I heard on the radio a couple of minutes ago that our soldiers are within six miles of Bagdad and the marines are pushing up from the east to join them. The radio says the threat of biological and chemical attacks on our troops is high and getting higher as they move on the Iraqi capital. That's all the war news from here. There's enough of it elsewhere, including in this edition of United Church News. But, I give you that as a point of reference, because the world you live in as you read this could be quite different from the world of today, as I write this column about hometown newspaper coverage about the everyday life of the United Church of Christ and its members.
Lee Foley, 4/03/03
The folks at Peace UCC in Hartsburg, Mo., are featured in a story about the Foods resource Bank, a program started three years ago here in the United States to help people in disadvantaged nations feed themselves. The story comes from the Columbia Daily Tribune, serving the Hartsburg area. The program works this way, according to the article. Local businesses, church groups and landowners raise enough money to plant a crop, harvest it and use the profits to help those in developing countries. In this case, farmer Orion Beckmeyer learned of the program and got his church, Peace UCC, involved. Beckmeyer is quoted in the paper. "The thing I like is the emphasis is on helping people feed themselves," he says. Peace UCC and others in Boone County, Mo., planted 60 acres of soybeans and made $17,000 on the harvest.
Members of First UCC in Sugarcreek, Ohio, could only watch as their 100-year old church was destroyed by fire in mid-March. The steeple took a lightening hit and that started the fire, according to a story in The Daily Record of Wooster, Ohio, serving the Surgarcreek area. Sugarcreek fire chief Jim Harrison told the paper, "The whole front of the church and the steeple was engaged when we got on the scene." Harrison knew how the fire would spread. He was familiar with the building. It was his home church. Firefighters, including those from several neighboring towns, were able to save the rear classroom section of the church, added on 20 years ago. But the rest was lost. Jan Dodge, who attends the church, is quoted in the story saying, "It's just like losing a home. It's just gone." Damage is estimated in excess of $1 million. Said Tuscarawas County Sheriff, Walt Wilson, also a member of the church, "We're a strong congregation. We'll regroup." First UCC was founded in 1821.
From the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, a guy who stole Christmas trees from a lot run by Boy Scouts on the front lawn of Fairlawn-West UCC got 12 months in jail and has to pay the scouts $2,100 for the trees he took and then sold. The story says the trees ranged in price from $20 to $60. The scouts have been selling trees at the church for nearly 30 years.
Two UCC pastors figure in a story about a growing liberal clergy in the Nashville area, an area normally associated with a conservative theology and clergy. It's a story in Nashville Scene and covers the men and women making up Nashville's liberal clergy and the myriad of social issues for which they advocate. The article looks at the work of the Rev. Dan Rosemergy, pastor at Brookmeade Congregational UCC. He's co-founder of the city's Interfaith Alliance and a critic of U.S. military action in Iraq. The Rev. Joe Ingle is the other UCC pastor included in the story. He's active in Nashville's anti-death penalty movement, a member of the steering committee for Tennesseans for a Moratorium on Execution. He has ministered to many inmates on Tennessee's death row. According to the story, Ingle has recently written the stories of 15 death row inmates he considers to be innocent.
Last month I wrote of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc.—O.C., Inc., as it is commonly called—which advocates on behalf of disadvantaged persons on communications issues and how it has recently taken on telecom giant WorldCom. Well, O.C., Inc. is getting more ink because of that action. This past month, there was a lengthy article in Cleveland's The Plain Dealer detailing the work of O.C., Inc. It's quite a flattering story and quotes former Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard as saying, "Their role has been of historic proportions." The article then paraphrases Kennard. "Kennard said the church has considerable influence despite the fact it is opposing some of the best-funded lobbyists in the world." Another accolade comes from Washington-based advocate Harold Feld, "[The UCC] essentially invented the concept of social justice in the mass media." If you'd like to learn more about the historic work of O.C., Inc., a video documentary of its work "O.C., Inc., The Untold Story" is available through United Church Resources (800/537-3394).
Has your church been featured in a newspaper or magazine? If so, send a clipping of the article to Clippings, United Church News, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland OH 44115-1100. Mention the name of the publication and the city where it's located. Lee Foley is Director for Administration in the UCC's Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry.