Making All Things New... Isaiah 43:18-19
I will start by confessing that this is my first UCC General Synod (our biennial national convention). Yep. This is the first time I've gathered nationally with my UCC Siblings in Christ! Having spent the first 28 years of my life in the UCC and having spent many of my 23 professional ministry year's living in both the UCC and American Baptist families, this is the first time I've gathered at a national convention with the 3000 or so UCC delegates, visitors and staffers from across the country and around the world.
It was a gift to be in the company of so many other UCC siblings in faith. There is so much that I want to share with you, but it would take me days, so I will spend the next few editions of my blog sharing about our amazing fellowship and the new things that are being made through the power of the Holy Spirit working among us.
The first thing I want to share is a piece of our history that I did not know. Did you know that there was a "Fifth Stream" of historic denominations that was part of the original formation of the UCC in 1957??? After a lifetime of ministry and formation in and with the UCC, after UCC policy and history classes, and LOTS of conversation over the years with UCC colleagues and friends, I had no idea that there was a fifth denomination that was part of the founding of the UCC.
As this 2022 article by Hans Holznagel in the UCC News says, "For decades, new United Church of Christ members have typically learned about four streams of tradition that formed the denomination: Congregational, Christian, Evangelical and Reformed.
But there is a fifth stream — just as strong — that has not usually been named.
The UCC Historical Council has just voted to recognize that “fifth stream” — the Afro-Christian tradition — as separate from and equal to the other four."
It was both embarrassing and maddening that, in 2023, when we are seeking, as a denomination, to be an anti-racist and decolonizing movement within Protestant Christianity, we are just now acknowledging the Afro Christian Convention, an historically Black denomination of 150 churches located primarily in Virginia and North Carolina, as a separate "stream" of foundational identities in the UCC.
I, for one, will be reading Afro-Christian Convention | The Fifth Stream of the United Church of Christ by The Rev. Dr. Yvonne V. Delk over the summer. I want to know and understand the choices that were made in 1957 and how they have impacted these last 66 years within our UCC family. I can say this information has fundamentally changed my understanding of our relationship with the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, other predominantly African American churches like Trinity UCC in Chicago, and the growing progressive Pentecostalism within the UCC!
As a congregation that affirms the abolitionist history of Obed Dickinson, it feels important that we understand this "stream" and the ways in which White Supremacy, Racism and White Colonialism formed and informed who we are today. I know this is the conversation, the "Work" sincerely being done on a national level and to which the Conferences and local churches are being called to engage. I hope you will join me in reading this book over the summer and joining the conversation in the fall as we explore our commitment to being Open and Affirming in an intersectional and ever widening way.
As to the rest of Synod, here is a link to the news page about the convention. Take a look at the resolutions, actions, worship experiences, and so much more. Next week I'll offer another reflection as we imagine how God is making all things new in and through us.
May God bless our willingness to be made new.