by Kathie Carpenter
Chair, ONA Ministry Team of the MA Conference
Celebrate, Agitate, Activate - ONA35
On June 15, supporters of Open and Affirming gathered from around the Massachusetts Conference to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the first-ever Open and Affirming resolution. The celebration, called ONA35: Celebrate - Agitate - Activate, was held at The Plymouth Church in Framingham, on the exact weekend the resolution was adopted by the conference’s Annual Meeting 35 years ago.
Amid courage and personal risk for many, a national version of the ONA resolution was adopted at the 15th UCC General Synod in Ames, Iowa, in 1985. The Synod’s stance would lead to the Open and Affirming Program and the registration of over 1,500 churches in the UCC to date.
ONA35 was a hope-filled event with widely varied music offerings by skilled musicians and an ad hoc choir. There were prayers, litanies, communion, small topic conversations. The day featured two popular and powerful speakers: the Rev. Louis Mitchell, Executive Director of Transfaith, and the Rev. DaVita McCallister, senior pastor of First Church Somerville, UCC. Prevailing messages of the day are seen in this adaptation of a classic litany by Rev. Ann B. Day:
There is a place in God’s heart, there is a place at Christ’s table, there is presence of the Holy Spirit for all people - Questioning, Queer, Transgender, Gender Fluid, Non-binary, Intersex, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Asexual, Pansexual, Same-Gender-Loving and Straight.
Christ who gathers us, bids us follow in the ways of love and justice. The Spirit calls us to celebrate, agitate and activate - in our worship and our living this day and every day.
The first part of the event focused on “celebrate.” The Just Peace Players performed some ONA history and real ONA heroes told their “ONA Tales.” Those people included Rev. Rosi Olmsted and Marnie Warner, crafters of the 1984 resolution, as well as Olivia Masih White, who chaired the committee that shepherded the ONA resolution at the 1985 Synod. All three women spoke of the tenor of the times, the uncertainty of making their faith case, the immense hope and the miracle that was the Synod.
The Rev. Ann B. Day and her spouse, Donna Enberg, ONA Coalition program staff for twenty years, were also present at the ONA35 event.
The second part of the event addressed the word “agitate” - the things that trouble us, the ways we have wronged each other, the ways we do not understand each other, our lamentations. Always showing how to think across such lines as gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and economics, Rev. Louis blended humor with hard truth to illuminate this phase. The ONA Tales in this section came from Rev. Anne Ierardi, painter, writer, and director of Healthsigns Spiritual Life Center in Yarmouth Port; Renée Manning, a recent seminary graduate and activist; and Al Green, a grateful seeker of asylum through the LGBT Asylum Task Force and their current ministry director. These tales spoke of life experiences that brought daily agitation, unrest, fear of injury or death, and some that created agitation to move forward and change the things that are wrong.
“Activation” was delivered by Rev. McCallister in a fast moving picture of how to be keep our eyes open to see where we are needed. She challenged us to make the world safer, more radically inclusive and more just by being present in the struggle. She said it’s not enough speak of prayers and concerns, and signs and marching, and knitting of “pussy hats.” She prodded us to take risks in our service and our faith, to become uncomfortable in our justice work and to “put a little something (of us) on it.”
|Al Green, Ministry Director, LGBT Asylum Task Force|
|Rev. Louis Mitchell, Executive Director of Transfaith|
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