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General Synod Experience
June, 2007

At the September 9th worship services we heard reports and stories about the exciting General Synod Meeting and the UCC 50th Anniversary Celebration in Hartford over the summer. Following are some of those reports:

Resolutions and Business Meeting
by Herb Oliver

There were 17 proposed resolutions that were submitted and considered by the General Synod delegates in Hartford. I found the process very interesting. Each delegate was given a committee assignment with each committee having at least one resolution. They tended to put like resolutions together so each committee could work them to maybe one resolution. The public was able to attend the committee meetings which were held on Sunday evening and Monday morning. During these meetings they worked on the language, combining some and deciding how they were going to report out the resolution. Several choices were given…adopt as is, adopt as amended by committee, take no action, combine with similar resolutions into a new motion, adopt and direct Executive Council to work closely with conferences to increase local church involvement in General Synod or refer to another committee. On Monday afternoon they began to present the resolutions and continue with 8 blocks of time to do the presentations.

The resolutions can be found on line at http://www.ucc.org/synod/resolutions.

Action Taken:
Reaffirmation of marriage based on the word of God and A reaffirmation of the Historic and ecumenical Christian perspectives on Marriage were both voted to take no action mainly because the sponsors of them did not show.

In support of a renewed and balanced study and response to the conflict between Palestine and Israel was referred by the Committee on Reference to the Executive council for implementation.

Changing the composition of the General Synod was adopted as a substitute resolution directing the Executive Council to work closely with Conferences to increase local church involvement in General Synod.

The business part of the meeting is similar to our local church and the annual meeting of our conference. For example, they accept the written reports from committees, introduce key staff, vote on budget for the running of the national office and elect people to committees and national officers. Edith Guffey, who will be a speaker at our Annual Meeting, was re-elected Associate General Minister.

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My First Synod Experience
by Kathi Smith

Synod 26 was my first Synod ever, and I was struck by the excellence of the keynote speakers, the magnificence of the music and worship, the variety of the workshops and the venues and the sense of community I found in the midst of nearly 10, 000 UCC folk gathered in Hartford. Among those folks were, of course, familiar faces from Maine, but I also found familiar faces from other times in my life: the laywoman I served on many committees with in PA, former seminary professors and students, former pastors, and the chair of the Church and Ministry committee that shepherded me through six years of seminary! I quickly discovered my Maine nametag would spur questions from other UCC members from Iowa, Arizona or Idaho, and new friends would be made on the rides to and from the venues and hotels.

The keynote speech I was asked to speak about was one given by Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund. She gave a prophetic speech calling upon all Americans to ''reset'' this country's moral compass. She spoke movingly about people who mentored her and lived out their faith, inspiring her to get up when she wanted to sit down, go out when she wanted to stay home and relax, and to never give up on something she believed in. Bonhoeffer once said that the morality of a society could be judged by how they care for their most vulnerable members. Edelman pointed out the growing disparity in America between the ''haves'' and the ''have nots'', and the social ramifications of that disparity. Of the many statistics she quoted, three stood out for me: the first was that the three richest Americans have more combined net worth than the combined net worth of 50 million of the poorest Americans in 25 states; the second was that 47 million Americans have no health insurance; the third was that America spends more money on prisons than it does educating its children.

More powerful than any statistic was the picture displayed on the huge screens in the auditorium of a handsome young boy, eyes shining with intelligence, smile wide with hope and promise. It was probably a school picture, much like those we have seen of our own children or children in our congregation. We heard the voice of this young man's mother as she told us about how she called 26 dentists and none would treat her son, because he was only covered by medical assistance insurance. We saw her tear-stained face as she told us how, by the time he received treatment, the infection had spread to his brain. He was admitted to ICU, underwent brain surgery and died within two weeks. To pull his tooth for $87.00 would have spared his life. His hospitalization resulted in death and a bill for $250, 000.00.

Ms. Edelman stated that politicians would tell us that it costs too much to provide health insurance that would have ensured that this young man would receive the medical care he needed; that it would cost too much to ensure that all children receive adequate education; and that it would cost too much to have the job programs that would ensure that parents have access to sustainable jobs with benefits. Edelman maintains that it costs too much NOT to have such a commitment.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Ken Medema's impromptu composition entitled ''Marion''. Thousands of people joined him in singing the chorus (which is something like this): we will stand when we want to sit down, we will go out when we want to stay home, and we will never give up until the job is done. Marian Wright Edelman stopped as she stepped off the stage, listened, and then returned to give Ken an emotional hug, and many of the thousands present stood and clapped with tears in their eyes. It was a very holy moment.

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My Day at 'Synod in the City'
by Louise Smith

'Synod in the City' day -- amazing array of speakers, video presentations, drama, storytelling/interactive, music and workshops – in various locations in downtown Hartford, CT – Civic Center, Community College, the park, churches, hotels unbelievable.

Bill Moyer's powerful keynote address and the Samoan Choir at old historic Center Church – (Samoans who live in California) singing, dancing, acting – all beautifully bringing tears to members of the audience eyes.

Then lots of workshops at Capital Community College -- ''Challenging the Church Monster – from Meetings to Ministry'', to explore new ways to organize churches for the future.

We need an organization that instills trust in decisions and leadership. How? Downsize the central governance and employ more congregational decision making (especially for highly controversial issues) … more congregational meetings with fewer issues i.e. budget decisions, elect officers & hear annual reports, and meetings to plan the big picture – perhaps two to three a year -- with a church council with one sense of purpose and vision providing continuity between the congregational meetings. Why? Generally congregations are more creative than committees, more courageous, and thereby become more excited by progress.

The outcome -- as opposed to being tossed onto committees to fill out the rosters -- more faith, enthusiasm and participation in doing the work of the church … and opportunities for people to volunteer for the things in which they excel, enjoy doing, and/or want to learn more about …

After the workshop -- wonderful Children's Orchestra, Barak Obama's rousing speech, inventor Ray Kurzweil's presentation on emerging technologies, and Peter Gomes.

What fun seeing almost all of the members of our delegation on the streets between events … big celebration on Saturday evening featuring a laser show honoring Nobel Prize winner Dr. Charles Townes, inventor of the laser.

An incredible day! When such an opportunity presents itself again, be sure to be there!

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General Synod – Worship and Community
by Joe Turano

This was my first time attending General Synod and what a great one to start off on. After pondering for weeks whether I should go or not Carl had helped me make my decision by enforcing that this is the 50th celebration and the UCC will only have one 50th year celebration. So in my lifetime to have the opportunity to attend such an event was an excellent chance for me to be involved.

For me, there were so many things that struck me as powerful and moving while we were down there and actually the whole experience from the drive down, Synod itself and the drive back. The drive down there I had the opportunity to get to know Lou better and she was able to reminisce about CMP which is where I now work. We had a wonderful lunch in Connecticut at Rines Deli with the Andermans, Jeanne, Lou, and Nancy. When we finally made it to downtown Hartford on Friday I was amazed by the number of people I saw wearing UCC shirts and the very recognizable name tags.

With the thousands of people there it did not take long to start to see some familiar faces. Herb met up with us quickly after we arrived. As we were walking around I saw so many people from Maine, most of which were folks I met through the OMC and others I have met right here in our Church. As we were walking around checking the many different displays such as books, clothing, and Seminary booths, Rev. Alice began introducing me to so many more people. A couple of those people were Ron Buford the creator of the Still Speaking initiative and Bill Imes, President of BTS. The first booth I saw was Silver Lake, so I stopped and introduced myself and we had a few stories to share about Bryan Breault. With all the friendly and welcoming faces there that showed me how tight a faith community we have in the UCC.

This brings me to other powerful moments, the worship services. First of all, imagine if you will a Civic Center that has over 14,000 seats. Now block off about 4000 seats that are behind the stage. Imagine the remaining seats completely filled with people from all over the country and even some remote parts of the world. The music that plays is of all styles of music, country and folk, classical, jazz, contemporary, gospel, Indian, and Christian pop. The sermons were given by prominent members of the UCC like Rev. John Thomas, President of the UCC, and Rev. Da Vita McCallister. When it was time to take the offering, volunteer staff from the Connecticut conference passed around white paper buckets about the size of a bucket of chicken at KFC. Where the seven of us were sitting, by the time the buckets got to us we literally had to push the money down to get ours in. For each service the offering went to different things like the 50th celebration and the Connecticut conference including Silver Lake. The thing that really hit me personally was the Sunday afternoon service when communion was served to 9900 people, which was done in the same manner as the offering going row by row. First the bread was passed down then it was followed by the chalice of juice. What a feat that must have been to plan that, I am thinking the Deacons here would have had to plan that in more than one meeting. Now after hearing the abbreviated version of these services imagine that during all the services there was a close spiritual connection with God and regardless of the number of people there the services had a very intimate feeling. There was not that little weird feeling during the Lord's Prayer when some said debts and others said trespasses. We were one gathered together with similar beliefs, beliefs in the holy trinity, and beliefs in God.

I could go on and on about the things I experienced at General Synod, from an interesting workshop I attended on the Internet and the Church to really awesome speeches from Bill Moyers, Barack Obama, and Peter Gomes, to watching a group of children putting on a play of the story of Moses. There were so many loving people there and so many stories to tell.

On the drive home, Nancy and I had a wonderful time discussing what had happened and what we would like to see coming out of this. We finally rolled into Oakland around 11:30 at night. In the days following I had time to take in what had happened to me personally. This reflection reminded me of how much I love this Church and how much I love God. I am very proud to be a member of the United Church of Christ.

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