First Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC) of Sandusky received the inaugural 2014 Diakonie Award in recognition of its long-standing history of support for United Church Homes’ Parkvue Community. For more than 30 years—long before Parkvue ever opened its doors—the church and its members have supported the mission of United Church Homes.
The Diakonie Award draws its name from Greek roots meaning to “thoroughly” make “dust,” evoking an image of a servant hurrying to serve, kicking up dust in the midst of performing his/her duties. This deaconate servant model was best illustrated at the Last Supper when Jesus lovingly washed the feet of the disciples.
With that image in mind, the Diakonie Award celebrates the spirit of a congregation that provides energy and resources of time, talent and treasure to United Church Homes’ ministry. The award recognizes the sacred power of servanthood, manifested through a group of believers in a congregation, and exemplifies how the living Christ shapes and ministers to the needs of the world through the church and its institutions.
First Congregational UCC was founded in 1810, making it the second oldest congregation in Sandusky, and boasts an extensive and rich history which includes having served as a safe harbor for the Underground Railroad during the antebellum period, assisting people on their flight to freedom in Canada.
“With like-minded members and friends of First Congregational UCC, we recognize what all Christians understand as our call to serve others in need,” said congregation member and retired clergy Rev. John Rainey who, like his partner Rev. Gene Finnegan, has served United Church Homes in multiple ways over several decades. “With enormous cost and incredible sacrifice, First Congregational UCC members aided thousands of captives with the Underground Railroad, and we continue to carry on that work through our support of the mission of United Church Homes today.”
The church is accessible from sunrise to sundown, 365 days a year. In addition to hosting the worship services of multiple congregations, the sanctuary is often used for community events, including the Boys & Girls Club of Erie County and the Volunteers of America Helpmates program.
“Deaconal service is how the church organizes and empowers its many ministries, especially those linked to healthcare and human services,” said Rev. Kenneth Daniel, president and CEO. “The Diakonie award honors supporting congregations like First Congregational UCC whose dedicated, sacrificial service has made the deaconal work of United Church Homes possible for the past century, and will enable us to provide help and comfort, support and dignity, in the name of Christ, for the next 100 years.”