Ten UCC and three Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregations have been awarded the title "churches of excellence," through a study made possible by a Lilly Endowment grant.
Conducted over a two-year period by the Parish/Congregation Study at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the list of "excellent" churches consists of 300 Catholic parishes and 300 Protestant churches nationwide. Those chosen range from rural, small-town congregations to large city parishes.
"The most successful churches are those willing to take risks, with leadership, liturgy or programs," says Paul Wilkes, who supervised the "churches of excellence" study. "They are also welcoming, especially to newcomers who don't look or act like themselves."
According to Wilkes, the leaders of these congregations "struggled to make a difference in their churches...they are willing to share what methods, both bold and prayerful, worked for them."
Pastors and ministers from the 600 congregations, along with other Protestant and Catholic pastors, church and lay leaders and church staff, have been invited to participate in a Pastoral Summit to be held in New Orleans from May 30 to June 1.
Wilkes says the summit is intended for participants to "teach and learn from each other how to best serve God and his people through local churches."
UCC ‘excellent' churches
Congr. UCC, South Glastonbury, Conn.; Plymouth Congr. UCC, Des Moines, Iowa; Trinity UCC, Chicago; First Congr. UCC, Downers Grove, Ill.; First Congr. UCC, Glen Ellyn, Ill.; Community Church UCC, Glenview, Ill.; Central Congr. UCC, New Orleans; Williston-West UCC, Portland, Maine; Pilgrim Congr. UCC, Cleveland, Ohio; University Congr. UCC, Seattle.
Disciples ‘excellent' churches
Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, Ga.; Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, Memphis, Tenn.; Light of the World Christian Church, Indianapolis. All three are predominantly African- American congregations.