Written by Barb Powell
Charting an ambitious course toward fortifying faith and invigorating communities nationwide, the United Church of Christ unveiled the first part of its "Faith, In" project to local UCC leaders May 31 at the Amistad Chapel in the UCC’s Church House at 700 Prospect in downtown Cleveland.
Introducing "We have faith, in Cleveland" to more than 80 pastors, commissioned ministers and lay leaders representing 37 churches in the United Church of Christ’s Western Reserve Association –– comprising the Greater Cleveland area –– the event included worship and a Q&A luncheon, and was filled with messages of hope, faith and unity.
The "Faith, In" project is a new United Church of Christ initiative that celebrates all the ways God is still speaking in the neighborhoods, towns and cities where we live and serve. By capitalizing on already-existing ministries in local UCC congregations, the "Faith, In Cleveland" pilot project in the denomination's hometown will help kick "Faith, In" into an ecumenical, interfaith movement throughout the country.
Through "Faith, In" people are invited to live out their faith in their own neighborhoods via mission, outreach and community-based action.
"'Faith, In' calls us to examine the unexamined ministry of spiritual, economic and public engagement," said Ann Poston, director of the UCC’s Publishing, Identity and Communication Ministry, to those gathered. "To examine the unexamined mission of One Church; to examine the unexamined mission of our long-sought dreams, aspirations and hopes hidden beneath the proverbial bushel basket."
Poston cited the problems of poverty, failed education policies, blighted neighborhoods and lack of employment opportunities in growing numbers of cities and towns nationwide.
"For this reason, 'Faith, In' asks us to reach back together, reach in together and to reach forward together to blow the lid off," she said.
"Faith, In Cleveland” officially launches June 4. The larger, national movement begins at the UCC’s National Youth Event, July 10-13 at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
The Rev. Felix Carrión, coordinator of the UCC’s Stillspeaking Ministry, shared the podium with Poston, and marveled at "Faith, In’s" potential.
"A church engaged at the heart and mind level … wow," said Carrión. "A church engaged at the heart and mind level finds its transcendent identity. It reaches deep into the human-heartedness of all relationships, all connections, all partnerships. And those relationships, connections and partnerships are waiting to happen!"
In keeping with the spirit of "Faith, In," the UCC’s national leaders encourage staff to seek out and assume leadership in area community nonprofits, meeting with an array of city leaders to discuss the community’s needs and how the UCC can make a difference.
In addition, weekly worship services each Wednesday at noon in the UCC’s Amistad Chapel are community-focused and open to the public. Also, the national staff fans out across the Greater Cleveland area once or twice a year to participate in various outreach projects.
Concluding the service, Carrión enthusiastically proclaimed, "Jesus is the champion of extravagant welcome and radical hospitality."
"I am male," said Carrión.
"I am female," said Poston.
"I am Latino."
"I am Caucasian."
"I am straight."
"I am gay."
"I am a Baby Boomer."
"I am Generation X."
Then in tandem, "We are one in Christ. We are one in faith. And we have faith, in Cleveland."