Over 500 people from the Southern New England conferences, as well as a few colleagues from other conferences and denominations, came together in Framingham, Massachusetts, for a day of worship, fellowship and learning. In support of breast cancer awareness month, staff donned pink attire. The worship team and the Gospel Love Tones gospel group, along with the keynote speaker Bishop Dwayne Royster, led the crowd in Spirit-filled worship – so engaging it inspired one of the young children participating in the child care program to emerge from the stage “pray-ground” and get closer to the gospel singers.
Royster, who is the Political Director of Faith in Action and serves as the Pastor of the Faith United Church of Christ in Washington, DC, reminded attendees in a rousing speech: “God has never called us to be comfortable. He called us to be holy and righteous.”
Royster’s keynote focused on planting seeds that tell a different sacred story, one that tells about the value of life, not just some life, but all life. (View a video of his address here.)
He preached that diversity is a blessing and not a curse and urged the crowd to tell a story that declares that no matter who you are, you are God’s children who are valued, are welcome, loved, and wanted in this world. But he warned that we will not get there doing church as usual, using the same old sermons, and the same old liturgies. He believes we will create the change by having the audacity to believe God has given us the power to be different in the world, to speak the truth, to go against others, to even be hated when you show up and say that “we are all children of God and that the world can be different than the way it is now.”
Tomi Jacobs-Ziobro from the Federated Church of Orleans, MA, found Royster’s address to be “very inspirational and honest.”
Pam McGrath of the First Church of Christ, Longmeadow, MA, liked how Royster called attendees to think outside one’s own narrative to see something better. “I was inspired when he said to do it from bravery, and not from comfort.”
In his workshop titled “Theology of Resistance,” Royster discussed the stages of transformation through organizing. He spent much of this discussion on the first step, which he called “Encounter,” in which one builds relationships through story. This, says Royster, is how we get to the truth in people, through deeper conversations that go beyond polite conversation.
“We have to do so some encountering. We have to ask, ‘what keeps you up at night?’”
Other workshops addressed climate change, safe conduct, church promotion, giving, inclusion, prayer stations, caregiving, Bible stories, creativity, social justice, addictions, altarscapes, and a litany of other subjects – with anywhere from 5 to 40 participants in each class.
New this year, Super Saturday participants were asked to bring with them donations of supplies for Church World Service hygiene kits — items such as washcloths, toothbrushes, soap, and Band-Aids — that will be distributed to victims of natural disasters. Twenty-three youth from five Southern New England UCC churches and their leaders put their faith into action by sorting the supplies and then encouraging attendees to help assemble the kits. (See related story.)
Also new this year, several graduates of the Faith Formation Leadership Certificate Program were presented with their certificates during the morning session. (Read about them here.) This newly launched program combines the former Christian Education Certification program with the former Education for Effective Youth Ministry program.
“This new program sets a standard for faith formation leaders and provides support for their professional development. It’s an affirmation from our Conference of the importance of faith formation in our local congregations,” said Debbie Gline Allen, Associate for Faith Formation & Youth Ministries, Massachusetts Conference. “This is literally the only program of its kind in the United Church of Christ, so these students are truly supported and encouraged in their ministry.”
“We’ve heard many very positive comments about the workshops, worship and the day as a whole,” said Ellie Richardson, Massachusetts Associate Conference Minister for Lay and Clergy Leadership Development. “The insights and information shared is already at work making a difference in the lives of our colleagues, churches and communities.”
See a Facebook gallery of photos from the event here (No Facebook account required)
Note: Save March 14, 2020 for the next Super Saturday, being held at Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham, MA. Workshop proposals can be submitted here.
Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane writes news articles for the SNEUCC website. She is also the editor of the Starting With Scripture newsletter. Contact her if: Your church has a great story to tell about an innovative ministry. You have a prayer request to ...