Introduction given at the Wider Church Ministries luncheon, July 1, 2013
General Synod 29, Long Beach, CA
Welcome, to the Wider Church Ministries Luncheon. It’s wonderful to be together. I’m glad to see many old friends, and new ones as well. We gather today as international guests, as friends and supporters of Wider Church Ministries, as mission personnel and as staff. Together, we are people in mission.
We are people in mission across the globe. One of our new Global Ministries initiatives is a focused attention on a single area of the world for a period of 18 months. During that time we will work with partners in that area to engage in intensive education and advocacy. We will sponsor exchanges for the sake of fellowship and mutual enrichment, and we will work on projects together. Here at General Synod, we are kicking off the first such area emphasis with the focus being the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The conflict in the Congo has been the deadliest human catastrophe since World War II. The conflict has resulted in many millions of deaths. And yet, the world as a whole takes little note—even though it’s a conflict that touches our day to day lives. Most of us are dependent upon cell phones and other electronic gadgets that utilize a mineral called Colton. The Congo is one of the world’s major sources of Colton, and conflict over mineral wealth is a primary source of the suffering in that great African nation. We will work with our Congolese partners to raise awareness and establish justice.
Even as we shine the spotlight on the Congo, we will be present across the globe. We will work in mutual relationship with our partners to meet the needs of children through our child sponsorship program. We will advocate for justice, do sustainable development, enhance education and health care, and equip a new generation of leaders. And in the process, we ourselves are transformed by the gifts and graces of our partners. We are people in mission.
We are people in mission here in the U.S. One of the ways we do that is through our response to natural and humanly caused disasters. Through our Wider Church Ministries national disaster ministry, we respond to every manner of crisis, from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina to floods on the Missouri River to tornadoes in Oklahoma and wildfires in Colorado.
When disaster strikes, we aren’t first responders. We’re not the ones who search for survivors, provide medical assistance and call other emergency caregivers to the scene. Those are important things to do, but they aren’t what we do. While we aren’t first on the scene, we come for the duration and we are frequently among the last to leave. Long after television cameras are gone and the world at large has forgotten the catastrophe, we’re still there. We’re still there providing volunteers and assistance to help rebuild lives and homes and communities. We are people in mission.
We are people in mission, helping to equip a new generation of church leaders. Through our Global Ministries Global Mission Intern program, we send recent college graduates to work with overseas partners for a period of 1 to 3 years. We currently have interns placed in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Laos, Lebanon, Armenia, Hungary, and Sri Lanka.
Domestically, we do leadership development through our Wider Church Ministries Young Adult Service Communities. Young people spend a year living in intentional community in the context of a host congregation. They do service and advocacy work in the communities in which they are placed, and they engage intentional spiritual development. We are people in mission.
We are people in mission through our health and wholeness work. Upwards of 40 million people worldwide live with HIV/AIDS, 1.1 million of them are here in the United States. The goal is zero new infections, and zero deaths due to HIV/AIDS. Not ago the zero/zero goal seemed a fantasy. It’s not. Education, advocacy and advanced treatment methods have put us within reach of ending this pandemic. But it won’t happen on the basis of past accomplishments. It will only happen because of renewed commitment and adequate resources.
The faith community has an important role to play. Wider Church Ministries has been leading the way through our United Church AIDS Network, UCAN. Through capacity building, skills and leadership development, technical assistance, education and advocacy, UCAN is making a difference here in the U.S. and across the globe. We are people in mission.
Our legacy of mission traces back to 1806 when 5 young people at Williams College in Massachusetts got caught in a rainstorm and sought shelter in a haystack. Out of that “haystack prayer meeting” came the American
Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission,” the first mission agency in America and one of the predecessor bodies of Wider Church Ministries. Over the past two centuries we have received new callings from the Still Speaking God, and we continue to go forth in local and global mission in new and vital ways.
In honor of our past and in anticipation of our future, Wider Church Ministries is unveiling the Haystack Society at this General Synod. All are invited to become members. Your participation in the Haystack Society will enable us to faithfully engage in God’s local and global mission, now and into the future. It will enable us to meet immediate needs, and to advocate for God’s peace and justice. We’ll be sharing more about the Haystack Society in just a bit.
Thank you for your presence here today. Thank you for your prayers and support. And most of all, we thank God that, together, we are people in mission.
Rev. James Moos, Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries, Co-executive of Global Ministries