They came from all over New Hampshire. On Sunday, Oct. 28, about 3,200 gathered at Whittemore Center on the campus of the University of New Hampshire in Durham to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the UCC's New Hampshire Conference.
Some came to sing in the choir of 700. Some came proudly to tote their church's banner in the "grand parade" of 120 (of the 148) churches. Some came to share a gigantic three-panel worship backdrop, lovingly crafted especially for this celebration. Some came as artists exhibiting their creations that for each were shaped out of their faith. Some came to play in the brass choir. Some came to sing bluegrass. Some came to sing good old gospel or new age rock. Some came to step-dance with their amazingly agile feet amidst a chorus of rhythmic sounds that sent everyone's spirit "a-dancin'." Some came to share exquisite harmonies fashioned by shape notes.
But everyone came to give thanks for "200 years of harvesting granite" in our communities of faith and to be renewed and refreshed for the many years ahead.
The Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC General Minister and President, explained to us that while faithful disciples of Christ are often called upon to be rocks, they also need to be "countertops," for they gather regularly at and live out of Christ's welcoming table. Our grand choir and orchestra soared our spirits as our hearts awakened to the "Old Hundredth" by Ralph Vaughn Williams. And our souls were deeply touched as we shared the bread and cup from Christ's table.
Crafted intentionally to reveal the integral connection between our faith and the arts, the celebration of the "Gathered Conference" gave fresh meaning to the Psalmist's request, "Let us make joyful sounds for God."
The Rev. John W. "Jack" Lynes Jr. is leaving Conference ministry in New Hampshire to serve as the interim minister at First Congregational UCC in Kittery Point, Maine.