Papers for Reading
"WORK GROUP" suggestions
(In no particular order)
LINKS for further exploration
A Message From Steve
I am delighted that so many of you are energized by the idea of changing the way we do our work. I have heard reports and questions from staff engaged in forming work groups proposals.
Just for clarification and guidance, I want to review the current tasks:
1. You are invited to prepare a proposal(s) for a work group around your passion and interest relating to our vision of nurturing the vitality of local churches.
2. Work groups may include partners from across LCM, other Covenanted ministries, Conferences, or other partners in our work.
3. The work group proposal should include a list of the partners, a set of clear and measurable goals, and a timeline. The work groups are to be time limited, so there needs to be an end date for them, although at the end date they might be renewed in a similar or different form.
4. The proposals will be reviewed by the LCM leadership team. Some will be selected to help us test this model.
Please feel free to be in touch with me if you have questions. I am grateful for your work. I pray for all of you a Joyful Easter season.
Stephen L. Sterner
Acting Executive Minister for Local Church Ministries
The Reverend Dr. Carl P. Wallace is the Minister for Special Projects and Project Team Leader for the Gulf Coast Justice Initiative, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ (UCC), in Cleveland, Ohio. Justice and Witness Ministries embraces God’s transforming mission to do justice, seek peace and build community. “To speak and act prophetically through public witness, policy advocacy, issues education, leadership training and community mobilization.”
Dr. Wallace recently served as Pastor of Trinity UCC, Cleveland, Ohio a multicultural, multiracial church. He was instrumental in spearheading the UCC Public Education Task Force initiative to promote public education as a fundamental civil right. Served as Pastor of the Union Congregational Church in Painesville, Ohio, and was the Executive Officer of Equal Opportunity Affairs for the Cleveland Public Schools. Dr. Wallace also created and implemented voter education and enrichment programs in the community through his work in the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Board of Elections.
He received a B.A. degree from Tufts University, a Master of Divinity degree from Ashland Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
This page is under construction. While we are in the process of evaluating the year-round stewardship resources we provide on this page, we encourage your use of the archived stewardship resources below. Thank you for your patience.
Here is a PowerPoint overview of this resource. (10MB)
Supplemental resources for the Theme of the Month
May – Covenantal Relationships
Walking Together in All God's Ways
June - Stewards in Formation: Children,
Youth and Young Adults
February – Relationship with Others
On Holy Ground
March– Relationship with Money
Financial Health for Families & Congregations
April– Relationship with the Earth
May – Covenantal Relationships
Walking Together in All God's Ways
June - Stewards in Formation: Children,
Youth and Young Adults
July – Stewards of Responsible Freedom:
Saying Yes and Saying No
August – Gifted by God Our Talents, Vocation and
September – Peace and Justice
Restoring God's Intended Shalom
October - Stewards of God's Extravagant Welcome
MM, ONA, A2A, JP Church
A Coffee House Ministry Proudly Serving U.S. Troops since 2006
United Church of Christ military chaplains have found an old way to invite U.S. soldiers into a safe and informal place where they can receive spiritual care and good coffee. Congregations and individuals can support the Coffee House Ministry and simultaneously participate in the UCC Fair Trade Project by sending Equal Exchange Coffee to military chaplains in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
Coffee may be an unlikely ally of the Gospel yet in the hands of a chaplain it can enable meaningful ministry. By offering a place to come, relax, and talk with chaplains, the “Coffee House and Café Ministries” provide our military personnel with a place where they can be emotionally and spiritually renewed and have a moment of peace as well as a cup of gourmet coffee. It opens doors to communication and allows troops to begin to heal their concerns and relieve their burdens related to the home front or their deployment. In 2015, thanks to you, 151 Chaplains are able to participate.
At this time our troops continue to be deployed in many countries where they encounter very difficult, life–threatening situations. Their daily experiences extract an extreme physical, emotional and psychological toll. Our chaplains are the first line of defense against the emotional and psychological issues faced by our troops. Whether or not we agree with our country’s foreign policy, we continue to offer our troops a cup of coffee and support them through the military chaplain’s ministry. Please participate in this ministry -- supporting our troops as well as small coffee farmers around the world -- by sending Equal Exchange Coffee to military chaplains.
In Chaplain (Ret) Andrew Sholtes words: “Holy Joe’s Cafe is a place where chaplains in the Small Forward Operating Bases, hangar bays, hospitals, aid stations and their makeshift chapels are able to bring a taste of home to the tired, the anxious, the angry, the lonely and the wounded. They can all get gourmet coffee, a reminder that the world they willingly left behind still cares.”
If you are a military chaplain in need of coffee,
please contact Holy Joe's Café at email@example.com or call Tom at 888-970-7994
Donate Coffee to Holy Joe’s Café through Equal Exchange & the UCC Fair Trade Project
Donate Money to Holy Joe's Café
Make checks payable to:
Go to Equal Exchange’s webstore with your Visa or MasterCard.
If you order as a congregation or other organization, you will receive wholesale pricing. If ordering as an individual, you will pay retail. To get wholesale pricing, hover over Wholesale (upper right corner of page) and choose the type of account (for example, congregation).
If you are new to ordering on the web store, or if it has been over two years since you ordered, you will need to "create an account." “Organization name” is your church. Under "Coffee Project/Interfaith Group" choose "UCC Project." (By identifying the UCC Fair Trade Project, 15 cents per pound of all products ordered will be given to the UCC Small Farmer Fund for anti-hunger/economic development programs at Franklinton Center at Bricks in eastern N. Carolina.)
If your church has a tax-exempt number, please enter it but this is not necessary to process the order.
Holy Joe’s requests you select Fellowship Blend percolator coffee. No Decaf please.
Under “Choose the Shipping Address,” enter the following:
Holy Joe’s Café
c/o Cooper-Atkins Corporation
33 Reed’s Gap Road, Middlefield, CT 06455
IMPORTANT: After ordering coffee, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the complete sender’s information (congregation/individual) so that we can track the coffee delivery and also thank you for it.
For more information contact: Tom Jastermsky (888-970-7994) or email@example.com
Chaplains' Words of Gratitude for the Holy Joe's Café Ministry
“Holy Joe’s Café is the conduit for chaplains who set up an oasis not in size but in purpose. It’s the “taste of home” through coffee which is the most important place for people when they are in the midst of great havoc.” Chaplain Daniel Middlebrooks
“I wanted to thank you for your very kind and generous donation of coffee to the Night Stalkers who are deployed. Ministries such as yours are not formed overnight and don’t operate effectively without great effort, time and persistence. Your tireless dedication has not gone unnoticed. My men and the Air Force chaplains at the hospitals in Afghanistan were very grateful for the shipment. As you know there is significant logistical challenge to get the coffee from the states into a combat zone. With the latest delivery their Holy Joe’s Café ministry will remain. You have my word that we will continue to support your ministry into the future. Please give our warmest regards to your entire team of volunteers and donors. It makes our job and mission so much easier to have the support of the American people. I thank you so very much! With kind regards, LTC Chris Black
Holy Joe’s Café,
Combined Joint Task Force 10 Operation Section would like to extend our deepest gratitude for your outstanding contributions and support to our 10th Mountain Soldiers. Your kind gesture of goodwill has helped bring a little bit of “home and comfort” from the tasks the Soldiers endure on a daily basis. Your gift has significantly enhanced the morale of our Soldiers and to see them smile from opening your gift is a sight to see. Your devoted service to our Nation and troops did not go unnoticed and hopefully this sincere letter is proof of our gratitude. Sincerely Yours, CPT De Castro Pretelt, CJTF -10, Bagram Air Field
Dear Holy Joe’s Café,
Thank you for your incredibly generous support of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Civilians serving here in Bagram Air field, Afghanistan. Their service during this historic period in Afghanistan has been truly remarkable. You honor their service with your tremendous support. Gestures such as yours truly help to provide comfort and connection to home for these great American men and women as they serve selflessly away from loved ones and ensure we are all safer at home. Climb to Glory! Sincerely, Stephen J. Townsend, Major General, US Army
I’m writing to express my gratitude for the coffee that the HOLY JOE’S CAFÉ program has donated to our unit. We know that it took a great deal of time and expense to send the coffee here and we can’t thank you enough for everything you have done for us.
I can’t say that I am trading shots with the Taliban. However, I work on a headquarters staff that is responsible for most of Eastern Afghanistan. There are a lot of people here who work some long hours. It would be an understatement to say that everyone from the Commanding General to the most junior install-agency analyst has benefitted from your organization's efforts. Like a lot of people here, we make it through the day one cup of coffee at a time.
It has been over 13 years since the conflict in Afghanistan began. We know this is an especially long time for volunteers and donors. However, your selfless generosity and support is a reminder of what is good in this world and worth protecting.
My sincerest gratitude, LTC Lawrence Walton
On behalf of the Soldiers and leaders of the 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, I would like to thank you and your ministry, Holy Joe’s Café, so much for your generous contribution to support our morale and well-being! Your coffee has been so well received by our Soldiers and the Airmen in this installation. They kept smiling and asking, “Who would do this for us?” A cup of joe goes a long way to making a difficult day more bearable. The coffee is currently housed in our chapel, The Oasis, and is available to all personnel – Airmen, Soldiers, and Civilians – to come in and grab a cup whenever they need a caffeine boost. Drinking a good cup of coffee keeps us connected to home, and focused throughout the day. Thank you for communicating to our unit that we are not forgotten and that our service is appreciated. It has been a boon to the chaplain ministry here.
May God richly bless you and your supporters for your generosity. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
Sincerely, Chaplain (Captain) U.S. Army Alison L. Ward
More Information about Holy Joe’s Café
Spiritual Resilience Center, Bagram Air Field
Here is a short flier on Holy Joe's Cafe Coffee Ministry for you to download.
|Read what major theologians and Bible scholars say about economic justice|
Unemployment, poverty wages, unsafe jobs, globalization, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, taxes (who pays and how much), inadequate public schools, lack of health care, the right to form a union (and why someone might want to), imports from China and closed factories in the U.S. – these are issues of economic justice. And they are very complicated issues.
But things are a little simpler for people of faith. We measure the economy against one fundamental truth: the earth and all that is in it belong to God (Ps. 24:1). God has blessed us with abundance and God’s vision for every one of God’s people, all 7 billion of us, is to live in the fullness of life. God intends for us to fully share God’s gifts (Exodus 16: 16-18). There is enough for all our needs if we share God’s resources. Each of us can live an abundant life.
But we know that this radical equality is not reflected in the economic realities of our world. Some of us have very little while others have very much. The question: “who has how much of what?” is a fundamental economic question.
Examining a question like this can make us uncomfortable because it delves into topics like money, wealth, poverty, privilege, and disadvantage. But the church must address these matters because economic questions are also moral questions. Do some people have too little money and resources? Do others have too much? Does everyone deserve health insurance, affordable housing, and a good public education? If so, who should pay for it? These are all economic questions that also involve moral judgments.
As people of faith, before we begin working to change the economic system we must first discern, as best we can, a vision of what God wills for our society and our economy. For many people, this would be a world where no one is poor, homeless, living in substandard housing, or lacking the nutritious food and health care needed for a healthy life. Everyone who wanted a job would have one.
Once we have a vision, we can we begin working to put it in place – by lobbying our elected representatives for the needed legislation, standing with striking workers, resisting unfair international trade and investment agreements, sharing our abundance, ensuring the social safety net is sufficient, and taking other actions to make certain that all God’s children receive a fair share of the resources that God provides for us all.
Staff members of the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries educate and advocate around a number of economic issues: poverty, wealth, and growing inequality; workplace justice especially for low-wage workers; ensuring all wages are living wages; supporting the right of workers to form unions; strengthening workplace rights for native-born and immigrant workers; opposing biased trade and investment treaties; working to reform harmful or ineffective practices of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization; ending the economic crisis and building a new economy that works for everyone; and reshaping the federal budget to better meet our needs. These are big issues. But we know God walks with us as we work for justice.
Inclusive and Expansive Language in the United Church of Christ
Download PDF of Brochure on Expansive and Inclusive Language
Printed copies available
The Eleventh General Synod instructed that a Book of Worship be developed and characterized by language that is truly inclusive with respect to God and to people. Although the generic use of masculine terms has been accepted practice, it is exclusive and viewed as offensive by many. Further, the use of only masculine nouns and pronouns for God and of masculine generic terms for humankind has hidden the rich feminine imagery for God and God's people in scripture. Scripture contains many gender neutral metaphors for God such as shepherd, rock, or Holy One. The rediscovery of the complementary female and male metaphors in the Bible and the literature of the early church encourages Christians not to settle for literary poverty in the midst of literary riches.
Inclusive language is far more than an aesthetic matter of male and female imagery; it is a fundamental issue of social justice. Language that is truly inclusive affirms sexuality, racial and ethnic background, stages of maturity, and degrees of limiting conditions. It shows respect for all people. Scripture proclaims the world is created, redeemed, and sustained by the Word of God, and the church attests to the power of language and words, recognizing that words have the power to exploit and exclude as well as affirm and liberate.
Beyond the words we use or speak, this concern [expansive language] recognizes the power of language to shape, if not create, reality and to structure relationships, whether in the church or in the world. Exclusive language limits our perceptions of reality and thereby distorts. Thus, inclusive language has implications for the way we perceive God, things, and concepts, as well as persons.
Reuben A. Sheares, II
For use in Bible study, sermon preparation, stewardship training and theme selection.
God's call of Abraham is a summons to the people of God not to let old ways of living and conventional belief prevent moving into a quality of life far "richer" than heretofore known?promise and blessing meant for others too. "By you [better than ?in you'] all the families of the earth shall bless themselves,"(v. 3) in the helpful alternative rendering of the NRSV. God's people are the means but not the end or sole example of blessing and being blessed.
A prayer from The New Century Hymnal sums up the thrust of these key verses that begin with the "great commandment" (6:4-5; Mark 12:29-30)?to love God above all else with all our heart, soul, and might. "May you love God so much that you love nothing else too much; May you fear God enough that you need fear nothing at all." (#874) This outlook breaks the grip of any possessiveness that inhibits generosity.
The wealth or "abundance"of our lives is a gift, not just a given. That is, no more than with life itself do we have this as something we can earn or deserve. It is not entitlement but blessing in which others are meant to share (see Genesis 12:3 above).
2 Samuel 24:24
Knowing the quality of life made possible by the power of God, David is not about to give less than his best?something possible for all of us, and irrepressible when we know our own blessing. He is not about to make an offering to God that, in effect, costs him nothing.
I Chronicles 29:1-19
About the giving required to build the temple, the house of God. "For all things come from you, [O Lord,] and of your own have we given you." (v. 14b) Leaders must "walk the talk," letting their own generosity be an example and inspiration to others.
The temple or house of God welcomes and celebrates the truth that God's kingdom or "realm" includes the entire earth; God's love embraces all of life. This sovereign love "lifts up" us all, and any denial closes the doors on God's presence and prevents us from sharing in the divine blessing of life. "Be lifted up, O ancient doors!" (vv. 7, 9)
Giving is futile sacrifice, religiously superficial and unacceptable to God, unless directed to enabling others to know the abundance, the quality of life, that is theirs too?which is the purpose of the temple (and the church). "Learn to do good, seek justice." (v. 17)
God's house—in those days, the temple—was the place from which the produce, the abundance, of the land was redistributed. Dereliction in fulfilling one's rightful "tithe" upset the harmony that alone could assure prosperity in the land. Restoration of this commitment will issue in "overflowing blessing" for all. (v. 10) Don't let argument about "tithing"?giving a tenth of annual giving?upstage the main point about giving, its motivation and outcome: generosity comes from an experience of "abundance," the blessing of which is literally lost unless shared with others, and impossible to gain alone.
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (v. 21) Faith and money are two sides of the same coin. Where the one is, the other is also. We easily pretend otherwise, making faith immaterial or money unspiritual.
Matthew 14:13-21 (see also Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-14)
Jesus feeding the five thousand with "nothing here but five loaves and two fish." (v. 17) Often thinking we don't have enough we fail to see and take seriously what we already have. It is from what we have, not what we don't, that we find what we need...and then some!
Matthew 25:14-30 (see also Luke 19:12-27)
Wanting more, thinking what we have is not enough, we squander opportunity presently ours, "just as I am, without one plea," in the words of the gospel song. In this well-known parable of the talents, as in Luke's of the pounds, the message is use it?or lose it. It is in the use of what we have, not the amount, that we learn and practice, or practice and then learn still more, the abundance already ours. Mark 12:41-44
In this story of the poor widow's generosity, the irony of abundance is made clear. Less is more when what we give exceeds what we withhold. "Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possesses you" (see note 14 to Chapter 1).
Luke 12:13-21, 48
The parable of the rich fool is clear: life's abundance does not consist in possessions. Those who "store up treasures for themselves" (v. 21) become victims of anxiety, always wondering if they have enough. Real security is found?and the true richness of life experienced—not in guarding what we have but in giving what we can. "Abundance" is not a private possession but a shared experience.
Easily confusing, this parable of the shrewd steward is also provocative. It emphasizes the importance of being astute in using possessions so as to gain rather than lose one's future. There is no way to acquire money that is pure and perfect, unsullied by questionable means and motives. That should not become a pious excuse to avoid responsibility for its wise use.
I Corinthians 4:1-2
The word rendered "servants" means, literally, "under-rowers." The figure is that of a ship impelled by oars under the command of a captain. "Stewards" as "servants [or ministers] of Christ" labor under the inspiration of the truth about life?"God's mysteries"?disclosed in Jesus. Their most important quality, given the challenge involved, is fidelity, faithfulness?staying true to the cost and joy of an understanding of life at odds with prevailing sensibility. (See Isaiah 40:29-31 and Matthew 11:29-30.)
II Corinthians 8:1-15
"Abundance" is not a function of good times; a "wealth of generosity" can "overflow" even "during a severe ordeal of affliction" (v.2). It is the "genuineness of love" in response to the joy of life made known in Jesus Christ that makes us eager to give "according to what one has?not according to what one does not have" (v. 12). Also emphasized (see v. 13-14) is the equality between givers and receivers whereby those who "receive" give as generously as those who "give," and neediness proves an illusion next to the actual abundance in which all share.
II Corinthians 9:6-15
God provides "every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work." (v. 8) There is no need to "sow sparingly" and hence "reap sparingly." We can "sow bountifully" and "reap bountifully" (v. 6), "enriched in every way for [our] great generosity." (v. 11)
Galatians 5:22-23a (NRSV)
"Abundance" is the truth about life made known in the spirit or disposition of Jesus, the driving force of the church. So Paul says in these verses that "generosity" is part of the "fruit" of the Spirit. It is impossible to turn on the lights of greater giving when the power is off...or low. Morale, or what the church calls Spirit, is "the power that turns on the lights"?and the number one stewardship challenge! Ephesians 3:1-21
Contrary to what God's people often believed, outsiders ("Gentiles") not just insiders ("Jews") have always been part of the divine plan wherein all are meant to know the good news of abundant life. Paul sees himself as making this "mystery" plain. He prays that the power of God at the heart of life?part of "the boundless riches of Christ" (v. 8)? make us "bold and confident" (v.12) so that we may be "filled with all the fullness of God." (v. 19) which is the fullness of life (John 10:10).
1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19
God "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (v. 17) God wants us to be happy! To "take hold of the life that really is life" (v. 19) is to experience abundance as a gift to be shared: it is no private possession, and beyond anything we can earn or deserve. Not being rich or money, but "the love of money" is "a root of all kinds of evil" (v. 10). That love fuels insatiable desire, makes for unhappiness, and reduces the blessing of life to something we must gain rather than seek to share.
From Inspiring Generosity, a stewardship resource for the local church, produced by the Stewardship and Church Finances Ministry Team, Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ, 2002, and available from United Church of Christ Resources: 800-325-7061.
Low-wage workers across the country are courageously
Hard Work, Hard Lives by Oxfam America describes the difficult reality faced by millions of workers in the U.S.
A Day's Strike Seeks to Raise Fast-Food Pay by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, July 31, 2013. Fast-food employees across the country engage in brief strikes in an effort to boost their pay.
Fighting Back Against Wretched Wages by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, July 27, 2013. Workers are organizing for better pay and working conditions; employers push back.
Alt Labor by Josh Eidelson, The American Prospect, January 29, 2013.
The earth is the LORD'S and all that is in it -- Ps 24:1a
You shall love your neighbor as yourself -- Matthew 22:39b
A job should lift everyone out of poverty, not keep them there. But in the U.S. today, fully one-quarter of all jobs pay poverty-level wages. All workers are made in God's image and deserve living wages. Poverty jobs can be changed into life-enhancing jobs if we work to make this happen.
Jesus was a Low-Wage Worker is a resource describing low-wage work, the workers in these jobs, and how we can make low-wage jobs into living-wage ones. Buttons with this statement (in English or Spanish) are also available, see below.
In addition to low pay, these jobs often have other disadvantages:
• few benefits such as health insurance, a pension or retirement plan, or paid sick leave;
• inconvenient hours such as nights, weekends, rotating shifts, or part-time hours;
• these jobs are seldom ladders to better opportunities, they typically have few avenues for advancement;
• the work may be exceptionally dirty or hazardous.
Women and people of color are more likely to hold these jobs than white males.
There are many types of low-wage jobs. They can be found in any industry or occupation. Some of the more common ones are listed just below. Of course, there can also be high paying jobs in these industries and occupations also.
health care: nursing homes, cleaning hospitals
hospitality: cleaning hotel rooms
restaurants and fast food
child care including early childhood education
meatpacking and poultry processing
Many of these industries are growing rapidly which means the number of low-wage jobs will grow in the future.
Note that much of this work cannot be moved overseas. The jobs performed by these workers -- cleaning, caring for children and elders, selling items to customers -- need to be done in our local communities. If people of faith stand with low-wage workers who are seeking to improve their wages and working conditions, then poverty-wage jobs can be changed into living-wage jobs. Learn more.
Request these buttons, in English or Spanish,
Educate your Congregation: Perform the one-act drama, Secrets of the Big Box: Workers Tell All! and reveal what life is like behind the racks and checkout lines of a big-box store. Learn what workers are experiencing and really thinking. Ideal for youth, young adults,or any group to perform for the entire congregation. Fun and educational.