The Christian Preservation Project
The "Christian Movement" in UCC History
Project Coordinator: Barbara Brown Zikmund
Rationale: In the history of the United Church of Christ there are readily available historical resources on local congregations and wider church bodies within Congregational, German Reformed and German Evangelical traditions, but very few resources and fading knowledge about the "Christians" who united with the Congregationalists in 1931 to form the General Council of the Congregational and Christian Churches. We say that "four streams became one" to produce the UCC, but UCC church members have little knowledge of that fourth stream. There is greater awareness of African American Congregationalists, American Indians and various immigrant histories than of the Christians. Furthermore, as people and congregations rooted in the Christian movement age/die, and institutional memories are diluted by time and local mergers, the fragile story of the Christians is fading. Today there are only about 250 (5%) local UCC congregations that trace their origins to the Christian movement.
1. Gathering a group of church members, local church historians and scholars for a half day meeting on Thursday afternoon, June 25, 2009 before General Synod begins in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The goal of that session is to refine next steps to preserve and disseminate knowledge about the Christian heritage in the UCC.
2. Establishing an email network of interested parties who attend and those who are unable to attend to cultivate and share knowledge about this Christian legacy.
3. Developing a list of research sub-topics related to the Christian story: e.g. Afro-Christians, regional variations and leaders (New England, the South and the Midwest), publication efforts, revivalism, worship traditions, theological issues (anti-creedalism, baptism), hymnody, educational activities, domestic and foreign mission work, wider church structures (conferences and conventions), their relationship to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian women, merger with the Congregationalists, etc.
4. Making assignments for chapters in a book, or parts of a new web-page devoted to the Christian heritage in the United Church of Christ (similar to the Hidden Histories books).
5. Locating fugitive Christian resources in libraries and local congregations and encouraging preservation and consolidation of materials in a handful of repositories to ensure that things will not be lost and that scholars will have access. Creating a single "finding aid" for all these Christian materials to aid future research.
6. Locating people who are rooted in and knowledgeable about Christian history and doing oral history interviews with them for the UCC Archives.
7. Developing specific ways to raise awareness in the UCC about its Christian forebears and highlighting how its values and commitments are important to the UCC today.