With thirty workshops offered on Saturday afternoon, Synod attendees faced the daunting task of selecting from a wide range of options. Topics included multi-lingual and multi-ethnic worship, mental health in the church’s life, Latinx presence in the UCC, church growth for Open and Affirming congregations, and faith and finance. Once there, presenters and participants faced the further challenge of limited time. As the Rev. Velda Love, UCC minister of Racial Justice said, introducing “God So Loved the World,” “We only have an hour so we will have to move quickly.”
They moved quickly indeed, telling stories of environmental activism, soothing the soul in the cockpit of a small airplane, and sharing new resources. Participants learned much about the ethical practice of ministry as well as its assessment that can be found in the new A Sure Foundation resource from MESA.
They learned to think more deeply about the others with whom they live and worship. Sharing the horrifying statistic that one in three women, and one in three men, will suffer sexual violence in their lifetime, presenters Amy Johnson and Lisa Hart asked how many survivors would be in the congregations back home? How many more in their communities?
Rebekah Anderson of UCC Disabilities Ministries told her audience that, despite the all-too-common impulse, disability is not something that requires blame. It needs to find ways to live fully. It does not always require a cure, though some do wish for one. “What we need,” she said, “is justice.”
Persons with disabilities often struggle to find themselves in stories of people who overcome their disabilities to become heroes. The stories fail to understand the context of their characters. “We already know we can do stuff,” said Anderson, a second-year student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. “We want to make a world in which we could do more stuff.”
After a guided mediation inviting participants to consider a God whose limbs, sight, or hearing did not move so well – a God fully acquainted with the full range of human experience – delegate Jacob Nault said, “I haven’t had too many spaces where I could reflect theologically on these things.”
Disability theology or spiritual activism; creative vespers or creative worship with children; preparing for disasters or responding to the hurricane in Puerto Rico: these were spaces to reflect theologically on these things.
The Rev. Eric S. Anderson is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross UCC in Hilo, Hawai’i.