September 11 babies give hope; plane ride yields free PR
Written by Lee Foley
July - August 2002
On that day when terrorists slammed passenger jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and crashed another in rural Pennsylvania, killing thousands of innocent people, two babies, twins, were born halfway across the state in York, Pa. Three days later, on the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, another baby was born in York. This past Mother's Day, the babies were baptized at St. Stephens UCC in West York, Pa. Just after the baptisms, The York Daily Record told their stories. Robert James and Eliza Anne Bond were born five weeks early on the night of the attacks. Clair John Ream was born the following Friday. For the congregation that witnessed the baptisms in May, the infants symbolized a rebirth in the immediate hours and days of the tragedy. The paper quotes the pastor, the Rev. Elmer Scofield, talking to the babies as he baptized them, "Just remember, you brought hope in the midst of despair."
A chance meeting on an airplane between UCC Public Relations and Marketing Manager Ron Buford and Sam Fulwood, a prominent columnist for Ohio's largest paper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, has resulted in the type of PR you couldn't afford to buy. Buford was telling Fulwood, who was in the seat next to him, about the church's new identity emphasis, "God is still speaking," aimed at increasing UCC membership. A couple of days later Fulwood wrote, "The United Church of Christ has quite a story to tell. It denounced slavery in 1700 and supported the Boston Tea Party in 1773. It ordained women in 1853 and gays in 1972." The column goes on, recounting the history of the church. Fulwood points to other recent and successful denominational advertising campaigns conducted by the United Methodists and Evangelical Lutherans and concludes, "Maybe some Madison Avenue sizzle would help" reverse a trend of declining membership and attendance.
The folks running the annual rummage sale at Lakewood UCC in St. Petersburg, Fla., took a new approach to their event this year. According to Nadine Miller, sale coordinator, quoted in the St. Petersburg Times, "It was my idea and the congregation agreed to it." Her idea was to give the stuff away this year instead of charging for it. According to the story, people could fill two shopping bags with items donated by the church's membership, things like bed sheets and small household goods. They could also take one large item, like a lawn mower. One man got just what he needed, a walker. In past years, the sale has generated between $1,500 and $2,000 for the church. Obviously there was no intent to make money this year. Still, donations totaled $231. Says Miller in the article, "The idea was just to really show Christian love."
Has your local church "made the news" lately? Send news articles to Clippings, United Church News, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. Lee Foley was a TV news director before joining the UCC's Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry last fall.