Shorthand
February - March 2008

Our best Christmas ever

The UCC's Christmas Fund continues to break records, thanks to increasing churchwide support being given to benefit retired clergy and spouses.

At the close of 2007, the Christmas Fund special mission offering took in $1,573,000 during the year, according to the Rev. Doug Borko, director for ministerial assistance at The Pension Boards. In 2006, the offering received $1,435,965. In 2005, the tally stood at $1,438,492.

"We surpassed our goal in September and kept adding to it," reported Borko to members of the UCC's special offering committee at its meeting in January. "The money is still coming in."

The Christmas Fund — once known as the "Veterans of the Cross" offering — is used annually to supplement pension payments to retired UCC clergy and surviving spouses with low incomes. It also aids those with special emergency needs.

141K for peace

The "100,000 for Peace" campaign set a Christmas goal of raising $100,000 to aid Iraqi refugees who have fled their war-torn homeland. As of Jan. 7, more than $141,000 had been collected from UCC members, says the Rev. John H. Thomas. The total could surpass $150,000, since donations are still arriving.

"Make us worthy, O Lord, to honor Your birth," prayed Thomas in an Epiphany message that announced the giving totals. "Through our generosity, our prayers and our protest for peace, may Your light shine forth in our souls."
 
Support the staff

For 21 years, the UCC's Office Support Staff Network has been bringing together administrative personnel from churches, Associations, Conferences and the national setting to form friendships, share ideas and offer and receive support for one another.

UCCOSSN's 2008 gathering will be held March 28-30 at the Church House in Cleveland. This year's theme is "Tending God's Garden: God Works Where'er We Work." Emphasis will be on themes of spiritual nurture, hospitality and helpfulness.

The gathering also includes time for UCC's support staff to discuss ways to deepen UCC connections in their churches and peruse resources available to UCC congregations.

Registration is $100, in addition to discount-rate hotel costs at the UCC's Radisson Hotel. Learn more and register online before Feb. 25 at <uccossn.org>.

'Joy' is still dawning

The UCC's Easter TV special "Joy Dawned Again" was recognized in November with the Aurora Award's platinum best of show in the religious service category.

The Salt Lake City-based Aurora Awards is an international competition that recognizes excellence in the film and video industries, with a special emphasis on programs and commercials that do not normally have the opportunity to compete on a national level.

Also, in November, the program was recognized with a silver Davey Award, a competition that honors the creative excellence of smaller film companies.

Both awards were presented to FilmWorks, the company that co-produced the UCC's TV broadcast with the denomination's Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry in Cleveland.

"Joy Dawned Again" — a creative worship experience filmed at Dover Congregational UCC in Westlake, Ohio — first aired on ABC network TV stations in April 2007 as part of the UCC's 50th anniversary celebration.

Movie toys for tots

The UCC has joined with 19 other advocacy groups to demand that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) comply with the Federal Trade Commission's marketing guidelines for promoting PG-13 films to younger children.

In a Jan. 16 letter sent to industry executive Dan Glickman, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood urged the MPAA to develop a policy that would restrict the advertising of PG-13 films on children's television; prohibit restaurant toy giveaways or other food promotions aimed at young children for PG-13 movies; and ensure that any toys released in conjunction with a film carry an age recommendation consistent with the film's rating.

"It is distressing that the industry response to parental concerns about media content is almost always to place the full burden on parents," said Cheryl Lanza of the Office of Communication, Inc., the UCC's media justice agency. "These industry members essentially offer parents a Hobson's choice: either expose your children to content that you find unacceptable, or withdraw your children from popular culture. This serves no one. We all benefit with more mutual communication and understanding, not less."

'Making friends' with money

Wanting to update your collection-counting protocols? Looking for a sample policy to guide your endowment fund? Does your new-to-the-church treasurer need a tutorial in UCC polity?

The UCC's Cornerstone Fund has heard your prayers.

"Making Friends with Church Numbers" is a new financial education seminar geared toward relieving financial anxiety for church pastors and lay leaders, says Gordon Gilles, executive director of The Cornerstone Fund.

Cornerstone is the UCC's financial unit that provides loans to UCC churches as well as investment opportunities for members and congregations. It's also accustomed to handling a myriad of questions from UCC entities about how best to deal with their money.

Already, five UCC Conferences, in partnership with Cornerstone, have sponsored the all-day sessions that go over the basics in church finances, such as how to evaluate your church's financials, set up a budget, analyze cash flow, and establish policies and safeguards. Participants also receive a thorough binder that contains best practices and sample forms.

"It's a tool that lifts up all types of financial information," says Gilles. "We provide them with all the materials they need and our website will provide updates."

The workshop is designed for groups of 20 to 25 people. If interested, ask your Conference or Association to invite the Cornerstone Fund to lead a training near you.

Learn more at <cornerstonefund.org>. 

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CONTACT INFO

Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3801
guessb@ucc.org