Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Mission: 1 - The Buzz

These days there is a buzz throughout the United Church of Christ and it has to do with Mission: 1. There has been growing excitement about this new coordinated effort to address the needs of hungry people in the U.S. and abroad. As I travel about the church visiting congregations and associations, I meet many people who are taking the initiative in their churches and communities to advance Mission: 1. Yes indeed, there is a buzz throughout the UCC.

From 11.1.11-11.11.11 we will work together as one United Church of Christ to collect more than 1 million food items for local food banks, raise $111,111 in online donations for Neighbors in Need and $111,111 for East Africa famine relief, and write 11,111 letters to Congress. That's what the excitement is all about. These are tangible and challenging goals, but what I sense is a real can-do spirit in our midst. Might it be the Holy Spirit nudging us forward? 

Mission: 1 is an opportunity for us to live an answer to Jesus' prayer "that they may all be one." All settings of the United Church of Christ—local churches, Associations, Conferences, ministries of the national setting as well as UCC-related colleges, seminaries and social service agencies have been invited to participate in what will be a unified endeavor, within a designated time frame.

This missional effort is grounded in one of our core values.  That value is changing lives. We believe that our engagement in Mission: 1 will change the lives of those who are served with direct food aid, program grants and improvements in governmental policy regarding foreign aid. We also hold that we will be changed in the process, as our awareness of the issue of poverty- related hunger increases and our resolve to advocate for change in government policy grows ever stronger.

By setting measurable goals and establishing an accessible means for everyone to monitor those goals, we are challenging ourselves to do more and to do better. Local churches and other organizations participating in Mission: 1 can go to our website, to report their food and letter contributions and make online gifts to Mission: 1. Each day during Mission: 1 we will be able to measure our progress toward achieving our goals.

Because we are well aware that hunger is a reality that far exceeds the giving capacity of all churches and not for profit relief agencies, Mission: 1 is also about public policy advocacy. Changes in government food policy are essential if we are to see meaningful and sustained change in basic nutrition, an essential aspect of human life.

Of course, historically, advocacy has been a component of our approach to this issue. Public policy advocacy is integral to addressing the needs of hungry people at home and abroad, who are children of God and our sisters and brothers. Our Justice and Witness Ministries and our Wider Church Ministries staff and volunteer advocates have set the stage for Mission: 1 over the years. Now, with Mission1, we expect to expand that understanding by getting more people and new people involved in writing letters to elected officials.

A special aspect of Mission: 1 is that we are not alone in this effort, especially as we engage in public policy advocacy. For years we have partnered with Bread for the World in this work, and again with the letter-writing component of Mission: 1, we join with Bread for the World and its 2011 Offering of Letters Campaign. We believe that our partnership with Bread for the World enhances what we are able to accomplish with Misssion:1.  We are thankful for this partnership and we celebrate all that it will accomplish in serving the very real needs of the hungry.

Mission: 1 is now under way, and I believe that we will reach and even exceed our goals. Let's work hard, pray fervently, give generously and write passionately, all to the glory of God. Let's see what God will do with and through each and all of us as we seek to serve God in Jesus' name.

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