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Da Vita McAllister stirs Annual Meeting participants to find their gifts and act

Da Vita McAllister energized 2011 Annual Meeting participants, flowing from her opening sermon on the love of the pelican and the grasshopper through her keynote address culminating in the call to transform the world.

Da Vita McAllister
Da Vita McAllister

Connecticut UCC Conference’s associate minister for youth and young adult ministries set a tone for members of the United Church of Christ to know and celebrate “who we are” as UCC believers.

Too often we in the UCC define ourselves by who we are not,” she said.

Preaching on John 1’s call for believers to “love one another,” she said, “if we love one another, we know God andGod’s love is perfected in us.”

Describing herself as a Baptimethocostal of Christ, she shared her journey—born Baptist, converted to Pentecostal, ordained United Methodist and finding her home in the UCC.

Encouraging participation of delegates and guests gathered April 29 and 30 at University Congregational UCC in Seattle, she invited them to allow their hands “to resist gravity and rise,” to put their hands together and clap, to shout “Amen!” or “UhHuh!” or to sit quietly and stay awake. Her keynote address was punctuated with repetition and hand motions, inviting the congregation to say the words.

If you have ever loved anyone or anything, you know God,” she said. “On the surface, it seems simple, but the Scripture keeps going.

“What does it mean to be the body of Christ, brothers and sisters in God’s family, when there are some folks we do not love?” McAllister asked.

She told of a pink pelican and a green grasshopper who were the best of friends, inseparable despite being different species with political parties, shoe sizes and worship styles.

The proud, distinguished and introverted pelican let the music of worship wash over him and liked silence to explore the depth of God’s Spirit.

The extroverted grasshopper favored the Scripture, especially “God so loved the world, that whosoever...” He would hop around as he and the pastor went back and forth 20 minutes, repeating “whosoever.”

Because people wondered how they could be the best of friends, the pastor asked them to give a testimony.

The grasshopper said, “God does not require us to change everything in the world or pray each moment, but to ‘put something on’,” to do something to address racism, homophobia, patriarchy, oppression, the environment and more. As the pelican went silently to sit down, the grasshopper thought he didn’t agree. The pelican replied with singing, “We are one in the Spirit.”

Speaking on “Connections, Reflections and Directions,” she reminded of the UCC welcome that “whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

She invited participants to reflect on the uniqueness of each and to realize God’s love is great enough to make space for each. That welcome, she said, challenges UCCers to think of things in new ways, to challenge themselves and allow others to challenge them to build up the church.

She urged participants to do something with information they gained at the meeting.

God loves us whether we are pelicans, grasshoppers or pelihoppers,” McAllister said. “We are not connected by our uniqueness but by God’s unifying love.”

Before each person was conceived, “God gave each a gift, and God expects each of us to use the gift to transform the world, she said, “because the world is full of violence and self-interest, which are not consistent with God’s way of doing things. To transform it is a big job, so each needs help. Everyone is to discern their gift and to use it collectively.

God understands we are already connected,” she said, commenting that many church people, although part of 15,000 committees and 4,000 task forces think they have to transform the world by themselves, so they become burned out.

“The church needs to be connected in a disconnected world,” she said. “We need to see ourselves as standing side by side, connected in the palm of the hand of the living God.”

She offered a vision that gives sight of long-term possibilities—working interdependently to transform the world, stepping out of survival mode and “standing together to see what we can do together to transform the world,” she said.

We need to ‘put some on,’ stir things up and transform the world,” she repeated. “The church is the place to go to be stirred up—whether sitting silently in touch with our inner pelican or hopping about as the grasshopper.

To stir things up, she called for recognition of differences, such as between those born before and after 1980.

She suggested that those born before 1980 tend to do one thing at a time, use technology to people with whom they already relate, had limited media exposure to differences, and participated in church as the center of civic life.

Those born after 1980 tend to do multiple things at one time—study, tweet, listen to a iPod and search the web—use technology to form relationships, are exposed to diversity in media, and have grown up in a world where the church is not at the center of society.

For the young, 90 percent of what we do in the church is done thousands of ways elsewhere and better,” she said, but what the church does best is to help people discern their gifts, and to hear and feel God’s will and call to transform the world.

“The sweet spot is to find what God wants, what you have and what the world needs. Each of us needs to find the sweet spot. That’s the 10 percent the church does that no one else does,” she said.

God gives us the tools to put some on, stir up our gifts with others and the compassion to stir gifts in others to make the world more loving and caring.”

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © Summer 2011





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