#UCCSynod: What If We Held a Banquet?

#UCCSynod: What If We Held a Banquet?

Busy day, workshops just wrapped up…three plenaries into Synod 32…leaves many ‘lookin’ for the heart of Saturday night’. Today we heard from Matthew Desmond, personally driving home the tragic inequality that his book well documents. Last night the Rev. Kaji Spellman Dousa challenged the gathered assembly to recognize the “now”; to be in the present for it is all we have, because the future is not guaranteed to any. She used the image of a clock tower on which the clock’s face had lost its hands and in that way, was no longer useful. A haunting image for “church” and it still sits with me.

Her words echoed the Jewish teacher from the first century BC, Hillel the Elder, paraphrased of course, “If not us, who; if not now; when?”  (I do love me some semi-colons) I should also say not only paraphrased…but more so, morphed through over 2000 years, various languages and interpretations winding its way all the way to President Reagan in the 1980’s. Sadly, many gave Reagan credit for the concept…but hey, at least he said it.

Texas song writer Gary P. Nunn wrote a song in 1984 that Willie Nelson covered and so a few more people heard it. “My son looks up, my father he looks down, they’re asking me are we doing all we can. Are we giving back what we’ve taken from our land? If not us who; if not now when? If we don’t do it, nobody can. Who holds the future in their hands? If not us who; if not now when?”

If not us who? If not now, when? Let’s face it; Hillel likely didn’t come up with that one on his own either. But the truth, the underlying reality of it all is that this is our human moral question. We live in the illusion that the moments we live in follow a course and play out and that the end result will some how justify all that we did. But if Jesus had any message that he did not waiver from it was ‘be in the present, one to one, the moment is the sacred.’

Anyhow, two more people asked me for money for food today. And given that I was outside for only a brief time to get lunch it is fair to say those who are hurting right here and now, know we are here. I figure others are experiencing the same.

What if… bear with me… what if we held a banquet at Synod 2021? It has a tad of a Biblical precedent. And remember who were invited? What if we spend the resources and time to offer a free meal for one hour each day of Synod, to any and all who come. And not stop there, but provide a box meal “to go” to help with the rest of the day. It would take some doing…i t would take getting the word out on the street… it would take matching up with city health codes and who knows what else…

Wouldn’t it feel more whole and sound if the United Church of Christ national assembly made the effort to make sure that, at least when we were in town, those present are fed, met on their own terms, and dare I say feel even a slight measure of the love of God?


Mark E. Diters

 The Rev. Mark Diters is pastor of Flagg Road United Church of Christ in West Hartford, CT.

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