The United Church of Christ’s History and Polity Teachers Network gathered Thursday and Friday at the UCC headquarters in Cleveland to reach the wider church on the concept of engaged discipleship. The group gathers annually so members can share what is happening in their own settings, and to learn about changes in the UCC’s national setting. This allows them to stay current in their work, said the Rev. Kathy Clark, UCC Minister for Members in Discernment for Local Church Ministries.
"We’re broadening our borders to people outside those who want to become ministers," Clark said. "There’s a sense of ethos and identity, and trying to know, ‘What does it mean to be UCC at this time?’"
The Polity Teachers Network first met about two decades ago to share and discuss questions around UCC polity, which is the method through which the UCC governs itself. The group teaches polity and the history of the UCC in a variety of settings at numerous levels, including seminaries, regional conferences and associations.
This year, the group discussed revisions to the polity class guidelines for the first time since 2004 to reflect the more modern state of UCC polity. "We’ve lived with this for 10 years," said the Rev. Barbara Brown Zikmund, retired president and professor of UCC-related Hartford Seminary.
What started as informal discussion through letters has developed during two decades as a network of teachers who carry the responsibility of educating students on the history of the church and the evolution of the UCC’s Bylaws.
"We were just writing back and forth, running into each other at meetings," said Zikmund. "Pretty soon people said, ‘We ought to get together,’" This is not a top-down thing. It was a grassroots bubbling-up of people who had a job to do, and the way they could find out how to do it was to ask questions."
More information or resources on UCC polity is available online.