One of the nice things about slipping out of the inner UU orbit is that I get to be a bit of a newcomer again with the UCC, and that I can make disinterested (and I hope helpful) comments about the UUA. PeaceBang (her most recent word) et alia have kicked up some dust about the Sunday evening/closing worship event. Let’s review.
I’ve not been to General Assembly since 2003, but what was done then was what was commonly done for a good number of years before: there was the Service of the Living Tradition, which honored retiring and deceased ministers, in the morning; the Christians would have Communion that evening — I think the big CLF service was often at the same time — and the Ware Lecture finished Sunday, though I don’t recall ever going to one.
The Service of the Living Tradition meant a lot to me, even though I would make rather broad impersonations of John Buerhens (a page from that era) over-emoting the prayer for the dead. To tell the truth, that’s one of the things I will miss. It was at the 1993 GA Service of the Living Tradition that I resolved to cast my lot with the UUA. So thank God for streaming video, because it is important. Goodness! After I linked the page above, I noticed Dan Weck was memorialized in 2000.
He charged the congregation at my ordination, having served a small South Carolina church deep in his retirement. He died shortly thereafter. Dan was the kind of little-known, tireless minister who got their due at the Service of the Living Tradition, and that’s part of its power even when it looks like Commencement. I think it says a lot about the ministerial college that there was so little grousing about it being moved, so a Sunday morning seeker service could take its place. Well, for one year anyway.
I wonder if its this messing around with ecclesiological feelings — deep custom eroded by marketing — that’s at the core of the agita about ending GA with what should be an important service. After all, we don’t know what to expect any more. That’s more than discomfort; rather, it seems to take the “sense of the Assembly” too lightly. Who owns GA, after all? It seems to be an event looking for a rationale, which is rather sad. But perhaps I’m wrong: the GA delegates will have to figure it out for themselves and I’ll be content as long as I have adequate bandwidth.
Lastly, from a logistics viewpoint, now that GA has been shifted to end on Sunday, but really too late to be of much use to most delegates. So they’s resign themselves to not going to the closing celebration or will attend only because they couldn’t get a reasonable flight out that night anyway.
One of the funny things about transitioning to the UCC is that I can see so many parallel actions. I can imagine administators in Boston and Cleveland having each other in their Rolodexes — at least it seems that way.
For what its worth, the UCC’s General Synod 25, last year in Atlanta had no Sunday morning “big service” but did have morning prayer, as GA will have a spiritual disciplines event I suppose. Even if there was adequate UCC church capacity in Atlanta (there isn’t), Sunday morning was full of committee hearings. The main Sunday service was that evening, but comparisons don’t quite work since GS 25 didn’t break until Tuesday.
That said, and without having been to a General Synod, it looks like General Assembly compares well with worship opportunities. Of course, both denominations might as well need to pray more in coming years.