Dear Siblings in Faith,
I’m writing this letter surrounded by joy and sorrow. I have a giant pile of envelopes to stuff with Star Words, and a long list of folks to call who are grieving a family member who died this year. Though I’m tempted to neglect the calls in order to watch Christmas movies and stuff envelopes, I know from experience that conversations with those who grieve will invite me to gratitude. Gratitude for the ways community has come together in this year. Gratitude for the ways those who have died touched and continue to touch our lives. Gratitude for the ways so many people rise to the hard work of grief, and let grief open and grow them, even as it breaks our hearts. And I invite you to join me in reaching out, in the midst of sending cards and wrapping presents, to those close to you who are grieving in this season.
I want to use this opportunity to celebrate some moments of gratitude and connection that I’ve been blessed to watch play out in this season, and to invite you to join me in supporting one more moment of gratitude.
First, I want to celebrate that our congregation participated in the UCC Neighbors in Need offering. Neighbors in Need gathers funds from across the United Church of Christ to support community justice work. We also participated in One Great Hour of Sharing, which gathers funds across denominations for disaster and hunger relief work. Together, we raised nearly $2000 for these offerings; it may not sound like a lot of money by itself, but that money combines with so many other individuals and so many other churches to make some mighty work possible.
Secondly, I want to celebrate the awesome work the Mission & Justice Board did to turn our broken windows into an opportunity for beauty, art, and connection. (And special shout-out to Leslee Probasco from the Communications Board for doing an awesome and thorough job on the tech for this one!) Together, we raised $1100 for the LEAD program, which helps keep people in crisis out of jail, and NAMI Whatcom, a support and advocacy agency for people with mental health challenges and for their families.
Thirdly, I want to celebrate some good news in the life of our Conference; I got to serve on the Solidarity Fund Committee. One of our conference congregations felt called by the Spirit to make a large amount of funds available for member congregations who were experiencing Covid-related financial crisis. On Monday afternoon, the committee voted to distribute about $275,000 to congregations in crisis, and checks will be in the mail shortly. What a joy it was for me this week to call some churches and share that good news with them, and what a witness of what it means to support our siblings when we have resources to share!
Thanks be to God for these opportunities for generosity, and here’s one more: it’s time for the Annual Christmas Fund, which supports retired ministers and missionaries, as well as ministers in financial crisis throughout the UCC. I could say a lot about why I love this project, but I think it’s better if you hear a story about a family’s experience first-hand: