by Diane Weible
As we continue to build on our 2020 Annual Gathering theme,“The Elephant in the Room,” and our 2021 theme, “The Elephant Speaks: Listen. Reflect. Learn,” we are expand our opportunity for reflection even further: “Learn. Love. Act.” Is our 2022 Annual Gathering theme. As our Annual Gathering Planning Team was brainstorming what we would like to see from a keynote presentation, we decided we want to focus, in particular, on the word “Act”.
For the past two years (at least) we have been encouragingLearning—learning to hear stories in a way that invites perspectives outside our single narrative—out of the story that is most familiar to us; that we expect to hear—and into the story of another person’s experience. Many of our churches have used the time of Pandemic to create opportunities to learn and grow together.
We have also been intentional about what it means to Love, especially in a contentious time in our society. Our Conference Council has been learning about Revolutionary Love through the writings and work of Valarie Kaur and all of us had an opportunity to reflect on this theme through the blessings of our keynote speaker last August, Mother Ruby Sales.
While not stepping away from our journey to learn more and love more, this year we hope to lean into how we step out in faith and mission and ministry to act in a way that supports our values and our hopes for a future free of racism and white supremacy.
To that end, we have invited staff from the United Church of Christ’s Council for Health and Human Services Ministries(CHHSM) to keynote our 2022 Annual Gathering. They have accepted that invitation and in the next week or two we hope to have more details about what they will be sharing with us. For now, however, I wanted to share with you how this decision came about and a little of what we are working on as we prepare for our time together at Sonoma State University (and online) in June.
Last month during a Council of Conference Ministers meeting in Cleveland, we were hosted to lunch by the staff of CHHSM. Each staff member talked about the work they are doing for leadership formation and advocacy around issues such as affordable housing, healthcare for all, and reproductive health care justice. They spoke about the Anti-Racism Center they created to offer their own resources and to partner with others to provide tools for addressing white supremacy and anti-racism. They showed us their website that includes all of this as well as a section on co-liberation and allyship movements. Disability justice, food justice, housing justice and reproductive justice are just a few of the specific issues they are addressing.
As I listened to each of the staff members share what they were doing, I heard the resonance with what we are seeking to do as the Northern California Nevada Conference. Last week I met with several of the staff members to talk more about what we are doing and what we are hoping for from them in this keynote presentation. Instead of asking for something specific, I shared what I just shared with you—the reason I felt this connection with them and how I see Spirit offering us this space to build on our conversations and work. I shared some of what you all have told me you are doing in your churches, as a result of the four resolutions we passed in 2020. I talked about my own hopes and dreams, and I listened to more about their work and how they see it fitting with what I shared.
As I said, there is more to come but I am excited for what this keynote presentation will offer us and I look forward to seeing you at Sonoma State University, or, online through one of our streaming opportunities. If you haven’t yet registered, you can learn more here.