Conferences, congregations and individuals come together to rebuild OGHS
How do you make up for a million dollars? Through creative ideas, generous individuals, churches and conferences committed to building back what was lost.
At least that is what is happening in the United Church of Christ.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed churches across the denomination last March, the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering took a big hit. Donations dropped off in 2020 by almost 45 percent.
Three Conference Ministers, the Revs. Marc Stewart, Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference; Mike Denton, Pacific Northwest Conference; and Tyler Connoley, Central Pacific Conference decided to try and do something to help make up that huge shortfall.
‘Strangely ironic’ hit
The Conferences, Stewart said, have been collaborating together in various ways around ministry, for the last two years.
“As three Conferences, we really cared to lift this up together, in mutual support,” Stewart continued.
So they promoted a November collection for the special mission offering, One (More) Great Hour of Sharing.
“One of our locally retired pastors, the Rev. Ron Patterson, helped make the hit OGHS had taken clear,” said Denton. “It seemed strangely ironic that the one church offering most meant to help in disaster recovery was pre-empted by one of the largest global disasters in all our lifetimes. Our conference decided to take One More Great Hour of Sharing in order to give our churches a second chance to participate.”
“When I learned that the Pacific Northwest was planning One (More) Great Hour of Sharing, I immediately jumped at the chance to join this project along with Montana Northern-Wyoming,” said Connoley. “We had already been encouraging our churches to use the 2020 fire season as a reminder to pay it forward, giving to One Great Hour of Sharing so the UCC could be present for others in the future the way they were there for us this year.”
A number of congregations came through. In December, the Central Pacific Conference sent more than $6,750, and the Pacific Northwest Conference forwarded over $4,440 to OGHS. The Montana-Wyoming Conference raised an additional $2,760.
“We are very grateful for the collaborative initiative that lead three UCC Conferences to promote an additional offering to mitigate the loss in funding experienced by the offering in 2020,” said the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, associate general minister. “One Great Hour of Sharing supports the mission and ministry of the UCC through our work in Wider Church Ministries. There is so much that demands our attention and our limited resources.”
Sharing God’s loving care
The Rev. Eileen Norrington, a retired UCC chaplain who was recognized for her work in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps with a 2019 Antoinette Brown award, also stepped up late last year with a generous gift to OGHS.
“OGHS makes it possible for each of us to bring the loving care of our God to people, near and far, most in need of what the funds provide — assistance to people who are impacted by natural disasters — wildfires, floods, earthquakes, famine; opportunities for education that helps lift people out of poverty; vital refugee assistance; water sources making life possible for people, crops, and livestock,” she said. “Working with our mission partners, we are able to ensure that all OGHS funds are put to the best use. Giving to OGHS is the ideal way to share what we have so generously been given by our God.
“Our gift in December was partly in response to the pandemic and definitely in response to the information sent to us (about the loss in funding,)” Norrington continued. “It is not surprising that giving is down during the pandemic when people’s financial security has been shaken and damaged.”
Churches elsewhere do likewise
As some churches realized that the special mission offering would suffer with COVID-19 closures, they stepped up to offer more. First Church of Christ Congregational, UCC, Glastonbury, Conn., raised $16,691 dollars in the midst of a pandemic.
“Last year, during COVID, we surpassed our 2018 and our 2019 giving,” said co-pastor, the Rev. David Taylor. “We will never apologize for asking someone to give generously to a worthy cause. We think OGHS is that worthy cause.”
Other congregations are intentionally working to help rebuild this year’s offering, suggested for Sunday, March 14.
“I can’t tell you how much it meant to know that Phyllis Richards and the national staff of the UCC were there for us,” Connoley said, referring to the fires that ravaged Oregon last fall. “It was comforting to know that long before anyone had heard of the Almeda Fire or the North Fork Fire or any of the other fires that were ravaging our state, God’s people had set aside money through One Great Hour of Sharing to support our churches.”
“OGHS extends our mission — sharing the God’s love for all creation — around the world to places where we cannot travel but where we can have an impact for the better,” Norrington said. “The need is great, and we want to help as much as we can.”
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