Congregations engaged in capital campaigns, or individuals interested in planned giving, may wish to consider a gift to one of the following conference funds:
The Jim Antal Fund for Justice and Witness Ministries supports many of the activities described in the “Changing Our World” section of the website. It underwrites programming and staffing to help our churches respond to God’s call to “do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). This means different things for different churches. We have congregations who discern a call to welcome immigrants, others who are passionate about racial justice, others who offer free community meals… the list goes on. The role of the Conference is to facilitate this work, by:
Pages 12-19 of the 2016 Annual Report provide a more detailed picture of some of the justice work taking place among UCC people around the Conference. Here is a link to the pdf version: 2017 Annual Report (PDF)
The 21st Century Congregations Fund supports many of the initiatives described in the “Growing Your Church” pages of the website, here. It must be bittersweet, as you go through the process of closing, to consider the possibility of contributing to these ministries. Given the ways the world is changing and the population is declining in many of our communities, some of our churches are closing despite the best efforts of their sibling churches to support to church vitality efforts. But others are fortunate enough to have the capacity to clarify their mission, start new ministries, reach out to new populations, and serve God in new ways. Even where this is possible, discernment and change are not easy, and our churches need help with the process. My colleague Don Remick talks about trying to help each church be “healthy, faithful and effective”. The role of the Conference in this arena includes:
Pages four through seven of the Annual Report talk about many of these vitality initiatives, and offer updates on several new ministries.
The Seeds of Faith Fund supports ministries related to faith formation and discipleship growth of children, youth and adults.
In the Conference setting, Christian Educators and Youth Ministers are trained and certified for their work with our youngest members; pastors participate in Tending the Fire retreats to replenish their souls; congregational leaders learn to inspire generosity in year-round, holistic approaches to stewardship and fundraising; Confirmation Retreats provide an opportunity for faith development for hundreds of young people every year; and educators gather in Communities of Practice for mutual learning, support and accountability. For the past two years we have included a Vacation Bible School component to our Annual Meeting, to offer to very young children an experience of the wider United Church of Christ of which they are part. We offer hundreds of resources used by small group ministries and adult education programs in local congregations.
This fund is an acknowledgement that all our work as churches is rooted in the relationship of each of our members with God as embodied in Christ Jesus. Without this, we may be many good things, but we are not the church. Our collective work as a conference of churches includes helping one another to nurture, strengthen and deepen those relationships in people of all ages. Some of the work in this area is reflected at the website here.
The new Emerging Communications Technology Fund will help the churches and the Conference setting to embrace new ways of communicating which are so critical to reaching people today.
One effort which took place 15-20 years ago was a capital campaign which included money for communications technologies that enabled the Conference to provide grants for our local churches to purchase computers and internet connections. As a result, when the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11/01, our Minister and President was able to be in immediate contact with virtually all of our churches and clergy, to offer compassion and inspiration and pastoral presence. By all accounts this was profoundly significant to leaders across the Conference.
Our current efforts in this arena include making better use of video to amplify the training and preaching offered by our staff and others; assisting our churches to understand the ministry potential of social media - and what pitfalls to avoid; and developing interconnected websites for the CT, RI and MA Conferences to facilitate easy sharing of resources and events across the region. More about these efforts can be seen here.
There are other things we would like to do: explore bulk purchasing as a way of helping our churches get access to videoconferencing, email survey and web design tools; training local leaders in technologies like Periscope for easy webcasting; regularly exploring and publishing the pros and cons of various social media platforms; and, of course, other initiatives we can’t yet envision, as the world of communications is evolving so rapidly!