Saturday at Synod opened early, with the first of the 6:30 am caucus breakfasts that allow delegates to check in with one another (and try to wedge their eyes open). The morning included the presentation speech of the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, who has been nominated to a second term as General Minister and President. He decided to seek re-election after much prayer, he told the assembly. He continues to see a significant role for the United Church of Christ in the world, a future where this church will make a difference.
Delegate Sue Smith from Church of the Holy Cross in Hilo was struck by a moment at the opening of the plenary session, when Southwest Conference Minister the Rev. Bill Lyons called for prayer in response to a series of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids already happening in Arizona. He and Associate General Minister the Rev. Tracy Blackmon prayed God’s grace on those suffering the anxiety of separation and facing removal from their homes. They prayed for a change of heart in those who enact and enforce unjust policies.
Delegate Diane Meyer of the Po’okela Church on Maui was glad to have had the first opportunity to meet with her resolution committee and review the issues. “It was really good listening to the people,” she said.
Saturday afternoon brought additional learning in the form of workshops and hearings. First-time delegate Kerisa Carmelo of Lanakila Congregational Church has been listening to the issues and concerns people bring to Synod. It’s different from her church on Hawai’i Island, which she describes as more conservative. Here, people’s passion leads them to activism. “That’s exciting to me,” she said. “It’s a new world almost, and I’m enjoying that.”
She hopes to return home with a sense of the possibilities, and to leave behind the limits. She has found inspiration in the testimony of marginalized peoples, including the Ho Chunk nation whose land this has been. Their story reminds her of the history of the Hawaiian people in its colonization and struggles over language. “It is possible,” she said, “to bring a language and a culture back.”
Nixon Jack, who leads a Kosraean congregation worshiping with First United Protestant Church in Hilo, is also attending for the first time. As a Member in Discernment of the Hawai’i Island Association, it has struck him how many ordained ministers spend their lives and careers re-assessing their callings. They do so many things in addition to serving as local church pastors.
So he has watched the youth at Synod, seeing how they contribute, and wondering what ministries God will set before them.
“This is a diverse organization,” he observed, noting attendees from many nations and delegates from many cultures and backgrounds. It could be confusing. Still: “It is true that the UCC is doing what Christ came for,” he said.
Today, the delegates turn to committee work, reviewing the resolutions or other issues before them. They will spend much of the day at this task before worship in the afternoon and enjoying a street festival in the early evening. They return to plenary sessions on Monday for election of officers and consideration of General Synod’s business.
The Rev. Eric S. Anderson is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross UCC in Hilo.