Written by Daniel Hazard
'Branding' work to continue through church's communications ministry
God will still be speaking through The Stillspeaking Initiative.
That was the word brought to General Synod delegates by Marilyn Dubasak, TSI coordinator, and the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries and a member of the Stillspeaking Task Group.
"Hard to believe, but it's only been three years," Dubasak told the crowd gathered in Hartford.
"Only three years, and today 60 percent of our members are in congregations that claim the brand of the United Church of Christ. That is, they say, 'No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.'"
But this was all according to plan, Jaramillo added.
"The Stillspeaking Initiative was to be a discreet structural entity until 2007, with the intent — at that time — to integrate the best practices of this 'movement' into our ongoing life and witness," she said.
To that end, she reported, the UCC Executive Council has approved a plan that returns direction for TSI to the UCC's Proclamation, Identity and Communications (PIC) ministry team, where The Stillspeaking Initiative first took life under the imagination and leadership of Ron Buford.
"I wish to offer a word of public thanks to Ron Buford," said Jaramillo, "whose passion and vision and hard work as the Stillspeaking director gave this effort voice and personality across our church."
Once TSI is back in PIC, the PIC team leader will convene a cross-ministry work team with representatives from the national ministries, the Conferences and Stillspeaking churches to continue the program. The UCC's Church House in Cleveland is already advertising three new PIC-based staff positions to oversee the continued Stillspeaking program, including the hiring of a coordinator, associate coordinator and administrative assistant.
It will be funded by a comprehensive fund-raising plan, including expanding the UCC's Strengthen the Church special mission offering, which is received by most churches on or near Pentecost Sunday.
Citing church scholar the Rev. Anthony Robinson, Dubasak reported that The Stillspeaking Initiative does three things: It puts us in touch with the wider culture through TV and advertising; it gives us easy ways to say who we are; and it helps us recognize that a local church is mission, a sign of God's realm.
Regarding future programs and resources, Jaramillo shared four possibilities: imagining the best of the "Synod in the City" presentations (from the all-day June 23 special event at Synod) available as podcasts, on You-Tube, or as web-based resources; imagining a new set of promotional headlines; imagining radio spots, customized for local markets; and imagining two new 15-second TV commercials.
Dubasak concluded by asking delegates to do three things: pray, give generously, and promise yourself to go home and "imagine boldly and ramp up your invitation and welcome."
"Imagine success," she said. "Plan for it. Pray for it. Keep at it. Be thankful to God."