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Eden Looks Outward

From the time of the abolitionists the Congregational Church, from which Eden UCC traces its roots, had been at the leading edge of social reform, activism and outreach. In Eden’s early history our finances allowed us to start looking outward about the time we saw the need to send relief across the bay following the 1906 earthquake. By the First World War we were donating bandages to the Red Cross and inviting the public to forums with speakers on current topics “that bore on practical righteousness to challenge the best thought of the community, arouse the best emotions, and lead to the most effective action.” In the 1920s and 30s our outreach dollars were channeled through the denomination’s world-wide missionary work, and continued support of the Red Cross here at home. Prior to our nation’s entry into World War II, Eden raised money for British war relief and later planned USO programs for local military bases. The prosperity and population growth of the late 1940s and 1950s sparked Eden’s involvement in establishing new congregations in Danville, South Hayward and Centerville (Fremont). Through the Social Action Committee Eden brought five displaced families from Europe and helped them settle in the Hayward area.

Eden Church affiliated with the United Church of Christ in 1957 and significantly expanded our outreach ministries, beginning in the 1960s and 70s to support numerous religious and secular causes aimed at promoting education, providing youth services, and addressing poverty. The church started a 13-year volunteer program to support residents at the Alameda County Juvenile Hall with birthday parties, reading material, craft projects and a chaplaincy. Similar programs aided Fairmont and Highland Hospitals, the Salvation Army, and Eden provided support to other churches in Fruitvale and East Oakland. Members of the Women’s Fellowship volunteered as teaching assistants in a county pre-school mental health program, and the church sponsored a Cub Pack and Scout troop for boys with developmental disabilities, along with housing a day center for the frail and elderly. We continued to support foreign missionary work via Church World Service fundraisers and sales, and to host foreign exchange students. Eden still participates in denominational offerings for Neighbors in Need and for One Great Hour of Sharing.

During our most recent 25 years, Eden has participated in ecumenical and interfaith projects and partnerships to develop mutual understanding and respect across denominations and faith traditions. We have shared various activities and celebrations with Congregation Shir Ami, St. Clement’s Catholic Church, and First Methodist Church. Examples include the establishment of COR (Congregations Organizing for Renewal) in the 1990s, and participation in the FESCO (Family Emergency Shelter Coalition).

Perhaps current members remember some of our outreach and service activities of the 1990s: The Kid’s Breakfast Club, which served meals on non-school days to children who were dependent on school nutrition; the Share program, which collected bags of food worth $40-$45 and sold them for $13; annual fundraising for the Heifer Project (aided one year by the “Kiss a Pig” challenge in which the pastor and associate actually kissed a 4-H porker for the cause); the CAAMP and
SAAM Camp programs, which provided neighborhood kids with arts and music enrichment; Save The Bay and Habitat For Humanity work days and more. More recent creative outreach events have included Blessing of the Bikes; the Performing Arts Concert Series, which raised money for local charities; support of Gay Prom and Hayward and Castro Valley Pride Days; and Pastor Arlene’s participation in Castro Valley High School’s “Diversity Days.”

At the 146th Annual Meeting, on June 25, 2011, the Congregation adopted the Compañeras Ministry Plan, in solidarity with first-generation Latina/o immigrants who are part of Eden Church and who reside in the Eden Area. The goals of the Compañeras/os Ministry included the following: 1) Reduce youth violence in Cherryland and the schools attended by Cherryland youth 2) Contribute to economic development in the Eden Area 3) Advocate for immigration policy reform 4) Create and implement cultural integration opportunities in the Cherryland are.

In in its first four years of operation, Compañeras Ministry participants have established and operated Comida para Cherryland (a just-in-time food pantry) that provides 1,500 Eden Area residents with nutritious, free groceries. We won several
new health services, including a mobile health clinic, for Hayward High School, which are now managed by a Coordinated Services Team, which is chaired by the principal. We established the ChYLI program, a summer youth leadership program for youth residing in the Cherryland community. Every student who has graduated from the ChYLI program and an area high school is now enrolled in college. With funding from the Eden Area Foundation, we also established the
Cherryland Computer Café, which provides the public with free computer and Internet access, and technical support, tutoring and job search support. By reaching out to help address the needs of others in the past 150 years, Eden Church has developed a deeper sense of what it means to be members of the body of Christ and to be the real presence of the living God for others.

The 150th Anniversary Committee