As setup got underway in Milwaukee on Thursday, June 20, for the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, you could see celebration and beauty mixing in unique ways with a religious urge to right the wrongs of the world and find new ways to talk about faith and each other.
What better way to proclaim the Synod's biblical theme ("Shine," Matthew 5:16) than in rainbow colors beaming from an adult-size, interactive Lite-Brite board in the exhibit hall at the Wisconsin Center? It's in the big corner devoted to Justice and Local Church Ministries.
Or how about name badges that invite you choose your own pronouns? You can let your third-person light shine as he/him, she/her, they/them, elle/elles or ella. Or you can write your own! Delegates and visitors were choosing a little of everything as registration opened Thursday afternoon.
Or how about the messages on an a row of three shirts in the Synod store? One features the Synod’s distinctive "Shine" logo. The other two say "Resist" and "Justice."
Progressive ministries of the whole church are not all that's on display this week. Mary Jo Laabs of Medford, Wis., one of dozens of volunteers from the UCC's host Wisconsin Conference, was cutting out photos and messages sent in from afar to post on a big "Shine!" lighthouse in the main lobby. Churches are encouraged to emblazon the lighthouse with examples of how they're letting their light shine locally. "One church from Arizona sent seven of them," she said.
And the theme and logo will, of course, shine forth prominently from a giant screen – 15 feet by 50 feet (that's 1,080 by 3,456 pixels of light) – behind the stage where worship and business sessions will be led. If that feels too big, head back to that corner of the exhibit hall and have a seat. "There'll be a small Lite-Brite board on every table in this space," said the Rev. Bentley deBardelaben, executive associate for Justice and Local Church Ministries.