28 July 2010

Where God Has Placed a Comma

As part of our internships at WATER, Ikhlas, Elizabeth and I took a “field trip” to the United Church of Christ DC headquarters this summer, where we met with the Rev. Dr. Mari Castellanos, an esteemed member of the UCC church and social justice activist, who is policy advocate for domestic issues at the UCC.

Dr. Castellanos welcomed us warmly with a stream of information about the church: commercials, literature, inclusivity, focus on social justice, all of which impressed me with their broad welcome, clearly stated core beliefs and progressive outlook. “God is still speaking,” as the UCC unofficial motto goes.

A few days later, I saw UCC principles in action at the wedding of Sue, my godmother, and her partner Claire in Chicago. The ceremony was held at Wellington Church in Chicago: we were invited to “come as you are.” Like the UCC church, the wedding incorporated many different traditions, including Cherokee poetry, readings from the Bible, Cris Williamson songs, Shakespeare sonnets, and the poems of Khalil Gibran. An impassioned call that the marriage, though not recognized in the eyes of the state of Illinois, was legitimate in the eyes of UCC was met with cheers from the congregation.

The progressive interpretations of the Bible, combined with a welcoming community, illustrated to me the importance of women’s theology, ethics, and ritual. We lit candles on the altar, sang songs, and responded to the call to worship. The brides’ vows were even different from the usual I do’s and reflected their belief systems.

I was reminded of the unofficial UCC creed: never place a period where God has placed a comma; I was also reminded of the other UCC phrase: God is still speaking; indeed, everyone with a voice who wanted to contribute may speak in the UCC church.

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