Preparing for Annual Meeting Part 2: A Gathering of Leaders
Our church is a Covenant Member of the United Church of Christ. The UCC is a network of thousands of churches across the U.S. who partner together seeking to be God’s People in the world according to the teachings of Jesus, with the vision that through our efforts, the entire global community “may all be one” (John 17: 21). However…here’s the challenging part…we also recognize the importance of autonomy. This means that every local congregation gets to decide for themselves how to organize, how to live as God’s People. And when you break down that logic, it means that every individual member of each individual church also has the right to choose how they will participate in this shared work.
So…hundreds of thousands of people try to work together…while also respecting everyone’s right to do what they please? How does that work?
You could insert any number of jokes about Congregationalists in this space.
The thing is…it’s challenging, it is slow, it can be immensely frustrating…but it really does work.
For example, the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ was held in Atlanta from July 1-July 5, 2005. At that gathering, our denomination voted to become an “Open and Affirming” Church, affirming that LGBTQ people are equally loved and valued Children of God, as are all people. The UCC has been “Open and Affirming” as a denomination ever since then, but individual churches are not forced to adopt that stance unless the local church discerns that is right for them. Our church in Kittery Point became Open and Affirming in May of 2011.
Almost exactly 10 years later, on June 26, 2015, Marriage Equality became the law of the land in America.
I don’t believe this is a coincidence. I believe that when you empower individuals and autonomous communities to take responsibility for their actions, their beliefs, their faith…then all individuals are empowered to become leaders…and then all of us, collectively, as Jesus’ disciples, find ways of influencing the culture to become more like Christ…more loving, more accepting, more generous.
But it really only works if each of us are participating in the process, bringing our best selves to the shared work…actively discerning what to support, and how best to support it in the name of the God who calls us all to be “one.” When our local church gathers for our Annual Meeting on February 24, at 11:15 a.m. in our Parish House—located at 23 Pepperrell Road, Kittery Point, ME 03905—we are anticipating that everyone who comes to the meeting will not just show up in body, but also bring their intentions, their gifts, their voice, and help us to practice being the Church together.
Yesterday in worship, we learned that Jesus’ famous teaching “The Beatitudes” is not just a pep talk for anyone who has ever felt rejected or oppressed. When we read the teaching as translated from its original form in Aramaic, we see that Jesus is calling all of his followers to work with God to transform their biggest burdens into Great Spiritual Gifts. Listed below, you can find both the usual translation of the Beatitudes from Greek, and the deeper understanding of the teaching from Aramaic.
As you read through them, ask yourself: Which of these Beatitudes speaks to me at this moment in my life? How is God inviting me to use this burden to transform the world?