Pre-Synod May summit asks ‘Can the Church embrace change?’
Many things have changed in the few years since the pandemic – countless people are working remotely or on a hybrid schedule, food service staffers are hard to hire, shoppers are often finding what they need online. Churches and faith communities found new ways of worshiping, relating and gathering with COVID-19.
Churches had to quickly change in 2020 because of that immediate crisis – but now, facing deep cultural shifts and membership decline, can the Church truly embrace change?
Visions for the future
Conversations with the UCC’s three elected national officers will be part of the virtual summit May 22-26, “Can the Church Change? Decolonizing the Imagination and Visions for the Future.”
The program, housed on Frontline Faith, is scheduled to release two conversations each day of that week. The summit will be free to those who register here to access the video conversations as they premiere. Those who can’t watch the speakers as they are slated to appear, or want to be able to access to the video discussions after the Summit, can register here for lifetime access for $149.
Convergence CEO, the Rev. Cameron Trimble, will host, posing questions about the future God is calling us to and the church’s role in it.
“God is indeed making all things new,” she said, “so will we let ourselves be transformed? Are we ready to be changed?”
‘A movement for the emerging church’
UCC General Minister and President the Rev. John Dorhauer has been addressing the issue of a changing, adapting church during much of his tenure, asking the question about where the Spirit is leading as life shifts.
”The most important thing I have learned is that expressions of faith that the current institutional model of the church feels threatened by are truly authentic responses to the movement of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
“The same sacred impulse, one I believe originates in and through the Holy Spirit that inspired leaders 500 years ago to engage in the work of reforming the church, is active and alive today, calling forth leaders courageous enough to birth a new movement that will engender faith for the emerging Church,” Dorhauer continued.
“Because of that belief, and my implicit trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, so much of what I have tried to do in leading the denomination is help us all see what is coming not as a threat to us but a fulfillment of the work we have begun.”
“The pandemic has expedited the inevitable shifts in our religious landscape that accompany a changing demography and opened new opportunities for the church,” said the Rev. Traci Blackmon, UCC Associate General Minister. “The time for change is upon us and through conviction and faith, together we’re ready to answer the call.”
Blackmon’s call is echoed in the words of Trimble. “The future is upon us. The world has changed. The question is whether or not we’ll let ourselves be transformed by the flowing tides, or hold fast to our rapidly dying systems.”
Living into change
The summit, scheduled pre-General Synod, is envisioned as a lead-up to the late June event in Indianapolis.
“The theme of each General Synod offers the unique opportunity of reflection in context of who we are as the United Church of Christ. The 34th General Synod theme, “Making All Things New,” invites us to imagine – and perhaps re-imagine – the church beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes the world and the church experienced,” said the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC Associate General Minister. “This intentional discourse (in May) will prepare us as we move toward gathering in Indianapolis.
“The follow-up question for me is ‘How will we be changed as we live into the changes unfolding around us?’ This is a transformative time for the church and for all of us as we embrace the movement of the Holy Spirit around us.”
In addition to Thompson, Blackmon, Dorhauer and Trimble, other participants include the Rev. Miguel de la Torre, professor at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver; the Rev. Carmen Lansdowne, moderator of the United Church of Canada; and author and speaker Brian McLaren.
“Whether or not we embrace change, change is happening. It helps to be in conversation, in relationship, in prayer about it together,” Trimble said. “As we embark into the unknown, into the freedom of God’s future, into the hopes and dreams of transformed God-driven change, we start here. We start with YOU. You can join the conversation for free by registering here.”
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