Indiana-Kentucky Conference gathering offers blessing for Synod with UCC officers present

At the end of one United Church of Christ gathering in Indiana’s capital, a blessing is offered for the next.

The Indiana-Kentucky Conference is gearing up to host the UCC’s 34th General Synod at the end of June. In the midst of those preparations, Conference representatives began the month with their annual gathering at Zion Evangelical UCC in the heart of Indianapolis. This culminated in a sending ceremony June 3, where they consecrated sacred objects and offered prayers for denominational leaders, delegates, volunteers and General Synod itself.

“We designed this service with the idea that a blessing service is a spiritually grounding way for us to bless the work that has been done in preparation for General Synod … the countless hours and late nights, but also to bless what is to come as we gather with the wider church,” said IKC Conference Minister the Rev. Chad Abbott. “It was a service of covenant, acknowledging our interdependency and connection as a united and uniting church.”

The Rev. Chad Abbott, IKC Conference minister, spoke at the June 1-3 gathering that offered blessing for General Synod. Photo by Cassidy Hall.

There, in the state called the “Crossroads of America,” two UCC elected officers participated with the IKC. General Minister and President the Rev. John Dorhauer — whose tenure as the UCC national leader will come to a close at Synod — gave the keynote address. Associate General Minister the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson — whose candidacy to succeed Dorhauer will be voted on by Synod delegates — delivered a sermon on the gathering’s final morning.

Looking to the Church’s future

In his speech, Dorhauer spoke about the health and vitality of congregations and how they might shape the future.

The Rev. John Dorhauer, UCC GMP, offered the keynote address June 2 at the IKC annual gathering. Photo by Cassidy Hall.

He described how, in his eight years of ministry as GMP, he has traveled the world and witnessed the difference that the UCC has made in people’s lives. He highlighted the impact and necessity of two core UCC values: the spirit of being united and uniting across differences and the welcome offered to everyone.

“When they write the story of the United Church of Christ 100 years from now, they won’t be writing about our signs,” he said. “But nobody will doubt our impact. And when I think about the hope that we have, it’s born in a body of people radically committed to the proclamation of a Gospel that believes that everybody is welcome at this table no matter who you are, no matter what you believe, no matter who you voted for, no matter what political party you represent, no matter what your gender identity is or your sexual orientation is or your age is.

“Here, you belong because Christ sets the table for all.”

‘The Hope We Have’

Thompson preached on the IKC gathering’s theme, “The Hope We Have.” She described the Conference as “a part of something larger, a part of God working in the world through the UCC, our global partners, and through our commitment to see the eradication of pandemics of injustice around us and around the globe.”

The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC Associate GMP, preached June 3 at the IKC annual gathering. Photo by Cassidy Hall.

She shared stories of global injustices that were exposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and described where she locates hope within the UCC.

“I believe our hope lives in … our willingness to take the risks of those who have gone before, those whose legacy is identified among us as a litany of firsts for this United Church of Christ and its predecessor bodies,” she said. “It is our willingness to be advocates, raising our voices in the halls of our local and national legislatures to ensure that no one’s life is threatened or their freedoms trampled because of the way they look, the way they live. It will be our willingness to change — not for the sake of the survival or preservation of our institutions or buildings or to keep cash in the bank.  

“It will be our willingness to continue to follow the example of Jesus Christ who was willing to speak truth to power, challenge the corruption of power and defy the oppression of Empire.”

Blessing Synod

At the close of the gathering, the IKC faithful held a sending ceremony to bless Synod and their UCC siblings.

“As a covenant people, bound together across many churches, Associations and Conferences, we gather as the whole body of the United Church of Christ for General Synod 2023,” said the Rev. Izzy Harlin, pastor of First Congregational Church UCC in Elkhart, Ind., in the closing service’s prayer. “We come together under the promise of covenant to do the business of the whole church and to bear witness to the work of individual churches, Associations and Conferences. … It is this light that we gather for our closing service of blessing as we prepare for the awesome responsibility of hosting General Synod.”

The Indiana-Kentucky Conference blessed communion sets and prayer shawls to be used at General Synod in Indianapolis June 30-July 4. Photo by Cassidy Hall.

Blessings were then bestowed upon Synod, its delegates and volunteers, and IKC’s Local Arrangements Committee, as well as upon Dorhauer and Thompson for their leadership roles. The gathering also offered blessings on two sets of sacred objects that will be used at Synod: prayer shawls and communion stoneware.

During Synod, more than 800 prayer shawls will be available to visitors in the Community Care space, a quiet place for attendees to reflect and rest. People from all 122 IKC churches were invited to participate in the ministry of making the prayer shawls, and the Conference exceeded its goal of 700 — 100 from each IKC Association.

The two communion sets created for Synod represent the two states that comprise IKC, as Abbott noted.

The ones with unique, colorful patterns come from Yellow Door Ceramics Studio in Indianapolis. “The owner is a Disciples person, which is a nice connection,” Abbott said.

The other set, crafted with the Synod logo on it, comes from Louisville Stoneware in Kentucky.

“So much love has gone into knitting prayer shawls, shaping stoneware, planning events and volunteers, and ensuring that our siblings in Christ across the country will feel welcomed to our Conference,” Abbott said. “And so to bless those who have given of themselves with such great love seems like the most appropriate way for us to cap this journey we’ve been on as a Conference these past two years.”


The United Church of Christ’s 34th General Synod will be held June 30-July 4 in Indianapolis. For registration, programming, information and more, visit generalsynod.org.


Kayla Berkey contributed to this story.


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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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