You know the saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” It is attributed to Aristotle, and although he was not a member of the United Church of Christ, he could have been speaking for us. That statement is a profound truth regarding faithful ministry. When we gather together our worship is more powerful than it can be on our own. When we listen to other voices and join our talents to create ideas and wishes for our work, programs burst forth with passion and energy far beyond the collection brought to the task by each contributor. When we remember that we are all on the same team, members of the same family, fellow siblings along the journey of life in Christ, we can indeed reveal God’s majesty in our midst in ways that are bigger and brighter than any of us could have imagined. Our ministry together is indeed far greater than the sum of the parts we bring to it.
One of the precious gifts of the United Church of Christ is our priority and value on each individual’s contribution to the ministry. It is the deep rooted value of the inherent worth and dignity of every human being as the perfect and beautiful child of God that feeds this part of our shared experience as UCCers. There is of course, a shadow side to this value of ours, this value of autonomy, and that is that sometimes it leads us away from the promises of accountability, teamwork, and mutual respect. We are sometimes in danger of revering the individuals in our lives over and above the collected communities, and when we do that we miss out on the precious gifts that can only come to pass while in community.
Because I know that tendency well (personally and in the church), I beamed with pride during breakfast at General Synod in Cleveland this summer, when the Iowa Conference UCC caucus received an award for our Conference’s national contributions to Our Church’s Wider Mission. A beautiful commissioned pewter and glass candle holder were gifted to us as a thank you for being a one of the six Conferences whose national OCWM gifts add up to over 50% of the national UCC settings’ annual budget.
We are a better church when we actively remember and act as if we are all on the same team, God’s team. We have access to better, more nuanced, and culturally and time specific resources when we pool our time, talent, and treasure together in order to produce and promote them. We live out our promises, our piece of the covenant, as a Conference in the United Church of Christ, when we send to Cleveland our portion of OCWM dollars.
Your dollars are at work. They are partnered with others’ dollars and producing love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness with great abandon in the UCC. Thank you for your contributions to your local congregations. Thank you for your gifts directly to the Iowa Conference UCC. And thank you for your gifts to other and even wider settings of the UCC and our partners. Your dollars are able to produce much more when partnered with my dollars and the dollars of church members across the state from us. Thank you for recognizing we are on the same team and for living it out with me in a variety of ways, including through Our Church’s Wider Mission. We are indeed making a difference that is much greater than we could each do on our own, because we gather and covenant our resources together!
Blessings for the journey,