This bike was made for mission
UCC member plans unique OCWM fundraising
Russ Stevens, a member of First Congregational UCC in Palo Alto, Calif., will embark on a week-long bicycle ride, Aug. 1-7, around the San Francisco Bay with fellow UCC members for the 2004 UCC Bicycling Adventure. Pledges and donations received for the bike ride will benefit Our Church's Wider Mission (OCWM), the UCC's common purse that supports ministries at the Association, Conference, national and international settings.
Stevens knew he wanted a mission component to his ride, so when somebody mentioned that OCWM giving was down this year, it gave him an idea. "I thought we might actually be able to raise a lot of money [for OCWM], or at least raise awareness to the fact that OCWM giving is at a point where we're starting to hurt," he says. "I think most people in congregations don't have any idea how much money their church gives or what the repercussions are if not enough is given."
The riders will receive a proper send-off at a morning outdoor church service at First Congregational UCC. As the group cycles the 320 miles around the Bay, Stevens has arranged to visit a different UCC church each evening for refreshment, fellowship and overnight sleeping accommodations.
Stevens, a seasoned bicyclist, hopes to recreate the feeling of fellowship and unity he felt when he rode his bike, both as a camper and a counselor, with various church camps in the past.
On one particular cross-country trip, he and his group stayed overnight at UCC churches along the way.
"The people of the congregation would often cook a potluck meal," remembers Stevens. "Not only did we get to see the area of the country we were biking through, but we also got to meet the people. There was this feeling of being loved by people you didn't even know. It was a very Christian atmosphere."
Pedaling in Pescadero
Bike ministry offers immigrants reliable, safe transportation
Six years ago, Pescadero Community UCC in California took on the job of welcoming Mexican nationals who had come to the United States to work on the large ranches in Pescadero's surrounding rural areas. Some are without their families and all need to be welcomed. And above all, they need safe, reliable and legal transportation.
The Rev. Wendy Taylor, founder of Puente Ministries and one of the church's pastors, says years ago, she and some volunteers from the church wanted the workers to be safe, so they passed out bike reflectors. Taylor says, "They told me, ÔWe don't even have bikes to put reflectors on, Wendy!'" So she made a few phone calls.
That first year, 12 bikes were donated by church members. "Over the years, it's just mushroomed," Taylor says. To date, the ministry has distributed more than 325 bicycles to Mexican workers.
A volunteer repairs the donated bikes so they're ready to use. "There are a number of car accidents, a number of ticketing issues because men can't get licenses, therefore can't register and insure cars," Taylor says. Those caught driving an unregistered, uninsured car can incur a debt of $1,500. The next time they're caught, they face deportation.
Once the workers have bicycles, they have the means to travel the 15 miles or more into the city so that they can access other services provided by Puente Ministries. A twice-weekly, drop-in center, "La Sala" or "Community Living Room," offers healthy food, music and conversation. Resources for housing, legal and work issues are available, as well as translation. "English as a second language" tapes and courses are there, as well as some Spanish-language Upper Room devotionals. Taylor says the drop-in center is a place for togetherness, especially since Puente Ministries mainly focuses on the workers who are here without families.
"It's not easy being new in this town, or in any town," Taylor says. "People know to come here, that they can find a bike, get a welcome bag and have a place to drop in. They have contact with people who know your name, who will shake your hand and know when it's your birthday. It just seems like the right thing to do."
For more information on Puente Ministries, contact the Rev. Wendy Taylor, 650-879-0104; firstname.lastname@example.org.
ÔBrake the cycle' of childhood sexual abuse
It was 1987 when the Rev. Catherine Foote of University Congregational UCC in Seattle, Wash., knew something was about to change in her life. For starters, she had just quit her job at a theologically conservative college. When a friend asked her what she'd always dreamed of doing, Foote's response surprised even her. "I've always wanted to ride my bike across the country," she replied.
Foote's first cross-country trip was in 1988, from San Jose, Calif., to Washington, D.C., benefiting Parents United, an agency that worked with families dealing with the traumatic effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Foote named her effort "Brake the Cycle." Over the next 10 years, Foote spanned the continental U.S. five times, raising money for treatment of victims of childhood sexual abuse. All in all, Foote supposes her efforts raised somewhere around $100,000 for her cause. Foote had set out to raise money. In the end, she raised awareness, too.
Foote and her fellow cyclists rode with a sign that explained their causes. Along the way, they'd stop at rallies where family members and survivors of sexual abuse shared their stories. "People would come up to us in a campground or when we'd park in parking lots and start telling us stories of their own abuse," says Foote.
Some stories stand out in Foote's mind. Once, while biking through Wyoming, Foote and her crew were waved down by a young man in a jeep. "He jumped out of the jeep and said, ÔI was sexually abused as a kid. I told so many people and nobody believed me. Now I'm 19 and I'm continuing to speak out. People say it doesn't happen to boys. It does happen to boys.'"
The man thanked the cyclists as they said goodbye. "I was so moved that he was willing to tell it to strangers," says Foote.
"Young women who had lived lives of pain from childhood trauma would write me and say, ÔI've bought a bike, and when you come through this year, I'm going to ride with you,'" says Foote. "People who didn't know they could do anything would ride with me 50 miles and have achieved something."
Foote no longer does her cross-country bike rides. She's decided to support other cyclists who are biking for something they believe in. After all, she knows the power of carrying a message on a bike. "A person on a bicycle is non-threatening and easy to walk up to," she says.
Foote may not have changed laws or attitudes in Washington, but she witnessed profound changes in individuals along the way. "In some ways, it was never as big as I hoped it would be," says Foote, "and yet it ended up being much bigger than I ever imagined."
Beyond bicycling, the Rev. Catherine Foote is the author of "Survivor Prayers: Talking with God about Childhood Sexual Abuse." (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1994)
Trinity UCC has become the city's first African-American congregation to sponsor the resettlement of refugees from Africa. About 50 Africans attended a welcoming reception hosted by the church in late May. "We look forward to learning about from where we come, about the people from whom we come, about our brothers and sisters," says the Rev. Reginald Williams Jr., associate pastor. (Chicago Tribune)
First Church of Christ—the largest UCC congregation in New England—withdrew from the denomination on June 6, citing theological differences. After the vote, the Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, Connecticut Conference Minister, said, "We continue to be as committed as we ever have been to inclusiveness of many perspectives É . One of the freedoms of the UCC is for churches to make their own decisions, and we honor their decision. We continue to believe we are one in Christ." (Hartford Courant)
Ft. Collins, CO
The Rev. Bob Kinsey, a retired UCC minister in Ft. Collins, Colo., is running as the Green Party's candidate for the state's fourth congressional district seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a first-term republican who is the primary author of the proposed, anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment. "The U.S. Constitution is not about dividing us but ensuring our equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Kinsey says in his campaign literature.
Coral Gables, FL
Coral Gables UCC and its pastor, the Rev. Donna Schaper, received the 2004 Bravura Award on June 6 from the Washington, D.C.-based People for the American Way. The award, which recognizes outstanding commitment to protecting and exercising free speech, was given to the congregation for its efforts to promote community dialogue during a controversial, multinational meeting in November 2003 about the proposed creation of the Free Trade of the Americas, a hemisphere-wide, free-trade zone.
'I am UCC'
"Trinity UCC has been a true community to me—a place in which the mind, heart and soul come together to celebrate God's goodness. Our pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A Wright, Jr., embodies everything you would want in a pastor—a powerful intellect and an equally powerful grace, warmth and humor."
State Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill)
U.S. Senate candidate in Illinois
Member, Trinity UCC in Chicago