General Synod Experience: Part 1

Every two years the United Church of Christ holds its General Synod, a national gathering of clergy and lay delegates and visitors who have come together for workshops, plenary sessions, worship, youth activities, special banquets, and luncheons. General Synod 32 took place in Milwaukee from June 21-25. Catch up on all things General Synod online HERE.

Two members of our staff team, Hannah Rice (Minister of Administration and Membership) and Emily Stokes (Minister of Children and Families) attended General Synod as visitors. We will share their experiences in two parts. Here are Emily's reflections: 

Attending General Synod was a new and wonderful experience for me. I decided to attend in order to better grasp the polity of the United Church of Christ and engage with the wider church. I was particularly interested in a few of the resolutions that would be coming to the floor during synod. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but was excited to participate in the work of the larger body of Christ. The experience was wonderful, exhausting, and unexpected in many ways.


The first thing that struck me was the intentionality of the Synod worship team. We began by inviting leadership from the Ho-Chunk tribe to worship and asking their permission to meet on their ancestral land. Each service after began with students from the Ho-Chunk tribal school performing on drums and dancing. Each service also included scripture readings and music selections in a multitude of languages from around the globe. This focus was in response to the Multicultural and Multiracial Pronouncement of the 19th General Synod. The opening worship bulletin stated: “A multiethnic church embodies the cultural, rhythmic, theological and linguistic pluralities of congregants and the human family and rejoices in this multiplicity which mirrors God’s face. It seeks to honor the languages lost through our church and cultural histories and seeks to reclaim them as part of a healing-decolonizing-process.” While the UCC is not a global denomination, it’s recognition of the global whole body of Christ was refreshing to see. Worship was invigorating, challenging, and soul-feeding. The sermons were poignant and thought provoking and I would highly recommend watching them online


My second take-away was a strong desire to engage more fully in the covenantal relationship of the United Church of Christ. And, in fact, there were two resolutions that spoke to this covenantal relationship. While the UCC prides itself on its polity of the autonomy of the local church, there is also an aspect of covenantal relationship to our polity that often goes overlooked. And to be honest, this was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Synod. Coming from a Methodist background the idea of having full autonomy and covenantal relationship is still a bit foreign to me and I was hoping to gain a better understanding of how the two work with each other instead of against. I don’t think that Synod really addressed my quandary but it did strengthen my desire to pursue that covenantal relationship more wholeheartedly and hopefully inspire FCC to do the same.


One of the ways I think that local churches could engage more with the national church is to become more fully involved with the resolutions passed at General Synod. General Synod 32 passed a myriad of resolutions, many of which our church could engage. Some of these resolutions included: A Resolution to Abolish the Growth and Existance of Private Prisons, A Resolution Addressing the State of Global Forced Migration, a Resolution Regarding the use of Plastic Foam (I.E. STYROFOAM®), A Resolution Supporting Survivors of Rape and Sexual Violence Through an Ongoing Church-wide Observance of Break the Silence Sunday (BTSS), and many more. These resolutions, affirmed by the larger church body, offer local churches ways to stand as one church and work toward the Kingdom of God on earth.  I am excited to share more fully some of the resolutions passed at General Synod 32 with our congregation and am interested to see if FCC has a desire to engage these issues as well.

Check out Hannah's perspective in Part 2 HERE!