This past Saturday, five of us – Tom and Ron, Megan, Joe and myself – attended the Annual Gathering of the SoCal/NV UCC conference as observers. This is a conference that includes 138 churches. It was held at the Samoan Congregational Christian Church in the City of Carson. I estimate about 400 people in attendance. I would encourage you to talk to any or all of the MCCV folks that attended for their insights and experiences.
I will speak for myself as we come to celebrate Pentecost Sunday, the birthing of the Christian church by the Holy Spirit. I have to share the experience of two UCC elected members and executive officers of the Collegium, a ruling Council of the UCC. One was James Moos of Wider Church Ministries. Wider Church Ministries is one of four Covenanted Ministries in the United Church of Chris that supports congregations and the other settings of the church in developing relationships with a wider church that is global, multiracial and multicultural, open and affirming, and accessible to all. Check them out online (http://www.ucc.org/wcm/). They are involved in global ministries in partnership with the Disciples of Christ, immigration and refugee issues, AIDS, a child sponsorship program, the Genesis program. The other was Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, the executive minister of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries. Check them out (http://www.ucc.org/jwm/) as well.
I heard two talks on justice, the caliber of which I have not heard since I was a Jesuit years ago. Both speakers spoke on topics of passionate concern to me: immigration, solidarity with the poor and hungry, and global climate change. Both stressed Earthcare and respect for life emerging from the gospel values of solidarity with all life and the poor. When Rev. Jaramillo mentioned the UCC commitment to Mission Earth, in which the denomination has planted more than 41,000 trees (to reduce carbon emissions), put in over 230,000 hours of UCC care for the earth, and written nearly 21,000 letters to politicians and government officials on climate change, I was moved to tears. And this was merely one justice issue connected to numerous others, including an immigration summit at Centro Romero in San Ysidro in June. I hope some of us might attend. Justice and compassionate care for the least, years ago, drew me into ministry to seek ordination. It was my desire to serve Christ among the poor and the oppressed that led me into ministry, and in the last five years I have broadened my list of the oppressed to include human mistreatment of the Earth and all life on the planet. To the say the least, I was favorably impressed and my faith was stirred. Do ask other attendees about their experiences.
This Sunday is Pentecost. My sermon is entitled “The Spirit Births the Church.” The Spirit has been active in the birth of Jesus, his baptism, his ministry, and death and resurrection. And the Spirit is naturally involved in our lives. As I have been working on my sermon, I asked a question: “What is Christianity?” And I found an answer that resonates with my faith: Slavoj Zizik, listed as one of the top one hundred global thinkers writes, “What is Christianity? It’s the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other, and who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it.” His vision conforms to Jesus’ vision of God’s reign as a democracy of love which is led by the Holy Spirit to a ministry of radical inclusive love and compassionate care for all life.
Join me on this birthday of the Church. Bring a friend with you to join us in fellowship and worship of God.
May God bless you with the unrest of the Holy Spirit.