Written by Daniel Hazard
Help Hundreds This Christmas
The UCC's Christmas Fund offering is an expression of joy and gratitude for those who serve — and have served — the church.
Gifts provide pension and health premium supplementation to low-income retirees, emergency assistance to the families of clergy and lay employees and Christmas Gift Checks to hundreds of annuitants. Your gifts help a growing number of retirees whose low-income annuities make it difficult to meet increasing living costs.
Administered by the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance of The Pension Boards, the Christmas Fund is one of four special mission offerings in the UCC.
The offering dates back to 1902, when "a little money was collected and special Christmas gifts were sent to 10 older ministers," according to an early promotional document.
Over the years, the offering has grown. In 1952, churches received $121,054 for the Christmas Fund. A little more than 50 years later, last year's Christmas Fund offering received $1,438,000 and nearly 1,500 families were assisted.
A goal of $1.5 million has been set for the 2007 appeal.
Many churches promote the offering during Advent and receive it on or near Christmas Sunday.
Learn more at www.christmasfund.org.
OCWM'S Good-Stride Stretch
At the beginning of the final quarter of the year, financial reports were showing promising signs for Our Church's Wider Mission, the UCC's shared purse for ministries at the regional, national and international settings of the church.
At the end of September, OCWM National Basic Support stood at $4,756,553 or an increase of $491,740 over last year's total at the same point.
Twenty-four of the UCC's 38 Conferences have remitted more money to date this year over last year. Thirteen are reporting less financial support. One Conference is reporting an equal amount.
Since June's report, the positive financial comparison has grown from a $316,705 net increase to $491,740, another promising sign.
The Rev. William Green of the UCC's Stewardship Ministry says that, typically, the end of September has represented "the half way point" for the year, since many churches and Conferences hold remittances until later in the year. Entering the year's final quarter in a more-favorable position is an encouraing sign, he says, and something the national setting has not experienced in recent years.
In contrast, at the same point last year, the UCC's national setting was looking at a negative comparison of nearly $500,000.
OCWM National Basic Support is the amount that ultimately reaches the UCC's national offices in Cleveland. Congregations first submit OCWM contributions to one of 38 Conferences which, in turn, retains an average of 65 percent before passing along the remaining 35 percent to support national and international ministries. Therefore, the national setting's received-to-date $4.67 million represents just one-third of the amount UCC congregations have contributed to OCWM basic support so far this year. In addition, OCWM's special mission offerings have raised roughly $4.4 million thus far for earmarked programs.
Church leaders have long been cautious about year-to-year comparisons, since Conference payments to the denomination's Cleveland offices can fluctuate significantly.
Reformed Cousins Shake Hands
(ENI) The World Alliance of Reformed Churches, of which the UCC is a member body, has agreed to unite with the Reformed Ecumenical Council to create a new "global entity" that will group 80 million Reformed Christians.
"This is a truly, truly important moment," said WARC president the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick after the alliance's executive committee, meeting in Trinidad, voted unanimously on Oct. 22 to unite with the REC, whose executive committee had agreed to the proposal in March.
REC's president, the Rev. Douwe Visser, a Dutch pastor, said he hoped the decision to unite would lead to Reformed churches around the world having a "stronger voice."
The Geneva-based WARC has 75 million members in 214 church bodies, including the UCC, in 107 countries. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-headquartered REC has 12 million members belonging to 39 churches in 25 countries. Of the REC's member churches, 27 also belong to WARC.
"We will be a stronger community which serves a wider part of the Reformed family," said the Rev. Setri Nyomi, WARC's general secretary.
The members of the two groupings trace their roots back to the 16th-century Reformation led by John Calvin, John Knox, Huldrych Zwingli and others, as well as to earlier church reform movements such as the Waldensians in the Piedmont valleys of Italy, and the followers of Jan Hus in the Czech lands.
One Thousand E-Saints
About 1,000 people simultaneously tuned into www.ucc.org/50 on All Saints Sunday, Nov. 4, to mark the closing of the UCC's 50th anniversary year. A 17-minute video, hosted by UCC General Minister and President John H. Thomas, provided a look back at the year's celebratory highlights.
"It hardly seems possible that it's been a year since we began our celebration," Thomas said. "In local churches, Conferences and Associations, and at our General Synod, we shared the wonderful stories from the history of the United Church of Christ. We heard how some of our remarkable saints have helped shape our life together. We ate lots of birthday cake and we sang 'This Little Light of Mine' over and over and over again."
During the webstreaming, it was announced that podcasts of 24 General Synod speakers are available on iTunes. For more information on how to listen to the podcasts — either with an iPod or on your computer, visit www.ucc.org/news/united-church-news-podcast.
Watch the webcast at www.ucc.org/50.
It may be a little early to start packing, but it's not too soon to start planning — and fund raising. National Youth Event '08 will rock the University of Knoxville in Tennessee, July 24-28.
Held every four years, NYE provides an opportunity for more than 3,000 youth (ages 13 to 18) to gather for worship, worshop, faith, fun and fellowship. A registration cost of $345 per person includes accommodation and meals. Registration will begin in February.
Planned collaboratively by the UCC's national staff and the NYE planning committee, NYE continues to be one of the largest and most popular gatherings of UCC people.
The Rev. Kelly Jean Burd has joined the UCC's Worship and Education Ministry to help coordinate NYE '08. Burd, who attended NYE at age 15 and has remained passionately supportive of it, says she returned home from her first NYE experience and told her parents that her life had been changed. She now credits the experience as playing a pivotal role in her decision to pursue ordained ministry.
An eight-minute promotional video can be viewed online at www.ucc.org/youth/nye.