After the tongues of fire and the wind and the speaking in the languages of the whole inhabited world, Peter stands and says something about what they have witnessed and experienced. He speaks to the crowd in Jerusalem that had gathered to witness the commotion and he tells them that what they have seen is a foretaste, a vision of what the future holds–that both sons and daughters will prophecy and visions and dreams will be paramount. All this, he says quoting Isaiah, just as the return of the world to its true self will be made visible in the return of Jesus the Christ.
What does the future hold for the church of Jesus Christ? In the formation story of this institution we hold dear there is a suggestion that the future is potent and full of possibility and will be infused by great changes. That is exactly the purpose of the Strengthen the Church offering. Because of this offering the United Church of Christ has the means to help our churches reimagine themselves, think outside the box and create new worshiping Christian communities in places where the UCC has not been visible.
It’s a fund that supports burgeoning youth ministries helping them articulate and nurture their deep spiritual longing. All in all, this fund is the best way we have that supports a new vision for our churches and creates opportunities for growth.
What will happen to our churches that are shrinking in numbers? Will we disappear? Will our voice for hope and freedom and justice and a world of welcome be obliterated by a world of indifference and secularity poised against all religion? What message do we have about being human that is essential for the good of everything? What do we offer people living in a world of interconnectivity, and social media and fake news and hopelessness, and great economic disparity? What do we offer youths marginalized by race and gender identity? What do we offer all of us facing our fragile world and the deep changes that seem to overwhelm us? Gifts given to the Strengthen the Church offering will help us have that conversation and model new visions for who we might become as the United Church of Christ.