The following FAQs can be a speedy introduction to the work of the Mission and Service Fund for new Enthusiasts or a refresher course for those who have long championed the work of the church. The following are based on Minutes for Mission 2005. Consider using them in your own congregation to increase the number of supporters to M&S.
As I was reading a United Church congregational brochure one day I was surprised to see a mention of collecting gifts for the Mission and Service Fund charity.
I looked around the empty hall wanting to say, "The Mission and Service Fund is not a charity." Since no one was in earshot, I saved my response for here.
Many organizations work for a better world by addressing one cause or another. The Mission and Service Fund, on the other hand, is the unique way we as United Church witness to God's love, whether it be with overseas partners, in Canadian outreach, in hospital or university chaplaincies, in supporting small congregations, or in assisting intern ministers. It is not really possible to compare the M&S Fund to any charity-it is much bigger, more encompassing than any of these. It is the church.
The M&S Fund represents our collective way to be God's presence in the world—to be the church, to love and serve, to seek justice, to live with respect in creation. It gives us a collective voice in advocating change, justice, and peace, whether through the Canadian government or in work with our ecumenical partners. The M&S Fund ensures that we are participating together in all of this work and more.
It has been said that "for Christians giving isn't an option," and for United Church members, M&S shouldn't be. We all make decisions about which charities we want to support. For United Church members, the M&S Fund should not be part of that decision. M&S is not a charity; M&S is who we are and what we do. It's the United Church faith in action.
We all suffer from information overload. Thanks to television and the Web, radio in the car, computer messages in the elevator, and info boards in the subway, we get far more facts than we can process or remember.
Unfortunately, that can affect how long we remember even the things that we know are important. Just the other day I discovered two full bottles of vitamins from the health food store. I know I researched them before I bought them and was sure they would improve my life. Now I haven't a clue what they are supposed to do.
Hopefully the Mission and Service Fund isn't like those vitamin pills—vitally important one day and then just out of mind the next week. M&S is too essential to the life of our church to be shelved! M&S funds everything we do in The United Church of Canada.
Here's a little checklist about M&S. Is everyone in your congregation aware of these facts?
If there's a possibility that not everyone understands the importance of M&S, it woudn't hurt to remind them each Sunday. This reminder doesn't need to be a weekly M&S quiz. In fact, it shouldn't be. Nevertheless, Mission and Service should be included as part of your worship service in some way each week because M&S is that connected to all we do.
Here are some ways that M&S can be a part of every service:
Make a plan for how you can include the Mission and Service Fund every Sunday. M&S has been woven into the fabric of our church in one form or another since church union. M&S gifts allow us to be the church year after year. Without these gifts we cannot fund our work.
(This one is written as a dialogue so that you can present it to a group.)
One: Someone at our meeting today called the Mission and Service Fund a unified fund.
Two: That's right. Always has been.
One: (looking around) I didn't want to sound uninformed at the meeting, but what does "unified fund " mean?
Two: It's a very simple idea, really. All the money raised for The United Church of Canada, the whole United Church, goes into one pot. Then decisions are made about how we divide up the money.
One: You mean all the money for M&S is lumped together so I can't give my money to a specific thing?
Two: That's right.
One: Why do we have a unified fund and who decides how to spend it?
Two: The unified fund dates back to the 1928 General Council and before. Our members decided that there should be a cooperative and unified fund for financing all the work of the church. It shows that the church is unified " in a core of shared belief. " As far as spending the money, YOU decide. Or I should say, WE decide. United Church members decide through their representatives on the General Council and through volunteers on many committees. Each project we fund represents a ministry that has been tested and is a faithful expression of our call to serve others.
One: Don't you want to see exactly where your gifts to M&S go? I can't see why we chose this way of doing things.
Two: Well to answer the second part first, a unified fund is the most flexible way of serving others. It's the fairest, most economical, and most effective way. It also means that we can budget and our partners can budget—just like we do here in our own congregation. Now as far as seeing where my gifts go—I can do that by listening to these Minutes for Mission, by looking at the website, and by reading Mandate. There are lots of ways to learn about our united work. And I know I am participating in all the work, not having to choose between needs and people.
One: I think I get it. United work, united fund, United Church.
The United Church has agreed that we will only do alone what we cannot do together. What does this mean? Here's an introduction to what "partnership" is about and why the unified fund is important for our partnerships.
Isn't it amazing to watch pairs figure skating competitions? The partners glide over the ice, executing synchronized footwork, completing spins and lifts completely in time and in tune. At least, that's what happens when things are going well. Partnership, whether on the ice, in business, or in marriage, requires certain commitments-cooperation, respect, sharing of work, goals, and rewards, communication that works both ways.
The United Church of Canada engages in partnerships that also demand the same kinds of qualities. These partnerships are with national churches, ecumenical organizations, Christian councils, and church agencies around the world. Some of these partnerships have evolved from overseas mission work, which started in the late 19th century and some from recent collaboration.
The United Church of Canada and its global partners are called to share experiences and resources, including M&S gifts, and to build relationships of respect. We are one partner among many, called to receive and to give.
Abinaar Ramadie from a United Church partner in South Africa, reminded us of this when he was here recently. During a Face to Face visit to Alberta, he noted that young Canadians have a flawed image of Africa. He appealed to us to look at our education system, particularly regarding world views. His concern with Canadian treatment of First Nations led him to offer Canadians the South African post-apartheid experience about justice and reconciliation.
In the United Church, we depend on our partners to alert us to needs. Thanks to them, our Mission and Service Fund dollars are put to work where they are most needed. We also benefit when partners respond to our requests and offer their experiences-partners working in sync, in time, and in tune.
Members of the United Church give generously to local congregations, to outreach, and to the wider church. They give because they are Christian. Most of the finances for the work of the wider church come from voluntary gifts to the Mission and Service Fund. Our members decide when to give, how much to give, and the way they will give. It's the United Church way.
Our call as United Church people is to be the church—in congregations, in the country, in the world. Can providing the financial means to do that be optional for those called?
What exactly does the Mission and Service Fund support? First, it supports our worship life—our resources for congregations large and small, our ethnic ministries, our theological schools, and our intern ministers. M&S also gives us a united voice. As Canada's largest Protestant denomination, we can play a significant role in Canada. Our united voice, 600,000 strong, is heard on social issues, through peace and justice advocacy, and in our appeals for care of creation. Our presence around the world is felt through the work of our partners. Ask the children at Los Quinchos in Nicaragua. Ask Joyce Riungu and the women she serves through the National Council of Churches of Kenya. Ask the UCW women who travelled to Zambia to see M&S supported work.
The life and existence of The United Church of Canada depend on the Mission and Service Fund. It's who we are and what we do. Without M&S our church would not be. It's as simple as that. To the 200,000 who financially support The United Church of Canada, thank you! If you do not support your church through M&S, will you consider doing so today?
"The congregation I attend does not have a Mission and Service Fund side to the envelope, but sends a small amount from its general funds each year, " writes Jean Crabtree. "The work made possible by the M&S Fund is very important to me, not least because before retirement, I was a hospital chaplain and for many years my salary came in full or part from the M&S Fund. Now in retirement I want to give back to the fund so that all the great work made possible by M&S continues."
Jean's note came with her M&S donation to the Direct Giving Program of the United Church. Thousands of members give generously each year to The United Church of Canada through the Mission and Service Fund. Most often they give to the M&S Fund on the offering plate. They may choose to give cash or cheques at their local church, they may choose to give by Pre-Authorized Remittance or PAR, or they may give online through our secure server.
Many members, like Jean, give to the Mission and Service Fund through the Direct Giving Program. Their reasons might be similar to Jean's—they are not content with their congregations' decision to give a percentage of the budget to the Mission and Service Fund. Others do not have a church home. Still others have decided to make a one-time large gift and they do not want to skew their congregations giving. Some want to remain anonymous.
Whichever method of giving you have chosen, thank you to all who support the United Church of Canada financially. Without your gifts, we could not put our faith into action in the world. We could not be Canada's largest Protestant denomination. We encourage those who have not given a gift to M&S to consider doing so now.
What is the connection between the M&S Fund and special appeals for emergencies like hurricane relief, the Beads of Hope, and the United Church tsunami appeal?
Each year emergency funds are allocated in the budget from the Mission and Service Fund for response to emergency needs in countries of the global South. Having such a fund on hand enables the Untied Church to respond rapidly when needs are critical.
In addition to the Mission and Service Fund "emergencies" budget, we also regularly draw on United Church equity in the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to respond to critical food needs in other countries. The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a Christian-based food aid and development organization that collect donations of grain, cash, and other agricultural commodities for distribution to the world's hungry. It is owned by 13 Canadian church members, including the United Church, that work with international partners.
Sometimes because of an extraordinary crisis we call on church members to give an extra gift for a particular emergency. These are called "supragifts, " and do not go into the Mission and Service Fund. Because the gift goes straight to the appeal, the congregation is not given credit for these gifts as M&S Fund gifts.
This does not mean that there is no connection between M&S and supragifts. Without M&S we could not ask for or accept and deliver supragifts. The M&S Fund allows us to have staff to confer with partners, to ask for, and to process gifts. All administration costs for emergency appeals are paid for by M&S.
Unlike other large agencies whose primary work is emergency relief, The United Church of Canada does not usually deploy personnel to accompany or monitor the relief effort. Instead we rely on expertise and reports from global partner organizations to assess the situation and ensure effective use of funds, with priority given to assisting indigenous organizations to respond themselves. They are able to put in place programs that not only respond to the emergency but assist in development and reconstruction. These partnerships are created thanks to M&S.
Here is an example of the importance of M&S in the 2004 tsunami emergency. Soon after the tsunami struck, United Church staff were in communication with several of the United Church's partners in the affected region to express our concern and sympathy and to offer support.
Some partners requested immediate assistance, and some looked ahead to long-term needs of reconstruction. Assurances were made about United Church commitment for the long term through M&S. $10,000 from the Mission and Service Fund was immediately applied to tsunami relief. An appeal was launched but due to the urgency of the need the United Church responded immediately by making $250,000 available from the Mission and Service Fund to be repaid by special tsunami gifts from members. M&S absorbed the staffing and administration costs of processing emergency donations. M&S funded staff applied to the federal government for matching grants and were ultimately successful in their bid.
How do we know about emergencies? The United Church receives appeals and requests for emergency assistance directly from global partners in the countries affected, or from the Geneva-based organization Action by Churches Together (ACT).
ACT International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide. It is based with the World Council of Churches. The United Church is a long-standing member of the World Council of Churches and a partner of ACT. Through ACT we offer assistance to victims of natural disasters as well as of emergencies caused by war and civil conflict.
Although we occasionally need to respond to emergencies through special designated gifts, it is the steady, faithful gifts to the Mission and Service Fund that support our partnerships with organizations like ACT, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and our global partnerships around the world.
Through M&S we can respond immediately to emergencies and, perhaps more importantly, we are able to walk alongside partners in the long term development and reconstruction that is needed.