The Rev. Fred Sontag, 76, a longtime philosophy professor at UCC-related Pomona (Calif.) College, was stabbed twice last fall in the throat and chest with a pocket knife that narrowly missed his windpipe and carotid artery. Sontag was driving the assailant, 22-year-old Jared Essig, a Pomona College senior, from the jail where the student had been arrested for suspicion of shoplifting, public drunkenness, vandalism and drunken driving to Sontag's home, where he and his wife were going to let the young man stay. Sontag has a long history of assisting troubled students. "He's always seen this as part of his ministry," said fellow philosophy professor Fred Hurley. "It's just one of the things Fred sees as his calling." Essig's trial date has yet to be set but Sontag, now recuperated, has been visiting him in prison.
The New York Times reported on Feb. 17 that the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC General Minister and President, has appealed directly to the Dutch head of state, Queen Beatrix, for support in the effort of several denominations to block the demolition of the partial remains of an old church, the Vrouwekerk, where the Pilgrims prayed in the Dutch city of Leiden before setting sail on the Mayflower. The site is not only tied to the history of the UCC and other denominations, Thomas said, but is a tangible reminder of religious refugees finding sanctuary from persecution.
The Rev. Bennie E. Whiten Jr., who retired last year as Minister and President of the UCC's Massachusetts Conference, received the Forrest L. Knapp Ecumenical Award in January from the Massachusetts Council of Churches for his "steadfast, sustained ecumenical involvement in and beyond the Commonwealth" and his "unflagging commitment to unity with justice."
The Revs. Rick and Jill Edens, co-pastors of United Church of Chapel Hill, N.C., for nearly 22 years, were honored by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union with its Charles and Dorcas Jones Award for their social justice ministry. This has included death penalty issues, gay-lesbian issues, a controversial shelter-expansion project, homeless teens, an interracial choir, public housing, a new Hispanic congregation and a Muslim congregation. The Chapel Hill News also named the couple "Tar Heel of the Week."
The Hershey (Pa.) Area Merchandiser reports that members of Faith UCC in Grantville, Pa., have been instrumental in pulling together area churches into a Grantville Area Food Pantry, where individual efforts by single churches have failed. The pantry, also supported by United Methodist, Assembly of God and Lutheran churches, serves more than 100 persons a week, many of these migrant workers who do farm labor at $2-3 an hour.