Ambitious Mass. UCC church extends Mission:1 reach

Ambitious Mass. UCC church extends Mission:1 reach

September 11, 2011
Written by Gregg Brekke

The Rev. John Lombard gets fired up when a church campaign has a defined beginning and a set ending.

He’s white-hot about Mission:1 – so hot that his church has set its own lofty parameters.

“We’re actually planning to spread the work of Mission:1 through 11 weeks, not 11 days,” said Lombard, senior pastor at Trinitarian Congregational UCC in Concord, MA.

Mission:1, which plays on the UCC motto, “That they may all be one,” will run the 11 days from Nov. 1-11, 2011 (11-1-11—11-11-11). The goal is to collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks, $111,111 in online donations for hunger-related ministries and $111,111 in online donations for East Africa famine relief. Its 5,300 congregations will advocate for hunger causes worldwide via a goal of 11,111 letters to Congress.  

The Trinitarian twist includes a campaign kickoff date of Sept. 11 – on which church members rolled out their version of Mission:1 by collecting cans of tuna – and culminates on Thanksgiving Sunday.

“We have contacted the local funding program to ask them what they need most,” said Lombard. “We’re challenging congregations to one item per week. We’ll ask them to bring tuna fish the first week, macaroni and cheese the second week, and so on.”

On each of the subsequent 10 weeks, Trinitarian members will collect 10 separate food items, said Lombard, who noted that learning more about Mission:1 at General Synod in Tampa, Fla., in July is what “catalyzed” his interest in it.

“Hunger has an educational component, an advocacy component, a social-justice component and a worship component,” said Lombard. “It has an enriched meaning because it's bathed in our faith. That's why I like all these things being drawn together in one place at one time.

“That doesn’t mean there won't be a carryover to other times, seasons and opportunities,” Lombard explained. “But I think things that have a beginning and an end, that provide a high-powered focus, tend to offer incredible results and a much greater impact.”

Each month the church newsletter will feature hunger information, including a two-sided page with a mix of hunger information, quotations and statistics.

“We’ll also be participating in the CROP Walk, which should raise over $40,000,” said Lombard. “Our church historically has provided the leadership for the entire community on this. We are hoping for 111 walkers, sponsors and volunteers.”

In addition, Trinitarian plans to feature a guest speaker from Bread for the World at one of its Sunday services. On another Sunday, Lombard says computer banks will be set up in the parish hall. “We think this will connect our young people with other young people who want to help us fight hunger via computer.”

Hunger will be addressed in worship services, a Bible study and 111 letters to Congress, said Lombard, adding that preliminary plans for a monetary appeal involving a "significant" dollar amount are in the works. “We are marshaling some resources for Neighbors in Need, which we have not historically done,” he said.

Efforts toward easing widespread starvation in Somalia and other parts of East Africa are also in Trinitarian’s plans, Lombard said.

“We are excited to work with the UCC with this all-church effort,” he said. “It's a wonderful way for the United Church of Christ – too often in the background of religious life – to be in the forefront of making a very positive difference on a variety of levels.

Clearly, the timing of Trinitarian’s Mission:1 participation pleases Lombard.

“What better way than Thanksgiving Sunday could you have to wrap things up?”

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