Feb 02, 2022
The Rev. Elizabeth Hazel, a retired UCC pastor, frequent supply preacher and member of the Wisconsin Conference board of directors, offers a reflection Our Church’s Wider Mission.
Love. You see the word everywhere — from the Bible to sweatshirts and charm bracelets. But what does it mean to convey love through the administrative structure of an organization — especially love that shows that we have truly listened to the words of Jesus and seek to follow as best we can his unstoppable love?
I used to think we’d experience that happening only when we got to the Kindom of Heaven. Then I came across the United Church of Christ, especially the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ. It’s a source of love we can all plug into by contributing our talents and by contributing to Our Church’s Wider Mission Basic Support. Seventy-seven percent of our gifts stay in Conference, with 23% going to the wider church, thereby supporting local churches as well as helping them work through issues that affect our whole society — climate change, racism, abuse of individuals or groups.
But enough of pretty words. Here’s how an organization like the Wisconsin Conference can be the source of Christ’s love right down to its structure.
The Wisconsin Conference is an umbrella organization that has many spokes and it is careful attention to those many spokes, including the financial end of things, that gives us practical proof that God-influenced love cannot only protectively shelter us but surround us right where each of us is and help us deal with situations that are ours alone. Now, each member of the Conference staff could concentrate on their own specialty and when we call say, “I know nothing about that; it’s not my area.” But our Conference staff knows both how the spokes of their particular specialty come together to make the overarching organization as well as the ins and outs they are assigned to, all the better to help us find the particular safety net or support we’re looking for.
Sometimes organizations are inflexible, caught in ironclad procedures, but our Conference knows how to move in and out of situations as they change and concentrate support when and where it is needed, again because our leaders are not too afraid to understand the complexities of real life, especially that brought on by COVID. The most caring rather than the most convenient option holds sway in this organization. The Conference could have sought out the easiest, one-size-fits all method of dealing with the painful, frightening situations we face, or could think of our churches as faceless blocks of people or find the one thing that means most to the most people. But, especially when dealing with COVID, that would be like directing a stream of water at the door of a burning building and letting the rest of it collapse.
Instead, they listened to all our terror, pain, heartbreak, fear for the future and, yes, even anger induced by COVID. After looking at the difficulties our churches were facing from all angles, they worked to design practical ways of providing spiritual, health-inducing, financial and technological support by, for example, offering coaching/conflict-resolution conducted by staff as well as trained local people who understand what goes on in specific communities. Personalized love conveyed by an organization to every church large or small, country or city, so that during this troubled time, we know in practical terms that the wider church genuinely cares what happens to us. So if you want to spread love that’s inspired by God, support Our Church’s Wider Mission church offering.