Inspired by the UCC's 2008 Our Faith Our Vote program, the Valley City (N.D.) Congregational UCC is holding lunchtime forums where participants will study and discuss the autobiographies of John McCain and Barack Obama.
In September, the group focused its attention on McCain's "Faith of My Fathers," and is reflecting on Obama's "Dreams from My Father" in October.
The group's intent is to foster a non-partisan dialog on candidates' positions and explore influences of their life that made them the people and public servants they are today.
The Rev. Dorothy "Darcy" Borden, associate minister of spiritual care and youth, has a passion for government and says, "We should be informed citizens and the church should play a nonpartisan role in helping people make decisions.
"We are better off when we question and dialog about issues. If you hear something [about the candidates], it is good to ask what shaped them to have this idea or platform," she says in reference to the autobiographies. "McCain's experience as the son of an admiral — his military service and being a POW. Obama growing up in Indonesia and Hawaii, and being the son of a single mother. These events shaped them — and we all come to our beliefs from some place of experience."
News of the discussion group was carried by a local paper and the response of the congregation and community has been positive. "We have a very engaged congregation who wants to be informed on the issues and candidates. We talk about [the issues] during lunch after church anyway," says Borden. "We decided to offer the group at lunch during the week so that people can get away from work to attend."
Borden admits she lives in a divided house — her husband, the Rev. Carl Borden, senior minister at the church, and she support different candidates in the upcoming election. This dilemma informs the intentions of the candidate discussion group.
"Just like families, churches have to be able to talk about issues as they come up," she says of these differences. "Hopefully, we can all have a civil discussion regarding the questions that matter most to us."
Borden hopes to see the church become a resource for the community in many areas, including political dialog. "The reason I joined the UCC is that we won't shy away from tough issues," she says. "There is a sense that you don't want to touch the sacred cows — but we have to help people look into the pen."
Reflecting on her pastoral responsibilities and a call to care for the whole person, Borden says, "It's about being active in your community, knowing that some of us are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, students — and we all have different concerns. There are a lot of things going on where we, as the church, can equip people to talk about issues and to share what is on their mind."