In an effort to encourage good will and build relationships between local congregations and the national setting, the UCC is launching the "100 Church Initiative," a program that will acquaint UCC staff members with local churches.
The initiative, which grew out of talks at the UCC's Mission Planning Council, will have 50 staff of the national setting establish and nurture relationships with 100 local churches by getting to know the pastor and lay members of their assigned churches. During personal visits, staff members will learn about the local church's unique ministry and serve as a liaison to the national setting, addressing specific needs or questions.
The idea is to strengthen the connections between churches and the national setting as well as show an appreciation for the conference and national ministries made possible through gifts to Our Church's Wider Mission.
"In this day and age, this effort to help improve communication between the local church and our national offices is a fantastic thing to do," says the Rev. Bill Hoglund, senior pastor of First Congregational UCC in Downers Grove, Ill. "This will be very helpful to our church."
"I think this is a great idea," says the Rev. Ana Gobledale, also of Wider Church Ministries. "It's an opportunity for mutual sharing and learning. I see this as an opportunity to hear where our local churches are, what excites them, and how we can better serve them, seeing how they do pay most of our salaries."
Select members of the staff will contact the Conference Ministers and local church pastors of churches they are assigned. They will read the local churches' newsletters, worship with the congregations and listen to and learn about the people sitting in the pews. While all local churches are important, only 100 churches have been chosen at this time, but more churches will get a national staff visitor as the program grows.
"We think we'll learn some valuable things from this initiative," says Edith A. Guffey, Associate General Minister. "People are excited to be a part of it."