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.
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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
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.
There were harbingers of the Reformation before the 15th century. In England, John Wyclif translated the Bible into English in 1382 so that all people could have access to it. John Hus encountered Wyclifs translation and writings when returning Oxford students brought them to the University of Prague from which he was graduated in 1394. After furthering the cause of biblical access and authority and opposing the Catholic sale of indulgences, Hus was burned in 1415. He claimed that Christ, not the Pope, was the head of the church; the New Testament, not the church, was the final authority; the Christian life was to be lived in poverty, not opulence.
In 1517, the German monk, university teacher, and preacher, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses of protest against certain doctrines and practices (such as the sale of indulgences) of the Roman Church to the door of the Wittenberg cathedral. His subsequent teaching, preaching, and 'writing spread Lutheran reform throughout northern Europe.
Almost simultaneously, Reformation winds blew to France and Switzerland. In Zurich, Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and in Geneva, John Calvin (1509-64) took up the banner of reform. Their powerful ministries impressed leaders from Europe and Britain seeking a better way. From these churches of Switzerland, the German Reformed movement and the English Congregationalists would breathe deeply.
The Reformed churches differed from the Lutheran churches in avoiding the "Catholic use" of imagery and instrumental music. They differed in their interpretation of the Lord's Supper; rather than being the body and blood of Christ, Reformed faith held that the bread and wine were "seals" or remembrances of Christ's spiritual presence.
Luther and Zwingli had other differences besides their interpretations of the elements of Communion. Zwingli was more of a humanist and Luther considered his political activism dangerously radical and theologically unsound. French refugee John Calvin arrived in Geneva, crossroads for exiles and expatriots, in 1536. He rapidly became more influential than Zwingli, second only to Luther. He wrote a popular, systematic presentation of Christian doctrine and life, The Institutes (1536, final edition in 1559). Most important of Calvin's Institutes was obedience to God's will as defined in the scriptures. Salvation, he wrote, came by faith in God's grace, mediated through word and sacrament by the power of the Holy Spirit. Good works were consequences of union with Christ in faith, not the means of salvation. Calvin considered the law an indispensable guide and spur to the Christian life; prayer provided nourishment for faith. He argued that faith was a divine gift resulting from God's unconditional decree of election.
Further, Christian life was maintained by the institutions of the church, the sacraments of Holy Communion and baptism, and discipline. Calvin followed the biblical model in providing pastoral care and church discipline through pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons.
The Reformed faith eventually reached the German Palatinate around Heidelberg. Elector Frederick III (1515-76) was forced to mediate between his own warring Zwinglian and Lutheran chaplains; he dismissed them both. Sympathetic to Calvinism, Frederick entrusted the writing of a new confession to two young protégés of Calvin and Melancthon, Casper Olevianus (1536-87) and Zacharias Ursinus (1534-83). The result was the remarkable Heidelberg Catechism, adopted in 1563, that unified the German Reformed Church and became a treasured resource for instructing the young, for preaching, and for theological teaching.
There also was wider social unrest in Europe. From 1618 to 1648, the Thirty Years War ravaged the continent. Before the fighting ceased, most of Germany, and especially the Palatinate where the Reformed Church had been influential, was reduced to a wilderness. Churches were closed; many pastors and people starved or were massacred. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 divided the spoils. The Roman, Lutheran, and Reformed churches were allowed to reclaim territories that had been theirs in 1624. Calvinist Reformed churches, for a time unrecognized, were honored along with Lutheran churches.
Protestantism in Germany had lost all its eastern territory.
When two thirds of Hungary was regained for Catholicism, Hungarian Reformed Church Christians suffered intolerance. Their descendants immigrated to America and in 1890 began the first Hungarian Reformed Church in Cleveland. As the Magyar Synod, Hungarian churches united with the Reformed Church in the United States in 1921. Forty Hungarian congregations continue in the United Church of Christ as the Calvin Synod.
Reformation ferment crossed the English Channel within 15 years of its outbreak in Europe. In 1534, King Henry VIII (1491-1547) of England, for personal reasons, broke with the Church of Rome and established the Church of England, with himself as its secular head. He appointed an Archbishop of Canterbury as its spiritual leader. England moved beyond permanent Catholic control, although much of the Catholic liturgy and governance by bishops was adopted into the tradition of the Anglican Church (Episcopal, in America). Nevertheless, Lutheran and Reformed theology invaded Anglicanism during the short reign of Henry's son, Edward VI (1547-53), through Archbishop Thomas Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer.
Catholic Mary Tudor (1553-58) on becoming Queen of England, persecuted those who refused to abandon Protestantism and burned Anglican bishops, including Cranmer. Over 800 dissenters fled to the Continent and came under the tutelage of more radical reformers, especially John Calvin. Mary's half sister, Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) succeeded Mary and reestablished a more inclusive and tolerant Anglican Church. She warily welcomed from Europe the dissenters, who had become steeped in Reformed theology.
On their return, they joined others who felt that Elizabeth's reformation had not gone far enough. They sought to purify the church. The Puritans, so named in 1563, criticized Anglican liturgy, ceremonies, and lack of discipline, especially of the clergy. Their thrust toward independent thought and church autonomy laid the foundations for Congregationalism. Nevertheless, they remained members of the Church of England.
The Puritans held to Reformed belief in the sovereignty of God, the authority of scripture as the revelation of God's will, and the necessity to bend to the will of God. The Puritans regarded human rituals and institutions as idolatrous impositions upon the word of God. They wanted to rid the church of old remnants of papism. Puritan zeal in spreading their belief about God's confrontation with humanity conflicted sharply with the established church. Nevertheless, the Puritans thought of themselves as members of the church, not founders of new churches.
Elizabeth had no heir, and James I ruled England next (160325) and commissioned a new translation of the Bible, known as the King James Version. James's Church of England did not satisfy the Puritans. Yet, they could not agree among themselves about their differences with the church. They were called variously, Dissenters, Independents, Non-Conformists or Separatists. By this time, many Puritans were unwilling to wait for Parliament to institute ecclesiastical reform and separated themselves from the Church of England. Among them were groups that later were called Quakers, Baptists, and Congregationalists.
A civil war during the reign of Charles I (1625-49) was led by English and Scottish Puritans who beheaded the king and, under Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector, seized English government (1649-60). For 11 years, Puritan radicals ruled England with excessive zeal and the monarchy was restored in 1660. The "Congregational Way" probably was born in 1567 when a group of Separatists, calling themselves "The Privye Church," worshiped in London's Plumbers' Hall. They were persecuted severely and their leader killed. Clandestine meetings of Congregationalists continued for simple worship in fields and unexpected rooms, dangerously subject to surveillance by spies for the government, who brought persecution upon the worshipers.
Robert Browne, an Anglican priest, was the first conspicuous advocate of Congregationalism in England. By gathering, in 1581, a congregation in Norwich, Brown expressed his conviction that the only true church was a local body of believers who experienced together the Christian life, united to Christ and to one another by a voluntary covenant. Christ, not the king or queen, was the head of such a church; the people were its governors, and would elect a pastor, teacher, elders, and deacons, according to the authority of the New Testament. Furthermore, each autonomous church owed communal helpfulness to every other church. Browne was imprisoned 32 times and fled to the Netherlands. Browne retained his beliefs but did not remain a Congregationalist; he returned from exile in Holland to pastor a small Anglican parish in England.
Among the early Separatists were John Smyth, founder of the Baptist Church, and John Robinson (1573-1625). The lives of both men became entangled with that of William Brewster, who became a leader of the Plymouth Colony in America. Brewster lent his home at Scrooby Manor as a Separatist meeting place. Richard Clyfton became pastor and John Robinson, teacher. Brewster was ruling elder. In 1607 the Separatist Church was discovered and its members imprisoned, placed under surveillance, or forced to flee. They went first to Amsterdam and then to Leyden, Holland.
Concerned in Leyden that their children were losing touch with English language and culture, and beset by economic problems and threats of war, 102 of the Holland exiles became the Pilgrims who, under John Carver and William Brewster, migrated to the New World, arriving aboard the Mayflower in 1620. As the company left, John Robinson, beloved pastor and teacher who stayed with a majority in Holland, warned the adventurers not to stick fast where Luther and Calvin left them, for he was confident "the Lord has more truth and light yet to break forth out of his Holy Word." Arriving at Plymouth, their leaders realized that the Pilgrims' survival in an unknown, primitive wilderness rested on their remaining loyally together. The Pilgrims drew up and signed the Association and Agreement, the Mayflower Compact, thereby forming of the small colony a "Civil Body Politic" for laws and regulations.
In 1630, John Cotton, a brilliant young minister of Boston, Lincolnshire, England, preached a farewell sermon to John Winthrop and his Puritan followers. Cotton reassured them of their clear call from God to follow Congregational principles, but insisted that they need not separate themselves from the Anglican Church. These Puritan emigrants set sail for Massachusetts Bay. At about the same time, a covenanting Puritan colony arrived in America from England under John Endecott to establish its church in Salem, across Massachusetts Bay, north of Boston. They sent a letter to the Separatist Church at Plymouth to ask for guidance. Commissioned delegates from Plymouth extended to the Salem Church "the right hand of fellowship" and so added fellowship in Christ to English Congregationalism's freedom in Christ.
Concerned that there be educated leaders, the Massachusetts Bay Colony voted in 1636 to give £400 to establish a college in Newtowne (Cambridge). Colonist John Harvard contributed his library and two years later left the institution half his fortune. The college was, and is, called by his name.
No one liked the Westphalian settlement, but the lines were drawn, the Reformation over. Germany lay devastated, plundered by lawless armies, much of its population decimated. Commerce and industry had disappeared; moral, intellectual, and spiritual life had stagnated. Religion was dispirited and leaderless. A time for mystics and poets, much of German hymnody comes from this early 17th century.
Out of such sensitivities, a new Protestant movement, Pietism, arose. Pietism became the heart of a number of Lutheran-Reformed unions. In 1817, the Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union, by order of Frederick William III (1797-1840) of Prussia, united the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of his kingdom, giving birth to the ancestral church of the Evangelical Synod of North America, a grandparent of the United Church of Christ. The Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union became a model in other German kingdoms for Lutheran and Reformed unions. In 1981, the United Church of Christ recovered these roots when a Kirchengemeinschaft (church communion) with representative leaders of that church from the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany acknowledged with joyous celebration full communion with the United Church of Christ at the 13th General Synod.
The pathetic human condition in war-torn 17th century Germany awakened Pietism, a theology of the heart, balanced by moral stringencies for self-discipline. The Pietist movement was initiated by Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705), a Lutheran pastor sensitive to the needs of his congregation demoralized by war. Drunkenness and immorality were rife, church services sterile. Spener inspired a moral and spiritual reformation, emphasizing personal warmth, Christian experience of everyday living, and the building up of Christian virtues. His "little churches" within the church successfully taught self-discipline, including abstinence from card playing, dancing, the theatre. Similar proscriptions found their ways into Puritan churches of the British Isles.
Despite charges of heresy, Pietism held fast, and the University of Halle became its chief center. The warm heart and social concern of Pietism at Halle inspired the commission of missionaries to India, and at least one, a Lutheran, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, to Germans in the American colonies.
Although the churches had been protected by the Treaties of Westphalia, they were isolated from one another in a divided Germany. Neither peace treaties nor the warming of hearts to social concern could erase the ravages of war. The population of Germany had been reduced from 16 million to six million. For lack of manpower, a third of German land still lay fallow between 1648 and 1680. Peasants existed on linseed and oilcakes or bread of bran and moss.
The 17th century was marked by greedy rulers bent on a lifestyle of opulent ease and aggressive attacks on neighboring states. German princes coined money and levied taxes on impoverished people to support it all. In small bands, thousands of German Reformed people, free in their faith in God, quietly slipped away in 1709, to find a haven in London. From there, most sought a permanent home among the American colonists in the New World. Having endured such pain and hardship, many found great promise in the ideal of brotherly love and joined William Penn's Pennsylvania Colony. Others, many of them indentured servants, went to New York, Virginia, and the colonies of North and South Carolina.
Congregations determined the politics and social organization of communities. Only church members could vote at town meetings, and until 1630, one could become a church member only by the minister's endorsement. Most colonists were not church members. The majority of immigrants came for social, political, and economic reasons, not to found a more perfect Christian society. Nevertheless, Puritanism was dominant. Biblical injunctions were specific guides for spiritual life and church organization; biblical law was common law. Puritans undertook a holy mission to demonstrate the "right way" to order church and society.
John Cotton (1584-1652), considered the leading Puritan pastor in England, joined the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633. His True Constitution of a Particular Visible Church, describing Congregational life and polity (organization and government), was read widely in England and influenced John Owen, chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, to embrace Congregationalism. As a result of reading Cotton's work, five members of the Presbyterian Westminster Assembly, "the Dissenting Brethren," would sign, in 1643, what was to become the manifesto of all Congregationalism, An Apologeticall Narration. Thus, through Cotton's writing, New England affected the growth of Congregationalism in England. Quite the opposite of the vigorous and variable Puritans of England, many of the American Puritans become intolerant of alien ideas.
In 1634, Anne Hutchinson, daughter of a nonconformist minister from north of London, arrived. Described by critics as a "woman of haughty and fierce carriage ... of voluble tongue," she would influence Congregational practice and theological thought, such that the rigidly righteous shell of Massachusetts Puritanism, already damaged by Roger Williams (soon banished to Rhode Island), would be irreparably cracked. Opposing a doctrine of the elect, she held that anyone might receive the truth by direct revelation from God, and that the Bible was not its sole source. These ideas were greatly feared by the church because they easily could lead to irresponsible excesses. This "woman of ready wit and bold spirit," wife of gentle William Hutchinson, the mother of fifteen children, interrupted preachers with whom she disagreed. She gathered women regularly in her own home, where she preached to as many as 50 people at a time, often including men.
Hutchinson's criticism of Puritan sermons stirred up a frenzy of concern in Massachusetts Bay Colony. John Cotton, sent to stop her, merely warned her; but by that time, men of stature had taken her side, and the town of Boston was divided. John Winthrop believed that if Anne Hutchinson could not be reformed, she must be exiled.
Winthrop called a Synod of the Bay Colony churches in 1637, that once and for all "the breeder and nourisher of all these distempers, one Mistress Hutchinson," be silenced. She was charged with joining a seditious faction, holding conspiracies in her house, seducing honest people from their work and families and, worst of all, breaking the fifth commandment. Hutchinson exclaimed that Winthrop was neither her father nor her mother, to which Winthrop replied that "father and mother" meant anyone in authority. In the spring, John Cotton betrayed her trust by banishing her from the Colony. Mary Dyer was a friend who walked beside her through it all. She was later hanged for her Quaker faith on Boston Common. Anne Hutchinson settled with her children and husband in the Rhode Island Colony of Roger Williams, where laws were passed to ensure jury trials, to end class discrimination, and to extend universal suffrage and religious tolerance. This democracy was short lived, for Rhode Island was soon annexed to the Bay Colony.
The colonists displaced Native Americans and invaded their ancestral territories. At first, because of their nature and because land was abundant, many Indians received the newcomers with charity and shared with them land and survival skills. Later, the proprietary aggression of some settlers kindled fear in the hearts of Indians.
The colonists brought not only their religion, government, and social patterns, but also diseases against which Indians had little or no immunity. During the 17th century, New England Indians were plagued by a smallpox epidemic. There followed further decimation of their numbers in wars and skirmishes for possession of land. Distressed by wanton disregard for human beings, convinced that their mission was peacefully to carry the good news of Christ to their Indian neighbors, there were others like John Eliot, who was ordained as a pastor so that he might pastor and teach Indians. His concern for Indian neighbors was not only for their conversion to Christianity, but to raise their standard of living to a level enjoyed by the settlers. For 30 years, Job Nesutan, a Massachusetts Indian, was employed by Eliot as a language tutor and chief assistant in the ministry to Indians. With his help, the Bible was translated into the Indian language and Indians were taught to read.
By 1646, John Eliot drew increasingly large congregations each time he spoke. Churches in the colony were encouraged to support Eliot's work and Oliver Cromwell urged Parliament to help the movement financially. The "Corporation for the Promoting and Propagating of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England" was the result. A sum of £5,000 was sent to the colonies, much of this given to John Eliot for his work. Many Indian converts returned to the practices of their indigenous faiths, but others were filled with Christian missionary zeal and prepared the way for Eliot with the New England tribes. The chiefs and councils tried to discourage the spread of the gospel, and his aides used underhanded tactics to retain "converts." As a result, Eliot's work suffered. Finally, the Massachusetts General Court passed a law prohibiting the use of threats or force to ensure Indians' conversion to Christianity, but at the same time, required all Indians living within the colony to refrain from worshiping "false gods" and from conducting native religious services. Roger Williams became the advocate of Indian freedom to worship as they saw fit.
Thomas Mayhew and his clergyman son, Thomas, Jr., were instrumental in leading the eastern Cape Cod Indians to Christianity. By 1652, Mayhew had opened a school for Indian children.
Christian theology induced ferment and continued to challenge the essentially closed social patterns and purposes of the Puritans. There were blacks in Boston as soon as there were whites, and slavery was legal in New England until after the Revolutionary War. A certain number of blacks were admitted to membership in the churches when they were able to meet all the conditions for full communion, tests which did not include skin color, wealth, or social status. While slavery in New England had been dying out in the years prior to the Revolution, blacks felt keenly the reservations to their acceptance in the churches by the Puritans, who treated them as slaves outside the church, while within, members were called upon to regard one another as equal under the covenant of grace and united by God to one another. Under such ambivalence, many blacks withdrew from the churches in the late 18th century to form their own congregations for separate worship.
By 1789, the Boston selectmen allowed blacks to use a school for public worship on Sunday afternoons. Eventually, the black congregation built its own church, called the African Church, on the back slope of Beacon Hill and worshiped there from 1806 until mid-century when it became a center for abolitionist meetings for blacks and whites. Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth were among the speakers at the church.
Religious exclusion was not confined to blacks or Catholics; Presbyterians had felt unwelcome as well. The Westminster Confession of 1646, the design for Presbyterian church government and an expression of Reformed faith and doctrine, was revised for church polity and discipline at the Cambridge Synod of 1648. Called the Cambridge Platform, it enabled a reconciliation between Presbyterians and Congregationalists and was highly venerated into the 19th century.
The Platform interpreted the church catholic as all those who are elected and called to salvation. A "militant visible church on earth" was understood to exist in particular congregations as "a company of saints by calling, united into one body, by a holy covenant for the public worship of God and the mutual edification of one another." Christ was head of the church; the congregation, independent of outside interference, had the right to choose its own officials. The office of the civil magistrate was subject to recognition by the church. Churches were to preserve communion with one another in mutual covenant with Christ. Such covenants stabilized churches establishing themselves under disparate leadership.
A remarkable succession of educated clergy provided strong leadership. Despite the circumstances that cast him in the role of villain in the excommunication and banishment of Anne Hutchinson, no Puritan teacher was more respected in England and in America than the gentle intellectual, John Cotton, minister of First Church, Boston. His colleague from days in England was the plainspoken master of rhythmic rhetoric and the effective metaphor, Thomas Hooker (1586-1647). Hooker, committed to democracy and constitutional free government, was minister across the Charles River at Newtowne (Cambridge).
Concerned for human rights, Hooker became disenchanted with the elitism of the Boston hierarchy. He led over 100 followers to migrate on foot to Hartford in 1636. There, buoyed by his Christian conviction and liberating ideas of democracy, he established a colony. Conservative puritan minister, John Davenport, founder of the New Haven Colony, was so offended by Hooker's willingness to secularize, even to a limited extent, civil government, that he went to Boston when New Haven was gathered into the Connecticut Colony.
All these men were well educated, had high standards for church membership, and were clergy of the English establishment. Except for Cotton, their Reformed covenant theology had been nurtured on the continent. Hooker, who had been with the dissenters in Holland, diverged from the orthodox Puritan view that voting rights should be conferred only with church membership. He saw no justice in disenfranchising nine-tenths of the population, a proportion that included women, children, servants and apprentices, the unchurched who had migrated from England as non-land owners, as well as the sons of "the elect" who could not pretend to such a claim.
Under Hooker's leadership, the Connecticut Colony gave up the religious qualification for the franchise. New requirements were still restrictive. They gave the town meeting vote to "admitted inhabitants," "men" who could prove capable of "an honest conversation" and could swear that they were not "a Jew, a Quaker or an Atheist," and to "free men who were Trinitarians, land owners and of godly deportment." Nevertheless, Hooker is regarded by many as the father of democracy in America, for many of his ideas were embodied in the United States Constitution.
Later, Massachusetts adopted the controversial Half-Way Covenant of 1662, permitting children to be baptized whose grandparents had been members of the church, but whose parents were not. Males baptized under the Covenant could vote at town meeting when they came of age, but were not admitted to the Lord's Supper or allowed to vote for a pastor. Full church membership came with confession of faith. Its requirement to sit in judgment upon a person's Christian credentials would go to the extreme of the witchcraft delusion in Salem Village b) 1692.
Later, Cotton Mather (1663-1728), John Cotton's grandson sought to bring some authority to bear upon the waywardness of Congregational independence. He proposed that minister in association with one another examine and license candidate for the ministry, and that a consociation of ministers and la) men have judicatory standing over the churches. A minister unpopular among his peers, Mather's proposal was at first unacceptable. In 1705-6, Massachusetts finally adopted his plan for the examination of ministers. Connecticut issued the Saybrook Platform in 1708, making both of Mather's proposals binding colonywide. The establishment in 1701 of Yale College assured high educational standards for ministers and leaders alike.
Until the Saybrook Platform of 1708, upheld by the Connecticut General Court, imposed upon the independent, voluntary fellowship of the churches an obligation of "consociation," the Congregationalists drifted toward spiritual decline and anomaly. The consociation provided mutual aid and outside assistance in handling disputes. A penalty was provided for churches or pastors refusing consociation, a "sentence of non-communion," with less intent to control than to provide orderly procedures and mutual support. The new shape would enable Congregationalism as a denomination in the centuries to come, to maintain its integrity in the face of the American Revolution, religious revivals, the scandal of slavery, the challenge of cultural pluralism, and a call to mission that would carry the faith westward and world-wide.
The morality of Pietism, and the warm heart of England's Wesleyan revival that gave birth to the Methodist Church, helped to energize the American Great Awakening. Itinerant preachers of various denominations swept across religious America during the mid-18th century, winning Christian converts and planting hundreds of new churches. While the Coetus of Pennsylvania was giving nurture and support to a continuing influx of German settlers, over 150 new Congregational churches were formed from 1740 to 1760.
Yale-educated Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) of Northampton, Massachusetts, Congregational minister of keen philosophical intellect, believed that the Awakening was breathing new life into the churches. It replaced a view of the church as a group of people who covenanted together to lead a Christian life, with one that insisted upon individual conversion as the accepted way to the kingdom of God. Emotions ran high, and the spiritual climates, that had in many communities fallen into despair, were transformed.
In 1750, Edwards was dismissed from the Northampton church. He tangled with the congregation on issues of church discipline and tact. For example, he read the names of both the convicted and merely indicted ("bad book controversy") aloud in church as a single list. The final issue surrounded a difference in his interpretation of the Half-Way Covenant (he rejected it as too lax a standard of church membership) from that of his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, whose associate Edwards had first been at Northampton. Edwards was convinced that admission to communion should include the requirement of a conversion experience. Although a strict Calvinist, Jonathan Edwards had become a "New Light" revivalist puritan sympathizer. He disagreed with the narrow conservatism of the "Old Light" ministers such as Increase Mather and his son, Cotton, and stood firmly against liberal "Arminians," whose moral righteousness he saw as dangerously smug. Nevertheless, he believed that turning to God required a decision, a disavowal of selfishness and the adoption of the life of "disinterested benevolence." Edwards was joined in his position by a large group of New England clergy who supported the Awakening and opposed the more staid, rational, liberal movement in eastern Massachusetts. A group of moderates stood between both extremes. The Boston advocates of free will against Calvinism opposed the revivals, and the path they took would lead in the next century to the Unitarian separation from Congregationalism.
Jonathan Edwards, foremost of American philosophers, was responsible for a far broader synthesis of science, philosophy, and religion in Congregational and Presbyterian theology and practice than had been present in "Old Light Puritanism. He integrated with Reformed theology the worldview of Isaac Newton, John Locke's emphasis upon human experience, and Augustine's spiritual enlightenment, as well as Plato's idealism and the Neo-Platonic idea of emanation from the Divine Intellect to the soul. His ideas would cohere in his followers to give life to a "New England Theology." They would check the anti-intellectual tendencies of the revivalists and the decline of religious vitality during the Revolutionary period. They would give a theological framework to the recovery of intellectual leadership and a new morality in post-Revolutionary America. Edwards' writings inspired and informed the missionary movement of the 19th century as America expanded westward and looked once again to the lands across the sea. His influence rivaled Hooker's in developing the separation of church and state.
Discerning New Strategies for the Support of UCC Education Leaders
The Future of UCC Certification
Over forty years ago the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries began a program of certifying those employed in education ministries in the United Church of Christ. The program of Certification of Church Educators was designed as one strategy to establish standards for those employed in ministries of education and to provide support for education leaders in the church.
At the time the Certification program began few persons, even those with a Masters degree in religious education, were eligible for ordination. A few had become “Commissioned Workers” in education, but this credential was not then in uniform use across the denomination. Those employed as educators by the church needed a program to support and set standards for this ministry.
Initially Certification as a Church Educator required a Masters degree in religious education. It soon became evident that there were two other categories of educators serving churches and the program responded by developing standards for employed educators with a college degree, and another set of standards for those who did not have college training. These three categories – Specialist, Accredited, and Designated – added a layer of complexity to the program.
Today the situation is very different both for those engaged in education ministries and for local churches. Most of the relatively small group who have taken advantage of the program of Certification of Church Educators are also either Ordained or Commissioned ministers and are thus authorized ministers in the denomination. Less than 5% of those working as part time educators in local churches have taken advantage of the Certification program.
Another big change in the life of the church has been the growing availability of workshops and events to empower educators in their ministries. Annually the Association of United Church Educators offers 3 or 4 regional continuing education events for educators which have consistently been of high quality and well attended by those in education ministries. Many conferences have offered lay school programs attended by both employed and volunteer educators. While most seminaries no longer offer a degree program in religious education, many offer classes and continuing education events for educators. The Defiance College offers a distance learning program which results in a Bachelors degree in religious education. There are many ecumenical events and programs which offer continuing education of help to church educators.
For several years the Committee on Certification and staff at Local Church Ministries have been discussing the future of the program of Certification for Church Educators. In September 2009 a group, representing the Committee on Certification, national staff, the Association of United Church Educators, higher education faculty, and conference staff, met in Cleveland to make recommendations to Local Church Ministries about the future of the program.
One reality that group faced is, with shrinking budgets at in the national setting of the church, it is no longer feasible to continue to staff a program which serves such a small percentage of educators, especially when those same educators now are eligible to attain authorized ministry standing through associations or conferences.
This group has recommended that the many settings of the United Church of Christ – local churches, conferences, associations, national ministries, seminaries, colleges, and organizations – continue to find strategies to support the development of leaders in education for the ministry of the church. It was the discernment of that group that the program of Certification of Church educators no longer is the best strategy for providing that support.
The meeting has made four recommendations to Local Church Ministries.
1. Place the Certification process on hold for 2010 while Local Church Ministries decides on the future of the program.
Those due for renewal in 2010 will be given an automatic one-year extension. If the Certification program is ended, those certified would continue to be Certified Educators.
2. Discern the place of educational leadership ministry development within the national setting of the United Church of Christ.
The group has asked the Congregational Vitality and Discipleship and the Parish Life and Leadership Ministries to discern where attention to education leaders may be placed in the staff structure of the national setting of the church.
3. Create a path for professional education ministry standards.
A task group was created to make recommendations for adding standards for educators to the Manual on the Ministry for ordained and commissioned ministers and to offer minimal standards as guidelines for local churches employing educators not eligible to be authorized ministers.
4. Create assistance for education volunteers.
The group recognized that most attention over the years has been given to employed educators. Most of the education in local churches is done by volunteers. There is need for all settings of the church to look at ways to support these education leaders.
These recommendations have been forwarded to the board of Local Church Ministries and to appropriate staff. If you have any comments you wish to pass on to the Working Group, please send them to the group’s AUCE representative, Elsa Marshall (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to David Schoen (email@example.com) at Local Church Ministries.
Those involved in the meeting which made these recommendations include:
· Debbie Gline Allen (AUCE Coordinating Committee, commissioned minister, certified educator)
· JoAnne Bogart (Certification Committee, AUCE Coordinating Committee, ordained minister, certified educator)
· Lisa Hart (conference staff, AUCE Coordinating Committee)
· K. Ray Hill (Certification Committee, ordained minister, certified educator)
· Michelle Hintz (Parish Life and Leadership Ministry Team member, Certification Committee)
· Elsa Marshall (conference staff, Certification Committee, AUCE Coordinating Committee, commissioned minister, certified educator)
· Ken Ostermiller (former UCC staff person for Certification, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team member, ordained minister, certified educator)
· Marian Plant (meeting facilitator, Defiance College faculty, ordained minister, certified educator)
· David Schoen (Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team leader, ordained minister)
· Dick Sparrow (Parish Life and Leadership Ministry Team leader, ordained minister)
· John Whitebread (AUCE Coordinating Committee, commissioned minister)
Ordained and lay educators are called to serve the church in a variety of roles and settings, in and beyond the local church. Life experiences and formal education among church educators is quite diverse. Mindful of this diversity, the United Church of Christ offers a certification process which recognizes and affirms the competence of church educators in many settings.
This certification process started in 1963 and is administered by the Worship and Education Ministry Team of Local Church Ministries...
- recognizes and affirms the competence of church educators
- encourages personal assessment, evaluation, and intentional growth, and
- seeks to incorporate persons into a relationship of support and accountability with other church educators
Three categories of certification are available to employed church educators who are members of the United Church of Christ and to others employed in church education in a UCC-related setting.
Designated Church Educator
A candidate for certification as a Designated Church Educator needs at least three years employment in church education before applying for certification. Although a bachelor's degree is not required, candidates may have a degree that is unrelated to church education. The educational norm is the completion of a non-credit concentrated program of skill development in church education. Certification is for a period of five years and may be renewed.
Accredited Church Educator
A candidate for certification as an Accredited Church Educator needs at least two years employment in church education before applying for certification. The educational norm is a bachelor's degree plus/ or including academic credits related to church education. Certification is for a period of five years and may be renewed.
Specialist in Church Education
A candidate for certification as a Specialist in Church Education needs at least one years employment in church education before applying for certification. The educational norm is a graduate theological degree plus/or including academic credits related to church education. Certification is for a period of five years and may be renewed.
Recognition of Certified Educators
Local churches may wish to recognize and celebrate the Certification of a church educator. Some ways in which local churches make this recognition are listed below.
- Recognition in service of worship.
- Liturgy of Recognition
- Guest preacher and/or speaker.
- Flowers on communion table.
- Honor at coffee hour.
- Corsage, boutonniere.
- Frame certificate.
- Give "The Church Educator's Code" in format suitable for framing.
- Flyer about Ordering Church Educator's Code
- Give book or other gift.
- Article in church newsletter.
- Article in local paper.
- Mention in worship bulletin.
- Place book in church library in honor of the certified person.
- Plant a tree on church grounds in this person's honor.
- Invite the certified educator to make a presentation in an adult education setting: Present the paper(s) written and/or project described as part of the application for certification. Share the goals set as part of the application for certification or for renewal of certification.
- Have a celebration with the educator's "constituents," i.e., with children if he/she works mainly with children; with teachers if work is mostly with teachers; etc.
The Church Educator's Code
The Church Educator's Code: Purpose and Use
The Church Educator's Code is modeled on and follows the spirit of the codes for ordained, commissioned, and licensed ministers from the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry: Perspectives and Procedures for Ecclesiastical Authorization of Ministry. It is offered for use by local churches, associations, conferences, and other United Church of Christ calling bodies, other settings, and educators.
The Purpose of Code
The primary purpose of The Church Educator's Code, like the codes in the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry: Perspectives and Procedures for Ecclesiastical Authorization of Ministry, is to give expression to and facilitate conversations about the commonly held values and expectations of the church in relation to those involved in educational ministries in the United Church of Christ.
The code addresses issues of commitment, ethics, and etiquette. It recognizes that the church ascribes significant meaning and value to behavior in the realm of each item in the code. While there may be significant diversity within the Church in relation to any specific item, that item does represent an arena in which church people and groups have values and make judgments about the actions of educators and churches.
The code seeks to recognize and express the experience of the church and to name those understandings and behaviors which are valued by the Church.
The Church Educator's Code is provided for educators and churches to discuss with each other their values and expectations. The emphasis is on relationships in settings in which educators are called to ministry.
The Use of the Church Educator's Code
The Church Educator's Code my be used pastorally by any setting of ministry to which a church educator is called.
The code may be used as a teaching tool to help newly-called educators to identify the many spheres in which behavior is viewed, valued, and assessed. It may be used by conference staff when they work with a local church to develop a position for a church educator. It may be used by groups of educators for study, guidance, and reflection.
The code may be used in times of conflict to enable persons to talk with one another about the underlying assumptions and unspoken expectations they have, which are producing suspicion or alienation, so that reconciliation may occur. The code may help conference staff provide assistance to a ministry setting about issues related to educators who do not have ordained, commissioned, or licensed ministry standing.
The code may be used in settings where an educator, local church, calling body, and/or conference staff are exploring the call of a church educator (e.g. interviewing, negotiating the terms of a call, etc.).
The code, or an adaptation of it, may be used in liturgical settings to provide content to the vows covenantal partners make to one another.
The code may be used in any setting in dealing with accountability for church educators to clarify the values, assumptions, and expectations they are making about the commitments and actions of one another.
Additional Options for Church Educators
Employed lay UCC church educators may apply to their local committee on the ministry for standing as a commissioned minister, according to the procedures outlined in the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry and the practice of the association. Although commissioning is an ecclesiastical process, and certification is a professional recognition, some committees on the ministry look to certification as a means of ascertaining the attainment of necessary knowledge and skills for commissioned ministry in church education.
Church educators, lay and ordained, may seek placement through procedures established by the Parish Life and Leadership Ministry Team and the associations of the United Church of Christ. A packet for completing a professional profile may be obtained by contacting the Parish Life and Leadership Ministry Team, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115. Phone: 216-736-3845.
Along with volunteers, employed church educators may join AUCE, the Association of United Church Educators, a national UCC educators' organization which provides regional and national education events, a newsletter, and a network of peer support. A membership form may be obtained from the office of the Committee on Certification.
The Defiance College Design for Leadership is an opportunity to earn a college degree in Christian Education through distance learning.
The union by the Congregational and Christian churches seemed the most natural in the world, yet most of their life together from 1931-57 concerned the General Council with matters surrounding church union, first its own and then with the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
Yet the work of the church continued. In 1934, the General Council at Oberlin, "stirred by the deep need of humanity for justice, security, and spiritual freedom and growth, aware of the urgent demand within our churches for action to match our gospel, and clearly persuaded that the gospel of Jesus can be the solvent of social as of all other problems," voted to create the Council for Social Action. The Council reflected the focus of continuing Christian concern for service, international relations, citizenship, Japanese-Americans, rural life, and legislative, industrial and cultural relations. The General Council had acted to simplify and economize at a national level the prolific and redundant independent actions by churches and conferences, while maintaining the inherent liberties of the local churches.
State Conferences, led by Superintendents or Conference Ministers, responded to local church requests for pastors, resources in Christian education, youth and adult conferences, and speakers on mission and social concerns. They received funds for mission, helped new church starts, and maintained ecumenical contacts.
Printed literature and communication continued to be essential. In 1930, the Christian Church's The Herald of Gospel Liberty merged with The Congregationalist, to become Advance. The Pilgrim Press, a division of the Board of Home Missions, continued to publish and distribute books, Christian education curriculum materials, monthly magazines and newspapers, hymnals, worship and devotional material, and resources for education and evangelism. Nationally, the Women's Fellowship connected the work initiated by women in the churches; the Pilgrim Fellowship provided a network of Christian youth. The Laymen's Fellowship enabled men to carry forward a cooperative ministry.
Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed Church leaders already had begun private conversations about union when German Evangelical Church pastor, Martin Niemoeller was incarcerated in Nazi Germany for preaching the Christian gospel from his prominent Berlin pulpit. He boldly opposed the persecution of Jews. On Christmas Eve, 1938, United States Catholics and Protestants, including Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed leaders, sent a message to the German people. A subtle shift in emphasis had gradually crept among the churches from a desire to evangelize the world to a concern for the needs of human society.
The proposed United Church of Christ tried patience and tested persistence. By far the rockier road to union confronted the Congregational Christian Churches. From before the postponed Uniting General Synod of 1950 until 1957, thousands of hours and dollars were spent on court litigation of suits brought against the General Council by autonomous bodies and individuals of the Congregational Christian Churches. Sustained by a court ruling in 1949, the litigants, defining the General Council as "a representative body" accountable to the churches, maintained that the Council had no power to undertake a union involving the churches. Merger leadership defined the General Council as accountable to itself, "a gathering of Christians under the Lordship of Christ." That interpretation persuaded the court to reverse the ruling on appeal, sustained in 1953.
Truman B. Douglass, who would become general secretary of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, pointed to the theological principles of the "Headship of Christ" and the Reformed "priesthood of all believers," that sustained autonomy and fellowship, as basic to the Congregational Christian polity. Therefore it was applicable to the "agencies of fellowship." General Council minister Douglas Horton suggested that the General Council was "a kind of Congregation," and that neither it nor the local church was subordinate to the other.
The most celebrated suit was brought by The Cadman Memorial Congregational Church in Brooklyn on behalf of itselves and other Congregational Christian churches against Helen Kenyon, moderator of the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches. Helen Kenyon bore the weight of these litigations with strength, patience and valor. Justice Archie O. Dawson, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York opined, "It is unfortunate that ministers and church members, who purport to abide by Christian principles should engage in this long, expensive litigation. ... " Then speaking as a "Christian layman ... in all humility" he urged the parties to the controversy to "give prayerful consideration to 1 Corinthians [6:1,5-7] when similar controversies arose to trouble the early Christians" (Fred Hoskins, Congregationalism Betrayed or Fulfilled, Newton, MA: Andover Newton Theological School, 1962. Southworth Lecture [paper], pp. 7-8).
Louis W. Goebel at the 1950 Evangelical and Reformed General Synod had with patience and grace stated, "so long as they continue to extend to us the hand of friendship and fellowship ... we members of a church committed to ... the reunion of Christ's church, are bound to accept that hand" (Louis H. Gunnemann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ: An Essay in the History of American Christianity, New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1977, p.41).
Ruling against those who would block it, the Court of Appeals issued the assurance that the union "would in no way change the historical and traditional patterns of individual Congregational Christian churches" and that none would be coerced into union. Each member was assured of continuing freedom of faith and manner of worship and no abridgement of congregational usage and practice. The ruling assured the churches that the union would depend on voluntary action taken by independent, autonomous churches (Hoskins, op. cit., p. 41).
In the United Church of Christ, the separate denominational ancestral stories are preserved at the Congregational Library in Boston, Lancaster Theological Seminary, Eden Theological Seminary, and Elon College.
Legally free to proceed with union, uneasiness remained.
Congregational Christians needed to clarify the difference between authority and power; while all autonomous units - individuals, churches, and agencies-were endowed with temporal power, none wielded authority over another except through the biblical authority of God in Jesus Christ. Evangelical and Reformed Christians needed reassurance that there would be one body and not just one head, trusting that the Holy Spirit would make of the Covenant, owned by the parts of the body-individuals, churches, and agencies-a whole United Church of Christ. In trust, a joint 1954 meeting of the Congregational Christian Executive Committee and the Evangelical and Reformed General Council (ad interim for the General Synod) affirmed The Basis of Union with the Interpretations as a foundation for the merger and sufficient for the drafting of a Constitution.
Both communions approached the 1957 Uniting General Synod with fresh leadership. James E. Wagner had succeeded Richards as president of the General Synod in 1953, and on Douglas Horton's resignation in 1955, Fred Hoskins was elected Minister and General Secretary of the General Council. Eight theologians from each uniting communion met to study basic Christian doctrine, theological presuppositions, and doctrinal positions in preparation for the writing of a Statement of Faith.
All of the Evangelical and Reformed churches, responding to a responsibility laid upon them by their church tradition, and those Congregational Christian churches that understood the church as a people gathered by Christ moved a step farther toward reunion of the Christian church on June 25, 1957 as, with faith in God and growing trust in one another, they became The United Church of Christ. Some 100,000 members, unable to accept the union, joined The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches or The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.
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.
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
Electronic versions of General Synod Minutes, The Constitution and Bylaws and New Conversations are now available at rescarta.ucc.org.
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.