I just realized something, I posted my Synod experiences on the wrong blog. As some of you know, I have two of them: my personal and slightly more political (and often too blunt for church) and the church blog that I maintain to keep you informed about life in our congregation and sometimes put fun and interesting things on it.
So, to help rectify my solution without giving you a link to my other blog, I am going to post what I wrote over there here.
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This year was the first time that I have ever attended the bi-annual meeting of my denomination. Called Synod, it meets in various cities across America. This year it met in Hartford, CT for an entire week (and actually it is still going on now). Most folks who aren't delegates go Friday through Sunday, whereas delegates stay from Thursday until the following Tuesday.
At this gathering, a few of us from the church (John Pontician, Jean Sacking, and myself) were fortunate to hear Bill Moyers give the opening address as 13,000+ attendees met in Hartford's Civic Center. It was the largest such gathering of Synod, probably because it was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the denomination, it met on the east coast where the majority of UCC churches are, and perhaps because Barack Obama, a UCCer himself was to speak (and did).
I loved Bill Moyers speech about faith and values and the need to not let others define who we are. I also enjoyed his wit and intellectualism. I also got to hear Walter Brueggemann the following day as he spoke about our history and the struggle within the denomination between the liberals and conservsatives (yes, the UCC has its own conservatives). Brueggemann sought to bring balance to both sides of the issue by encouraging a more open dialog. Being a retired professor of Old Testament and the writer of perhaps the most widely used OT history book in seminaries, his wisdom and patience was evident to those of us who are perhaps a bit nervous and definitely not patient.
I heard Barack Obama speak and enjoyed his testimony and declaration of faith. Having met Jesus through the UCC's Trinity Church in Chicago, his speech drew much applause as well as an edification of our collective faith. I was (and remain) a bit skeptical to have a Presidential candidate candidating at a denominational gathering; but most folks present felt his speech was worthwhile given the current President's use of his faith in office. Obama presented an alternative interpretation to Jesus' Good News. He also critiqued some evangelical zeal that puts a questionable emphasis on how some political folks interpret what they think Jesus felt was important.
You can go here to read his speech.
You can go here to watch Obama's campaigning speech as well as Moyer's speech.
Personally I would rather have heard from more speakers of faith rather than a candidating presidential nominee; not because I don't like him (because I do like Obama, even if he's a little unpolished). A gathering of faithful men and women should encourage deep commitment in one's faith journey and not be a part of someone else's White House bid. I say this even though I find Obama's faith (or at least the one he presents to us, with politicians, one never knows if they really believe what they say, right?). Interestingly Jeremiah Wright, the pastor at Trinity UCC, introduced Obama via a taped introduction. Surely that adds to Obama's support, but I am still uncertain if giving him a political platform at our bi-annual meeting was appropriate.
What I very much enjoyed about my first Synod experience was all the friends I ran into and the new ones that I made. Practically every UCC minister I knew was there. I met former seminary classmates there. And, I ran into many folks from my previous pastorate including the new pastor (who is also a friend of mine).
Oh, and one more thing I enjoyed was the 14,000 dozen cookies that were baked and given out at the gathering. Yes, you read that right: 14,000 dozen cookies. Is that incredible or what?! And they were available all throughout the event, passed around during the events and speeches. I hope they will always do that. To help illustrate how much I love cookies, in the foyer of my living room I have a sign that reads, "Life's Short, Eat Cookies."