The church announced on Nov. 1 –– the first day of the UCC's comprehensive campaign against hunger –– that it is giving $10,000 to famine relief in East Africa. A severe drought has ruined crops and killed livestock, leaving more than 13 million people across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia without food.
"If there are people out there who are starving and in refugee camps and not having the support they need, we want to help," said the Rev. Matt Deal, who at age 32 is in his seventh year as Somerset's pastor. "We don't have a lot of deep-pocketed people in our church. We're a fairly blue-collar congregation. It's something we're happy to do together, but we have to be united to do it."
In settling on a figure for the church's recent current capital campaign, Deal said leaders weighed heavily the importance of considering mission –– and tithing 10 percent –– as it relates to fund-raising.
The Rev. Matt Deal, pastor of St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Somerset, Pa. (Photo provided.)
"We had a goal to raise $650,000 for the capital campaign, so 10 percent of that is $65,000," said Deal. "We'd also received an estate gift, so we decided to tithe part of that as well.
"We're talking about the largest sum of money that most of the people in our church have ever had their hands on as a group of people to do mission," he said.
In discerning the direction of the offering, Deal said leaders considered long-term mission partners in the community as well as denominational and global partners.
"We've always had close ties to the UCC and have been one of the leading churches in our Conference in support of Our Church's Wider Mission [OCWM]," said Deal, noting Somerset's offerings this year for Hurricane Irene relief and the Sendai Mission School in Japan in support of UCC missionaries who are helping the school recover from the earthquake and tsunami eight months ago. "We know the UCC has the infrastructure in place to make a difference in East Africa."
News of Somerset's substantial offering was well received by the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president.
"I have experienced the people of the United Church of Christ to be exceptionally generous when given the opportunity to do something meaningful," said Black. "The $10,000 gift from the people of St. Paul's UCC in Somerset, Pa., is very much in keeping with that spirit of generosity."
The Rev. James Moos, executive minister of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries, also expressed gratitude for the gift.
"The call of our faith is clear –– to feed the hungry and advocate on their behalf," said Moos. "The generous Mission:1 leadership gift from St. Paul's UCC will both meet many needs in Africa, and inspire others in the United Church of Christ."
For the next seven days, Mission:1 participants are encouraged to collect food, make donations and write letters to Congress, and to report those activities regularly via the "report your efforts" tab on the Mission:1 tote board on the home page of www.ucc.org.
Mission:1 concludes Nov. 11 with a service of blessing and celebration, to be web-streamed live (www.ucc.org) from Old South Church in Boston, UCC. The event will begin at 4 p.m. (ET).