Written by Gregg Brekke
In collaboration with Old South, the UCC national setting will present “Bless!” – a broad-based forum on the renewal of the ancient practice of blessing, a rite that has breathed new life and energy into Christian communities.
The national conference will take place Nov. 10-11, the final two days of Mission:1.
“At Old South, we sometimes say, ‘You put it in front of us, and we'll bless it,’” said the Rev. Quinn G. Caldwell, associate minister at Old South. “Not sanction it. Not approve of it, necessarily, but raise our hands over it and ask God to send God's power upon it and do what she will.”
During the two-day conference, Old South clergy will discuss the theology
and practice of blessing; tell how the act of blessing has transformed its congregational
life; and share strategies for bringing blessing more fully into the congregational
lives of UCC churches – and then
out into the streets.
“We have come to believe that blessing is the central act of Christian faith,” said Caldwell. “Before anything else, we ask God to bless, we invite God's presence into the world and into our lives. We ask God to turn us toward the things that call out for our attention – the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Creativity in living out Mission:1 is abounding, said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of UCC Local Church Ministries. “I am so thrilled by the visible ways that congregations have unleashed their creativity around this, which is just what we’d hope would happen.
“We are hearing from dozens of new churches every day that are reporting their goals and creative approaches to making this mission campaign come alive in their local communities,” said Guess. “It’s really exciting to see.”
An extra emphasis on raising more than $111,111 for East Africa famine relief, in addition to the previously stated goal of collecting $111,111 for Neighbors in Need, has raised the collective energy around Mission: 1 fund-raising.
Presented by UCC Local Church Ministries (LCM), Old South Church and the SALT Project, the “Bless!” event will include the introduction of a "Bless!" video and study guide designed to inspire worship leaders to reclaim blessing as a means of revitalizing congregations.
In addition, the "Bless!" closing worship service Nov. 11 will be the nationwide blessing for the conclusion of the UCC "Mission: 1" anti-hunger mission campaign. The service will be web-streamed live.
The meeting will be the first in what LCM hopes will be many collaborations among congregations becoming known as Centers of Excellence in various areas of congregational life.
"We want to be very clear that our chosen Centers of Excellence demonstrate ministry that can be replicated in nearly every church," said Guess. "It must be something that almost any congregation can modify and implement regardless of their size or location.”
Participants will receive a complimentary DVD with registration. The video and study guide will be available for purchase after Nov. 11.