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.

Read the Press Release
Proposal Narrative

Scholarships & Grants

United Church of Christ


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.
Download the Brochure Here
Informational Webpage

Advent Resources


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.

A Longest Night Service Liturgy is also offered by Rev. Ann Houlette, Chair of the Indiana Kentucky Conference WISE Committee.

Womanist Advent Devotional


Two UCC Officers have contributed to another devotional that will be available Nov. 20 from the Presbyterian 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.

Get the Resources Here

Active Appeals from Wider Church Ministries

Middle East Appeal

Hawaii Wildfires Appeal

Ukraine Appeal

Syria/Turkey Earthquake Appeal

A special Message from Outdoor Ministries:

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.

Donate Online
Upcoming Events

Blue Christmas Worship

Tuesday, December 5, 3:00 PM CST

UCC Global H.O.P.E.

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.

Calendar at a Glance
Ordinations, Installations, Ecclesiastical Councils

Dec 4: Ecclesiastical Council for M. Michelle Day. 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. Chicago Metropolitan Association Cluster 6.

Events in the Illinois Conference & Beyond

Dec 5: Global H.O.P.E. Blue Christmas Worship. 3:00 p.m. via Zoom.

Dec 9: Colectivo Asamblea Anual. 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. via Zoom.

Dec 25-26: Conference Office Closed for Christmas & Christmas Eve.

Jan 1: Conference Office Closed for New Years.

Jan 23: Clergy Boundary Awareness Training 1:00-3:00 p.m. via Zoom.

Conference and Association Committee Meetings

Dec 2: Personnel Committee Meeting. 9:30 a.m. via Zoom.

Dec 7: PA Committee on Ministry. 9:00 a.m. via Zoom.

Dec 10: WA Council Meeting 3:30 p.m. via Zoom.

Dec 13: Outdoor Ministry Committee Meeting. 9:30 a.m. via Zoom.

Dec 14: FVA Committee on Ministry. 9:00 a.m. via Zoom.

Dec 14: CMA Committee on Ministry. 12:00 p.m. via Zoom.

Dec 19: WA Committee on Ministry. 9:00 a.m. via Zoom.

Dec 19: FAB Committee Meeting. 9:00 a.m. via Zoom.

Dec 20: EA Committee on Ministry. 9:30 a.m. via Zoom.

Dec 27: EA Council Meeting. 6:30 p.m. via Zoom.

Employment, Education, & Resources
Employment Opportunities

Ministerial opportunities within the United Church of Christ.

Recently Added Lay Employment Opportunities:

Arlington Heights, St. John UCC seeks PT Sunday School Coordinator

Bensenville, Faith Community UCC seeks PT Director of Music

Champaign, Community UCC/UCC Campus Ministry seek FT Director of Youth Ministry/Campus Ministry

Chicago, Community Renewal Society - Multiple Openings

Chicago, Wellington UCC seeks PT Church Administrator

Yorkville Congregational UCC seeks FT Christian Education Director

For a list of current open positions with the National UCC click 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
  • 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

The Work of Justice Needs Leaders


The Justice Leadership Program (JLP) will help you build a foundation of faith-based knowledge, practical skills and confidence. Whether it is the five-month Jubilee program or individual workshops, JLP can support your growth as a leader in the work of justice. Sign up now for Jubilee starting in January or for the December 5 workshop exploring the many different ways to do the work of justice.


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.

Fiduciary Focus: Talents, Stewardship, Stock Donations

United Church Funds


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 Next Generation Leadership Initiative (NGLI) is a six-year program for pastors under 35 (as of 2024) to strengthen the skills needed to be a leader now and in the church of the future. The application season for the next cohort of pastors to participate in the Next Generation Leadership Initiative (NGLI) is open. The deadline to submit an Intent to Apply Form for the next NGLI cohort is February 1, 2024. Learn more about the program criteria and how to apply here.

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


Click here to apply.

2024 Course Offerings

Pathways Theological Education, Inc.


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 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.

Download the Summary

Decolonize the Future

Join the Movement Resources


Join the Movement’s “Decolonizing Antiracism” invites exploration of Indigenous imaginations for our future.

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.

OCWM & Stewardship Resources
United Church of Christ

These resources highlight work being done in the National Setting that is supported by Our Church’s Wider Mission Basic Support. You can find these free resources 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.
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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: 
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