I've been energized today by the many familiar faces I saw as I wandered the plenary hall and exhibit area of DeVos Place. Embraces and reminiscing abounded as I reconnected with long-time friends and more recent acquaintances.
As we shared stories of times past and caught up on family happenings, it was evident that our hearts were united by far more than the distance or time that had separated us. Even clearer was the sense that we had shared a spiritual intimacy through learning, service or worship that remained strong.
And so, what I was feeling through these encounters was verbalized best when the Rev. Geoffrey Black, nominee for UCC General Minister and President said last night, "Together we are adequately and incredibly gifted to serve the world."
Rediscovering our together-ness, and remembering how we had shared Christ's gifts in serving the world, was the source of energy that bonded us once again.
Now, I'm quite aware that affinity is something that happens in lots of ways. Knitting clubs, motorcycle gangs and a variety of groups find similarly strong connections – crossing social, political and racial lines. It isn't a unique characteristic of the church.
What is unique to the church, and I pray for each person in the UCC, is what the Rev. Black reminded us of tonight. The gift of unity isn't merely to promote an interest or self-gratifying identity. It is the enabling force that helps us become stronger in serving the world.
When Black introduced his speech he ran down a laundry list of the problems that are facing the church and society – not the least of which included the economy, racial tensions and despair over the decline of the mainline church.
But counter to those realizations was his insistence that possibilities abound for the UCC, the greater church and for the world.
Earlier in the day a parade of new church representatives did the bunny hop through the plenary hall. Possibilities abound in new church development.
During the evening plenary, ecumenical partners and foreign visitors were recognized as allies in ministry with the UCC. Possibilities abound in our wider church connections.
As we look to the activities of today – of enjoying one another, experiencing our great host city of Grand Rapids and learning from an exciting list of River City Saturday speakers and performers – may we also look for ways to build our together-ness in Christ, for the service of the world.