BIGs, Samoans, and the Uncomfortable

Saturday at Synod is a more laid back day.  The real “business” doesn’t start until Monday.   Saturday morning is the Synod’s version of “Service Sunday” at Corinth, but those of us who are delegates and/or exhibitors are committed to be on site for much of the day.  This morning the collegium of officers reported on their BIGs – Bold Inspirational Goals.  Click here to read a summary for yourself.

Tonight all the FWC delegates in our “Have You Hugged an ECOT Today?” tshirts joined the luau sponsored by the Southern California Nevada Conference (SCNC) of the UCC.  The luau entertainment was provided by area Samoan UCC churches.  The dances were astounding in their rhythm, beauty, and variety.  These Samoan congregations are seeking status as an underrepresented group, and I’m now intrigued by them.  The SCNC conference minister publicly expressed tonight how cherished these congregations, most of which still speak Samoan in their worship services, are to the conference. 

I went to the conference web site and confirmed what I had suspected – there are no ONA (Open & Affirming) congregations among the 20 Samoan churches. Here’s the statement of vision/mission on one congregation’s web site

The Samoan Congregational Christian Church of South Los Angeles, United Church of Christ’s Vision for the church is rooted in God and in unity of the Body of Christ.  It has been formulated and nurtured in the infallible Word of God, Spirit-anointed servant leadership, and a genuine heart of love for all people.  We are committed to the idea that vibrant Samoan churches in the 21st century must be sincerely committed to conversion and growth.  Our purpose as the Body of Christ is to sustain and expand the loving presence of our Lord Jesus within the multi-ethnic communities that are prevalent in the Southern Los Angeles area.

That sounds ECOT to me!  I’d love to connect with some of these folks, and see if the Lord gives me an opportunity tomorrow or Monday.

On another subject….

During my Speak Out! Moment on the Synod floor this morning I invited delegates and visitors to come to our dinner Monday night to find out “why ECOTs stay in the UCC even when it’s uncomfortable, and why we think it’s good for you that we stay even we are uncomfortable for you.” A couple of speakers for me, a young woman had stepped up to the same mic to ask the UCC to expand its “marriage equality” inclusion to the recognition of polyamory (multiple partners in a consensual relationship).  It seemed to me about 1/3 or more of the delegates applauded.  I was shocked.  And yes, that’s uncomfortable for me.  When I tweeted about her, someone back home responded, “That’s why we are leaving the UCC.”  But it’s why I feel called to stay.  She and this denomination need our presence, prayers, and persistence, even though it’s uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable is good for all of us.  Christians are not spiritual sadists, but sometimes we do need to stay with courage when God calls us to an uncomfortable situation.

Part of what is encouraging me at this Synod is a little devotional book by a Francois Fenelon, a 17th century French Roman Catholic archbishop and poet.  One of the guys in my men’s exercise group at Corinth, Bruce Felkins, shared a reading from Fenelon one morning at the workout, and I’m hooked on his humble spirit.

Consider the Fenelon meditation I’m taking several days at Synod to ponder, titled, “To Bear Annoyances Patiently.”  Think “uncomfortable.”  We instinctively resist situations that require more of whatever little emotional, spiritual, and physical reserve we think we have.   As a Quietist, solitude is what Fenelon wants, but not necessarily what he needs.  Noise, confusion, intrusion, disturbance – these Fenelon turns into a humble dependence on God in the midst of what is uncomfortable.  He writes,

Behind each importunate intruder, learn to see God governing all, and training you in self-denial alike through a troublesome acquaintance as through good examples.  The intruder God sends us serves  

  • to thwart our will,
  • to upset our plans,
  • to make us crave more earnestly for silence and recollection,
  • to teach us to sit loose to our own arrangements, our rest, our ease, our taste,
  • to bend our will to that of others,
  • to humble ourselves when impatience overcomes us under these annoyances, and
  • to kindle in our hearts a greater thirst for God, even while He seems to be forsaking us because we are so disturbed.

Whatever comes from God’s hand bears good fruit.  Often those things which make you sigh after solitude are more profitable for your humiliation and self-denial than the most utter solitude would be.  Let us go on as God leads us from day to day, making good use of every moment, without looking beyond it.

Keep then to this simple rule: seek not temporary fulfillments, but bear in peace all that God sends you, against your will, to disturb you. 

Leave a Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.