"God does indeed make a way": Wryen Keoki Kiwaha reflects on General Synod 34
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a
way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19 NRSVUE
When God wants to spring forth something new – oh, boy! God does indeed make a way. I had an opportunity to go to the General Synod several years ago. But, unfortunately, the demands of work and everyday life seemed to have gotten in the way. Those demands continued to get in the way these past few years – especially with the COVID-19 pandemic – and I became disconnected more and more from the wider Church.
But, about a year ago, as transitions were happening in my life – I decided that I was going to be more intentional about reconnecting and being part of the wider Church. These demands were not going to get in the way anymore. And, when I was asked if I was interested in serving as a delegate to General Synod 34, I could not pass up the opportunity. I knew this was my time to be there – and I trusted that God would make a way. And, indeed, God does.
There was a lot of excitement there – and a lot of work to be done. I greatly appreciated the work I participated in as a member of Committee 10 which focused on, “A Resolution Supporting Public School Educators, Academic Freedom, and Equity Efforts in Schools.” Those conversations were so enlightening; and, I am happy that I could draw from my experience working with public schools to offer insight there.
And, of course, being able to vote in favor of electing the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson as the next General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ was no dull moment. Truthfully, this vote was personal. Not only was she the first national UCC staff person I met; but, my interactions with her were so warm and inviting. She made me feel welcomed and that I belonged there even when others felt I did not. It was in those interactions several years ago that I determined that the UCC was going to be my spiritual home. I know down deep in my heart that she is the leader we need in this time.
There were moments of reflection and confession – when we joined the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer in offering an apology to those connected to the Afro-Christian Convention which we recognized as the Fifth Stream in the formation of the United Church of Christ in addition to the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
I could go on and on. Everything was wonderful – the worship experience, the preachers, and guest speakers and lecturers like Ibram X. Kendi, Bryan Stevenson, and the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber – of whom I am a total fanboy! And, being able to join my fellow UCC siblings in marching together to the Indiana State Capitol to raise a collective voice to speak out against acts of injustice being waged on our siblings – on the Earth even – by those in power; and, to pray for God’s justice to rain and flow down upon us all.
The best part of this whole experience, I must say, has been being in community with so many people in our UCC family – but, especially with our Hawaiʻi people. From our 6:30 a.m. regional caucus breakfasts; to our 8 p.m. Hawaiʻi caucus meetings; to Cafe Patachou, Sugar Factory, the Eagle’s Nest, and P. F. Chang's; to getting pizza and ice cream with Clyde, Heather, Kristen, and Danielle in the outskirts of the city; to plenaries, exhibits, and committee meetings; to balling my eyes out with Danielle during worship because that’s what those born in the sign of Cancer do; and, to our “debriefings” at the hotel bar where we could unwind after a long day of being the General Synod. I loved and will treasure every moment of sparking new and strengthening old friendships.
In reflecting back on my time at the General Synod, I am thankful that God offered a clarity of vision for my life in relation to the United Church of Christ – ordination. I have served in a variety of ministerial capacities outside of the UCC – and as a lay leader within the UCC. But, God was clearer this time than God could have ever been – leading to this personal resolution: I need to be ordained in the United Church of Christ.
On July 9, at my first Sunday back in church since returning home, I made the congregation aware of the call that God had placed on my heart – and with shared excitement and overwhelming joy they have offered me nothing but love, encouragement, and support. And, we are beginning to engage in the conversations needed to move forward on this journey together.
My experience at General Synod has brought new meaning to the words of the prophet Isaiah. For I know that God is doing a new thing – not just in my life, but in yours, and in the life of the wider Church. We can perceive at least that – even if we may not know or expect exactly what that new thing might be. Whatever it is, friends, may we trust that God is making a way for us there.
It has been a blessing to be a delegate to the General Synod representing the Hawaiʻi Conference. For these and many blessings, for my companions to the Synod, and for this spiritual community we call the United Church of Christ, thanks be to God!