Extravagance UCC ready to rethink church
Written by Anthony Moujaes
June 29, 2013
To live into the mission of planting welcoming and accessible congregations, the United Church of Christ is opening its virtual doors and extending an extravagant and inclusive welcome through Extravagance UCC.
Extravagance UCC is envisioned as a web-based spiritual community that gathers in a new way of defining church in the 21st century. The initiative to launch it came from the UCC's Best Minds series, a group of UCC members, lay leaders and clergy gathered from across the life of the church for a continuous conversation about designated topics, including philanthropy and branding. The new congregation was christened at General Synod 2013 on Saturday, June 29.
"There is a United Church of Christ congregation near you, alive and thriving and full of the Holy Spirit," W. Mark Clark, associate general minister for the UCC, said during the morning on the second day of the biennial gathering in Long Beach, Calif.
In addition to this new virtual congregation, "there are several (other) creative and renewing strategies to accomplish this goal [of welcoming and reachable congregations] already in place," Clark said.
Those strategies include reconfiguring national staff into new teams focused new and renewing church development, and in faith formation. Just as important, the UCC is "aggressively raising funds to make this happen," Clark said, referring to the TESTIMONY! luncheon Saturday afternoon. TESTIMONY! Kicks off a $1 million dollar campaign to fund new and renewing churches in the UCC. So far, $185,000 has been raised toward that goal.
"Even so, as much as we want to be there for everyone with a welcoming and reachable congregation, some folks will be out of reach in the usual ways we have established churches," Clark said. "To respond to them – we are inviting you to think about what it means to be a non-geographic community of faith, held together by the Spirit, the internet, and the intention of those seeking to be part of the United Church of Christ."
Extravagance UCC was created, in part, because there are areas in the country where it is not possible to gather enough people together for a viable church community, particularly in the south and western areas of the United States. As the UCC needed to look beyond geography for new ways to gather together as a church, the internet became one of those ways.
And, the leader of the new web-based congregation has already been called. The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of Local Church Ministries, announced that the Rev. Jo Hudson will be the gathering pastor of Extravagance UCC. Hudson was most recently the senior pastor at Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, and is the closing worship speaker at General Synod on Tuesday, July 2.
To learn more about Extravagance UCC, visit ucc.org/extravagance.