After an emotional Super Bowl loss, Cincinnati had one needed triumph – the city's United Methodists “beat” their Los Angeles partners in a friendly competition for hunger relief, with both cities raising over $56,000 combined – fitting for Super Bowl 56.
Cincinnati United Methodists raised a total of $38,579.39 for hunger relief. The grand total raised was $56,037.97.
Cincinnati United Methodists are a part of the West Ohio Annual Conference.
Church leaders in both cities were inspired to a “friendly competition” paralleling the Super Bowl matchup, following the lead of Bengals star Joe Burrow, who continually brings attention to hunger in Ohio.
“Considering the millions of dollars spent on the Super Bowl, and the millions of people in both cities dealing with food insecurity...we wondered if there was a way to mobilize the energy around Super Bowl to do some good,” said Pastor David Meredith.
Rev. Meredith serves the United Methodist regional office (Ohio River Valley District) as Director of Urban Ministries, and his co-worker at Clifton United Methodist, Pastor Robert English, formerly served in Los Angeles in the California-Pacific West District.
The two pastors reached out to Mark Nakagawa, Superintendent of the California-Pacific West District, and Todd Anderson, Superintendent of the Ohio River Valley District, and received an enthusiastic response and agreement to a friendly competition from both.
Both cities' church leaders challenged their parishioners: give proportionally based on your Super Bowl spending, ask your party guests to bring items for a food drive, ask the organizers of your betting pool to set aside a donation, or take a collection at a watch party.
Westwood United Methodist Church in Cincinnati and Westwood United Methodist Church in Los Angeles agreed to their own competition, with the “losing” pastor having to wear the rival team's apparel to church on Sunday. Because the “winner” was determined not from the outcome on the field, but from the outcome of the fundraising, Rev. Molly Vetter of Westwood California will wear the Bengals stole worn last Sunday by Rev. Brian Bucher of Westwood Cincinnati.
Although Cincinnati technically “won” the competition, the real “winners” are the recipients of food and monetary donations, who will experience a respite from the constant stress of food insecurity.
“The real Super Bowl competition is to outdo one another in doing all the good we can for those who struggle to put adequate, healthy food on their table,” says Pastor David Meredith.
story by Nick Federinko, West Ohio Annual Conference
This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.