'Suncoast Saturday' ends with celebration of possibilities
Written by Micki Carter July 2, 2011
A giant, musical thank you note
was delivered Saturday night as GS28 paused for a celebration of journeys
completed, possibilities achieved and one nearly successful invitation.
The music — in a dozen different
languages — was presented by Amanda Powell and her group from Cleveland. She
was joined midway through the program by Brian Guffey, the oldest son of
Associate General Minister Edith A. Guffey. Visitors and delegates danced in
the aisles and bounced through the arena in conga lines to the infectious beat
all evening long.
The thank yous were delivered in
music and video to the three departing members of the Collegium: Guffey; the
Rev. Stephen L Sterner, associate general minister for Local Church Ministries;
and the Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte, associate general minister for Wider Church
Ministries. They were honored on screen and several choruses of “We are
thankful, O God, Allelulia” from the stage and the audience.
All three appeared on stage to
receive wrapped gifts and, once again, the ovation of the crowd.
The possibilities achieved honored
the six churches, one in each region of the United States, which won the
Imagine What’s Possible contest that led up to General Synod 28. Those churches
included Everett UCC of Arlington, Wash.; Zion UCC of Burlington, Iowa; Central
St. Matthew UCC of New Orleans; First Congregational UCC of Ypsilanti, Mich.;
First Congregational UCC of Wallingford, Conn.; and New Covenant UCC in
The winning “possibilities”
included a project to assist undocumented workers who were facing an
immigration roundup (Ypsilanti), the decision of two churches in one city with
radically different congregations to merge into a single congregation (New
Orleans), a major physical renovation that lifted a depressed congregation to
vitality (Everett), a program to address a town on the mat from the recession
(Burlington), a housing-for-the-homeless initiative (Williamsport), and a
project that delivered 18 tons of coffee to American soldiers in Iraq through
Holy Joe’s Café (Wallingford).
However, it was up to the Rev. Susannah
Davis of Kirkwood UCC in Atlanta, Ga., to bring down the house with the
possibility that a months-long campaign to bring comedienne and television
personality Ellen DeGeneres to GS28 had succeeded. The blonde Davis, in Ellen’s signature trousers and vest, is
a near DeGeneres look-alike (at least from 50 feet!) and when she danced her
way onto the stage near the end of the evening, a noisy surge pulsed through
the crowd and young people pushed their way to the front.
The cheers turned to sighs when
Davis moved to the microphone, confessed that she really wasn’t DeGeneres and introduced
a video montage of many of the YouTube segments that UCC groups across the
country had produced as a moving invitation, perhaps even an unofficial draft,
to bring DeGeneres to Synod.
The video that received the loudest cheers from the audience was one of
a haircut that revealed a “birthmark” reading “UCC (hearts) Ellen.” Ellen
didn’t come, but the invitation campaign was an imagined possibility that energized
many across the UCC in the lead-up to GS28.