But, four years later, we know that our national ads have reached millions of people, reenergized the leadership and membership of many of our local churches, created a buzz about the UCC's extravagant welcome, empowered us to tell the story of our many historical firsts, rooted us in a common identity that pulls from the past and invites into the present, and declared a future open to the Stillspeaking God.
We did not shy away from getting our message out across the airwaves, because we knew that our message was newsworthy. We knew that we had something edgy, bold and creative to say. We knew that we were stewards of the church's story and that it was an imperative of the UCC to draw outside of the box — with bright and beautiful colors. We knew that we could be as bold and daring as any other in the history of the church who challenged the confines of exclusive identities.
As the Stillspeaking Coordinator, whenever I hear or think upon the question, "Why us?" my response is always, "Why not us!"
When the Apostle Paul declared that "there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer female and male, for all of you are one in Christ" (Galatians 3:28), he was radically altering everything he had been taught and everything he had defended.
Where did he get such an idea? Jesus!
When Jesus said, "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me" (Matthew 10:40), he gave his followers the only dictum by which to live and measure their faithfulness to God.
The UCC is a steward and storyteller of this welcome. The UCC is responsible to make good on this universal welcome that is played out on the local fields of our hearts, homes, neighborhoods, churches, beliefs, theologies, convictions, stories, poetry and art. Never is there a time for pulling back or holding back this most extravagant of welcomes.
In my heart of hearts, I believe the UCC has come upon another moment to declare that "all the people" belong to God and that all are welcome in our churches.
This is our moment to take the beloved "Steeples" TV ad to the masses. Already produced and primed for airing, we can do this together if we will open our hearts and treasure troves. If we dig deep into our pockets, we can make a national ad run possible that will reach millions more with a message of radical inclusion.
Every dollar we raise will go to airing "Steeples." Not one penny will go to production. Not one penny will go to overhead. Every time this ad airs, you will be the storyteller, the messenger, the witness. You will be the one giving expression to the UCC in this unique moment.
Last year, we celebrated the wonderful history of the first 50 years of life as a denomination. As the UCC historian Luis Gunnemann said, "The UCC was a venture of faith in the context of new responsibilities."
Well, we have come upon a new context of new responsibilities today. Now is the time to move into the next chapter of our history by acting on the belief that we will not die on the vine, but thrive and grow like never before.
The future belongs to those who are not fearful or faint-hearted; it belongs to those who dare to say, "Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the doors, and see all the people."
As our ad proclaims, "God accepts all the people. So do we. The United Church of Christ. No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."
Imagine this message reaching millions. Let's make it happen now.
The Rev. Felix Carrion is coordinator of the UCC's Stillspeaking Ministry.