Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ 2019 Annual Gathering and Meeting– Orlando, Florida October 10 – 12, 2019 Observations by Claire Stiles
Pastor Kim Wells and Claire Stiles attended the Annual Gathering of the Florida UCC on Friday and Saturday, October 11 – 12 in Orlando, Florida. Besides co-presenting a workshop on Becoming a Creation Justice Church: The Journey, we attended business, affinity group, and Town Hall meetings as well as inspiring presentations on Racial Justice and Equality and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Fair Food Alliance. The conference ended on Saturday morning with a heartfelt “vespers” style worship service where a small group of us sang “Here I am Lord” and “Rejoice!” in four-part harmony under the direction of Kevin Harris.
The theme of this year’s gathering was “What Wondrous Love” from the book of Acts in the Bible. The scripture tells of many wonders and signs which arose when around a common table, shared prayers, learning about the Way of Jesus, and community building, people walked in covenant with one another. As we confront the sometimes overwhelming challenges of the 21st century, we were and are asked to embrace this wondrous love and continue to build the beloved community together. Finding and following our own discipleship as we love and support each other was a powerful message for all of us.
Sharing of personal stories of suffering, healing, and redemption both publically and in one-on-one conversations by a number of participants and leaders made this gathering particularly memorable and touched many hearts. I came away feeling humbled and uplifted by the UCC leadership, values, and spirit. Many caring, committed, and compassionate people are working hard in Florida to uphold the true mission of Christianity and of the Church. I am grateful to be a part of this tradition.