Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Annual Holiday Letter

Dear Friends of UCM,
Really, I’d planned on a witty and entertaining holiday fundraiser, like last year and the year before. I thought I’d write a takeoff on “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” “On the first day of Christmas, my interns (or maybe donors) gave to me. . . .” But I never got that one written, and I think it’s because there’s something I need to say more.
We’re not always clear with you about what we do here at UCM, and why. You know a lot about us--about Thursday Supper and Saturday Lunch, about the alternative winter and spring break service/learning trips, about our stream cleanups and community service days and our interfaith organizing and community-building and our ministry to the LGBTQ community and our public witness on social justice issues. And I know you care that we feed the people we feed, and help the people we help, and clean up the things we clean up, and say the things we say. But sometimes we give you the idea that those things are at the heart of what we do, when really they’re the means to an end. And the end is . . . well, it seems silly when I write it out like this, but the end is to save the world.
First, last, and always, we are a campus ministry. And the students we serve have grown up and are coming of age in a world in need of fixing, one plagued by massive economic inequality and injustice, environmental havoc, and violent discord between people of different faiths. They have every reason to despair, to concern themselves with their own survival and to disregard the plight of others--and yet they yearn for the chance, and the spiritual energy and discipline, to make a difference. What we really do at UCM is give them that chance, over and over again. And over and over again, they’re transformed by the experience. Honestly? You and I will not be around long enough to fix everything that’s broken. Any fixing that gets done will get done by people, young now, who have felt this kind of transformation, who have learned how to connect the life they’re choosing for themselves with the things they believe in their hearts. For almost 60 years UCM has been a part of transformations like that.
At the same time, the institutional expressions of our various faith traditions--the denominations, associations, and other structures that support our various communities and movements--face dwindling resources, increased costs associated with their various ministries, and a suspicion among many younger people that the institutions themselves are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Often over the last decade or two these institutions have responded by diverting funds away from campus ministry--especially from ecumenical and interfaith ministries that aren’t explicitly identified with a specific denomination. So that chunk of our annual income has been shrinking--and we can expect it to keep shrinking.
This change in our funding stream is coinciding with two other changes--one you know about, and one you may not:
Change #1: The global economic climate. We share your pain on this one; like you, UCM is trying to make do with less, and like many of you we find ourselves faced with the possibility that we’ll simply have to DO less. But then there’s
Change #2: Despite the money thing, the relevance and effectiveness of UCM’s ministry is growing by leaps and bounds, more every year and especially this year. Whether you measure it by numbers of students participating in our programs, depth of their participation, or awareness of our ministry and mission in the campus community, UCM continues to make a difference here--and the difference we make continues to grow!
To borrow a question from our Interfaith Impact meetings, though -- “so what?” For me the “so what?” is a two-part challenge from me to you.
Part #1: Think about UCM’s world-saving mission, our growing impact on the OU and Athens communities and our transformative influence on the students we meet. Decide how much that amazing work is worth to you. And support UCM to a degree that matches your commitment to the work we do.
Part #2: Help us to get to know the people you know who don’t know us. We need to reach more people with the good news of our ministry here at OU, and the best way to do that is to enlist you, who already believe in what we do, as our goodwill ambassador. Pick a few friends you think would feel as you do about us, and talk to them about why you support us. Encourage them to give us a call, drop by, or make a donation online through our website--we’d love to meet them!
Thanks to our generous donors, UCM has been blessed with meaningful work to do, and the means to do it, for nearly 60 years. Please consider making a contribution now to help us continue our world-saving work. UCM is a registered 501(C)(3) non-profit organization--your contributions are tax-deductible and will finance operating, facilities, and programming expenses. Thank you for your generous ongoing support--we couldn’t do it without you!
With best wishes from the whole UCM family--
Rev. Evan Young, Campus Minister