There's plenty in store for the United Church of Christ in Baltimore. That's the site of the denomination's next General Synod in 2017. Leaders from the Central Atlantic Conference were on the stage Tuesday, June 30, in the final hours of this summer's gathering to invite the wider church to join them in Maryland in two years.
"We from the Central Atlantic Conference are here to extend a warm welcome for you to come to Baltimore's Inner Harbor," said the Rev. John R. Deckenback, conference minister for the Central Atlantic Conference. "In 2017, we promise to be ready."
This will mark the second time the Central Atlantic Conference has hosted a General Synod – the previous gathering occurred in 1977 in Washington, D.C.
Deckenback also highlighted the need for justice in Baltimore. "Between now and 2017, we have some work to do to truly make our place more hospitable for all," he said. "Not far from where we will meet are the boarded-up and abandoned neighborhoods… The Baltimore we'd prefer you see is the resurgent old industrial port city with its gleaming Inner Harbor and museums."
Among the amenities visitors to Baltimore can expect during General Synod 2017 are a convention center just steps away from the Inner Harbor, the city's historic seaport and tourism area, and hotel accommodations that are all just a few blocks away from the convention center.
Lee Foley, the General Synod administrator and UCC chief administrative officer, said there are key considerations in choosing a location for biennial gathering. The conference has to want to host a Synod gathering, it has to have a volunteer base and financial wherewithal to support the event, and the host city needs accommodations and an airport. The Central Atlantic Conference and Baltimore meet those criteria.
The conference will brainstorm different ways to showcase Baltimore and the surrounding area. He ran through a list of attractions that included museums and aquariums in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. – a 40-minute train ride away from Baltimore – historic Civil War sites at Gettysburg and Frederick, and Maryland's well-known crab cakes.
Already, one of the first items of business for General Synod 2017 is crossed off the list. Moderator and assistant moderator, the Rev. Sue Artt and Norman Williams, were installed to their new roles on the main stage after Deckenback extended his invitation.
Artt and Williams were unanimous selections by the General Synod.
"Help them to be diligent in their duties that your church may prosper in the mission you place before it," Brian Holeman, General Synod 2015 moderator, said in a prayer. "May their example prove worthy for all of us to follow, as we are united in Christ's ministry."