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Reflections from Day 1 of General Synod 34: Stepping out in faith to transformation

The 34th General Synod got off to a rousing start with a Spirit-filled Opening Worship service! Jamar Doyle, President and CEO of the UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM), preached a powerful message.

Jamar Doyle on the General Synod stage preaching the message at opening worship large screens depicting images of light and nature the stage is encircled by plants
Jamar Doyle on the General Synod stage preaching the message at opening worship

Reflecting on the General Synod theme, “Making All Things New,” Mr. Doyle defined “traditions” and talked specifically about church traditions. Local churches have many traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation that they are often reluctant to give up or they resist trying something new. But as someone once pointed out to Mr. Doyle, “So you’re listening to the voices of dead people” telling us how to be church today? Is it any wonder our churches are dying? And it’s not just the voices of people long gone, but also of the “walking dead,” those who sit in the pews every Sunday. Our faith is on autopilot. We go through the motions, repeating traditions that are familiar and easy for us. But as Mr. Doyle advocates, “We must be comfortable with holy discomfort.” What is the new thing God is asking us to do? We must step out in faith. Listen to his entire sermon and be inspired!

The first two plenary sessions were also convened. Plenary #1 involved taking care of the mundane but necessary preliminary business of the Synod. In the evening Plenary #2 session, there were the nominating speeches and speech by the General Minister and President (GMP) candidate, Karen Georgia Thompson. The election of the next GMP will take place on Monday, July 3.

Earlier in the day, delegates also participated in Educational Intensive workshops focused on their respective resolutions.

Robb Kojima, assigned to Committee 11 dealing with “A Resolution to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans,” found his workshop thought-provoking. “Reparations are a stepping stone to transformation,” he commented.

Robb also shared the following impressions of Day 1:

One of the things he enjoyed most about this day was being able to talk with other people and bounce ideas off each other. This is Robb’s third General Synod as a delegate. He also attended General Synods in Grand Rapids and Tampa. This is the first time his wife, Jann, is attending Synod as a delegate with him.

The highlight of the day for Robb was meeting a Taiwanese student who is working on a doctorate in theology at Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS). They met by chance at a water refill station and struck up a conversation. When asked what brought the student to CTS and the UCC, the student shared that he specifically sought out the UCC because we welcome all. Just like our tag line, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” The encounter reminded Robb that “the UCC is really important” because we provide a safe place where all are welcomed as children of God.

In the coming days, Robb will be on the lookout for other models of how to be church. He thinks that in this next phase, rather than getting people to come to our churches, the church will be going out into the community to where the people are.


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