The UCC threw a birthday party on June 25. And, finally, everyone was there.
Fifty years ago at the Uniting General Synod in Cleveland, Ohio, the attendance was, as the Rev. Norman "Jack" Jackson called it, "a bunch of white males in coats and ties, lots of pipes and lots of cigars."
Fifty years later, Gethsemane Tagaloa of the First Samoan Congregational UCC in South Los Angeles announced that, today, our church has changed.
"It's global now," Tagaloa said.
After a day of celebration in which Synod-goers ventured to 11 different downtown venues to take in nearly 60 presentations, performances and experiences, the day concluded with the UCC@50 Birthday Bash at the Hartford Civic Center that included stories and a nontraditional, sports-arena "wave" of boisterous "amens."
Members of the 1957 Uniting General Synod were honored, as was the Rev. Everett C. Parker, founder of the UCC's media advocacy movement, in response to a 1959 telephone call from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who requested help in monitoring TV content and documenting how all voices were not heard.
"With facts in one hand and faith in another," narrator Valerie Tutson related, "they took it to a court of law."
The Rev. Robert Witham, chair of the 50th Anniversary Committee, opened the celebration by borrowing from Lerner and Loewe. "What a day this has been," he said. "It's almost like being in love."
Church youth acted out their interpretation of the church's past and future. They also requested that their presentation be preserved in a time capsule and played in 2057 at the 100th anniversary of the church.
"We are the future of the church but also its present," they exclaimed. "We have to trust in the Holy Spirit and be bold enough to trust in God."
The evening was capped with a specially-designed laser light show honored the pioneering legacy of UCC member Charles Townes, who invented laser technology.
In 1964, Townes shared the Noble prize in physics for his work with masers and lasers. Appropriately, on Saturday night, a UCC-themed laser show honored Townes work.
Two years after winning the Nobel prize, Townes penned an article, "The Convergence of Science and Religion," claiming that science and religion were not necessarily contradictory: one seeks to understand the meaning and purpose of life, the other seeks to understanding the order of life. For this work, he received the Templeton Prize "for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities."