Woven Together – Ties That Bind

After our EKD / UCC consultation in Washington D. C. and signing the common commitment to Church Fellowship (“Kirchengemeinschaft”) I drove with Martha Koenigs Stone – head of the ecumenical commission of the UCC New York Conference (UCCNY) and a UCC representative at the EKD/UCC Forum – and Randy Stone to the annual meeting of the UCCNY Conference in Binghamton.

For two days delegates of the UCC Congregations in the State of New York and the Conference Board came together for their annual meeting – comparable with our synod – in Binghamton. The motto was “Woven Together – Ties That Bind” and referred to the Conference Mission: “United in Christ, we are called to embody healthy relationships in faithful connection to one another: equipping, encouraging, and empowering each other in vital witness to the gospel through radical welcome, justice and love.”

Together with Dean Holger Kamlah from the Deanery Frankfurt-Offenbach I could represent EKHN as a partner church of the UCCNY. For me it was my last official visit to UCCNY as I’m retiring by the end of the year. I was deeply touched by the unexpected farewell the conference board gave to me during this annual meeting. I remember very well the annual meeting of the UCCNY conference in 2011 at the same place Binghamton. At that time, I came from Kingston / Jamaica from the International Peace Convocation of the World Council of Churches (WCC). This Peace Convocation was the beginning of the WCC’s pilgrimage for peace, justice and reconciliation which was confirmed at the 11th WCC Assembly 2022 in Karlsruhe as pilgrimage for justice, reconciliation and unity. 2011 at the annual meeting I learnt that the UCC already in 1985 pronounced to become a Just Peace Church. This pronouncement has inspired a grassroots movement of UCC congregations committed to corporately naming and boldly proclaiming a public identity as a justice-doing, peace-seeking church. I referred to that in my words of greetings by saying: “This binds us together as the synod of the EKHN also encourages congregations to search for ways to become Just Peace Congregations. We all share the hope that a just world is possible.”

During the annual meeting the delegates received reports from several commissions, they decided about the annual budget, a resolution of witness in response to Christian Persecution in India and of the revision of the Bylaw. One of the tasks of the Bylaw revision team was to draft a new by-law language to increase diversity and equity in the conference. The resolution of witness in response to Christian Persecution in India the UCCNY Conference condemns the violence against religious minorities in India, which includes Christian organizations and individuals and urges the US Government to “… advance human rights for all religious communities in India and promote religious freedom, dignity, and interfaith dialogue through bilateral engagement and in multilateral forums” and to “ condemn ongoing religious freedom violations and support religious organizations and human rights groups targeted for their advocacy of religious freedom. …” (complete resolution: https://uccny.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/Resolution-of-Witness-Christian-Persecution-in-India.docx)

The highlight of the annual meeting was the installing of Dr. Marsha Williams as the first black woman conference minister in the New York Conference and the installing of the 4 associated conference ministers in a powerful and liturgically lively church service with a lot of singing, praying and preaching.

Rev. Dr. Marjorie Purnine, Rev. Barbara Toll, Rev. Gary Ferner, Rev. Ryan W. Henderson and Rev. Dr. Marsha Williams (from left to right)

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