It's hardly unique to the United Church of Christ, but it certainly is part of the “UCC DNA” to create educational opportunities any time the church gathers. In 39 workshops held Saturday, June 29, Synod attendees broadened or deepened their knowledge. Some had a first encounter with a new idea, while others further explored a question that had concerned them for some time.
Jerry King, presenter of “Media, Technology, and Worship,” certainly found it so. Some workshop participants came with questions about how to start using electronic aids in the worship setting, while others had far more specific queries about means and methods. King, the director of television and media for Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas, turned the conversation in a different direction. Technology, he emphasized, is anything – anything, not just screens and things that glow – that enhances the message of worship.
Research by Quentin Schultze indicates that 83 percent of 18-25 year olds prefer less, not more, technological wizardry in worship. One young man in the audience promptly offered the explanation: “This is the time where I’m not being bombarded,” he said. The challenge, emphasized King, is to create multi-sensory experiences that do not overload. The solution is always to tie technological use to its purpose: enhancing the message of worship.
Further down the long hallways of the Long Beach Convention Center, Mira Rezeq, National General Secretary of the YWCA of Palestine, described the plight of Palestinians. Since 1948, her nation has lost nearly all of its land. Today, a wall marches across the hills to separate Palestine and Israel.
On her visit to California for Synod, Rezeq took a side trip to the U.S./Mexican border, where a similar wall marches across the hills. She expressed her hope that someday these, and all walls, will come down. “God created us all as one,” she announced, “with dignity and equality.”
At Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Mass., a Seminary of the United Church of Christ, staff and students have engaged in a new kind of research: expressing Christianity in a multi-faith setting. The seminary has shared its campus for several years with Hebrew College, and the two educational institutions have steadily increased their cooperation.
Dean of the Faculty the Rev. Sarah B. Drummond led the group through an exercise that reveals just how much diversity exists in any assembly of people: there are so many ways, she said, and that simply means that it isn’t easy to do. The Rev. Elizabeth Nordbeck, Moses Brown Professor of Ecclesiastical History, emphasized the difference between acceptance of diversity – the rational understanding of a fact – and affirming pluralism.
To affirm pluralism is to describe it as a positive good, a destination toward which to strive, a goal we should encourage as much as we can. Theologically, she said, it means that we confess that no one religious group has a monopoly on truth, ethics, God, or spirituality.
Interfaith work requires planning, time, honesty and, at its root, that basic commitment to pluralism as a valued goal: one that has been adopted, noted Nordbeck, in the United Church of Christ.