More than a name change: introducing UCC Global H.O.P.E.
A change in organizational structure doesn’t often make a scintillating story. But news of the newly configured Global H.O.P.E. team in United Church of Christ Wider Church Ministries may be a notable exception.
It’s not just a renaming of the national setting’s former Humanitarian and Development Ministries. The acronym H.O.P.E. solidifies the team’s updated vision: Humanitarian. Opportunities. Progress. Empowerment.
Under Global H.O.P.E. Team Leader the Rev. Josh Baird, staff assignments are being revised to strengthen synergies among the UCC’s refugee and asylum ministries, volunteer ministries, disaster ministries and sustainable development.
“The name change provides a clear sense of direction and intention for the work of the team,” said the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC associate general minister, Wider Church Ministries and Operations and Co-Executive for Global Ministries.
“Additionally, the new name encapsulates the UCC vision for a just world for all. We are called to walk in solidarity with those who experience crisis and are in need of justice,” she said. “The areas of disaster ministries, refugee and asylum ministries and sustainable development are areas where we must continue to foster hope and nurture the possibilities for a future where all have what they need.”
Baird joined the UCC staff on Nov. 16, leaving a position at the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where he headed disaster and volunteer ministries.
Baird said that serving as UCC Global H.O.P.E. team leader “allows me to build on my past experience while growing into new areas. My immediate priority is having the team in place by March so that by General Synod we have come together around the vision of ‘a just world for all,’ serving on behalf of the UCC and engaging with congregations in mission.”
Thompson said, “The ministries that are a part of the Global H.O.P.E. team reflect the “glocal” focus that is evident in Wider Church Ministries.
“They are global and local in scope,” she said, “providing opportunities for our congregations to be active participants with the ecumenical community in providing advocacy, humanitarian collaborative efforts and sustainable development. The restructure of the team was an investment of time to ensure that these ministries are stronger than before, by building on the commitments of the UCC and the work of prior staff in these areas.”
Baird spelled out what the letters of the acronym “H.O.P.E.” mean to him.
H – Humanitarian. “This speaks to our shared humanity and the Christian conviction that we have a responsibility to be neighbor and to show compassion to others, especially those who are suffering and who are deprived of fundamental human rights and quality of life.”
O – Opportunities. “Too often we talk about responding to people ‘in need.’ This creates an imbalance in the relationship, putting the helpers above those who are being helped. It defines a person or a group of people by what they are lacking rather than recognizing the gifts they possess. Global H.O.P.E. offers opportunities for engaging with other people by sharing our gifts and accepting theirs, for fostering relationships of mutuality and for recognizing that helpers have needs, too.”
P – Progress. “Put simply, progress is a goal for engagement. Progress is a sign of justice lived out. Charity addresses the current situation while justice signifies systemic change, reducing and eliminating the conditions that create and exacerbate humanitarian crises.”
E – Empowerment. “As church we have to eliminate the practice of ‘doing for’ others, which is in essence the bigotry of assuming that we know best. Instead, we are called to walk alongside, to support and to empower others for determining and directing their own response.”
“Overall,” Baird said, “my vision is that Global H.O.P.E. staff will collaborate on areas of overlap and learn from each other in areas where overlap may not be immediately apparent. Sharing in mission together, these ministries will create a dynamic, catalyzing context. This will happen in some obvious points of programmatic intersection, but also in Holy Spirit-inspired moments of insight, which will strengthen and expand the work and witness of the Global H.O.P.E. team.”
In addition to responsibilities as team leader, Baird will manage the UCC’s international disaster response, international refugee and asylum ministries, and sustainable development. The hiring process for volunteer ministries and disaster ministries program staff is underway; hiring for refugee and asylum ministries will follow.
“The Minister for Volunteer Engagement will support and strengthen existing volunteer program areas and partnerships with a focus on youth and young adults, and on congregations invested in volunteer/servant missions,” Baird said. “They will connect with and resource servant-leadership training opportunities. This person will work closely with the Minister for Disaster Response and Recovery to boost disaster related service opportunities.
“The Minister for Disaster Response and Recovery will facilitate the domestic disaster ministries of the United Church of Christ, working closely with and providing strength to the network of Conference Disaster Coordinators (CDCs) and Disaster Chaplains,” Baird said.
Karl Jones, Conference Disaster Coordinator (CDC) for the UCC’s Northeast and Southeast Pennsylvania Conferences, commented that “Global H.O.P.E. helps to describe the mission of our network of UCC CDCs. Baird brings the experience and skills needed to mold Global H.O.P.E. into a team-oriented global ministry.”
Baird said the new Minister for Disaster Response and Recovery “will also work with ecumenical organizations and through partner networks to expand the impact of UCC disaster ministries, recognizing that none of us can (or should) respond alone. When volunteer service is needed, this person will collaborate with the Minister for Volunteer Engagement.”
Once those staff members are in place, the process will begin for hiring a refugee and asylum ministries staff to strengthen the witness of asylum churches and work to expand the network of congregations engaged in refugee resettlement and asylum activities, Baird said.
Thompson said, “Inherent in the work of the team are roles for advocacy in the areas of climate change, hunger, poverty, peace, global migration, and sustainability. These issues and others intersect with the ministry of the team and are collaborative areas of justice with other staff in the UCC.”
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