Journey UCC takes next step on 'StillSpeaking' path
Written by Jeff Woodard
January 25, 2011

Push to Play

Rev Felix Carrion at Journey UCC

It's certainly not all about winning – although the Rev. Sandy Damhof thinks that's pretty cool, too.

"Someone asked me what we'd get if we won, and I said, 'I don't know, we're just gonna win!' " said Damhof, pastor of Journey UCC in Slingerlands, N.Y., which did, indeed, take top honors in the UCC's fall "Friend Raising" campaign led by the StillSpeaking Ministry. "Then all this stuff starts arriving, like the StillSpeaking welcome mat and the banner and the comma pins."

In addition, Damhof and her congregation at Journey – a new-start church less than two years old – received on Jan. 16 a visit from the Rev. Felix Carrion, StillSpeaking coordinator, who led several workshops attended by members of five local churches.

"It was good for us to hear more of the history and the foundation of what StillSpeaking is all about," said Damhof. "I think it was really good for our congregation to have that connection to someone from the national church. Most of them are really new to the UCC. They didn't grow up UCC. They grew up Catholic, or grew up Methodist, or grew up nothing.

"Any opportunity they have to connect to the wider church and have a light-bulb moment is really good."

Journey won the per-capita invitation prize during "Friend Raising" Sunday on Nov. 9 when its 36 members welcomed 33 guests. Using technology such as e-vites, Facebook and the UCC's video messages, visitors were treated to a guest speaker from a Ugandan mission partner and a pancake breakfast after the service.

"Our current space has a 70-person occupancy, so we were packed," said Damhof. "After worship it was a miracle to watch the tables roll out, the griddles come out."

More than 315 congregations participated in Friend-Raising. As a new twist to the familiar invite-a-friend weekends, the UCC made available an online form on which congregations could record results and share experiences.

At least 4,200 people visited UCC congregations that reported their results – a 6.2 percent increase over their average worship numbers.

"This wonderfully confirms that there is a power in combining the wizardry of today's technology with the tried-and-tested word-of-mouth invitation," said Carrion. "Everyone is so into their church at Journey; they love being there and being a part of it. They're an inspiration to all of us."

As for the November 2011 Friend Raising, Damhof has already issued a friendly challenge to fellow churches.

"We're planning on winning again next year," she said with a laugh.

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