'Bless!' event concludes Mission:1 with worship, celebration
Written by Gregg Brekke
November 12, 2011

The United Church of Christ concluded its Mission:1 hunger awareness campaign with a Nov. 11 live-streamed worship service held at Old South Church in Boston UCC. The 350 members of the UCC's joint boards meeting in Cleveland also viewed the service in addition to hundreds of other online viewers.

The service followed a two-day "Bless!" event presented by UCC Local Church Ministries (LCM), Old South Church and the SALT Project, that included the introduction of a "Bless!"video and study guide designed to inspire worship leaders to reclaim blessing as a means of revitalizing congregations in the midst of the UCC's Mission:1 campaign.

"When 2011 presented us with this calendaring opportunity," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC's executive minister for Local Church Ministries, of the Mission:1 period that extended from Nov. 1-11, 2011 (11-1-11—11-11-11). "We jumped on it. We knew we couldn't let that many ones slip by uncultivated, without doing good."

"You layered ingenuity on top of your commitment," said Guess of the creative responses congregations had to the Mission:1 call to raise awareness and activism on behalf of hunger issues. "God bless it."

Mission:1's goal was to collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks –– a goal that was surpassed Nov 10. The campaign sought $111,111 in online donations for hunger-related ministries and $111,111 in online donations for East Africa famine relief. The UCC also asked its 5,300 congregations to advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide via 11,111 letters to Congress; by Nov. 11 that goal had been tripled.

Although the real-time tally of collected dollars had not yet reached $111,111 for both offerings as of midnight Nov. 11, Guess assured those in attendance and viewing the service over the Internet that it is "very clear that we are going to exceed [our financial] goals."

"Perhaps in the end, we will collect more than $300,000, $400,000 –– even half a million dollars," Guess told the UCC's joint boards of at least $128,000 additional committed, but not yet received via check or electronic donation, funds that have been reported as part of Mission:1 offerings.

"We have been challenged and strengthened in the process," said Guess of the excitement Mission:1 has raised in local churches and various settings of the United Church of Christ.

"Oneness is the new counterculture," Guess said of the unity fostered in the UCC via Mission:1 activities. "And breaking free from the deadlock, this springing forth becomes a holy moment where love becomes more important than all its competing agenda."

The entire closing worship service is available for replay at <ucc.org/mission1/live.html>.

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