For 11 days in early November, the entire United Church of Christ will make good on its "that they may all be one" motto with a coordinated mission campaign to gather more than one million food and household items for local food banks and marshal its 5,300 congregations to advocate collectively — and loudly — for hunger-related causes, both domestically and around the world.
"In a nutshell, 'One united church on a shared mission for 11 powerful days to feed the hungry and confront food-related injustice' is the centerpiece of this major push that we are launching today," the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, the UCC's general minister and president, told United Church News. "If you've ever yearned for the whole UCC to walk hand in hand to achieve a common goal, this is the answer to that prayer."
Affirmed unanimously by the UCC's 90-member Executive Council, meeting March 17-19 at the Church House in Cleveland, "Mission: 1" — as the campaign will be called — plays on the prevalence of the number "1" in the Nov. 1-11, 2011, timeframe and calls for three overarching goals:
- In the 11 days, the United Church of Christ will collect more than 1 million items of healthy food and other household items for local food banks and outreach services.
- In the 11 days, the United Church of Christ will make an extra-special push to gather online contribution of more than $111,111 for Neighbors in Need, offerings that will be shared for hunger-action purposes with agencies of justice and compassion throughout the United States.
- In the 11 days, the United Church of Christ will offer more than 11,111 letters to Congress asking the government to reform U.S. foreign assistance in a way that more effectively benefits hungry and poor people worldwide, helping to provide a major final push to Bread for the World's 2011 "Offering of Letters" campaign.
On Nov. 1, the UCC's homepage at ucc.org will be converted into an online tote board that will tally the denomination's collective count of food stuffs, donations and letters — information that will be updated and celebrated in real time. Churches, as well as individuals, will be encouraged to self-report their participation.
Also during the 11 days, the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries will organize church member delegations to meet with members of Congress to bring attention to our church's concern about hunger issues at home and abroad, said the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, JWM's executive minister.
"Our hope is that 'Mission: 1' will prove to be a game-changer in how we think of ourselves as one church in shared mission," said the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president. "This is a recognition that every local church is a center of mission and collectively we have power to make a huge impact."
In a presentation to the Executive Council, the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC's communication director, outlined the "Mission: 1" concept as a step toward addressing five critical needs prevalent across the denomination's life:
- The need to respect and encourage local mission as the mission of the whole church and to shift our denominational attitudes in support of that reality;
- The need to embrace our churches' ministries of compassion alongside our deep commitments to justice advocacy and global partnership;
- The need for newer, more meaningful metrics of success to measure our impact in the world, benchmarks other than membership totals or dollars given to national ministries. "Our numbers focus really needs to be on our impact in the world, those we serve";
- The need for transparency and accountability. "Did we actually achieve what we said we were going to achieve?" and
- The need to "wildly celebrate" something we accomplished together.
The "Mission: 1" concept was approved in January by the UCC's Mission Planning Council and circulated among Conference Ministers for feedback, Guess said.
Black said he hopes churches, seminaries, colleges and human service agencies will unleash their own creativity around using the number "1" to stimulate excitement and involvement in "Mission: 1".
"Can you find 11 people in your church who will pledge to give $11 or $111 online to Neighbors in Need on Nov. 1?" he said, "and will your church set a goal of gathering no fewer than 1,111 food items or 111 letters to Congress? There's a lot of playfulness we can inspire on our way to achieving these big goals, starting with local goals in every UCC setting."
Learn more at ucc.org/mission1. Additional materials, including study guides, promotional materials and worship resources, will be posted in coming weeks.