One Great Hour of Sharing is an offering that makes the love of Christ real for individuals and communities around the world who suffer the effects of disaster, conflict, or severe economic hardship, and for those who serve them through gifts of money and time. Today, projects are underway in more than 100 countries, including the United States and Canada. In the 1990s, receipts have exceeded $20 million annually. While specific allocations differ in each denomination, all use their One Great Hour of Sharing funds to make possible disaster relief, refugee assistance, development aid and more.
During World War II and immediately following, Protestant churches made appeals for relief and reconstruction. At the prompting of newly-elected Presiding Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill of the Episcopal Church in 1946, a goal of one million dollars per year was set for World Relief. On nationwide radio, he challenged members to raise “one million dollars in one hour” to help people and communities in need. During the first three years, Episcopalians raised $3.8 million.
In 1949, church leaders from several denominations formed an ad hoc committee to organize an appeal aimed at supporting the separate campaigns of American churches. Their joint statement in support of this effort in essence conveyed the importance of strengthening the vitally important relief and rehabilitation work of the churches overseas. Pulling together, they could prove to the world the great power generated when Christians united in a common cause.
In 1950, the title “One Great Hour of Sharing” was used for the first time. Its goal was to make the love of Christ real for individuals and communities around the world who suffered the effects of disaster, conflict, or severe economic hardship, and for those who serve them through gifts of money and time.
From the beginning this has been an ecumenical effort. As denominations changed and merged, One Great Hour of Sharing has varied from eight to twenty-nine participating communions. Currently, the One Great Hour of Sharing committee officially comprises eight Christian denominations: American Baptist Churches USA, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Church of the Brethren, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Christ, and Church World Service. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) calls the offering Week of Compassion. In various ways, all work in cooperation with Church World Service, the relief, development and refugee assistance arm of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
The purpose of One Great Hour of Sharing has remained the same: to collect special gifts to assist those in need. Today, projects are underway in more than 100 countries, including the United States and Canada. From the 1990s to the early 2000s, receipts have exceeded $20 million annually. While specific allocations differ in each denomination, most use their One Great Hour of Sharing funds to make possible disaster relief, refugee assistance, and development aid.
Contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing make a difference in the lives of real people. Leaders of impacted communities identify the needs of their people. Priorities for short, medium and long-term solutions are then made for the purpose of improving the quality of life for individuals and the communities. Around the world, One Great Hour of Sharing continues to respond to needs equally critical as when it was first created.
Week of Compassion
In 1950, Week Of Compassion, begun in 1944 by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), joined eight other Protestant bodies in One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS), a program initiated by Church World Service. Although the various denominations had pooled their resources to enact relief programs for several years, OGHS allowed American Protestants to combine their fundraising efforts for the first time. Like Week Of Compassion (WOC), the name OGHS stuck even after it expanded from its inception as an hour-long radio broadcast to a more extended system of promotions. Because the popularity of WOC had already been established among Disciples, they maintained this distinctive name, but began using the appeal materials developed in conjunction with the other churches, who adopted the name OGHS. Both the name and the popularity of WOC remain strong after sixty years, in spite of many changes in the structure of the denomination.
WOC’s success has always depended on its relationships, both with congregations and with the partners who implement the projects it funds. No programs are initiated by WOC itself. Instead, it connects Disciples resources to churches seeking to address local needs, whether in Lake Charles, Louisiana, or Sarajevo, Bosnia.