Live your faith. Love your community.
For thousands of young people spread across the side of Slayter Hill at conclusion of the United Church of Christ's National Youth Event at Purdue University, it's the beginning of a new initiative, given into their care.
They will be part of the nationwide kickoff of the "Faith,In" project. Their mission is to make their faith visible in the communities they call home.
"It's time to show your faith, in your community or wherever your faith calls you," W. Mark Clark said. "Live your faith. Love your community. That's the Faith,In Project, and you're invited to be a part of it."
At Friday night's worship service, which finished the four-day event, Clark told the teens in the crowd that in living their faith, they have already made a large impact in the Purdue University community in a short time.
"You've also shown your faith here in West Lafayette, Indiana. Through your service and mission this week, you have shown this local community the power of mission and the strength of service," he said to a crowd dressed in white-clad shirts. For days, the UCC youth went around the Purdue campus and into West Lafayette for service projects - doing landscaping work, helping area seniors, cleaning cages at the humane society and sorting and bagging donated food. Those are just a few examples of the types of mission work they can do where they live.
The young people showed their enthusiasm for the project as they snatched up the stacks of white "Faith,In" T-shirts outside Elliot Hall late Friday morning, and took black markers and filled in the blank line, naming their own hometown, state, or church. Hundreds of towns and cities were proclaimed. I have faith in Orlando. I have faith in Montana. I have faith in Cincinnati. One teen made her message more personal as her shirt read, "I have faith in you."
Some kids went a step further and re-imagined the design of their shirts. Several "fringed" their shirts by cutting slits and retying the bottoms, and others trimmed the sleeves. Aside from writing in communities, youths asked their friends to sign their shirts.
Eric Mitchell of Zion UCC in Pottstown, Pa., said one way to take the Faith,In Project back to the Philadelphia area is to make people laugh. "It's as easy as telling jokes," he said.
Bobby Green, of Limerick, Pa., isn't a UCC member but attended NYE and embraced "Faith,In." "You can just be friendly by going up to random people and talking to them," he said. The "Faith,In" project launched in Cleveland, the national headquarters of the UCC, in June as a way to proclaim faith in a Stillspeaking God. Churches in the area are already living that faith in their neighborhoods through mission and outreach.
Ann Poston, the UCC's director of Publishing, Identity and Communication, and the Rev. Felix Carrion, coordinator of the UCC's Stillspeaking identity campaign, introduced the initiative at NYE toward the end of the morning plenary.
"The Faith In Project is a simply way for all of us in the United Church of Christ - and beyond to our neighbors outside of our church doors - to connect with one another by lifting up our shared mission and faith," Carrion said. "It's time to realize that no matter who you are or where you are, your work is a part of something bigger."
Among the ideas Poston shared as ways to become involved:
• Promote random kindness. Spruce up your town.
• Create art. Read with children.
• Celebrate diversity. Advocate justice.
• Live your faith. Love your community.
The UCC distributed a booklet with 25 total ideas to get started with the project, as well as 10 reasons to join.
Poston said the project is "talking about what you already do in a new way -- and to share this mission with others across the country and the world."
Learn more about the Faith In Project
Faith In homepage
Ideas to take Faith In to your community
Visit the Faith In store