Written by Gregg Brekke
Twenty youth from Danville (Calif.) Congregational UCC hosted neighborhood children for its 10th annual Halloween Festival on October 30 to help raise awareness of food-related justice concerns.
Admission to the festival was five cans of food. Children
participated in a costume parade, carnival games and crafts while supporting
Danville's Mission:1 food donation goal of 1,111 items to be shared with the
Contra Costa/Solana Counties
Food Bank. Joined by members of a Presbyterian congregation and families from the Dayspring Preschool –– both hosted at Danville UCC –– the festival is a key component of the youth group's outreach and learning.
"The youth are very focused on serving the kids and being connected to the community," said the Rev. Laura Barnes Coney, associate pastor at Danville UCC. "They are also focused on 'beating' the Congregational Church of San Mateo [in number of food items donated] this year," she added with a laugh.
And some of that competitive spirit also worked its way into the UCC's Northern California Nevada Conference fall senior high youth fest. The youth gathered at the Congregational Church of San Mateo Nov. 5 and 6 to add their efforts to the food collection, advocacy and fundraising goals of Mission:1.
Coney believes Mission:1 and other efforts of the congregation are helping youth realize and confront the causes of food injustice issues. "Were moving toward a conversation on the spirituality of food," she said.
To that end, the congregation has begun its participation in the "Earth, Faith, Food" project in their area. The program involves faith communities in exploring how food is produced, visiting local organic farms and establishing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project to serve the needs of the greater Danville area.
The focus on Mission:1 has paid other dividends for the church. A 5-for-5 congregation that supports the special offerings of the United Church of Christ, Danville collected $2,372 for Neighbors in Need –– more than doubling their 2010 offering. An Oct. 9 concert, featuring Bruce Rameker and pianist Kristin Pankonin, served as the kickoff for Danville's Neighbors in Need offering.
"Having the tangible food drive along with the justice aspect of global hunger issues –– and then relating it to one of our special offerings –– was brilliant," said Coney of Mission:1's ability to raise enthusiasm in the congregation and forge a stronger UCC identity. "We have members saying: 'I can go buy food,' 'I'd rather write my congressperson,' 'I want to serve at the food bank' or 'I'm going to do a meal at the shelter.' The campaign tied all of these components together for us."
From Nov. 1-11, 2011 (11-1-11—11-11-11), the UCC’s Mission:1 goals are to collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks, as well as $111,111 in online donations for hunger-related ministries and $111,111 in online donations for East Africa famine relief. The UCC also is asking members of its 5,300 congregations to advocate fo r hunger-related causes worldwide via 11,111 letters to Congress.
For more information on Mission:1, please visit <ucc.org/mission1 >.