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Making All Things New

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

–Isaiah 43:18-19

Last week at this time I was traveling back home from six days at the United Church of Christ’s biennial General Synod, the national gathering and legislative body of our denomination. It was a wonderful week filled with new and rekindled friendships, powerful worship, and long days of work considering resolutions and policies to shape our witness in the years ahead. I was privileged to witness the vibrancy of our UCC family from across the nation, and energized for ministry in the years ahead.

I’ve spent much time in the last week reflecting on all that I experienced, and on the journey that I’ve witnessed and taken over the past few decades of being part of this church. I realized when I arrived that this year marked 20 years since I first attended a General Synod, in 2003 in Minneapolis. That was a formative experience for me in many ways—only a few months before, I had told another person for the first time that I was gay. Around the same time, I had started preaching for a small UCC congregation as a seminary student, but remained deeply closeted in my ministry setting. I felt very isolated and alone, and wondered if I could sustain this path. When I attended Synod, I witnessed a whole new world open up before me—I saw a wider church family that fully embraced and celebrated me, and rejoiced in the beautiful diversity of God’s creation. I experienced the Spirit present in ways I never had before, and I left changed and empowered to follow God’s call on my life.

Twenty years later, I returned to Synod as a pastor in an Open & Affirming congregation, and as the president of our Conference board of directors. As I looked around at our delegation, I was amazed at the beautiful diversity of people gathered to listen for the still-speaking God and help shape the work of our church. I reflected again: when I was a young person growing up in this Conference, that delegation would not have looked like that. It was almost inconceivable that gay and straight, trans and cis, black, white, Latino, old and young—would represent the South Central Conference. And yet, there we were. The newest Open & Affirming conference in our denomination, represented by a delegation that embodied all that we strive to be as the United Church of Christ.

“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old,” the prophet writes. “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” For me, the lessons of this General Synod will remind me that God is always doing a new thing. No matter what it might look like right now, God is at work making all things new. Things we can scarcely imagine or dream of. Today, we are invited to see with the eyes of faith and know that abundant blessings are about to spring forth.


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