by Nancy Taylor
You gotta be there. I mean, you really gotta be there. I mean, there—in the room, at the meeting, at the Tri-Conference gathering of representatives from the UCC churches of Rhode Island (Give it up for Rhode Island!) and Connecticut (Hurrah for the Nutmeggers!) and Massachusetts (Healthcare for all! Woot woot!). You gotta be there in person in the midst of holy argument and deep discernment.
I’m making light, but this is no laughing matter. Meetings such as this constitute a substantive theological and ecclesiastical undertaking for UCCers. That’s why we have a conviction about no absentee ballots. It’s why we honor and practice discernment … which means listening to each other long and hard until the Holy Spirit finally squeezes her way in and makes herself known. Such discernment is how we walk the holy high-wire that, in 1957, the UCC suspended between Local Church Autonomy and Covenant.
I have been in the room—and I am sure some of you have, too—with a million strongly held, wildly divergent, exceedingly articulate, theologically informed opinions when, behold, the Holy Spirit just swoops in, makes the hair on your head crawl, sends a shiver down your spine, warms your hardening heart, drops a feather or two and informs the gathered Christians what’s what. It’s a beautiful thing.
I have no idea how the Holy Spirit will speak—or through whom she will speak—at the joint Annual Meeting of our three UCC conferences, but I am betting on this: there will be some hot and holy fire to ignite our discernment. There will be passions and persuasions on parade. In the end, the Spirit of the Living God will have her way with us… will, if we let her, use us for God and for good.
I am guessing some of you have opinions right now about the proposal to form a new conference, a sort of Trinitarian, tripartite, three-in-one and one-in-three of lower New England. I actually don’t, but I do know this: Christ calls us to an adaptive, improvisational witness in an ever changing world; that to survive to carry on Christ’s radical, counterintuitive, countercultural Good News to each new generation it is imperative that we listen hard and deep and long and earnestly to each other until we discern the Spirit’s whispered voice above the world’s cacophony. That’s the promise we made to each other. That’s the pact. Not to arrive with our minds settled, our arms crossed, our heals dug in. But to come to listen. To discern. To wonder aloud and together what it is to which God is now calling us.
Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, we have so much in common: history and geography, white-steepled meetinghouses, climate and fiercely competing Ivy League colleges, clam-chowder and I-95. Above all, we are neighbors. Biblically speaking, that makes us family.
See you in Hartford!
Rev. Dr. Nancy S Taylor is the Senior Minister of Old South Church in Boston, a former Minister and President, Massachusetts Conference, and a former Moderator of the UCC’s General Synod.
Read more about the Tri-Conference Annual Meeting June 16 - 17, 2017
Read more about the proposal for the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences to join together in forming a new conference.
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