Written by Gregg Brekke
From mission moments and trick-or-treating, to cleaning cars and engaging in exercise, UCC youth across the country are circling the wagons – literally, in some cases – on behalf of the church's Mission:1 campaign to fight hunger.
Among those who have shared their creative plans and ambitious goals are:
Bausman Memorial UCC, Womelsdorf, Pa.
The "congregation" of Bausman Memorial comprises youths and young adults who reside at Bethany Children's Home, a facility that provides residential services for children and adolescents unable to live with their own or a substitute family.
"I have a congregation of 75 youth between the ages of 10 and 19," said the Rev. Lynn Wetzel, the church's stated supply pastor. "We actually have no members, per se, but the youth strive to be a part of Mission:1."
Bethany Children's Home was founded in 1863 as a refuge for children whose parents were killed or seriously injured in the Civil War. The church was built on the campus in 1908 as a Sunday School.
In September, Wetzel's group held a car wash, raising $111. "I was so proud of them," said Wetzel. "It was cold and they really worked hard.
"Many of them have no families to connect with except us," said Wetzel "Many have grown up in family situations where there are used to receiving all the time. Mission:1 helps get them on the other end, where they're assisting others so they can be mission-minded. It really makes them feel good."
The group is painting pumpkins to be auctioned off to benefit a local food bank, said Wetzel. "We're also writing letters to Congress and looking into working with other churches that could provide bags that youth can decorate and use in packaging Mission:1 food items to be donated."
Center Congregational UCC, Meriden, Conn.
Church school members are among those being asked to share their time and talent with the community through pledging to spend 11 minutes a day from Nov. 1-11 doing something for someone else.
Children's messages include: talking about bringing in items of food they would like to eat/receive; using the "Starfish Story," about the young man who throws starfish back into the sea one at a time, making a difference one by one; and discussing how change can be affected by writing letters to legislators.
First Church of Christ Congregational, Bedford, Mass.
Youth and children are pledging to do fun, physical activities as part of the church's pledging campaign – everything from somersaults and shooting hoops to blowing bubbles and walking their height times the number of items pledged. The activities will be photographed and shown as part of the celebration at the end of Mission:1.
Saint John's UCC, Jackson, Mich.
At St. John's, Sunday School youth presented Mission:1 project plans to the congregation during church service. Weekly updates and lessons are being presented by the youth, who are also online as part of the national effort. Youth are also leading a project for the October calendar by adding a scrambled word or phrase to solve and an amount of money for each day to add to the "bank," which is a plastic storage bag.
First Congregational UCC, Ypsilanti, Mich.
Beginning Sept. 25 and continuing for 11 weeks, the goal is to collect at least 11 canned or packaged food items to donate to local food banks. The in-gathering of these items will be part of the children's time each Sunday. The youth will take up the offering each week, collecting, counting and charting their progress.
Young adults at Elmhurst College focused their UCC Confirmation Day program on Mission:1. Multiple student groups participated in raising awareness of food injustice and provided myriad opportunities to contribute. Weekly student worship includes a mission moment to spread the word throughout campus. Students also produced a Mission:1 video that has been widely viewed on the internet.
First Congregational UCC, Appleton, Wis.
Middle schoolers are collecting non-perishable food items and donating diapers to the Limited Emergency Assistance Valley Ecumenical Network (LEAVEN), a local mission that works through volunteers to assist people in crisis by providing housing, utilities, transportation, medication, food and clothing.
First Congregational Christian UCC, New Baltimore, Mich.
During children's moment at the introduction to Mission:1 on Oct. 16, the children in the congregation took a "noisy offering" to rally members offering food items for a local food pantry. Members were told in advance when the offering would be taken. During the offering, the children used large tin coffee cans in which they collected loose change, paper money and checks. "We took in around $100 that day," said the Rev. Henry C. Brinker, First Congregational pastor.
Hagerstown (Md.) Church of the Holy Trinity UCC
Retired pastor Marilyn Washburn preached at the Oct. 9 service in which she used Isaiah 25:1 to challenge youths and young adults to bring in items they would want to receive if they were hungry.
Trinity UCC, Deerfield, Ill.
Children in Deerfield, Ill., have been using their wagons to cover local neighborhoods, collecting food pantry items from friends and neighbors.
Zion UCC, Union, Mo.
More wagons: During children's time in the weekly mission moment, youth are bringing food forward in a Mission:1 "express wagon."
God Can Ministries, Ford Heights, Ill.
Youth are donating 11 cents per Sunday throughout October and offering 11 days of prayer (Nov. 1-11).
Peace UCC, Duluth, Minn.
An overnight for youth Nov. 11 will focus on food justice. Also in the works: a community-wide event serving a meal Nov. 9 at a local shelter.
Bethany UCC, Randolph, Vt.
On Halloween weekend, youth members will be
trick-or-treating for food for the local food shelf.
Mission:1 plays on the UCC motto "That they may all be 1," Nov. 1-11, 2011 (11-1-11—11-11-11). During those 11 days, the UCC aims to collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks and collect $111,111 in online donations for hunger-related causes, while marshaling its 5,300 congregations to advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide via 11,111 letters to Congress.
For more information please visit <ucc.org/mission1>.