Looking ahead to 2024: Programs, projects and plans from UCC National Ministries
With the new year comes plenty of new plans for ministries throughout the United Church of Christ.
As an election year with pressing, ongoing advocacy issues, 2024 promises to be a year with many opportunities for getting engaged in faith-filled, spirit-driven work. The National Ministries are putting together a wide variety of programs, from finding ways to center the needs and perspectives of children and youth, to building community and movements for justice among congregations and people across the UCC and beyond.
Here are some of the highlights of what’s coming in 2024.
Our Faith, Our Vote
As the presidential election year gets under way, the Washington, D.C., office will launch the 2024 Our Faith Our Vote Campaign. It offers resources for congregations and individuals throughout the year to encourage voter registration and empowerment, says Jessica Quinn, communications specialist for the D.C. office. Get ready for new materials on the Our Faith Our Vote blog, new issue education resources, webinars and a faithful voter worship service ahead of the election.
The D.C. office staff anticipate that defending voting rights will be an important advocacy issue, Quinn adds, given the impact of many voter suppression laws at the state level that will be in effect for the first time in this upcoming election. Advocating for peace in the Middle East and Ukraine will continue to be a top priority, as well as advocating for reproductive justice, transgender rights, passage of “clean” funding bills into the new year, common sense gun legislation and a just and equitable farm bill.
Join the UCC’s Justice and Peace Action Network (JPANet) here to stay up to date on the latest advocacy opportunities and news.
UCC Youth and Young Adult ministries will spend significant time on the Love of Children initiative that launched in 2023, with plenty of opportunities for people across the church to get involved.
The initiative, which aims to build resources and networks of churches that center the needs and experiences of children, will first focus on gathering feedback on the current successes and needs that congregations experience with their children’s ministries, according to the Rev. Tyler Ung, assistant project director. Program staff will be seeking pilot congregations to model the practices of child-centered churches. They will also need congregations willing to test programs and curricula for refinement.
Applications for the first official Love of Children cohort will launch for congregations in the fall.
“This year-long program will help train, equip and connect leaders so that their children’s ministries can thrive,” Ung said.
Also to come: a Love of Children webpage with more about the initiative and updates throughout the year.
New All Church Read
Join the Movement toward Racial Justice has big plans for investing in local communities in 2024 with virtual quarterly movement-maker gatherings and in-person regional listening tours beginning in the spring.
The year begins with a January 17 virtual celebration of 2023’s All Church Read, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. The event will include announcements about the new JTM All Church Read for 2024.
The year’s programming will also include a Lenten journey for movement-makers with the theme “Waking Up Toward Rising Up: Remaining Awake Through the Revolution,” and a focus on blessing banned books for Racial Justice Sunday on Feb. 11.
Manual on Church
Big moves are coming in 2024 for the Manual on Local Church, according to Rev. Tracy Howe, team leader for Faith INFO (Faith Education, Innovation and Formation). This manual, intended for use by all settings of the Church, addresses topics like the Marks of Faithful and Vital Congregations, and processes and resources for birthing, admitting, strengthening, revitalizing and releasing congregations.
Faith INFO team members and a working group that includes people from across the denomination plan to release the full first draft this year — the culmination of three years of development. The group plan to share and gather feedback on the draft through events, including live and virtual workshops, with updates shared on the Manual on Church webpage.
Howe added that Faith INFO has early plans to pull together another national gathering of the small and rural church coalition in 2024 after last year’s successful inaugural event.
Committing to climate action
The year is starting with big plans for environmental justice and many new opportunities to join the work. First up is a virtual Climate Action Commissioning Service on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 1 p.m. ET. This special virtual worship is for anyone engaged in addressing the climate crisis or considering a deeper commitment to this work in 2024.
Other upcoming events and ways to get engaged include:
- The Vote for Climate Hope Art Contest. Congregations can begin registering to receive more information on this creative way to uplift youth perspectives on climate justice. Submissions will be accepted between March 1 and April 16.
- Climate Hope fellowship grants. Applications are available for UCC churches, conferences and associations developing and furthering the work of youth and young adult leaders in the movement for climate justice, due March 1.
- The Dollie Burwell Prophetic Action Award. People are encouraged to apply for this award intended for groups in the UCC who have joined the tradition of prophetic action through engagement in climate advocacy, due April 9. Applications are available now.
- Annual Earth Day Summit. Bill McKibben will keynote this livestreamed, hybrid event that will be held April 20 at Church of Christ at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Register here.
Resources will also be released in 2024 related to recent General Synod resolutions, including an Earth Sunday resource on freedom from plastics and an electrification checklist. Learn more about all of these initiatives on the UCC’s 2024 climate justice page.
Supporting pastoral leadership
The Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization (MESA) team has events planned for 2024, as well as expanded resources.
“MESA continues to focus on living into the vision that all ministry settings have gifted, supported and accountable pastoral leadership,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Dilley, MESA team leader.
This includes plans for moving the Local Church Profile to a digital platform this year. The new format will streamline the profile development process for local churches and aims to make local church profiles more accessible to potential ministry candidates, Dilley said.
This year’s scheduled in-person events include:
- The UCC Clergywomen’s Leadership event with the theme “Weaving our Tapestry,” taking place in Charleston, South Carolina, April 16-18, offering UCC clergywomen space to gather and connect. Registration information coming in January.
- The 2024 Member in Discernment Gathering, held August 1-4 in Cleveland, will be an opportunity for networking, sharing resources and support.
- Authorizing Ministry for the 21st Century, or AM21, will be held in Phoenix the week of Dec. 9. This invitation-only event gathers Conference leaders and ministry partners to address ministerial authorization, oversight, and search and call, as well as joining in a community of worship and mutual care.
Disabilities and mental health
In 2024, the Disabilities and Mental Health Justice Ministries will be moving forward with an initiative to create a pilot program for youth mental health in digital spaces, focusing on navigating social media usage that is WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged) for mental health. Many people have shown interest, said the Rev. Sarah Lund, UCC minister for disabilities and mental health justice. A working retreat in January will include partners from the National Setting, the UCC Mental Health Network, young adults from Chapman University and teens from local UCC congregations.
Lund added that the UCC’s Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention Ministries have recently received a significant grant, and more news will be coming on this work.
Welcoming national staff
This year will welcome the Rev. Shari Prestemon to the UCC National Setting, where she begins her role as Acting Associate General Minister and Co-Executive for Global Ministries on Jan. 16. She’ll serve in this capacity until the next General Synod in July 2025, when there will be an AGM election for a full four-year term.
More news for 2024
UCC News will continue providing insight into the ministry work of the National Setting and UCC churches across the nation in 2024, so subscribe to the weekly UCC News Digest for regular stories, highlights and resources throughout the year.
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