I recently recalled the first time I had an airline flight with a layover. My nose was buried in the map of Chicago’s O’Hare airport on the first leg of the flight, completely overwhelmed by the thought of having to go between terminals in less than an hour. It turned out that my gates were literally right next to each other – a gift from God to a neophyte traveler. I’m pretty sure that’s never happened again in all the times I’ve flown through O’Hare or anywhere else.
I reached back into my memory for this 20-year-old experience because I wanted to remember what it was like to get THAT anxious about airline travel. Having flown countless times since that initial experience, I no longer think much of airports and airplanes. I certainly feel the pressure of schedules and the bustling of my frenzied fellow travelers, but I no longer worry much about figuring my way through a new airport. I now know that in most cases it’s pretty easy to follow the signs and get to the place you need to be.
In just two days, a group of 29 young people and their chaperones from Iowa will head out to the Youth at General Synod program in Tampa, Florida. For many this will be a week of firsts – the first time in an airplane, the first time leaving Iowa, the first time seeing the ocean. These things are, at the same time, exhilarating and fearful.
This will also mark the first time many in our group have been exposed to the awesome diversity of the United Church of Christ. For many of us, the church begins and ends with our local church. As wonderful as our local church is, we are also part of something much larger. The United Church of Christ’s logo contains the words, “That they may all be one” (John 17:21). These words reflect our ongoing commitment to be unified, even amidst our diversity.
I remember the first time I attended a United Church of Christ General Synod gathering and was bowled over by the sheer number and diversity of the people around me. It made me excited and proud to be part of a church that could hold together so many different kinds of people under one roof. After going to General Synod a few times, however, the novelty wears off. It becomes easy to take such a wondrous gathering of God’s people for granted.
I ask that you pray for me, our Youth @ General Synod coordinators and participants, our Iowa Conference delegates and the many others who will gather in Tampa for the 28th General Synod of the United Church of Christ later this week. May this indeed be a week of “firsts” whether we’ve attended Synod once or ten times. God always works powerfully when we gather together!
Make sure you check on the happenings of the week through this blog, our new Iowa Conference UCC Facebook page and Twitter feed (@IAConferenceUCC) and through a special report in the July 8 issue of our eNews.