In response to the disastrous wildfires in southern California, the UCC has sent $5,000 from the One Great Hour of Sharing special mission offering to Church World Service as part of an ecumenical relief effort. Anticipating long-term recovery needs for persons affected, and in order to allow the UCC a greater response, an additional $50,000 is being sought from UCC members and friends.
The Rev. Jane Heckles, Southern California Nevada Co-Conference Minister, says no UCC church facilities were damaged by the fires and the Conference's camp, Pilgrim Pines, also was unharmed. However, at least two dozen UCC members lost their homes.
"Now the hard work starts. In the weeks ahead we will be reaching out to assess the unmet needs that fall between the cracks of government assistance," says Heckles. "We will work in concert with Church World Service and our local ecumenical and interfaith agencies."
During the fires, many UCC members—using an online forum established at ucc.org—expressed concern and offered prayers for those in California.
"Members of the churches of the Southwest Conference have been praying all week and are sending donations. At our ministers' retreat, we took an unscheduled offering and raised $500 immediately which we have already sent," wrote the Rev. Cally Rogers- Witte, Southwest Conference Minister. "Most of all, dear brothers and sisters in southern California, know that we hold you in our thoughts and prayers!"
Mark Lukens, a member of Bethany Congregational UCC in Long Island, N.Y., wrote, "All of us here in the New York metro area are praying for our sisters and brothers in southern California as we prepare to offer whatever help and comfort we possibly can. We are watching and praying for you."
The Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, Connecticut Conference Minister, urged UCC members to offer financial support. "Having served as Conference Minister in southern California and Nevada at the time of the last major wildfires, I know personally what the Conference staff, pastors and people are going through," she wrote. "I can testify to the difference the monetary gifts make!"
To help those affected by the disaster, you may send gifts made out to your UCC Conference, marked "Emergency USA," with a note asking them to send the gifts to the Office for Global Sharing of Resources; Wider Church Ministries; 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115.
Online donations to "Emergency USA" can be made at ucc.org/disaster/d102703.htm.