Written by J. Bennett Guess and Robert Chase
'Cutbacks soon could affect the publishing frequency of United Church News, your primary source for news and information about the UCC'
Dear Readers, Church announcement time is probably not anyone's favorite part of a Sunday worship service, but without it the Christian movement might just come to a screeching halt. Information is access, and the church is never served well when its members become less informed.
That's why it's been painfully necessary, over the past year, that United Church News make it a priority to tell you about the UCC's ongoing financial realities. Like every other denomination—from the Southern Baptist Convention to the Presbyterian Church (USA) to the Church of the Brethren—the UCC has felt the painful pinch of a down-turned economy. And as religious journalists, we believe your knowing about the denomination's struggle to fund its connectional ministries at the Association, Conference, National and International settings is the first and best way to address the problem.
Now, however, cutbacks soon could affect the publishing frequency of United Church News, your primary source for news and information about the UCC. And, again, we believe that, by your knowing about it, together we can take necessary steps to make sure that this does not happen. As a reader-supported, donation-funded newspaper, it's become more important than ever to make sure that each subscriber understands the importance of making a contribution—at least once a year—to ensure United Church News' continued existence.
In late April, faced with declining revenues from Our Church's Wider Mission and investments, the UCC's Office of General Ministries—the publishing entity of this newspaper—had no choice but to present cost-cutting scenarios to its board of directors. Along with other important ministries at the national setting, United Church News found itself on the chopping block when two possible cutback scenarios emerged: either to reduce the paper's publication frequency from 10 to five issues or from 10 to eight. In either case, a web-based alternative would have been implemented.
While this newspaper is committed to web-based news coverage (each issue can be read online at ), we still believe there's no adequate substitute for a hands-on, portable, intrusive church newspaper—one that comes directly to you and begs for your immediate attention—especially if we expect news about the UCC's work and ministries to reach the greatest possible number of its members.
Since July 2001, in an effort to appeal to more people in the pews, United Church News has offered a subscription—without charge—to any UCC member who wants one. By opening up our circulation process, we wanted to move the paper's readership beyond the proverbial "inner circle." And the response has been astounding! Circulation has increased 330 percent to nearly 180,000 households. At an estimated 1.8 readers per copy, one-in-four UCC members are now in the loop.
Perhaps that's one reason why, on April 26, as the Covenanted Ministries' budget-driven board meetings came to a close, the UCC's Local Church Ministries (LCM) made a "historic and unprecedented" gesture—as one church leader aptly described it—by providing a one-time $130,000 gift to OGM to preserve two issues of United Church News, and thus keep its frequency unchanged for the remainder of this year.
Obviously, we are overjoyed by LCM's generous gift. It's a gracious expression of its commitment to the UCC's common good, especially at a time when it too faces difficult budget decisions.
Local Church Minstries' contribution buys us a little time—time for our readers to come up with the groundswell of financial support we will need to avert another looming cut in 2005, a decision likely to occur this October. In short, now's the time for you to endorse the paper's continued, regular existence through your contribution. A reply envelope is included with this issue, and online contributions can be made at ucc.org/ucnews/donate.htm.
There is some good news to share. As of May, readers' donations and advertising sales have surpassed all of last year, and we're taking additional steps to increase revenues and cut costs, while improving the look, feel and content of our publication. And evidently it's working, because United Church News recently received an unprecedented 12 awards from Associated Church Press and the Religion Communicators Council for its excellence in service to our UCC readers.
Consider for a moment the religion page of your hometown newspaper. How often does the UCC find itself mentioned there? Now ponder the same for other publications you read regularly. Without a strong denominational newspaper, what opportunities would you have to know about the faithful witness we undertake together in Christ's name?
This is the UCC's newspaper. It belongs to every setting and every ministry of the church.
Together, as its readers, we can preserve it.
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess
The Rev. Robert Chase
|IN ORDER TO SUPPORT AND PRESERVE this growing communications ministry, we encourage your regular financial gifts—no matter the amount.
Have you contributed yet this year?
SEND YOUR GIFT to United Church News, P.O. Box 247, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-0247. For your convenience, a reply envelope is included with this issue. You can also make a gift online at ucc.org/ucnews/donate.htm.
Thank you for making United Church News a success!