University of the Philippines Concert Chorus performs during the June 25 worship service at Music Hall in Cleveland. Brynne Shaw photo
"Here we are, perched between memory and hope," said the Rev. Diane Darling at the opening night worship on Thursday, June 22, at Pilgrim Congregational UCC in Cleveland.
"We have only two choices really," said the Rev. Robin R. Meyers at the Sunday afternoon service of worship and installation of officers on June 25, "to live in the past or to learn from it. But the past is not where God wants us to be."
Darling, interim pastor of Richmond Beach (Wash.) Congregational UCC, was preaching to a congregation that included many past and present UCC leaders.
"The United Church of Christ is not a structure," she said. "It is a living, growing story of what God has done and is doing even yet."
The current structure has outlived its usefulness, she pointed out. It simply "can no longer contain the multiracial, multicultural, multi-splendored, mission-focused, Spirit-propelled church that God was birthing, was not containing it, and hadn't been able to contain it for quite some time," she said. "And this is good news! This is God's news!"
Meyers, pastor of Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City, preached in the Music Hall of the Cleveland Convention Center on the 43rd anniversary of the denomination's founding in that very place.
"God ... takes what we think is past tense and makes it future tense," he said. "Takes what we think is behind us and sends it on ahead of us. Says to us: what you think is yesterday, I will turn into tomorrow. In the meantime, keep moving in faithfulness towards Me and I will handle the rest."
The four-day Celebration 2000 was a potpourri of worship and work, reunion and introductions, farewell and welcome.
Friday marked the final board meetings of many of the "instrumentalities" of the old structure, while Saturday the boards of the new Covenanted Ministries met.
For many former staff and board members, it was the first time to visit the UCC's newly renovated Church House at 700 Prospect Ave. in Cleveland, including the beautiful, new Amistad Chapel.
"I am absolutely amazed that we could have such a worship center in our headquarters building," said Charles Lockyear, for 32 years the UCC Director of Finance and Treasurer. "I had always hoped that we could have something like that in New York City, but it never worked out. I think this is wonderful!"
Nearly 1,000 persons attended the Celebration 2000 Banquet on Saturday evening, which featured an address by the Rev. Andrew Young, former U.N. ambassador and former mayor of Atlanta. In his remarks, Young lifted up the importance of church participation and church values in resolving many of the world's disputes.
The weekend served well its theme, "Faithful Legacy, Fervent Hope," as the various events and presentations both honored the past and pointed toward the future. Members of racial- ethnic churches, for example, the UCC's fastest growing membership constituency, played prominent roles.
"This is an historic weekend," remarked one observer, "and the UCC has done it right. We've paid attention publicly to how we've gotten to this point and we've acknowledged up front that now it's time to move on."