Synod participants seeking God in “Unexpected Places”
How will the thousands of General Synod attendees find God in an unexpected moment or place?
As General Synod 2015 gears up, thousands of people from across the life of the United Church of Christ are gathering in Cleveland for the latest biennial meeting. As they arrive in the city where the denomination was founded in 1957, they will begin to ponder the gathering’s theme, “Unexpected Places,” and what it might invite them to do.
The scriptural inspiration for “Unexpected Places” comes from Genesis 28:15-16, part of which reads, “Surely God is in this place, and I did not know it.” General Synod planners chose that theme in hopes that it would bring unexpected love, passion and spirituality to the Cleveland Convention Center from June 26 to 30.
“Unexpected Places” is an acknowledgment that humanity encounters the Stillspeaking God in unexpected places and moments. Synod planners believe the theme blends with bringing General Synod to the home of the denomination’s national setting, to focus on service to the Cleveland community and speak to the American populous.
“Our congregation had ‘Unexpected Places’ as the theme for Lent a year ago,” said Julie Rogers, pastoral associate at Church of the Covenant in Boston. “It made me think about church happening outside the church walls — in places like museums and convention centers — that can be news ways of thinking about church.”
John Aney, a first-time delegate from the Northern California-Nevada Conference, believes that “one of the wonders and blessings of God is God’s presence in all places we can’t expect.”
“It can be challenging to understand, but it reminds us God can show up in our joy and grief, our hatred and love,” said Aney, a member of Foothills Congregational Church in Los Altos, Calif., and staff member at Pacific School of Religion.
General Synod organizers chose the theme in hopes it would inspire conversation and intrigue Synod guests to find out more about their faith.
The Rev. Penny Lowes, who chaired the former UCC Executive Council, says she is waiting for the “expected statement by SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) on marriage equality. I hope it happens here. I’m looking forward to celebrating that decision and marriage equality in new, unexpected ways.”
Lowes is one of many celebrating that today.
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