Written by Lee Foley
*A ceremony first adopted by the United Church of Christ 15 years ago, "the divorce ceremony," is getting a second look from the secular press. Often ridiculed when it first came out, the ceremony—found in the Book of Worship, United Church of Christ as the "Order for Recognition of the End of a Marriage"—is "becoming more common in houses of worship across the country," according to a story in the May 4 edition of The Wall Street Journal. The article says that a number of Protestant denominations and specific Jewish temples now offer the ceremony as a means of providing closure to a failed marriage. According to UCC spokesperson Ron Buford, as quoted in the paper, it allows for "divorced couples to stay in their church community."
*The Wall Street Journal also quotes the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC President and General Minister, in its coverage of the successful fight to save from demolition the remaining wall of a Dutch church in the city of Leiden. The church was used for worship by the Pilgrims prior to their departure for North America. "The flight of the Mayflower Pilgrims to Leiden and their subsequent journey across the Atlantic is one of the foundational epics of American history—an event that still shapes U.S. politics, culture and religion," the paper quotes Thomas as saying. The UCC led a diverse coalition of churches in the effort to save the wall from being destroyed as part of a shopping center development in the Dutch city.
*The Idaho State Journal recently carried several articles, two of them comprising the entire front page of its "Living" section, about the restoration of the 1914 pipe organ at First Congregational UCC in Pocatello, Idaho. During the three-year restoration, the church's sanctuary was remodeled, including theater stage lighting, acoustical improvements and new carpeting. The membership also purchased a new concert grand piano for the church. The nearly 87-year-old organ has pipes as long as 16 feet and others as short as a quarter inch. The church celebrated the restoration of the organ and the addition of the piano with a series of recitals.
*Two newspapers published near Sarasota Springs, N.Y., the Gazette and the Post-Star, have documented the controversy surrounding the appointment of an openly gay UCC-ordained minister as associate pastor of the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church. The nearly 400-member church is federated, with about 75 per cent of the membership being Presbyterian and the rest members of the UCC. The Rev. Anthony Green was picked by the church's selection committee after a lengthy search. His installation was put on hold last month after Presbyterians from other churches in the area filed a formal complaint with the Presbytery of Albany. Unlike the UCC, the Presbyterian Church (USA) does not ordain gays or lesbians. Green is quoted in the Gazette as saying, "I came here to do ministry and do the work I feel called to do. This is not what we had hoped would happen."
*The story of another gay minister, the Rev. Keith Haithcock, is making news in southern Ohio, where The Cincinnati Enquirer printed a feature article in March outlining how Haithcock serves as pastor at what the paper calls, "... a white, aging, straight congregation [St. John UCC] in tiny Bellevue." The story tells of Haithcock remaining true to his calling and to his sexual orientation and how he came to serve the seemingly conservative St. John membership and is finding acceptance.
*The Rev. Jack Seville, retired Northern Plains Conference Minister and interim Wisconsin Conference Minister, is receiving all sorts of press coverage and notoriety. Seville recently has had a novel published , "Through His Eyes Only" (Prospect Press). It's the story of a minister during the Vietnam-era who struggles with personal crisis. The promotional material from Seville's publisher says 'Through His Eyes Only' has it all, "... human frailty, forgiveness, and renewal, [and] has all the elements of love, faith, sex, duplicity and mystery."
*It was front page news in The Milford Daily News, serving a portion of Massachusetts, when a one-time administrative assistant to the dean of religious and spiritual life at Wellesley College was ordained a UCC minister in early May. The story of Patricia Walton is one of success. Walton now serves as Protestant chaplain at Wellesley.
Has your local church "made the news" lately? Send news articles to Clippings, United Church News, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. Lee Foley was a TV news director before joining the UCC's Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry last fall.