My first meeting with the rest of the Hawai‘i delegates at the Conference Office, I quickly realized how busy we were going to be at General Synod. The schedule seemed loaded with back-to-back meetings, but when we got there, it was not as bad as I first thought, but was still tiring. The time change of five hours was tough to get used to.
I had extra days to get my body and mind used to this time difference since I went early on Sunday, June 16th for the Open and Affirming Coalition gathering. Since opening worship was not scheduled until Tuesday at 5pm, I took that time to SLEEP and get used to the time change. It was good to see many of our beloved brothers and sisters who were in an ONA church and hearing many of their stories in their process and where they are at now. I was a bit disappointed as I wanted some more “meat,” or should I say substance.
I would rather have a conversation on the struggles of being an ONA church and how many churches had overcome some of these struggles. For example, how do we continue to unite our faith communities where some of our church members still have difficulties in being ONA. Another struggle for me was hearing some conversations of what seemed to me – “alienating our straight brothers and sisters.” I wanted to have a conversation around not falling into the same trap of “othering the other” in our struggle to be included as an LBGTQ+ movement. We must see and acknowledge the blessings we have with our straight allies and have conversations during differences and not see them as constant battles. At some point and in many instances, we need to get ourselves out of the “I’m ready to battle” mode and move to “lets talk.” I realize there are many who are struggling to belong and be affirmed by their churches.
For us at Iao United Church of Christ, “Open and Affirming” does not default to LGBTQ+ but that we welcome ALL people who walk through our doors. Our doors are open, and we affirm ALL people – as this has become the ethos of our faith community. For this and many other reasons, we have stopped apologizing for being an ONA church in the United Church of Christ. This was one concern I shared with many of those who attended the ONA Coalition gathering in Milwaukee before the General Synod began.
Once we were all gathered at the beautiful Hilton in Milwaukee, it was good to see the rest of the delegates – even though I could see the time difference in their tired look…<grin>. What a mixed group of Delegates that is reflective of our Hawaii Conference.
Opening worship and our first plenary was an amazing experience. I just had to take some time to reflect in wonder and awe of the enormity of our UCC Church – how proud I was, there, representing Iao UCC from a strange city called “Wailuku” and how much bigger we are than our normal Sunday gathering. How much we are part of the greater body of Christ that is doing the work of justice, feeding the poor, caring for God’s beloved children and so much more works of mission. I can still hear this entire body gathered in one large room – singing in ONE accord.
I want to thank our fearless leader who joined and guided us in the entire process. Lori made sure we all had our travel plans completed, gathered and led us at General Synod, and made sure we all understood when and where we were supposed to be at meetings. Lastly, what I found most revealing in my first General Synod gathering was what seemed to me the “handing over of the baton.” We had great leaders such as Caroline & Jack Belsom, Dorothy Lester, and so many former delegates who guided us, cared for us, gave us suggestions, and then let us loose to enjoy the experience as new delegates representing our beloved Hawaii Conference. What an honor!
Thank you, HCUCC, for entrusting me to represent you to our wider UCC Church, Body of Christ.
Bendiciones y Mahalo!
Floren“Tino” Cordova Pastor of Iao UCC, Tri-Isle Association