June 30 – July 4, 2023 in Indianapolis
Learn about workshops at General Synod 34.
Presented by: Cheryl Farrell, Founder Pop-up Storytelling for Organizations
This workshop is a one-hour interactive overview of personal storytelling that enriches member relations in faith-based leadership groups. Personal storytelling is a process that allows us to support one another while working on a shared goal of church governance. The presenter, Cheryl Farrell, is an award-winning storyteller who has held church leadership roles during UCC affiliation since 1980. A story prompt exercise within the workshop can be replicated in church settings to inspire participants to connect in ways beyond knowing a person’s physical attributes and profession of faith.
Presented by: Rev. Jake Miles Joseph, Associate Director of ADL Connecticut Region
The workshop will emphasize the importance of understanding antisemitism, not only as a form of prejudice against Jewish people but also as a threat to the values of diversity and inclusivity that are central to the Christian faith and the UCC. Participants will explore how antisemitism intersects with other forms of oppression and discrimination, such as racism and xenophobia, and how it can lead to violence and exclusion.
Through interactive discussions, case studies, and simulations, participants will develop practical tools and strategies to recognize and address antisemitic attitudes and behaviors in their communities. The workshop will also provide resources for further learning and advocacy on this critical issue.
Presented by: Rev. Kristin Aardema Faigh
International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) has embraced me, many other pastors, and many persons worldwide who have had one or more myriad kinds of mystical experiences. I have had both a Near Death Experience and a Spiritually-Transformative Experience (STE). I will share my own NDE and STE experiences and provide resources for exploration, as well as encourage interaction and conversation with the workshop participants. We will engage in intentional creativity, allowing the deeper Self to emerge through drawing and writing (no talent required!), then share what comes forth (as time allows).
Presented by: Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, United Church Homes, and Ms. Kim Moeller, Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging
Congregations wring their hands over declining numbers of children and youth and believe the only way forward for church growth is to attract the youngest generations. This is despite the demographic data that shows our communities are aging. So how can we rethink this demographic shift in our churches? How can we expand our understanding of what it means to age in the 21st century? What are the opportunities for ministry, evangelism, and faith formation with older adults in our communities? And what are the obstacles that keep us from nurturing wisdom, the “only natural resource that is increasing? This workshop will consider our cultural context with demographic data and theological perspectives about our aging society. We will share examples and resources for local congregations willing to explore and expect a future of engaged members participating in vibrant ministries.
Presented by: Claire Bamberg
In conversation with an ACM this morning, I was told, “Even people who adore each other do not know how to talk with each other anymore.” The interpersonal consequences of pandemic realities are just now being researched, measured, and discussed. Additionally, the ripple effects are felt in all aspects of our lives together. Many people do not have the tools and/or the awareness of when to use them to manage difficult conversations. More, we do not always see the difficult moment coming.
This workshop addresses the circumstances that have set the stage for this, and what we can do to gracefully interact in ways that lead to a productive ending to challenging conversations. Attendees will also acquire tools that will enable facilitating a contentious conversation towards more understanding and a productive outcome.
Presented by: Bishop Allyson Abrams, Rev. Marty Kuchma, Rev. Lisa LeSueur, Dr. Vicki Harvey
One in four individuals lives with a diagnosable mental health condition. Congregations are dealing with a variety of mental health and substance use challenges among their members every day. Due to stigma, many of these people may be reluctant to either seek help professionally or speak about it with their pastor or other members of their church. This workshop will present the need to create an atmosphere of openness and acceptance in a congregation that makes members, friends, and visitors more likely to feel safe and free from judgment with their diagnosis. Acceptance and a sense of safety can help create a place of belonging, where everyone feels welcome.
WISE congregations, Associations, and Conferences are needed and this workshop will help congregations understand the 10 steps to become a WISE congregation (Welcoming Inclusive Supportive and Engaged) with the Mental Health Network.
Presented by: Brooks Berndt and Thaddaeus Elliott, Environmental Justice Ministries, National Ministries, UCC
Amid ongoing climate and environmental justice crises, the future may seem uncertain and even frightening. As people of faith, we are called to heed prophetic voices and fight for a livable planet. In recent General Synods, multiple resolutions have been passed focusing on the importance of climate action at the federal level of government. This campaign advances this deeply felt need in the UCC and provides a tangible outlet for advocacy. In 2023, the EPA is considering ten rules that, if updated, would dramatically cut air, water, and climate pollution. The health impacts of smog, soot, mercury, coal ash, and other toxic pollutants disproportionately fall on low-income communities and communities of color. With the finalization of strong updated rules would come a massive boost to climate and environmental justice.
The Climate Hope Cards campaign aims to collect 10,000 petition postcards to urge President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan to adopt the strongest possible rules for climate and environmental justice. Learn how you and your church can join the campaign and fight for a safe and healthy future!
Presented by: Rev. Dr. Patrick Duggan, Rev. Susan Mitchell, Ms. Melina Higbee, and Ms. Jill White
The UCC Church Building & Loan Fund is the best-kept secret in the United Church of Christ. Our work spans over the last 170 years. The staff will educate, share and discuss the vast array of services that we offer from the Adese Fellowship, Transform Church Transform Community (TC2), Partners in Vision, Legacy, and Capacity Building Services. We will also give you a sneak peek into our signature event Partners in Building. We can help church leaders create a mission-focused vision and reimagine their underutilized church space and property to serve the congregation and community into the future. The United Nations announced its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which contains seventeen Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all (17 goals.org). The mission of CB&LF is in alignment with several goals with a focus on these three: (1) End poverty in all its forms everywhere. (2) End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. (3) Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Presented by: United Church Funds Staff
Every church and every person is part of God’s exciting mission, gifted with abundant assets and resources. But sometimes we feel like we don’t have enough of what we have, or we aren’t doing enough with it. How can we employ our assets in a way that is faithful to God’s mission and maximizes its impact in our communities, around the world, on the environment, or throughout the earth? Whether your church is richly thriving or merely surviving, this workshop will offer ideas to utilize what you’ve got to ensure your mission is making an impact now and into the future.
United Church Funds (UCF) provides responsible, values-aligned investment management services to UCC churches and ministries, as well as all faith-based organizations. UCF offers customized investment portfolios and prudent investment strategies that provide competitive returns and reflect its clients’ values in seeking a just world.
Presented by: Rev. Tara Barber, Rev. Ellie Richardson, and Cathleen Wille
Communities of Practice have offered life- and ministry-saving support for nearly twenty years. These facilitated small groups have met monthly to provide support, learning, and accountability. During the pandemic years, we learned how to better offer these groups online, enabling us to connect across conferences to support unique affinity groups and ministry settings. In response, new resources for training and equipping facilitators and conference coordinators have been developed and are ready for distribution. Join us to learn more about offering these groups in your conference and receive the new materials for FREE!
Presented by: Rev. Dr. Sarah Lund, Minister for Disabilities & Mental Health Justice UCCNM; Rev. Dr. Anastasia Kidd, Director of Contextual Education at the Boston University School of Theology and author of Fat Church; Rachael Ward, MDiv, MAPT, Team Lead & Minister for Gender & Human Sexuality Justice and Executive Director for UCC HIV & AIDS Network; Dr. Sharon Fennema, Join the Movement Curator, Education for Faithful Action, UCCNM; Dr. Sherry Warren, Minister for Women’s and Gender Justice, NMUCC
If we are to truly embody everybody, we must first learn about the needs of all of God’s children. As more and more people find that their bodies are being legislated and marginalized, they need to know that the United Church of Christ congregations are ready to provide a Christ-centered welcome of radical hospitality. This workshop, presented by members of the UCC Justice and Local Church Ministries team and leaders in liberative Christianity, will provide an introduction to some of the many ways that people identify, and how to prepare local congregations to welcome them into God’s kin-dom. Toolkit resources will be shared and participants will hear about how to be more inclusive of transgender people, racially and culturally diverse people, folks who experience mental health challenges, and people who deserve better accessibility in our spaces.
Presented by: The Global H.O.P.E. team of the National Ministries of the UCC
This workshop will provide a brief overview of the humanitarian response and development ministries of the United Church of Christ that are facilitated through Global H.O.P.E. Presentations from team ministries for Disaster Response and Recovery, Refugee and Migration Services, and Volunteer Engagement will focus on the work of congregations to support people during times of crisis and through their recovery. Learn how your congregation can join the Willing to Respond Network, become an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation, or provide servant leadership through Partners in Service or a coordinated Mission Trip. Time will be allotted for sharing resources and networking with congregations with a similar sense of mission, providing the next steps that can be taken to get involved, prepare your congregation, support kit programs, volunteer, and more.
Presented by: Ev. Miguel Tomás Castro Garcia, General Pastor, “Emmanuel” Baptist Church in El Salvadore
Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero offered his life in the proclamation of the Gospel and in denouncing the structures that oppressed the Salvadoran people amid the Civil War in that country. His legacy contributed and continues to contribute to the practice of committed, contextual, pastoral, and prophetic faith amid the challenges that El Salvador, Latin America, and the world are experiencing to this day. One of the religious leaders who accompanied Romero, and who also lived his own martyrdom through those days (suffering death threats and being exiled), will offer testimony on what the legacy of the Archbishop means in the current task of the Church today.
Presented by: Dov Baum, PhD., Director, American Friends Service Committee Economic Activism Program; Peter Makari, Global Ministries, Allie Perry, UCC PIN Steering Committee
With the 2021 General Synod resolution, “Declaration for a Just Peace between Palestine and Israel,” the United Church of Christ boldly asserted, as a matter of faith, a rights-based approach to support justice for Palestinians, rejecting Israel’s occupation and practices of apartheid.
This workshop will address why justice in Palestine and Israel matters and will enable congregations to act on the 2021 resolution’s confession of faith and imperative to engage in seeking justice.
Presenter Dov Baum will introduce participants to the nationwide campaign Apartheid-Free Congregations and explore steps for becoming an apartheid-free church and living into that pledge.
Presented by: Moderated by Derek Duncan, East Asia & Pacific Global Relations Minister
The abundant waters of the Pacific Basin sustain fertile grounds for peace, justice, faith, community, and hope to take root. Join Global Ministries with a special emphasis on the region and partners of East Asia and the Pacific, as we explore ways in which the fertile soil and abundant waters of the Pacific Basin are offering opportunities for God’s blessings to grow throughout the region. In this workshop, you will hear partners from the region address regional challenges like climate change and migration, and hear how you can be a part of the Pacific Basin Initiative through opportunities to learn and witness with partners, to volunteer and support projects in the region, and how your congregation can use Global Ministries resources to build solidarity with communities throughout Pacific Basin.
Presented by: Velda Love and Sharon Fennena
Join the Movement Toward Racial Justice (JTM) workshop participants will explore ways to build our collective power to move toward racial justice using the tools, resources, and education at the heart of the 3-year campaign. We will learn about and engage in storytelling for movement building and how it impacts the work of antiracism as a spiritual practice. Topics will include:
Storytelling as a method for building movements within the UCC; Sustaining movement and abolition work to strengthen commitments toward antiracism; Deepening relationships across Conferences, Associations, and local churches—urban, suburban, small town, and rural communities; Developing strategies toward reimagining more interconnected, educated, racially and ethnically inclusive faith communities; Approaches for becoming movement partners in the racial justice movements of our time.
Presented by: An International Partner Panel (Organized by the Global Ministries’ Global Relations Offices)
The United Church of Christ, through Global Ministries, nurtures almost 300 partnerships around the world with churches, schools and seminaries, ecumenical councils, and faith-based organizations. Who are our partners? How has their contextual history and colonization impacted their work and witness?
This workshop will allow Synod delegates and attendees to hear from partners who will be present with us. A panel of partners will share about their presence and witness, their contexts, and their impact on critical issues of justice facing their communities.
Join us to learn about these partners, familiarize yourself with some of our international relationships, increase your potential to engage through Global Ministries, stimulate your awareness of mission and the global church, and enhance your understanding of Christian witness as it is manifest around the world.
Presented by: Rev. Roberto Ochoa, Minister for Ethnic Inclusion, Rural and Small Churches (National Ministries of the UCC), and Rev. Bonne Bates, Conference Minister, Penn Northeast
A recent UCC report from the Center for Analytics, Research & Development and Data (CARDD) shows that 64% of UCC churches are found in communities of less than 25 thousand in what can be considered rural and small-town settings. These UCC churches are a vital and crucial part of the future visioning of the denomination.
The emerging Coalition for UCC Rural Churches and Ministries is a grassroots network of the local church, regional, and national leaders seeking ways to lift up the voices and ministries of the rural and small church settings which included a first-time-ever Virtual National Gathering of Rural and Small Town Churches and Ministries held in February 2023.
All are invited to hear stories of resilience, challenges, celebration, and hope of the rural and small-town church experience, and what it can mean for the future of the UCC.
Presented by: Rev. Cameron Trimble, Convergence
While none of us can see the future of Church, we can use our imaginations to pioneer a preferred future. In this workshop, we will enter into a Futures Lab, a facilitated exploratory space for imagining different futures of your church by creatively challenging the assumptions we hold in the present. It’s a process helpful in breaking through a poverty of imagination so that together, we architect a preferred future. This practice was originated by leaders in UNESCO as a field of study called “Futures Literacy” and allows us to see new possibilities for congregational life. Rev. Trimble uses this methodology in her work with the United Nations as well as congregational consulting with powerful effect. We hope you will join us in the “Futures Lab.”
Moderator: Jonathan Lee, Director of Church Relations and Operations, Pension Boards-UCC
Town Hall panelists responding to questions will include: Brian Bodager, President and CEO, David Klassen, Chief Investment Officer, Carolyn Weiss, Chief Financial Officer, John Linzey, EVP, Corporate Development and Growth, Jim Moos, EVP, Chief Operating Officer, Krista Betz, Director, Leadership Programs, Joaquin Labour-Acosta, Director, Grants and Scholarships, Paul Ramsey, Philanthropy Officer, Travis Marks, Director, Generations University, Jennifer Markewitz, Senior Specialist, Health Services, Maria Soto, Regional Account Manager.
This workshop is an opportunity for Synod delegates and visitors to be in conversation with leaders of the Pension Boards about topics of mutual interest and concern. Discussion topics will be driven by the audience and might include retirement and insurance benefits, organizational mission, investments, ministerial support, leadership programs, new products, and suggestions for enhancing the organization’s impact and effectiveness. This forum is offered in the spirit of transparency for the continued partnership between those who serve the church and those providing benefits.
Presented by: Rebecca Perera, Scott Hackenberg, Maria Coyne, UCC Cornerstone Fund
Have you ever wondered if you could be doing more with your church property to create a lasting impact in your community? If you have and you think “We don’t have the resources for that” – it’s time to rethink! It does not matter what the size of your building is or how many members you have – the Cornerstone Fund can share real-life examples of the many ways churches, large and small, have used their property to create an impact in their community and deliver on their missional focus. We can talk about everything from sharing space and mission with other nonprofit organizations to projects that involve housing, or care for the marginalized. We will also discuss Creation Care projects, which have become an area of expertise for the Fund. We have helped churches go solar, improve their energy efficiency, and in general reduce their carbon footprint in meaningful ways.
Presented by: The Insurance Board and Steven Broniarczyk who has worked in multiple roles in emergency management and homeland security at state and federal levels in Indiana since 2001. He has extensive experience planning and coordinating complex security and emergency management efforts
Active shooter incidents are often unpredictable and evolve quickly. Amid the chaos, anyone can play an integral role in mitigating the impacts of an active shooter incident. CISA aims to enhance preparedness through a “whole community” approach by providing products, tools, and resources to help you prepare for and respond to an active shooter incident.
Building and providing a safe and secure environment for faith-based communities are no different than typical security planning, but with nuances that are respective to an organization’s desire for openness and access, engagement with those they serve, visitors, and the missions that may be impacted by heightened security. No matter what the final secure environment looks like, several factors must be considered when making security decisions related to planning and security enhancements. These factors include the risk associated with your facility, how to identify signs of risk, and de-escalation during personal interactions which provide you with situational awareness and tools that can be used to begin lowering risk and as a result create a more safe and secure environment.
Presented by: Wider Church Ministries and United Church Funds Staff
Sustainability is the buzzword these days, a goal that sounds like something we should aspire to. But what does sustainability mean? Why have nations, investors, and corporations joined a movement first started by environmentalists, community activists, and faith-based organizations? How do we accomplish sustainability? As individuals? As churches? As communities of faith? This workshop will seek to understand what sustainability is all about using the language and framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Then we’ll look at real and actionable ways that sustainability can be implemented in a variety of contexts so that it benefits ourselves, the communities we serve, global partners, and the creation we steward.
Presented by: Basharat Saleem, Executive Director, Islamic Society of N. America; Nina Fernando, Executive Director, Shoulder to Shoulder; Dr. Kathryn Lohre, Co-chair, Shoulder to Shoulder; Facilitator: Mark Pettis
This workshop will be a panel discussion of leaders from the Islamic and Christian communities, and the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, an interfaith organization with the mission of ending anti-Muslim violence and hate. The panel will discuss methods for countering the rhetoric aimed at our Muslim sisters and brothers.
From the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign website:
“If religious communities and people of faith in the United States are connected, equipped, and mobilized to address, counter and prevent anti-Muslim hatred, discrimination, and violence, we will build a more inclusive and pluralistic nation where people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds are treated respectfully, fairly, and with dignity.”
Note: The United Church of Christ is a founding member and participant in the Shoulder to Shoulder Steering Committee.
Presented by: Workshop featuring mission co-workers serving in Guatemala, Kenya, and Korea will be moderated by James Semmelroth Darnell
Celebrate how God is making things new through the work and witness of international partners by meeting and hearing stories from mission co-workers serving in Guatemala, Kenya, and Korea. We will share stories of resilience, creativity, overcoming challenges, and working together in the hope to ensure that all of God’s people and creation share in God’s abundant life. You will leave inspired and encouraged to share the Good News of God’s mission around the world. Join us to discover how you and your congregation can become a part of the stories of global mission.
Presented by: Justice and Local Ministries D.C. office, Michael Neuroth, Katie Adams, Jessica Quinn, and Thaddaeus Elliott
Sending “thoughts and prayers” is an important, and well-intentioned response to a crisis. However, too often, we fail as a society to move beyond this sentiment to take concrete actions to address the root causes of the violence, poverty, exclusion, and hate traumatizing our communities. Collectively, we must say “enough!” and demand change from ourselves and our policymakers. Join this session with the staff of the UCC’s office in Washington D.C. to hear how to effectively engage policymakers using your voice as a person of faith. Learn how to follow policy issues, utilize General Synod resolutions, and leverage creative campaigns and social media for policy change. The bold, prophetic voice of the UCC is desperately needed in our public square in your local city, state capitals, and Washington D.C. Together, we can move beyond statements and sentiments toward effective advocacy to achieve a “Just World for All.”
Presented by: Rev. Tracy Howe, Team Leader, FaithINFO, UCC National Ministries, Rev. Marsha Williams, Ms. Elizabeth Walker
Step into the much anticipated Manual on Church by learning the Marks of Faithful and Vital Local Churches. Participants will have an opportunity to learn the marks and play the new Grow Your Church game, designed by the Manual on Church working group and produced for local church use!
As the new Manual on Church is still in process, participants will have an opportunity to learn how the process is going, preview different sections and learn about the process for review, revision and release over the next two years.
Presented by: Adora Xan Ysaguirre, Ilan Carlos Pabellon-Roman
This workshop uplifts the voices of Gender Non-binary and Trans siblings as they struggle to reclaim their faith and their spirituality in the middle of fundamentalist Christianity. Through the use of personal stories, breathing meditation, and engaging questions, participants are guided to reflect on how our communities of faith will become enriched by the presence of people non-conforming to the patriarchial binary system.
Our facilitators come from different faith traditions and understand from personal experience how to navigate a society that marginalizes them. Participants will leave this workshop feeling hopeful and feeling equipped to bring this learning to their faith communities.
Presented by: Edie Rasell
God’s vision of abundant life for all is not restricted to the spiritual realm but also includes our material circumstances. Jesus healed and called his followers to feed hungry people. The material lives of Judeans mattered to him. Everyone is worthy of the resources necessary for abundant life, material life as well as spiritual life. But how is this to happen? This workshop examines the economic instructions given by Jesus and found in Old Testament law—teachings that are surprisingly relevant today—and identifies four characteristics of a just economy. Using these criteria we will assess the U.S. economy, explore its grievous shortcomings, and examine broad changes in public policies and our personal practices that could move the country substantially closer to a just economy of universal thriving. We also note the biblical insight that such an economy relies on the active engagement of faithful people.
Presented by: Kyle Roberts, Executive Director, and Sara Trotta, Librarian, Congregational Library & Archives
Whether your church is 30 years old or 300, its records are worthy of preservation. Join Librarian Sara Trotta and Executive Director Kyle Roberts of the Congregational Library & Archives as they demystify creating an archive of your church’s history by exploring the basics of church records management, discussing the value of maintaining an archive, and answering frequently asked questions. The Congregational Library & Archives (www.congregationallibrary.org), located in Boston, Massachusetts, not only stores and makes available church records, but it also teaches churches basic archival procedures that can help them preserve their records. This workshop is part of the Library’s recently launched “Church Stewardship Initiative” which includes video tutorials, live online discussions, and much more to support churches struggling to engage in effective records management. By the end of this session, you will be armed with enough knowledge to start an archive for your church!
Presented by: Rev. Amy Johnson and Ms. Lisa Hart
In the current legislative climate of undermining reproductive justice and LGBTQIA+ rights, as well as criminalizing inclusion and diversity, many people are wondering what their churches can do. Our Whole Lives (OWL), along with Sexuality and Our Faith, can provide a practical tool to have developmentally appropriate conversations.
Designed for use with trained facilitators, OWL provides a positive, inclusive frame for bodies, families, gender, and identity. Normalizing diversity in the beloved creation of God helps dismantle stigma and shame, which supports mental health and saves lives. Join us for an interactive workshop with examples of some of the many ways OWL can help your church tackle tough conversations throughout the lifespan.
Presented by: Pastor Ali Lopez-Valcercel, UCC Rio Grande Valley; Rev. Randy Mayer, Pastor of the Good Shepherd UCC, Rev. Noel Andersen, National Field Director for Church World Service; Rev. Irene Willis Hassan, the Minister for Refugee and Migration Services on Team Global HOPE at UCC National Ministries.
The presenters will share firsthand experiences from the realities lived by asylum seekers, migrants crossing through the desert, and those working to provide the basic necessities for health and safety and support for human dignity and justice to all people arriving at the US/Mexico border. Workshop leaders will offer concrete methodologies and resources to educate and move your congregation to effectively engage through advocacy, organizing, and accompaniment of immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Participants will leave with increased awareness of what is actually happening at the border, and how they can respond in their own communities and congregations to support immigrants who are newly arriving while lifting up a prophetic witness amid increasingly anti-immigrant narratives.