by Rev. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister          –          July 3, 2017

Baltimore has been great! No, General Synod 2017 isn’t overGeneral-Synod. That won’t happen until late tomorrow, but I wanted to take a few moments and share some of my experiences with you. There is a lot going on here and I am only going to cover a very small portion of what is happening. So please feel free to check out the UCC’s official General Synod website to keep up (or catch up) with all the happenings. A live stream of the proceedings is also available.

What! No Cookies!?!?

That’s right. No cookies for Synod delegates and guests in 2017! The availability of home-baked cookies provided by grumpythe host conference has been a long-standing tradition at General Synod. Even when little Rhode Island hosted the whole country, we provided an abundance of cookies for all the delegates. At Synod 2015 in Cleveland, eating WAY TOO MANY cookies is what carried me through hours of plenary discussions!! I was aghast when I arrived in Baltimore and heard that this sacred tradition was not being honored. #reallydisappointed

And then I woke up. My deep disappointment at the loss of my anticipated cookies opened my mind to two important realizations: 1.) Things change. Yes, even in the church, things change. Just because “we’ve always done it that way” doesn’t mean we need to keep doing it that way. Suck it up Dale! As Bill Easum said, “Sacred cows make great hamburgers.” 2.) We’re talking about cookies! Why was I so outraged about losing free cookies? At synod we discuss such heavy issues as children’s wellness, immigrant rights, climate change, and respect for all people. A little perspective helped me realize that I should be far more outraged at these injustices than I am about losing cookies. We can be a selfish people!

A Just World for All

Along with unveiling a new logo, the UCC has recently revealed its 20170103_210219000_iOSnew purpose, mission, and vision statements. Two years of listening, talking, and praying, has led our leadership to accept these statements:

The UCC purpose statement comes from the Gospel of Matthew: To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

The vision: United in Christ’s love, a just world for all.

And the Mission statement: United in Spirit and inspired by God’s grace, we welcome all, love all, and seek justice for all.

Praise God!

One of the workshops I attended this week focused on worship. In particular, we discussed ways to make worship more participatory, inviting those gathered to engage in the experience in more profound and meaningful ways. Nothing was too earth-shattering here, but it was great to have reminders. Worship is enhanced when we provide opportunities to engage all of our five senses and reach out to folks with different learning styles. Ultimately effective worship is about sparking imagination, touching our emotions, encouraging participation, and motivating people to action through an experience of the Divine.

Speaking of worship, we’ve had great worship here!!!! The music and preaching have been excellent! for music we’ve had jazz, folk, piano, organ, and a full concert choir. Powerful stuff! Here’s a panoramic picture from Sunday’s worship with roughly 3000 people in attendance!

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Here are a few other pictures you might like:

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The Rhode Island delegation’s table.

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The view from the fitness room where I worked out every morning. Yes, that is Camden Yards. The Orioles where home all weekend. Busy place!

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The UCC AIDS quilt hung in the back of the plenary hall where it stood trough work and worship alike.

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The Sky Bar on the roof of the Lord Baltimore Hotel. What a beautiful way to relax after a long, busy, sometimes intense, day.

 

In closing: Elizabeth and I are coming “home” tomorrow. I’m so looking forward to the new reality of Elizabeth and I finally making our new life together in Barrington!!

Blessings to you all,

Dale