Leaders of the United Church of Christ have identified the development of new congregations as a vital missional and fundraising priority in the future of the church. To underscore that commitment, a kick-off fundraiser, TESTIMONY!, scheduled during General Synod 2013, begins a major campaign to raise $1 million for church planting and renewal across the UCC.
"TESTIMONY! will launch a more entrepreneurial approach that calls us to different roles and relationships in our denomination," the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of Local Church Ministries told the UCC Local Church Ministries board during the Joint Board meetings March 8.
From TESTIMONY! the UCC aims to infuse more money for new church development by investing in new and renewing churches, providing greater giving opportunities, and connecting newer congregations with more-established ones.
"Over the past five years, the UCC has welcomed nearly 200 affiliating churches into our denomination — more than any five-year period during the past 40 years," Guess said. "Much of this is happening organically, but we have also been quite intentional about starting new churches over the last 10 years, groundwork that is beginning to pay off."
The TESTIMONY! fundraiser on June 29 in Long Beach, Calif. will feature music under the direction of the Rev. Dwight Andrews, senior minister of First Congregational UCC in Atlanta. Individual tickets to the event are $100 and a table of 10 is $800.
There are three levels of sponsorship for the event ($2,500, $5,000 and $10,000) that will be used to support new and renewing churches, and all gifts of $2,500 or more will be recognized during the fundraiser and in a "thank-you" ad in Stillspeaking Magazine.
The initiative is off to a rousing start, as Guess announced one sizeable donation already pledged to the campaign. Don and Ellen Clark of Illinois have contributed $50,000, and were giving a standing ovation during a dinner at the Joint Board meeting.
"Ellen and I are pleased to support new and renewing communities of faith," said Clark, who has represented the UCC as its legal counsel for a decade and recently became General Counsel. "I hope many people will soon purchase seats and tables at the luncheon and support this initiative."
For more information on the campaign, contact the Rev. Elizabeth Clement at firstname.lastname@example.org or Keri Sugerik at email@example.com. Tickets for tables at TESTIMONY! are available on the General Synod website.