From Conference Minister Rev. Shari Prestemon
This week marks an important and joyous gathering for the wider United Church of Christ. The biennial meeting of the General Synod of the United Church of Christ convened with opening worship this past Sunday evening and will conclude on Sunday the 18th. This year’s “special edition” of General Synod is entirely virtual, with nearly 3000 delegates, visitors, and honored guests in attendance. Our Minnesota Conference has a voting delegation of 18 local church members and authorized ministers participating, plus several Conference staff members. The theme of this year’s General Synod is “Rooted in Love”.
I was asked recently what I hoped our delegates & other Synod attendees from the Minnesota Conference would take away from their General Synod experience. My reply: I hope they catch a glimpse of the breadth and depth of the United Church of Christ, its people, and its ministries in all its complexity and beauty.
It can be hard for any of us to comprehend just how wide and complex the ministries and impact of the United Church of Christ are when the perspective most of us have is that of our singular local church. But in fact we are an amazing mosaic of over 5000 congregations and nearly 1 million members across the country, diverse in personality, culture, race, and witness.
Nowhere is that diversity more evident than at General Synod every two years. It’s clear as you scan the Synod crowd on the delegate floor and exhibit hall. It’s obvious as people line up at microphones and speak up in committee sessions to share their opinions on whatever resolution is at hand on a dizzying array of issues Synod attempts to address. And all of it shines all the brighter because our congregational polity and denominational ‘DNA’ gives every local church and Conference its own authority and freedom to weigh in, while at the same time calling us to mutual accountability and love.
All the messiness and brilliance of who we are in the United Church of Christ is on full display at General Synod. And that’s one of the reasons I have attended nearly every General Synod since I was a high school youth in 1985 and absolutely love each General Synod experience. Here’s the other reason I’m a self-proclaimed “Synod Addict”: the Spirit never fails to powerfully move and inspire and surprise us at General Synod if we just pay attention.
I’ve experienced that myself at every single Synod I’ve attended, some unexpected moment when the Spirit washes over me and brings me to tears of grateful joy. So this week I’m on the lookout for that Spirit-filled, goose-bumpy moment to show up again. And I’m giving thanks that the Spirit is indeed moving in the United Church of Christ, in the Minnesota Conference, and in me, doing some new thing if only we will perceive it.
This week, I invite you to lift up your prayers for the United Church of Christ, our Conference delegates, and all those gathering at General Synod to discern the Spirit’s prodding for this moment in our life together. May you also be open to the Spirit’s nudge in your life and church.
Blessings and peace,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
Want to experience the awesome worship of General Synod virtually on either Wednesday evening or Sunday evening? Check out the times and live streams here!