The Amistad Chapel at the United Church of Christ’s Church House — the building in downtown Cleveland housing the denomination’s national offices, hotel and worship space — is becoming a vibrant center of faith and culture in Northeast Ohio. That new mission is a continuation of the UCC’s ‘Faith, In’ project that promotes a love of community through faith.
But tours of the Church House and open worship services on Wednesdays and Saturdays are only a small glimpse into what the full scope of the Amistad is called to do, as the Rev. Kathryn Matthews Huey leads the Amistad Chapel’s mission of connecting with people in downtown Cleveland.
"This ministry is expanding to make the Amistad a place for an arts, hospitality, worship and justice outreach," said Huey, dean of the UCC’s Amistad Chapel. "We want an outreach to the wider church and also to downtown Cleveland."
A quartet of congregations was welcomed to experience that outreach just this week.
Four churches from the Tiffin, Ohio, area visited the Church House on Saturday, Feb. 15, as almost 30 youth members and a dozen adults helped lead the afternoon worship service in the 4,800-foot chapel space. The four congregations were Trinity UCC, Republic UCC, Sycamore UCC and Community UCC (Fort Seneca).
"We’re very close in vicinity and we know each other as pastors, so we planned our confirmand classes together," said the Rev. Darla Metz, pastor at Republic UCC. "We wanted to take the class on a trip to the offices and have them worship here for this. Kate has been wonderful in organizing everything for our group."
Youths and adults were invited to be part of the call to worship, reading from the Gospel, helping with communion and sharing ideas on random acts of kindness.
Two officers of the church were also in attendance. The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president preached to the visitors after the Rev. J. Bennett Guess belted out a few bars singing along with Saturday’s music.
"This is your place. The Amistad Chapel is your Chapel, and we welcome you to this place," Black said. "We are thankful that in the communities where you live, you are the UCC. When people where you live think of the UCC, they see you, the way you live, the way you treat each other."
In closing, Black’s sermon was a reminder that great things await them.
"Jesus reminds with our failures and faults that God Continues to love us and invites us to a higher calling," Black said. "Friends, you are called to be heard. Won’t you give it a try?"
At the conclusion of worship, Huey invited everyone gathered to bring their gifts — in this case, donations to the weekly food offering that will be given to the food pantry at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Cleveland.
Huey shared the story of the Amistad Chapel, which underwent renovations in 2000 to look the way it does today.
"When we came to Cleveland in the 1990s, this was a telephone building," Huey said, explaining the transformation of an old brick building into the chapel. "A group of people had a vision to have a place of prayer at the offices of the United Church of Christ."
The Rev. Becky Jones, pastor at Community UCC liked the openness of the Amistad’s design. "I love the light that shines in. I think of the bright light of Christ when I see it. There’s so much light in this space and we’ll take all that with us.
"And I love the flowing water near the entrance," Jones continued. "It’s such a sense of birth when we come into the chapel and when we go back out into the world."
Anyone interested in arranging a tour of the chapel can contact Jan Gomoll, UCC hospitality, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-736-3809.