Written by Daniel Hazard
Believe it or not, it's been a full year since more than 9,000 UCC members crowded into downtown Hartford, Conn., to celebrate the UCC's 50th anniversary General Synod.
And now plans are already shaping up for next summer's UCC romp in Grand Rapids, Mich., set for June 26-30, 2009.
In keeping with Grand Rapids' water-rich environment, "Immerse Yourself" has been announced as the 2009 theme. In February, the General Synod Program and Planning Committee traveled to Grand Rapids - touted for its "seemingly endless water" - where committee members saw firsthand that a water-themed Synod offered many interpretive opportunities.
"As a historical center of Reformed tradition, we wanted to emphasize our baptismal covenant with each other and the larger Christian community," says the Rev. Susan A. Blain, the UCC's minister for worship, liturgy and spiritual formation. "And 'Immerse yourself' not only evokes sacramental imagery of baptism, but it also speaks to the need for all of us to more fully invest our time, talent and treasure in God's mission."
"Grand Rapids, as its name conveys, is a water town," the committee said in a post-visit report. "The stirring waters of the Grand River flow prominently through the downtown area with pedestrian bridges crisscrossing at multiple places. The city's glass-walled Convention Center and hotels, which we will be using, are all situated adjacent or near the river, with spectacular views and park recreation areas. The Rosa Parks Memorial Park, located adjacent to the Amway Grand Hotel and the new, green Grand Rapids Museum of Art, is built as a tribute to water in its three forms."
Edith A. Guffey, the UCC's associate general minister and General Synod administrator, believes UCC members will be impressed with Grand Rapids.
"When our committee first visited there, they were blown away by the vibrancy of the city, how new and clean the downtown is, and what a wonderful convention center they have," Guffey said.
In deciding on a theme, Guffey said, the committee wanted a playful phrase that could be used not only for General Synod, but also throughout the year.
"At a time when UCC members are preparing to immerse themselves in sacred conversations on race, this is a theme that lends itself to many insightful interpretations," Guffey said. "What does it mean to 'immerse yourself' in something larger than you are? To what degree are we willing to respond to God's call?"
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