by Rev. Dr. Dale Azevedo,  Sr. Minister

I have to admit it. I was salty. Last Saturday was my birthday and I was required to spend all day at a church training in Connecticut.

You see, I’m a delegate for General Synod.

General Synod is the bi-annual denomination-wide meeting of the United Church of Christ. Every two years clergy and laity from across the country gather to worship, celebrate, and conduct the “business of the church”. This year’s Synod will be held in Indianapolis, IN, from June 30 – July 4. And, yes, I was elected as a delegate attending on behalf of the Rhode Island Association of the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ.

And our training was scheduled for all day on Saturday, April 22.

Shortly after I registered for the training it was announced that those who could not make the training were invited to an online version that would take place at a later date and consist of a two hour Zoom presentation. Why was I spending 6 hours in training while driving over an hour each way ON MY BIRTHDAY when I could easily have chosen the quick and comfortable two hour training from my Lay-Z-Boy? As the day approached I became crankier and crankier about how I was going to spend my “special day.” This was exacerbated by the fact that I had convinced myself that no one in their right mind would sacrifice an entire day by choice and I would be only one of a handful of fools to attend in person. This undermined my primary reason for going, which was getting to know the other delegates from our region.

So, yes, I was salty.

I was also wrong.

Saturday morning I got up early, put on my big-boy pants, and headed out to Connecticut. When I arrived, I was greeted by a room full of people, roughly 72 to be more accurate. 72 of our 99 delegates were committed enough to take a day out of their lives to attend a training in support of their church and its denomination. The training was also very fruitful. Worship was uplifting and meaningful. Presentations were relevant. And I got to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Rarely am I ever so happy to be wrong.

As we get closer to General Synod, I will share more details about the expectations I hold, and after, the experiences I have. General Synod is a big deal. This year we will be discussing 15 different resolutions covering topics from abortion as healthcare to discrimination of native peoples to encouraging a plant-based life. We will also be electing a new General Minister and modifying our by-laws. I have previously attended Synod in 2015 (Cleveland) and 2017 (Baltimore), both times as a visitor. It is a pretty awesome (and at times, boring) experience. It truly helps us to recognize the great differences and similarities we share as a denomination. Worship is often top-notch and the keynote speakers are national names that provoke deep thoughts about the role and nature of the church.

Prior to last Saturday, I was not only regretting my decision to attend the training, but I was also regretting my decision to be a delegate. I was thinking about how difficult it would be to be away from BCCUCC another week and to be away from my family. And for what? To sit in a giant convention center for 12 hours a day listening to reports and contentious debate? No thank you! But attending the training last weekend reawakened by respect for the process and my appreciation for the ~1200 people who will be attending Synod along with me. I now look forward to attending AND to sharing my experiences with you.

Lastly, you may not know this but the SNEUCC is looking for young people to attend Synod as a part of our Youth at Synod delegation. This is an opportunity for 13 to 18 year old UCC youth to join a special youth contingent who will travel together from southern New England to Indianapolis to attend many of the proceedings at the event as well as participate in other wonderful opportunities. Scholarships are available if any of our youth are interested. And while you may not be able to hang out with me the whole week, I promise we’ll cross paths at least a few times and, if I’m allowed, I’ll take you out to dinner while we’re there! Let me know if you are interested!!

So how did I spend my birthday? I spent it hanging out with 72 of my “closest” friends sitting around discussing church polity. And I enjoyed every minute of it!