Note: Over the next few days, Pastor Jeff is attending the UCC's General Synod, the denomination's biennial national gathering, in Baltimore. He'll be sharing reflections on his experience.
Day 2 of General Synod involved a lot of speaking. Not me, mind you, but listening to others speak.
The second plenary session opened with a few small business items followed by the nomination of Rev. Traci Blackmon to a new term as Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, one of the four large umbrella ministries at the national setting along with the Office of General Ministries, Local Church Ministries, and Wider Church Ministries. Rev. Blackmon rose to accept her nomination in a rousing speech encouraging all of us to make room for all in our churches, respecting who they are as people with unique backgrounds and experiences.
After this, Rev. Blackmon returned to the stage to present a newly-inaugurated justice award to some youth representing the protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota, for their work in protecting the water supplies of that community.
The keynote of the morning was Glennon Doyle, a best-selling author, acclaimed speaker, and UCC member. She shared her own story of wrestling with addiction and eating disorders and what has helped her become healthy, then reflected on the church's need to let those who don't have a voice speak for themselves. She shared how the church should be a place where the broken and vulnerable can be themselves rather than have to put on masks for others' comfort, at one point saying, "Trying to act perfect in church is like dressing up for an x-ray."
The afternoon featured two sets of workshops. In the earlier session I attended one called "The Silence That Kills: Gender Violence and Bias in Our Church and Communities." This was a panel discussion and Q&A with four clergy members who have put together a Bible study called "With Hagar," which studies that Biblical character and ties it into issues of gender violence. I will likely offer this study sometime in the next year.
I then attended a workshop called "Becoming WISE About Mental Health," in which four speakers reflected on the process of having a congregation adopt a "WISE" designation, meaning they wish to be intentional about education, outreach, and support to those struggling with mental illness.
That was really the conclusion to the day. The evening was free for most people, and I enjoyed some time with friends and colleagues before the business portion really starts to pick up over the remainder of this event.