Hawai’i's delegates and visitors to the 32nd General Synod of the United Church of Christ were greeted by the repeated invitation to “shine!” The Synod’s lighthouse logo appeared throughout the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee, based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14: “Let your light shine before others.” In the opening worship service, preacher the Rev. Kaji Spellman Dousa, Senior Pastor of the Park Avenue Christian Church (DOC/UCC) in New York, New York, urged those listening to share their light.
“Every one of us was born to be seen and heard,” she said.
Gleaming in the lights of the stage, a new large cross and baptismal font created by the Rev. Alexandra Childs received their dedication to Synod worship. Representatives of the Ho-Chunk people, upon whose ancestral lands Synod is being held, were asked their permission for the gathering. Tribal Elders Michael Goze and Hattie Walker welcomed them on behalf of Chief Clayton Winneshiek, who was unable to attend. “It is my honor to welcome you all,” said Goze. “The land that we have assembled on is the historical land of the Ho-Chunk Nation and holds all of the gifts of God's presence. Throughout the history of the Ho-Chunk people we have shared this land with fur traders, settlers and other tribes and nations with the understanding that we all respect the land and all of its splendor… The Ho-Chunk Nation asks that you keep in your hearts all people as you do the work of the 2019 General Synod. May you all shine."
Delegates also heard from the first of two nominees to national office. The Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, nominee for Associate General Minister of Global Engagement, spoke of a powerful vision of deep and lasting change, rooted in church partnerships and founded in the Holy Spirit. “The time we have is now,” she declared. “The decisions we make are for today. We are living on borrowed time with the commitment to change the world.”
Elections of Dr. Thompson and General Minister and President the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer (nominated for re-election) will be held on Monday.
Many delegates also got a first look at their work on resolutions Friday afternoon, attending education programs intended to provide background on the topics. They begin committee work on Sunday.
Continuing a long-standing tradition, Hawai’i Conference delegates presented lei to the UCC’s officers: Dr. Dorhauer, Associate General Minister the Rev. Jim Moos, and Associate General Minister the Rev. Tracy Blackmon. Within the colorful flowers nestled kukui nuts, the ancient light source of Hawaiians, and another reminder to “Shine!”
The Rev. Eric S. Anderson is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross UCC in Hilo.