Church’s work is ‘glocal,’ says preacher who will wrap up Synod
This the third in a series of three profiles of the ministers who will preach during the 33rd General Synod of the United Church of Christ, July 11-18. This “Special Edition General Synod” will be the first to be held entirely online.
That mashup of “global” and “local,” she has said, is an apt one to describe the denomination’s work.
The UCC’s associate general minister will preach during the Synod’s closing worship service, which starts at 6 p.m. EDT Sunday, July 18.
“It is an honor to be invited to be one of the preachers for General Synod,” Thompson said. “The world has changed since the last General Synod. The theme ‘Rooted in Love’ provides an opportunity to explore what it means for us to hold hope for the future amidst the challenges of pandemics in these days.”
All three online worship services will be available to the public as well as to those who have paid to register for the Synod. People wishing to sign up free, for the worship services only, can watch the General Synod website for details.
‘Global perspective, locally rooted’
“The work that we do in the UCC is, after all, glocal,” Thompson has said. “We carry a global perspective while being locally rooted and engaged.” Local challenges and opportunities “have global implications—and the reverse is also true.”
Her many assignments reflect that truth. She is, all at once:
- Associate General Minister of Wider Church Ministries and Operations. She oversees work that ranges from the local (responding to U.S. disasters, for instance) to the global (e.g., refugee and asylum ministries). And it includes all of the UCC’s ecumenical and interfaith work, at home and abroad.
- One of two co-executives of Global Ministries. This joint ministry with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) works with some 290 faith-based partners in close to 90 countries.
- Administrator of the General Synod. She’s not just preaching at the end of this first-ever online Synod. She has worked for months on it, along with the Synod’s moderator and the GS Program and Planning Committee of the UCC Board.
The “glocal” theme also shows in her resume, including past UCC positions as:
- Ecumenical Officer, for eight years before being elected to her current office.
- Minister for Racial Justice with Justice and Witness Ministries.
- A local church pastor and conference staff member in the Florida Conference.
She told the 2019 General Synod that variety has always informed her ministry. “Over my lifetime, I have spent countless hours in churches of various denominations and nondenominational churches as well,” she said. “Mine has been an ecumenical journey long before the word ‘ecumenical’ was part of my vocabulary.”
That journey started in Kingston, Jamaica, where she was born. It has taken her all over the world.
She has represented the UCC to the Geneva-based World Council of Churches and World Communion of Reformed Churches, and, in the U.S., to the National Council of Churches and Churches Uniting in Christ. She played a key role in guiding the UCC’s “full communion” partnership with the United Church of Canada. She holds a B.A. degree from Brooklyn (N.Y.) College, a master’s in public administration from North Carolina Central University, an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from Seattle University.
‘That they may all be one’
And she is a poet. Her works appear at her “By the Rivers” website and soon will be in a book, “Drums in Our Veins.” One of her newest poems speaks of those who “build bridges into dreams.” “They are,” it says, “the intention to live whole and heal the broken.”
Those are among the things the church should be about, she said in her 2019 Synod speech: “What should bring us together in the unity of this body of Christ is Jesus’ prayer, ‘That they may all be one.’ Because that is our calling. For us in the United Church of Christ, it is woven into the very fabric of our DNA as a united and uniting church.”
The other two ministers giving sermons during the 2021 Synod are:
- The Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., civil rights activist, Sunday, July 11, during worship that starts at 5 p.m. EDT.
- The Rev. Michelle Higgins, pastor St. John’s UCC (The Beloved Community), St. Louis, Wednesday, July 14, during worship that starts at 8 p.m. EDT.
“Closing worship will send us on our way to continue on ministry together holding a glocal perspective that allows for intention in connecting the global and the local in our work together,” Thompson said. “Prophetic imagination and wisdom say: God is doing a new thing. We are love in action, bringing about that new thing.”
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