Berry Authors Advent Worship Resources for UCC Christmas Fund Campaign
Among the many collaborations CHHSM and its member ministries form to further ministry is the special bond between CHHSM and its partners in the UCC’s national setting. One long-time partner of CHHSM is the UCC Pension Boards, a relationship that recently led to the creation of the annual UCC Christmas Fund materials.
The Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry, CHHSM’s associate for advocacy and leadership development, authored the recently published weekly Advent prayers for the Christmas Fund. For more than 100 years, the annual Christmas Fund offering has cared for active and retired clergy and lay employees of the UCC. Assistance is provided via emergency grants, supplementation of small annuities and health premiums, and Christmas “thank you” gift checks each December to lower-income retirees.
“It is such an honor to be a part of this campaign,” said Berry. “This is yet another example of a beautiful collaboration with CHHSM, another example of our mission aligning with other UCC ministries.”
This particular project had its origins in CHHSM’s Nollau Leadership Institute and Berry’s role as one of the institute’s facilitators. The Rev. Dr. Paul Ramsey, philanthropy officer for the Pension Boards, is a graduate of the 2022-2023 Nollau class, and was consecrated as a Diakonal Minister during the CHHSM Annual Gathering this past March.
“Through my experience with CHHSM through Nollau, I became well acquainted with Elyse and her tremendous talent,” said Ramsey. “When we were deciding who might write the Christmas Fund material this year, I immediately thought of Elyse. Her writing has the perfect balance of depth and whimsy … or maybe I should say she is the perfect combination of depth and whimsy. I’m proud to call Elyse a friend and look forward to our continued partnership with CHHSM.”
For this year’s resources, Berry provided the litanies and prayers for each week of the Advent season, including the Christmas Eve service. Each week includes a Litany of the Advent Candle, Prayer of Confession, Words of Assurance, Invitation to the Offering, and Prayer of Dedication.
“This project ended up being deeply spiritual for me personally, which I didn’t expect,” said Berry. “Because I work in extended ministry, I don’t have the practice of writing or selecting the Advent prayers each year. To write about hope, peace, joy and love in such a time as this — it first brought me to silence. I had to listen to what I was bumping up against when writing about peace in a time of war, about hope in a time of legislation taking away decades of human rights.”
The authenticity of Berry’s prayers provides a poignant backdrop for reflection during Advent worship services.
“When I write, I try to do it from the gut, from an embodied place that speaks to what’s real,” Berry added. “This project invited me into a place to find my own way through the gifts of Advent and not try to make them something they are not: to truly let them in, let them strengthen me by the power they have held for millennia. I hope that the prayers will resonate with others.”
As in years past, the Christmas Fund resource materials include easily downloadable items. In addition to the five Advent service prayers, the resources include a poster, promotional calendar, and bulletin inserts for each week.
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