Friday, July 29, 2011

Salvation Comes in Many Forms

There was a very heartwarming story on CBS News this week.  It is about a group called Pets to Vets that was begun by a soldier who had returned from service in the Middle East.  He was suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was contemplating suicide when his little dog came up and licked him on the ear and prevented him from killing himself.  This man was so moved by the experience that he began this organization, Pets to Vets, to match dogs and cats that are bound for euthanization with veterans of war who need a friend.  The organization has saved the lives of many animals and have most probably saved the lives of many people who have received those animals and friends and companions.  This group works with a shelter in the Washington, DC area to help with these matches. 

Salvation---it is a truly religious word, one that those of us in religious circles throw around freely and about which we theologize to no end.  It often has a futuristic meaning attached to the final end of humans.  It sometimes is couched in questions that some ask others such as, "Have you been saved?" or "Do you know if you are saved?"  The meaning of salvation is very personal and real, though.  It often means more to someone to be saved in today's world than to wait for some cosmic event or final destination to bring salvation to one's life.  The act of an animal that loves a master to come to the rescue of one determined to end his life is salvation that is cosmic in itself.  It stops the world in its tracks and brings about life in the face of death. 

Salvation comes to people who are so far down in life's quagmire that they think they can never see the top again.  It comes about as someone, anyone, cares enough to speak words of comfort or kindness and not judge another by the circumstances that may surround one.  When someone is about to have their home repossessed, they do not need a sermon about better financial decisions at that moment.  They need an answer that will prevent them from sleeping on the streets.  When someone is friendless and emotionally bankrupt, they do not need a lecture about the social ladder and how one may fit in better right then.  They need someone to give them a hug and speak words of encouragement to them that will assure them that better days are coming.

Salvation comes about because of human beings who care for one another.  We ARE the only hands and legs that God has to use, as one ancient says reminds us.  We were placed on this planet to care for one another and to assist one another on the journey of life.  God is powerful and possesses all the omni-words that we use to describe God but God needs our assistance to make God's presence real in the world. 

There is a story about one who makes it to the life beyond this one and is given a tour of both the places of doom and salvation where some envision persons inhabiting beyond this life.  First, the person is led to the place of eternal doom.  There is a great banquet table set up with abundant portions of every imaginable good food.  All the people there are sitting at the great table and are invited to eat whatever food they wish.  Their forks, though, are five feet long and as they attempt to feed themselves, food is splashed all over and no one gets any food in their mouths.  All are starving despite the abundance around them.  Then, the person is led to the place of blessedness.  There again is a great banquet table set up with abundant portions of every imaginable good food.  All the people are sitting at the great table and are invited to eat whatever food they wish.  They forks are also five feet long but they are eating and smiling and enjoying the delicious food because they are feeding one another with the long forks. 

We save one another when we come to the rescue of others who need our help.  We become the savior just as we need others to save us in our hour of need.  We cannot exist on our own alone because we were not intended to be creatures living in isolation.  We were intended to be communal, living alongside others and finding harmony through our interconnections.  Thank God for friends and neighbors who help one another.  Thank God for people who see a need and feel compelled to be of help.  Thank God for animals that speak to our spirits and our needs even as we provide for theirs.  Thank God for individuals who determine that their plight may be the plight of others and who organize so that others can find salvation too even as they did.  Thank God for God, the source of our strength, who guides us on our journey and who provides companionship so that the journey will not be a lonely one. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Crazy or What?

Are there many more crazy people in the world now or do they just get more attention?  When they do something totally insane, do people in the news just make it more well known or are there really more crazy people running around doing crazy things?  I begin to wonder about this each time some crazy person commits a new insane crazy violent act such as happened in Norway last weekend.  Norway seems like the last place on earth where a man with a gun would murder nearly 100 people at one time.  Norway has always seemed like this idealic, bucolic setting with vast fjords and wide expanses of fields and peace loving people who just wanted everyone to get along.  Then, the mold is broken when one crazy guy takes a gun and begins to shoot people just because he thinks they need to be shot.  I thought crazy stuff like this only happens in America where everyone has a gun in his or her backpack, suitcase, purse, or pocket.  We are the ones with the handguns everywhere and the Europeans are the ones who do not have them in the same proportion that we do. 

Each time I cross the Canadian border, I always figure that I will get the going over because I am a Texan.  I figure the Canadian authorities figure that Texans cannot go anywhere without a gun and if a Texan claims to not own a gun then said Texan must be lying.  (They must have read the story that Rick Perry jogs with a gun strapped to himself so he can pick off coyotes along the way.)  We crossed the border to enter Alberta a decade or two ago while on a camping trip and the friendly border guard took a look at my Texas plates and then asked me 3 times if I had a gun.  When I said I did not and then declared to him that I did not even own a gun (a bad move on my part) he and his associates searched our van thoroughly taking all the dirty clothes out of the laundry basket (we were camping after all) and finally gave up and let us pass.  I never tell crossing guards that I do not own a gun.  I just tell them I left it at home.  It makes the crossing much easier.

Guns don't kill people.  Crazy people kill people.  At least that is the line I have heard in recent years when gun control is being considered.  I guess they are right who say that.  A gun just does not pick itself up and shoot someone.  Some crazy person must be behind it so that it will work.  This time a crazy man used a gun so many times that a massacre resulted from his actions.  Perhaps nothing could have been done to stop the actions of this insane person who wore a police uniform while he did his killing.  At least the Norwegian authorities forbade his request to allow cameras in the courtroom while he was being interviewed.  They plan to keep him in solitary confinement for four weeks.  Maybe by then he will be so glad to see a human he will want to talk privately to someone about how he got so crazy. 

I mourn for those who died in Norway and for their families who have lost loved ones because of one person's insanity.  I mourn for the peaceful people in a beautiful country who now have lost a bit of security that they thought they had.  I mourn for the parents of that crazy young man who committed the murders and now are plagued by what their son did to innocent people.  I mourn for us all around the world because now we have one more senseless tragedy to have to file away in our memory banks to go along with all the others.  I mourn the loss of the time when we had so much to worry about and life seemed so much more simple.  My mourning is so much more simple than is that of those poor people in Norway.  My mourning will end soon with something else to catch my attention.  Theirs will never end. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sleepless Nights

July 19, 2011...3:26 a.m.....awake, have been for over an hour.  Sneezing woke me up, then the dogs began to scratch around and make noises, soon they wanted to go outside.  I let them out and then back in and thought I would go back to sleep but no, one of them was hungry and barked and soon they were eating while I was coming alive in my head.  The stream of consciousness emerged and the songs began playing in my head and now guess who is sitting up drinking coffee and writing this blog. 

I used to get irritated if I had a sleepless night now and then.  I thought eight hours of sleep was required and I tried my best to get that amount each night.  Now, sleepless nights do not bother me as much as they once did.  Time is time and if I have time awake when I should be asleep I figure I will make up for it later, with an afternoon nap perhaps once I get back home from work.

Maybe sleepless nights are a gift, a divine interruption to make us reflect at a time when we should be snoozing.  I don't blame God for waking me up.  I blame sneezing and dogs and having a psyche that becomes alert once I have reached a certain stage in the sleep/awake pattern.  Others hear voices while I hear songs in my head, not hymns most of the time, but sometimes silly songs or the pop hits of the 60s, my own private jukebox singing to me.  I don't know if others have songs in their heads as I do but the songs seem to play at the most inopportune times and often will not stop until I am able to change the dial to something else, maybe the talk radio of my head instead.  That is almost as bad as songs because I begin to think about the news of the day or politics or something equally distasteful. 

So, here we are at 3:34 am now.  Part of me says to try to make an effort to go back to sleep but part of me is wired (two cups of coffee has helped to contribute to that too).  I can hear the sounds of the freeway even though it is a mile away.  I can hear the occasional train that comes through and insists on blowing its whistle at this hour of the night even though our town of 2000 most likely has no one on the streets except for police officers watching over us.  I can hear the refrigerator humming and the ceiling fan turning.  All that white noise is rather peaceful (except for the train whistle which jars me each time it passes).

So, what do you do with a sleepless night?  Do you give yourself to the monotony of night time infomercials in the vast wasteland of television?  Do you find a book to read and hope it will lull you back to sleep?  Do you get on your computer and surf around, looking for anything to make you feel useful?  Perhaps this sleepless night is what I need to teach me something I need to learn.  I may not be sleeping but a part of me is content with what is.  Maybe I need to learn to be satisfied in whatever state I find myself...even a sleepy one dulled by life and songs in one's head. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Long Lost Love

I am currently preaching a seven sermon series from the book of Revelation from the Bible.  I decided to do that this summer because several people had been asking me questions about things in regard to the world and the future and we had gotten involved in conversations that brought the book of Revelation into the conversation.  That nutty preacher from California who predicted the world would end on May 21 helped to launch some of these conversations.  So, I have completed two of the seven, perhaps the two easiest ones to preach as they were somewhat introductory to the book. 

Last week's sermon was called "Long Lost Love" and it was from Revelation 2-3, the messages to the churches.  Each of the seven churches has a message given to it by the Risen Christ concerning what was happening in their congregation in the first century.  I mainly concentrated on the message to the church at Ephesus in which Christ told them that they had lost their "first love".  This had to do with a church where people were very excited at the beginning of the church's history and ministry but over the years they had lost their enthusiasm for the church.  It also had to do with people who experienced that same phenomenon in their lives, excited about a venture or organization at one time but the enthusiasm had waned. 

I told the congregation about my involvement with our local gym.  When we first moved here, I found out that there was a gym and decided to get involved and improve my physical state.  So, I went to the gym religiously, several times a week at many times of day and used the weights so that I saw a lot of improvement and began to take pride in my physical appearance.  One day, though, when I was trying to bench press a weight that was a bit too heavy for me, I hurt my left shoulder and had to see a doctor about the injury.  He ordered physical therapy and told me to lay off the exercise for a while.  So, I stopped going to the gym and began walking for exercise instead.  The injury took about six months to heal and by then I was out of the habit of going to the gym.  Instead, my walking replaced my gym activity.  Walking is good exercise but it does not give you muscles. 

The analogy I made has to do with people who at one time in their lives were very active members of a church but today rarely if ever go inside a church.  They may have been hurt by something that happened there or they may have just gotten out of the habit of going and now they rarely think about going.  The Risen Christ told the church at Ephesus--"Remember, Repent, and do the things you once did."  In other words, you can begin again.  You can go back to the place where you once found joy and enthusiasm and start over.  Christ will accept you and the church will also. 

Losing one's first love can happen in any area of life.  We can forget about friends we once had.  We can not get any satisfaction out of our job.  We can begin to dislike the house we live in or the city in which we live.  Reclaiming that lost love involves trying to see the good things in those parts of life and making an effort to be involved in bringing about the feelings we once had that we considered to be good and worthwhile.  We often had to make an effort, though, to bring this about. 

On one particular episode of a popular television program, one person asked the other why she attended church when he did not.  The woman told the man that she felt good about the person that she becomes after she has been to church, that being with the family of God had a positive effect on her.  Whether one believes everything that is said or done in church is not necessarily important.  Being with God's family and sharing in the joy and labor of the journey together is the most important part of Christian Community.  We are the Church.  God has no hands or feet to use except for ours.  We are needed by Christ to carry out the mission and ministry of the Church in the world.  Perhaps that is why the Risen Christ urged the church at Ephesus to remember and repent and do the things again they once had done. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We Are Who We Are

I was doing a lot of reflection this morning about life and why life is like it is.  There are times when I start thinking about life and why I am the way I am and why I am not like other people are.  I wish I could be like others, at times, and have their interests and get excited about things they are excited about but if I am honest I have to say that their excitement about their interests really do not excite me at all.

Take sports, for instance.  There are people who live and breathe sports all the time.  They watch sports on the local news.  They cheer for their team, maybe even dressing up in the sports paraphenalia they have purchased exactly for that purpose.  They know the players and the teams and when they play and who has played well and who plays badly and they are into their sport of choice completely. 

When it comes to sports, I am more like the character on a British television show called "The IT Crowd" that our daughter and son-in-law introduced us to.  The program has three main characters, all of whom work together in the Internet Technology department of a large company in London.  The two male characters are both "nerds" as stereotyped, guys who live and breathe technology, who can take apart a computer and put it back together in seconds, who live in that world so much that they have trouble relating to the "normal" world of others.  In one episode, they go to a soccer game (they call it football but we really know what it is).  One guy wants to fit in while at the game and is trying to act like the others around him but the other guy cannot relate to it at all.  He says things like, "Oh good, now they will run down the other way and throw the ball.  I thought so, now here they come back again."  His chatter makes the others around him get annoyed as does his friend who brought him.  The game is not comprehensible to him because he cannot just accept it as something to enjoy but has to try to figure it out.  He does not see the purpose in it.

When other men are talking about sports, I stand there mute with nothing to say because I often do not see the purpose in it.  I did not learn to simply enjoy it because I had no one to teach me to do so.  My father was not a huge sports fan.  He liked to watch baseball now and then but usually fell asleep in his recliner and woke up wanting to know what the score was from a  household of people here and there not paying attention to the game.  He did not go to local sports games and did not encourage his children to be involved in them.  He did not take part in any activities in our local community, to be honest.  Our family simply lived where we did but, outside of our church, we were not active members of our community. 

I sometimes wish I did like sports and talking about the things that other guys talk about.  It would give me something to say when I am in groups where men are dominant.  I usually just wait for the subject to change to the weather or movies or something else that I can make a comment on.  I am who I am because many things shaped me into being who I am and I had to learn to accept that about myself years ago.  I am not anyone else and perhaps that is a lesson all of us have to learn sometimes in life.  We have to find contentment in being who we are and being thankful that we are gifted in the areas in which we have gifts.  I may not be the average guy who lives in my community or state but I do fit in somewhere when I am with others who can relate to who I am. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Long Hot Summer

I am definitely a cool weather person.  I rarely complain about cold weather.  It has to be down to the 20s or lower for me to complain that it is really cold.  The 30s don't seem to bother me much.  I can put on extra clothes and a coat and feel fine.  I seem to be able to adapt to cold weather much more readily than hot weather.  I even have a collection of sweaters that I enjoy wearing and I rarely get to wear them in this climate. 

I hate it when we have an extended heat spell as we are having now.  I watch the weather on television and see the streak of 100+ days forecasted and I moan aloud, thinking about how hot it will be and how we cannot seem to get out of this spell.  I long for a rainy day, one of those old fashioned rainy days when it would rain all day long, a long steady slow rain with clouds in the sky the entire day.  I long for a rainy cool day, one that would be great for staying inside and watching it rain and maybe making some chili or stew or soup.  I like that kind of day and we have one now and then in the winter but rarely in the summer.

There have been times in my life when I longed for sunshine.  I cannot recall that many, having lived in Texas just about all my life and our sunny hot days outnumber our cloudy cold days by many times over.  There was a time period back in the 1970s when I was a school teacher and we lived in the Houston area.  The clouds covered us for about two weeks and finally when the sun broke through people literally went outdoors and cheered.  I guess a long period of cloudiness would have that effect on us just as these cloudless hot days make us long for a break in the heat. 

I know many sayings and scriptures that make comment on such times in life.  Some say to be content with whatever state in life you may find yourself.  Others say that there are seasons to life and life will be like this.  Some say to give thanks in all things.  So, I should be able to just say this is the way it should be and be content with the present situation but a part of me wants to have it otherwise.  I am happy we have the modern invention of air conditioning to make the heat more tolerable because I know people who do not have it in their homes and their lives are fairly miserable for our long, hot summers.  I know people who live in other parts of the country where air conditioning is not the norm in their homes because they usually do not need it but then a heat streak hits them and they must suffer through it without the aid of this modern wonder of life. 

It has been hot in years past.  There are historical records to prove that.  It just seems like this summer started earlier and will not let go.  Who knows hot long it will hang on, especially when our norm in hot weather is for July and August to be our hottest months--so we still have a long way to go until the autumn winds begin to blow.  We humans tend to want things to be our way.  We want it to be our way now.  We want things to be comfortable and we want to be content always.  Perhaps life is not intended to be that way.  Maybe we are supposed to have things not be our way sometimes so that we can appreciate all the times when they do go our way.  Maybe we experience life as it is and when the bumps in the road come along then we learn patience and endurance in the face of the trials. 

I will continue to prefer cooler weather.  That is just the way I am wired.  I have heard that there actually exists people who like hot weather.  I am glad that they are getting their share of their kind of weather.  Maybe one day the tables will turn and all of us cold weather folks will have it our way again.  Until then, I will try to hibernate in air conditioned places when I can and not complain too loudly when I am out in the hot Texas heat.  Enjoy every day to its fullest because every day is a gift. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

General Synod 28--Final Reflections

Another General Synod of the United Church of Christ has come and gone.  I was privileged to be a delegate to this Synod representing the South Central Conference of the UCC, one of 12 elected by our Conference to represent them.  We had a variety of experiences that included worship and learning and being challenged by new ideas and voting on issues that concerns us as a church and as individuals, issues that are important to many.  The UCC has a history of standing up for justice issues that affect persons who cannot speak for themselves.  The UCC also has a history of standing up for what we as a church think is the right thing to do based upon the continuing testament of the Holy Scriptures and the voice of God we hear speaking in our day. 

We passed many of the resolutions brought before Synod.  One of them was countering the hostility that we perceive in the world that is being directed at followers of Islam.  We passed a resolution that said that we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the faith called Islam and will work for peace and harmony as we and they attempt to foster understanding with others.  We also passed a resolution standing up for those who are being tortured and abused around the world because of their sexual orientation.  Three young people from other countries who have fled to the US were at Synod and testified that they had been victims of harrassment and torture in their home countries because of their sexual orientation and had fled to the US to find safety.  They are being housed and assisted by a UCC church in Worcester, MA.  We also passed a resolution with no dissent in favor of all persons being considered to be adoptive parents without regard to the sexual orientation of a person.  When we looked at the hard statistics that there are almost a half million children in the US in the foster care program needing parents but only about 100,000 couples yearly who adopt, and that many persons are denied becoming adoptive parents based upon their sexual orientation, then we had to stand up for the right for children to have loving parents and for persons who want to be parents to have the chance to qualify. 

The United Church of Christ is a compassionate, caring church and we attempt to extend God's love to all in our world who need to hear the voice of mercy.  We want to be the church where all are welcomed regardless of who they are and where they are on life's journey.  I am thankful that I am part of a church such as this one that strives to be inclusive of all and to speak on behalf of those who have no voice. 

In some ways, one wonders if simply passing resolutions in a church gathering will have any effect upon the world.  Perhaps some of them will simply be recorded for history's sake but there is hope that when a group of people find a common goal and something that unites them, then perhaps this may be a step toward making the world a better place for all. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

General Synod 28--Post Five

Do human agendas or aspirations ever get in the way of something much bigger than ourselves?  Of course, they do.  That is obvious even among church people.  The issue that took up the most time and energy at Synod yesterday had nothing to do with social issues or anything we consider to be "hot button topics".  Instead, it was about the issue of restructuring the church so that we can work more efficiently.  The topic was officially called "Unified Governance" but what it means is that now we will have just one board to work through and with instead of three boards.  The one board will be composed of 52 members instead of three boards with about 70 members each so we are downsizing to 52 instead of over 200.  That will save the denomination a lot of  money that is spent for meeting costs and it will allow us to work in a much more efficient manner. 

You would think that everyone would be in favor of saving money and being more efficient, but some people chose to make the process of approving this measure a long drawn out affair because they wanted to push their agenda instead of letting the process work and then try to fine tune any issues that may arise.  One gentleman took the microphone six times to try to change what had been produced by a committee over a two year time period and each time he would be ruled out of order by the chairperson and he would challenge her ruling and we would have to take time to vote to either affirm her ruling or throw it out.  The delegates affirmed her ruling overwhelmingly each time but it took much more time than was needed to hash out this issue because of his selfish motivations.  This man represented a certain group and his complaint had to do with the possibility that his group may not be as represented in the new set up as he would like.  In the end, the new proposal to downsize passed overwhelmingly and we moved on to new business but it took about 3 hours to do this instead of one hour or less. 

Even at a meeting of people who belong to the same church family, we can allow our personal motivations to get in the way.  I suppose that is true in every area of life.  We can either think about what is best for the larger group or insist on having our own way.  I could get very theological on this problem and quote I Corinthians 13--the love chapter--with the verse "Love does not insist on its own way" but suffice it to say that often we need to allow the larger work to happen instead of our own.  When churches or groups of many kinds allow the larger goals to be achieved it often brings about success for all.  Our own way may not be the best for all and often we need to hear other voices so that the will of what is best for all can be done. 

Today, we consider other issues to be brought before the Synod.  I pray for unity and peace to reign among us so that we may consider them without getting stuck in the quagmire of selfish ambition.  The mood overall has been very tranquil and harmonious but sometimes small interludes of confusion colors our view.  May God's peace reign in our hearts and lives wherever we may be today. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

General Synod 28--Post Four

Independence Day, July 4, 2011--a working day at General Synod.  Today we began voting on the resolutions before General Synod.  There are 13 of them.  We voted this morning to affirm the document on baptism that was agreed upon with our ecumenical partners--The Presbyterian Church USA, The Reformed Church in America, other reformed churches, and The Council of Bishops of the Catholic Church in America.  The document was overwhelmingly passed by the delegates to the Synod.  What that means is that the churches involved agreed to recognize and accept the baptisms of the other.  In the United Church of
Christ, we routinely accept the baptisms of all who come to us for church membership but that has not always been true with all of the others involved in this agreement.  Some have questioned our method of baptism (sprinkling vs immersion) while others have questioned the formula of baptism used (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).  This document affirms that we will use water in baptism (what else?) and we will use the historic affirmation ("I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  This uniformity will unite us in baptism and we will all recognize the baptisms done in our churches. 

There was little opposition to this document although some churches use other words besides the historic ones when doing baptisms (often saying Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer).  That was the real issue with our ecumenical partners.  They wanted to be sure that we all use the same formula in baptism.  I think that we have always used the traditional formula in our church and will do so for the future.  We see baptism as something that unites Christians throughout the world.  Now, we have made a statement that we want to be united in what baptism means with others.

This afternoon we will continue the voting on the other resolutions that we have been considering.  I will report to you later concerning them. 

Happy Fourth of July to all.  Enjoy your day and count your blessings. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

General Synod 28--Post Three

Today is Sunday, July 3.  I missed being with my congregation and Sunday did not seem quite like Sunday.  Instead of doing my usual routine of opening up the church and turning on the air conditioning and getting prepared for worship, we had breakfast at our hotel and then I attended a 3 hour resolution session in which we hammered out the wording of the resolution to which I had been assigned before arriving here.  My resolution has to do with guaranteeing adoption rights for all persons.  I learned some startling statistics during the information session.  Did you know that there are approximately a half million children in foster care waiting for adoption in our nation?  Did you also know that there are not nearly enough people who want to adopt children and many of them "age out" of the process with no family--at the present time there are about 30,000 children about to be "emancipated" which means they will turn 18 and have no family at all?  How sad is that to think that someone will never have a family to go home to at holidays or for family gatherings?  No parents or siblings, all alone in the world.  Many of these become part of the legal system and lack proper education or a future.  We will vote on this resolution in the next couple days but it was startling to learn these statistics.

We had Sunday worship this afternoon in the convention center.  A crowd of about 4,000 gathered and we sang and shared scripture and prayed and shared Holy Communion.  The preacher was a wonderful woman from Florida who used the story from the Bible about Hagar being put into the wilderness by Sarah.  We were challenged to listen to the cries of others in our world whom we often want to overlook.  We also were challenged to show God's love to all, especially those whom others would denigrate or oppress.  It was a very inspirational worship experience.

The real work of Synod happens tomorrow on July 4 and on Tuesday when we vote on the business items brought before the Synod including 13 resolutions.  If you would like to see a live broadcast of the proceedings of General Synod, you can watch it on your computer a under the General Synod tab. 

Part of the joy of being here is feeling the unity of the entire church and knowing that we are part of a greater body than what we experience in the local church.  The United Church of Christ is alive and well and despite what some may say it is not dying but it is growing with new church starts across the land.  There were many of these recognized in the first session on Friday.  There are over 100 new churches across our land in the UCC and many more existing churches considering joining us.  We are being renewed by the Holy Spirit daily and the energy felt here is tremendous.  There is much to share when I get home but much more to be experienced still.  God bless and keep you all.  Enjoy your holiday weekend. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

General Synod 28--Post Two

Yesterday was a fast and furious day.  The day began slowly but then we met to discuss the resolutions up for adoption at this Synod.  I attended the one assigned to me that has to do with adoption rights for all persons and after two hours we had discussed the subject thoroughly.  We will meet again on Sunday morning to rehash and reword the proposal before it is presented to the delegates for action.  The final draft will be given after our meeting on Sunday. 

Business sessions then began and we were led through the voting process since we are using electronic voting this year.  A few snags happened and that made the process a bit slower but hopefully those were ironed out.  Actually voting on the resolutions does not begin until Monday.  We heard speeches from two candidates for officers in the UCC and then last night had a fantastic worship service.  It has been an inspirational meeting so far.

Today is called Suncoast Saturday and we will have a variety of speakers and musicians to hear.  An evening worship service will wrap things up.  I will blog tomorrow again and let you know more about Synod.  We do hear the motto of the UCC a lot...."Whoever you are, wherever you are on the journey of life, you are welcome in the United Church of Christ."

Friday, July 1, 2011

General Synod 28--Post One

Today is day one for General Synod of the United Church of Christ being held in Tampa, FL. We arrived here yesterday and spent the night at our hotel and this morning we are already in high gear, having had breakfast at the hotel.  Around noon, we go to the convention center to begin the meetings of the conference.  We have what are called "Educational Intensives" first, which is where delegates go to assigned committee meetings and learn about the resolution to which you are assigned.  That lasts two hours and is informative in nature and no votes are taken there.  Then, there is a break and the first plenary session begins where business begins but no votes are taken by delegates.  A dinner break happens and then the first worship service is held this evening.  The first day of Synod is one that allows delegates to become familiar with the resolutions but votes will not be taken until Monday.  There is a great spirit here already, lots of people who know each other from past experiences and it is a little like a family reunion. 

Tampa is an interesting city with a river flowing not too far from our hotel.  We can see a river walk by the river from our window on the 13th floor of the hotel.  I want to walk on it later today.  It is hot and humid here with rain showers popping up now and then but disappearing about as fast as they come.  Things look quite green so I think they have been having quite a bit of rain lately.  Downtown Tampa is not very exciting, it seems, with very few restaurants close by.  One has to ride a trolley to an area called "YBar City" to find a lot of restaurants and shops.  There is actually a grocery store just a few blocks from our hotel so we went there and bought a few things last night to put in the fridge in our room.  We have a microwave too so I think we will not go hungry. 

I will try to blog daily while at the Synod so my church members can read them but all who read this are free to read and make comments or ask questions if you want to learn more about the United Church of Christ and the General Synod that speaks to the local church but not for it.