Written by Gregg Brekke
Neither an ailing economy nor a rare New England autumn snowstorm has put a chill on the hunger-fighting efforts of Mission:1 at two UCC churches in Connecticut and Ohio.
The surprising snow of Oct. 29-30 could only slow down delivery of 111 reusable, food-filled bags to a local food pantry by members of United Church on the Green UCC in NewHaven, Conn.
"We were scheduled to walk our 111 bags of food over to the food pantry (Oct. 30) after worship, but with the freakish snowstorm, we had to cancel worship," said the Rev. John MacIver Gage, senior pastor. "We had to drive the food over. A far less romantic image, I'm afraid, but at least the people still got fed."
Overwhelming generosity during trying times has brought Gage great joy, he said. "We worried a bit when we asked our congregation - all 144 of us - to fill 111 bags. But we received 117 back. People were glad to have something concrete that they could do, individually and as a community, to make the world just that much better for someone else."
Gage expressed gratitude that Mission:1 connects to his church in many different ways.
"It's about compassion, as a response to personal need, and it is about justice, because we know who eats and who doesn't has political ramifications," said Gage. "It's also about building partnerships in the wider community, with the food pantry and the congregation who sponsor them; and it's about the environment, since we donated all those great bright-green reusable shopping bags."
The bags were donated by the local Stop & Shop grocery chain, said Gage, adding that the food pantry plans to use the bags to encourage clients to bring them back.
Meanwhile, in Wooster, Ohio, even before the official kickoff to Mission:1, the congregation of Trinity UCC was generating momentum in the campaign's hunger-ending efforts.
"We've already collected enough money to buy 11 flocks of chickens, 11 flocks of geese and 11 flocks of duck," said Ruth Tisher, co-chairperson of the Mission, Peace and Justice Committee at Trinity. "We're going to send those to the Heifer International project."
Trinity, which serves hot breakfast five days a week to community members in need, has had its focus keenly set on the 11 days of Mission:1. Like UCC on the Green, one of its loftier goals has been filling 111 large, reusable cloth grocery bags with non-perishable food.
"We've been collecting for a food bank called People to People," said Tisher. "It's an organization of churches that have gotten together in Wooster since the early 1980s. They provide clothing and groceries, and they have a list of foods that they really need for November."
The filled bags were dedicated at church services Nov. 6 – the same day as Bring-A-Friend to Church Sunday.
Mission:1 plays on the UCC motto, "That they may all be one." It runs the 11 days from Nov. 1-11, 2011 (11-1-11—11-11-11). The goal is to collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks, $111,111 in online donations for hunger-related ministries and $111,111 in online donations for East Africa famine relief. Its 5,300 congregations advocating for hunger causes worldwide surpassed on Nov. 6 the goal of 11,111 letters to Congress. As of Nov. 9, over 22,000 letters had been sent.
For more information about Mission:1, visit <ucc.org/mission1>.