Our Church’s Wider Mission
This year, the Stewardship Committee has separated our pledges for the church operating budget from our pledges for the Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) Basic Support offering. In the past we have pledged for these two offerings together, on the same pledge card, and it has been confusing for some. The Stewardship Committee made this change in timing so that we can focus separately on OCWM separately and understand it better, when we make our OCWM pledge decisions later this month.
The first thing to know is that “OCWM” is really five separate offerings (Basic Support, One Great Hour of Sharing, Strengthen the Church, Neighbors in Need, and the Christmas Fund (formerly Veterans of the Cross)). These are all offerings that help us reach out through the wider church to accomplish more than we could do on our own. The offering in question here is the OCWM Basic Support offering, the only one for which we solicit pledges. Our OCWM Basic Support gifts help to pay for the ministries and operations of the New Hampshire Conference and the United Church of Christ in the national setting. To understand how this works, you need to know a little about the budget of the New Hampshire Conference.
The Conference receives support from churches in two main ways: from per capita fellowship dues that we pay each year, and from the OCWM Basic Support offering. The fellowship dues are a set amount – $15.30 per church member. The OCWM Basic Support offering is just that, an offering, so the amount depends on what we each choose to give. For the OCWM Basic Support offering, 75% stays with the Conference and 25% is forwarded to the UCC national setting.
The total Conference budget for 2024 is a little over one million dollars. The two largest streams flowing into that total are OCWM Basic Support and the per capita fellowship dues. Together with other, lesser, income sources, the dues and the OCWM offering keep the lights on at the Conference office, and they pay the wonderful (and lean) Conference staff. In addition, they support our Conference-level mission groups devoted to economic justice, environmental justice, immigrant and refugee support, open and affirming concerns, peace with justice, and racial justice, as well as our Conference's relationship with the church of Zimbabwe, our local church support ministry team, our clergy support ministry, and others.
So, what do our Conference Ministers do? Among many other things, they provide support for the development and authorization of ministers, for churches that are going through challenges they don't know how to handle, and for clergy who need assistance with delicate or concerning issues. They also intervene in cases where clergy fitness comes into question. When I was chair of the Merrimack Association Committee on Church and Ministry, I had the opportunity to see our Conference ministers handle some extremely challenging and sensitive matters - the kind of issues that can leave a church in tatters - and they did it with such grace and skill that I was just in awe.
At any given time, about one third of the UCC churches in New Hampshire are in transition between pastors. Each search committee is assisted either by the Conference Minister or by the Associate Conference Minister, a really time-consuming and utterly necessary task if churches are to move forward successfully in their pastoral transitions.
Conference Minister Gordon Rankin will be with us in worship on December 10 to talk about the OCWM offering and to answer your questions – also to help consume the wonderful goodies we will have on offer after worship. Please give prayerful consideration to your pledge for the OCWM Basic Support offering for 2024. So much of the work of our church depends on the background work done by the New Hampshire Conference. They deserve our generous support.