Church and civic leaders loudly proclaim, 'We have faith, in Cleveland!'
Written by Barb Powell June 4, 2012
"We have faith, in Cleveland" - an initiative of the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ - kicked off in style with a noontime news conference today (June 4) in the heart of the city at Tower City Center.
"'Faith, in Cleveland' is a marketing initiative, but more so, it's a missional campaign, with each UCC member and church in our region being called upon to discover ways that they can dig in and give back in order to see Cleveland thrive," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC's executive minister of Local Church Ministries. "Emanating from our national offices on Prospect Avenue, but in partnership with our 70 local UCC churches across northeast Ohio, and with secular partners as well, we are saying that to live our faith, we must love our community."
The Rev. Felix Carrión, the coordinator of the UCC's "God is still speaking," identity ministry
The Cleveland initiative is the pilot project of a larger "Faith, In" movement that will debut nationwide at the UCC's National Youth Event, July 10-14 at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Part celebration of faith and part outpouring of community-based action, the UCC hopes that "Faith, In" eventually includes ecumenical and interfaith partners everywhere living their faith and loving their communities.
"Faith, In" is based on the strategy outlined in the Bible by the prophet Jeremiah: "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." Or as Guess said, "To live our faith, we must love our community."
The news conference was attended by local church and national staff members from the United Church of Christ, along with Cleveland business persons and shoppers who paused during their noontime travels to listen as church and city officials launched the project and then sent some 40 church volunteers - split into "Got faith? street teams" - into downtown Cleveland to distribute postcards, buttons and t-shirts proclaiming, "We have faith, in Cleveland."
"Today, we are excited to enthusiastically proclaim our faith in the city of Cleveland: our faith in the revitalization of our neighborhoods; our faith in the employment of our neighbors," said W. Mark Clark, the UCC's associate general minister. "We invite you to join us in this exciting project, the 'Faith, in' project, to loudly proclaim your faith in this great city and to lift up the work that you do to make this city a better place."
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC's executive minister of Local Church Ministries
Guess noted the historical ties between the United Church of Christ and Cleveland. "We are the United Church of Christ, founded in Cleveland in 1957," said Guess, adding that the UCC "made the wise decision 20 years ago to return to the city of our beginnings … this city of progress and diversity. The United Church of Christ is so very proud to call Cleveland 'home,' for Cleveland has the heart, the grit, the determination that we also desire to have as a people of faith."
Among the speakers at the news conference was Thomas Starinsky, associate director of the Historic Gateway Neighborhood Corp, a unique, historic district in downtown Cleveland, and the city's largest geographic area of adaptive re-use and historic preservation.
Noting that the UCC chose to make the former Ohio Bell building at 700 Prospect its home, Starinsky said, "The United Church of Christ had both faith and a vision that this building and the place were special. In fact, the organization was one of the first to make a commitment to this area. … There is no doubt that the United Church of Christ has a strong commitment to Downtown Cleveland and we appreciate their conviction in faith and vision in the Gateway District."
The Rev. Shawnthea Monroe, senior pastor of Plymouth UCC in Shaker Heights, told those gathered that "Faith, in Cleveland" is "a way to refocus attention on the innumerable ways UCC churches are serving their communities."
"If I were to lift up just one story that captures the spirit of the "Faith, In" campaign, I would talk about our partnership with Buckeye Woodland Elementary School," said Monroe. "For over 20 years Plymouth Church has been actively engaged in improving the lives of the students and staff at Buckeye Woodland."
Each fall, Plymouth gives backpacks filled with school supplies. Church members also serve as reading tutors, fund a book fair and arts programs for the school, and provide money for student activities and awards, Monroe said.
The Rev. Shawnthea Monroe, senior pastor of Plymouth UCC in Shaker Heights
"Ultimately, all we say and do is an expression of our 'faith, in …' for we have faith in Jesus Christ," said Monroe.
The conference closed with the Rev. Felix Carrión, the coordinator of the UCC's "God is still speaking," identity ministry, sending the "Got Faith?" teams forth to spread their message. Street team members will be passing their message of "Faith, in Cleveland" each Wednesday at noon throughout downtown Cleveland.
"'Got faith?' is an inviting question - it invites people to think about their faith, their hopes and their commitment to the city of Cleveland," Carrión told the volunteers. "We seek to give back a small measure of what Cleveland has given to the United Church of Christ. Our presence on these streets represents our partnership with all those who care for Cleveland and its community."
"Today, our feet will do the walking while our hearts will do the praying for God's blessing to be upon Cleveland," said Carrión.
To underscore the point, the UCC's national offices soon will sport a sign on the side of the building, a full storefront window cling and street light pole banners proclaiming, "We have faith, in Cleveland. We are the United Church of Christ, with more than 1.1 million members and 5,100 churches nationwide. And we call Cleveland 'home.'"
"We believe the United Church of Christ owes a debt of gratitude to Cleveland," Guess added. "After all, we were founded here. Our national headquarters is here. And so we are here to repay that debt with our love, advocacy and service on behalf of Cleveland."
Ms. Barbara A. Powell Associate Director Publishing, Identity, and Communication Local Church Ministries/Office of General Ministries 700 Prospect Ave. Cleveland,Ohio 44115 216-736-2175 email@example.com
Ms. Connie N. Larkman Managing Editor & News Director Publishing, Identity, and Communication Local Church Ministries/Office of General Ministries 700 Prospect Ave. Cleveland,Ohio 44115 216-736-2196 firstname.lastname@example.org