On Sunday morning, the Hawai’i Conference’s delegates joined those of the other Western Region conferences as they will for the next two days, bright and early at 6:30 in the morning (or as Hawaiians would call it: 1:30 am). The breakfast gatherings help them learn more about the issues before them, and about other initiatives being taken by the denomination.
Yesterday, the meeting heralded the beginning of committee work. Each of the fifteen committees worked on one or two submitted resolutions or measure through the morning, refining the language and deciding whether to recommend its passage. Even non-controversial measures received careful scrutiny.
“I loved our group,” said John Narruhn, a delegate from Church of the Holy Cross UCC in Hilo. The committee chair informed everyone that she considered herself in the role of mother, insisting that everyone speak to each other with respect.
“In that room,” said Narruhn, “it happened.” A college student aspiring to a legal career, he deeply appreciated the process, akin to making legislation. He sees their work to understand and oppose the development of private prisons will make a difference.
“That small room will reverberate across the UCC,” he said.
The Rev. Neal MacPherson, a retired pastor and a member of Church of the Crossroads in Honolulu, heard some encouraging things in his committee, working on addressing global forced migration. The text included a clear acknowledgement of the need to work with others, ranging from traditional partners among Protestant churches to other religious communities and policy advocates.
The elephant in the room, he said, was the decline of the UCC in numbers and in resources. “We can’t call the White House today and be heard,” he said – regardless of the President’s party or policies – where once that was the case. The future of the Church, he believes, may be located in “small gathered communities of the deeply committed, witnessing in a world that may not hear them.”
A General Synod tradition returned in the afternoon: the open worship service with an invitation extended to the entire community. Visitors filled the seats in the giant convention hall to hear the preaching of the Rev. Traci Blackmon. She noted wryly that her 2017 sermon, inviting people to (metaphorically) cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope in a wheelbarrow, had been preached before she’d seen the Falls. “I hadn’t realized what I’d asked,” she said.
Nevertheless, she summoned the Church to its best once again. “Repentance,” she said, “cannot exist without repair.”
Today, delegates will return to the plenary floor. The elections of the General Minister and President and Associate General Minister and President will come to votes, as well as the amended resolutions and other business matters.