This year celebrate Earth Sunday on April 28th. Here are three ideas for making the most of this special Sunday:
- Connect Caring for God's Creation with a Focus Children and Youth – How we care for God’s creation is intimately intertwined with issues of generational justice. What kind of world are our children presently inheriting? What will the world be like when they get older? The UCC Environmental Justice Ministry joined with the ecumenical Creation Justice Ministries to author and produce reflective materials on generational justice for this Earth Sunday. Download a copy of this resource today.
- Participate in Faith Climate Action Week – Interfaith Power & Light shares a wealth of resources for an entire week. This year the focus is on finding joy and rejuvenation in the natural world. Resources relate to why we love and protect our planet. A toolkit is available along with online worship resources and more.
- Launch a Discussion Group with Community Members – In partnership with the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 program and Everyday Democracy, the Environmental Ministry Program of the UCC has created a small group discussion guide focused on seeking clean, affordable energy for our society. Within your faith community or in collaboration with others, bring together 10 to 12 people over the course of four weeks to have guided conversations that lead to actions generated by participants.
Each year, the second Sunday of October is designated on the UCC church calendar as Access Sunday. It is an occasion when all the UCC will join together in celebrating the gifts of persons with disabilities and the strides that the church has made in being more whole through being more accessible. It is also a day that we, the church, acknowledge the journey yet to be taken with our sisters and brothers with disabilities.
Pastors and lay leaders, invite your congregation to join your UCC friends around the country in celebrating Access Sunday on this day, or on a Sunday more fitting to your church calendar. Find more information and resources via our UCC Disabilities Ministries.
The first Sunday in May has been designated Immigrant Rights Sunday within the United Church of Christ. Justice and Witness Ministries and Wider Church Ministries are urging congregations to lift up immigrants on this day: to learn about their concerns, honor their contributions to our country and communities, hear their pain, pray for their well-being, and listen to hear where God is leading us regarding issues of immigration.
Welcoming the stranger among us as native born is part of our faith tradition, for we too were once strangers (Exodus 22:21, Leviticus 19:33, Deuteronomy 10:17-19). However, too often the immigrants among us are rejected, treated as outcasts and placed on the margins of society.
May 1st is international Labor Day and has become a day in which we recognize the value and labor of immigrants in the U.S. On the first Sunday in May, congregations are encouraged to include stories about immigrants in their worship service and explore avenues to advocate for immigrant justice. Below are the most current issues this year on immigration with potential ways to get involved to limit deportations and unnecessary detention of immigrants.
Building Sanctuary For All... All of Us
"Shouldn’t our sanctuaries offer this same kind of Sanctuary...to anyone? Wouldn’t we want this grace, and do we not call upon this kind of love every Sunday?" Read more of Rev. Julian DeShazier's reflection on Immigrants Rights Sunday and intersectionality.
- Explore our worship worship and prayer resources and start planning your congregations Immigrant Rights Sunday observances.
*If your congregation would like to get more involved on immigrants' rights advocacy and organizing efforts please contact Rev. Noel Andersen - mailto:email@example.com.
The Rev. Noel Andersen serves as UCC & CWS Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants' Rights in Washington, D.C.
The United Church of Christ Mental Health Network invites you to highlight mental health on the third Sunday in May or any Sunday that suits your schedule.
We see Mental Health Sunday as a way for your congregation to begin or to continue to provide education and support to your members around mental health challenges.
We encourage you to:
- Plan a Sunday with the theme: "Widen the Welcome: UCC for Mental Health"
- Use the collection of worship resources in the Resource Guide for Mental Health Sunday. You will find some newly created resources in the resource section below. Worship resources include sermon ideas as well as complete sermons, a litany, unison prayers and more.
- Explore the Congregational Toolkits for teaching your congregation about mental illnesses
More Worship Resources for Mental Health Sunday
Download and print these files or edit/format them to meet your needs.
- Checklist for Churches: Becoming a Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive and Engaged (WISE) Congregation for Mental Health
- Sermon on The Stigma of Mental Illness
- More Resources for Your Mental Health Sunday Services
- Call to worship and prayer
- Litany for Mental Health Sunday, 5.5" x 8.5"
- Bulletin insert (front), 5.5" x 8.5"
- Bulletin insert (back), 5.5" x 8.5"
- Widen the Welcome logo (CMYK, 300 dpi) for use on printed material
- Sample bookmark created by Broadmoor UCC Church in Colorado Springs
- Exegesis: Lamentations 5:19 – 22
Every June, human rights and faith organizations join together to mark Torture Awareness Month because on June 26, 1987, the nations of the world took a major step against the immoral and abhorrent practice of torture. On that day, the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT for short) entered into force and the United Nations later declared June 26th the “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.”
Our partners at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) invite you and your local church to join people of faith throughout the world in commemorating Torture Awareness Month. Check out NRCAT's resources and activity ideas.
If you would like to discuss additional ways for how your local congregation or faith community could mark Torture Awareness Month please call or email T.C. Morrow at 202-547-1920 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They are delighted to assist you with plans and suggestions.
With the start of 2016 we have welcomed two new leaders to our UCC Justice & Witness Ministries Team. It is our great pleasure to introduce you to the Rev. Traci D. Blackmon as acting Executive Minister and Quan Williams as our UCC Advocate for Domestic Policy.Read more
|Congressional web forms require that message fields match their own. Since no uniform standard exists and most offices do not include 'Rev.' as option, such messages would be rendered incomplete and non-deliverable.|
Many clergy express frustration — and rightly so — that the UCC's advocacy forms do not include religious titles, such "the Rev.", in drop-down menu options.
"The problem is not of our making, but rests solely with the requirements of the websites on the receiving end of our messages," explains the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC's communications director. "Most government offices require that salutation fields be completed — primarily to confirm a constituent's gender — but they often limit the available responses to a few choices, such as 'Mr.', 'Dr.', 'Miss' or 'Mrs.' Anything message that doesn't conform to required fields is rendered 'incomplete' and therefore 'non-deliverable.'"
When a person completes an online advocacy form at ucc.org, Guess says, the email message is delivered in the same way as if the constituent had completed the web form directly on that Congressperson's website. Therefore, the UCC's website hosting company — Convio — has no other option but to configure its clients' prefix titles so that messages will be received by every members of Congress. If the UCC was to include 'the Rev.' as a salutation choice, Guess says, any emails submitted to office webforms that didn't also have "the Rev." as a prefix option would bounce back to the UCC.
"Ironically," Guess says, "members of Congress say they want to hear from religious leaders, but they don't provide a mechanism for clergy to identify themselves as such."
That's why Guess encourages users to alter the suggested email text so that it accurately describes a person's religious affiliation and viewpoints.
United Church of Christ leaders on Thursday (Feb. 12) expressed outrage at the perceived discriminatory treatment of a local UCC pastor by the Oklahoma State House of Representatives.
In what legislators are calling a first, one-fifth of the Oklahoma House voted Feb. 11 to strike from the record a prayer offered on the chamber floor by the Rev. Scott H. Jones, pastor of Cathedral of Hope UCC-Oklahoma City. Jones had been invited to deliver the prayer and serve as chaplain for the day by Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City.
Following the prayer, McAffrey asked that the session vote to include Jones' prayer in the House journal, the official daily record of the chamber. An objection was raised by Rep. John Wright, R-Broken Arrow, who called for a vote on the prayer's inclusion.
"It was a pretty chaotic moment," said Jones of the procedural points of order that ensued following Wright's objection. "My understanding was that [an objection to a prayer] never happens."
The vote took place once order had been established, with 64 representatives voting to include the prayer, 20 opposing it and 17 abstentions.
Jones is a constituent of McAffrey's Oklahoma City district. Both believe the objection was raised because of their sexuality. Jones leads the largest predominantly LGBT congregation in Oklahoma City and is himself gay. McAffrey is Oklahoma's only openly gay legislator.
"As the leader of Rev. Jones' denomination, I am deeply offended by the treatment he received from the legislature and dismayed by the message of intolerance it sends to the citizens of Oklahoma and beyond," said the Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President of the UCC. "It is comforting, however, to remember that our prayers are judged at the throne of grace and not in the halls of petty principalities."
"The Oklahoman" newspaper quoted McAffrey on Wednesday, saying that "because most of Scott's congregation are gay people and Scott is gay himself, I'm sure that's the reason why there were negative votes on it."
But Wright sees it differently. In the same Oklahoman article, he stated his objection was procedural - that prayers were only entered into the official record on Thursdays - but later said his "actions were motivated by the faith."
Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, was among those who voted to strike the prayer from the record. Kern is on record as calling homosexuality "the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism and Islam."
The Rev. Gordon R. Epps, conference ministry coordinator for the UCC's Kansas-Oklahoma Conference, delivered a letter to Speaker of the House Rep. Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, on Thursday (Feb. 12). Epps commended Benge "for the democratic way you led the house when an unusual challenge was made to vote on whether or not to enter into the record the opening prayer given by the Rev. Scott Jones."
Responding in support of Jones, the UCC's Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy, the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, said, "Once again, bigotry infects the Oklahoma statehouse by the vote of 20 legislators to reject the prayer offered by the Rev. Scott Jones. In this mean-spirited vote, they have demonstrated profound disrespect to a gifted pastor and a congregation dedicated to faithfully serving its community through a robust and vibrant ministry."
Schuenemeyer sees the proceedings as a clear indication of discrimination. "The action of these legislators has dishonored the core American values of freedom of religion and freedom of expression," he said. "The citizens of Oklahoma and this nation deserve better and ought not to tolerate such behavior from their fellow citizens, much less their elected officials."
The United Church of Christ is a denomination of 1.2 million members in 5,600 autonomous local churches that are joined together in Christian mission through local associations, regional conferences and the biennial all-church General Synod.
At their 2005 General Synod in Atlanta, UCC delegates voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution calling for marriage rights to be extended to same-gender couples. The resolution, In Support of Equal Marriage Rights for All, "affirms equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and declares that the government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage."
Cathedral of Hope UCC-Oklahoma City began in 2000 as a church plant of Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas. In January 2007, they became a fully autonomous congregation within the United Church of Christ.
Who are UCC young adults?
In the UCC, young adults are considered those between the ages of 18 and 30. The reality is that a young adult could be female, male, a student, a professional, single, married, a parent, still living with a parent, Generation X or a Millennial, a seminarian, an ordained minister, someone who hasn't set foot in a church since high school and anything in between. "Young Adult" is a distinction of age that encompasses a group as diverse and dynamic as any in the UCC.
How can young adults get involved?
Young Adult Service Communities are unique opportunities for you to live in intentional community with others who share your commitment to service and social justice. Together, you will find the space to reflect on questions of meaning and to network for change.
Service and Justice Internships
The YASC network gives you the opportunity to grow professionally and change the world through intern placements with local nonprofit agencies, which are dedicated to justice advocacy and collaborative action.
Your placement will also allow you the opportunity to grow spiritually as you serve in a leadership position at a United Church of Christ congregation. Through this work you can see the convergence of church and world.
Finally, YASC provides you a space to grow personally by living in community with other young leaders, exploring together your direction, calling and future action in the world.
The Summer Communities of Service program is an ecumenical collaboration between the UCC Volunteer Ministries and Alliance of Baptists. Particpants live and serve from June to mid-August in host congregations from around the United States. There a four fundamental facets, which together form the foundation of the SCOS program:
The "intentional Christian community element" makes this program distinct and effective. Interns share a common food allowance, transportation funds and spiritual growth insights. Participants live in community with each other and with their hosts in their temporary city.
In the UCC and Alliance of Baptists diversity is a big piece of our identity. Both churches uphold socially progressive statements and advocate politically from a faith perspective. Diverse, community-service-integrated ministries show interns, congregations, the wider church and world where this faith-inspired work is happening in our midst. The SCOS projects help interns develop long-term commitment to engage in this kind of ministry.
Hands-On Justice Advocacy/Service Opportunities
Grow professionally. Change the World.
Grow Personally. Grow Spiritually.
The Global Mission Intern program invites you to challenge yourself in a one to three year international mission service opportunity. As you offer yourself in service, you will also learn more about yourself, your relationship with God, and your place in God’s world. You will build relationships that will change the way you look at the world. You will be a part of a growing group of young adults who have been transformed by these experiences and will provide you a new community on return. You will come back from your year in mission equipped to provide a global perspective on issues facing the church in our hurting world today.
The UCC national setting recommends sites within the United States that host mission opportunities for groups. These host sites are rooted in local communities and utilize volunteer groups in their on-going service within those places. Volunteers experience God’s presence among new people and in new places through these experiences. UCC Mission Trip Opportunities are short-term, lasting up to a week.
Working together as a significant partner in the ministry and future of the church, OMA seeks to advise, connect and advocate on behalf of the network of persons responsible for Outdoor Ministries in the United Church of Christ. The Outdoor Ministry Association works to support and encourage the staff, volunteers, board members and conferences at these special places; to promote outdoor ministries in all areas of the church; and to celebrate the many wonders of God's nature!
The Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries (CYYAM) advocates, communicates, coordinates, and networks on behalf of youth and young adults of the UCC. CYYAM members work together and with other church leaders to establish strong youth and young adult ministries throughout the UCC by advocating to church leaders, helping make youth and young adult voices heard at General Synod, seeking to address issues of social justice and peace, and serving as a voice for UCC youth and young adults.
The vision of Justice & Witness Ministries is of a more just, peaceful and compassionate world that honors all of God’s creation. Leaders are needed throughout our churches and communities to help share, pursue and achieve this vision. Justice Leaders Engaging and Developing (Justice LED) is a program that offers training, leadership skills and support to local churches and UCC members who seek tangible ways to move our world towards this vision.
Together with Sexuality and Our Faith, Our Whole Lives helps participants make informed and responsible decisions about their relationships, health and behavior in the context of their faith. It equips participants with accurate, age-appropriate information in six subject areas: human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture. It provides not only facts about anatomy and human development, but helps participants to clarify their values, build interpersonal skills and understand the social, emotional and spiritual aspects of sexuality.