Wearing glowing necklaces and waving signs with the names of the 80 churches planted since the last General Synod, cheering marchers led Synod delegates in shouting "now is the time" to celebrate new churches.
These new churches represent a new look for the UCC, as recounted by the Rev. José A. Malayang, executive minister of Local Church Ministries, and the Rev. David Schoen, who heads up LCM's evangelism ministry.
For example, 70 percent of new UCC churches today are communities of color, new immigrant and multiracial/multicultural congregations.
Today's new churches are also more likely to be Open and Affirming and to embrace the Stillspeaking UCC witness and welcome.
Looking backward, the new churches welcomed into the UCC over the past 50 years gave $5.4 million to OCWM in 2005 and have a membership of 142,500.
Looking forward, the UCC is committed to developing 250 new churches by the year 2011 and more than 1,600 new churches by 2021.
"Now is the time," said the two leaders to Synod attendees, "to encourage and empower local churches to start new churches" and to welcome existing congregations seeking to affiliate with the UCC.
As delegates and visitors exited the arena, each received copies of New Times: New Ideas for New Churches, an eight-page newsletter. A downloadable version is available at ucc.org/newchurch.