It's all in good fun, but running enthusiasts among the Ascension UCC congregation in West Norriton, Pa., might think twice before they call the Rev. Dwayne Mosier's bluff again.
"We had some runners in the church who were mocking me because I hadn't run in five years," says Mosier, the church's pastor of 16 years. "The runners are all around 50, so we're trying not to get old."
Mosier's response? Setting wheels into motion to organize, promote and participate in a 5k run to support Mission:1 on Nov. 12. A 2k fun run/walk will be held at the same time.
The event is scheduled for one day after the planned end of Mission:1 – but Mosier already has that base covered. "This way, we can tell people that it just keeps going."
Connecting church with community is high on Ascension's wish list, says Mosier. "We're a small suburb of Philadelphia, and it's hard to make community in an area that's this broad and diverse."
From Nov. 1-11, 2011 (11-1-11—11-11-11), the UCC goal will be to collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks, as well as $111,111 in online donations for hunger-related ministries and $111,111 in online donations for East Africa famine relief. The UCC will also ask its 5,300 congregations to advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide via 11,111 letters to Congress.
Mosier traces his initial interest in Mission:1 to a conversation he had with Carol Williams-Swoope, chairperson of UCC Local Church Ministries, in July at General Synod 28 in Tampa, Fla. Williams-Swoope works nationally for Delhaize America, which owns several chains, including Bottom Dollar Food.
"Bottom Dollar had just opened in our area, and we were trying to figure a way to spread the word as far as we could outside our little church and do something a little bigger than we are," says Mosier, referring to his 172-member church. "So that was part of the idea for the run."
Joining Bottom Dollar among big-name sponsors are Allstate and Chick-fil-A. The list also includes the local Chesterbrook Academy and an area plumber .
"We've been really pleased with the sponsorship we've received," says Mosier. "For us, it's helpful to have someone willing to support this mission because for outsiders, it's like, "Oh, this is a real event!
"The runners will be timed the old-fashioned way, where they rip off their tag at the finish line and give it to officials," says Mosier. "(Official race timer) Pretzel City will also help with registration and sponsor forms, and they are promoting our race on their web site."
Availing themselves of social media to promote the event, Ascension race planners have also employed an old-fashioned, get-the-word-out technique, says Mosier.
"The township requires us to go door to door in the part of the neighborhood where residents might be affected (during the race). I've really been amazed by the amount of work some of our members have put into organizing the event."
Of particular significance, says Mosier, have been organizational contributions of Ascension members Lowell Ladd, Tonda Harvey and Tom Kreamer. In addition, high school student Tess Harvey designed Ascension's Mission:1 logo, and the church hopes to organize a picture-drawing, letter-writing campaign for children in attendance.
Mosier says the township also requires that the course be kept within the neighborhood. "The course goes from the church down to the river and snakes in and out of the neighborhood, so it's up and down to the river. It's not an easy race. We wanted the church to be a visible presence for the event."
Mosier says he is hoping for 150 participants. "And we're praying for good weather," he added with a laugh.
Registration fee is $20 prior to Oct. 29 and includes a T-shirt. Race day registration is $25 while shirts last, $18 thereafter.
"Feeding the hungry is such an important thing," says Mosier. "What we've discovered when we do these things is that people are getting a lot more excited about it than they were a few years ago."