July 1st. The Three Loves refers to a new mission initiative that the UCC Board and national leadership have been developing.
Rev. Dorhauer has spent the last two years crisscrossing the country and listening to people at all levels of the denomination. With the UCC leadership, he has been seeking statements of purpose, mission and vision that articulate the core values of the UCC and explore what it means to be in covenant with one another.
The Purpose Statement, the UCC reason for being, is drawn from a passage in Matthew's Gospel:
To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.
The Mission Statement: United in Spirit and inspired by God's grace, we welcome all, love all, and seek justice for all.
The Vision: United in Christ's love, a just world for all.
“We were hoping to find a phase that would pop, that really captured our essence,” Dorhauer said. “When we asked you what you would see if we were successful at our mission, these words appeared: ‘A just world for all.’ The second I saw those words in print, my heart leapt. This vision calls upon all of us — no matter what our political or theological commitments are; no matter whether we identify as an urban, rural or town setting; no matter whether we are a large, small, pastor-sized or family-sized congregation; whether we are a CHHSM [Council for Health and Human Service Ministries] agency or a conference board of directors — all of us covenantally bear now the same responsibility. We must faithfully answer the question: how do we embody or incarnate a commitment to build a just world for all ?”
There is a river whose waters MAKE GLAD
the city of God.
- Psalm 46:4
It sure looks like Synod. There are friendly faces of local church volunteers welcoming guests and getting them registered. Hugs are in abundance as old friends greet each other in the Baltimore Convention Center. But amid the extravagant welcome, there is a noticeable absence: Where are the cookies? Replaced, at least for this Synod, by prepackaged snacks provided by the churches and members of the Central Atlantic Conference.
Local Arrangements Committee Chair Jill White, a member of Evangelical Reformed UCC in Frederick, Md., says, “the Local Arrangements Committee was ready to form a cookie committee, but the convention center and the health department both have rules which do not allow us to bring in home-baked products.”
White says the snack committee, chaired by Linda and Steve Matthias from St. Mary's UCC in Silver Run, Md., borrowed a practice from their own Central Atlantic Conference meetings and determined to supply prepackaged snacks such as pretzels, cookies, and crackers. “We offer individual snacks at our annual conference meetings,” White says. “The snack committee took that idea and scaled it up for General Synod.” Snacks for the estimated 4,000 General Synod delegates and visitors appeared on June 29 first as part of the welcome bag received at hotels. Additional snacks will be available throughout the Synod at snack bowls located in the hotel lobbies and at the entrance to the convention center....
White estimates more than 20,000 individual snacks will make their way to Synod, showcasing a new way to engage local churches and members in a new form of hospitality.
For those recalling the usual variety of cookie flavors and styles from previous Synods reflective of regional and individual tastes, White replies that delegates can expect a variety of pretzels, cookies and crackers, all purchased with donated funds or supplied directly from local churches. “We included every single [Central Atlantic Conference] church in this effort,” she says. “Some churches contributed money [Bethel !], and more than sixty churches purchased snacks.” Even the welcome bags were sponsored by Homewood, a retirement community in Frederick, Md., so no Conference or Synod funds were needed to supply snacks.