Your vote is your voice – don’t give it up!
The problems in our world often seem too big to confront. We see injustice every day and feel that change can’t or won’t happen. But our faith is infused with hope and built on a foundation of action. By serving the vulnerable, feeding the hungry, and standing in solidarity with the oppressed, we serve as God’s hands.
Voting is a natural extension of faithful action. The decisions made by our representatives have a wide reaching impact. We have enormous potential to make positive change. We must engage our legislators, vote, and encourage everyone in our communities to do the same.
Our faithful voice is needed. It is tempting to disengage from the political process. As people dedicated to creating a just world for all, we know we must be involved.
Join the Our Faith, Our Vote campaign. Discover how your congregation can participate in the electoral process through faithful, nonpartisan engagement. The United Church of Christ can help with resources on civic engagement, voter registration information, issue education, and voter mobilization.
This election season it is essential that people raise their voices and vote. Will you join us?
Lead your Congregation! Become an Our Faith Our Vote Captain!
As a captain you will assist your congregation in activities related to at least one of three areas:
- Voter Registration - Organize a church voter registration team. Make sure your congregation is 100% registered. Register your church-based or community service clients. Provide your college-bound students with information on absentee voting or voting in their campus community.
- Voter Education - Hold issue forums in which church members can talk openly and respectfully about key issues in this election season on the local, state, federal and international levels. Create spaces to encourage people to connect their faith with their hopes for the 2016 election and beyond.
- Voter Empowerment and Mobilization - Organize nonpartisan get-out-the-vote activities for your congregation and community. Empower members of your community with the information they need to exercise their right to vote.
Our Faith Our Vote Tips & Resources
- Get Active in the Elections
- Get Out the Vote
- College Resources
- Youth and Young Adults in Action
- Worship Resources
- Being a Civil Voice in Uncivil Times
- Ballot Initiatives
- Election Protection
- Helpful Links
- Download Toolkit
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Sacred Conversation on Race is a church-wide initiative for United Church of Christ congregations, as we seek to confront the sin of racism in our desire to see the Church live and be as one. To begin, the Resource Guide for Sacred Conversation on Race will help your church to engage this issue of race based on where individuals are, realizing there is work for ALL to do (see the Continuum below).
- A Pastoral Letter on Racism: A New Awakening - January 16, 2015
- The Continuum
- Prayer Resources
Where do we go from here?
To deepen the conversation on how race intersects with many justice issues, the resource series “Race and …” will assist your church in taking the next step of connecting the dots between faith experience, church life and the justice issue at hand.
Sacred Conversation on Race can take many forms e.g. some take on anti-racism training to get to the heart of how and where they could make a difference in their own attitudes and behaviors. And, there are those who addressed the matter by dealing with White privilege which contributes to the racism experienced by non-White individuals living in the United States. Our conversations continue!
Vital Tools That You Can Use Right Now
11 Facts about Congregational Vitality in UCC Congregations from the Faith Communities Today Study
United Church of Christ: Faith Practices will provide resources for worship, learning, and serving, on 24 different parctices of our faith. The first four practices are ready now.
Stewardship and Church Finances resources to ignite the generosity of your congregation! Also find information about financial wellness and Our Church's Wider Mission.
Youth and Young Adult Resources for leaders, check out these hot new suggestions.
Women in Mission: Our Common Lot sharing the incredible strengths and resources found in United Church of Christ women so that we may better be about carrying out God's ministry and mission in the world. It's in our DNA!
Global Ministries encourages you to become a Global Mission Church and propel your congregation into new activities or affirm the numerous projects already in place. Whether your next step is to pray regularly for a missionary, study globalization or plan a People-to-People group mission trip, we encourage you to make the decision to put a foot forward and take a step into world mission.
Justice and Witness Ministries Justice LED is a training which will provide assistance to local churches and UCC members who seek to participate in ongoing ways to move our world towards this vision.
Resources for Vital Worship
Creating the Beloved Community: Invocation, Confession and Assurance of Pardon For Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend
|Download Prayer Resources|
Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
O God, all people are your Beloved,
across races, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations
and all the ways we are distinctive from one another.
We are all manifestations of your image.
We are bound together in an inescapable network of mutuality
and tied to a single garment of destiny.
You call us into your unending work
of justice, peace and love.
Let us know your presence among us now:
Let us delight in our diversity
that offers glimpses of the mosaic of your beauty.
Strengthen us with your steadfast love and
transform our despairing fatigue into hope-filled action.
Under the shadow of your wings in this hour
may we find rest and strength, renewal and hope.
We ask this, inspired by the example
of your disciple, Martin Luther King, Jr.,
and in Jesus’ name. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
O God, we long to co-create with you the Beloved Community
which looks to the common good; privileges all equally,
and creates societal systems
which celebrate the humanity and the gifts of all.
And yet we focus on our differences, envy each other’s gifts,
devalue manifestations of you, O God, that are not like our own.
Perhaps our sin is a slow wait for justice:
We allow the voices of brothers and sisters
who do not look like us, love like us, or worship like us
to be silenced.
We have told them to wait for freedom, justice and equality.
We foster in them a denigrating sense of nobodiness. Lord, have mercy.
Or perhaps we have kept silence ourselves
in the face of their struggle for full human life.
For it is not solely hateful words and actions,
but also appalling silence that follows the path of oppression. Christ, have mercy.
Perhaps our sin is to give in to weariness, discouragement, bitterness:
You have called us to be drum majors for justice, peace and righteousness,
Yet the work of peace and justice overwhelms us at times,
To build with God the Beloved Community seems impossible,
and we grow weary.
We cry, “Peace, peace,”
but there is no peace within us or around us.
We find ourselves on the path
of hatred and oppression, violence and war. Lord, have mercy.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON (Isaiah 62:1-5)
Sisters and brothers, God is at work in us and with us!
God has promised:
“I will not keep silent and I will not rest
until the vindication of my beloved people
shines out like the dawn and their salvation like a burning torch.
My people shall no more be termed ‘forsaken’
and their land shall no more be termed ‘desolate.’”
We remember that you have given your Beloved people a new name:
“My delight is in them.”
Thank you, God for delighting in us even now,
for forgiving us our slow action, our silence and our weariness,
for empowering our work
and inviting us once again
to create with you the Beloved Community you long for.
Phrases from the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. have been woven into the prayer texts. They are identified by italics. Texts of King’s work are available in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington; © 1986 Coretta Scott King. A brief essay on King’s understanding of the term “Beloved Community” is available at http://www.wilpf.org/mlksbelovedcommunity.
Creating the Beloved Community: Invocation, Confession and Assurance of Pardon was written by the Rev. Dr. Cari Jackson, Senior Pastor of First Congregational Church, Stamford, CT. It was originally published in Worship Ways, volume 9 number 1, © 2010 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, United Church of Christ.
Going back to UCC Office of Commuication Inc.'s founding, we have focused on holding broadcasters accountable to the communities they serve. We made more progress this June when the Federal Communications Commission ruled that information about political advertisements, including those placed by the new Super PACs, must be made available online. These records, which are currently public but housed in filing cabinets at TV broadcast stations, should start to become available in time for the 2012 fall election season. In April, leaders of OC Inc. and the UCC's Our Faith, Our Vote initiative celebrated this important victory. In addition, UCC OC Inc. is collaborating with the Sunlight Foundation and Free Press with a pilot project in Wisconsin to ensure this information is available to everyone. The Rev. Andrew Warner of Plymouth Church UCC in Milwaukee preached a sermon asking Wisconsin residents to come together across partisan divides to support campaign advertising disclosure and seeking volunteers to help with this endeavor.
A few months ago I heard Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, address a crowd. Speaking of the fall Presidential election she said, “This is the most important election in our lifetime,” and then in a moment of honesty she added, “Of course we politicians always say the next election is the most important; and in fact I may be back here saying the same thing again before another election.”
Tuesday, whether the candidate we personally supported won or lost, was but one election; there will be more, and with each one we may tell ourselves, “this is the most important election.” Each election does matter; and a loss in one election can have decades long effects. I still grieve the 2006 election, which wrote a prohibition against marriage equality into our state constitution. An election victory or an election loss can shape our state and nation significantly.
But there shall be more elections. And so while I have an opinion about the outcome of this last election, I am more reflective about the landscape of our state and our nation after the series of elections past and those coming in the future. How shall we move forward?
In looking across the landscape of our country, I’m struck by the ways our society is changing. My observations are not unique. Three trends catch my eye. First, the gap between the rich and poor grew every year since 1980, so that the wealthiest Americans now control a quarter of the wealth in our country, the same as in 1929. Second, increasing numbers of Americans opt out of religious communities and instead identify with no religious community; a trend especially apparent among young adults. Lastly, a broad political consensus that existed between political parties eroded as liberals became more liberal and conservatives became more conservative.
After this election I am particularly mindful of the way the third trend - partisan polarization - affects us all. On Wednesday the Pew Research Center released its study on American values. Pew surveyed American values, as it has since the 1980’s, on a variety of questions. It found political differences now divide Americans more than race, income, religion, education, or sex.
Think about that finding: in a country which enslaved people on the basis of race for 200 years, then denied basic rights for another 100, and even now practices an unspoken segregation, we are more divided by politics than by race. At one time you could predict how someone would feel about welfare programs or immigration or birth control if you knew their religion, or their economic class, or their race. But now the best way to predict their views comes down to one question: who do you support for president. Pew found that divisions according to race and class and religion are now superseded by partisan divisions.
With the recall and of these trends in mind, we turn to our reading from 1 Samuel 8. The Prophet Samuel spoke against the request of the elders of Israel for a king. Our tradition often focuses on Samuel’s critique of the accumulation of power in the hands of a king, but the debate between Samuel and the elders is what can best inform our understanding of our political situation today.
As you may recall, the Prophet Samuel lived through the tumultuous transition of the people of Israel from an collection of loosely organized tribes led by occasional charismatic leaders into a nation state governed by a monarchy. Samuel began as an apprentice to the Prophet Eli. Eli had several sons he hoped would follow him as prophets to the people of Israel; but God saw the corruption of Eli’s sons, so Samuel took over from Eli. Now the situation appeared ready to repeat itself: aged Samuel’s sons based their judgments on the bribes they received.
The elders of Israel came to Samuel upset with the situation. They said to Samuel, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” The elders wanted justice: the sons of Samuel were corrupt, abused their power, mocked the idea of the impartial judge. “We want a king to judge us instead of your corrupt sons,” they pleaded.
If Samuel remembered the corruption of Eli’s sons, he didn’t let on to it. Instead, Samuel complained to God and the elders about the request for king. At the heart of Samuel’s critique was the charge, spoken by God, that the request for a king displaced God. Samuel presented himself as someone aggrieved by the elders’ suggestion, as someone whose only interest was in protecting God’s authority. But Samuel continually overlooked the concern of the elders about the corruption of his sons. He spoke for God’s dignity but ignored justice.
God told Samuel to listen to what the people said. Instead, Samuel tried to dissuade them by cataloguing all the ways a king would abuse them, suggesting in this way that his own corrupt sons would be better than a king. The king would conscript their sons into battles, redistribute wealth, and tax the people. His words reverberated with the word take. “The king,” Samuel warned, “will take and take and take and take until you are all slaves.”
Samuel’s strong warning fell on deaf ears. The elders remained adamant, “we want a king to fight our battles.” And perhaps the people were so insistent because of the corruption of first Eli’s sons and then Samuel’s sons. The people already knew what it was like to have their property taken and taken; that was what it was like to live with the prophets’ sons.
It strikes me that Samuel and the elders were locked into a partisan battle. Samuel claimed to speak for God and tradition, but ignored his own sons’ corrupt ways. The elders denounced corruption but were blind to the dangers of their own solution. Both seemed to talk past each other.
Samuel and the elders do not line up with our political parties today. But there debate feels familiar. We’re increasingly locked in partisan debates in our country; but do we miss some truth in what the other is saying just as Samuel and the elders missed what was true because of the intensity of their argument?
Lost in their debate was the real question of justice. Who would protect the poor from corrupt judges? Who would protect people from the seizure of their property? Who would protect workers from mistreatment? Who would keep the sons and daughters from conscription in foreign wars?
Our tradition commonly takes the point of view of Samuel - kings are bad - but I wonder if we ought to pay more attention to the odd role God plays in the story. God seemed to share Samuel’s analysis of kings - “they have rejected me” - but doesn’t seem perturbed by it - “listen to the people.” Perhaps God saw what Samuel didn’t - the corruption of the prophets’ sons, the corruptions of the kings. What mattered to God was not who would rule but who would speak for justice.
This concern for justice reminded me of a favorite line in one of James Madison’s Federalist Papers. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” And by that Madison meant to remind us that neither people nor governments were angels.
Madison devised several solutions. Most famously, Madison drafted the Bill of Rights in order to protect people from the abuse of power. But he also remained focused on justice. In the Federalist papers he wrote, “Justice is the [purpose] of government. It is the [purpose] of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.” One of Madison’s clearest measures of a just government was the extent to which a minority was guarded against oppression by the majority. I think James Madison might have a definition of justice we could agree on regardless of party.
Every election matters. It mattered for the people of Israel that the elders convinced Samuel to appoint Saul king. It matters who wins. But regardless of who rules, we need people who will speak up for justice.
Over the last few decades our Christian movement, the United Church of Christ, raised its voice for justice regardless of who ruled. Many of the ways we’ve done so remain unknown even in our movement. One of those stories concerns the Office of Communication. The Office of Communication was formed during the civil rights era to deal with discrimination against African-Americans in the news media. At that time southern television stations would drop the national news feed whenever it turned to the civil rights movement. One would see the briefest clip of Martin Luther King speaking and then a sign would appear, “Sorry, Cable Trouble.”
The situation was particularly bad in Jackson, Mississippi, where the local television station maintained a KKK bookstore on its property. Needless to say, their only stories about African- Americans involved crime.
The Office of Communication trained monitors to record exactly what happened on the television station, documenting all of its coverage to prove discrimination. The study became the heart of a landmark legal challenge in which the United Church of Christ sued to take away the television licence of the station. And we won. The shock of this victory altered the media landscape because no other stations wanted to lose their licence.
The Office of Communication continues to speak up for justice today. This April it achieved another victory. As we’ve all seen in the recall election, millions of dollars poured into our state, flooding our airwaves with advertisements from unknown super pacs like “Wisconsin Citizens for a Better Tomorrow” and “A Better Tomorrow for Wisconsin” and a hundred other previously unknown groups of mysterious origin. The FCC only required television stations to make information on advertizers available in file cabinets at the station. The Office of Communication successfully changed the rule. The FCC will require stations to make the information available electronically, which will allow us to begin to gain transparency to the advertising.
But the FCC plans to delay the implementation of this rule. So now the Office of Communication needs volunteers to help monitor, much as it needed them decades ago. In this case it involves taking a couple of hours to visit a television station, photocopy their files, and turn them in to the UCC. Its a small, practical way to raise a voice for justice, transparency, and fairness.
We’re often divided along partisan lines - could we come together around issues of transparency and fair debate? Could we find a common voice for justice? There will be another election; may ours always be a voice for justice. Because what will move our state forward, regardless of who rules, is people united in raising a voice for justice. Alleluia and Amen.
Contact Cheryl Leanza of OC Inc. if you live in Wisconsin and want to help with this effort.
Straight talk about key issues in the midterm election season
Recorded October 22, 2014: https://pbucc.webex.com/pbucc/ldr.php?RCID=1ec6cd99f73e6749c4ce60f79d7e564c
Tired of campaign ads that don’t actually address the real issues at stake in the upcoming elections? Looking for something more than superficial soundbites about the issues that matter to you and your community? The latest in our series of Our Faith Our Vote webinars is for you! Join us on October 22 at 3 pm for a discussion about key issues facing our nation and world as we head into the midterm elections. Our speakers will highlight issues related to the economy, health care and international peace and security from a faith perspective. Join the dialogue and share your questions and concerns. (Stream recording)
Voter Registration – Make every voice heard! (Recorded)
September 23 marks National Voter Registration Day, a good reminder that there is still time to ensure that members of your congregation and community are registered to vote.
Wondering how to make voter registration opportunities available to your community? Concerned about the guidelines for nonprofit religious organizations engaging in voter registration and education? This webinar is for you!
Sign up to participate in the UCC Our Faith Our Vote webinar on voter registration, Friday, September 19 at 3 pm EST. If you are not able to join the webinar in live time, you can access an archived version through the UCC Our Faith Our Vote website.
In this pivotal midterm election year, with so many challenges ahead for our nation and the world, much is at stake in choosing our policy decision makers. You can help make sure that the voices of your community are heard.
(Recorded September 19, 2014 |http://bit.ly/1r73Ohw)
Our Faith Our Vote 2014 (Recorded)
The first Just Practice webinar focused on how members and congregations can be engaged in electoral politics. Together we explored a number of questions, including:
- Why we are involved in electoral politics and what is our unique voice as communities of faith?
- Our Faith Our Vote, a UCC campaign to assist congregations and members to be faithfully engaged in the electoral process.
- Election rules as they apply to congregations – what we can and can’t do.
- What is the Voting Rights Amendment Act? Why is it important for our right to vote and how can we support it.
- Role of “big” money in campaigns - Why this is an important issue and what we can do about it.
- Your questions and concerns
(Recorded June 5, 2014)
- Webinar Recording
- Just Practices: Our Faith Our Vote presentation (PowerPoint)
- Moving Forward on Voting Rights - Presntation by Ellen Buchman (PowerPoint)
- Government for Sale: The Crisis of Money in Politics - Presentation by Aquene Freechild (PowerPoint)
Congregations Engaging in the Elections (Recorded)
This webinar will focuses on “best practices” from the 2012 Our Faith Our Vote campaign- a time to share stories and ideas about how UCC members and congregations can and are engaging in voter registration, education, and get-out-the-vote. We also explores ways you can incorporate the Our Faith Our Vote campaign into your congregation’s fall programming. Our speakers are UCC justice advocates from congregations around the country who have been actively engaged in the electoral process. (Recorded August 29th, 2012)
When Religion and Politics Meet: A Conversation About the Role of Religion in the Electoral Process (Recorded)
Although we have heard it said that religion and politics shouldn’t mix, people of faith can and do play an important role in the public square and the political life of our nation. But what might that role look like, and how can people of faith and houses of worship engage in the electoral process in a healing, respectful and responsible way? What are some of the legal guidelines for participation by people of faith? What are some of the uses and misuses of religion in political campaigns, and how can people of faith promote civil, thoughtful dialogue across differences on critical issues of the day.
Join us for a conversation with Rev. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance, and K. Hollyn Hollman, general counsel, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty to learn about ways that you and your congregation can become involved! (Recorded: May 15, 2012)
Our Faith Our Vote, which seeks to engage and empower the public witness of the UCC, is deeply informed by our Christian faith and theological grounding.
Vote Faithfully Sunday - November 6, 2016
We invite you to join with our Ecumenical partners in observing the Sunday before election day as "Vote Faithfully Sunday." This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and uplift every voice in our community, reflect on our commitment to the common good and prepare to cast our ballots.
How will you observe Vote Faithfully Sunday? Here are some ideas:
- Download the Vote Faithfully Sunday Ecumenical toolkit: This toolkit provides helpful, nonpartisan resources for engaging with your congregation and community on Vote Faithfully Sunday. It includes:Worship Resources & Prayers; Action Steps including a Voter Pledge, Voter Mobilization Tips, FAQs & Election Protection Info; And more!
- Worship: Use the worship materials in the toolkit and below to celebrate Vote Faithfully Sunday
- Pledge: Invite your members to commit to casting a Ballot on November 8th. Download these "Vote Faithfully Pledge Cards" and collect them through your offering. Send them back to our DC office if your members want to join our UCC Justice Network!
- Get Out the Vote: Make sure every member of your congregation knows where they can turn for help if they have trouble casting their ballot. Share information about the Election Protection hotlines from our partners.
We have included worship resources to help congregations lift up and affirm the connection between corporate worship and the living out of faith in the public sphere. In this section you will find liturgical resources that reflect our call to pray for a more just, peaceful and compassionate world, and to engage in political and public efforts that will help bring it about.
- UCC Worship Ways: Seeds for Election Season Prayers
- UCC Worship Ways: Prayers to Help Counter Fears
- Trusting in the Source - Service Prayers for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
- Our Call to the Common Good - Prayers for a Sunday in Election Season
- Sample Sermon: Of Piety and Politics
- Prayer: Prayer to the God of Love, Relationship and Community
|Possible Song Choices from Sing! Prayer and Praise
13 Love and Justice
16 Come to the Water
50 Song of Mercy
69 God Weeps
77 Blessed Are You
86 Taste and See
101 Make Us All One
112 Come to the Table of Grace
120 Dream God’s Dream
127 Dance of the Spirit
137 Come Sweet Justice
170 We Share a Hunger
178 Here Are Our Hearts
199 Go Make a Difference
- Oct 18-20 at Pilgrim Hills Camp in Ohio
- Nov 2-4 at Parkway UCC in Winston-Salem, NC
The UCC Centers for Environmental Justice are centers where participants can come from all over the U.S. and be immersed in a justice-centered response to climate change and environmental equity.
Originally founded at Pilgrim Firs Camp and Conference Center, the program has expanded to Silver Lake Conference Center in Connecticut and other training locations throughout the country. These trainings feature a curriculum designed for diverse participants to take what they learn and return to their home locations and communicate with knowlege of five core themes of environmental justice based on biblical and ethical principles:
Using video, discussions, and hands-on learning opportunities, each session will go far beyond the traditional “greening” of our congregations and communities to promote a transformational message. Upon registration, each participate will agree to teach this new approach to environmental justice at least twice in one year and will be given all the necessary tools to communicate with “the folks in the pew.”
This curriculum is Biblically based and centered on the deep issues of justice and the beloved community. It involves the learner in study, reflection, discussion, and hands-on learning opportunities, and can be tailored for weekly, weekend, and single-day learning opportunities.