For the Rev. Kathy Dwyer and her Rock Spring Congregational UCC members in Arlington,Va., the route to Mission:1 this past year has included a couple of well-timed turns.
"When I came to Rock Spring a year ago, we started having these 'imagine parties,'" said Dwyer. "The congregation really wanted to have periodic opportunities to be engaged in hands-on, intergenerational service."
From those gatherings evolved the "fifth Sunday" phenomenon during months with five Sundays.
"When explaining Mission:1 to the members of our congregation, I likened it to 'fifth Sunday,'" said Dwyer. "It was an opportunity to come together as one, for a short period of time, to do one important thing. I think it's creative, and I think it's unifying.
"So often we're going a zillion different directions, and to have that unifying experience of all being together on the same page is really great."
Dwyer says attendance and energy at these events has been "phenomenal." An invitation by the Rev. Geoffrey Black, UCC general minister and president, for Rock Spring to serve as a pace-setter church for Mission:1 certainly didn't hurt.
"When Geoffrey sent me a note in the summer asking us to be a pace-setter, the idea dovetailed," said Dwyer. "We hadn't planned October yet, so we planned our whole fifth Sunday around hunger-related activities for Mission:1 And that's what resulted in what we had Oct. 30.
"What resulted" is a series of goal-eclipsing efforts on behalf of Mission:1.
- The goal of buying, assembling and shipping 11,111 meal kits has been met.
- The goal of 111 letters written to Congress has been surpassed (120), and letters were to be hand-delivered to the White House Nov. 4.
- The goal of 111 pounds of food collected, courtesy of Rock Spring's Christian Education Initiative, has been dwarfed by the 781 pounds received.
And there's more.
"While we were packing the meals, we held a silent auction with a goal of raising $11,111," said Dwyer. "It appears that we're close to $16,000 with that.
"And we wanted to raise our Neighbors in Need (NIN) offering by $1,111 over last year when we raised $7,000-$8,000. We're already at more than 25 percent of an increase from that," she said.
Dwyer said she's long been a believer that money follows mission. "I think people could really see this desire to do something about hunger and not only rise to the challenge but have a blast doing it."
At 25 cents a meal, Dwyer said the church purchased 11,111 meals from Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization that coordinates distribution of food and other life-saving aid. "They bring the materials onsite as well as all scales, measuring utensils, bags … everything. Even the pink hair nets," said Dwyer with a laugh.
Church members then measured and assembled 11,111 mixtures of rice, soy, protein and dehydrated vegetables, and bagged them. "The kids were just having a blast," said Dwyer. "Well, we all were. It was an intergenerational effort."
That component is clearly a foundational piece for Dwyer.
"A lot of parents believe strongly in making the world a better place, but doing so with more than just writing a check," she said. "They want to be side by side with their kids in service with others, there's something that … there are still some values there.
mean, how many times can you have your whole family together wearing pink hair
For more information on Mission:1, please visit <ucc.org/mission1>.