The latest news for you from the Illinois Conference!
December 2023 E-Newsletter
Illinois Conference Receives New Lilly Grant
The Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ has received a $1.25M grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish congregational vitality during times of pastoral transition. The project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the initiative to encourage the flourishing of congregations by helping them deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the vitality of their communities and the world.
The United Church of Christ has scholarships and grants available for a variety of purposes in three broad categories: Ministry Education Scholarships, Program Grants, and Leadership Development Scholarships. In addition to what is listed here, check with the Admissions Office at your educational institution to find out about additional scholarships that may be available.
All online Scholarship application forms open on December 1 each year and close on March 1 of the following year at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. Scholarships are processed for use in the fall.
The online application form for The Genesis Fund, a program grant, opens on December 1 each year and closes on March 15 of the following year at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time.
The United Church of Christ recently published an article with several resources for Advent. You can read the full article here. In the article you will find a plethora of resources for churches, pastors, and lay leaders. This includes a new "Advent Unwrapped" resource, an Advent theme song titled "Memory," Worship Ways liturgies and Sermon Seeds, Nurture for the Soul webinars, Join the Movement's Abolition Advent Calendar, devotionals and more.
Abolition Advent Calendar
Join the Movement toward Racial Justice is thrilled to offer our second annual Abolition Advent Calendar. This year, our theme is “Freedom for All Bodies.”
In this season we are called not only to recognize the strategies and tactics of enslavement as they manifest among us, but also to witness the way they call us anew to the sacred work of abolition. So this Advent, as we await and prepare for the coming of transformational Love in flesh and bone, we want to again invite your engagement with generative connection between scripture readings for the season and contemporary abolition movements. Sign up here.
Blue Christmas Worship Resources
Christmas is not always a joyous celebration for everyone. A Blue Christmas or Longest Night Service is a quiet, contemplative service for those who struggle to navigate the holidays. These services are typically held on the longest night of the year, December 21st, but can be held any day. The Mental Health Network has put together a list of resources to help local churches hold their own Blue Christmas Worship.
Two UCC Officers have contributed to another devotional that will be available Nov. 20 from thePresbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Both the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, General Minister and President, and the Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister, are among the writers featured in “Another Starry Black Night: A Womanist Advent Devotional” from PCUSA’s online journal, Unbound. This is the journal’s second such devotional, having previously published “Starry Black Night” for Advent 2020.
The Christmas Fund
United Church of Christ
The Christmas Fund for the Veterans of the Cross is an annual UCC offering that expresses thanks to retired and active UCC pastors and lay church workers and their families, providing direct assistance to supplement pensions, medical insurance costs, and funds to meet emergency needs.
This year’s Christmas Fund theme is “Grace upon grace,” from John 1:16:
“From Christ’s fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Join with others in the United Church of Christ to return “grace upon grace” to those who have given so much to each of us and to our churches.
THANK YOU to all who have donated so far this year to help support our camps. As of this week, we are slowly closing the gap on this year’s fundraising goal. This season of giving, please consider joining our annual fundraising drive and donating to our general fund via the link below. By making a donation, you make a world of difference in the life of a young camper, in the work of local congregations, and in the care of these sacred spaces. On behalf of the children and youth who will benefit from your kindness, we express our heartfelt gratitude for considering this request. Together, let us create an experience filled with personal growth and unforgettable memories for someone in need.
Join Team Global HOPE at UCC National Ministries for a Blue Christmas worship service. Blue Christmas services traditionally provide space for those who don’t feel so “merry and bright” during the holiday season. This service seeks to recognize and stand in solidarity with the experiences of those aggrieved or displaced by disaster or forced migration in 2023, as well as those who are grieving. We remember that we are called to stand in solidarity with the captive and the oppressed, the grieving and the suffering, and work together with God’s guidance to create a just world for all. UCC Clergy, members, and choirs engaged in humanitarian ministries across the denomination will be providing reflective liturgy, music, and prayers during this event. This event will be recorded for later availability or use in local Blue Christmas events.Register online here.
Annual Assembly/Asamblea Anual
Saturday, December 9, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM CST
Colective Latinx Ministries UCC
Worship with the Latine community in the United Church of Christ, learn a little about what is happening among Latines in and through the UCC, and join us as we deliberate regarding Latine business. ¡No te lo pierdas!
"Do not despise these small beginnings..." - Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)
A message from Moderator, the Rev. Edwin Pérez Jr.: "Whether an ally or social location as a Latina/o/e, we have much work to do in our United Church of Christ. The Latine community in the UCC needs support and we are calling all who value the diversity and uniqueness of our gente among the rest of God's children. Please consider supporting our organized efforts to bring about transformation among your (fellow) Latine siblings and/or join us to learn about what the Latine UCC community have been working on."
Manifest Love Holiday Concert Series
Lux Cantorum Chicago
Lux Cantorum Chicago nurtures an inclusive, creative community by sharing the transformative power of sacred choral music. They will share a timely message, as they present "Manifest Love" December 1, 3, and 9, 2023. Unfortunately, some are at a precipice in life and others are in chaos; some are facing minor challenges and others just feel disconnected; but these singers would like to remind you that you are loved and encourage you to find creative ways to demonstrate your love to others, whether they be family, friends, or acquaintances. Wilbert O. Watkins is their Artistic Director and Conductor, and he serves on staff at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Oak Park, Illinois. Learn more and get tickets here.
Boundary Awareness Training
Tuesday, January 23, 1:00-3:00 PM CST
Illinois Conference UCC
This training is the first offering in 2024 and will take place via Zoom. Due to the low registration and need to cancel November's training, this will again be based on the book Sustaining Ministry: Foundations and Practices for Serving Faithfully by Sondra Wheeler. In order to register, you must read the book and submit a short 1-2 page reflection. Email your reflection to Naomi in the Conference Office to be registered for the training. If you have any questions, please contact the Conference Office.
For a list of current open positions with the National UCCclick here.
For more lay employment opportunity postings, click here.
Please let us know if you have a job opening you would like to share,
and also update us once the position is filled. Contact Sarah Lohrbach.
Mental Health Support
UCC Mental Health Network
The 988 Lifeline: 988 is now active across the United States. This new, shorter phone number will make it easier for people to remember and access mental health crisis services. (Please note, the previous 1-800-273-TALK (8255) number will continue to function indefinitely.)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Information HelpLine provides information and referral services. 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) and www.nami.org.
The Trevor Project hotline offers support for LGBTQIA+ youth and families struggling with mental health challenges at 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (488-7386) and theTrevorProject.org
JLP was created to help individuals and congregations gain the knowledge they need to understand the political, economic, and social systems we operate within, to recognize when they are unjust, and to develop the skills and tools necessary to change them. Since 2012 JLP has been an experimental space testing new and different ways of empowering and equipping people in the work of justice.
NEW SCHOLARSHIP: The Fannie Lou Hamer Scholarship Fund for Disabled Theologians of Color
The United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries (UCCDM) board is delighted to announce the creation of a new scholarship fund: the Fannie Lou Hamer Scholarship Fund for Disabled Theologians of Color. This endowed scholarship will assist those who identify as people of color with disabilities in pursuing theological study at any level. By creating greater access to theological education, we hope that scholarship recipients will enrich the church through their engagement with disability, race, and theology. Click here to learn more.
In the most recent Fiduciary Focus, Matt Wagner, Vice President of Institutional Relationships, discusses contributing to a church’s or faith-based organization’s mission through appreciated securities, particularly stock donations, and the advantages of making this kind of donation. Click here to learn more and read the article.
The Ministers’ Financial Vitality Initiative (MFVI) is a three-year financial education program with no-cost Fidelity financial planning and yearly incentive grants to alleviate educational and other debt. Applications are open for the next MFVI cohort. UCC Ministers are encouraged to apply before the deadline of December 31st. Get the FAQs here. If you have questions, send an email to MFVI@pbucc.org.
On the UCC website, it states, “Gender & Sexuality Justice Ministries seeks transformative justice for our faith communities and congregations by just action and love for all. ~ We believe in the justice-oriented ministry of Jesus and act with those facing systemic oppression at the intersection of gender & sexuality to offer care, sex positive education & curriculum, gender & bodily autonomy education & programming, policy & advocacy and partnership and outreach opportunities.”
For those seeking greater knowledge and depth in addressing this important justice issue, PATHWAYS Theological Education, Inc. offers a course where participants from across the country have a place to gather in online conversations. Go to PATHWAYSTheological.org to register or to find out more about the course, Theology of Gender and Sexuality. There is still time to register for this course as well as UCC Polity and History, and several other courses which begin in early January 2024.
Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act
Linked below is a summary of the Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act. The Illinois Conference's attorney tried to tailor the summary for what would be of interest to congregations. Click on the button below to view the summary. Please note that this is a high-level summary of the Illinois Paid Leave For All Workers Act. It is intended to be general in nature and is not a substitute for individual legal advice. It also does not cover separate paid leave requirements in Cook County and Chicago.
Any movement toward racial justice must engage the patterns and practices of colonization upon which the United States was founded, and which continue to shape our imagination of who we are and what justice looks like. We in the UCC also have a significant role to play in decolonizing not only our minds, bodies and spirits, but also our work for racial justice. Access the resources here.
The Land is Not Our Own
JustFaith Ministries Resources
The Land Is Not Our Own: Seeking Repair Alongside Indigenous Communities is a nine-session, small-group program that inspires and equips congregations and communities to stand alongside Native communities in working for justice and repair. This small group process lays a foundation of trust and relationship so that together participants can acknowledge injustice, honor the interconnectedness of all Creation, and seek healing, repair, and hope. Learn more about the program and how you can bring it to your faith community by clicking here.
“Because of You, Our Church Changes Lives” is this year's UCC stewardship theme, making the connection between donor generosity and the ministry and mission of your congregation.Various download options are available here.
Please send us your newsletters so we can keep up with what's going on in your church.
Address for printed newsletters: Illinois Conference UCC, 1840 Westchester Blvd., Suite 200, Westchester, IL 60154. Electronic newsletters: Please add Sarah Lohrbach at SarahLohrbach@ilucc.org to your church’s mailing list.
THE ILLINOIS CONFERENCE UCC E-NEWSLETTER is published by the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ, 1840 Westchester Blvd., Suite 200, Westchester, IL 60154. The Rev. Molly Carlson, Conference Minister; Sarah Lohrbach, Editor. Copy may be sent to: SarahLohrbach@ilucc.org.
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Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ | 1840 Westchester Blvd., Suite 200, Westchester, IL 60154