News briefs
April 2003

'Zenith' moves from movie theaters to TV

A one-hour documentary movie that played to full theaters in selected cities last year is scheduled to run on NBC television either Palm Sunday or Easter. It features the residents of Zenith, Kan. (population 30), struggling farmers and their families who stage an amateur outdoor Easter play in an effort to resurrect both the town and its little church. "Zenith" takes a sensitive, cinematic, soulful approach to the stories of financial hardship in rural America, and how one town is fighting to stay united and inspired.

The film was funded in part by contributions to the UCC's Neighbors in Need offering. For times and dates, check your local listings or go to

UCC pastor is 'Day 1' radio speaker

The Rev. Stephanie Weiner, senior minister of Union Congregational UCC in Montclair, N.J., is the featured speaker three times this spring on "Day 1," a nationally broadcast radio program also accessible via streaming audio at . The programs featuring Weiner will be broadcast April 13, May 18 and June 22 on more than 150 radio stations nationwide and on the American Forces Network. Formerly known as "The Protestant Hour," "Day 1" is produced cooperatively by the UCC, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Episcopal Media Center, United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. For information, call toll free 888-411-Day-1 or go to

Olivia White visits Baghdad

Olivia White, a member of Central Congregational UCC in Dallas and of the board of directors of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, was one of a team of four from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, of which the UCC is a member, that went to Baghdad, Iraq, in February. We went "to show solidarity to Christians and their neighbors and to affirm that we do not support war as the answer to the present conflict," she says. "I can certainly say that people do not want the war and want to see dialogue and other attempts to solve this crisis."

She closes her letter to churches in the South Central Conference, "Just pray for peace and remember the words of Martin Luther King: ÔWar is a poor chistle to carve out the future.'"

U.S.-Canadian student ties strengthened

In February, Elizabeth Constable attended the Student Christian Movement of Canada (SCM Canada) spring board meeting in Toronto, Canada, as a representative of the Council for Ecumenical Student Christian Ministry (CESCM). The relationship between the SCM Canada and CESCM, two groups of primarily college students, has grown in recent years, and "will continue to develop as social justice, and especially peace, move to the forefront of our reality," Constable says. The two bodies are members of the North American Regional Committee of the World Student Christian Federation. "The ultimate goal of the movements is to further ecumenism and unity around issues of social justice," she says. Constable is a senior at American University in Washington, D.C., studying International Relations and Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Summer seminar planned on intercultural dialogue

The University Centre of St. Ignatius in Antwerp, Belgium, is organizing a summer seminar on "Christianity, Islam and Judaism: How to Conquer the Barriers to Intercultural Dialogue?" The seminar takes place in Antwerp, Sept. 15-26, and is open to graduate and post-graduate students and scholars in the humanities and social sciences. Tuition fee, accommodation and meals are provided. For information, go to

AME Zion fastest growing church in the United States

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which grew by 11 percent last year, is the fastest growing denomination in the United States, according to the "2003 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches." Catholics were a distant second with 2 percent, followed closely by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) at 1.95 percent, and the Assemblies of God at 1.92 percent. The National Council of Churches compiles the annual report of church membership figures. It found more than 159 million members in some 216 different denominations in 2001, the latest year for which figures are available.

Learn safe church policies and procedures

The New England Pastoral Institute and UCC-related Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Mass., will co-sponsor an annual conference on Safe Church Policies and Procedures from 8:30 to 4 on Saturday, April 26, at Andover Newton. The conference will offer essential Send news items c/o United Church News, fax 216/736-2223; e-mail . essential information for denominational executives, committees on the ministry, property and building committees, religious education committees, insurance committees, personnel committees, pastors, trustees, moderators, finance officers, and deacons. Top quality speakers will present vital information needed by all UCC churches.

Cost: $150 or $300 for up to five from a church. Contact New England Pastoral Institute, 130 Main St., #204, Salem, NH 03079-3173; 603-890-6767; or go to Registration deadline: April 11.

Settling abuse claims in Canada

(ENI)ÑThe Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the Canadian federal government have signed an agreement to meet the multi million dollar cost of settling abuse claims filed by former students of now-defunct residential schools for indigenous children.

Representatives of the church and the government met at the ACC office in Toronto to sign the agreement, which will compensate former students who have proven claims of sexual or physical abuse.

Lawsuits claiming abuse had been filed against the government and four church denominations, including the Anglican Church, by 12,000 persons.