Tasajera Islanders with FCC Eugene friends

MISSION MEANS MORE

By Brenda Kame’enui, First Congregational UCC, Eugene, Oregon

Tasajera Islanders with FCC Eugene friends

Tasajera Islanders with FCC Eugene friends

Some of us in the United Church of Christ (UCC) flock tend to shrink from God/Jesus/religion talk in public. Mission is a word we’ve steered clear of since James Michener’s novel Hawaii. Webster defines mission as a “specific task or duty; calling in life; delegation; being sent on some service.” I like the American Heritage Dictionary definition: “a body of persons sent to conduct negotiations or establish relations with a foreign country.”

First Congregational Church UCC Eugene was not intent upon negotiating with a foreign country when members first went to Tasajera Island,  El Salvador in 2006. This tiny island, about an hour’s boat ride from the mainland of El Salvador, is home to a small, poor fishing village. That first group from Eugene looked forward to meaningful health care work with Salvadorans on the island, surely a “foreign” place to the North Americans.

Who knew this visit by a few doctors would blossom into a continuing relationship that flourishes on both sides of the border? Since that first trip, FCC-UCC Eugene has sent another half-dozen delegations, from 3-year-olds to 65-year-olds, who live and eat with islanders and work together on a variety of projects.

Star of Bethlehem

JUST GIVING

by Will Fuller, Kairos-Milwaukie UCC


“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Giving involves dying” said Father Pat in his Thanksgiving Day Mass homily at St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Gresham. It was a fine message about giving and sacrifice, about giving thanks for God’s gracious presence, even when God’s Creation includes pain, suffering and inevitable death. Like a tolling bell, it resonated for a UCC visitor like me as well as it might for a devout Catholic.

It resonates as a Christmas bell, too. In this joyous time of celebration for God’s greatest gift, there is a sacrifice. The Star of Bethlehem shines as a Cross; the sign of Jesus’ birth foreshadows his death and resurrection. Giving involves giving up something in order to receive something more.

Yet, I felt the contrast between that church’s orthodox tradition and the UCC’s unorthodox one. My wife and I were there as guests of friends, not as Catholics. While we were welcomed, we were not welcome to share the sacrament of communion the way any guest is invited to communion at a UCC service.

The UCC is a place of extravagant welcome.

UCC churches express God’s extravagant welcome in a variety of ways. Our welcome embraces both those we invite to participate in our congregations, as well as those outside the church, with whom we work for God’s justice and compassion. (UCC extravagant welcome website)