By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Oklahoma Conference of Churches fulfills a critically important role, while promoting the unity of Christ. It connects, motivates, and empowers the witness of Christians and other religious communities on issues of faith and justice.
OCC is comprised of 16 denominations; 1500 local congregations; ecumenical, Interfaith, and community partners; totaling more than half a million Oklahomans.
“By speaking on behalf of that many people, the Oklahoma Conference of Churches is a powerful voice on matters such as poverty, education, the environment, immigration and criminal justice,” said the Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, executive director of OCC.
“We track legislation before the State Legislature in each of these five focus areas. Our IMPACT Committee, chaired by the Rev. Dr. Stan Basler, then determines whether some kind of advocacy may be appropriate on particular bills — such as letters to legislators or even a Pastoral Letter to the governor signed by all of the bishops and other heads of churches belonging to OCC,” Tabbernee said.
Such official OCC statements have recently been made on immigration reform, healthcare, and in favor of abolishing the death penalty in Oklahoma.
In an effort to involve as many people as possible in the process, OCC has established a Social Justice Ministry Representatives Network. The goal is to have a representative in every OCC congregation throughout the state to receive information and take local action.
Ecumenical Advocacy Workshops have been held each year during the annual Day at the Legislature conducted by OCC at the State Capitol.
This year’s DAL program featured Mr. Stan Hupfeld of Integris Health Foundation. He shared insights about America’s healthcare system and the qualifications of those tasked to solve this critical issue.
Dr. Robert Romines, Superintendent, Moore Public Schools and Ms. Anna King, Board Member, National Parent-Teacher Association explored ideas on education. An interfaith prayer vigil was held following the morning session.
The Advocacy Workshop included presentations by Ms. Deborah Stanaland of the YWCA-OKC and Mr. Richard Klinge, Senior Director at Catholic Charities. Next year’s Day at the Legislature will be held on March 23, 2015.
Dr. Tabbernee stressed that OCC’s impact on the community is “hands-on” as well as “theological.”
OCC members are actively involved in service projects, supporting “Bread for the World,” “The Homeless Alliance” and providing “Cool Zones” in churches for shut-ins and the elderly during summer months.
Members have conducted ecumenical prayer services for rain and for those affected by the 2013 tornadoes and storms.
One of the important tasks undertaken by OCC on behalf of the community is facilitating the long-term emotional and spiritual care of those still recovering from such disasters.
Rev. Mary Hughes Gaudreau, OCC’s director of emotional and spiritual care, has extensive experience in disaster response and recovery.
“More than 40,000 people were directly impacted by last year’s disasters,” said Rev. Gaudreau, “and most, if not all, need some emotional and spiritual care as part of the recovery process—whether they realize it or not.”
Gaudreau conducts training workshops for area clergy to assist them in receiving OCC credentials to be local spiritual care responders.
OCC invites the public to participate in several upcoming events.
A benefit breakfast themed “Equipping In Unity” featuring Rev. Gaudreau will be held on Tuesday, May 8, from 7:30 – 9 a.m. at St. Paul’s Cathedral, 127 N.W. 7 St., in Oklahoma City. A complimentary full breakfast will be served. A suggested donation of $100 will support the ongoing efforts of OCC.
On Tuesday, Sept. 9, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Enlightening for Unity, an art auction with wine and cheese tasting will be hosted by St. Paul’s Cathedral – East Garden, 127 N.W. 7 St.
An outdoor gallery will exhibit works from local artists. Items will be available for purchase with proceeds supporting OCC’s work in the faith community. Complimentary wines and cheeses will be available, along with live music. Admission is free.
OCC’s Interfath Youth Tour on Sunday, Sept. 21, from 1 – 5:30 p.m. will include visits to three area houses of worship. Check the OCC website for tour updates.
OCC’s Annual Dinner, “Empowering through Unity,” will be held on Thursday, Nov. 13, at The Petroleum Club featuring guest speaker The Rev. Dr. Kinnamon, Immediate-past General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. The reception begins at 5 p.m. with dinner at 6 p.m.
For more information, visit okchurches.org or call 405-525-2928.