By Eric Anderson, Connecticut Conference UCC
and Tiffany Vail, Massachusets Conference UCC
NOTE: VIew photos on this website here and on Flickr here. More videos from the event will be made available soon.
The Twitterverse offers a snapshot of the Super Saturday experience last weekend: “Inspiring.” “Amazing.” “Diana Butler Bass left me tweetless--didn’t want to miss a word.” And it didn’t hurt that the keynote speaker herself declared, “Thanks, Mass & CT UCC. YOU ROCK!”
The March 1st Super Saturday was a joint effort of the Connecticut and Massachusetts Conferences -- an event that attracted 650 people for worship, workshops, and two opportunities to hear from acclaimed author and church historian Diana Butler Bass.
“What a Super Saturday it was!” exulted Connecticut Conference Minister the Rev. Kent J. Siladi. “In an historic moment the Connecticut and Massachusetts Conferences gathered in a spirit of unity and interdependence to worship, to learn and to connect as members of the United Church of Christ. We are grateful for the offer to cosponsor this event and it was a day of fun and faith building.”
Butler Bass' sermon during morning worship emphasized the new dynamics in the American religious landscape, which she declares are signs of a Fourth Great Awakening. (A video of her address will be posted soon.)
"The Awakening is not only about the church, but about the world," she said. "But the church will change as it moves into this Awakening and seeks to be a more vibrant form of neighborliness and community."
She said that whatever form the church takes in the course of this Great Awakening, it will be these things:
- A church that is more connected to nature, to the earth;
- A church that is radically centered in the life of people, with leadership that is completely de-centered;
- A mystical church. where beauty and mystery and wonder and not being able to answer questions will be in the center; and
- A church for justice, with one of its core convictions being that no human being anywhere on the planet should ever go to bed hungry; where every human being deserves an education; where no one is killed because they are gay or lesbian or of a different religion.
After showing images of how she sees the future church, Butler Bass ended by showing a blank slide.
"What is God calling these two conferences of the United Church of Christ to put on this screen?" she asked. "What is your picture of awakening?"
Massachusetts Conference Minister and President The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal noted: "This was an historic gathering -- perhaps the largest gathering of UCCers from multiple churches between the 2013 and 2015 national synods." He went on to say, "It's a sign of things to come -- risking new opportunities to make our conferences and congregations stronger, together."
The lay leaders and clergy who attended had the opportunity to go to two workshops on topics such as writing a really good sermon, serving as a deacon, recovering from cultural addictions, climate change, economic justice, stewardship, social media, and more. Butler Bass also led a lunchtime forum, speaking further on her take on the future of the church. The lunch break provided an opportunity to shop in the marketplace and browse displays.
Via Twitter, participants shared their appreciation for learning more about vibrant worship, fostering sacred conversations on race, promoting peace and justice in the Middle East, and engaging those who identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”
The day’s worship, led by a team of 20/30 clergy including Jonathan Chapman, Pastor of the Westfield Congregational Church in CT; Sarah Weaver, Pastor of the Rehobeth Congregational Church in MA; and Matt Carriker, a spiritual retreat leader in MA; both energized and centered the assembly. Called to awakening as the day began, the worshipers found blessing at day’s end with a tactile reminder of their baptism.
Super Saturdays began in Massachusetts a number of years ago, and were similar to events held in Connecticut. This is the first time the two conferences worked together on such an event, drawing workshop and worship leaders from both states.
“We look forward to many more cooperative adventures with the Massachusetts Conference,” said Siladi, who has spoken increasingly of nurturing interdependence among congregations and expressions of the UCC. “We share a commitment to making our voice known and living out of the core values of our beloved church.“
This day was an opportunity to incarnate the UCC motto: That they may all be one!”