Making All Things New... Isaiah 43:18-19
Last week I shared with you a little about my first UCC General Synod. As I said, it was a gift to be in the company of so many other UCC siblings in faith. Part of that gift was witnessing how the work of our denomination is conducted and the ways in which we balance the various needs of connection, cost, accessibility, inclusion, and practicality. To that end, one of the major decisions made was to shift from a biennial to a triennial gathering cycle. This bylaw revision passed with more than a two thirds majority. I found that the comments prior to the vote being taken were an interesting mix of thoughts about who we are as a denomination. There was a strong desire to create both care and connection even as we add an additional year between national gatherings.
The primary motivation is the impact on national staff and the overall cost of putting on an event like this. I have been a part of hosting regional and national gatherings and the logistics are enough to choke the proverbial horse. Technology, video production, children and youth programming, keynote speakers, musicians, housing, meals, translators, parliamentarians, those little communion cups... sooo many bits to arrange. I know how much time and effort goes into something like this and it makes great sense to add a year between gatherings!
However, that also means we add a year to the business we do together. There were some who asked why other denominations meet annually and we want to meet triennially? We were all reminded that many larger denominations can afford to dedicate that much time and energy to an annual meeting while we don't have the resources to do that. But the loss of another year of fellowship was felt by most of us as a real loss to this very diverse community of faith.
Another impact is the shift in national Board tenure that this will bring. Instead of three 2-year terms, new Board members starting in 2025 will have three 3-year terms! Many were quite uncomfortable with this and I would be surprised if another bylaw revision was not brought before the body in 2025 limiting Board service to two 3-year terms.
In our Central Pacific lunch gathering I brought up the idea that the year before the Synod gathering, we could meet regionally in our Caucus groups and not only share fellowship but begin working on resolutions and revisions that will be coming to the gathered body at the Synod in a year. This idea would allow for the fellowship of a wider body where regional concerns can be shared and discussed. It would also allow for these regional bodies to create planning teams of their own to support this type of gathering.
I offered it up as a thought and I have no idea where it might go. What I do know is that the Spirit is moving and asking us to do new things that make sense for us today. Making "All things New" will require us to imagine how we gather and when, so we are being faithful to our mission in whatever setting that might be. And it was not lost on me that our journey over the proverbial mountains is asking the same of us! The how and when we gather and for what purpose is on our table as we dialogue about this new structure proposed in the draft bylaws.
I am glad that we are willing and able to hear God's Wisdom and to risk the new things being offered. I am so honored to be sharing this time with you as we listen and risk together in the light of God's grace.
Blessings - Pastor Robin