UCC Collegium aims for 'Big Holy Audacious Goals'
Written by Jeff Woodard
July 4, 2011

You can do worse than aspire to a “B-HAG.”

And “1” might not be the loneliest number after all.

Such was the gist of the encouragement and enlightenment delivered Monday morning by the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president, to General Synod 28 delegates and visitors at the GMP/Collegium of Officers presentation in the plenary hall of the Tampa Convention Center.

Referring to the popular business acronym for "Big Hairy Audacious Goals (B-HAGs)," Black said, "You know how we are at the United Church of Christ – we got a hold of that, and said, 'Well, that isn’t quite right for us. Let’s make it Big Holy Audacious Goals.' "

"These B-HAGs are only a part of what the church’s organization or vision should include," said Black. "I like to remind myself that we tend to do that which we intend to do."

One such intention is the Mission1 initiative for the first 11 days of this coming November. From 11-1-11 to 11-11-11, the UCC plans a coordinated mission campaign to gather more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks. In addition, its 5,300 congregations will advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide.

Black also laid out a five-part series of goals – "still in draft form, we're still working on them" – about what the UCC is and what it will become. The goals are for the UCC to be:

  • A growing church, a growing movement – to be conversant with all faith traditions; to be spiritual and missional about our capacity to serve God

  • Widely recognized witness for peace, justice, equality and inclusivity; “we will do this unashamedly, unapologetically and without fear.”

  • A catalyst for excellent leadership in every setting of ministry

  • An environmental steward central to our understanding and practice of Christian faith

  • Relevant to and reflective of the age and racial/ethnic demographics of this nation

"These BHAGs will set the stage for the more practical world of strategic planning," said Black. "We need to take our goals and turn them into plans that are measurable and for which we can be held accountable to you. This is the time to become completely engaged in making this the church that God has called us to be."

Preceding Black to the podium were the three outgoing members of the Collegium, each stressing the importance of part of the UCC's overarching mission: "Continuing Testament. Extravagant Welcome. Changing Lives."

"Continuing testament is evidenced in our StillSpeaking Daily Devotionals, it's visible in our UCC seminaries and through our leaders," said the Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte, whose term is ending as executive ministries for Wider Church Ministries and co-executive of Global Ministries. "God's continuing testament is not etched in tablets forever, but written on our hearts."

Edith Guffey, leaving in her role as associate general minister of the Office of General Ministries, said, "When I think of extravagant welcome, I think of more than being nice to newcomers. I think of the important work that our church has been engaged in the past century – to welcome the stranger, to receive the lost, to heal the broken and to include the marginalized. Being ecumenical and interfaith is another way of expressing this extravagance."

Concluding his term as executive minister of Local Church Ministries, the Rev. Stephen L. Sterner pointed to the more than 150 "Changing Lives" videos on ucc.org.

"Some are stories of the ‘I once was lost but now I'm found' genre," said Sterner. "Some are stories of global partnerships, how they have crossed borders and offered healing and hope. Some are stories about how UCC justice work has helped to make another world possible – not just in places like Washington, D.C., but in places where people find themselves struggling."

The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, acknowledged that talking about the UCC's distinctiveness is not always easy for its members.

"But it's something we really need to get over and get to peace with," said Jaramillo, "because in evangelism, in outreach and in fundraising, the distinctiveness of the United Church of Christ does matter."

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