The General Synod planning team is doing its best to provide attendees and delegates with more free time during the United Church of Christ's biennial gathering in 2017, while arranging the schedule in such a way to accommodate all the business decisions that the deliberative body must tackle this summer in Baltimore.
For the first time in recent history, General Synod will kick off with a worship service on the opening day, Friday, June 30, with the Rev. Amy Butler of The Riverside Church (New York City) preaching.
"It's long been desired to start a General Synod with a worship service, so in Baltimore we are doing exactly that," said Lee Foley, administrator for General Synod. "The first full Synod event is worship, followed by a short plenary needed to get Synod up and running to begin taking care of its business."
And General Synod 2017 will wrap up at 4:30 p.m. local time after closing worship on Tuesday, July 4 — about three to four hours earlier compared to recent Synods — allowing Synod participants to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
"We've heard after nearly every General Synod feedback from delegates and visitors that they don't have enough free time," Foley added. "They travel hundreds of miles to an attractive city and they don't get a chance to know it. In Baltimore, with its Inner Harbor and historic troves, we've made an effort to make some free time available."
The Saturday evening schedule reflects that, with just one event taking place. The General Synod Gala — a paid dinner fundraiser — at which the Rev. William Barber II will speak, begins at 6 p.m. Barber, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister, has been a prominent figure as the organizer of weekly civil disobedience gatherings in North Carolina in 2013.
Saturday nights have traditionally included other types of entertainment — some form of musical performance, from concert-style events to dances that featured a band. This year Synod participants will have a free night to catch up with family, friends and colleagues, and even explore the downtown Baltimore nightlife.
"We're trying to strike a happy medium between the desire for some free time, and all the business that Synod must accommodate, including a very, very high number of resolutions (20), some of which may be sent to the Board of Directors for action because of the high number of submissions," Foley said.
The agenda, still subject to change, can be viewed on the General Synod 2017 website.
General Synod 31 will be held June 30 through July 4 at the Baltimore Convention Center, located right in the heart of city’s historic Inner Harbor seaport. Information is available on the General Synod website, which will be continuously updated with emerging details. Registration for the gathering is open. The cost of registration is $225 for the entire event if booked between Dec. 5 to Jan. 5; $236.50 if booked between Jan. 6 to March 31; and $247.50 if booked on April 1 or after. There is also a special rate for seminarians of $150.