Pastor Tito Cevallos, the Rev. Fred Krauss, Rev. Beth and the Rev. Mike Solberg hold up a certificate to celebrate the UCC standing of Shalom Comunidad De Paz in late April 2013 while at Saint John UCC in Belvidere, Ill.
Promise Metropolitan Community Church, located in the northern area of Dallas known as Oak Cliff, fulfilled a search for unity and a feeling of rebirth this spring, when it was accepted into the United Church of Christ. Dozens of other congregations, like Promise, also found the UCC to be the right fit.
"Promise has been active in social justice issues, supportive of the neighboring elementary school, and continues its commitment to the community in various ways, including ministry to AIDS Services of Dallas, where the Church provides supper for residents in one of their apartment buildings once each month," explained the church co-pastors, the Rev. Jon Haack and the Rev. Leonard Dacy. Like the UCC, the pair wrote in the South Central Conference newsletter, Promise UCC is racially diverse, with a mix of LGBT and heterosexual members.
Promise UCC, which has just been accepted into the Houston Association of the South Central Conference, comes to the UCC from the MCC, where it was a parish extension of another church. The congregation practices a blended worship style with music, preaching and communion each week.
ANEW UCC, a new church start in Mitchell, S.D., has already become an "Open and Affirming" congregation with a focus on peace and justice advocacy. Accepted into the Two Rivers Association of the South Dakota Conference in late April, ANEW UCC’s members wanted to be part of the UCC from the beginning, said pastor the Rev. Kristi McLaughlin, because it was founded by UCC people who "wanted to do church differently."
"They do not want to be tied to a building or documentation that describes their way of being 'church' together," McLaughlin added. "Thus, we worship in a building that serves people with disabilities, we meet once a month to do the 'business' of the church and everyone is invited and has equal power with decisions made by agreement rather than vote."
McLaughlin sees the congregation’s members as a diverse group that is "on the bleeding edge of the emerging church in a community that tends to be fairly 'conservative,’" she said. "If folks see a mission or a project they want to do, they bring it and if it gains energy, it is done."
Promise UCC and ANEW UCC are just two of several congregations that have joined the United Church of Christ or have been planted in the last 12 months. The number is sure to grow as the UCC's Local Church Ministries continues to tally the total as conferences report new churches following annual meetings this spring. As part of General Synod 2013 this summer, all the new congregations will be celebrated during morning plenary on Saturday, June 29 in Long Beach, Calif., and welcomed to the UCC.
The Rev. David Schoen says with each passing week his Congregational Vitality and Discipleship team learns of new congregations that wish to become part of the denomination.
"Each spring it is exciting to see the number of new churches that are joining the UCC, as well as being planted in the UCC," Schoen said. "We will have a good group of new churches in the UCC to celebrate at General Synod this summer."
Below is the partial list of churches that have been accepted either as standing members or new formations into the conferences of the UCC. A full list will be announced prior to General Synod 2013.
Illinois Conference SHALOM Comunidad De Paz (Community of Peace), Rockford, Ill. ANEW Church, Chicago, Ill. Namaste’, Chicago, Ill. Root and Branch Christian Church, Chicago, Ill.
Southern California-Nevada Conference Abundant Peace UCC, Las Vegas, Nev. Mary Magdalene Friends, Las Vegas, Nev. New Beginning Congregational UCC of Los Altos, Long Beach, Calif. West Hollywood UCC, Los Angeles, Calif. Immanuel Latino Ministries, Los Angeles, Calif. Fiesta Cristiana, Moreno Valley, Calif. (a)Spire Ministry (a ministry of First Congregational UCC), Pasadena, Calif. Samoan Congregational Christian Church, Carson, Calif.
South Dakota Conference ANEW UCC, Mitchell S.D.
New York Conference East Aurora Christian Church, East Aurora, N.Y.
South Central Conference Promise MCC-UCC, Dallas, Texas Cathedral of Hope-Houston, Houston, Texas