Written by Daniel Hazard
As "Mix in '06" concluded on June 25 in Indianapolis, the women of the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) were encouraged by speakers and leaders from both denominations to keep on dreamin' on.
The five-day joint event - a first for the UCC and Disciples together - drew around 3,000 registrants. Inspired by the theme "Dream On, Sisters!" they worshiped and worked; played and prayed; met new friends and hugged old ones, and were challenged and inspired by speakers, preachers and workshop leaders.
Asked what they enjoyed most, several attendees mentioned speaker Renee Bondi. In 1988, at age 29, Bondi was a singer and high school vocal teacher looking forward to her wedding, just two months away. Then a freak accident left her paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak above a whisper.
Family, friends and a devoted fiancé supported Bondi as she learned to cope with paralysis and found her voice again - not only to sing, but to share the story of God's transforming power in her life.
"She was so inspiring," said Maurine Dalluge of Central Christian Church in Marshalltown, Iowa. "You could really feel the spirit move in her. It brought tears to my eyes."
The Rev. Sharon Watkins, Disciples' general minister and president, reminded attendees that "well-behaved women rarely make history." The saying became an instant hit, overheard during lunchtime conversations and incorporated into other speakers' presentations. UCC General Minister and President John H. Thomas also addressed the gathering.
Many participated in hands-on mission, working in a community garden, packing 2,330 boxes of food and nine tons of extra items at a local food bank and assembling 2,528 Church World Service health kits from items brought by attendees. Another 655 health kits were partially assembled and will be completed by Southport Christian Church in Indianapolis.
More than 30 musicians contributed to the Mix, including 17 singer-songwriters who contributed songs to the "Dream On Sisters! A Musical Mix" CD.
Saturday evening's concert featured acclaimed recording artists Holly Near, Carrie Newcomer and Bernice Johnson Reagon. Each artist, well known for her support of social justice causes, brought her own style of music to the concert.
Discovery group workshops gave women a chance to stretch themselves. Topics ran the gamut from gospel aerobics to guided meditation.
Debbie Long, a member of First Trinity UCC in New Stanton, Pa., attended a session led by Global Ministries missionaries, where she learned more about what UCC/Disciples missionaries do and how much it means to the people in other countries to have them there, she said.
Julie J. Kilmer is an associate professor of women's studies at UCC-related Olivet College in Michigan. Kilmer's session, "Feminist Theology and the Call to Ministry," included lively discussion.
"I especially appreciated the diverse perspectives shared in the discovery groups," Kilmer said.
Two young leaders shared the pulpit - UCC seminarian Claudia De la Cruz and Disciples minister the Rev. Sandhya Jha. Each challenged the audience to step outside their comfort zones.
The two concluded: "And if anyone tries to tell us, 'You're just dreaming,' we'll tell them, 'Our God is a dreamer too. And her dreams are wondrous to behold.'"