Details of last Amistad Chapel service coming together around movement, inclusiveness, collaboration
It’s sacred space. A gathering place. A vessel of God’s love, of worship and extravagant welcome. The Amistad Chapel at the United Church of Christ Church House has served all those roles since 2000, anchoring the downtown Cleveland building that has been home to the denomination’s national headquarters since 1990.
On March 13, Amistad Sunday, the chapel will host its last worship service at 2:30 p.m. ET, a commemoration of the mission and ministry of the building lovingly referred to as “700 Prospect.”
Paying tribute to the denomination’s first three decades in Cleveland in the online service of farewell – a team of UCC leaders past and present, who will participate on site and virtually.
“As the UCC national setting prepares to relocate, the closing worship is being crafted around Amistad Chapel, which has served as sacred gathering space and centering space for the national offices for over 20 years,” said the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, associate general minister.
She’s leading a worship planning team creating a service “representing the various settings of the UCC and the diversities therein.”
How to tune in online
All three current executive officers will be involved in the worship. More than a dozen participants will include past presidents, a Conference minister, youth and representatives of the UCC’s historically underrepresented groups in a service with both live and taped elements.
COVID-19 protocols, including masks, will be followed. While there may be a small number of people present in the chapel as participants, “our desire is to create a time of worship and farewell that includes members of the UCC wherever they are located,” Thompson said. The 90-minute service will be streamed on the UCC’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Those interested in attending via Zoom can register here.
While details of the service are still coming together, movement around the chapel is expected.
“Leaving 700 Prospect also means leaving behind the space we have come to know and love,” Thompson said. “Seeing and experiencing Amistad in this service of thanksgiving is an important part of moving on.”
The Amistad Chapel was imagined by architects — members of UCC churches — who were invited in the 1990s to think about sacred space in the building. The result was a worship and meeting place whose furniture, lighting, artwork and floor plan are rich in UCC faith, history and symbolism. These especially convey the story of the Amistad rebellion of 1839. Captives aboard a schooner mutinied against human traffickers — and were eventually aided in their freedom fight by ancestors of today’s UCC.
The UCC has been called to many places that will be mentioned in the service — including the most recent: the former Ohio Bell building the denomination purchased in a run-down neighborhood in need of renewal in 1989.
More than 330 employees once worked in the revitalized nine-story structure. But over the years, as the size of the staff got smaller, so did the need for space. The national setting put 700 Prospect up for sale last fall, and will be moving the national setting to one floor of leased space in May.
‘Part of a journey’
“700 Prospect, with its Amistad Chapel, stands in a wide circle of spaces across generations that have been places of regeneration, learning, community and healing,” said the Rev. Robert “Rip” Noble. “They were not the first sacred spaces of the United Church of Christ nor now will they be the last.”
A former executive associate of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries — a forerunner of several of today’s national UCC ministries — Noble managed many aspects of the construction of what came to be known as the Church House. This included the Radisson Hotel at Gateway and the Meeting House, which opened in 1997, and the Amistad Chapel, completed in 2000. He’ll be participating in the March 13 farewell.
“’700’ and its chapel are part of a journey, a journey that has been and will be continuous, reaching back and extending on ahead,” he said.
‘On the move’
The building brought the UCC national ministries together, to collaborate in one place, in a move from several spaces in New York and St. Louis.
“The UCC national offices moved from New York to Cleveland in 1990 following a series of General Synod actions,” Thompson said. “During those 30 years, the UCC has provided vibrant ministry to our congregations and to the world.
“The life of the UCC is dynamic, and the journey continues as we downsize to space that reflects current needs, as we provide ministry with partners in the U.S. and globally,” she said. “The church is on the move, rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus Christ and a commitment to justice.”
Participants can register here. The UCC Church House remains closed to the public.
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