Members of Florida's 100 UCC churches will gather for beach-side worship Sunday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m. to celebrate and reflect how individuals can play — and are playing — a role in protecting the Gulf of Mexico devastated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Florida churches also are asking UCC congregations across the country to join in prayerful solidarity on the same day. Throughout the United States, congregations are asked to lift up "Disaster Relief Recognition Day" as a sign of support for those affected by the Gulf disaster.
The public worship service at the Pass-A-Grille (Fla.) Beach (16th Avenue), just before sunset, will feature music, speakers and a time of reflection prepared especially for the event, said the Rev. Kent Siladi, Florida Conference Minister.
"This will be a time of reflection as well as encouragement, as we recall our responsibility to be stewards of God's creation," Siladi said. Representatives from the UCC's national staff also will attend.
Siladi said the worship service hopes to address five expressed concerns: to identify and claim the church's source of all hope, to demonstrate the widespread concern of all UCC members, to declare the UCC's commitment to long-term recovery, to respond to people's anger and depression, and to strengthen resolve to end our dependence on oil.
Florence Coppola, the UCC's national disaster recovery coordinator, is encouraging UCC churches across the country to get involved and to send stories and photos of churches' creative support to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We want to encourage all of our churches in the U.S. to do some type of worship event on the same day and to let us know what you did to express your support for those affected in and along the Gulf of Mexico," Coppola said.
At Emmanuel UCC in Sebring, Fla., church members have planned a weeklong schedule of nightly services to address issues, encourage lament, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation between community members and area BP station owners, says church member Joyce A. Gordon. The week's schedule culminates in participation with the larger UCC beach gathering.
The order of worship for the Aug. 22 beach service is being made available early to assist churches nationwide who can utilize elements in their worship planning for the day. A special hymn for the occasion, O Gracious Maker, has been written by John H. Danner.