by Rev. Dr. Jo G. Hudson, Gathering Pastor, Extravagance UCC
Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ. It is a privilege to be writing to you, the people of the Ohio Conference. Perhaps you remember General Synod XXIX in Long Beach, California when the announcement was made about starting Extravagance UCC. There was much excitement as we began the “experiment” about what it means to be an online church.
Now, two and half years later that “experiment” has taken some exciting and interesting twists and turns. We have become more than the original vision of a “local church.” We are now more of a denomination-wide ministry. We originally thought we would gather people who were isolated from church or who had left church. What we’ve found is that many of the people who have connected with us are active church people who simply are looking for an addition to what they already experience through their local churches.
During this time I have learned so much, and in all the lessons one thing stands out from all the others: There is a difference between online communication and online ministry. I think we could all agree that most of our churches, associations and conferences are pretty good at providing communication online. We easily let others know who we are, what we believe and where we can be found. We may also be good at providing some online information and education through webinars and other learning platforms. But, as I said, there is a difference between providing information and building online community.
This is what I think Extravagance does well. By providing weekly ministry offerings and other special events, we are able to connect people across the country both relationally and spiritually. For example, the face-to-face online Bible study that I lead on Sunday evenings allows people from all over the country to actually see and interact with each other. What has resulted is a rich, intimate sharing of not just our ideas about faith, but also our lives. And that is only one of Extravagance’s weekly ministry offerings
At Extravagance we are looking to expand all our ministries and move into additional platforms, and we welcome your ideas. We also welcome the opportunity to share ideas with you about how your churches, associations and conference can also grow your online ministries. You can find out more about our ministries at www.extravaganceucc.org. I look forward to sharing in this amazing journey of faith with you.
Blessings all around,
P.S. Our newest online ministry opportunity is Dinner Church. Join us on Monday, December 21, the Longest Night, as an individual, or gather family and friends. You can read more about it and sign up here: http://www.extravaganceucc.org/come-to-the-table/. Pictured above are members of Circle of Grace, a new church start of First St. John’s UCC in Hamilton, Ohio. They participated in the last Dinner Church.