Thanksgiving Pilgrims Still Landing in Sunnyvale On Sunday November 23rd at 11:00am

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An invitation to come and celebrate the 1620's innovation among our Congregationalist forbears and the way it is similar to 21st century Silicon Valley innovation.

This Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 11 AM the rightful heirs to the Pilgrim Thanksgiving legacy in Sunnyvale CA will recall their pilgrim roots by dressing up in Pilgrim fare, worshipping, and celebrating a meal together.

Their new pastor, an African-American and openly gay man says, “I am not the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of the Pilgrims, nor is our modern Silicon Valley building that was actually built before there was a Silicon Valley. This congregation is one of nearly 6,000 nationwide in a denomination that today calls itself, the United Church of Christ (UCC) with approximately 1.1 million members,” says, Pastor Ron Buford. ‘”The Pilgrims just had bad PR. They were huge innovators both socially and technologically. They wore bright colors during the week. On their way to Plymouth they stopped over in P-Town because they ran out of beer. The Pilgrims even relaxed rules about pre-marital sex provided there was a proper engagement.” Buford should know something about this history because he comes to Sunnyvale after serving on the staff of the almost 350 year-old Old South Church in Boston where Ben Franklin was baptized, Sam Adams was a deacon, Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American poet became a member by her own agency, and Old South Church was home to the original Boston Tea Party.

“Whatever became of the Pilgrims, Buford asks rhetorically? We became the two most progressive religious groups in America: The Congregationalists who mostly became the UCC; and the Unitarian Universalists are the other group who now experimentally worship in the same building at different times and for whom Nina Kalmoutis is pastor. Ironically, the Congregational Church at 1112 S. Bernardo rents space to what Pastor Ron calls, “our Unitarian Cousins:” we worship in the same sanctuary at different times right now, as an experiment.

The Congregational Church went through a series of controversies regarding its pre-school and staffing issues but is emerging on the other side with both a new pastor and new attitude. Sunday’s sermon title sounds more like a Pilgrim sermon title than a progressive UCC Congregational Sermon: “Will There Really Be a Judgment?” Pastor Ron asks with a wink.

Buford, no stranger to controversy, was the originator of the UCC’s God is still speaking, campaign and commercials that both NBC and CBS banned as “too controversial at this time.” Pastor Buford says, “Our history is 400 years of raising hell on this continent and we want to raise innovative free thinking children who continue that tradition for the next 400 years. We ordained the first African American in a mainline denomination in 1785, the first woman in 1853, and the first openly gay man in 1972. If religion was a corporation, the UCC would be its research and development department. What better place for us Pilgrims than in Silicon Valley? Though our Faith is over 2,000 years old, our thinking is not.”


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