Historic National ONA Gathering June 7-9 in Minnesota

Historic National ONA Gathering June 7-9 in Minnesota


Join us in Minnesota for National ONA Gathering June 7-9, 2016!

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.


Why this Gathering is important for you and your church

Nat ONA Gath 2016 poster 3

Click on this image to download a PDF poster for your church!

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.”

Workshops and Bisexuality Track

Blank white book w/pathJust 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


Wednesday, June 27

10 amRegistration opens
1:30 - 3:45 pmTours of Cathedral of Hope
ONA Consultant Mixer
Youth and Young Adult Mixer
4 - 5:30 pmOpening Keynote: Rev. Justo González II
6- 7:30 pmDinner
7:15 pmOption 1: PULSE worship at Cathedral
7:45 pmOption 2: Gathering Choir rehearsal

Thursday, June 28

9 - 9:45 amMorning Devotions
10 - 10:45 amFocus: Intersectionality
11 - 11:30 amSmall Groups: Your Response
12 - 1 pmLunch
1:30 - 2:15 pmFocus: Race
2:30 - 3 pmSmall Groups: Your Response
3:15 - 4:15Workshop Session I
4:30 - 5:30 Workshop Session II
5:45 - 7 pmDinner
7 pmFree time
Choir rehearsal
Dallas at Night

Friday, June 29

9 - 10:30 amWorship with Holy Communion. Focus: Immigrants and Our Communities
10:45 - 11:30Small Groups: Your Response
12 - 1:15 pmLunch
1:30 - 2:15 pmFocus: Widening Our Welcome (A2A and Mental Health in ONA churches)
2:30 - 3 pmBreakout: Facilitated Conversation
3:30 - 4:30Focus: Transgender Awareness
4:45 - 5:30 pmSmall Groups: Your Response
6:30 pmOpen and Affirming Banquet (open invitation to all churches)

Saturday, June 30

9 - 9:45 amMorning Devotions
10 - 10:30 amState of the ONA Movement (Andy Lang)
10:45 - 11:15 amBreakout: Facilitated Conversation
12 - 1:15 pmLunch
1:30 - 2:15 pmFocus: Future of the ONA Movement
2:30 - 3:00 pmBreakout: Facilitated Conversation
3:15 - 3:45 pmSending and Blessing


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 ona@openandaffirming.org 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 ona@openandaffirming.org for information. Or you may find it easier to rent a car.

Driving directions

More information

Please contact the Rev. Rodney Mundy-Haase at ona@openandaffirming.org if you’ve any questions.