Written by Anthony Moujaes
"One of the UCC's clearly stated bold inspirational goals is the ambitious formation of new welcoming, reachable congregations, so that all people, regardless of where they live, can find a UCC congregation near them. As a church with distinctive, unique values, we are a beacon of religious openness and inclusivity," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of Local Church Ministries.
Testimony!, the start of a three-year fundraising drive, begins Saturday, June 29,at noon in the Grand Ballroom of the Long Beach Convention Center with a luncheon, followed by the debut of "Open Frames," a theatrical performance that is inspired by the history of the UCC ("the known"), the current state of the church ("the now") and the future of what "church" means for generations to come ("the next"). Through storytelling and dance, award winning director and Broadway choreographer Patdro Harris, and acclaimed composer, musician and minister the Rev. Dwight Andrews will bring together performers from television, stage and the church in a one-time performance on behalf of the UCC.
"The UCC has welcomed more than 200 new or newly affiliating churches since 2007, and that's more new congregations than in any comparable period over the past four decades," said Guess. "This has happened organically, but also intentionally, as we have been bold in proclaiming that 'now is the time for new church development' in the United Church of Christ." Testimony! begins an effort to "ensure an infusion of new dollars into new church development and revitalization so that we can build upon the momentum that is already taking place around us."
With the first sizable donation of $50,000 coming to the campaign from Don and Ellen Clark of Illinois, 100 percent of the proceeds of Testimony! will be funneled into planting new churches and bringing renewal to current UCC congregations.
"Ellen and I are pleased to support new and renewing communities of faith," said Clark, who has represented the UCC as its legal counsel for a decade and recently became General Counsel. "I hope many people will soon purchase seats and tables at the luncheon and support this initiative."
Individual tickets to the event are $100 and a table of 10 is $800. In addition, there are three levels of sponsorship for the event ($2,500, $5,000 and $10,000). All gifts of $2,500 will recognized during the fundraiser and in a "thank-you" ad in StillSpeaking magazine.
"I really believe that if a community does not have a UCC congregation organized nearby, then it is a diminished community, because I believe that much in what we're about, our core purpose and mission," said Guess. "We need to be diligent and generous in making sure that new churches are supported and encouraged to grow and thrive where they are planted. This fundraising priority gives us a chance to come together and fund this important vision."
To register for Testimony!, or for more information on the event, visit ucc.org/testimony.