Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back to Life, Back to Reality

I'm back at home, sitting on my bed, cuddling with my kitty... but I'm also missing Synod.

I know I should have posted something before regarding this morning's vote on the Unified Governance Resolution, but I feel less and less sure of what really happened. What I do know is that many feelings were hurt, and not just the feelings of those in opposition or partial opposition to the resolution.

At the time I was thinking, "Shouldn't we, the UCC of all churches, be able to trust each other to stand up for the rights and interests of all?" In other words, "Why can't we all just get along!?"

Unfortunately, there followed a conversation for me with another young person who's language and attitude displayed a clear lack of understanding, or even respect, of the grievances brought forth by the opposition, who were mainly People of Color. We have a long way to go in our search for true social justice and the end of racism, but I believe that if we keep our hearts on Jesus and our minds on Justice, we will some day reach a place of peace.

If you want the full story and to make your own opinions, which I encourage, go to ucc.org. (note: I'm actually posting this link even though the Monday video is not up yet. I'm guessing whoever you are that you aren't desperate to watch it on Tuesday at 10:30pm!)

You can also find all sorts of great videos on the website, including the Wrap up presentation.

This truly was such a transformative experience for me, and I hope that whoever you, and why-ever you may be reading this blog, that you get to participate in something as spiritually fulfilling for you someday.

Thank you for sticking with me. May God bless you and keep you in the palm of Her hand

And remember - "Never place a period where God has placed a comma"

Goodbye Grand Rapids!

Words can hardly express...

I'm at the airport now, waiting for my flight home (by way of Milwaukee). I had to leave the plenary early, which was too bad, but I only missed one and a half resolutions and one was recommended no action by the committee who looked at it. The other was an important one, in my opinion, about encouraging diversity training in public schools. There was some opposition from those that wanted the LGBT concerns kept out. After some discussion, the vote was called, which meant we had to vote on whether the discussion should continue or not.

That vote was close, so close that they had to do an actual count of yea vs. nay. I had time to vote on that, but then we had to leave, so I didn't get to vote on the actual resolution :(

But, I asked my friend Nick to text me when the vote was taken, and about halfway to the airport I got a text saying, "Vote passed." Yay!

As my fellow delegate and cab sharer and I were discussing, I shared my feeling that I can't wait for Tampa in 2011. Even though I fell into the groove by the end of the first night - making friends, finding my way around, and meeting up with fellow MN delegates - it will be nice to have a better idea of what to expect coming in so I am free to fully enjoy myself!

So many good memories, but here are a few to leave you with:

  • Karaoke on the last night with a bunch of UCC YA's - including a stirring rendition of Joy To The World!
  • "Carbon Neutral is death" - MN Delegate and Scientist, Phil
  • Karen S-S's way of expressing confusion and frustration at the same time
  • Al T's smile and humor
  • My awesome roommate Jennifer and our illuminating talks - it was a blessing to have a roommate who was willing to put up with my late nights, blogging and mess!
  • Abby and Jake - both with their inspirational personalities
  • My new MN Conf. friends Nick, David and James
Yikes! I have so much more, but my flight is boarding! I'll try to edit this later, or at least post more!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Some Videos from Plenary

Sunday Morning

I just realized that I never told you about the Sacred Conversations on Race or the rest of what I did on Sunday before the meeting!

Sacred Conversations on Race was an opportunity for us to go to various workshops such as Race and Daily Life, Race and Immigration, and Race and The New Generation.

I went to Race and LGBT, where we heard from a gay Episcopal minister who works at PSR (sorry, his name is escaping me). He spoke about a lot of the ways in which race, religion and sexual orientation intersect. After his lecture we had Q & A and then split up. First we split in to groups of 2

side note: the woman I sat with, totally by chance, is the successor to my current Pastor at a church in California! General Synod has been filled with these kinds of connections.

After the groups of 2, we moved to groups of 4 and then 6-8. In the groups we discussed why we had chosen to come to this Conversation and what reached out to us from the lecture and Q & A.

It was so wonderful to have this open, loving, safe space to talk about our fears and confusion surrounding the homophobia in communities of People of Color, and the racism in LGBT communities. I feel like this is one of the greatest gifts I will bring home with me, and hope that the resolution for Sacred Conversation's on Race is passed so more people within our denomination will have a chance to experience this transformative dialog.

After lunch with a new friend at a great Asian Restaurant (just finished my Tempura for lunch today), I met up with a family I met at a music festival two years ago and who I haven't seen since then! They are from Kalamazoo and were there as visitors. It was fun to see them, ad hear about their congregation, which had as many parallels as differences to my own local church.

Woke Up This Morning...

Good afternoon from beautiful Grand Rapids Michigan!

Today we had a breakfast caucus for the Minnesota delegates, where we all shared our committee experiences. It was a blessing to hear that so many of us had swift deliberations and would have the morning free today.

Also a blessing to find out which of our delegates were on the Single Governance resolution. This is a resolution about restructuring the governance at the National Setting of the UCC, and there is a lot of controversy surrounding the decision. I am happy to report that our two delegates are two women whom I have come to know over the weekend as very intelligent, thoughtful and strong women, and I am so lad they are representing us on this committee. I know they are opening their hearts and minds to all the ways that God is moving through us during this process.

I was also able to meet Wade Zick (sp? sorry), our conference's Youth and Young Adult Ministries guy. He spoke with us about what the youth had been doing at Synod, which includes a lot of service projects along with some concerts, and -- my favorite -- a "Theological viewing of Transformers"!! (I definitely would have rather been there then in plenary!)

After our meeting those of us who still had resolutions to work on went to those meetings. For my roommate Jennifer and I, the free time allowed us to work on our sermon and sleep, respectively! In fact, I just woke up not long ago!

This afternoon we have more plenary, including the Block A and B reports, which I think may include my committee's resolutions!

Tonight we have another plenary after dinner. Then it's time to Party in Karen Smith- Sellers room! ... until 11 when the neighbors have us kicked out. Then it's on to Rumors for Karaoke in honor of my new friend Jake's 21st birthday!

Glad I got some sleep...

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Well, I had a very productive night; our group decided to go ahead with both our resolutions, releasing us from a meeting tomorrow!

We had a little difficulty moving past semantics, but as the daughter of an English major, I understand the importance of words.

Unfortunately, I still have a 6:30am caucus with the other Minnesota Delegates, so no sleeping in for me...but possibly a nap :)

I have heard from people on the Eugenics, NAFTA and Constitutional Changes committees, and they were all able to adjourn as well! Of course, all of us were and are praying for Group 6 - the Single Governance Group - that they may have open hearts and minds, knowing that we are all sisters and brothers in the body of Christ - and I hope you will pray for them as well.

The Single Governance Issue is the BIG issue this Synod. I think this provides us with the opportunity to encourage our congregations to become more involved in, and more aware of, UCC polity, and my hope is that no matter what the outcome this week, it will at least enlighten us all on the way our denomination is run.

Possible blog in the morning after caucus, so stay tuned; it's not like I'll have anything else to do!

Resolution Time!

Well, it's the beginning of my first Resolution meeting, so of course I know what committee I'm on!

The resolutions I'll be working on are the Economic Justice Covenant and the Call to be A Global Mission Church resolutions...

you can check them out on ucc.org - go to Synod and the Synod business if you want to know what it's all about.

Gotta go! Meeting in session!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

New Friends and Another Late Night

Good Morning! I'm just heading to bed, and in a very good mood!

For River City Saturday I attended a bible study on Acts 9: 9 - 19. I had been going back and forth between what to do during that time, and I feel like God called me to be there. I felt the Spirit move, and was transformed by the idea of God saying to each of us, "But, go,"

That's - BUT comma GO comma

When God calls us to be her instruments, it can be so easy to make up excuses - I'm busy. I'm lazy. I'm not good enough. I'm gay. I'm transgender. I'm differently abled. I'm oppressed. People don't listen to me.

And God says, "But, go,"

After that I attended the screening of a short documentary called What Makes Me White? This was also very encouraging and helpful - to feel as though a door was being opened for white people like myself to really get angry at how racism, others and our own, has shaped us and our society; to recognize that racism is a white issue, and that we need to take on dismantling it in an active way.

This was also fun because I met a few people from the Maine Conference - my parents conference - and had a talk with them about the current affairs there, as well as some of the history of race and economics there. Very interesting.

For dinner I met up with some Young Adults. Following dinner I was either a very good Synod attendee, or a very bad one.

I skipped the Celebration for the former President, Rev. John Thomas, and went for dessert and drinks and exploring Grand Rapids with a few of the other Young Adults.

I'm gonna go with this having been a good plan. I made some great new friends with whom I have a lot in common even outside church affairs, which seems to be a rarity for me. And a lot of people told me how important making new friends here was, so that's what I did!

We also came across the "Best GLBT Bar in Western MI", had some drinks and discovered they have karaoke on Monday night, which is coincidentally my new friend Jake's (future seminarian and Grenell student) 21st birthday! How exciting to meet a new friend and immediately get to celebrate a milestone with him, doing one of my favorite things!

Well, that about brings you up to speed. Unfortunately I still don't know what resolution I'll be working on, but I should know in the morning.

And speaking of Sunday morning, I will be attending some of the Sacred Conversations on Race first thing, but I will be skipping out early to attend the service at First (Park) Congregational UCC - because, although interesting, the Praise Music filled services have not quite been nourishing my Pilgrim/Lutheran roots!

See you in cyber land tomorrow, when I promise I'll get back to Synod business... because I don't really have a choice!

From the UCC Website...

Quick Link:

God's Rules of Punctuation - from the Worship Friday night.

River City Saturday, Part 1

Just had a lovely speech from Eugene Robinson - journalist, author, pulitzer prize winner - following our Worship. He spoke on Black Identity in America, which is the subject of the book he is currently writing.

I found the speech interesting after our talk this morning with Yvette Flounder, who is self-described as being on the edge of multiple minority groups. Mr. Robinson was saying that, although, blessedly, the gap between white americans and black americans has narrowed, the gap within the black community between the haves and the have-nots has widened.

We are asked this Synod to think a lot about representation and trusting those who are asked to speak on our behalf, even if they themselves are not strict representatives of our demographic(s). I thought of this when Mr. Robinson spoke about the unknowing assumptions that were made regarding supreme court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor's past comments on race and the law.

He said that the conscious assumption is that there is a screen she, and other marginalized people, have to look through, and that it clouds their judgement; the unconscious assumption is that some people *cough straight white men cough* don't have a screen, and therefore have unclouded judgement.

I think you can see the problem there without my spelling it out.

So, some interesting stuff to think about!

We have the fun of River City Saturday now, but I am taking a little break before getting into that to take a nap, so that I'm ready to face the interesting workshops of the afternoon. I'm thinking.. Jim Wallis and the West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus, for now, and maybe some more in between!

Spirit's Calling My Name

written at 8:39am

This morning my roommate, Jennifer (not upset by the late night blogging, btw), and I were woken by the hotel alarm - not set by either of us - 2 minutes before our own alarms went off (creepy, no?). We had to be at a breakfast caucus at 6:30am! It was a good breakfast (thanks to the Amway Grand!) and a very informative meeting! Yvette Flounder from San Francisco came to speak with us about the Single Governance resolutions; the big talk of the synod.

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Single Governance:

  1. currently 88 members of executive council
  2. pros of current model: LOTS of representation - the current model tries to include representatives from as many minority groups as possible
  3. cons of current model: too many cooks, not enough communication/trust/covenant between the different boards (4 separately incorporated ministries; Justice and Witness, Wider Church Ministries, Local Church ministries, Office of General Ministries)

  • We got friendship bracelets in still speaking colors made for us by delegate Lisa Lindesmith, so we can more easily recognize each other
  • Meeting tonight after worship for "provisions" in Karen S-S's room! As Grand Rapids told its businesses in a memo, "The UCC is not opposed to alcohol." In other words, stock up!

Today we have River City Saturday - a day of workshops, entertainment and fellowship. I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet, though I'm afraid I'll need to skip some things to take a nap! This morning we are Worshiping again in the Plenary hall with the Coalition Choir (among others) providing music. So far so good! I better get to it - I need some church this morning! Can I get an Amen?!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Late Night, Good Night

watch this:

We got to see him preach tonight at the opening Worship:

it, was, amazing,

No periods in this post - the sermon was on how only God has the right/ability to use a period - but also basically that God really prefers ? - : - ; - and ,

And next time someone trys to place a period on your life, you should say, "comma"

OK, the worship ran late, and then I went to the Young Adult Reception (super fun!) but now I'm wiped out and possibly making my roommate mad, so I'm going to place an ! on tonight and see you in the morning


People of Color + People Under 30 = Vital Churches = Multiplication! (wait, what?)

Whew! I can't believe I've only been in Grand Rapids for a little over 5 hours!

Being a first time delegate is not easy, let me tell you! There's been a lot of uncertainty for me in the last few hours; trying to figure out where I'm going, who I'm supposed to talk to, where to sit! oy!

Still, it's been exhilarating, and the first Plenary session reminded me why I agreed to do this in the first place - seeing all these UCCer's in one place, coming together to work towards a common goal of creating a denomination, and, thereby, a world, we can be proud of. Enough to bring tears to my eyes.

And it did. A few times.

Okay, I was gonna tell you about all the (boring) business talk that went on... but I have to tell you about my favorite part so far!

One of the newer traditions at Synod is to recognize all the new church starts that we've had since the last Synod (they happen every two years, in case you were wondering). This time around there were 70 churches to celebrate!

70! Woohoo! Seeing all the people parading up to the stage, carrying signs with their new church's name; the excitement of the processors and the crowd; the corny music - it all came together, and I definitely welled up a few times.

There was even a big bunny! The bunny was there to illustrate the way churches can multiply. We learned that:

Vital Churches Multiply!

Some of the other things we heard about:

  • Credentials Committee encourages Conferences and local churches to increase the Under 30s membership, as well as the membership of People of Color - this was approved - duh!
  • Nominations
  • No more printed UCC news after September - online and a twice-yearly magazine instead!
  • Speech from the nominee for Officer of the United Church of Christ and Executive Minister of Local Church Ministries - this was very inspiring, and made me want to go home and reach out right NOW!

Well, that's about it for now. Wait, there was one more thing...

Oh yeah! I found out where we'll be for GS28 - Tampa, FL! I'm excited because I don't think I would ever take time to go to Florida otherwise ;)

I'll try and get something in tonight after the Plenary/Worship and Young Adult Reception, so check back in the morning!

p.s. We had some good music, too! Of course, I don't have my camera with me, so this video from last Synod will have to do ya!

On My Way to be Immersed!

Welcome to General Synod from a blogger's point of view!

My name is Elinor, and I am serving as a delegate from the Minnesota Conference of the UCC to General Synod - 27. I will be doing some semi-live blogging from Grand Rapids, MI. It's my first time at Synod, so look here for news on official business, stories of navigating a new city, and (hopefully) some updates on the fun stuff, too!

Right now I'm in the Milwaukee airport, waiting for my flight to GR. During my layover I've been looking over the Resolutions and Bylaws changes that have been proposed, and I have to say - I'm starting to get excited! Aren't you?!

Right now I am most hyped about the proposed amendments to the bylaws:

From the delegate materials at ucc.org:

"Authorized Ministers of the United Church of Christ—ordained, commissioned,

licensed—are all to be regarded by the Church with mutual respect and care as

they serve on behalf of the whole Church."

Hmm, so far, it sounds good to me. What do you think?

One outcome of this change would be a change in our terminology; instead of calling someone a "Student in Care," they would be referred to as a "Member in Discernment." I like this terminology, because it reflects the fact that not all those who are called to ministry are necessarily called to Divinity School at the same time :)

So, that's all for now. I think I'll go find some grub and then take a nap - hoping to meet up with other Young Adults after the worship tonight, so I better be rested!

See you in Cyberspace! Leave a comment!

UPDATE: This was the first chance I've had to get online, so I've actually arrived and survived the first Plenary Session! Check back soon for a report!