Speakers, process announced for September all-church summit

Details are emerging about a major United Church of Christ “summit” set for September.

The Space Between: The Emerging Church in a Post-Pandemic World” will be held online Sept. 19-21. And people who can come to St. Louis will be able to take part in the summit together, in person.

Registration, open to all, will begin in early June, said UCC Chief Strategy Officer Cheryl Joseph Williams, who is coordinating the summit. She serves on the staff of General Minister and President John Dorhauer, the event’s convener. She said registration fees will be announced at that time.

Williams said the summit’s goals are to:

  • “Acknowledge what we’ve lived through” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • “Recognize the innovative ways we have survived and, in many places and ways, thrived.”
  • “Capture these ideas and invite one another to work together in further exploration of what fits now, where we need to stretch ourselves, and how we build capacity to resource the church’s needs as it evolves.”

Event format

The event will revolve around eight prerecorded “TED”-style talks, which Williams is calling “provocations.” Each of these — 10 to 25 minutes long and given by a UCC leader — will aim to provoke “ingenuity, creativity and conversation.” Participants will view the talks and respond in large- and small-group conversations via a virtual event platform, Pheedloop.

Registration will open in early June at this web page.

Williams said the event’s planning team will ask participants in advance about “the issues that matter most to them.” She said the event will foster conversation on those topics by using “unconference” techniques, such as world café and lightning talks.

In addition, she said, “informal, self-formed groups” will be available for people “who find themselves drawn together by common issues, ideas, opportunities or challenges.” The event will also include “worship and spiritual reflection components at regular intervals.”

Featured ‘provocateurs’

Two UCC ministers will open and close the event with presentations:

In-person participants will gather for those presentations — and all aspects of the agenda — at the Hilton St. Louis Airport hotel. (The event has been moved to St. Louis from the originally announced host city, Cleveland.)

The middle day, Tuesday, Sept. 20, will feature these ministers as presenters:

In-person sessions that day will be at Eden Theological Seminary. Transportation between the Hilton and Eden will be provided. Williams said a room rate of $125 per night will be available at the Hilton for summit participants who book by Aug. 19.

‘Play space for ideas’

The design team includes:

As ideas and strategies emerge during the event, participants will discuss “what we each bring to the table to help us get there,” Williams said. “We hope to quantify these gifts and access paths to them by end of the summit.”

“I believe that the Holy Spirit has shown us that the church can and will thrive under any circumstances,” Dorhauer said. “I also believe our leaders have discovered, even through the worst of the pandemic, new pathways to growing the faith.

“It is my hope that over three days in September we will open up a conversation about what we have learned, what we imagine is possible, and what we are willing to commit to as co-creators of the church’s future. We have among us leaders who have already designed or imagined ways to build on past successes, and who are willing to incorporate new learnings in order to co-create a vital and life-giving mission for the church of tomorrow. We want to open up the play space for their ideas to flourish with colleagues who are willing to play along with them.”

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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