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"Gathering as the body of Christ is a joy," shares Danielle White on General Synod 34

Reflection by Danielle White—member of Hilo Coast UCC, delegate of the Hawai‘i Island Association.

“THIS IS MY FIRST GENERAL SYNOD” read the blue ribbon I was presented at the registration table. The call to be a voting delegate at the 34th General Synod of the United Church of Christ was not something I sought out for myself. Accepting the call came with the understanding that I would represent the Hawai’i Conference by voting my conscience, what I discerned God was calling this body to do. I did not take this responsibility lightly as I prepared to travel to Indianapolis. As I take the time to reflect on the journey to General Synod, it is a blessing to allow God to work through me and watch as his plans are revealed. From relational to business, God’s presence is known, and God is still speaking.

Traveling post pandemic has its issues which the Hawai’i delegation bonded over upon arrival. The relational aspect of gathering as the body of Christ is a joy. The quality time I was able to spend with the various personalities of the Hawai’i Conference allowed for deepening of our connections. Good times as I expected, but God showed me the numerous and wonderful ways the Hawai’i Conference is an integral part of the National setting of the UCC. The representation from Hawai’i was found in our delegation as well as that of the Pacific Island and Asian American Ministries (PAAM). Others from our Conference sat on the UCC Board, the Committee Process Team, and as proponents of resolutions. Our Conference is blessed with faithful servants who seek to do God’s will.

The hospitality of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference also highlighted the servant’s heart. Again, I expected to see volunteers working, but the exhibition hall showcased the work being done worldwide in the name of God. The UCC Washington D.C. Office sparked my interest along with the works of the Faith in Harm Reduction group. The Wider Church Ministries exhibit was inviting of conversations among the folks gathered. So often I focus only on the local Church and Conference. Being fully immersed in conversations and experiences, it was revealed to me how well connected the UCC is globally. At my local church we share a relationship with a ministry in Japan known as the Bazaar Café and it is through the work of the ecumenical partners and Global Ministries that we can do this. This connection shows how far our service can go with the help of programs supported by the national office.

As for the business portion of the event, no amount of preparation could have prepared me! The program called for a lot of applauding; however, certain items of the agenda called for order. It was brought to our attention that we don’t all share the same viewpoints and clapping for a certain viewpoint could be offensive. Along the same lines as clapping, some of the voices that made up the body may have been muted. It was brought to our attention that as a Resolution of Witness, all wishing to speak should be heard. Once the floor was opened for debate on the different resolutions, those for and against were heard from for one minute per speaker and the hearing would be 20 minutes long. The timer may not have been set the first couple of sessions and some spoke up to call the question and end debate, while others still waited to voice their position. These intricate details and how they were addressed by the body allowed our perspectives to change and hear the voice of God. The body played with consensus a bit but showed their true flexibility in the passing of a minority report. The approval of the bylaws was a close vote and near the end of the session. At the opening of the next session, the minority report was processed and approved. The minority report did not seem to be something widely known or done, yet it was part of the experience God had planned for me.

Danielle giving blood at the blood drive organized at the General Synod

There is wonder in God’s promise of making all things new. Isaiah 43:18-19 guided the theme but also allowed the work that has already begun to be in the spotlight. We heard experiences and reflections from those who have been in proximity to the social and cultural challenges of today. The enormity of these voices being in the spotlight should be taken to heart. The body that makes up the UCC has the history in being ahead of its time and the representation of leadership at this Synod is in line with that tradition. An inventory of traditions is being called upon as is repenting our individualism. Being a part of something larger than yourself is wonderful, but it is important in our work to go deeper in our personal relationship with Jesus.

My experience as a first timer to the General Synod really had me doubting myself through the process. The pressure of reflecting and reporting back highlights my lack of self-confidence. Through it all, the presence of our Lord tells me I am loved, and I am worthy. Truly now the work begins for all the Conferences that make up the United Church of Christ. The experience is humbling, and I know that being made anew will make these uncomfortable feelings come up time and time again. There is peace in knowing that the process of making things new is God’s plan for all of us.


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