I really enjoyed attending the Annual Gathering of the United Church of Christ’s Northern California-Nevada Conference (NCNC) this year, and I was honored to attend as a FCCA delegate. It was held June 15-17, 2023.
It was very different this year because it was not held in one location where we could all sleep/eat/congregate and attend meetings and worship services together as has been done in previous years when held at Sonoma State and Asilomar.
This year, due to finances at the Conference level, the meetings, worships services and presentations were held in a local church, the First Congregational Church of Palo Alto. Those of us attending from outside the area found our own housing. Carol and I stayed at a nearby motel. Several meals were held at the church; the others we arranged on our own. This worked out better than I expected, and still provided the wonderful sense of community and fellowship that is part of the enrichment of attending an Annual Gathering. I don’t drive anymore and Carol was gracious enough to pick me up and chauffeur me around. It was great fun to attend together.
Some of my highlights were:
A workshop presentation by Rev Barbara Peronteau, the Pastor at First Congregational Church of San Rafael, entitled “A Trans Woman and her Faith Journey.” She told her story. It was riveting and moving. She’s beautiful in every way. I learned and was touched. We’re so lucky to have her in our conference.
The Bay Association meeting—frankly not something at the top of my “looking forward to” list but it was great fun! It was created and presented by Jeanne Strauss, the Moderator of our Bay Association. There was a Jeopardy game with five categories covering the history of the Bay Association and five tiers of money. We met outside in a beautiful patio area of the church on a gorgeous afternoon. Jeanne had prepared a big Jeopardy board with questions. There were about 35 of us attending and we were divided up into two teams. The first team to holler had a chance to answer, with the other getting a chance if not correct. Points were kept for right answers with a large (imaginary) pot of money at stake. It was a raucously good time with much team collaboration, and we learned a great deal about our association.
Another highlight was attending a Racists Anonymous RA meeting which I was blown away by. It’s based on the premise that racism is an addiction, a compulsion that can only be removed by a spiritual transformation. It’s based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The group started in San Jose and has been meeting weekly for years. The workshop was an actual meeting of RA where we got to witness/participate in an RA meeting. They had the format and readings and about 8 of the members from the San Jose host group there leading and participating in the meeting. Racism is a topic near to my heart and this process of addressing my own racism really resonated with me. I’ve been attending one of their meetings on Thursday nights since June and love the community and I feel I’m increasing my awareness of my own racism. More can be found at rainternational.org. All are welcome.
I was also very moved by the installation of our Associate Conference Minister, Rev. Dr. Celestine Fields, at our closing Communion Worship service which was led by our Bridge Conference Minister, Rev. Davena Jones. Both of these women are incredibly visionary women of great Spirit and are also of African American heritage. This followed the presentation and vote on the Black Wealth Builders program resolution, which my fellow Delegate Carol Graham speaks to at length in her reflection, and which was very moving.
I am so grateful to be part of such an inclusive progressive Christian community where we are all celebrated and supported in our call to be all we can be in God’s service.