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  • On Holy Ground: New Congregations

    How can we start new congregations? Through the Strengthen the Church Offering, people around our country can help support new congregations. These emerging churches receive "CASA Grants" or Congregational Assessment, Support, and Advancement Grants. Pastor Ali Lopez Valcarcel received a CASA Grant and coaching for her effort to start the United Church of Christ Rio Grande Valley, also known as Proyecto RGV. Funds helped provide tools for the ministry, such as a place to gather, support for a pastor, and sound equipment. It also supports outreach to migrants on both sides of the Rio Grande. A community leader reflected on this vital work. "The UCC RGV has been able to establish a visual presence of Christ and become a voice for compassion and justice in the Rio Grande Valley." "The CASA Grant gave us our start," explains Pastor Ali Lopez Valcarcel. The grant represents support coming into the Rio Grande Valley from congregations and people across the United Church of Christ. "It means so much that the wider United Church of Christ believes in us. It encourages me as a pastor and person committed to this work. People believe in us! And it creates a level of accountability. People count on us!" In September 2023, UCC Rio Grande Valley held its inaugural service. The service brought together Latino cultural and spiritual traditions in a unique way that allowed people to use all their senses to engage in worship. This past October, UCC Rio Grande Valley lead an ecumenical vigil for Kimberly Avila. Kimberly, a transgender sibling, went missing five years ago from Brownsville, TX. The Avila family thanked UCC Rio Grande Valley for leading the effort to bring light to Kimberly's disappearance, as the local authorities have done little to help bring Kimberly home. An Open and Affirming, Immigrant-Welcoming Congregation is forming in Texas because generous people support the Strengthen the Church Offering. Think what more we can do together!

  • On Holy Ground: Youth Leadership Development

    “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?" The questions of John Lewis – activist, legislator, and justice advocate – echoed in the art of Dr. Deborah Rundlett. She knew the heartfelt hopes and challenges of youth in her community. Youth wonder about what their world will look like. Despite these challenges, teens and young adults demonstrated a commitment to social change, contributing energy and passion. Rev. Rundlett sought ways to help "unleash the potential and intrinsic power of area high school students to fulfill their capacity as current and future leaders and world citizens." In response, Ridgebury Congregational Church, with community members, founded the "The Meetinghouse" which sits between two towns: one affluent yet progressive, with little diversity; the other multicultural, representing a wide diversity of peoples, economically, socially, and politically. The congregation saw an opportunity to bring together youth from both communities for dialogue, wisdom, and collaborative partnership. With funding from the Strengthen the Church Offering and the State of Connecticut, Dr. Rundlett and The Meetinghouse are gathering high school students to “meet with leading social entrepreneurs, environmental designers, and social justice advocates to learn how to draw from respected leadership models and learn how to move intentional change in their contexts." Students decide on a pivotal social issue and then create initiatives to address change. The Meetinghouse helps youth become change leaders empowered to shape a future grounded in hope. Rudy Marconi, the First Selectman (mayor) of one of the towns, recently spoke about the impact of this program. "Let me tell you what Debbie Rundlett and The Meetinghouse are doing: They are reclaiming the Commons and building a bridge between Ridgefield and Danbury. Essential work for our community!" Innovative projects like The Meetinghouse happen because generous donors across the United Church of Christ support the Strengthen the Church Offering. Together, through this offering, we support leadership development, new churches, youth ministry, and innovation in existing congregations as we work to become a multicultural/multi-racial, accessible to all Christian movement.

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