Written by Vahan H. Tootikian
The history of Armenian Evangelicalism goes back to the second quarter of the nineteenth century. On July 1, 1846 thirty-seven men and three women established the Armenian Evangelical Church in the mission chapel in the Pera section of Istanbul (then Constantinople), Turkey. Four years later, on November 27, 1850, the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Medjid granted formal recognition to the newly established curch.
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), composed of Presbyterian and Congregational mission-minded people, played a decisive role in the rise of the Armenian Evangelical Church. Founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1810, and incorporated in 1812, the Board was one of the earliest missionary societies. Its aim was "to evangelize the heathen in foreign lands."  One of the Board?s prominent mission fields was the Middle East, where missionaries began work in 1819 with instructions to "evangelize" Jews and Muslims.  Resistance from these two established religious groups frustrated the best efforts of the missionaries, so they changed their strategy; they turned to native Christian agents to reach the non-Christians. To this end they approached various Eastern Orthodox churches. All except the Armenian Apostolic Church proved obdurate. Why?
The Armenians seem to have been imbued with a tremendous desire for learning and social progress. As a result, many of them were receptive and broad-minded toward the American missionaries and their projects.  This spirit of educational progress among Armenians opened the way for closer contact with the Armenian clergy and laypeople.
When the missionaries of the American Board began their work among Armenians, in 1831, the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire was experiencing a cultural renaissance, a revival of thinking in the social, economic, and intellectual realms. So the soil was fertile and ready for a religious awakening. In 1836 a group of reformists established a secret society named Parebashdoutian Miapanautune (The Society of the Pious), in order to reform the Armenian Apostolic Church.  The organization of this Society may properly be said to mark the beginning of Armenian Evangelicalism. 
The reformists met the strong resistance and opposition of the ruling Armenian magnates, the amiras, and the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. Failure to reform the Armenian Apostolic Church continued to be a basic source of conflict. The reformists pushed their demands, which provoked strong retaliation from the Armenian patriarchate. Persecution and the formal act of excommunication by Patriarch Matteos Choohajian forced them to organize themselves into a separate religious community, the Protestant Millet.  All along the American missionaries stood by the Evangelicals and gave them spiritual, moral, and financial support.
Within a decade after its birth the Armenian Evangelical Church had grown by leaps and bounds. In order to administer the increased scope of the missionary work that followed the growth, and because of geographical proximity and organizational considerations, Armenian Protestantism was organized into church Unions. The first Unions were organized in Turkey, in the 1860s: Bithynia Union (1864), Eastern Union (1866), Cilician Union (1867), and Central Union (1868).  Then, at the turn of the century, two Unions were organized in America: the Armenian Evangelical Union of Eastern States (1901) and the Armenian Evangelical Union of California (1908). In May of 1914, immediately before the start of World War I, the Armenian Evangelicals organized the first Union in Armenia: the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches of Ararat. Thus before World War I the Armenian Evangelicals throughout the world counted seven Unions, with 178 churches. 
The Turkish genocide of the Armenians between 1915 and 1922 wiped out all the Armenian Evangelical Unions and most of the churches and their members in Turkey. The survivors of the massacres, "the Remnant," managed to organize two Unions in the 1920s in their new lands of adoption: the Armenian Evangelical Union of Syria and Lebanon (Cilicia)  and the Armenian Evangelical Union of France. Armenian Protestantism was reduced to four Unions. Since the merger of the two Unions in America, in 1971, the Armenian Evangelical Church has comprised three Unions.
Work of the American Board
In 1870 the two denominations that supported the American Board divided the supervision of the mission field between themselves; the Congregationalists were to be in charge of the native Protestants in Turkey and the Balkan countries and the Presbyterians were to assume responsibility for Arabic-speaking countries and Iran.  From then on the Armenian Evangelical churches in Turkey, and those of their members who escaped or survived the Turkish horrors and settled in the Near East and America, became closely affiliated with the Congregational denomination.
The American missionaries rendered invaluable services to the Armenian people, especially in the areas of education, philanthropy, culture, politics, and religion.
Education. Through their educational institutions, ranging from kindergarten to college, the American missionaries supplemented in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the Armenian intellectual renaissance initiated by the Mekhitarists in the eighteenth century. To have an idea of the educational contribution of the American missionaries to the Armenians one has to look at the statistical account of the American schools as of 1913, the year preceding World War I: 10 colleges, with 1,748 students; 46 boarding and high schools, with 4,090 students; 3 theological seminaries, with 24 students; 8 industrial schools; 2 schools for the deaf and the blind; and 369 other schools directly or indirectly connected with the American Board, with 19,361 students. By the end of the war, in 1918, most of these schools had ceased to exist. 
Education became an attainable goal for all Armenians, without discrimination. Thousands of Armenian young people received their higher education at the American Board's institutions of higher learning, and many graduated from these schools to assume leadership roles in the Armenian community. Higher education became a viable option even for females, who, until the advent of institutions run by the American missionaries, had been excluded.
The missionary schools graduated a large number of women who, in turn, became educators of the younger generations of Armenians. In fact, toward the end of the nineteenth century the majority of teachers in Armenian elementary schools were female graduates and undergraduates from American missionary colleges, seminaries, and teacher-training institutions.  As a result of higher education, the status of women was elevated in a male-dominated society.
Philanthropy. The American Congregational missionaries rendered a valuable service to the less-privileged Armenians by their constant assistance. Through their orphanages, nursing homes, hospitals, and dispensaries they ministered to the physical needs of many. In the interior provinces of Turkey, where there were no medical facilities, the health services provided by the missionaries played a providential role. Countless lives were saved, thanks to the medical skill of missionary physicians and nurses.
During World War I, when 1.5 million Armenians were massacred with unparalleled brutality and another million were uprooted from their ancestral homeland and driven into the deserts of Syria without benefit of experienced leaders, the American Congregational missionaries assumed the role of good Samaritans. They mobilized all their resources and came to the aid of the battered Armenians. Because of their vision and initiative, the Near East Relief was organized, in 1915. A philanthropic and lifesaving institution second to none in that part of the world, the Near East Relief embraced and served almost every area need—social, educational, physical, and economic. It provided food for the starving survivors of the massacres, rescue homes for girls who had escaped from Muslim harems, medical care, relief for the sick, and orphanages. Moreover, it opened elementary schools for children and vocational schools for young adults and organized community health and recreational programs and industrial enterprises to teach various trades. During its fourteen-year existence the Near East Relief raised and expended $85 million for Armenians, and as Howard M. Sachar maintains, "it quite literally kept the entire Armenian people in the Near East alive." 
Literature and culture. One of the most valuable services the American missionaries performed was the translation of the Holy Bible into modern Armenian (Ashkharapar) by a competent team of linguists and scholars under the capable leadership of Elias Riggs. Until the middle of the nineteenth century the only Bible available to the Armenians was the classical Armenian (Krapar) Bible, which none but a small educated elite could read or understand. The Ashkharapar scripture made the Bible accessible to almost all Armenians.
In addition, the American missionaries published grammars. commentaries, religious books and educational pamphlets in modern Armenian. The missionary press in New York made a great contribution to the development of modern Armenian by publishing in the vernacular. 
Political freedom and social justice. The American Congregational missionaries played a decisive role in the whole area of political freedom and justice for the Armenian populace in the Ottoman Empire. The oppressive Ottoman rule and the Turkish government?s harassment militated against the Armenians in Turkey economically, socially, and politically, insofar as their religious life was concerned.
Because of the Armenians? historical claim to ancestral lands and their demands for basic human rights the Turks considered them a political threat, treated them as second-class citizens, and denied them certain fundamental freedoms. For more than four centuries the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were forced to live in absolute obedience to Turkish rule. The American missionaries, coming from a free and democratic country, advocated the principle of the inviolability of freedom of thought and conscience. This principle struck a responsive chord among Armenians, who, throughout their history, had cherished freedom even at the cost of their lives. 
Religious and spiritual values. The Congregational missionaries made a contribution to the spiritual realm of Armenians by introducing new methods of developing a vital Christian community, by laying the foundation for the proper understanding of the role of the laity in the mission of the church, by encouraging Christian outreach, by making the Bible accessible to laypeople in a vernacular edition they could read, and by encouraging the study of the scripture. Not only did they meet the needs of the emerging Armenian Evangelical Church, but they also brought about a spiritual revival among the Armenian people. 
In short, the Congregational missionaries made major contributions—contributions sufficient to ensure them an important place in the cultural history of the Armenian nation.
It must be said, however, that in spite of all their great contributions, the American missionaries were not wholeheartedly welcomed by all Armenians. The Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul (then Constantinople), for instance, became apprehensive in view of the headway the American mission had made among Armenians. The Patriarchate and some lay leaders of the Armenian Apostolic Church saw in the reform movement the meddling influence of the missionaries in the internal life of their church—an intrusion. The intruders in this case were foreigners with a completely different theological and psychological background. These Armenians argued that the motives of the missionaries were not so much the spread of the gospel (i.e., evangelism) as the spread of American Protestantism (i.e., proselytism). But the Armenian Evangelicals, along with the American missionaries, have insisted that the rationale for the missionaries? presence was to revive the Armenian Apostolic Church so that it in turn could reach out to non-Christian groups such as the Jews and the Muslims.
Unfortunately, the question of evangelism vs. proselytism remains unresolved. In the end, the issue is a matter of personal interpretation. Two views persist. Some people insist that since the Armenians were already Christians and did not need the good news, they were converted to Protestantism. Their evidence? The creation of an Armenian Protestant Church. Others insist that the American missionaries evangelized the Armenian nation. Their argument is that the early Armenian Evangelicals were not coerced into changing their religion, nor were they required to join a foreign Protestant denomination. By and large, Evangelical Armenians consider themselves evangelized; non-Evangelical Armenians consider the Armenian Evangelicals as proselytized.
Whatever the relative merits of these two conclusions may be, no one can deny that the American missionaries rendered invaluable services to the Armenian people.
Immigrants relate to Congregationalism
Because of their close association with Congregational missionaries, Armenians who immigrated to the United States during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century began to organize Armenian Congregational churches. The churches were composed primarily of Armenian immigrants who had fled the oppression and persecution of the Turkish government. These immigrants organized their churches not by deliberate choice, but "by pressure of necessity."  They were unfamiliar with the language and the customs of their new country, and in some cases they were not welcomed by the congregations of the local American Protestant churches.  They wanted to worship in their own language and they wanted one another?s company.
During the initial period of organization most of the Armenian Congregational churches in America were founded by laity, because most Armenian Evangelical ministers were still in their homeland. These churches were the "exact facsimile of the churches the early immigrants had left behind."  They were typically Armenian in all respects—language, traditions, customs, and patterns of thought and belief. Thus these churches provided places of worship for an immigrant people who were by language and culture identified with the old country. They gave guidance for the spiritual growth and solidarity of the Armenian Evangelical constituency and provided benevolent and financial support for Armenians in need overseas. 
Although the majority of the twenty-four Armenian Evangelical churches in the United States were founded before World War I, it was not until after the Turkish massacres of the Armenians that a stream of immigrants reached America and strengthened Armenian Protestantism numerically as well as financially. 
The first Armenian church established on the North American continent was an Armenian Congregational church—the Armenian Congregational Church of the Martyrs in Worcester, Massachusetts—founded in 1881.  All the early members and ministers of the Armenian Evangelical churches in America were immigrants from Cilicia and Armenia, survivors of persecutions and massacres. They were determined to salvage and serve the Armenian Remnant and to preserve the Armenian heritage by founding new churches and cultural organizations. The majority of the early Armenian Evangelicals in America cherished the Congregational way of worship and church polity that they had learned about from the Congregational Board missionaries. They wanted to organize churches in which they could enjoy all the freedoms that their conscience directed. 
The Armenian Evangelical Union of Eastern States, which included all the Armenian Evangelical churches east of the Mississippi River, was founded in 1901, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Later, in 1960, when the Armenian Evangelical churches of Toronto and Montreal joined the Union, the name was changed to Armenian Evangelical Union of Eastern States and Canada.
The California Union was organized in May 1908 and was first called the Armenian Congregational Union of California, but so that Armenian Presbyterian churches might join in, its name was changed to the Armenian Evangelical Union of California. 
In their early days most of the Armenian Congregational churches in America received moral and financial support from the Congregational churches,  but the majority soon became self-sufficient. Moreover, they even extended aid to Armenian churches in the homeland and helped further the reestablishment of Armenian Evangelical churches in the Armenian diaspora. 
Within a brief span of time the Armenian Congregational churches organized viable Christian Endeavor Societies, missionary committees, women?s and men?s clubs, fellowships, church schools, and other auxiliary groups. They participated in the benevolent efforts of Armenian relief, such as Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Near East Relief, the Wheat Relief Campaign, and other compatriotic organizations.  The Armenian Congregational churches also provided strong leadership in Armenian community affairs. Their spiritual and lay leaders, for instance, played a decisive role in the founding of the Knights of Vartan, a pan-Armenian brotherhood. They became the largest single group of contributors to one of the most influential magazines in the Armenian diaspora,Hayastan Gotchan.  The support of both the pastors and parishioners of the Armenian Evangelical constituency in the United States combined to make the Armenian General Benevolent Union the largest Armenian benevolent organization in the world.
Understandably, the attitude of the first generation of Armenian immigrants was one of ethnocentrism. Both internal and external forces tended to keep them united and reinforced in their distinctiveness. This attitude sought the assurance of their long-range stability.
The Second Generation
The native-born children of immigrants were able to follow a different road in reacting to their American environment. The new attitude of the American-born generation resulted from the common English language, uniform secular education in the public schools, uniform political institutions, and general economic and business relationships. In this way acculturation was effected principally in the fields of education, politics, economics, and religion. 
The offspring of Armenian immigrants, the generation that was born in the adopted country of their parents, went through a transitional period. Members of this generation had mixed feelings about their heritage, never being wholly certain whether it was best to disown it entirely or to seek some happy but seemingly elusive middle ground. It was this generation, for example, that changed the language policy of the Armenian Evangelical churches. Until the late 1940s the principal language of the Armenian Evangelical churches and the then existing two Unions was Armenian; English, the second language, was used predominantly by youth and its organizations. The first church to reverse its language policy was the Cilician Armenian Memorial Church of Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1949.  In this respect it became the pioneer of an experiment and by its success gave other Armenian Evangelical churches an example to follow.
The autonomy of individual Armenian Evangelical churches also opened the way to denationalization. For example, in some Armenian Evangelical circles in America a strong controversy existed from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s concerning the issue of ethnicity versus denationalization. Some ministers openly advocated the abandonment of unique Armenian characteristics of their churches in favor of community churches open to all nationalities. Others insisted that the raison d'?tre of an Armenian church is its unique character, that the abandonment of this Armenian character in Armenian Evangelical churches is a betrayal of Armenian history "written in the blood of countless martyrs."  A few churches toyed with the idea of becoming community churches, of dropping the appellation "Armenian" from the church name, of abandoning their ethnic heritage, and of opening the church to the community at large in order to attract and recruit members from the local community. Some of these churches even employed non-Armenian ministers. But their experimentation proved to be counterproductive. Not only did they fail to attract any new members from the local communities, but they also lost some of the current members in protest against changes that reflected, in their view, an "unwise policy." 
Armenian Missionary Association of America
One great source of pride and glory of Armenian Evangelicalism in general and of Armenian Congregational churches in America in particular is the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). Founded on June 7, 1918, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the AMAA was not only a compassionate attempt to help the Armenian remnant materially and morally, but also a prophetic voice that perhaps more than any other influence in the postwar years kept the embers alive. Sustained at first only by their zeal and fervor, the exiled Armenian Evangelicals mustered the courage to live on as a tiny community in the Middle Eastern countries. The AMAA provided guidance at a time when a great deal of uncertainty and confusion prevailed. A joint Outreach Committee was organized, composed of representatives of the AMAA and the American Board. This joint benevolent committee devised a plan to aid the needy and developing Armenian Evangelical churches and organizations in the Near East. Gradually, the American Board decreased its contribution and the AMAA increased its portion. 
Since its inception the AMAA has been not only the missionary arm of the Armenian Congregational churches in North America, but also the "golden chain" binding all Armenian Evangelicals throughout the world. It has drawn them together and has become a source of assistance embodying intense concern for all Armenians in need, always answering the call for help. As a nonprofit, nonpolitical missionary and philanthropic organization, the AMAA has supplied vision and material support as well as moral inspiration to Armenians everywhere. It has achieved an outstanding record of service in educational, cultural, physical, spiritual, and moral spheres—a service broader today than ever before—and has consistently contributed to a myriad of worthy causes. The AMAA has developed a missionary outreach in thirteen countries, serving underprivileged Armenians through numerous missionary projects, such as child education sponsorships, college and seminary scholarships, medical and general relief provisions, widespread missionary outreach and activities, encouragement of neophyte mission centers, financial aid to religious publications and meeting the needs of the destitute and forgotten.
Armenian Evangelical Union of North America
Another proud accomplishment of the Armenian Evangelicals in America was the creation of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America (AEU-NA). The AEU-NA was the product of the merger of the Armenian Evangelical Union of Eastern States and Canada, Inc., and the Armenian Evangelical Union of California, Inc. After more than six decades of separate existence the twenty-one churches and three fellowships of these two Unions united, in 1971, into one Christian group "to uphold one another in their needs, to work together in mutual respect, ... to work for the Kingdom of God, to promote their general welfare and their missionary outreach." 
Since its inception the AEU-NA has embarked on a number of ventures and has accomplished some important undertakings, including:
The 75th Anniversary One-Million-Dollar Campaign for the purpose of promoting religious, educational, and cultural programs as well as sustaining and strengthening the Armenian Evangelical churches in North America.
The establishment of two new churches—one in Hollywood, California, and the other in Cambridge, Ontario.
The organization of new fellowships in California—one in San Diego and the other in San Jose.
The creation of a Long-Range Planning Committee to evaluate and reassess the present status of the AEU-NA and to chart a new course for the future.
The establishment of a Christian Education camp (Camp Arev) in California.
The publication of a newsletter, AEU-NA Forum, and a bulletin, AEU-NA Updae.
The merger of the Armenian Protestant Youth Fellowship and Armenian Christian Endeavor Union of California into one body—Armenian Evangelical Youth Fellowship.
The establishment of the Armenian Evangelical Social Service Center in Hollywood, California.
The creation of the office of Executive Secretary.
The creation of a Task Force on Ecumenicity for the purpose of strengthening ties with the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The participation in the First World Conference of Armenian Evangelicals convened by the AMAA.
Publication of the Armenian Evangelical Hymnal in 1976.
Today Armenian Evangelicals in America are a small minority. Their constituency comprises twenty churches, with a total communicant membership of about four thousand and an additional four thousand supporting members, youth, and church school pupils. By the 1950s fourteen of these churches were part of the Congregational Christian denomination. In 1957, when the Evangelical and Reformed Church united with the Congregational Christian Churches to form the United Church of Christ, all fourteen of these Armenian Congregational churches  decided to become part of the larger body. Since then they have been contributing financially and spiritually to the denomination. They have dual allegiances: Ethnically, they are Armenian Evangelical and belong to the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America; denominationally, they are loyal to the United Church of Christ.
Some of these Armenian Congregational churches are small in number. Not only do they lack a central wellspring of vitality, but they are also battling for survival. They have been experiencing declining membership and attendance. Others, particularly those in California, have managed to do more than merely survive. Owing to the influx of Armenian immigrants from the Middle Eastern countries and Soviet Armenia they are growing numerically and have been showing signs of vitality, including some significant achievements in terms of building programs, finances, and religious and ethnic activities.
Overall, the contributions of the Armenian Congregational churches in America to contemporary denominational and ethnic life are noteworthy despite the churches? minority status and their many problems.
At present the Armenian Congregational churches not only support generously the local Associations and Conferences, but many of their ministers and lay leaders also serve the denomination through various agencies, boards, and committees. It is heartwarming to note that in the past two decades more than a score of Armenian Congregational pastors have ministered or still are ministering to non-Armenian churches.
In some ways Armenian Congregationalism has come of age; it is no longer a dependent movement. It is self-supporting and self-reliant and has developed its own material, intellectual, and spiritual resources to the extent of not only helping itself but also going beyond.
Vahan H. Tootikian is the pastor of Armenian Congregational Church of Greater Detroit, Michigan. Author of The Armenian Evangelical Church (1982) and Reflections of an Armenian (1980).
1. William E. Strong, The Story of the American Board (Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1910), p. 3. 2. Edwin M. Bliss, A Concise History of Missions (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1897), p. 128.
3. O. G. H. Dwight, Christianity Revived in the Near East (New York: Baker and Scribner, 1850), pp. 327?29.
4. American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Annual Report (Boston, 1836), p. 15.
5. Stepan Eutudjian, Dzakoumn Yev Entatzn Avedaranaganootyan Ee Hais (The Rise and Course of Evangelicalism Among Armenians) (Constantinople: Arax Press, 1914), pp. 10-15.
6. Yeghia S. Kassouny, Loossashavigh (The Path of Light: History of the Armenian Evangelical Movement) (Beirut: American Press, 1947), pp. 19-24. Also, Dicran J. Kherlopian, Vossgemadian (Golden Anniversary. A History of the Armenian Evangelical Movement and the Armenian Evangelical Union of the Near East), vol. 1 (Beirut: Armenian Evangelical Union of the Near East, 1950), p. 4. The word millet is derived from the Arabic milla, used in the sense of religious community. In the Ottoman Empire the non-Muslim subjects were organized in semiautonomous bodies called millets.
7. Leon Arpee, A History of Armenian Christianity (New York: Armenian Missionary Association of America, 1946), pp. 240?41.
8. The Armenian Evangelical historian Yeghia Kassouny states that although the ?Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches of Ararat? was organized in May of 1914, the Armenian Evangelicals could not hold Union meetings before 1919 because of World War I. They started holding meetings after Armenia became an independent republic. Annual conventions were held regularly until 1926. By 1927, because of government restrictions, the Union was dissolved as church life was disrupted. Kassouny, op. cit., pp. 452?54.
9. A. A. Bedikian, ?The Armenian Evangelical Churches in America,? The Bulletin (a quarterly publication of Armenian Evangelical Union: New York, 1962) 8, no. 3:25.
10. The Armenian Evangelical Union of Syria and Lebanon (Cilicia) assumed the name Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East (UAEC-NE) in 1930.
11. James S. Dennis, Foreign Missions After a Century (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1893), p. 180.
12. Yervant H. Hadidian, American Contribution to Armenian Culture, Armenian/American Outlook (New York: Joint Publication of the Armenian Evangelical Union and Armenian Missionary Association of America, Inc.) 9, no. 1:3-4.
13. Gorun Shrikian, Armenians Under the Ottoman Empire and the American Missions Influence (Ph.D. diss. Concordia Seminary in Exile in cooperation with Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1977), 450-51.
14. Howard Sachar, The Emergence of the Middle East: 1914-1924 (New York: Knopf, 1969), p. 345.
15. Vahan H. Tootikian, The Armenian Evangelical Church (Detroit Armenian Heritage Committee, 1982), p. 29.
16. Ibid., p. 30.
17. Ibid., p. 31.
18. Bedikian, op. cit., p. 23.
19. In the annals of the Armenian Evangelical churches in America there are a number of cases of discrimination against Armenian Evangelicals in the cities of Boston, Worcester, and Fresno by local Congregational Church members. But these in no way reflected a segregationist policy on the part of official church bodies.
20. Bedikian, op. cit., p. 23.
21. Vartkes Kassouni, The Past Our Honor—The Future Our Challenge, Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Booklet of the First Armenian Presbyterian Church (Fresno: n.p., 1974), p. 6.
22. The mass immigration of the Armenians to America began after the massacres of 1895, and later, after the Turkish atrocities of 1915, which forced thousands of refugees to find shelter on distant American shores. In 1910 the figure reached 70,000, rising to 130,000 in 1920. Today the Armenians in the United States number somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000.
23. Herald A. G. Hassessian, The 75th Anniversary of the Armenian Church of the Martyrs, Worcester, Mass., Armenian/American Outlook 4, no. 3:17-18.
24. Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church, 1901-1976 (Fresno: Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church, 1976), p. 4.
25. Hagop Chakinakjian, The Armenian Evangelical Union of California, Armenian Evangelical Union Bulletin, 7, nos. 3 and 4 (1961):23.
26. Harry M. Missirlian, Our Armenian Heritage, Pilgrim?s Progress (Fresno: weekly publication of Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church) 3, no. 140(1975):1.
27. A. A. Bedikian makes a significant observation concerning the relationship of the Armenian Evangelical churches in America to those of the homeland. He writes: ?The providential fact should be noted that the Armenian Evangelical churches in the land of their nativity had attained some maturity during their first fifty years of their history.. . . They had, in a sense, mothered the churches in the United States, in their childhood; these, in turn, attaining robust adulthood, responded to the call of the stricken mother in her agony of death and gave her life.? See Bedikian, op. cit., p. 24.
28. Chakmakjian, op. cit. 8 (1962):31.
29. Two long-time and most prominent editors of Hayastani Gotchnag were two veteran Armenian Evangelical ministers, the Rev. Khachadour Benneyan and the Rev. Antranig Bedikian. Also, a host of Armenian Evangelical intellectuals, with their scholarly articles, gave the magazine a most enviable status.
30. Zaven Arzoumanian, The Armenian Religious Cultural Community of America, The Armenian Church (New York: Organ of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, 1978) 9:3.
31. Yervant H. Hadidian, Our Thirteen Years Together, The Armenian Memorial Church Bulletin (Watertown: monthly publication of Armenian Memorial Church, MS. 1963), p. 2.
32. A. A. Bedikian, A Time for Reevaluation of the Mission of Our Churches, Armenian Evangelical Union of America and Armenian Missionary Association of America (Barrington, VT: Armenian Information Bureau, 1960), p. 1.
33. Tootikian, op. cit., p. 192.
34. Ibid., pp. 63-64.
35. Armenian Evangelical Union of North America Constitution and By-Laws (Detroit, 1974), p. 1.
36. The fourteen Armenian churches are First Armenian Church, Belmont, MA; Armenian Congregational Church, Chicago; Armenian Congregational Church of Greater Detroit, Southfield, MI; Immanuel Armenian Congregational Church, Downey, CA; Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church, Fresno, CA; Armenian Martyrs? Congregational Church, Havertown, PA; Armenian Evangelical Church, New York City; Armenian Cilicia Congregational Church, Pasadena, CA; Armenian Euphrates Evangelical Church, Providence, RI; Armenian Ararat Congregational Church, Salem, NH; Calvary Armenian Congregational Church, San Francisco; United Armenian Calvary Congregational Church, Troy, NY; Armenian Memorial Church, Watertown, MA; The Armenian Congregational Church of the Martyrs, Worcester, MA.
Written by William G. Chrystal
Congregationalism was ideally suited to the frontier, and Missionary Superintendent Julius Reed, one of Iowa Congregationalism's "sacred seven," thought it could provide German immigrants with a well-anchored religious life. According to George Eisenach, premier historian of the German movement, Reed "secured a number of German ministers and missionaries from Germany and Switzerland and from denominations in this country which had German preaching." He also petitioned the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS) for financial support. 
The AHMS, organized by four denominations in 1826 but funded and directed mainly by Congregationalists and Presbyterians, supported a variety of German pastors and churches, including Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, and Evangelical, in addition to Congregationalists. For example, no fewer than twenty-one pastors of the Kirchenverein des Westen (later the German Evangelical Synod of North America) received half their salaries from the AHMS between 1841 and 1862. 
Members of the AHMS had grown uneasy about aiding pastors and churches with lax membership standards. They abhorred the custom of admitting to full communion anyone who had a confirmation certificate, although this was a common practice in Germany.
That the membership of the German churches, in many instances, is made up without what appears to American Christians sufficient evidence of regeneration by the Spirit of God, there is no longer reason to doubt. . . . To aid in building up churches on such a foundation.., would lower the standard of godliness, encourage formality, and prepare the way for a religion of external display, and thus produce the very state of things which our pious fathers crossed the ocean to escape. 
Congregationalism among the Germans, as championed by Reed, offered a form of church organization that was ideally suited to frontier communities. It also emphasized vital personal religion growing out of an experience of conversion. Yet the preaching of repentance and conversion was almost unknown to those who were raised in the German Landeskirche (State Church). Congregationalism's first missionary to the Germans, Peter Fleury, recruited by Reed in 1846, was told by one, "In our country, thieves, murderers, and such people, have to do repentance, but we are Christians, by birth, baptism, and confirmation." 
Not simply a polity, Congregationalism spoke a religious language as foreign to most Germans as English was. Although pastors labored with zeal, the numbers remained small. In 1883 there were twenty-seven churches, with a total of 1,006 members.  They were "unaided, alone, divided among themselves, the prey of religious tramps from other churches." 
Viewed suspiciously by those who were affiliated with traditional German churches, German Congregational pastors were culled from many sources. The "Mission Houses" of Germany and Switzerland supplied a number of them, particularly St. Chrischona in Basel. Even though these missionaries had an ecumenical outlook, they failed to dispel the popular fear that being Congregational meant deserting the faith of one's ancestors. Peter Fleury told of a man who wanted to join a Congregational church being pulled from the room by his wife, who said, "You must not forsake the Lutheran faith." Another man, who, when asked if he liked Fleury's sermon, said, "Very much, it is all very good if it were but Lutheran." 
Germans in Prussia
If it were not for the influx of large numbers of German-speaking natives of Russia into the United States and Canada in the decades before and after 1900, the history of German Congregationalism could be presented in these few paragraphs, highlighting a small band of Reiseprediger (traveling preachers) and the congregations they gathered in the Middle West.  The immigration of these Germans from South Russia and the Volga region, beginning in 1872-73, brought a new urgency to the German work. Although foreign to most native Germans, Congregationalism appealed to Protestant Russlanddeutschen (Russia Germans), particularly those from Lutheran parishes. They had been raised in a milder Lutheranism than was often encountered in the United States, and some had actually experienced revival and regeneration in Russia. Mid-nineteenth century American Congregationalism offered a style of church life that was seemingly designed for them—a fact made clear when one looks at their unique social and religious development.
"A German is like a willow tree; stick it anywhere and it will take." This old Russian saying was a tribute to the industriousness of the thousands of Germans who immigrated to Russia beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, first to the north, or Volga region, around the city of Saratov, and later to the Ukraine and to Bessarabia, in the south.  The Russia Germans had transformed barren steppes into rich farmland, creating tidy communities that preserved their German heritage in unique ways.
Religion was at the center of their lives. A pledge of "unhindered freedom of worship" by Catherine the Great, in 1763, helped lure the Volga Germans from their homeland. Yet the colonists brought their own religious backgrounds. Of the 104 colonies established on the Volga from 1764 to 1768, for example, 29 were Catholic. Of the remaining colonies, three fourths were Lutheran and the rest, Reformed. 
A chronic shortage of clergy existed from the beginning. Priests sometimes ministered to Protestants, and theological differences between Lutherans and adherents of the Reformed faith were often minimized.  Although Russia German Lutherans embraced the Konkordienbuch (Book of Concord), as did Lutherans everywhere, one observer nonetheless noted: "The confessional status of the colonies is unclear."  Provincial in many ways, Russia German Protestants heard good sermons. Sometimes, however, the sermons were read by the local schoolteacher from a predigtbuch, or book of sermons, because the large parishes and scarcity of pastors made it impossible for all places to have a minister to officiate each Sunday.
Russian pastors were well trained, even by German standards. Many pastors, however, did affect one Russian Orthodox decoration. A number of pastors' pictures show them wearing the traditional pulpit gown and linen tabs, with a large crucifix suspended from a chain around the neck. 
A theological seminary had been founded at the University of Dorpat, in 1833, to train pastors for the Protestant colonies.  Some of Germany's best theologians taught there, including Luther scholar Theodosius von Harnack, who himself had attended Dorpat and whose son Adolf, one of Protestantism's most famous scholars, also studied there. The elder Harnack and church historian Moritz von Englehardt, who made a lasting impression on young Adolf, grappled with modern theology's weightiest themes. A strict Lutheran, Theodosius Harnack had even written a book condemning Herrnhut (Moravian) influence on the Lutheran church in Livonia, and Englehardt, teaching textual and source criticism almost radically, had reportedly known Herrnhut Pietism in his youth. Without doubt, Dorpat's seminary offered a theological spectrum as broad as any found in Germany. 
Pastors of Russia German churches, like all who deal in practical theology, spoke to concerns and temptations of everyday life: Aware that most parishioners owned only three books—the Bible, either Luther's catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism, depending on whether one was Lutheran or Reformed, and a gesangbuch (hymnal)—pastors illustrated sermons biblically and exhorted people to live their faith. They preached in irenic terms, appealing to the Bible rather than the symbolic books of the Reformation.
People wishing to scoff at us call us "Lutherans." Now, we are not ashamed of Luther's name. But when people mean our Lutheran church was built by Luther, so we say with Luther himself: That is untrue. Not Luther but Christ is the ground and cornerstone of our faith. 
Pastor C. Blum, of Krasnojar on the Volga, author of the sermon from which the above excerpt was taken, included it in Gnade um Gnade (Grace upon Grace), a book of sermons intended for church use in the pastor's absence. This book offered a sermon for each Sunday of the church year and for special days, opening and closing with a hymn selected from the Wolga Gesangbuch. Each sermon was built around a biblical text, which was quoted. The emphasis in the predigtbuch is uniform. Blum urged his hearers to live holy lives. On Reformation Sunday he sounded his theme plainly enough: "We Evangelical Christians are clever enough at debate, but are lazy at a holy way of Life." 
Despite strong faith in many homes, enough people turned their backs on the church to be noticed.
If the pastor's exceptionally sensitive
Singing and drinking arouse his anger.
He thunders and he threatens;
Has done so many years;
But in our village
It's like it's always been. 
Heinrich Peter Ehlers, a Volga villager, liked to amuse his friends by imitating clergy. However, he was eventually brought to his knees and conversion. Ehlers became a leader of the Brotherhood, a lay movement outside the church proper that introduced prayer meetings in many villages, effecting the kind of regeneration the AHMS looked for in frontier German-American churches. About the same time a similar movement began in South Russia, but more pastors took part there than in villages along the Volga. 
The Brotherhood gained special prominence during the Great Revival of 1872 (which continued until the early 1890s). It owed its origin to a number of influences, including various Anabaptist and millenarian neighbors: Moravians, Mennonites, and Stundists. Prayer meetings held in private homes by itinerant members of such groups, coupled with the irenic Pietism already prevailing in the village churches, quickly spread a new personal religion. In lay meetings, always attended by church members—sometimes without the pastor's blessing—people sang, read scripture and offered testimonials that spoke of fellowship with God in Jesus Christ. 
Life in America
Although confirmation remained important for Russia Germans who joined Congregational churches in the United States—a catechism was written for that purpose—prayer meetings stayed at the center of their religious lives. They honored the German tradition of religious education while maintaining the prayer meetings of Russia, which had brought them closer to God than they had imagined possible.
Were it not for the Brotherhood, Russia Germans would not have joined Congregational churches after their immigration to the United States. Participation in the Brotherhood required membership in a church, and Congregationalism's emphasis on the autonomy of the local church and the priesthood of all believers appealed to them. Because so many members of the Brotherhood belonged to Congregational churches, in some towns the church was called die Brüderschaft der Kirche. 
Unlike in Russia, where there was only one church in a village, many denominations wooed the Russia Germans in the United States, confusing them with competing claims. Among the denominations that organized congregations made up of Russia Germans were the Missouri Synod, American Lutheran Church, Reformed Church in the United States (German Reformed Church), German Evangelical Synod of North America, German Methodists, German Baptists, and Adventists. Roughly 45 percent of those from Protestant churches in Russia remained Lutheran, 20 percent were divided among Methodists and Baptists, and 5 percent joined the Reformed Church. Yet 30 percent of the Russia German Protestants in the United States by the 1930s had joined Congregational churches. 
The immigration of Russia Germans to the United States re-sulted from several causes. The most significant was Czar Alexander II's revocation, in 1871, of one of the guarantees made to the first Volga colonists by Catherine the Great: freedom from military service. In 1892 Alexander III curtailed land acquisition by non-Orthodox citizens in the west. To land-starved colonists who had established many new colonies and who doubtless had plans to start more, such a policy seemed to aim at their freedom of religion, which Catherine had also guaranteed.
Many families did send sons off to the army and navy. Even today pictures of young Germans in Russian uniforms are found in the homes of their American offspring. An anti-German wind was blowing across the steppes, however, and the colonists felt it. They had lost faith in the manifesto that brought their ancestors to Russia. Consequently, many sought new homes, some going to the United States and Canada and others journeying to South America.
Beginning with a few scouts who located cheap land in the early 1870s, Russia German immigration eventually reached massive proportions. By 1920, 303,532 first- and second-generation Russia Germans resided in the United States.  They constituted the third and final great wave of German immigration; the first arrived in colonial times and the second, in the mid-nineteenth century.
The Russia Germans were different from earlier German immigrants. Their speech was laced with Russianisms, and German-Americans considered it archaic. Along with their English-speaking neighbors, German-Americans referred to them as "Russians" and to their settlements as "Russiatown."  They were at the bottom of the social ladder and did jobs that others avoided. Women were domestics; men worked on railroad construction or farmed. All who encountered them, however, admired their ability to work. 
The prejudice felt by most Russia Germans made Congregationalism even more attractive. The Congregational Church— which came out "congraese" when they tried to pronounce it—was made up of people just like them. Eventually, the church was being served by Russian-born pastors or by pastors whose parents were Russian-born.
The first Russia German ordained to the Congregational ministry was Emmanuel Jose, who founded many churches in Nebraska and the Dakotas. Jose traveled widely, establishing and maintaining contact with little groups, because there were few resident pastors. A pastor who accompanied Jose on one such trip described a visit with a group of Russia Germans living in a remote part of Nebraska.
Isolated, these people live in their sod-houses, scattered all over the prairie. Here they pray and sing praises to the Lord. Brother Jose, who resided in Sutton, served these people once in about three months. They are as sheep, having no fold and no shepherd. Not a church of any kind did I see in that whole region of country.
After supper we had prayer meeting ... to which all the German railroad hands working there were invited. The house was filled, and we had a blessed time. The next evening a number of the brethren and sisters gathered for another prayer meeting.... The people were not satisfied with an hour and a half; they remained until about 11 o'clock that night, singing their accustomed German-Russian melodies, intermingled occasionally with prayer.
The Sabbath was a glorious and blessed day. The house was packed full. Brother Jose preached with great effect.... At 2 p.m. the house was overfilled again, and with much joy and freedom of heart I delivered the Lord's message, which was gladly received.... After the people were dismissed they requested us to have another meeting at night, to which we gladly agreed. 
Large groups of Russia Germans settled in Nebraska, the Dakotas, Kansas, Colorado, Washington, and California. They responded eagerly to the ministrations of Congregational Reiseprediger, who gathered them into small congregations, but the shortage of pastors presented a major stumbling block. The pastors supplied by the "Mission Houses" were not Russia German and sometimes had difficulty ministering to the people. Occasionally, however, particularly able Russia Germans were brought into the ministry. For example, Johannes Koch, an evangelist in Russia, was examined for ordination by several English-speaking Congregational ministers through an interpreter and went on to found a number of Pacific Northwest churches.  And in South Dakota, John Lich, a country schoolmaster, was ordained in 1885 and served many years in Lincoln, Nebraska. 
Organizing a denomination
On October 3, 1883 a small group of German pastors met in Crete, Nebraska, and organized Die Allgemeine Evangelische Kirchenversammlung der Deutschen Kongregationalisten (The General Evangelical Church Assembly of German Congregationalists). The new organization dealt with four items of business. One centered around theological education, another discussed the appointment of a general superintendent for the work, and the other two dealt with the publication of a newspaper and church manual.
George E. Albrecht, a native German who graduated from Oberlin College and served an English-speaking congregation in Ohio, was appointed superintendent in 1883, just after completing a stint with the AHMS in Davenport, Iowa, where he directed the Sunday school efforts. Albrecht himself was a product of regeneration.
I was working in a machine shop in Ohio, as far from God and Christ as the East is from the West, as much lost in sinful pleasures as any of my shopmates. A young Englishman, member of a Congregational church, who worked near me and heard my godless speech, began to pray for me, and with kind words induced me to go to church, afterwards to Sunday School. After a few weeks I was in his pastor's study on my knees beseeching God to have mercy on me, and since then the Lord has led me on with marvelous love.
He provided a solid organizational base on which the German movement could grow. "God seemed to have called the Congregational church to a new work, and the voice was obeyed," he wrote in a report.
Old and erroneous ideas pertaining to various methods by which the Germans should be approached were cast aside, and the pastors simply went to the Germans with the plain Gospel. It was this method that bore the most fruit. 
By 1885 German Congregational churches had been established in nine states. The churches were no longer only in rural areas. Although the going was tougher in cities, persistence paid off, as one pastor demonstrated.
When I began to call upon the people to invite them to gospel services I often had the pleasure (?) to see the door shut on me, instead of inviting me to come in and call again. I generally left my card of invitation behind me, telling the hours of service and Sunday School, and also a tract or two. In a week I went again to the same places, taking my wife with me. I hoped they would not shut the door on her; but found only a few who did not. Some braced themselves in the door and listened to the inviting words; then remarked: "If we find time, we may come once." The next time I went I took my wife and daughter. I went every two or three weeks. Now, thank God, there is a great change. The doors are open to us, and we can have a Christian conversation, and sometimes even reading the Word of God and prayer. I opened the Sunday School in a fire engine hall, which I fixed up with a stand, seats, chairs, stove, etc., also books far the service at my own expense. I began with three children and six teachers. The teachers were my wife, three sons and two daughters, the youngest being fifteen years old. In a short time we had twenty-seven scholars and three visitors, and from that time continual growth. We now have sixty-eight scholars and the same six teachers. 
In 1886 Albrecht explained that the work now had "a good start," but the dangerous shortage of pastors hampered its growth. "We need money," he wrote, "in order to get men; not to buy men, nor to coax them, but to pay them living salaries, and above all to train them for lasting work." Albrecht held a special conference with Prof. Samuel Ives Curtiss, who was on the faculty at the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS); several American ministers; and representatives of some German churches. Sometime later Albrecht wrote:
Nothing is more trying and discouraging to a home mis-sionary than to see the doors swinging wide open in scores of places, and to call and write in vain for men to enter them. Golden opportunities are lost. Important fields pass into the hands of others, or, what is worse, remain wholly uncared for. The whole work is dragging heavily for want of workers. 
Albrecht resigned as general superintendent in 1887 to be-come a foreign missionary.  He was succeeded the following year by Civil War veteran Moritz E. Eversz, also a native German and Oberlin College graduate. Eversz had been converted while serving in the 20th Wisconsin Volunteers and throughout the war had participated in a small prayer group. During his superintendency "centers of influence" began to be identified, and "people who longed for more spiritual life and for freedom from arbitrary domination of stricter denominations" discovered Congregationalism. 
Lutheran in name only, some Russia Germans found the kind of spirituality they had known in Russia in the small Congregational churches. By 1890 the pastors who were trained in CTS's German department had begun serving in local churches. Russia Germans, they understood the people and their ways. Revivals broke out in many places. New churches were founded. In 1895 there were 110 churches with a combined membership of 4,728. Fifteen years later the numbers had grown to 202 churches with 11,435 members. 
The growth of German Congregationalism spawned associations and state conferences in areas where churches were concentrated. The first German association was organized in Iowa, in 1862, and the first state conference, in Nebraska, in 1879.  Although German Congregational associations and conferences were separate from their English-speaking counterparts, they did maintain relations with them, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on local leadership.
A similar relationship existed between the General Conference of German Congregational Churches of the United States and the National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States. Superintendent Albrecht attended the sixth session of the National Council, which met in Chicago in 1886,  but it was not until 1927 that the Council officially recognized the General Conference of German Congregational Churches as having "parity" with state conferences.  This move was undoubtedly influenced by the 1925 "recognition" of the Evangelical Protestant Conference, a group of twenty-two "union" churches (Lutheran and Reformed), some dating back to the colonial period. Interestingly, some of those churches were served by German Congregational pastors. 
After Superintendent Eversz retired, in 1920, Herman Obenhaus became superintendent, serving until 1936, when Russian-born Jacob Hirning was appointed. Hirning was the first Russia German to head the German work. In the first year of his superintendency the state conferences numbered six and the state associations, three, representing 197 churches with a total membership of 22,166.  By this time many churches no longer functioned only in German. Native-born young people rapidly became Americanized. At the end of World War II most worship services were in English—a trend reflected by the publication in 1952 of an English-language hymnal. Only the Brotherhood clung to German, their prayer meetings offering a window into an increasingly distant past.
In 1878 a seminary was founded in Crete in conjunction with Doane College. Too few students and a lack of money kept it from taking hold. In 1882, however, it began serving as a feeder school, or proseminar, for the newly organized German department of CTS. This department flourished because of the efforts of Professor Curtiss.
Curtiss, who had earned a Ph.D. in Germany, was a gifted scholar and pastor. He started several Chicago mission churches and the Chicago Congregational City Missionary Society. "Throughout his career at the seminary," Arthur Cushman McGiffert Jr. wrote, "Curtiss did the work of three men." One of the three took a particular interest in the German work, seeing to it that two German faculty members were appointed. His influence and that of colleague Hugh Macdonald Scott helped CTS become a "polyglot seminary," whose foreign department trained not only Germans but also Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes.  As German-trained church historian Scott put it:
With immigrants landing in this country at the rate of 750,000 a year, ignorant of American life, strange in speech, not a few opposed to our civilization and our Christianity, the eyes of the most obtuse have at last been opened to the need of thorough Gospel work among this part of our population. Until very recently our Congregational churches paid no attention to this field. 
Growth led to more stable educational institutions. In 1894 the Crete proseminar was moved to Wilton, Iowa, and reconstituted the Wilton German English College. The poorly financed, two-building college merged with Redfield College, in Redfield, South Dakota, in 1904, forming "a Christian institution of learning under the general supervision of the German Congregational churches of the United States of America," with the mandate "specifically to provide an academic and college course for all German young men looking toward a German Congregational ministry."
Redfield was a good location, because most of Wilton's students had been Russia Germans from the Dakotas. Although finances remained a problem, Redfield College survived, and in 1916 the German Institute at CTS moved there, becoming the Redfield College Seminary. The depression signaled an end to Redfield, but the School of Theology moved to Yankton College in 1932  and later became one of the institutions that formed the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
At the founding of the general conference, in 1883, two of the four items of business centered on publication. Zionsfreund, an eight-page newspaper founded by Prof. Theo. Falk of Crete Seminary in 1880, had a two-year run before folding. Der Kirchenbote (Church Messenger), which followed Zionsfreund, was published by Henry Hess until 1888, when the Congregational Publishing Society, at the instigation of Prof. Curtiss, purchased it and placed it under the editorship of Gustav Zimmermann, who taught in CTS's German department. A semimonthly until 1897, when it became a weekly, Der Kirchenbote was avidly read by most German Congregational families. It contained devotional articles as well as denominational news and along with the Illustrierter-Kirchenbote-Kalendar&151;a daily devotional with scripture lessons, a brief message and prayer, and sometimes a hymn— was standard reading.
The German Congregational publishing operation was located in Chicago from 1888 until 1895, when it was moved to Michigan City, Indiana. In 1905 it was moved back to Chicago. The German Congregational Publishing Society—as it was officially known—printed works bearing an illustration of a Pilgrim and the name "The German Pilgrim Press." 
The first Gesangbuch was authorized by the General Conference that met in Chicago in 1896 and was in use by 1898. Both the first and second editions were ohne Noten—without music—requiring someone to lead the singing who had memorized all the melodies.  The third and final edition contained the music and all the words. This edition was the preferred hymnal of most church members, who proudly carried the books to worship services and prayer meetings.
Two supplementary hymnbooks were used in prayer meetings. Social Gospel theologian Walter Rauschenbusch and Ira Sankey, who had accompanied Dwight L. Moody on so many of his tours, produced a collection of American gospel songs in German translation—Evangeliums-S?nger—that was popular. Der K?stliche Schatz was prepared for Brotherhood use by a Russia German Evangelical Synod pastor in Portland, Oregon, Elias Hergert, who had been an Eden Seminary classmate of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It contained some Brotherhood songs from Russia as well as recent compositions by Hergert and others, a few of which were in English. 
A Catechism for the German Congregational churches first appeared in 1904. Attempting to include the basic teachings contained in Luther's Small Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism, it had 150 questions and answers and 50 questions to be answered by confirmands during a final oral examination before the entire congregation. The Catechism was divided into five sections: the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Uses of the Law, the Lord's Prayer, and the Sacraments.
Unlike Luther's catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism, the German Congregational Katechismus began by asserting the centrality of scripture.
How can one discern that Holy Scripture is God's Word?
a) The divine strength of so many souls in life and death has proven it already;
b) because it has been confirmed through divine prophecy and miracles, and
c) because it was written by holy men of God at the impulse of the Holy Spirit 
Rather than beginning with the Law as did Luther's Catechism, or with humanity's delight in belonging to Christ, as did the Heidelberg Catechism, the Katechismus started by establishing the place of the Bible in people's lives.
After World War II, English-language materials became widely available. In 1947 the General Conference of German Congregational Churches, meeting in Lodi, California, elected a hymnal committee to select songs and hymns that "could be used with both our own German Hymnal and the Wolga Gesangbuch."  The resulting Pioneer Hymnal, which came out in 1952, included many familiar American hymns as well as translations of some better-known German hymns.
The Pioneer Press of Yankton, South Dakota, publishers of the new hymnal, succeeded the Redfield College Press, which had taken over The German Pilgrim Press in 1923. The Pioneer Press remained in operation until 1968, publishing hymnals, catechisms, and church and Sunday school materials in both English and German. 
The Katechismus was first translated into English in 1928 and was revised and reissued in 1955. Instead of 150 questions, as in the original version, there were 119 questions plus an appendix of 14 questions and answers on "The Congregational Fellowship." One question asked: "What institutions and projects do our churches especially sponsor through the General Conference?" The answer: "The Yankton College School of Theology, the Pioneer Press and our South American Mission." 
The mission to Argentina was the second foreign field tended by German Congregationalists. (In Canada, the first foreign field, thirty-one churches that had been affiliated with the General Conference became part of the United Church of Canada when that denomination came into being, in 1925.) 
The work in South America began in 1921, when four Argentinean churches urgently requested that denominational recognition be given George Geier, who was serving them. The Illinois Conference licensed Geier, who worked among Russia Germans who were alike in every way to those in the United States and in Canada. In 1924 general missionary John Hoelzer, in Argentina for a brief visit, organized six churches.
The South American Germans from Russia had learned about Congregationalism in letters from relatives in the United States. Despite attacks from the Missouri Lutheran La Plata Synod, the Congregational mission grew. By 1937 thirty-six churches had been established with a total of 3,015 members—all served by five ministers.  The need for a trained ministry was acute, and eventually a theological school was founded. Even today, the South American churches are in contact with the United Church Board for World Ministries, although they, like their American cousins, have adapted to the surrounding culture.
In the United Church of Christ
Most German Congregational churches became affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC), which came into being in 1957 with the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Itself a merged denomination, the Evangelical and Reformed Church represented the 1934 union of the Reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical Synod of North America—two groups that had labored among Russia German immigrants. Since then a number of former German Congregational churches have withdrawn and many more are served by pastors of other denominations.
The descendants of the Russia Germans who embraced Congregationalism are often troubled by the UCC's emphasis on social action. To them, the UCC seems too political and not grounded enough in scripture. This reaction is characteristic. The unique heritage of the Russia Germans laid great stress on the Bible, religious experience, and sanctified living. It was an individual gospel, expressed in prayer meetings, worship, and performing kind deeds among one's neighbors.  Although prayer meetings have almost disappeared and revivals are no longer a feature of church life, such piety remains powerfully latent. German Congregationalism has made a unique contribution to the United Church of Christ. Even though its outward form is changed, the inner spirit continues to radiate.
William G. Chrystal is pastor of the Trinity Evangelical and Reformed Church, UCC, Adamstown, Maryland. He is a doctoral student in American Religious History at Johns Hopkins University and is the author of A Father's Mantle: The Legacy of Gustav Niebuhr (1982) and Young Reinhold Niebuhr: His Early Writings, 1911-31 (1977). Chrystal is also a member of the UCC Historical Council.
1. George J. Eisenach, A History of the German Congregational Churches in the United States (Yankton, SD, 1937), p. 3. 2. Carl E. Schneider, "The Home Mission Zeal of an Immigrant Church,' in Missionary Trails: The Story of Missions in the Evangelical Synod of North America as told by missionaries and friends of missions (St. Louis, 1934), p. 5.
3. Home Missionary, January 1851. Reprinted in Carl E. Schneider, The German Church on the American Frontier (St. Louis, 1939), p. 494.
4. Eisenach, op. cit., p. 7.
5. Ibid., p. 51.
6. In Arthur Cushman McGiffert Jr., No Ivory Tower: The Story of The Chicago Theological Seminary (Chicago, 1965), p. 60.
7. Eisenach, op. cit., p. 7
8. The oldest congregation still in existence is Sherrill United Church of Christ in Sherrill, Iowa, which was organized by Peter Fleury in 1849.
9. The saying is quoted in Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918?1956, V?VII (New York, 1979), p. 400.
10. George J. Eisenach, Pietism and the Russian Germans in the United States (Berne, IN, 1948), p. 31, and Adam Giesinger, From Catherine to Khrushchev: The Story of Russia's Germans (Battleford, Saskatchewan, 1974), p. 156. Giesinger places the Lutheran and Reformed mix at 80%-20%.
11. Eisenach, Pietism, op. cit., p. 31, quotes Catholic priest Gottlieb Beratz, Die deutschen Kolonien an der Unteren Wolga in ihrer Entstehung and ersten Entwicklung (Saratov, 1915), p. 230, regarding the clergy shortage.
12. "Russland" in Real-Encyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirche, zweiter Auflage, Dreizhenter Band (Ritschl bis Scotus) (Leipzig, 1884), p. 126.
13. Photos of pastors wearing crucifixes may be found in 80th Anniversary of The Free Evangelical Lutheran Cross Church, 1892? 1972 (Fresno, CA, 1972], pp. 14, 16, and Karl Stumpp, "Verzeichnis der ev. Pastoren in den einzelnen deutschen und gemischten Kirchenspielen in Russland bzw. der Sowjetunion, ohne Baltikum und Polen" in Joseph Schnurr, ed., Die Kirchen und das Religi?se Leben der Russlanddeutschen, Evangelischer Tell (Stuttgart, 1978), pp. 120?82.
14. See Harry Anderson, "Die Universit?tsgemeinde in Dorpat und ihre Kirche" in Schnurr, op. cit., pp. 310-15.
15. See G. Wayne Glick, The Reality of Christianity: A Study of Adolf von Harnack as Historian and Theologian (New York, 1967), pp. 23?34, for a glimpse of Dorpat and its influence on Adolf.
16. C. Blum, Gnade urn Gnade. Evangelien-Predigten f?r dos ganze Kirchenjahr (Jurjew [Dorpat], 1901), p. 613. Stumpp, op. cit., p. 198, lists Blum as "Johannes Nikolaus Blum."
17. Blum, op. cit., p. 615.
18. Quoted in Eisenach, Pietism, op. cit., p. 64.
19. Ibid., p. 81.
20. Some pastors forbade such meetings in their parishes; in other places meetings were broken up and Elders were punished. See Eisenach, Pietism, op. cit., pp. 174?76.
21. The church in Endicott, Washington, was one. See Anna B. Weitz, A Century of Christian Fellowship: Evangelical Congregational Church, Endicott, Washington, 1883?1983 (Colfax, WA, 1983], p.6.
22. Richard Sallet, Russian-German Settlements in the United States, trans. Lavern J. Rippley and Armand Bauer (Fargo, ND, 1974), p. 90.
23. Ibid., p. 17.
24. See S. Joachim, Toward an Understanding of the Russia Germans (Moorhead, MN, 1939), for a contemporary attempt to explain faulty impressions of the Germans from Russia.
25. Roland Bainton, in his biography of his father, Herbert Bainton, who served the Congregational Church in Colfax, Washington, noted that the only domestic help available to his mother "were some German-speaking immigrants lately come from Russia whose women would come sometimes for half a day." See Roland Bainton, Pilgrim Parson: The Life of James Herbert Bainton, 1867? 1942 (New York, 1958), p. 74.
26. Eisenach, History, op. cit., pp. 45?48.
27. Koch was a moderator of the Brotherhood conference in Russia, working with Ehlers. Gottfried Graedel, in an undated newspaper article entitled "German Congregational Churches in the State of Washington," in the possession of Richard Scheuermann, states: "It was in 1888 when our own Atkinson, Walters and Jonathan Edwards met in Endicott. Johannes Koch represented the Ger-mans. He used to be an evangelist in the old country. The three former ministers informed themselves about the condition of things and found it advisable to ordain Mr. Koch. As Mr. Koch before that had organized two churches, Ritzville and Endicott, the two were accepted into Congregational fellowship with their pastor, and so the Pacific German Congregational church was established."
28. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 60.
29. Ibid. pp. 49, 57?58.
30. Ibid., p. 59.
31. Ibid., pp. 64, 70.
32. William E. Strong, The Story of the American Board (Boston, 1910), p. 362, reveals that Albrecht served in Tokyo, Japan, where he helped translate many works into Japanese.
33. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 75.
34. Ibid., p. 123.
35. See Henry Vieth, "A History of German Congregationalism in Nebraska" in A History of the Churches and of the Present Conference, Nebraska Conference, United Church of Christ, vol. 1, 1976, pp. 114-42.
36. E. Lyman Hood, The National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States (Boston, n.d.), p. 125, lists Albrecht as being from "the Nebraska phalanx." This session of the Council commended the attempt to create a German Academy at Crete, Nebraska. See Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 172.
37. Louis H. Gunnemann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1977), p. 161.
38. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 145.
39. Ibid., p. 161.
40. McGiffert, op. cit., pp. 54-64.
41. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 175.
42. Ibid., pp. 183?202.
43. Ibid., pp. 204-7.
44. Family tradition recalls the author's grandmother was a song leader.
45. Walter Rauschenbusch and Ira D. Sankey, eds., Evangeliums-S?nger (Kassel, n.d.), and Elias Hergert, ed., Der K?stliche Schatz (Portland, OR, N.D.). Both books went through many editions.
46. Katechismus der biblischen Heilswahrheiten fur die evangelischen Kongregational-Gemeinden von Nord-Amerika (Chicago, 1919), p. 10. English editions omit this question.
47. "Preface," The Pioneer Hymnal (Yankton, 1952), p. 3.
48. Walter Kranzler, "German Congregationalism." in Edward C. Ehrensperger, ed., History of the United Church of Christ in South Dakota, 1869-1976 (Freeman, SD, 1977), pp. 199-200.
49. Congregational Catechism of Religious Instruction (Yankton, 1955), p. 46.
50. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 213.
51. Ibid., p. 217.
52. An exception to this pattern was the massive relief effort to Volga Germans in the post-Revolutionary War period, bankrolled by Russia Germans in the United States. See Emma D. Schwabenland, A History of the Volga Relief Society (Portland, OR, 1941).
Excerpted from "A History of the United Church of Christ" by Margaret Rowland Post
All Christians are related in faith to Judaism and are faith descendants of the first apostles of Jesus who roamed the world with the good news of God's love. Within five centuries, Christianity dominated the Roman Empire. Until A.D. 1054 when the church split, it remained essentially one. At that point, the Eastern Orthodox Church established its center at Constantinople (Istanbul), the Roman Catholic Church at Rome.
During the 16th century, when Christians found the church corrupt and hopelessly involved in economic and political interests, leaders arose to bring about reform from within. The unintended by-product of their efforts at reform was schism in the Roman Church. Their differences over the authority and practices of Rome became irreconcilable.
Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin held that the Bible, not the Pope, was sufficient authority as the word of God. Paramount was the message of Paul that persons are justified by the grace of God through faith alone. Such faith did not lead to rank individualism or moral indifference, but to good works out of love for God.
Protestantism spread throughout Europe. Lutheran churches were planted in Germany and throughout Scandinavia; the Reformed churches, originating in Switzerland, spread into Germany, France, Transylvania, Hungary, Holland, England, and Scotland. The United Church of Christ traces its roots back to those movements to proclaim the good news based on biblical truths led by the Spirit of God. It presently binds in covenant nearly 6,500 congregations with approximately 1,800,000 members. One of the youngest American denominations, its background also makes it one of the oldest in Protestantism.
The United Church of Christ, a united and uniting church, was born on June 25, 1957 out of a combination of four groups. Two of these were the Congregational Churches of the English Reformation with Puritan New England roots in America, and the Christian Church with American frontier beginnings. These two denominations were concerned for freedom of religious expression and local autonomy and united on June 17, 1931 to become the Congregational Christian Churches.
The other two denominations were the Evangelical Synod of North America, a 19th-century German-American church of the frontier Mississippi Valley, and the Reformed Church in the United States, initially composed of early 18th-century churches in Pennsylvania and neighboring colonies, unified in a Coetus in 1793 to become a Synod. The parent churches were of German and Swiss heritage, conscientious carriers of the Reformed and Lutheran traditions of the Reformation, and united to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church on June 26, 1934.
The Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches shared a strong commitment under Christ to the freedom of religious expression. They combined strong European ties, early colonial roots, and the vitality of the American frontier church. Their union forced accommodation between congregational and presbyterial forms of church government. Both denominations found their authority in the Bible and were more concerned with what unites Christians than with what divides them. In their marriage, a church that valued the free congregational tradition was strengthened by one that remained faithful to the liturgical tradition of Reformed church worship and to catechetical teaching. A tradition that maintained important aspects of European Protestantism was broadened by one that, in mutual covenant with Christ, embraced diversity and freedom.
A Short Course in the History of the United Church of Christ tells our story beginning with our origins in the small community who followed Jesus 20 centuries ago and continuing to the present. Learn about the Reformation—a protest movement against the abuse of authority by church leaders; the rediscovery by Luther and Calvin of the Bible's teaching that salvation is not earned, but is a gift; the epic journey of the Pilgrims from England to the shores of North America; the waves of emigration by German and Hungarian Protestants seeking spiritual and political freedom; the beginning of the first Christian anti-slavery movement in history; the 20th-century movement to reunite the divided branches of Christ's church, and, as a result of that movement, the union of several traditions of Protestant Christianity into the United Church of Christ in 1957.
We invite you to use the Short Course for your personal study or as a resource for confirmation and new-member classes in your congregation. On every page, you'll find links to related resources on this website, links to other resources on the Internet, and ideas about books for further study. Also recommended: Hidden Histories of the United Church of Christ.
Full Version in PDF
The Early Church
Our Reformation Roots
German Evangelical Movement
Reformation in England
German Reformed Church
Education and Mission
The Christian Churches
German Evangelical Synod
An Ecumenical Age
Evangelical and Reformed
The UCC Comes of Age
The United Church of Christ is a denomination which reflects the pluralistic story of American Protestantism. Created in 1957, the UCC has brought together ecclesiastical bodies rooted in English Puritanism, American frontier revivalism, and German religious history. In this book, the contributors attempt to move beyond the four main streams of the UCC - the UCC "historical orthodoxy."
This collection of essays expands knowledge about the diversity of the UCC, and connects the UCC with many significant developments in American religious and ethnic history. It explores such areas as Native American Protestantism, black Christian churches, a schism in the German Reformed Church, Armenian congregationalism's missionary beginnings, German congregationalism, blacks and the American Missionary Association, Deaconess ministries, the Schwenkfelders, the Calvin Synod (Hungarian), women's work and women's boards, and Japanese-American congregationalists.
Contributors include: Clifford Alika, Percel O. Alston, John Butosi, William G. Chrystal, Clara Merritt DeBoer, Sally A. Dries, Serge F. Hummon, Martha B. Kriebel, Miya Okawara, Ruth W. Rasche, John C. Shetler, Vahan H. Tootikian, and Barbara Brown Zikmund.
How can you use "Hidden Histories" in your congregation? We think you'll find it useful for book clubs, adult study groups and new-member classes. We encourage you to use your church's newsletter to let folks know that this important series on the rich ethnic and theological history of the United Church of Christ is now online.
Our thanks to Barbara Brown Zikmund, retired historian of the United Church of Christ, and former president of Hartford Seminary, who (in the 1980's) edited these two books on Hidden Histories in the UCC; and to Virginia H. Child, who scanned and proofread these texts. Thanks also to United Church Press for permission to reproduce these two volumes on the web. You can buy print versions of Hidden Histories volume I and volume II from United Church Press along with other books on UCC history and identity.
Editor's Introduction: Beyond historical orthodoxy | pdf
American Indians, missions, and the United Church of Christ | pdf
The Afro-Christian Connection | pdf
The Ursinus School and the reaction against evangelical catholicism | pdf
Armenian Congregationalists flee from genocide and find a home in the U.S. | pdf
German Congregationalism on the American frontier | pdf
Blacks and the American Missionary Association | pdf
The Deaconess Movement in 19th-century America: pioneer professional women | pdf
The Schwenkfelders | pdf
The Calvin Synod: 500 years of tradition lead to the UCC | pdf
Women's work and women's boards | pdf
Sho-Chiku-Bai: Japanese-American Congregationalists | pdf
Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ: Volume II
What is the United Church of Christ Archives?
What the UCC Archives Does:
- Collects, preserves, and provides access to the records of the UCC from around the time of the creating Union in 1957 onward.
- Acts as the office of records management for the national setting of the denomination.
- Provides guidance for how to manage current and historical records to all settings of the denomination.
What is in the UCC Archives:
The records, photographs, resources, and objects from around the time of the creating Union in 1957 onward.
A selection of a few of the vast resources include:
- Records from the national offices
- UCC Yearbooks
- General Synod Minutes
- Executive Council Minutes
- Resources developed by national offices
- Documentation about the formation of the UCC
- Records of projects and innitiatives
- Collections from national UCC organizations, committees, councils and groups
- Council for Health and Human Services
- UCC Historical Council
- Personal papers of people involved in the work of the national setting of the denomination
- Rev. Arthur Clyde's collection of hymnals
- Rev. Harold Wilke's papers documenting his work in the UCC
- Conference publications and newsletters
- Written histories of local churches, associations, conferences, and other UCC-related ministries
All documents are searchable by keyword, and are complete to present.
Partnerships with other Historical Organizations:
The UCC Archives works closely with other archives that hold the records of the denominations that united to form the UCC. Please visit the Historical Council page to find more information about those institutions.
Welcome to the Faith Formation ministries page of the United Church of Christ! There is a wealth of information and resources for your adaptation and use on this site, so please feel free to visit often.
A Reflection on Faith Formation
Yet, O Lord, you are our God;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. –Isaiah 64:8
Faith formation is at the heart of what the Christian life is all about. In many ways, we engage in the practices of our daily lives and the rituals of our faith communities—through worship, mission, working for justice and peace, evangelism, and education—so that our faith may be nurtured, enlivened, sustained, and formed. In this regard, the imagery offered by the prophet Isaiah of Potter God forming humanity, God's created own, is an appropriate vision for how we might view the ministry of faith formation.
In the United Church of Christ, we can understand faith formation to be "an engaged process of learning and practice integrated throughout all aspects of congregational and daily life." This definition highlights the initiative and action we must take in our own faith formation. In essence, we become clay so that we are formed and transformed by the Holy and by one another. But throughout all of our doing and being, we are reminded that God's "hands" are continually present in our efforts to gain both "head" knowledge found in education and learning and "heart" wisdom discovered through prayer, ritual, and practice.
So, it is indeed most fitting to say that faith formation is at the heart of what our living and being is all about; but without the hands that guide what we are continually becoming, the process is incomplete. May this webpage offer some helpful tools from which you and others can “become clay” and be reminded of God's formational presence along life's journey.
Small Group Study Resources
Dialogues on Christian Faith Formation and Education
Dialogue #1: Marcus Borg
Dialogue #2: Doug Pagitt
Dialogue #3: Geoffrey Black
Dialogues on Christian Faith Formation and Education is offered with the intent of promoting conversation around the past, present, and future of faith formation in the United Church of Christ.
Children and Families Ministries for the 21st Century (ppt)
Annual Meeting, Penn Central Conference, Selinsgrove, PA – June 2013
Transitioning UCC Faith Formation Ministries (ppt)
New England Association of United Church Educators (NEAUCE) Annual Meeting, Centerville, MA – May 2013
Infusing Best Practices of Faith Formation into Your Congregation (ppt)
New England Association of United Church Educators (NEAUCE) Annual Meeting, Centerville, MA – May 2013
Faith Formation, Christian Education, or Other: Shaping Ministry in Your Church (ppt)
Congregations Alive, Rocky Mountain Conference – February 2013
Futuring Faith Formation and Leadership Development(ppt)
Young Adult Service Communities (YASC) Host Church Leaders’ Training, Cleveland, OH – January 2013
Futuring Faith Formation for Wider Church Ministry (ppt)
Network of Wider Church Youth Ministers (NOWCYM) Annual Gathering, New Orleans, LA – December 2012
Christian Faith Formation: Best Practices in A Shifting Landscape (ppt)
United Church of Chapel Hill, NC – November 2012
Highlights of “Foundations, Findings, and Futures: Christian Faith Formation and Education in the United Church of Christ” (ppt)
Faith Formation for Children and Youth Ministry Team Retreat, Minnesota Conference – October 2012
Foundations, Findings, and Futures: Christian Faith Formation and Education in the United Church of Christ (ppt)
Education Consultants’ Gathering, Cleveland, OH – September 2012
Where Are All the “Young People?” An Exploration of Young Adults, Spirituality, and Their Experiences of Church (ppt)
Growth Ministry Team, Rocky Mountain Conference – August 2012
What Makes Your Youths’ Spirits SOAR? A Multisensory Focus Group on Youth Faith Formation – Youth Leaders (ppt)
What Makes Your Spirit SOAR? A Multisensory Focus Group on Faith Formation – Youth (ppt)
National Youth Event, Purdue, IN – July 2012
Out of the Classroom and Into the World: Faith Formation in the Postmodern Age (ppt)
March in the Son, Connecticut Conference – March 2012
Faith Formation and Education Research on Young Adults (ppt)
LinK Event: Young Adult Ministry Workers, Cleveland, OH – December 2011
A page that shares information helpful to educators.
Seeking A Church Educator
So, your church needs a Christian Educator. Where can you find viable candidates? What qualifications should you look for? What is reasonable compensation? "Seeking A Church Educator" gives a concise guide to get you started.
The United Church of Christ Book of Worship is now available on CD along with a catalog of selected resources from the Worship and Education Ministry team.
Looking for resources for your congregation education program which are:
+Multi-racial and Multi-cultural,
+Age or interest specific,
+Currently available (from United Church of Christ Resources or another publisher),
+Printed or Multi-Media
Check the bibliographies for some of the best resources recommended by United Church of Christ congregations.
What Matters includes a variety of resources to connect your questions of faith with the deep faith expressed by the UCC. Explore six aspects of our faith through links below. Discover what matters through reflection, stories from UCC congregations and members, stories from history, Bible study, prayer, worship, and service.
Resources for Christian Education Sunday
Service Prayers and Liturgies (Online)
Come, Teach Us, Spirit of Our God – TNCH #287
O God, Who Teaches Us To Live – TNCH #359
Praise the Source of Faith and Learning – TNCH #411
Teach Me, O Lord, Your Holy Way – TNCH #465
God, Speak to Me, That I May Speak – TNCH #531
O Grant Us Light – TNCH #469
Colorful Creator – TNCH #30
Open My Eyes, That I May See
Litany for Recognition of Teachers
One: Teachers are called to serve the church in a variety of roles – ordained and lay, volunteer and paid. The United Church of Christ [or insert your own church name here] recognizes and affirms with deep appreciation the outstanding, faithful, and dedicated commitment to the teaching task. Today we honor all those dedicated teachers in the UCC. We thank you, O God, for the ministry of education.
Many: Gentle and Loving God, through the ministry of teaching we learn about you, your creation of humankind, your trust in us to be your people, and your expectation that we will be responsible stewards of your creation.
One: We also learn, from the Holy Spirit and from our spiritual ancestors, that we have room to grow in faith.
Many: Priests, prophets, and wise counselors teach us through the Hebrew scriptures. Evangelists, apostles, and letter-writers in the Christian scriptures teach us of your love and forgiveness.
One: Most of all, we learn from your living Word, Jesus the teacher.
Many: That story, always fresh, comes to us through teachers in the church.
One: We thank you now and offer you praise for the educational ministry of [names]. Help us to affirm and support them in the ministry of teaching.
Unison: We pray in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
[Present certificate or other gift, and/or offer handshake or sign of peace.]
Adapted from the 1999 Excellence in Teaching Awards. Originally from the Committee on Certification for Church Educators in the United Church of Christ.
Just click on our link to our Seminarians' Page plus links to UCC-related seminaries, universities and colleges. Also, you will find information on campus ministries and a mailing list for college students.
The United Church of Christ Undergraduate Scholarship for UCC members studying at U.S. colleges and universities.
These are foundational documents on education in local congregations that were developed by the former United Church Board for Homeland Ministries.
Witness for Justice (WFJ) is a weekly editorial opinion column for public distribution which identifies timely or urgent justice issues. WFJ is a theologically based perspective founded on historic commitment to justice and peace of the United Church of Christ.
A blend of autonomy and authority, the Evangelical and Reformed Church retained a Calvinist doctrine of the church as "the reality of a kingdom of grace," and the importance of order and discipline in its witness to the reign of God in the world. The Heidelberg Catechism still at its heart, the new church would embody -a synthesis of Calvin's inward sense of God's "calling" and Luther's experiential approach to faith. George W. Richards, ecumenist first president, had expressed the insights of all Reformation streams by saying, "Without the Christlike spirit, no constitution will ever be effective; with the spirit, one will need only a minimum of law for the administration of the affairs of the fellowship of men and women." In such a spirit the union proceeded without a constitution until one was adopted in 1938, implemented in 1940.
The second president, Louis W. Goebel, a trusted Christian statesman and exponent of the church's freedom in Christ, guided the organization and ecumenical relationships of the 655,000-member Evangelical and Reformed Church for 15 years. Its membership was mainly in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. James E. Wagner, true to the Reformed tradition, yet responsive to the rapid changes of an era, as third president, led the church into a further fulfillment of its unitive intention.
Meanwhile, the practical act of consolidating Reformed and Evangelical programs, boards, organizations, and publications and coordinating the multiple institutions went forward. The church addressed worldwide suffering during World War II with the War Emergency Relief Commission. The Hymnal (1941) and Book of Worship (1942) were published. Reformed missions in Japan, China, and Iraq were united under the Evangelical and Reformed Church Board of International Missions. New missions were undertaken through cooperative efforts in Ecuador, Ghana, and western Africa. The Messenger became the church publication. Christian education resources soon followed. Organizations united. The Woman's Missionary Society united with the Evangelical Women's Union to become the Women's Guild.
A 1937 study group of St. Louis Evangelical and Reformed and Congregational Christian clergy, led by Samuel J. Press, president of Eden, and Truman Douglass, pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church, had revealed among the participants a sense of "family." Dr. Press acted on the discovery with a June 1938 telegram to the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches, "What about a rapprochement between our communions looking forward to union?" The affirmative response of Douglas Horton, minister and executive secretary of the General Council, was followed by four years of private conversations before a public proposal in 1942 would be endorsed by the General Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches. After ten drafts of a Basis of Union were prepared between 1943 and 1949, a special General Synod was called in 1949 to approve the Interpretations of the Basis. Approval (249-41) was followed by successful ratification by the 34 synods, by vote of 33-1. A uniting General Synod for the United Church, first set for June 26, 1950, was postponed for seven more years. Under Congregational Christian Church autonomy, some local churches brought a legal injunction, challenging the right of the General Council to participate in a union of the whole church with another. President Richards made clear the Evangelical and Reformed Church's commitment to total unity and wholeness.
Of all the United Church of Christ traditions, the Christian Churches were most uniquely American in origin and character. In Virginia, Vermont, and Kentucky, the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s stirred the hearts of quite disparate leaders and their followers with the impulse to return to the simplicity of early Christianity. The first group was gathered in 1794 in Virginia by a Revolutionary soldier, James O'Kelley. He, with many other Methodists left the church over their objection to bishops. Methodism, they felt, was too autocratical. They wanted the frontier churches to be freed to deal with the needs and concerns that were different from those of the more established churches. They declared that the Bible was their only guide and adopted as their new name, the Christian Church.
A few years later, at Lyndon, Vermont, Abner Jones and his followers objected to Calvinist Baptist views. In 1801, they organized the First Free Christian Church, in which Christian character would be the only requirement for membership, and in which all who could do so in faith, were welcome to partake of the Lord's Supper. Christ was seen to be more generous than to withhold Communion from all but those who had been baptized by immersion. Jones was later joined by Baptist Elias Smith, who helped to organize a Christian church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and began publishing, in 1808, the Herald of Gospel Liberty. Smith's paper became a means of drawing the separate Christian movements together.
With a minimum of organization, other churches of like mind were established and the movement became known as the "Christian Connection." The "Connection" had been organized in 1820 at the first United General Conference of Christians, during which six principles were unanimously affirmed:
- Christ, the only head of the Church.
- The Bible, sufficient rule of faith and practice.
- Christian character, the only measurement for membership.
- The right of private judgment, interpretation of scripture, and liberty of conscience.
- The name "Christian," worthy for Christ's followers.
- Unity of all Christ's followers in behalf of the world.
By 1845, a regional New England Convention began.
A third group, under Barton W. Stone, withdrew in 1803 from the Presbyterian Synod of Kentucky in opposition to Calvinist theology. Stone's followers eventually numbered 8,000 and they, too, took the name Christian. Followers of Stone spread into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Some of this group united with followers of Alexander Campbell at Lexington, Kentucky, in 1832 to found the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which became the largest indigenous body of Protestants in America. (In the 1970s, the Christian Church [Disciples of Christ] and the United Church of Christ began conversations to consider possible union.) Christians who refused to follow Stone and unite with the Disciples, gradually identified with the Christian Churches led by O'Kelley in Virginia and by Jones and Smith in New England.
From 1844, when the New England Convention passed a strong resolution condemning slavery, until long after the Civil War was over, the Christian Churches of the North and the South suspended fellowship with each other. As a result, whites controlled the newly-formed Southern Christian Association. In the North, the first Christian General Convention was held in 1850, and for the first time, Christians began to behave as a denomination.
Christians valued education since their first leaders came from well-educated New England families that had exhibited a humanitarian spirit. In 1844, Christians helped to establish Meadville Seminary with the Unitarians. In 1850, Defiance College in Ohio was born and two years later the coeducational Antioch College, Horace Mann its president, came into being in Ohio. Elon College was founded in North Carolina in 1889, and a year later, the suspended fellowship between northern and southern churches was restored. Christian colleges were recognized as holding the key to an educated clergy and an enlightened church membership.
There was a leveling influence in the frontier church that promoted a democratic spirit. The Great Awakening on the frontier promoted an anti-creedal religion, independent personal judgment, and freedom of conscience. Quite different from the rough nature of frontier life itself, educated leadership brought refined sensibilities, compassion, and concern for humanitarian causes to the churches.
James O'Kelley's denunciation of slavery in 1789 had attracted many blacks to join Christian churches in the South. They were further attracted by the revival style and the zeal for humanitarian reform. Neither race nor gender was a stumbling block to Christian fellowship in the South. Black churches were not organized before the Civil War and in 1852, Isaac Scott, a black man from North Carolina, was ordained by the Christian Church and sent to Liberia as the first overseas missionary from that denomination. The democratic social structure in the Christian Church proved more hospitable to women's sense of "calling" than had been true in Puritan New England churches. In 1839, the Virginia Christian Conference recognized an Ohio minister's wife, the former Rebecca L. Chaney, as her husband's official associate in preaching. The Christian Church exercised its independence under God when it became the first denomination to recognize the ordination of a woman. In 1867, at Ebenezer Church in Clark County, Ohio, Melissa Terrel was ordained to the Christian ministry. Following the Civil War, black members of the Christian Church tended to cut themselves off from whites to form churches of their own. The black church became the only social structure totally supported by the black community. Elevated to a high status in a climate that denigrated black males, black ministers were close to a peer relationship with white community leaders. Black church ministers were not only pastors and preachers to their congregations, but were social workers and organizers for human rights as well. Black ministers and their churches were often targets of reaction, sometimes violent, during repeated periods of local political battle over issues such as freedom from oppression, the achievement of voting rights, opportunity for land ownership, equality of educational and vocational opportunity, the right to participate in the same amenities offered others in American communities.
Women in many black Christian churches became, to an even greater degree than in white churches, the backbone of church life; many became preachers. Black women so reared, upon joining integrated churches, found it difficult to accept less crucial tasks where men dominated.
The Reconstruction Era after the Civil War was slow and painful. During the time of estrangement, Christian churches of both North and South had increasingly assumed characteristics of a denomination. During the first post-war decade, the Southern Convention adopted a manual for standardized worship and Christian Church rites, as well as for defining "Principles" for Christians. During this period, a group of freed slaves established, in 1866-67, the North Carolina Colored Christian Conference. This group maintained close ties with white Christians and shared in the General Convention of the Christian Church. In 1874, the Eastern Atlantic Colored Christian Conference was formed and in 1873, the Virginia Colored Christian Conference. As numbers of black Christian churches increased, the churches organized themselves further into conferences. In 1892, the Afro-American Convention met for the first time representing five conferences with a total membership of 6,000.
The General Convention of 1874 adopted a Manifesto, defining for the Christian Church movement true unity as based not on doctrine or polity, but on Christian spirit and character. The Manifesto stated: "We are ready to form a corporate union with any body of Christians upon the basis of those great doctrines which underlie the religion of Christ ... We are ready to submit all minor matters to ... the individual conscience."
Not until 1890 was the division between the North and the South sufficiently overcome to adopt a Plan of Union that formed a new General Convention.