In selecting service projects and immersion experiences during the United Church of Christ's General Synod 2013 in Long Beach, Calif., participants can live out a culture of justice work and civic engagement that changes lives. Among the activities that have been planned are a blood drive, a trip to the United States-Mexico border, and visits to a local food bank, federal prison and beach.
And there's a lasting aspect of the Synod service projects that organizers hope participants can carry on once they've left Southern California.
"The service and immersion projects are a way that delegates and visitors, youth and adults, can get acquainted with transformative work in the local community and to be a small part of that," said the Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, executive for volunteer ministries. "We also hope to equip participants with experiences of methods of engagement that they may seek out or start in their own communities when they return home."
Most of the projects are scheduled on Saturday afternoon June 29, with the blood drive taking place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday June 30 as well, in hopes of collecting more than 100 pints of blood.
A trip to Centro Romero, a UCC center for border ministries in San Ysidro, Calif., will be an all-day event Saturday, with participants leaving Long Beach at 6 a.m. and returning at 8 p.m. The trip, an immersion experience, will give those on the excursion a first-hand look at the realities of the U.S.-Mexico border. The group will be joined by leaders from the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the UCC who have taken the trip and can reflect on the experience.
"Each of the service and immersion project hosts are part of on-going UCC ministries of the church and our members," Blaufuss said. "They help us live out the theme of Synod in practical ways."
The theme for General Synod 2103 is "God's Vision: ____."
For those who see God's vision as a world without hunger, the food bank project helps feed the hungry. If God's vision is to make everyone feel welcome, there's a project to participate at a retirement community that is part of the Council for Health and Human Services of the UCC. Or if God's vision is love and equality, there are visits with prisoners at a federal corrections institute and a project for homeless veterans.
The food bank, retirement community, prison visit and homeless veterans projects require pre-registration and advance payment. Boxed lunches are provided, and participants return to the Long Beach Convention Center at about 4 p.m.
More details about the service projects and immersion experiences are available online at the General Synod website.
Sign up for service projects when you register for General Synod.