Written by Gregg Brekke
Immersing themselves into a mild summer day in a UCC kind of way, more than 3,500 attendees of General Synod 27 took part yesterday in "River City Saturday" in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The agenda ranged far and wide. From singers and speakers to dancers and drummers, entertainment and educational opportunity were available at every turn.
Midway through his handbell choir's 30-minute set at Rosa Parks Circle, 6-year-old Nathaniel Lynn stepped over to the microphone and recited popular portions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech – from memory. "It was an honor for me," said Nathaniel. "He was a really good man."
Under the direction of Deacon Pat Barnes-McConnell, the eight-member children's Hand Bell Choir of St. Stephen's Community Church in Lansing, Mich. "We developed this program to help stressed-out parents who were having troubles with their children," said Barnes-McConnell. "What we are finding is that they are talented and blessed beyond what anyone could have imagined."
Rosa Parks Circle also was the site of the "God's Chosen" priase group from Union UCC in Tekonsha, Mich., the African drum/dance group Wazobia; folk praise band The Messengers; the Olivet Chamber; Western Michigan Gay Men's Chorus; the improv-like Plymouth Players; and the eclectic sounds of Daily Bread.
|Musical duo Jason and DeMarco performed concerts at two venues as part of River City Saturday.
Randy Varcho photo
The Stillspeaking Kite-Flying Extravaganza, though grounded for the most part by lack of wind, proved to be a colorful noontime event. Several dozen participants ran back on forth on the hilly terrain between the Grand River and Gerald R. Ford Museum, trying to fly their colorful creations.
In the DeVos Center, musical offerings included the vibrant sounds of Jason and DeMarco, the Cathedral of Hope Choir; the Plymouth UCC (Detroit) Combined Choir; and five-time Grammy Award-winner Paul Winter. UCC musicians and pastors gathered in the Plenary Hall to premiere the new UCC praise and worship music song book Sing, Prayer and Praise.
On the speaking circuit, Winona LaDuke – a member of the White Earth Ojibwe tribe and two-time vice-presidential running mate of Ralph Nader – shared her views on energy policy and self-sufficiency issues in North America. She explained that her tribe names its moons after sustainable communities (i.e., maple syrup moon, strawberry moon). "None of these moons is named after a Roman emperor, she said. "Empires are not sustainable. The world has two paths from which to choose – the one that is worn and scorched, and the one that is green."
Susan K. Smith, senior pastor of Advent UCC in Columbus, Ohio, spoke about her book Crazy Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives. The Rev. Alice Hunt, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, led a Bible discussion, and international diplomat Fe'iloaktau Kaho Tevi shared his strong advocacy of global climate change and human rights in the Pacific.
[ Editor's note: the reference to "God's Chosen" praise group from Union UCC in Tekonsha, Mich., was originally excluded from the print version of this article. We apologize for this oversight of an important local presence from the list of performers. ]