Buckeye Disciples have a history in cooperation between churches that formally begins in 1852, with a meeting in Wooster that formed the “Ohio Christian Missionary Society.” That original name picked up on the wider “American Christian Missionary Society” begun at a national meeting in Cincinnati in 1849. As the effort to bring local churches together in shared missions struggled in our early days, the first secretary of the ACMS, Alexander Campbell, told the founders of the OCMS — today our Christian Church in Ohio — that “the whole future of organized missionary work among the disciples of Christ depends on the Ohio Society.” Our central place in the country, and our pivotal role in the roots of our movement for Christian unity and New Testament simplicity, found here when we were the early American frontier, meant that Campbell saw how we did “covenant” in Ohio as an important example for the wider covenant, for a developing general church body that now extends across national borders to include Canada as well.
So 168 years later the frontier is space, the missionary task is one of cooperation with local churches overseas, and congregational life in Ohio is dramatically different than any kind of community model than Campbell could have imagined . . . but his sense of our central place in our communion might still have relevance. With all the changes afoot these days for church structures, internet connectivity and social media divisions complicating basic questions of common worship and personal discipleship, and de-centered institutions undercutting ecumenical associations, how will Ohio be Christ’s church? Can we, again, be for “disciples of Christ” an example of what it means to work together within the Disciples of Christ?
The Christmas Offering, along with congregational direct support of the Disciples Mission Fund (which is shared between the regional and general church), is at the heart of our regional covenant. It is a key part of the foundation of shared resources that allows us to do missions together than individual churches cannot do entirely on their own. Whether camp and conference ministries for youth and young adults, new church establishment, or congregational support through times of transition, we need a common point of reference and support for that center place in our lives as Christian communities. All of the Christmas Offering goes to the direct support of Ohio mission efforts, our covenant of cooperation that Campbell pleaded for in 1852, and which we need to affirm in 2020 as members together of the Disciples of Christ. Individuals as well as local churches can give to the Christmas Offering, making known our support for the future of organized missionary work as it looks ahead to a world in 2188 that’s probably as unimaginable for us as today would have been to those Ohio Disciples in Wooster back in 1852.
In grace & peace,
Jeff Gill, senior minister
Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
For more information and Christmas Offering resources, go to https://disciplesmissionfund.org/special-offerings/christmas/