Identity & Communication Event held on 3-20-2004
"Tell 'em Who You Are!"
What a Party!
Press Release about the Day's Event by Betty Bailey
What a party!!! We all had a real great time and, like any good party, we all went home with a bag of goodies to keep the spirit flowing.
“Tell ‘Em Who You Are…,” a communication and identity event for the New Jersey UCC Association on March 20, featured fun and food and skits and singing and steel drums and ideas and guest speaker, Ron Buford of the national staff. It was an event for the family of the United Church of Christ living in New Jersey, packed in between “The Extravagant Welcome” and the parting words of “Hear God’s Word—Be God’s Voice.”
The extravagant welcome began with hand-shaking greetings from Paul and Mary Sherry, Bart Brown, John Deckenback and Sherry Taylor, along with a second breakfast. Juggling coffee, donuts and flyers, participants mingled before being led into the sanctuary of First Congregational UCC in Montclair by a trumpet playing “The saints go marching in.” Ray Kostulias directed some of his famous skits including the two schools of welcome – “Pillars and Piranhas.”
After a quick review of famous people and historic events of the United Church of Christ, Stephanie Weiner, chair of the Association Council, asked people to call out what their church is doing that they are proud of. People were reminded that God gives a congregation what they need to do what they have to do.
What did we hear?
“We made the transition from a dying church to a mission church”
“People found us through the internet.”
“Where can you get those red and black signs saying ‘God Is Still Speaking?’”
“How about in Spanish?”
Marge Royle reminded the group that any local church that can get 9 to 15 people together for 1½ to 2 hours can have a conversation with a team of specialists to improve their communications.
Ron Buford, the keynote speaker, updated the “Prodigal Son” reminding the gathered group that the non-churched are more alienated from the Christian Community than from anything else. Many feel that they have been thrown out of the church. We need to have passion – a burning desire to reach out -- because we have something that is life saving for those people.
Ron’s own experience in seeking a church home was realizing at the one he finally joined that “If these people will walk with me, I am home.” He ended with the story of the son who told his family to hang out a white flag if he was welcome, and found the house and trees covered with white. It was an extravagant welcome to the family party the church is expected to be.
Lunch was dubbed “The Family Gathers.” Like meals at home, it was a time for sharing what is going on in local settings and in the Association. Communion was led by Scott Howell, pastor of First Church, Montclair and John Deckenback, our Conference Minister.
Heard around the tables:
“We have a phone chain for rapid response.”
“We’ve gotta get a website.”
“We have started Emailing our newsletters.”
“We formed a church secretary support group right around this table!”
“Direct mail to new residents cost so little.”
“I want to paint the sanctuary doors pink, but they won’t let me.”
“We are networking new people by how long they have been in the church.”
After another robust round of singing hymns and songs with a UCC connection led by LL DuBreuil, and Chuck Rush’s description of how Christ Church found its niche in Summit, Ron Buford resumed his speech by talking about “branding” and its power. He urged churches to “build a welcome machine” in the church using people who know how to greet people and make them feel at home. He said that people are looking for a church like the United Church of Christ and very few non-members are even aware of the UCC.
Ron is directing a campaign that includes TV commercials during Advent to tell the world about the UCC with the motto “God Is Still Speaking.” The group saw the commercial, but it will be up to the local churches to find ways to welcome people into their midst.
With the benediction “Hear God’s word; Be God’s voice” from our Conference Minister, the gathered folk of the New Jersey UCC Association scattered with the singing of
“Let us talents and tongues employ,
Going out with a song of joy.
Dancing as we go on our way,
God still speaking in everyday.”
Ask someone who attended to see the “goodie bag” – a folder crammed full of suggestions to make people welcome and to promote the United Church of Christ – our “brand” of Christianity -- or look on the special website WWW.NJA-UCC.org.
--Betty Jane Bailey