- Open and Affirming
Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, what’s next for the Open and Affirming movement in the United Church of Christ? “ONA NEXT” is the theme of this year’s National ONA Gathering June 7-9 at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, MN.
“Marriage equality was a milestone on our journey towards justice, but not the end of the journey,” says Andy Lang, the Open and Affirming Coalition’s executive director. “There’s plenty of work for ONA churches in the years to come: challenges but also exciting opportunities for ministry, mission, advocacy and evangelism.”
Gathering begins with dinner at 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, and ends at 9 p.m. Thursday, June 9. For early arrivals, lunch is offered Tuesday followed by afternoon recreation. The program begins at 5:30 Tuesday with Opening Worship. Our concluding ONA Banquet begins at 6 pm Thursday: participants arriving Thursday for the Minnesota Conference Annual Meeting are welcome to join us at the banquet! One-day registration is also available if you’re unable to attend the entire event. One-day registration is available if you’re attending only part of the program.
Please note: if you’re registering for the Gathering AND the concluding banquet Thursday night, you’ll need to return to the registration page after you complete your Gathering registration, and use the Banquet option to reserve your ticket.REGISTER TODAY!
National ONA Gathering is the signature annual event for the UCC’s nationwide ONA movement. With inspiring worship and music, unforgettable preaching, informative workshops, and opportunities for rest and play, an ONA Gathering is an opportunity to renew a congregation’s passion for ONA ministry and mission.
Keynoter this year is the Rev. Traci Blackmon, the new executive minister of the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries. As pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO, Rev. Blackmon was a lightning rod for the UCC’s response to the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. “Pastor Blackmon rallied people of faith throughout the country to stand with the people of Ferguson,” Lang says. “She spoke eloquently for the heart and soul of the United Church of Christ. We invited Rev. Blackmon to share her vision and passion with us because ONA churches throughout the country are asking how they can live out their commitment to racial, social and economic justice.”
This year’s Gathering comes at a turning point for the 31-year-old ONA movement in the UCC, says Lang. “Marriage equality has opened new doors for the LGBTQ community in this country, but as a movement we need the momentum to walk through those doors. LGBTQ Americans still have no legal protection in 28 states against discrimination in housing, employment, or public accommodations like restaurants. In state after state, the opponents of marriage equality are campaigning for new laws that will grant a broad ‘religious exemption’ allowing private business owners and public officials to refuse service to LGBTQ couples or individuals. The murder rate against transgender women of color continues to rise, and LGBTQ youth continue to commit suicide because their families or churches have taught them to fear their capacity to love and seek love in return. LGBTQ seniors face abuse and neglect in nursing homes, and LGBTQ asylum-seekers are fleeing to our shores from countries where their sexual orientation or gender identity is an invitation to assault, prison, or worse.
“This is not the time for ONA churches to take a vacation from the unfinished work of our movement,” Lang says. “This National ONA Gathering will equip congregations with the tools they need to build ministries of justice and compassion that will transform their communities.”
Just announced: a “Bisexuality Track” covering two workshop sessions on Wednesday, June 8. Marie Alford-Harkey, president and CEO of the Religious Institute, will help congregational leaders learn how to initiate faithful conversations in their church on bisexuality! This is an opportunity to learn how the new resource, “Bisexuality: Making the Invisible Visible in Faith Communities,” can help your church become a safer place for your bisexual members and neighbors! If you want to attend only this track, register for Wednesday only.
Other workshop and plenary topics:
Plenary on LGBTQ aging: care, respect and advocacy
Plenary on “WHAT’S NEXT for the ONA movement?”
Millennials, Digital Worship and Advocacy
Trans* experience and spirituality
Trans* advocacy: how to defeat the “bathroom bills”
How to manage change and conflict in your congregation
Open and Affirming 201: best practices for ONA evangelism and church growth
ONA opportunities in health care and human services
LGBTQ health and the resurgence of AIDS
Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry
How the Bible can strengthen your journey towards an ONA covenant
Being ONA in a small town or conservative community
Art and Worship
Tuesday, June 7
|11 am||Registration begins|
|12 - 1 pm||Lunch for early arrivals|
|1 - 4 pm||Optional recreation for early arrivals|
|4 - 5 pm||Dinner|
|5:30 - 7 pm||Worship, Opening Plenary|
|7 - 9 pm||Social Evening|
Wednesday, June 8
|7:30 - 8:30 am||Breakfast|
|9 - 10:30 am||Traci Blackmon Keynote|
|11 am - 12 pm||Plenary|
|12 - 1 pm||Lunch|
|1:30 - 3 pm||Workshop Session 1|
|3:30 - 5 pm||Workshop Session 2|
|6 - 8 pm||Evening Reception|
Thursday, June 9
|7:30 - 8:30 am||Breakfast|
|9 - 10:30 am||WHAT'S NEXT for the ONA Movement?|
|11 am - 12 pm||WHAT'S NEXT for the ONA Movement?|
|12 - 1 pm||Lunch|
|1:30 - 3 pm||Workshop Session 3|
|3:30 - 5 pm||Workshop Session 4|
|6 - 8 pm||National ONA Banquet with Andy Lang|
Scholarships are available for young adults, persons of color, and others who may need financial assistance. Please apply for a scholarship when you complete your online registration. If you’ve any questions about scholarships or anything else, contact us at email@example.com or call 216-736-3228.
Do you want to help the Coalition offer more scholarships? You’ll have a chance to contribute to our Gathering Scholarship Fund when you register online.
Please contact the College of St. Benedict at 320-363-5791 or use this online form to reserve housing.
The College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, MN, is about an hour-and-a-half drive from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. It’s a six- to seven-hour drive from Milwaukee, Chicago and Lincoln, NE, a five-hour drive from Bismarck, ND, a four-hour drive from Des Moines, IA, and three-hour drive from Sioux Falls, SD. However, highway construction may delay your trip by an hour.
If you’re flying into Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, we may be able to help with transportation. Write firstname.lastname@example.org for information. Or you may find it easier to rent a car.
Please contact the Rev. Rodney Mundy-Haase at email@example.com if you’ve any questions.
A former minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Blackmon is the first woman pastor in the 156-year history of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Birmingham-Southern College (1985) and a Master of Divinity degree, with an emphasis in Womanist Liberation Theology, from Eden Theological Seminary (2009).
Prior to seminary, Rev. Blackmon served as pastor of Simpson Chapel AME Church in Columbia, MO, for two years. She is the founder of the Sista SOS Summit, an intergenerational symposium designed to assist women toward spiritual and sexual wholeness. Rev. Blackmon is also the co-founder of “When Women Gather…,” a monthly ecumenical gathering committed to facilitating the spiritual growth and development of women by studying the Word of God through the unique lens that is womanhood.
As a licensed Registered Nurse with over 25 years experience in health care, Rev. Blackmon is coordinator of faith-based initiatives at BJC HealthCare and a senior consultant with The Praxis Group, LLC. Rev. Blackmon has created and facilitated capacity building workshops on racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, interfaith dialogue, congregational grief and domestic violence.
Rev. Blackmon is a graduate of Leadership St. Louis, and her board experiences include: St. Louis Effort for AIDS, The Kidney Foundation, St. Louis Minority Business Council, Planned Parenthood St. Louis, Magdalene House St. Louis and The St. Louis Black. Rev. Blackmon also served as student chaplain for Lydia’s House, a transitional shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
She has been executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries in the UCC’s national office since January. In that capacity, she is a member of the UCC’s Collegium of Officers.
Rev. Blackmon treasures most the privilege of being mother to three wonderful young adults: Kortni; Harold II; and Tyler Blackmon and a servant of God and God’s people.