When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
The rise of civil unrest, and extreme violence, coupled with disruptions from climate change around the world mean that increasingly people are forced to leave their homelands to seek safety and a secure future for their children elsewhere. The reasons for leaving are diverse and complex: extreme poverty, threats from gang violence, war and religious or social persecution, or devastation from draughts and extreme weather. As the United Church of Christ, we have a moral responsibility to walk alongside immigrants and welcome them to be part of our church, no matter what their immigration status, and no matter where they are on life’s journey.
As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors. The Bible is unambiguous in calling us to welcome aliens and strangers in our land, and to love them as we love ourselves. In these times, let us listen to the voice of the still-speaking God. We will learn how to respond to these new sisters and brothers residing among us.
Things you need to know about UCC stance on Immigration:
The United Church of Christ has a long history of solidarity in the struggle for dignity and human rights for immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees regardless of their immigration status. We do this through a network of grassroots leaders in the UCC National Collaborative on Immigration (sign up here) working to share a prophetic stance and lift up the voices of impacted leaders. General Synod Resolutions over the last decades show the continued support from our denominations. We also work at the federal level to advocate for just and equitable immigration policies.
How to Take Action
UCC pastors and lay leaders are taking action through becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation and joining the Sanctuary Movement. Together we have worked with immigrants’ rights partner organizations to stop deportations, support Sanctuary cities, accompany asylum seekers and advocate for just immigration reforms that include a pathway to citizenship. Sign up to register as a Sanctuary or Immigrant Welcoming Congregations
Join the UCC National Collaborative on Immigration - The UCC National Collaborative on Immigration is working at the grassroots level to create more Immigrant Welcoming and Sanctuary Congregations that can lend a prophetic and bold faith voice to the larger movement for immigrants and refugee rights. Sign up now.
Recent Statements and Action Alerts
How to Support UCC Congregations with People Claiming Sanctuary
Many congregations in our denomination have stepped up to heed the call when someone is in danger of family separation due to a deportation order, opening their congregation to create a safe space of Sanctuary. See more about how you can support below UCC congregations that are physically accompanying undocumented people who are claiming Sanctuary in a house of worship, thus avoiding deportation and keeping their families together.
Shadow Rock United Church of Christ, Phoenix, AZ
Protecting Our Immigrant Neighbors
The Administration continues to take significant and dangerous steps that are eroding the foundations of the immigration system and the international law that upholds access to asylum for those fleeing danger and violence. A hallmark of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies have been to deny the humanity of those seeking a new life or asylum at the border. The practice of separating families, increasing immigrant detention, and redefining access to asylum are abhorrent and undermine our values. To this date, the administration continues to separate families and hold immigration families in unsafe detention facilities. During this COVID Pandemic that has not changed. Many immigrants are being held unjustly in detention placing them at even greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Reports of immigrant women being forced to undergo unwanted medical procedures to the ongoing terrorizing of our immigrant neighbors by interior ICE enforcement, to the exporting of COVID on deportation planes are all horrific outcomes of the administration’s white supremacist agenda and war on immigrants.
The Rev. Rhina Ramos knows all too well the fear and the struggle facing migrants coming to the United States, hanging on to the hope of building a better life. She lived it.
The Rev. Traci Blackmon brought greetings from the UCC to 30,000 people gathered at Lafayette Square across from the White House, site of the "Families Belong Together" rally in Washington, D.C. on June 30, urging them to keep fighting for love.
People across America, young and old, lifted up their voices at more than 700 'Families Belong Together' rallies on June 30, calling for change in the government immigration policies, and the immediate reunion of migrant families separated at the border.
Heeding the sacred call to give sanctuary to the vulnerable - By Rev. Traci Blackmon and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner | April 18, 2018
(RNS) — Our immigration enforcement agencies are becoming agents of family separation.
"Shouldn’t our sanctuaries offer this same kind of Sanctuary...to anyone? Wouldn’t we want this grace, and do we not call upon this kind of love every Sunday?" Read more of Rev. Julian DeShazier's reflection on Immigrants Rights Sunday and intersectionality.
Now, more than ever faith communities from different traditions are coming together to take a bold and prophetic stand against President-elect Trump's harsh immigration proposals and threats to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival.
- Sanctuary FAQ - Webinar via UCC Insurance Boards - Heather Kimmel, General Counsel for the United Church of Christ, addresses the current interest of faith communities in operating as sanctuary churches, the legal risks, and ways churches can minister to undocumented persons. Watch the recording. (Note: Although you have to enter your email address and name, the webinar can be viewed by anyone.)
- Learn more about how to engage in this sanctuary movement and download the rapid response toolkit via SanctuaryNotDeportation.org
- For churches offering sanctuary to refugees and immigrants, the ACLU has compiled an FAQ sheet.
The push for humane immigration reform brought veterans, clergy, activists and UCC advocates to the border wall dividing the Nogales, Arizona, and Mexico communities, as part of a joint rally calling for a new model of border justice that builds bridges and relationships instead of walls and policies that create fear and division.
Blood on our hands: Stop the raids - The Hill - By Rev. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ
Over the last several months, discussions around immigration policies have devolved to extremist sound bytes, with political candidates creating a new wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric to further their own agendas. Sadly, these hateful words have manifested themselves in how the United States treats immigrants. The actions of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are endangering the lives of thousands of asylum seekers fleeing violence, persecution, and devastating poverty in Central America. (Read more.)
No Longer Strangers: The Practice of Radical Hospitality, a book by UCC pastor Rev. Wendy J. Taylor, explores the lonely and difficult lives of migrant farm workers in Northern California and follows one woman’s compassionate response to their plight.
Behind the Wall - Video by Rev. Art Cribbs. Made possible through a grant by Neighbors in Need.
Find information here about the Holy Joe's Cafe Coffee House Military Chaplain Ministry
The UCC Fair Trade Project (formally the UCC Coffee Project) allows your congregation to partner with the UCC and Equal Exchange in building fair trade for small farming communities by serving fairly traded coffee, tea and cocoa, and chocolate, snacks, and olive oil for justice at fellowship hour on Sundays.
The UCC Fair Trade Project is a way for your congregation to join hands with communities in the developing world. As Christians we can address a consumer dilemma by buying coffee and other commodities that are fairly traded. Through the project, small farmers and their families gain more control over their lives, earn a fairer share of income, have access to credit and technical support, and gain a trading partner they can trust, a fair trade organization called Equal Exchange. (See the video Equal Exchange: Who We Are and What We Believe In.) And, through the project, members of your congregation can learn about consumption habits that support small scale farmers and workers throughout the world and encourage careful stewardship of God's creation. At fellowship hour, you will be taking action in a spirit of love.
How to Be Part of the UCC Fair Trade Project
- Serve fair trade coffee, tea cocoa and snacks at fellowship hour, church events, in the office and at home.
- Design congregational fund raising projects featuring fairly traded coffee, tea, snacks, chocolate and olive oil. Give fair trade gift baskets as thank you gifts.
- Order educational resources along with your coffee and make space and time in your congregation for conversation about justice in the global economy.
- Encourage other places of worship or businesses in your community to partner with Equal Exchange's Interfaith Coffee Project.
At Equal Exchange's webstore, remember to log-in as part of the Interfaith Program and the UCC Fair Trade Project. This will ensure you are offered wholesale pricing! For more information about the UCC Fair Trade Project, go on line to Equal Exchange's Interfaith Fair Trade Program at equalexchange.com/interfaith, e-mail email@example.com, or call 774-776-7366.
Kids love to get chocolate for Halloween. But for children in cocoa-growing countries in Africa, chocolate often means child labor and family poverty. Equal Exchange, our partner in the UCC Fair Trade Project, participates in a fair-trade program to help end the problems of child labor, poverty, and environmental destruction in the African cocoa industry. Buy fair-trade chocolate mini-bars to give on Halloween. You can also order wholesale to sell to members of your congregation; a youth or women’s group could sell the mini-bars as a fundraiser.) Order now. Help end child labor.
Learn More from Equal Exchange
Equal Exchange shares ideas for serving fairly traded coffee.
Explore educational resources about particular fairly traded products:
Your Purchase Counts Twice: UCC Small Farmer Fund
Equal Exchange contributes $0.15 to the UCC Justice & Witness Ministries Small Farmer Fund for every pound of fairly traded products sold through the UCC Coffee Project. Since the Coffee Project began in 2004, Equal Exchange has nearly $100,000 to the UCC Justice & Witness Ministries Small Farmers' Fund.
Small Farmer Fund contributions totaled $7,309.32 in 2014. This money is used to support the Small Farm Project at the UCC Franklinton Center at Bricks. This is one component of the Just Food Project which supports a farmers' market held at FCAB where local small farmers sell their produce and local residents purchase affordable fresh vegetables and fruits. FCAB is located in eastern North Carolina in an area where many people are in poor health, experience food insecurity, and have poor access to healthy foods. The Small Farm Project is part of a comprehensive approach to comm unity economic development, environmental education, social justice, and health.
A Bitter Cup? Facts about Coffee and the Importance of Fair Trade
Coffee is one of the most heavily traded commodities in the world. Americans drink approximately 320 million cups of coffee every day;20 percent of the world's total coffee production. Some 20 million people near the equator depend on coffee for their livelihood, but for many the coffee trade keeps them trapped in poverty. With little access to markets, farmers often sell through middlemen who offer the lowest price possible. With world coffee prices in constant flux, farmers have no guarantee of how much they will receive for their crop.
Equal Exchange is a worker-owned fair trade company, founded in 1986, that offers consumers fairly traded gourmet coffee direct from small-scale farmer co-ops in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Equal Exchange seeks to establish an alternative model of trade, one that benefits small farmers directly through the following fair trade standards that apply to all Equal Exchange products:
- Always pay a guaranteed minimum price to the farmer.
- Work directly with democratic cooperatives of small scale farmers.
- Provide vital advance credit to farmers.
- Encourage ecologically sustainable farming practices.
- Develop long-term trade relations based on trust and respect.
- Offer consumers the finest gourmet, certified organic, shade-grown coffees.
Small Farmers. Big Change, a blog from Equal Exchange
Equal Exchange posts up-to-date resources to inform your congregation about Fair Trade. Check them out.
Fair World Project publishes For a Better World, a twice-yearly publication filled with articles and graphics that examines the issues and challenges in fair trade. It is a free publication with all past issues posted on-line.
Keep Plantations Out
TransFair USA, long a major certifying body for fair trade products, has changed its name to FairTrade USA and withdrawn from FLO International, the International Fair Trade Certifying body. Transfair USA has ceased to practice the original Fair Trade mission—to support small farmer organizations by helping them gain access to the international market. Equal Exchange, our partner in the UCC Coffee Project, left Transfair in the summer of 2010, to affiliate with another certification agency, IMO, the Institute of Market ecology, because, for example, Transfair USA had increasingly permitted products from large plantations to be certified as Fair Trade.
Here is the page on the UCC's economic justice web pages that explains the issues: Keep Fair Trade: Don't Weaken Standards.
Here is the World Fair Trade Organization's response to the Fair Trade USA (formerly TransFair)/FLO split.
The Church has always understood itself to be an extension of Jesus Christ's ministry in the world. The diakonia of the early church — the ministry of healing, service, care, compassion and hospitality— served the needy neighbor in Christ. For more than thirty-five years the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has advocated for health care as a right and a priority for all people.
Traci Blackmon among clergy arrested in D.C. denouncing 'sinful and immoral' health care reform
Read more via UC News and watch video clip of Rev. Blackmon's remarks outside Senator Mitch McConnell's office, prior to her arrest.
UCC Perspectives on Efforts to Repeal and Replace the ACA
Ten priorities for a faithful health care system
As people of faith, we believe that any change, repeal, or repair of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) must include comprehensive health care legislation in a single bill that
meets these ten priorities for a faithful health care system. These priorities arise from a shared commitment to a faith-inspired moral vision of a health care system that offers health, wholeness, and human dignity for all.
The scriptures of the Abrahamic traditions of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, as well as the sacred teachings of other faiths, understand that addressing the general welfare of the nation includes giving particular attention to people experiencing poverty or sickness. For their sake and for the common good, we must continue to make progress toward a U.S. health care system that is inclusive, equitable, affordable, accountable, and accessible for all.
- Preserve the coverage gains made by the ACA and further decrease the number of Americans without health insurance.
- Preserve the funding for Medicaid expansion and expand the program in all states.
- Ensure that reasonable revenue is in the federal budget to pay for health care for all.
- Uphold the purpose of Medicaid by refraining from structural changes to how the program is funded. Changing the funding structure to a block grant or per capita cap would impose rigid limits on the amount of federal money available to states for Medicaid, endangering the health and well-being of children, older adults, people with disabilities, and their families.
- Ensure that insurance premiums and cost sharing are truly affordable to all. Policies to improve affordability must prioritize those with the greatest need, not those with the means to put money in a health savings account or wait for tax deductions.
- Maintain health services and benefits currently provided by the ACA including access to essential medicines, mental health services, preventive services, pre-natal services, and other key services necessary to maintain health.
- Maintain guaranteed issue for those with pre-existing conditions. Do not quarantine the millions of Americans with pre-
existing conditions in unaffordable high risk insurance pools.
- Prevent insurance companies from discriminating against women, the elderly, and people in poverty.
- Create effective mechanisms of accountability for insurance companies and not allow them to have annual or lifetime caps on expenditures.
- Continue to allow children under the age of 26 to be covered by their parents’ insurance.
Because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many Americans now have health care insurance that will assist them in gaining access to health services - a great first step. Unfortunately, many of those who have insurance face access challenges in finding, locating, and getting to a health provider to acquire appropriate care from the health care system in a timely manner.
Why are people struggling to attain quality care? Learn more about health Equity.
The UCC Collegium of Officers invites and encourages all conferences, associations and congregations to participate and engage in dialogue and discussion using the Just Eating Curriculum.
This wonderful curriculum calls us to integrate the commitments and practices of our faith into the way we eat. We think it will be a great enhancement to your work around food justice and sustainability issues. Learn more.
UCC Faith Community Nurse Network
The UCC Faith Community Nurse Network, formerly the Parish Nurse Network, aims to promote health ministry and parish nursing in congregations and communities, as the visible presence and voice of parish nurses in the United Church of Christ. Learn more and join the network.
Use Mission Moments every week to tell a story about your congregation's connection with the wider church. Each issue - which is designed to be inserted with your newsletter or Sunday worship bulletin - is an effective way to inform your members about what they make possible through their gifts to Our Church's Wider Mission.
You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns --Deuteronomy 24:14
We know that our loving God cares about all aspects of our lives, including our work lives. Conditions and events at work absorb our energy, occupy our minds, and impact our psyches when we are both at work and home. Our work situations can be fulfilling and empowering, or demeaning and humiliating. For many of us, our job is the main factor determining the size of our income, whether we have health insurance and a pension, whether we live in a big house or any house at all, and whether we send our children to college or to bed with an empty stomach.
|Low-wage workers across the country are courageously putting themselves and their jobs at risk by seeking better pay and working conditions.
Locate worker organizations in your community that welcome your support.
How the American South Drives the Low Wage Economy by Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, Summer 2015. The low wages, no union jobs of the south are moving north.
Hard Work, Hard Lives by Oxfam America describes the difficult reality faced by millions of workers in the U.S.
How Crowdworkers Became the Ghosts in the Digital Machine by Moshe Z. Marvit, The Nation, February 4, 2014. The exploitation of Amazon's workforce.
The Workers Who Bring You Black Friday: My life as a temp in California’s Inland Empire, the belly of the online shopping beast by Gabriel Thompson, The Nation, December 16, 2013.
Among American workers, poll finds unprecedented anxiety about jobs, economy by Jim Tankersley and Scott Clement, Washington Post, November 25, 2013.
Serving up justice: the movement for restauant workers' rights heats up. The Nation, Sept 2/9, 2013
In New Wave of Walkouts, Fast-Food Strikers Gain Momentum, August 29, 2013.
A Day's Strike Seeks to Raise Fast-Food Pay by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, July 31, 2013. Fast-food employees across the country engage in brief strikes in an effort to boost their pay.
Fighting Back Against Wretched Wages by Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, July 27, 2013. Workers are organizing for better pay and working conditions; employers push back.
Alt Labor by Josh Eidelson, The American Prospect, January 29, 2013.
Some workers confront particularly unjust situations such as extremely low pay, unsafe conditions, racism, or sexism. All workers, whatever their position in the hierarchy of jobs, may suffer from indignities, large and small, that cripple their spirit and hinder their journey to greater wholeness.
One-quarter of all jobs in the U.S. pay wages so low that a full-time worker cannot keep a family out of poverty. For some, the biggest problem is no job at all. Even when the economy is considered to be "strong," millions of people who want to work cannot find a job or can only find a part-time one.
God's reign does not stop at the door to the workplace. The Church, the body of Christ, is called to seek out and accompany people wherever they are. So the church must also be in our offices, factories, stores, farms, schools, and all the places where people work.
Every worker deserves a living wage. We must raise the minimum wage and ensure that every job pays a living wage.
Labor unions are an important way that workers can improve their wages and working condtions, and gain greater dignity on the job. Traditional labor unions continue to organize and struggle to improve workers’ lives. But forming a traditional union is nearly impossible in the current political and legal climate, even though the right to do so is an internationally-recognized human right. So workers are creating alternative worker organization. For an overview see Alt-Labor by Josh Eidelson in the February 2013 issue of The American Prospect; the article describes and tells the stories of some of these alternative labor organizations and the couragous workers who are behind them. These groups, which welcome our supprt, are active in multiple locations around the country. Please find one near you and lend your support to strengthen their efforts.
Women continue to be paid less than men for doing similar work. We need pay equity.
Young workers face special challenges: higher rates of unemployment and falling wages over the last decade for those with high school diplomas and college degrees.
Safety on the Job is critical for all workers.
Labor Sunday, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, is an excellent time for congregations to lift up workers and issues of justice in the workplace.
Economic globalization is impacting workers, jobs, and the U.S. economy. How do we respond?
Immigration is an issue surrounded with much misunderstanding and confusion. Don’t Be Fooled: Immigration is NOT the Real Problem explains that the shortage of good jobs in the U.S. is not due to immigration but lax enforcement of worker protections in the workplace.
Labor trafficking, also called modern-day slavery, refers to the use of force, coercion, fraud, or abduction to exploit a person for profit.
Work to end wage theft, the illegal practice of paying workers less than they earn.
Abusive sweatshop working conditions, either in the U.S. or abroad, must be eliminated.
Low-paying jobs are too common in the U.S. today
Some 28% of jobs in the U.S.(over one in four) pay poverty-level wages, so low that a full-time worker cannot support a family above our nation's extremely meager poverty line. A job should lift everyone out of poverty, not keep them there. Poverty jobs can be changed into life-enhancing jobs if we work to make this happen.
Jesus was a Low-Wage Worker is a resource describing low-wage work, the workers in these jobs, and how we can make low-wage jobs into living-wage ones. All workers are made in God's image and deserve living wages and respect. Request free buttons in English and Spanish (see image, bottom of page) from Annie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-822-8224, ext 3720.
In addition to low pay, low-wage jobs often have other disadvantages:
• few benefits such as health insurance, a pension or retirement plan, or paid sick leave;
• inconvenient hours such as nights, weekends, rotating shifts, or part-time hours;
• few opportunities for advancement; and
• too often, exceptionally dirty or hazardous work.
Women and people of color are more likely to hold these jobs than white males.
There are many types of low-wage jobs. They can be found in any industry or occupation. Some of the more common low-wage jobs are in health care (nursing homes, cleaning hospitals), hospitality (cleaning hotel rooms), restaurants and fast food, child care including early childhood education, farm work, meatpacking and poultry processing, retail sales, and security guard. Many of these industries are growing rapidly which means the number of low-wage jobs will grow in the future.
Note that much of this work cannot be moved overseas. The jobs performed by these workers -- cleaning, caring for children and elders, selling items to customers -- need to be done in our local communities. If people of faith stand with low-wage workers who are seeking to improve their wages and working conditions, then poverty-wage jobs can be changed into living-wage jobs.
The UCC's General Synod Resolution Affirming Democratic Principles in an Emerging Global Economy (General Synod 21, 1997)
SEPTEMBER 2019 - AUGUST 2020
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Written by Barbara Brown Zikmund and Sally A. Dries
Feminist historians have noted that the ways in which events and trends are grouped in popular history relies on male experience and often fails to reflect the impact that the same events have on women's development. Hence in American history, materials are grouped into the pre-Revolutionary War period, and antebellum period (before the Civil War), and the post-World War II period. History becomes a series of periods between wars. And wars are nothing but disruptive and destructive interludes between those periods.
Recent research, however, is pointing out the importance of war in the history of women. It now appears that wars are periods of significant advances for women. During wars the regular patterns of family and social life are disrupted. Men go off to battle and women are left to take on many new responsibilities. Instead of being periods of decline and interruption, for women, wartime provides advancement and opportunity. It is no accident, therefore, that the organizational foundations for many of the women's boards ~nd societies in American church life were laid during the years surrounding the Civil War.
One woman noted that the Civil War "had much to do with breaking up the crust of public opinion" against independent organizations for women.
In the country's hour of desperate need it had welcomed women into the camp hospital. They had gone to the front in some cases with their husbands, and lived intents, serving the wounded, or later been with their husbands at the front during the reconstruction period. They had prepared bandages at home and stepped out from the routine of homemaking to wider interests and experiences. So now, when the war was over they were ready to go on to new and vaster fields of opportunity. 
But it was not easy. Patterns of female subordination and auxiliary organizations pervaded the first half of the nineteenth century. Such women as Catherine Beecher had argued eloquently that heaven appointed women to a "subordinate station." Woman's mode of gaining influence in the world was not any less important, but her "exercising of power should be altogether different and peculiar. . . . Woman is to win every thing by peace and love; by making herself so much respected and loved, that to yield to her opinions and to gratify her wishes, will be the free-will offering of the heart." And it was all to be accomplished in the domestic and social circle.
This attitude had been deeply internalized by many churchwomen. So much so that historians can document a "feminization" of the churches during the first half of the nineteenth century. Women, who made up the bulk of the laity in the churches, cultivated an interpretation of Christ that emphasized meekness, love, humility, and forgiveness. The prestige of the clergy declined, and popular religion focused on activities that were a natural extension of the role of wife and mother 
Women who wanted to organize independent clubs, boards, or societies, especially in the churches, were not encouraged. Many years later an active churchwoman remembered:
It is difficult in these days to realize how much opposition existed toward any such independent organization of women. Probably it would have been impossible because of this general attitude of mind to have undertaken any common effort earlier than this . It was not supposed that women were capable of doing such work outside the home. The idea of their conducting a business, keeping books, or carrying on the work of a large organization was unheard of. 
Many mid-nineteenth-century Christians found it difficult to overcome their conviction that it was improper for a woman to offer prayer in public or to stand on a platform and preside over a meeting where men were present. After the Civil War, however, these attitudes began to change.
By the end of the century, women in most of the denominations that eventually came together to form the United Church of Christ had organized significant i ndependent women's boards and societies which were totally managed and supported by women. How did this come about?
Early Missionary Organizations
In 1800 Mary Webb became personally concerned about the mission outreach of American Christians. She gathered together some Congregational and Baptist women to found the Boston Female Society for Missionary Purposes. Soon thereafter women in many places formed what were known as "female cent societies" to raise money for mission. The idea was that any woman could save one cent a week if she denied herself some little thing. Building on the parable of the widow's mite, churchwomen believed that their small contributions could make a big difference. And from this beginning a pattern of "auxiliary mission societies" was established.
When four young college students responded to the rising global consciousness of American churches to found the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), in 1810, the women cooperated. The American Board, as it came to be called, was the major ecumenical missionary society of mainline Protestantism until the mid-nineteenth century. It channeled the monies of the "female societies" and received sizable bequests and legacies from committed Christian women. By 1839 the Board's annual report showed that approximately 680 local "ladies' associations" were at work collecting funds for foreign missions. 
In the early days the American Board thought that single women should not be sent out as missionaries. Only if a woman was married could she be commissioned as a full-fledged missionary. In time this pattern changed. Letters from the missionaries' wives raised the awareness of the Board about "the degradation and deprivations of native women and girls in non-Christian cultures." Public opinion came to realize that only single women, free from the obligations of home and family, could respond to the need. The entire mission enterprise was at stake, because women were a "great hindrance to the conversion of men." 
An ABCFM missionary from China, the Rev. David Abeel, was eventually convinced that the slow progress of mission work in China was largely owing to the lack of work among women. Abeel argued that "more than half of the women of the world were held in Oriental seclusion. They were unwelcomed at birth, married in childhood to men they had never seen, and shut away from all possible teaching except that of their husbands or of other women." He obtained permission to come home. After stopping in London, where his appeal helped to organize the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East, he made his plea for women's work among American women. The results were limited, but the record shows that the First Congregational Church of Rockford, Illinois, founded a local women's missionary society in 1838. Almost thirty years later, in 1861, females of six denominations organized the Women's Union Missionary Society in New York. 
Not until after the Civil War did the argument for women's work and the organizational climate for independent women's societies and boards in many denominations lead to the formation of separate mission boards for women. From that time on women's work in American churches had new vitality and life.
Independent Congregational Woman's Boards
In 1868 a Mrs. Bowker, of Charlestown, Massachusetts, developed a plan to encourage women in the missionary endeavor. She called a meeting of women to hear statements by returned missionaries regarding the "degradation and wretchedness of heathen women." Under her guidance two committees were formed to write a constitution and to consult with representatives of the American Board. The Board believed that a woman's society could "co-operate with theirs, availing itself of their long experience, and avoiding at the same time the perplexing details incident to an independent organization." On the surface it sounded like another auxiliary, but the result came to involve women quite differently in the mission enterprise.
Early reports of the Woman's Board of Missions (WBM) emphasized the indirect power of Christian women.
Under Paganism, woman is a cipher. Hence the labor of Christian women, both in schools and visitations, assumes in the minds of heathen men a humble character. It neither stirs pride nor gives occasion for alarm; and the benevolence that prompts it disarms opposition. Our work is among the women; to teach them that they are of importance and interest to Jesus, if not recognized by their own households - that they have souls, and that there is a Saviour and a heaven for them. This wonderful news, once received and believed, spreads with lightning-like rapidity from one to another, arousing an eager desire for knowledge. Christ, accepted, brings a gentle refinement that unconsciously ennobles the recipient; and the men, too, are blest, before they have thought to recognize the cause.
Within a year of the founding of the WBM in Boston a similar organization took root in the Middle West. Late in 1868 the secretary of the ABCFM spoke to a group of Chicago women and shared his enthusiasm for woman's boards. "The question may be asked," he said, "Why not act directly through the American Board?" The reply was that women could be brought into more immediate, closer personal relations to the work by taking on themselves a part and by entering into correspondence with the missionary women in the field. "Ladies will write to each other as they will not write to me, do the best I can to win their confidence. . . . The vivacity, the touching incidents, the free, hearty expression of their thoughts and feelings, joys and sorrows, they reserve for their own sex." The women were convinced and the Woman's Board of Missions of the Interior (WBMI), with headquarters in Chicago, came into being. 
Congregational connections to the growing frontier settlements of the West and of the Pacific Islands led to the founding of two more women's boards within five years. In 1871 the Woman's Board of Missions for the Pacific Islands (WBMPI) was organized in Hawaii by a female missionary on furlough from Micronesia. In 1873 a small group of Congregational women met in Santa Cruz, California, to mobilize women's resources throughout the western states and territories in a Woman's Board of Missions for the Pacific (WBMP). Although the boards back east objected to these organizations, because they were "so far from the centers of civilization," the California women argued that this was exactly the reason they needed to be an independent board. Furthermore, they were "the natural gateway to Japan, China, the myriad islands of the seas and the infant missions of Mexico." 
Early on all the woman's boards adopted some important principles that shaped their work: First, they existed primarily to serve the needs of women. They supported women missionaries in the field who were single and encouraged the employment of competent, native "Bible women." Second, they sought funds in such a way so as not to diminish contributions to the American Board. They made it a policy, however, to raise money one year and spend it the next year. This way they always knew the limits of their resources. Third, their support was personal. Branches were encouraged to "adopt" specific missionaries and to "pledge" to specific projects. Fourth, they did everything in their power to keep administrative overhead low, relying on "unpaid, freely given labor." 
In the fifty to sixty years of their independent work three of these women's boards (WUM, WBMI, and WBMP) contributed over 20 percent of the total receipts of the American Board. In 1927 these three woman's boards were reunited with the American Board and have continued as part of the United Church Board for World Ministries since the formation of the United Church of Christ. The WBMPI continues its independent existence in close relationship with the Hawaii Conference of the United Church of Christ. The Christian denomination had its origins in the American zeal to overcome past divisions and organizations and get back to the basics. Christians were in New England, North Carolina, and Virginia and on the Appalachian frontier well before 1800, but they were reluctant to organize. One historian wrote:
Remember that many years passed before the Christians pretended to organize like other denominations, and then ensued a period when energy was largely absorbed with church building and controversy over sectarian, theological, and metaphysical subjects. Combatting error was deemed almost paramount to declaring the truth. 
The Christians did eventually organize and embark on enterprises to share the truth.
Regional mission societies for "home" work were operating by the 1820s to help organize new churches, but not until 1854 was a national Board of Home and Foreign Missions elected and not until after the Civil War did the denomination have a national missionary department with a full-time secretary. 
This delay in organizing did not prevent women from becoming involved in the leadership of Christian churches. Women preachers and evangelists were an important chapter in the early history of the Christian denomination. Also, records of local women's organizations for mission in New York and Michigan during the 1850s have been found. Perhaps the lack of a national denominational organization actually helped the cause of women, because there were few structures through which to formalize masculine control.
Before long, however, men and women alike were advocating a "woman's board." And in 1886, at the quadrennial session of the American Christian Convention, held at New Bedford, Massachusetts, the Woman's Board for Foreign Missions was elected. Four years later, in 1890, at Marion, Indiana, the women of the Convention organized a Woman's Board for Home Missions. 
What these Boards, together with the Conference Boards and local societies with their constituents, have done for the missionary interests of our denomination would fill a volume.... Suffice it to say that they have not worked to "be seen of men," but "He who seeth in secret" will reward them openly. 
When the Congregational Churches and the Christian Churches came together in 1931 to form the Congregational Christian Churches, the women's boards of the Christian Churches became part of the world and home mission boards of the new denomination. Together with their Congregational sisters, Christian women were guaranteed one-third female representation on the governing boards of these significant structures for mission and outreach.
Woman's Missionary Society of the General Synod (Reformed)
The first missionary society in the Reformed Church in the United States was created in 1826 by the Synod of Frederick, Maryland. An auxiliary Female Missionary Society apparently came into being at the same time, but its activities were strictly local. In 1838, when the Synod organized a foreign board it decided to carry out its work through the same interdenominational American Board that served the Congregationalists. The arrangement was a happy one. German Reformed money and missionaries worked through the American Board for twenty-five years.
After the Civil War, however, in 1866, the Reformed Church in the United States decided to seek its own mission field and establish an independent mission board. In 1873 a Board of Foreign Missions was organized, with special commitments to sponsor mission work in Japan. 
The involvement of women in these developments was minimal. Women in the German Reformed churches were "at that time completely unorganized, and we might say completely uninterested." The records show, however, that in 1869 a Rev. S.B. Yockey made an appeal to the Ohio Synod that the church should organize women for missions. This appeal was the beginning, although the suggestion did not "take root in the extremely conservative soil of our Reformed denomination." 
Women's work in the Reformed Church eventually took shape. Much of its strength resulted from the tireless work of Samuel Yockey's wife, Elvira Beilhartz Yockey. Elvira Yockey was raised a Methodist, but on her marriage she embraced the Reformed tradition. She became convinced that women had a special responsibility for mission and could not understand how the church could revolve around Christ and yet have so little zeal in carrying out Christ's final command to share the faith.
Reformed women had served the churches through "aid societies," whose chief aim was to raise money to help their own congregations. Contributions to mission were "incidental." Looking back many years later Elvira Yockey wrote: "Women's Missionary Societies as they now exist whose exclusive aim was to work for missions, not only in raising money, but in creating sentiment, in educating and training the women and children along the lines of missionary activity, were unknown." She wanted her church to follow the example of women in other denominations and organize for mission. She wanted to release the energies of women for the gospel. 
The women were expected to "keep silence in the churches." Their voices were never heard even in public prayer, and to this day in most of the prayer meetings of the church the number of audible prayers is limited to the number of men present. How much the church owes to the number of silent prayers that ascend heavenward from feminine hearts, can never be known. 
But the idea of a woman's society had little favor among the older members of the congregation. Elvira Yockey continued to promote the idea in her husband's church. Frequent mention from the pulpit and in "social intercourse" of the benefits that other denominations were deriving from woman's work in missionary societies brought about a gradual change in sentiment. Finally, in 1877, the Woman's Missionary Society of the First Reformed Church of Xenia, Ohio, came into being. It was the beginning. 
Elvira Yockey wrote many letters and encouraged other churches to found societies. "There were no precedents to follow, no model constitutions, no prepared programs or books of study.... The presidents were compelled to do almost all the work, not because our women were unwilling, but because they were timid and untrained,"(28) In 1883 the first public recognition of women's work was made by the Pittsburgh Synod, and in 1887 the Woman's Missionary Society of the General Synod was organized at Akron, Ohio.  By the second triennial meeting of the Society,
many who had opposed or failed to encourage the movement became convinced that the work was for and from God. The unwomanly aggressiveness which some feared was entirely absent. There was no spirit of self seeking, no effort to adopt masculine methods, or usurp masculine prerogative, but only an intensely earnest desire to have some part in the evangelization of the world. This earnestness, as is usually the case in the best type of womanhood, went hand in hand with a persistence that admitted no denial. 
From these beginnings the national society came to publish The Woman's Journal and by 1914 to establish a national Philadelphia office. In 1923 the Woman's Missionary Society of the General Synod supported three full-time staff members.  As the Society approached its fiftieth anniversary, in 1937, conversations commenced with the women of the Evangelical Synod of North America. Soon thereafter, in 1939, the Woman's Missionary Society of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical Women's Union of the Evangelical Synod of North America formed the Women's Guild of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. 
Evangelical Women's Union
During the years when Congregational, Christian, and Reformed women were creating national organizations for women, women in German Evangelical churches were preoccupied with the local needs of their congregations. This preoccupation is understandable, considering the fact that Evangelical churches were the last of the four denominations that merged to form the United Church of Christ to organize nationally. In the late nineteenth century many German immigrants were still tied to their European roots and slow to develop an American ecclesiastical loyalty. The Evangelical Synod of North America did not come into being until 1877. Therefore, that a national organization for Evangelical women was not created until 1921 was not surprising.
Once again, wartime experience—this time World War I—prompted women to seek more independence and gave them confidence in their abilities. One woman wrote:
"Every cloud has a silver lining," says the optimist and our "silver lining" lay hidden in the black cloud of the world war. In those days organized effort was a necessity. Community, fraternal and church organizations found a common cause and vied in ardor and zeal. Our constituency [Evangelical women] did its part. Red Cross reports showed Evangelical women in the front ranks. That was therefore the psychological moment.... [Women] saw the opportunity and seized it by sending a plea to the General Conference, convening in the city of Pittsburgh, September, 1917, asking them to federate the Evangelical womanhood. Statistics of the Red Cross Society showed that the organized women of our church could be made a power. 
A convention was called at Cincinnati, Ohio, June 29-30, 1921, and the National Union of Evangelical Women was born. The Union did not limit its membership or the types of activities it supported. It "chose to include ALL women's societies within the Church and to incorporate ALL branches of the denomination in its program."  Yet the organization of a national union was a radical step in the eyes of some.
In the Evangelical Year-Book for 1923 a seven-page article appeared entitled "The Call of the Church to Her Women," which defended the legitimacy of women's work in the church. The author admitted that the new organization was an innovation, but the church does not need to fear innovation when it "can be shown to square with reason and conscience and the Word of God." The call of the church to these women had in "back of it the whole age-old force of religious tradition from the very beginnings of the human race." After spelling out the power of these traditions the article closed with conviction.
It is not only lawful for her [the church] to call upon her army of devoted and earnest women to render what service they are able to perform, it is her sacred duty to do so, and to organize them so that they may be able to do the work to which they are best suited in the most effective manner. 
Evangelical women had always been loyal in assuming responsibilities and meeting the needs of the local church. Now they were invited to move beyond home and congregation to support programs for the Synod and for the "Kingdom-at-large." In so doing they would become acquainted with one another and better understand the program of their denomination. 
The organization was a success. In 1923 the name was changed to the Evangelical Women's Union. Soon thereafter the Board of Directors began issuing a "Monthly Program," with topics and suggested activities for women's groups. As the years went by the programs of the Union affected the lives of women in many ways. By 1936 its work was carried out through six departments: education, devotional life, missionary education, stewardship (including the thank offering), social welfare, and citizenship. It was an impressive record. 
Once the Evangelical and Reformed Church had been consummated the Evangelical women moved with confidence toward merger with their Reformed sisters. They believed that the Evangelical Women's Union had "proven herself a faithful and fruitful 'Handmaid' of the Church, locally and inter-denominationally." In the coming merger they prayed that it would continue to be a blessing. 
The Success of Women's Work for Women
The development of these independent women's mission boards did three things for women and the churches: (1) It transformed the mission consciousness of the churches, (2) it improved the situation of the women involved, and (3) it created a climate that supported the advancement of women and the ecumenical movement. The personal involvement of women in the mission movement was its great strength. The women demonstrated repeatedly "the power of small offerings frequently collected from large numbers of contributors." Whereas the general mission boards asked for large contributions, "the women asked for two cents per week—asked it from door to door; devised mite boxes, formed small local circles, held frequent meetings, looked after children, old women, poor people, hand-picked their own fruit, and astonished the world with their success." 
Furthermore, the women developed a new style of missionary literature. Historically, missionary literature had consisted of annual reports, anniversary sermons, and missionary biographies. In contrast, the women prepared low-cost materials that appealed to women and children. They overwhelmed the missionary ignorance of the churches with leaflets, stories, poems, and summaries that could be bought for a few cents or even given away. "These light troops could penetrate where the more ponderous forces never would be moved, and so began the great popularization of missions." 
The active and personal involvement of women in this work not only assisted the mission cause but also enriched the women themselves, "These women could never have learned so much had they merely turned their money over to others to administer." Rather they took on heavy responsibilities and the necessity for decision and initiative. They were "in touch with great things, they saw and knew the women missionaries going out to the field, they became their personal friends, they were aware of international problems and movements." Their organizations became training schools for thousands of women throughout the land. 
An argument can be made that the women's mission boards were an important step in the secular movement to expand woman's role in American society and to push American Protestants into the ecumenical movement. Women's organizations for missions were the first women's clubs specifically to send out help to other women. This experience built networks of support and raised consciousness about women's problems. As the years went by simple mission piety changed to feminist consciousness, Words like foreign and heathen disappeared from the annual reports. The word ladies was changed to women. Women placed increasing emphasis on cooperation, internationalism, interdenominationalism, and unification.
In 1888 women from the United States and Canada joined with British women to create the first international ecumenical missionary agency intended to be universal in scope-the World's Missionary Committee of Christian Women. Despite strong denominational pressures to organize separately the women "kept their sense of solidarity and conversed, discussed, corresponded, and acted together." Working through ecumenical councils, federations, and committees they invited all Christians to pray together and share responsibility for the work of the church. They were extremely successful. The Sunday School Union, the World Day of Prayer, the Young Women's Christian Association, the Cooperating Committee for Women's Christian Colleges in Foreign Fields, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Committee on Christian Literature for Women and Children in Mission Fields, and Church Women United are only a few of the ecumenical ventures that grew out of these independent missionary organizations for women. 
Women's work and woman's boards are a unique chapter in the history of women and the United Church of Christ.
Barbara Brown Zikmund was president of Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. She is a member of the UCC Historical Council. Sally A. Dries is the pastor of Salem UCC, Shamokin, Pennsylvania. She was formerly Director of the Ecumenical Women's Center, Chicago.
1. Grace T. Davis, Neighbors in Christ: Fifty-Eight Years of World Service by the Woman's Board of Missions of the Interior (Chicago: James Watson and Co., 1926), p. 7.
2. Catherine Beecher, An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism with reference to the Duty of American Females (Philadelphia: Henry Perkins, 1837), pp. 99-103, quoted in Rosemary Radford Ruether and Rosemary Skinner Keller, eds., Women in Religion in America: The Nineteenth Century, vol. 1 (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981], p. 311.
3. See Barbara Welter, "The Feminization of American Religion, 1800-1860" in Dimity Convictions (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1976), p. 91, and Ann Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture (New York: Knopf, 1977).
4. Davis, op. cit., p. 6.
5, R. Pierce Beaver, American Protestant Women in World Mission: A History of the First Feminist Movement in North America, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), pp. 14-16.
6. Fred Field Goodsell, You Shall Be My Witnesses (Boston: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, 1959], pp. 154-55. See also William E. Strong, The Story of the American Board (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1910).
7. Goodsell, op. cit., pp. 156-57.
8. Grace T. Davis, "History of Congregational Women's Societies" in Matthew Spinka, ed., A History of Illinois Congregational and Christian Churches (Chicago: Congregational and Christian Conference of Illinois, 1944), pp. 208-9.
9. First Annual Report of the Woman's Board of Missions: Presented at Its Annual Meeting in the Mount Vernon Church, Boston, January 5, 1869 (Boston: George C. Rand and Avery, 1869), pp. 4-5.
10. Third Annual Report of the Woman's Board of Missions: Presented at Its Annual Meeting in the Mount Vernon Church, Boston, January 3,1871 (Boston: Rand, Avery and Frye, 1871), p. 9.
11. Davis, Neighbors in Christ, op. cit., p. 9.
12. Albertine Loomis, To All People: A History of the Hawaii Conference of the United Church of Christ (Kingsport, TN: Kingsport Press, 1970), pp. 380-81.
13. History of Fifty Years: Woman's Board of Missions for the Pacific and Program of Jubilee Meetings (San Francisco: n. p., 1923], pp. 11-12.
14. Goodsell, op. cit., pp. 161-64.
15. Ibid., pp. 167-73.
16. Milo True Morrill, A History of the Christian Denomination in America: 1794-1911 (Dayton, OH: Christian Publishing Association, 1912), p. 246.
17. Ibid., p. 251.
18. John Franklin Burnett, Early Women of the Christian Church: Heroines All, Booklet Six (Dayton, OH: Christian Publishing Association, N.D.). See also Barbara Brown Zikmund, "Abigail Roberts: 'Female Laborer' in the Christian Churches," Historical Intelligencer 2, no. 1 (Fall 1982): 3-9.
19. Alice V. Morrill, "Our Women's Work" in J. Pressley Barrett, ed., The Centennial of Religous Journalism, 2d ed. (Dayton, OH: Christian Publishing Association, 1908), pp. 509-10.
20. Ibid., p. 510.
21. E. S. Yockey, Historical Sketch of the Origin and Growth of the Woman's Missionary Societies of the Reformed Church (Alliance, OH: The Women's Journal, 1898), p. 5.
22. Elizabeth T. Flynn, "Historical Sketch," The Outlook of Missions 13(May 1921):p. 230.
24. Yockey, op. cit., p. 4.
25. Ibid., p. 7.
28. Flynn, op. cit., p. 231.
29. Yockey, op. cit., pp. 8-9.
30. Ibid., pp. 17-18.
31. "The Woman's Missionary Society of General Synod," The Messenger, June 17, 1937, pp. 8-9.
32. Mrs. V. J. Bartell, "Highlights of the Merger Convention: The Ceremony of Merger"(mimeographed, n.p., N.D.).
33. Mrs. A. A. Sotier, The First Ten Years (n.p.: 1931), p. 2.
34. H. L. Streich, "For a Larger Service: Beginnings of the Organization" in Mrs. Hugo Schuessler, ed., Beginnings of the Evangelical Women's Union compiled for the Fifteenth Anniversary (St. Louis: Evangelical Women's Union, 1936), p. 6.
35. "The Call of the Church to Her Women," Evangelical Yearbook 1923, pp. 22-28.
36. Mrs. F. A. Keck, "Beginnings Reviewed by the First President," in Schuessler, op. cit., p. 4.
37. Streich, op. cit., p. 6.
38. Ibid., p. 8.
39. Helen Barrett Montgomery, Western Women in Eastern Lands (New York: Macmillan, 1914), p. 38.
40. Ibid., p. 39.
41. Davis, "History of Congregational Women's Societies," op. cit., p. 222.
42. Beaver, op. cit., pp. 145-50, and Davis, Neighbors in Christ, op. cit., pp. 200-5. See also Mrs. Fred S. Bennett et al., The Emergence of Interdenominational Organizations Among Protestant Church Women (New York: United Council of Church Women, 1944), and Gladys G. Calkins, Follow These Women: Church Women in the Ecumenical Movement (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ, U.S.A., 1961).
Written by William G. Chrystal
Congregationalism was ideally suited to the frontier, and Missionary Superintendent Julius Reed, one of Iowa Congregationalism's "sacred seven," thought it could provide German immigrants with a well-anchored religious life. According to George Eisenach, premier historian of the German movement, Reed "secured a number of German ministers and missionaries from Germany and Switzerland and from denominations in this country which had German preaching." He also petitioned the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS) for financial support. 
The AHMS, organized by four denominations in 1826 but funded and directed mainly by Congregationalists and Presbyterians, supported a variety of German pastors and churches, including Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, and Evangelical, in addition to Congregationalists. For example, no fewer than twenty-one pastors of the Kirchenverein des Westen (later the German Evangelical Synod of North America) received half their salaries from the AHMS between 1841 and 1862. 
Members of the AHMS had grown uneasy about aiding pastors and churches with lax membership standards. They abhorred the custom of admitting to full communion anyone who had a confirmation certificate, although this was a common practice in Germany.
That the membership of the German churches, in many instances, is made up without what appears to American Christians sufficient evidence of regeneration by the Spirit of God, there is no longer reason to doubt. . . . To aid in building up churches on such a foundation.., would lower the standard of godliness, encourage formality, and prepare the way for a religion of external display, and thus produce the very state of things which our pious fathers crossed the ocean to escape. 
Congregationalism among the Germans, as championed by Reed, offered a form of church organization that was ideally suited to frontier communities. It also emphasized vital personal religion growing out of an experience of conversion. Yet the preaching of repentance and conversion was almost unknown to those who were raised in the German Landeskirche (State Church). Congregationalism's first missionary to the Germans, Peter Fleury, recruited by Reed in 1846, was told by one, "In our country, thieves, murderers, and such people, have to do repentance, but we are Christians, by birth, baptism, and confirmation." 
Not simply a polity, Congregationalism spoke a religious language as foreign to most Germans as English was. Although pastors labored with zeal, the numbers remained small. In 1883 there were twenty-seven churches, with a total of 1,006 members.  They were "unaided, alone, divided among themselves, the prey of religious tramps from other churches." 
Viewed suspiciously by those who were affiliated with traditional German churches, German Congregational pastors were culled from many sources. The "Mission Houses" of Germany and Switzerland supplied a number of them, particularly St. Chrischona in Basel. Even though these missionaries had an ecumenical outlook, they failed to dispel the popular fear that being Congregational meant deserting the faith of one's ancestors. Peter Fleury told of a man who wanted to join a Congregational church being pulled from the room by his wife, who said, "You must not forsake the Lutheran faith." Another man, who, when asked if he liked Fleury's sermon, said, "Very much, it is all very good if it were but Lutheran." 
Germans in Prussia
If it were not for the influx of large numbers of German-speaking natives of Russia into the United States and Canada in the decades before and after 1900, the history of German Congregationalism could be presented in these few paragraphs, highlighting a small band of Reiseprediger (traveling preachers) and the congregations they gathered in the Middle West.  The immigration of these Germans from South Russia and the Volga region, beginning in 1872-73, brought a new urgency to the German work. Although foreign to most native Germans, Congregationalism appealed to Protestant Russlanddeutschen (Russia Germans), particularly those from Lutheran parishes. They had been raised in a milder Lutheranism than was often encountered in the United States, and some had actually experienced revival and regeneration in Russia. Mid-nineteenth century American Congregationalism offered a style of church life that was seemingly designed for them—a fact made clear when one looks at their unique social and religious development.
"A German is like a willow tree; stick it anywhere and it will take." This old Russian saying was a tribute to the industriousness of the thousands of Germans who immigrated to Russia beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, first to the north, or Volga region, around the city of Saratov, and later to the Ukraine and to Bessarabia, in the south.  The Russia Germans had transformed barren steppes into rich farmland, creating tidy communities that preserved their German heritage in unique ways.
Religion was at the center of their lives. A pledge of "unhindered freedom of worship" by Catherine the Great, in 1763, helped lure the Volga Germans from their homeland. Yet the colonists brought their own religious backgrounds. Of the 104 colonies established on the Volga from 1764 to 1768, for example, 29 were Catholic. Of the remaining colonies, three fourths were Lutheran and the rest, Reformed. 
A chronic shortage of clergy existed from the beginning. Priests sometimes ministered to Protestants, and theological differences between Lutherans and adherents of the Reformed faith were often minimized.  Although Russia German Lutherans embraced the Konkordienbuch (Book of Concord), as did Lutherans everywhere, one observer nonetheless noted: "The confessional status of the colonies is unclear."  Provincial in many ways, Russia German Protestants heard good sermons. Sometimes, however, the sermons were read by the local schoolteacher from a predigtbuch, or book of sermons, because the large parishes and scarcity of pastors made it impossible for all places to have a minister to officiate each Sunday.
Russian pastors were well trained, even by German standards. Many pastors, however, did affect one Russian Orthodox decoration. A number of pastors' pictures show them wearing the traditional pulpit gown and linen tabs, with a large crucifix suspended from a chain around the neck. 
A theological seminary had been founded at the University of Dorpat, in 1833, to train pastors for the Protestant colonies.  Some of Germany's best theologians taught there, including Luther scholar Theodosius von Harnack, who himself had attended Dorpat and whose son Adolf, one of Protestantism's most famous scholars, also studied there. The elder Harnack and church historian Moritz von Englehardt, who made a lasting impression on young Adolf, grappled with modern theology's weightiest themes. A strict Lutheran, Theodosius Harnack had even written a book condemning Herrnhut (Moravian) influence on the Lutheran church in Livonia, and Englehardt, teaching textual and source criticism almost radically, had reportedly known Herrnhut Pietism in his youth. Without doubt, Dorpat's seminary offered a theological spectrum as broad as any found in Germany. 
Pastors of Russia German churches, like all who deal in practical theology, spoke to concerns and temptations of everyday life: Aware that most parishioners owned only three books—the Bible, either Luther's catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism, depending on whether one was Lutheran or Reformed, and a gesangbuch (hymnal)—pastors illustrated sermons biblically and exhorted people to live their faith. They preached in irenic terms, appealing to the Bible rather than the symbolic books of the Reformation.
People wishing to scoff at us call us "Lutherans." Now, we are not ashamed of Luther's name. But when people mean our Lutheran church was built by Luther, so we say with Luther himself: That is untrue. Not Luther but Christ is the ground and cornerstone of our faith. 
Pastor C. Blum, of Krasnojar on the Volga, author of the sermon from which the above excerpt was taken, included it in Gnade um Gnade (Grace upon Grace), a book of sermons intended for church use in the pastor's absence. This book offered a sermon for each Sunday of the church year and for special days, opening and closing with a hymn selected from the Wolga Gesangbuch. Each sermon was built around a biblical text, which was quoted. The emphasis in the predigtbuch is uniform. Blum urged his hearers to live holy lives. On Reformation Sunday he sounded his theme plainly enough: "We Evangelical Christians are clever enough at debate, but are lazy at a holy way of Life." 
Despite strong faith in many homes, enough people turned their backs on the church to be noticed.
If the pastor's exceptionally sensitive
Singing and drinking arouse his anger.
He thunders and he threatens;
Has done so many years;
But in our village
It's like it's always been. 
Heinrich Peter Ehlers, a Volga villager, liked to amuse his friends by imitating clergy. However, he was eventually brought to his knees and conversion. Ehlers became a leader of the Brotherhood, a lay movement outside the church proper that introduced prayer meetings in many villages, effecting the kind of regeneration the AHMS looked for in frontier German-American churches. About the same time a similar movement began in South Russia, but more pastors took part there than in villages along the Volga. 
The Brotherhood gained special prominence during the Great Revival of 1872 (which continued until the early 1890s). It owed its origin to a number of influences, including various Anabaptist and millenarian neighbors: Moravians, Mennonites, and Stundists. Prayer meetings held in private homes by itinerant members of such groups, coupled with the irenic Pietism already prevailing in the village churches, quickly spread a new personal religion. In lay meetings, always attended by church members—sometimes without the pastor's blessing—people sang, read scripture and offered testimonials that spoke of fellowship with God in Jesus Christ. 
Life in America
Although confirmation remained important for Russia Germans who joined Congregational churches in the United States—a catechism was written for that purpose—prayer meetings stayed at the center of their religious lives. They honored the German tradition of religious education while maintaining the prayer meetings of Russia, which had brought them closer to God than they had imagined possible.
Were it not for the Brotherhood, Russia Germans would not have joined Congregational churches after their immigration to the United States. Participation in the Brotherhood required membership in a church, and Congregationalism's emphasis on the autonomy of the local church and the priesthood of all believers appealed to them. Because so many members of the Brotherhood belonged to Congregational churches, in some towns the church was called die Brüderschaft der Kirche. 
Unlike in Russia, where there was only one church in a village, many denominations wooed the Russia Germans in the United States, confusing them with competing claims. Among the denominations that organized congregations made up of Russia Germans were the Missouri Synod, American Lutheran Church, Reformed Church in the United States (German Reformed Church), German Evangelical Synod of North America, German Methodists, German Baptists, and Adventists. Roughly 45 percent of those from Protestant churches in Russia remained Lutheran, 20 percent were divided among Methodists and Baptists, and 5 percent joined the Reformed Church. Yet 30 percent of the Russia German Protestants in the United States by the 1930s had joined Congregational churches. 
The immigration of Russia Germans to the United States re-sulted from several causes. The most significant was Czar Alexander II's revocation, in 1871, of one of the guarantees made to the first Volga colonists by Catherine the Great: freedom from military service. In 1892 Alexander III curtailed land acquisition by non-Orthodox citizens in the west. To land-starved colonists who had established many new colonies and who doubtless had plans to start more, such a policy seemed to aim at their freedom of religion, which Catherine had also guaranteed.
Many families did send sons off to the army and navy. Even today pictures of young Germans in Russian uniforms are found in the homes of their American offspring. An anti-German wind was blowing across the steppes, however, and the colonists felt it. They had lost faith in the manifesto that brought their ancestors to Russia. Consequently, many sought new homes, some going to the United States and Canada and others journeying to South America.
Beginning with a few scouts who located cheap land in the early 1870s, Russia German immigration eventually reached massive proportions. By 1920, 303,532 first- and second-generation Russia Germans resided in the United States.  They constituted the third and final great wave of German immigration; the first arrived in colonial times and the second, in the mid-nineteenth century.
The Russia Germans were different from earlier German immigrants. Their speech was laced with Russianisms, and German-Americans considered it archaic. Along with their English-speaking neighbors, German-Americans referred to them as "Russians" and to their settlements as "Russiatown."  They were at the bottom of the social ladder and did jobs that others avoided. Women were domestics; men worked on railroad construction or farmed. All who encountered them, however, admired their ability to work. 
The prejudice felt by most Russia Germans made Congregationalism even more attractive. The Congregational Church— which came out "congraese" when they tried to pronounce it—was made up of people just like them. Eventually, the church was being served by Russian-born pastors or by pastors whose parents were Russian-born.
The first Russia German ordained to the Congregational ministry was Emmanuel Jose, who founded many churches in Nebraska and the Dakotas. Jose traveled widely, establishing and maintaining contact with little groups, because there were few resident pastors. A pastor who accompanied Jose on one such trip described a visit with a group of Russia Germans living in a remote part of Nebraska.
Isolated, these people live in their sod-houses, scattered all over the prairie. Here they pray and sing praises to the Lord. Brother Jose, who resided in Sutton, served these people once in about three months. They are as sheep, having no fold and no shepherd. Not a church of any kind did I see in that whole region of country.
After supper we had prayer meeting ... to which all the German railroad hands working there were invited. The house was filled, and we had a blessed time. The next evening a number of the brethren and sisters gathered for another prayer meeting.... The people were not satisfied with an hour and a half; they remained until about 11 o'clock that night, singing their accustomed German-Russian melodies, intermingled occasionally with prayer.
The Sabbath was a glorious and blessed day. The house was packed full. Brother Jose preached with great effect.... At 2 p.m. the house was overfilled again, and with much joy and freedom of heart I delivered the Lord's message, which was gladly received.... After the people were dismissed they requested us to have another meeting at night, to which we gladly agreed. 
Large groups of Russia Germans settled in Nebraska, the Dakotas, Kansas, Colorado, Washington, and California. They responded eagerly to the ministrations of Congregational Reiseprediger, who gathered them into small congregations, but the shortage of pastors presented a major stumbling block. The pastors supplied by the "Mission Houses" were not Russia German and sometimes had difficulty ministering to the people. Occasionally, however, particularly able Russia Germans were brought into the ministry. For example, Johannes Koch, an evangelist in Russia, was examined for ordination by several English-speaking Congregational ministers through an interpreter and went on to found a number of Pacific Northwest churches.  And in South Dakota, John Lich, a country schoolmaster, was ordained in 1885 and served many years in Lincoln, Nebraska. 
Organizing a denomination
On October 3, 1883 a small group of German pastors met in Crete, Nebraska, and organized Die Allgemeine Evangelische Kirchenversammlung der Deutschen Kongregationalisten (The General Evangelical Church Assembly of German Congregationalists). The new organization dealt with four items of business. One centered around theological education, another discussed the appointment of a general superintendent for the work, and the other two dealt with the publication of a newspaper and church manual.
George E. Albrecht, a native German who graduated from Oberlin College and served an English-speaking congregation in Ohio, was appointed superintendent in 1883, just after completing a stint with the AHMS in Davenport, Iowa, where he directed the Sunday school efforts. Albrecht himself was a product of regeneration.
I was working in a machine shop in Ohio, as far from God and Christ as the East is from the West, as much lost in sinful pleasures as any of my shopmates. A young Englishman, member of a Congregational church, who worked near me and heard my godless speech, began to pray for me, and with kind words induced me to go to church, afterwards to Sunday School. After a few weeks I was in his pastor's study on my knees beseeching God to have mercy on me, and since then the Lord has led me on with marvelous love.
He provided a solid organizational base on which the German movement could grow. "God seemed to have called the Congregational church to a new work, and the voice was obeyed," he wrote in a report.
Old and erroneous ideas pertaining to various methods by which the Germans should be approached were cast aside, and the pastors simply went to the Germans with the plain Gospel. It was this method that bore the most fruit. 
By 1885 German Congregational churches had been established in nine states. The churches were no longer only in rural areas. Although the going was tougher in cities, persistence paid off, as one pastor demonstrated.
When I began to call upon the people to invite them to gospel services I often had the pleasure (?) to see the door shut on me, instead of inviting me to come in and call again. I generally left my card of invitation behind me, telling the hours of service and Sunday School, and also a tract or two. In a week I went again to the same places, taking my wife with me. I hoped they would not shut the door on her; but found only a few who did not. Some braced themselves in the door and listened to the inviting words; then remarked: "If we find time, we may come once." The next time I went I took my wife and daughter. I went every two or three weeks. Now, thank God, there is a great change. The doors are open to us, and we can have a Christian conversation, and sometimes even reading the Word of God and prayer. I opened the Sunday School in a fire engine hall, which I fixed up with a stand, seats, chairs, stove, etc., also books far the service at my own expense. I began with three children and six teachers. The teachers were my wife, three sons and two daughters, the youngest being fifteen years old. In a short time we had twenty-seven scholars and three visitors, and from that time continual growth. We now have sixty-eight scholars and the same six teachers. 
In 1886 Albrecht explained that the work now had "a good start," but the dangerous shortage of pastors hampered its growth. "We need money," he wrote, "in order to get men; not to buy men, nor to coax them, but to pay them living salaries, and above all to train them for lasting work." Albrecht held a special conference with Prof. Samuel Ives Curtiss, who was on the faculty at the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS); several American ministers; and representatives of some German churches. Sometime later Albrecht wrote:
Nothing is more trying and discouraging to a home mis-sionary than to see the doors swinging wide open in scores of places, and to call and write in vain for men to enter them. Golden opportunities are lost. Important fields pass into the hands of others, or, what is worse, remain wholly uncared for. The whole work is dragging heavily for want of workers. 
Albrecht resigned as general superintendent in 1887 to be-come a foreign missionary.  He was succeeded the following year by Civil War veteran Moritz E. Eversz, also a native German and Oberlin College graduate. Eversz had been converted while serving in the 20th Wisconsin Volunteers and throughout the war had participated in a small prayer group. During his superintendency "centers of influence" began to be identified, and "people who longed for more spiritual life and for freedom from arbitrary domination of stricter denominations" discovered Congregationalism. 
Lutheran in name only, some Russia Germans found the kind of spirituality they had known in Russia in the small Congregational churches. By 1890 the pastors who were trained in CTS's German department had begun serving in local churches. Russia Germans, they understood the people and their ways. Revivals broke out in many places. New churches were founded. In 1895 there were 110 churches with a combined membership of 4,728. Fifteen years later the numbers had grown to 202 churches with 11,435 members. 
The growth of German Congregationalism spawned associations and state conferences in areas where churches were concentrated. The first German association was organized in Iowa, in 1862, and the first state conference, in Nebraska, in 1879.  Although German Congregational associations and conferences were separate from their English-speaking counterparts, they did maintain relations with them, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on local leadership.
A similar relationship existed between the General Conference of German Congregational Churches of the United States and the National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States. Superintendent Albrecht attended the sixth session of the National Council, which met in Chicago in 1886,  but it was not until 1927 that the Council officially recognized the General Conference of German Congregational Churches as having "parity" with state conferences.  This move was undoubtedly influenced by the 1925 "recognition" of the Evangelical Protestant Conference, a group of twenty-two "union" churches (Lutheran and Reformed), some dating back to the colonial period. Interestingly, some of those churches were served by German Congregational pastors. 
After Superintendent Eversz retired, in 1920, Herman Obenhaus became superintendent, serving until 1936, when Russian-born Jacob Hirning was appointed. Hirning was the first Russia German to head the German work. In the first year of his superintendency the state conferences numbered six and the state associations, three, representing 197 churches with a total membership of 22,166.  By this time many churches no longer functioned only in German. Native-born young people rapidly became Americanized. At the end of World War II most worship services were in English—a trend reflected by the publication in 1952 of an English-language hymnal. Only the Brotherhood clung to German, their prayer meetings offering a window into an increasingly distant past.
In 1878 a seminary was founded in Crete in conjunction with Doane College. Too few students and a lack of money kept it from taking hold. In 1882, however, it began serving as a feeder school, or proseminar, for the newly organized German department of CTS. This department flourished because of the efforts of Professor Curtiss.
Curtiss, who had earned a Ph.D. in Germany, was a gifted scholar and pastor. He started several Chicago mission churches and the Chicago Congregational City Missionary Society. "Throughout his career at the seminary," Arthur Cushman McGiffert Jr. wrote, "Curtiss did the work of three men." One of the three took a particular interest in the German work, seeing to it that two German faculty members were appointed. His influence and that of colleague Hugh Macdonald Scott helped CTS become a "polyglot seminary," whose foreign department trained not only Germans but also Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes.  As German-trained church historian Scott put it:
With immigrants landing in this country at the rate of 750,000 a year, ignorant of American life, strange in speech, not a few opposed to our civilization and our Christianity, the eyes of the most obtuse have at last been opened to the need of thorough Gospel work among this part of our population. Until very recently our Congregational churches paid no attention to this field. 
Growth led to more stable educational institutions. In 1894 the Crete proseminar was moved to Wilton, Iowa, and reconstituted the Wilton German English College. The poorly financed, two-building college merged with Redfield College, in Redfield, South Dakota, in 1904, forming "a Christian institution of learning under the general supervision of the German Congregational churches of the United States of America," with the mandate "specifically to provide an academic and college course for all German young men looking toward a German Congregational ministry."
Redfield was a good location, because most of Wilton's students had been Russia Germans from the Dakotas. Although finances remained a problem, Redfield College survived, and in 1916 the German Institute at CTS moved there, becoming the Redfield College Seminary. The depression signaled an end to Redfield, but the School of Theology moved to Yankton College in 1932  and later became one of the institutions that formed the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
At the founding of the general conference, in 1883, two of the four items of business centered on publication. Zionsfreund, an eight-page newspaper founded by Prof. Theo. Falk of Crete Seminary in 1880, had a two-year run before folding. Der Kirchenbote (Church Messenger), which followed Zionsfreund, was published by Henry Hess until 1888, when the Congregational Publishing Society, at the instigation of Prof. Curtiss, purchased it and placed it under the editorship of Gustav Zimmermann, who taught in CTS's German department. A semimonthly until 1897, when it became a weekly, Der Kirchenbote was avidly read by most German Congregational families. It contained devotional articles as well as denominational news and along with the Illustrierter-Kirchenbote-Kalendar&151;a daily devotional with scripture lessons, a brief message and prayer, and sometimes a hymn— was standard reading.
The German Congregational publishing operation was located in Chicago from 1888 until 1895, when it was moved to Michigan City, Indiana. In 1905 it was moved back to Chicago. The German Congregational Publishing Society—as it was officially known—printed works bearing an illustration of a Pilgrim and the name "The German Pilgrim Press." 
The first Gesangbuch was authorized by the General Conference that met in Chicago in 1896 and was in use by 1898. Both the first and second editions were ohne Noten—without music—requiring someone to lead the singing who had memorized all the melodies.  The third and final edition contained the music and all the words. This edition was the preferred hymnal of most church members, who proudly carried the books to worship services and prayer meetings.
Two supplementary hymnbooks were used in prayer meetings. Social Gospel theologian Walter Rauschenbusch and Ira Sankey, who had accompanied Dwight L. Moody on so many of his tours, produced a collection of American gospel songs in German translation—Evangeliums-S?nger—that was popular. Der K?stliche Schatz was prepared for Brotherhood use by a Russia German Evangelical Synod pastor in Portland, Oregon, Elias Hergert, who had been an Eden Seminary classmate of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It contained some Brotherhood songs from Russia as well as recent compositions by Hergert and others, a few of which were in English. 
A Catechism for the German Congregational churches first appeared in 1904. Attempting to include the basic teachings contained in Luther's Small Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism, it had 150 questions and answers and 50 questions to be answered by confirmands during a final oral examination before the entire congregation. The Catechism was divided into five sections: the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Uses of the Law, the Lord's Prayer, and the Sacraments.
Unlike Luther's catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism, the German Congregational Katechismus began by asserting the centrality of scripture.
How can one discern that Holy Scripture is God's Word?
a) The divine strength of so many souls in life and death has proven it already;
b) because it has been confirmed through divine prophecy and miracles, and
c) because it was written by holy men of God at the impulse of the Holy Spirit 
Rather than beginning with the Law as did Luther's Catechism, or with humanity's delight in belonging to Christ, as did the Heidelberg Catechism, the Katechismus started by establishing the place of the Bible in people's lives.
After World War II, English-language materials became widely available. In 1947 the General Conference of German Congregational Churches, meeting in Lodi, California, elected a hymnal committee to select songs and hymns that "could be used with both our own German Hymnal and the Wolga Gesangbuch."  The resulting Pioneer Hymnal, which came out in 1952, included many familiar American hymns as well as translations of some better-known German hymns.
The Pioneer Press of Yankton, South Dakota, publishers of the new hymnal, succeeded the Redfield College Press, which had taken over The German Pilgrim Press in 1923. The Pioneer Press remained in operation until 1968, publishing hymnals, catechisms, and church and Sunday school materials in both English and German. 
The Katechismus was first translated into English in 1928 and was revised and reissued in 1955. Instead of 150 questions, as in the original version, there were 119 questions plus an appendix of 14 questions and answers on "The Congregational Fellowship." One question asked: "What institutions and projects do our churches especially sponsor through the General Conference?" The answer: "The Yankton College School of Theology, the Pioneer Press and our South American Mission." 
The mission to Argentina was the second foreign field tended by German Congregationalists. (In Canada, the first foreign field, thirty-one churches that had been affiliated with the General Conference became part of the United Church of Canada when that denomination came into being, in 1925.) 
The work in South America began in 1921, when four Argentinean churches urgently requested that denominational recognition be given George Geier, who was serving them. The Illinois Conference licensed Geier, who worked among Russia Germans who were alike in every way to those in the United States and in Canada. In 1924 general missionary John Hoelzer, in Argentina for a brief visit, organized six churches.
The South American Germans from Russia had learned about Congregationalism in letters from relatives in the United States. Despite attacks from the Missouri Lutheran La Plata Synod, the Congregational mission grew. By 1937 thirty-six churches had been established with a total of 3,015 members—all served by five ministers.  The need for a trained ministry was acute, and eventually a theological school was founded. Even today, the South American churches are in contact with the United Church Board for World Ministries, although they, like their American cousins, have adapted to the surrounding culture.
In the United Church of Christ
Most German Congregational churches became affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC), which came into being in 1957 with the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Itself a merged denomination, the Evangelical and Reformed Church represented the 1934 union of the Reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical Synod of North America—two groups that had labored among Russia German immigrants. Since then a number of former German Congregational churches have withdrawn and many more are served by pastors of other denominations.
The descendants of the Russia Germans who embraced Congregationalism are often troubled by the UCC's emphasis on social action. To them, the UCC seems too political and not grounded enough in scripture. This reaction is characteristic. The unique heritage of the Russia Germans laid great stress on the Bible, religious experience, and sanctified living. It was an individual gospel, expressed in prayer meetings, worship, and performing kind deeds among one's neighbors.  Although prayer meetings have almost disappeared and revivals are no longer a feature of church life, such piety remains powerfully latent. German Congregationalism has made a unique contribution to the United Church of Christ. Even though its outward form is changed, the inner spirit continues to radiate.
William G. Chrystal is pastor of the Trinity Evangelical and Reformed Church, UCC, Adamstown, Maryland. He is a doctoral student in American Religious History at Johns Hopkins University and is the author of A Father's Mantle: The Legacy of Gustav Niebuhr (1982) and Young Reinhold Niebuhr: His Early Writings, 1911-31 (1977). Chrystal is also a member of the UCC Historical Council.
1. George J. Eisenach, A History of the German Congregational Churches in the United States (Yankton, SD, 1937), p. 3. 2. Carl E. Schneider, "The Home Mission Zeal of an Immigrant Church,' in Missionary Trails: The Story of Missions in the Evangelical Synod of North America as told by missionaries and friends of missions (St. Louis, 1934), p. 5.
3. Home Missionary, January 1851. Reprinted in Carl E. Schneider, The German Church on the American Frontier (St. Louis, 1939), p. 494.
4. Eisenach, op. cit., p. 7.
5. Ibid., p. 51.
6. In Arthur Cushman McGiffert Jr., No Ivory Tower: The Story of The Chicago Theological Seminary (Chicago, 1965), p. 60.
7. Eisenach, op. cit., p. 7
8. The oldest congregation still in existence is Sherrill United Church of Christ in Sherrill, Iowa, which was organized by Peter Fleury in 1849.
9. The saying is quoted in Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918?1956, V?VII (New York, 1979), p. 400.
10. George J. Eisenach, Pietism and the Russian Germans in the United States (Berne, IN, 1948), p. 31, and Adam Giesinger, From Catherine to Khrushchev: The Story of Russia's Germans (Battleford, Saskatchewan, 1974), p. 156. Giesinger places the Lutheran and Reformed mix at 80%-20%.
11. Eisenach, Pietism, op. cit., p. 31, quotes Catholic priest Gottlieb Beratz, Die deutschen Kolonien an der Unteren Wolga in ihrer Entstehung and ersten Entwicklung (Saratov, 1915), p. 230, regarding the clergy shortage.
12. "Russland" in Real-Encyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirche, zweiter Auflage, Dreizhenter Band (Ritschl bis Scotus) (Leipzig, 1884), p. 126.
13. Photos of pastors wearing crucifixes may be found in 80th Anniversary of The Free Evangelical Lutheran Cross Church, 1892? 1972 (Fresno, CA, 1972], pp. 14, 16, and Karl Stumpp, "Verzeichnis der ev. Pastoren in den einzelnen deutschen und gemischten Kirchenspielen in Russland bzw. der Sowjetunion, ohne Baltikum und Polen" in Joseph Schnurr, ed., Die Kirchen und das Religi?se Leben der Russlanddeutschen, Evangelischer Tell (Stuttgart, 1978), pp. 120?82.
14. See Harry Anderson, "Die Universit?tsgemeinde in Dorpat und ihre Kirche" in Schnurr, op. cit., pp. 310-15.
15. See G. Wayne Glick, The Reality of Christianity: A Study of Adolf von Harnack as Historian and Theologian (New York, 1967), pp. 23?34, for a glimpse of Dorpat and its influence on Adolf.
16. C. Blum, Gnade urn Gnade. Evangelien-Predigten f?r dos ganze Kirchenjahr (Jurjew [Dorpat], 1901), p. 613. Stumpp, op. cit., p. 198, lists Blum as "Johannes Nikolaus Blum."
17. Blum, op. cit., p. 615.
18. Quoted in Eisenach, Pietism, op. cit., p. 64.
19. Ibid., p. 81.
20. Some pastors forbade such meetings in their parishes; in other places meetings were broken up and Elders were punished. See Eisenach, Pietism, op. cit., pp. 174?76.
21. The church in Endicott, Washington, was one. See Anna B. Weitz, A Century of Christian Fellowship: Evangelical Congregational Church, Endicott, Washington, 1883?1983 (Colfax, WA, 1983], p.6.
22. Richard Sallet, Russian-German Settlements in the United States, trans. Lavern J. Rippley and Armand Bauer (Fargo, ND, 1974), p. 90.
23. Ibid., p. 17.
24. See S. Joachim, Toward an Understanding of the Russia Germans (Moorhead, MN, 1939), for a contemporary attempt to explain faulty impressions of the Germans from Russia.
25. Roland Bainton, in his biography of his father, Herbert Bainton, who served the Congregational Church in Colfax, Washington, noted that the only domestic help available to his mother "were some German-speaking immigrants lately come from Russia whose women would come sometimes for half a day." See Roland Bainton, Pilgrim Parson: The Life of James Herbert Bainton, 1867? 1942 (New York, 1958), p. 74.
26. Eisenach, History, op. cit., pp. 45?48.
27. Koch was a moderator of the Brotherhood conference in Russia, working with Ehlers. Gottfried Graedel, in an undated newspaper article entitled "German Congregational Churches in the State of Washington," in the possession of Richard Scheuermann, states: "It was in 1888 when our own Atkinson, Walters and Jonathan Edwards met in Endicott. Johannes Koch represented the Ger-mans. He used to be an evangelist in the old country. The three former ministers informed themselves about the condition of things and found it advisable to ordain Mr. Koch. As Mr. Koch before that had organized two churches, Ritzville and Endicott, the two were accepted into Congregational fellowship with their pastor, and so the Pacific German Congregational church was established."
28. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 60.
29. Ibid. pp. 49, 57?58.
30. Ibid., p. 59.
31. Ibid., pp. 64, 70.
32. William E. Strong, The Story of the American Board (Boston, 1910), p. 362, reveals that Albrecht served in Tokyo, Japan, where he helped translate many works into Japanese.
33. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 75.
34. Ibid., p. 123.
35. See Henry Vieth, "A History of German Congregationalism in Nebraska" in A History of the Churches and of the Present Conference, Nebraska Conference, United Church of Christ, vol. 1, 1976, pp. 114-42.
36. E. Lyman Hood, The National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States (Boston, n.d.), p. 125, lists Albrecht as being from "the Nebraska phalanx." This session of the Council commended the attempt to create a German Academy at Crete, Nebraska. See Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 172.
37. Louis H. Gunnemann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1977), p. 161.
38. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 145.
39. Ibid., p. 161.
40. McGiffert, op. cit., pp. 54-64.
41. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 175.
42. Ibid., pp. 183?202.
43. Ibid., pp. 204-7.
44. Family tradition recalls the author's grandmother was a song leader.
45. Walter Rauschenbusch and Ira D. Sankey, eds., Evangeliums-S?nger (Kassel, n.d.), and Elias Hergert, ed., Der K?stliche Schatz (Portland, OR, N.D.). Both books went through many editions.
46. Katechismus der biblischen Heilswahrheiten fur die evangelischen Kongregational-Gemeinden von Nord-Amerika (Chicago, 1919), p. 10. English editions omit this question.
47. "Preface," The Pioneer Hymnal (Yankton, 1952), p. 3.
48. Walter Kranzler, "German Congregationalism." in Edward C. Ehrensperger, ed., History of the United Church of Christ in South Dakota, 1869-1976 (Freeman, SD, 1977), pp. 199-200.
49. Congregational Catechism of Religious Instruction (Yankton, 1955), p. 46.
50. Eisenach, History, op. cit., p. 213.
51. Ibid., p. 217.
52. An exception to this pattern was the massive relief effort to Volga Germans in the post-Revolutionary War period, bankrolled by Russia Germans in the United States. See Emma D. Schwabenland, A History of the Volga Relief Society (Portland, OR, 1941).
Written by Clifford Alika and Miya Okawara
The first Japanese immigrants who entered the United States legally were government officials from Japan. They arrived in San Francisco on the Kanrin Maru at the time feudalism in Japan was being replaced by a new democratic government under Emperor Meiji. Even with this milestone event the Japanese government was still reluctant to let its people go abroad. Therefore, the daring and adventurous ones stowed away on American vessels traveling to the United States.
Later many others came as laborers. These were the Issei (first generation).
Joseph Hardy Neesima
Japanese American Congregationalism begins with a Japanese youth named Neesima Jo. Born in Tokyo on January 14, 1843, he was ten years old when Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry first entered the Bay of Yedo in Japan. When Neesima was about sixteen years old he came across an atlas of the United States. The atlas contained particulars about the United States, including references on such subjects as the President, free schools, hospitals, prisons, and factories. "I read it many times," he wrote in a letter to a friend. "I wondered so much as my brain would melt out of my head because I liked it so much."
Neesima later found a small Chinese Bible in a friend's library. He was enthralled and impressed as he read about the God who was responsible for the creation of humanity and of the whole world. Thus he yearned to learn about Christianity and to learn more about the United States. In 1864, risking his life, Neesima boarded an American schooner and smuggled himself out of Japan. During the trip Neesima was befriended by Alpheus Hardy, a Christian merchant who was deeply interested in mission. Hardy employed the young Neesima as a servant but quickly realized that he was not about to be a houseboy. Neesima took on the name Joseph Hardy Neesima.
On arrival in Boston, Hardy immediately enrolled Neesima in the Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts, and in due time Neesima was ready for college. He did well, entering Amherst College and graduating in 1870. Later he went to Andover Theological Seminary, graduating in the summer of 1874.
Joseph Hardy Neesima was ordained as the first Japanese Evangelical minister. He was appointed as a corresponding member of the Japan Mission of the American Board of Com- missioners for Foreign Missions.
In December of 1874 Neesima began preparations to return to Japan. Just before he was to leave, Neesima spoke before the annual meeting of the American Board. He pleaded for the establishment of a Christian school in Japan. With a broken voice and strong emotions he said, "I cannot go back to Japan without money to found a Christian college, and I am going to stand here until I get it."
Overwhelmed and moved, the Board immediately pledged $5,000. The gift became the nucleus of what is now Doshisha University, a Christian university built in the center of Buddhism and Shintoism in Kyoto, Japan.
Mission work among the west coast Japanese
By the 1870s more and more Japanese were coming to America, especially to study. In 1872 four Japanese students began meeting at the Third Congregational Church on Howard Street in San Francisco. Although initially strangers to one another, the students quickly became friends and decided to meet every Sunday at the church. A Mrs. Wilson, an active member of the church's Women's Mission Society, offered to hold a Bible study class and an English-language class for them. But the church had no room for "orientals."
They eventually found space in the basement of the Chinese Methodist Mission, on Washington Street. The rental fee was three dollars a month. Mrs. Wilson went to the Women's Mission Society, and it agreed to contribute $2.50 toward the rent. The balance of fifty cents was paid by the four students.
The Japanese did not speak the Chinese language. Nonetheless, because they were "orientals," they were sent to an "oriental" church. In the months and years that followed a sign on the basement door announcing the English-language class attracted more Japanese students.
In 1876 ten students were baptized by a Methodist missionary. The following year, thirty-five students, led by Kanichi Miyama, organized the Japanese Gospel Society. Thus with the support of the Congregational Women's Mission Society the genesis of the first Japanese Christian church in the United States was formed by students meeting in the basement of the Chinese Methodist Mission.
It was not until the turn of the century, in 1899, that the Congregational Home Missionary Society began their mission specifically to Japanese residing in the United States? The move was clearly made in response to the increase in the Japanese population.
Often the work began with a handful of Issei, like the students who began meeting at the Chinese Methodist Mission. All were strangers in a strange land and often they were strangers to one another. Each was seeking to learn the English language and each found a source of strength and encouragement in having fellowship with other Japanese.
As the number of Japanese increased, separate missions were established under the supervision of the Rev. William C. Pond, of the Home Missionary Society. Many were affiliated with First Congregational churches in their respective areas. Between 1885 and 1926 fifteen Japanese American churches came into being:
San Francisco Congregational Church—1885
Salt Lake City Mission—1901
Oakland Independent Congregational Church—1904
Los Angeles Congregational Church—1905
Los Angeles Bethlehem—1905
Seattle Congregational Church—1907
San Diego Congregational Church—1907
Fresno Independent Congregational Church—1908
Santa Barbara Congregational Church—1913
Montebello Congregational Church—1913
Hollywood Independent Congregational Church—1922
Santa Maria Congregational Church—1926 
Many of the Japanese congregations continued to receive mission support throughout the first part of the twentieth century. In 1904, however, the Rev. Shinjiro Okubo, a graduate of Doshisha University, indicated to the people of the Oakland church that he had a dream to establish a strong independent church for Japanese in America, a church that would serve Christ through its own initiatives. He felt that the "mission church did not foster the kind of spirit and sacrificial service that can lead to an abiding faith."
Okubo believed that "living under the charge of the missionary is the easy way. . . . In an independent church, members must assume responsibilities of carrying the church in their own hands... . An independent people with minds and spiritual lives of their own should become self- supporting and selfgoverning." His goal. to "establish an independent church, financed and governed by the Japanese people themselves," was realized two years later, on January 7, 1906. In March of the following year the church was officially and legally recognized as the Oakland Independent Congregational Church.
In the ensuing years more missions and churches declared their independence from their Congregational mission ties. Ministers were called from Hawaii and Japan, and dedicated laypeople took on the heavy responsibilities of the churches' financial and other ongoing needs. Sunday schools were conducted in Japanese by the pioneer members of the church. Great sacrificial efforts went into raising funds for church buildings. A documented history of Sycamore Congregational Church (formerly the Oakland Independent Congregational Church) notes that "families put cardboard soles in their shoes and some women gave up wearing stockings so they might give a little more to the building fund. The Rev. Okubo went without his salary, while his wife went to work as a cleaning woman in a Caucasian home."
Coping with racism
Hard work and great sacrifice were not enough. Anti-Japanese sentiments increased and churches tried to help. In November 1909 the Japanese Congregationalists gathered in Fresno for a conference. Dr. Pond was elected Superintendent of the Japanese Congregational churches. Efforts were made to lift the morale of the Japanese community. Disheartened by the severe anti- Japanese movement that was fostered by surrounding communities, the Japanese Congregational churches joined other denominational Japanese churches to organize the Northern/Southern California Japanese Church Federation.
The Federation's objectives were to combat hostilities brought on by racism by encouraging the churches to help acquaint the Issei with American ways of behaving, speaking, and understanding; to stand firm against gambling, prostitution, and liquor; and to preach the sacredness of home life and social justice.
For example, the Japanese Congregational Church in Fresno struggled with matters involving gambling and prostitution. These problems affected hundreds of Japanese laborers who were working during the grape harvest.
The churches sponsored athletic leagues and social activities for children who could not participate in sports and social events at school. Concerted efforts were made to draw more women into the life of the churches.
Youth groups were organized. In 1930 the Christian Endeavor was set up to serve the social needs of the Nisei (second generation). Young Peoples' Christian conferences were held, providing opportunities for Niseileadership to develop.
Many Japanese farmers achieved a relative amount of economic success by pioneering new developments in the production of fruit, vegetables, garlic, and other produce. However, fear and racism ultimately triumphed. Laws were passed limiting the rights of the Japanese to own or lease land and to become citizens. But this did not deter the tenacious Issei pioneers from working on farmland and producing some of the top-grade fruits and vegetables in the country.
In 1920 a second anti-Japanese Alien Land Law was enacted by the state of California. Before the enactment of this referendum the Rev. Joseph K. Fukushima, of the Fresno Independent Congregational Church, sent an urgent appeal to his "American minister friends. The letter read, in part:
At the polls on November 2nd, you are going to vote on the Initiative Bill No. I entitled Alien Land Law. The passage of this Bill is a great persecutor to the Japanese in California, who were legally admitted to this country, rather than solving the problems.
The measure now before you intends to:
1. Prohibit land ownership by Japanese
2. Prohibit the acquisition of real property by American born Japanese minors, who are American citizens under the guardianship of their parents
3. Prohibit leasing of farm land by Japanese
4. Deprive the Japanese parents of their natural right to be the guardian of their minor sons and daughters owning real property
5. Escheat real property to the state upon certain prima facie presumptions
6. Prohibit the Japanese from owning the shares of stock of corporations which deal with farm land
The measure is so harsh and severe that nothing will be left for the Japanese to live on. This is quite contrary to your high ideal which has been the inspiration for us during the past half century. While this measure persecutes the Japanese in California, it does not check immigration from Japan.
Since the time the first Alien Land Law was enacted in 1913, our Japanese churches of Christ have also suffered. It hindered us even to acquire a piece of land for the place of worship. Do you think it is wise to solve the matter in this way? Can you not give them, who are already here, the opportunity to become American citizens, and do justice for them? We only desire fair treatment equal to others."
Despite Fukushima's eloquent appeal no records could be found as to how the ministers responded. The bill was eventually passed, and the oppression of the Japanese throughout the state of California continued.
Although segregated and isolated, the seven Japanese Congregational churches which were scattered up and down the western region became the gathering place for many Issei and Nisei. The churches provided strength and assurance to a people caught in the middle of a racism that was prevalent in society in general.
On December 7, 1941, the United States responded to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor with a declaration of war. Within three months President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the evacuation and incarceration of more than 70,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry and more than 40,000 Japanese nationals, most of whom were permanent U.S. residents.
Executive Order 9066 broadly authorized any military commander to exclude any person from any area. Although the Presidential order did not mention any specific group or provide detention, there was an understanding among high officials that the authorization was to be used for the purpose of removing and incarcerating all persons of Japanese ancestry living in the West Coast states. Ten sites were built by the U.S. government for the mass incarceration of more than 120,000 persons.
The hopes and aspirations of the Issei and Nisei were shattered. The Japanese in these camps eventually became wards of the government, guarded by armed soldiers. Fathers were no longer family breadwinners, parents lost control of their children, and families rarely ate meals together. Many were terrified because of the unpredictable future and the hopelessness of the situation and did not expect to come out alive.
Within the Japanese American church community the response of some was a deep sense of bewilderment. In his book, Christian Seed in Western Soil, Harlan Hogue recalls the response of a seminary student:
On the night of Pearl Harbor, we trickled into Benton Hall one by one, the last man getting in from a far distant parish about 11:00 p.m. We all gathered in the tiny chapel in the corner of Benton Hall and prayed together in the candlelight, with closing prayers by our Japanese students.
I think it was the most moving emotional experience of our lives... . A Japanese boy from Fresno, who had played football at Fresno State and was as "Americanized" as any Nisei ... was so deeply wrought up ... that he retired to his room for twenty-four hours and did not come out to eat or attend class. He later became a distinguished chaplain for the famous 442nd Battalion."
That seminary student became the Rev. George Aki. Like other Japanese Congregational ministers, Aki served in ministry in the concentration camps. He first served as a minister at the Tanforan Assembly Center and later at the concentration camp at Topaz, Utah. Many clergy in the Japanese American community for example, the Rev. Joseph K. Fukushima, Rohwer, Arkansas; the Rev. Seizo Abe, Manzanar, California; and the Rev. Kenji Kikuchi, at Poston, Arizona as well as those who represented the Christian and Buddhist traditions and a host of lay leaders, carried their ministry to the camps. Faced with the immediacy of life within the camps,
the clergy, as a rule, were not involved in the affairs of the administration. Those few who took active part in actually serving as interpreters or as members of an important committee were looked upon with suspicion, so by and large the clergy did not extend their hand to matters that dealt directly with the administration. They worked quietly in the local block meetings and allowed the block leaders to express grievances or correct injustices... . There was no noticeable or recorded conference on "suffering" or "injustice" ... from a religious standpoint. Political grievances were expressed through the block manager's council.
The work of the faith community was focused primarily on pastoral matters. In looking back, one might question the lack of a prophetic voice among the Japanese-American clergy.
The white response
Within the white church community questions were raised about the legality and necessity of the evacuation. It quickly became apparent that the evacuation was instead an incarceration. On June 18, 1942, the General Council of the Congregational and Christian Churches of the United States adopted a resolution at its sixth regular meeting in Durham, New Hampshire:
Christian conscience and the long range interests of our nation alike require the facing of the deeper implications of the emergency mass evacuation from our West Coast of some 70,000 American citizens, along with 40,000 resident Japanese. Every time a majority deprives a minority of its civil rights it undermines its own liberties, and the unity and world-wide influence of the nation.
Be it, therefore, resolved:
That while national security justified the evacuation of Japanese residing in vital military areas on the West Coast, we deplore the fact that all persons with any Japanese blood, citizens as well as aliens, were as a group subjected to evacuation without hearings or other means of determining loyalty.
In retrospect, the resolution is remarkable in that it did recognize some of the deeper implications of the action. Unfortunately, its strength was weakened by its reluctance to question the notion that the evacuation/incarceration was necessary because of national security.
In Berkeley, California, others sought to raise a prophetic voice. The Rev. Galen Fischer and Ruth Kingman, both members of the First Congregational Church, were active in the work of the Fair Play Committee. As a former missionary to Japan, Fischer argued that "Americans should differentiate between the actions of the Japanese government and those of Japanese ancestry in this country who were incarcerated on the West Coast." The Fair Play Committee asserted that what was at issue was "the civil rights of U.S. citizens and a need to humanize the situation until it could be invalidated and rescinded." 
The Rev. Vere V. Loper, minister of First Congregational Church in Berkeley, along with Kingman, played a key role in one of the church's major responses to the evacuation. Through a series of conversations with government and church leaders, the Army was informed that the Church Council had voted to make the church facilities available for the registration and evacuation of Japanese Americans from the area and that a number of Protestant churches would be assisting in the work each day. "The initiative came from the church. The formalities were observed, though, so the Army requested." Although the church was clearly seeking to respond to the evacuation with pastoral concern, some serious questions are raised about the church's complicity in undermining the civil rights of Japanese American citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry.
The Church Council's motion that its facilities be offered to the Army passed with one dissenting vote. The dissenter thought the church should not "cooperate with the dirty business." At the same time the Council voted without dissent that they wanted to "see that some courtesies are extended to the evacuees."
Eleanor Breed, church secretary at First Congregational Church, noted in her diary during the church's involvement in registration and evacuation procedures: "It came over me suddenly, and with shock, that the soldiers who have been on guard have been here not to protect us from the Japanese so much as to protect the Japanese against us."
Ambivalence was evident among those who expressed appreciation for the church's hospitality and yet noted, as did Monroe Deutsch, University of California at Berkeley, that "these people who are being evacuated have had no charges against them individually; they are not guilty of misconduct. They are being removed because of fear. Personally, I feel that our country will some day feel ashamed of its conduct in this entire matter."
Others were more adamant in their assessment of the evacuation. Among such people were Enoch and Margaret Dumas. Along with their six-year-old son, the Dumases lived for three years with Japanese Americans in the concentration camp at Amache, Colorado. With Dr. Dumas in charge of the elementary education program, Mrs. Dumas recalls, "We did not approve of the relocation. We thought it was un-American, unconstitutional, unnecessary, and immoral but it was happening and my husband felt that he would like to see that the youngsters got the best possible education while they were there,"
Although other churches, such as the Congregational Church of San Mateo, California, took part in serving as centers for registration and evacuation, the efforts of the First Congregational Church of Berkeley were, ironically, the most comforting and the most disturbing. In a joint publication with the Berkeley Fellowship of Churches, Dr. Loper served as the primary writer of "A Statement to Japanese Friends and Fellow Americans."
"We hope," the statement noted, "we can offer something of value to you in Christian hospitality." Many of the Japanese Americans who were incarcerated remembered with genuine appreciation the hospitality of the church. The statement also noted that "the service you now render to America is the loss, for the duration, of your homes. We rejoice to know that many of you are facing it in the same spirit in which others are facing the possible loss of their sons, for much longer than the duration." One may argue that the inclusion of the remark reflects the historical context of that period. It is, nevertheless, an unfortunate remark. At best, it may have been of comfort to white Americans and at worst it was a callous disregard for the sufferings of an innocent people.
In retrospect it is clear that the white church community made little prophetic effort to resist the evacuation/incarceration. Like the Japanese Americans themselves, they were resigned to accepting the reality of the exile and sought to concentrate on providing pastoral care.
Beyond the camps
By the fall of 1942 indefinite-leave permits were issued to anyone passing the strict government security test. Travel to California, Oregon, and Washington was prohibited. Internees, usually sponsored by host church groups and sympathetic organizations, gradually began their exodus to the world outside the camps.
In January 1943 the U.S. War Department announced that Japanese American volunteers would be accepted for combat duty in Europe. Most of the volunteers came from Hawaii, but there were also thousands who volunteered from within the concentration camps scattered throughout the country. The volunteers were assigned to a segregated Japanese American unit the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd became the most decorated American unit, for its size and length of service, to fight in World War II.
In January 1944 the Selective Service System started drafting Japanese American men, even though they were still incarcerated in the camps. More than 33,000 Japanese Americans eventually served in the U.S. armed forces, and many families lost their sons "for much longer than the duration."
By January 1945 the U.S. Supreme Court had declared that the confinement of the Japanese Americans in the camps was a violation of constitutional rights. The dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the war to a close in August 1945, but the last concentration camp was not closed until October 1946 and the last special internment camp, until 1952. Released and free, many Japanese Americans were determined to compensate for their "guilt" of being Japanese in a society of "Americans." Most left and resettled in the Rocky Mountain, Middle Western, and Eastern states. These areas provided opportunities and challenges that were unavailable on the West Coast.
Restrictions prohibiting Japanese Americans from returning to the West Coast states were lifted in July 1945, but the nagging shame of being a "Jap" continued. Assimilation into the larger society nearly became an obsession in the early postwar days. Japanese Americans faced continued discrimination and prejudice.
Despite their quest to be accepted and become part of the larger American society the need for separate ethnic Japanese churches continued. Denominational leaders insisted that segregated Japanese ethnic churches would be unnecessary after the war, because the Issei would be declining in number, and the Nisei and Sansei (third generation) would be assimilating. The existence of ethnic Japanese churches persisted, however.
Japanese American congregationalism
In the weeks and months after the closing of the camps the West Coast Japanese Congregational churches and parsonages were converted into hostels for the homeless returnees and their families. As the Issei and Niseistruggled to find homes and jobs amid hostilities, Japanese Congregational churches struggled to reactivate their ministries. Denominational leaders encouraged integration with the larger existing white churches or the establishment of interdenominational Japanese churches. Many felt that weak, small, and separate denominational churches were not feasible.
At first, the Bay Area Japanese Christian churches in California came together for Sunday worship services. Children were sent to neighboring churches for Sunday schools. By June 1946, however, after realizing that many Japanese Congregational children and adults were not attending Sunday schools and Sunday services, Sycamore Congregational Church broke away from the interdenominational group. The church reestablished itself as an independent Congregational church.
In Fresno the two Japanese churches remained divided. The Methodist Judicatory felt that the Japanese churches should come together under the care of the Methodist church, whereas the Congregational Conference felt the union should be under the Congregational church. An agreement was never reached.
Many Japanese pastors felt that integration into white churches was impossible. Even if it were possible for some Nisei to integrate, the action was unnecessary. "In Fresno, for years and years, the Germans and Armenians had their own churches and prospered." The Japanese could do the same.
In southern California the Montebello Plymouth, Hollywood Independent, San Diego Ocean View, and Los Angeles Union churches reported similar postwar struggles. The Santa Barbara Congregational Church, used during the war by the United Women's group as a hostel for the elderly, resumed its services with a handful of returnees in 1948.
In 1946 the first and only Middle West/East postwar Japanese Congregational church was begun. A church was organized in Chicago, an area where the largest settlement of Japanese Americans was located. At first, the church comprised an all-Issei membership, beginning in the North Side apartment of Otokichi Kushino.
Although Chicago Nisei were visiting predominantly white churches in the area, most were unchurched. Clearly, the Nisei were not ready to conform totally to an all-white church, nor were such churches ready to take in people of another race.
In 1947 the concern for these unchurched Nisei came to the attention of the Chicago Congregational Union, and with the support of the Chicago Missionary Society the Issei-Nisei Congregational Church was established in 1948. The name of the church was later changed to Chicago Christ Church United Church of Christ.
Financial support for all Japanese Congregational churches was provided by the Board for Home Mission's special funds.
The work was subsidized by the Committee for War Victims and Reconstruction for use in the reestablishment of Japanese churches.
With the exception of the Santa Barbara Congregational Church, which was dissolved in 1968, church membership grew. Once again, churches became the focal point for the Issei and Nisei. The Issei had carried the full burden of the churches for many years. During this period they began to relinquish their leadership roles to the Nisei. More Sansei were born, and Sunday schools began to flourish. Junior high and senior high Pilgrim Fellowship groups were organized.
In their pursuit to become "Americanized" during the postwar era, many Japanese joined Christian churches. It was believed that "Christianity not only will develop the Japanese American's character, but also will Americanize it," creating, "a one-world attitude," It was felt that with "Christianization will come integration in its good time."
The United Church of Christ
In 1957 the Congregational Christian Churches united with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ. That was also the year when the housing ordinance that limited people of color including Japanese Americans from moving into the suburbs was lifted. As a result, many Japanese Americans, seeking better living conditions and better education for their children, moved to the suburbs. They continued to return every Sunday, however, to their home churches for worship. Within the United Church of Christ the word Japanese was dropped from the name of almost all the churches, The exception was the Fresno Japanese Congregational United Church of Christ.
Advocacy to integrate with predominantly white churches continued. Denominational leaders pushed integration and neglected the historical legacy of racial discrimination against Japanese Americans. But most of the Japanese Congregational churches remained ethnic Japanese congregations within the United Church of Christ.
In the 1960s the civil rights movement and the development of ethnic studies programs throughout the country gave birth to the emergence of a new generation of Japanese leaders the Sansei. In the following decade theSansei wrestled with issues of their identity as Japanese Americans. The 1970s were wrought with the drive to uncover a buried past.
Within the life of the United Church of Christ new questions were raised. By 1973 two laywomen from Sycamore United Church of Christ, Julia Estrella and Mary Tomita, had begun the groundwork for gathering and organizing leaders of other Pacific Island and Asian American UCC churches. The women encouraged dialogue with denominational leaders. The Pacific and Asian American Ministries of the United Church of Christ (PAAM) was formed in 1974, and in the years since then the three generations of Japanese Americans women and men, youth and adults, clergy and laity have been elected to serve on conference and national committees. By 1983 two Japanese Americans were conference ministers and two, staff members of UCC instrumentalities.
Japanese American UCC churches played an important role in raising the consciousness of contemporary Americans about the injustice done to Japanese American citizens during World War II. After President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 96 317, creating a Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians Act, the Board of Missions of Sycamore United Church of Christ, El Cerrito, California, identified redress/reparations as one of its major emphases for 1980. Motivated by theological and biblical reflections on justice, wrongdoing, and repentance, the Board sought to educate clergy and laity within the United Church of Christ on the work of the Commission. Its mandate was to hear from those affected by Executive Order 9066. the 1942 Presidential proclamation that authorized the incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans. The Commission was charged with determining whether wartime imprisonment of civilians was just and, if not, what Congress should do to compensate those who were incarcerated.
On January 6, 1981, a resolution was adopted by the Church Council of Sycamore Church. The resolution included support for monetary compensation as well as the concern for the education of the community and church persons with regard to redress/reparations. By May 16, 1981, the resolution was presented to and adopted by the Northern California Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Two months later the resolution was presented to delegates at the Thirteenth General Synod of the United Church of Christ, in Rochester, New York. After some discussion the resolution strengthened by action taken in a working committee was adopted by an overwhelming majority.
As a result of the General Synod action the United Church of Christ began to move forward in its efforts to provide testimony at scheduled public hearings of the Commission. In subsequent hearings Miya Okawara, Chairperson of the Board of Missions at Sycamore Congregational Church, testified in San Francisco; Yvonne Delk, Executive Director of the Office for Church in Society, and Garry Oniki, Associate Executive Director of the Community Renewal Society of Chicago, testified in Chicago; and Howard Spragg, Executive Vice President of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, testified in New York.
In its report, Personal Justice Denied, released in June 1983, the Commission recognized the evacuation/incarceration as a "grave injustice" and conceded that there was "no military justification for the exclusion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast." Throughout the duration of the Commission's work the United Church of Christ, through its various agencies and instrumentalities, was clear in its support for redress! reparations.
Sho-Chiku-Bai is a phrase often used by children and adults in the Japanese community. Sho is the Japanese word for pine; chiku, the word for bamboo; and bai, the word for plum blossom.
The Issei, like the pine, demonstrated their remarkable strength during the early years of migration and settlement. Prevented from becoming American citizens and unable legally to own land, the issei survived a history steeped in rejection, antagonism, and racism.
The Nisei, like the bamboo, showed their amazing durability. Uprooted and with their lives disrupted, the nisei survived the tragic years of incarceration during World War II in ten concentration camps scattered throughout the United States.
The Sansei, like the plum blossom, signal the beginning of something new. Heirs to the struggle of the Issei and Nisei, the Sansei have brought new strength and vitality to the life of the community.
The pine symbolizes strength; the bamboo, durability; and the plum blossom, newness. In one sense to speak of sho-chiku-bai is to speak of the three generations that make up the Japanese American presence within the United Church of Christ.
Clifford Alika is the Executive Secretary of the Pacific and Asian American Center for Theology and Strategies, Berkeley, California. He is also an assistant for the Racial Ethnic Ministries, Golden Gate Mission Area, Synod of the Pacific, Presbyterian Church (USA), El Cerrito, California. Miya Okawara is a member of the Sycamore United Church of Christ, El Cerrito, California. She is a member of the Pacific/Asian-American Ministries and is on the staff of the Northern California Conference, UCC.
1. Jerome Dean Davis, A Sketch in the Life of Rev. Joseph Hardy Neesima (Kyoto, Japan: Doshisha University, 1890). Also see Gary Otis, A History of Christianity in Japan (Japan: Charles E. Tuttle, Co., 1976), pp. 114-18.
2. Genkichi Imaizumi, Miyamo, Konichi and His Times, trans. the Rev. Sumio Koga (Japan: Mikuni Press, 1940).
4. Sumia Koga, A Centennial Legacy: History of the Japanese Christian Mission in North America (Chicago: Nobart Publishing, 1977), pp. 10-23, 36 37, 66, 192, and 299.
6. Ibid. It is important to note that these churches represent the history of Japanese American Congregationalists outside of Hawaii. For this book it was necessary to limit the scope of this history primarily to the West Coast states.
7. Correspondence from Hiro Katayama to Harley H. Gill, April 8, 1949.
8. The History of Sycamore Church: 1904 1974 Seventh Anniversary Year (El Cerrito, CA: Church History Committee, November 1974).
10. Sohei Kowata, 85th Anniversary of Protestant Work Amongst Japanese in North America (Japan, n.d.), pp. 7 22, 54, 56, 137, and 146.
12. Roy Sano, "A Neglected Past: In Celebration of the 1977 Centennial Challenge." Available through PACTS, 1798 Scenic Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709.
13. First Japanese Congregational Church: 1907 1957 Fifteenth Anniversary (Japanese Congregational Church of San Diego, 1957).
14. Bill Hosokawa, Nisei: The Quiet Americans (New York: William Morrow Co., 1969). pp. 114-32.
15. PAAM Newsletter, c/a 20 Woodside Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127.
16. The Japanese Incarceration: A Case for Redress, 3d ed. (The National Committee for Redress, Japanese American Citizens League, May 1980).
17. Harlan Hague, Christian Seed in Western Soil (Berkeley, CA: Pacific School of Religion, 1965), p. 124.
18. Lester Suzuki, Ministry in the Assembly and Relocation Centers of World War II(Berkeley, CA: Yardbird Publishing Co., 1979), pp. 329-30.
19. Minutes, Sixth General Council of the Congregational and Christian Churches of the United States, Durham, NH, June 18, 1942; item #44.
20. Eleanor Breed, "War Comes to the Church Door: Diary of a Church Secretary in Berkeley, California, April 20 May 1, 1942."
21. Ibid., p. 89.
22. In ibid.
23. Margaret Dumas, "Reflections on Life in the Camps" (San Francisco: Northern California Conference, UCC, May 6, 1982).
24. "A Statement to Japanese Friends and Fellow Americans" (Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Fellowship of Churches and First Congregational Church of Berkeley, April 14, 1942).
26. Sycamore Congregational Church 75th Anniversary.
27. Joseph K. Fukushima, "Report of Findings of Fresno Congregational Church" (N.D.).
28. Le Roy E. Eide, "Congregational Church of San Mateo, UCC" (n.d.). Information on other churches was not available. Some references were made to Independent Congregational Church, Oakland and the Japanese Congregational Church, Fresno in minutes of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Northern California Congregational Conference (March 10, 1942; May 2, 1942; May 25, 1942; and September 14, 1943).
29. Koga, op. cit., p. 299.
Written by Percel O. Alston
It is commonplace to read in the historical writings on the United Church of Christ about German immigrants who came to American shores seeking economic well-being. They established the Reformed Church in America in the eighteenth century and the Evangelical Synod of North America in the nineteenth century. It is equally commonplace to read about the Pilgrims who left their homes in England in quest of religious freedom. They landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and subsequently established the Congregational Churches. A fourth stream fed into the formation of the United Church of Christ: the Christian Church, the first indigenous American denomination.
The Christian Church itself resulted from a "flowing together" of three different groups, in Virginia, New England, and Kentucky. These groups all had strong feelings about democracy in church government and the importance of Christian character for church membership and agreed that denominational concerns and labels were unnecessary. They took the simple name Christian. 
Life in nineteenth-century America was not simple, however. In the South, where there were many Christian churches, blacks were influenced by this movement. The Afro-Christian Connection began even before the Emancipation Proclamation.
The story goes back to Providence Church in Chesapeake, Virginia, which was established in 1852 by free black persons. Most Afro-Christian history, however, documents the movement of black people from the slave balconies of the white churches in North Carolina and Virginia to an abandoned cabin, stable, or "bush arbor."
Whatever else may be said about African people, they are notoriously religious. African scholar John S. Mbiti writes that it is never correct to speak of any one African religion. Africa throughout its history has been replete with a wide variety of religions that shape the lives of its people.  So it is not surprising that after the Civil War former slaves of African descent developed their own indigenous religious response to the God of their ancestors in ways appropriate to their needs in their new environment. The founders of the Afro-Christian Connection did not assimilate completely the Christian religion of their slave masters because they were not welcomed into the established Christian household of faith and because they yearned for the religious experience of their forebears.
It is not surprising, therefore, that "when the war closed in the Spring of 1865, Blacks began almost immediately to organize churches of their own, after the Master's denominational pattern."  Although early Afro-Christians patterned their organization after the white Christian churches, they developed their own idiom, style of preaching, liturgy, and worship, which still prevail in many of the one hundred fifty original Afro-Christian churches.  Soulful preaching from scriptural passages, long-meter hymns, ardent rhythmic prayers, Negro spirituals, and later, gospel songs were all part of the joyful, shouting services of worship in Afro-Christian churches.
Afro-Christian churches experienced rapid growth and development in North Carolina and Virginia during the decade after the Civil War. The Southern Christian Convention made a paternalistic response of conscience to its black sisters and brothers by appointing three white ministers—W. B. Wellons, J. W. Wellons, and H. B. Hayes—to assist the "Colored brethren" in organizing churches of their own and in organizing the Colored Conferences in keeping with the Cardinal Principles of the Christian platform.  These men were widely accepted by the early Afro-Christians and gave instructions in the licensure of the first black preachers and the ordination of black ministers. They helped to establish the Colored Christian Conference (predecessor of the Afro-Christian Convention), founded several black churches, and became their pastors. As "fraternal messengers" from the white Christian Convention they attended sessions of the Colored Christian Conference during the first decade of its existence and participated in discussions and transactions. A major influence of these three ministers can be seen in the theological and doctrinal principles rigorously adhered to by Afro-Christians. These principles were taken verbatim from the Five Cardinal Principles of the Christian Church. 
Apart from the Bible these Principles, which are given below, provided the most essential basis for church polity, discipline, preaching, and teaching.
Jesus Christ is the only head of the Church
Christian is a sufficient name for the Church.
The Holy Bible is a sufficient rule for faith and practice.
Christian character is a sufficient test for Church membership and fellowship.
The right of private judgment and the liberty of conscience are rights and privileges which should be accorded to and exercised by all.
By 1867, under the guidance of the North Carolina Conference, a conference of Negro people was formed and named the Colored Christian Conference. When the Colored Christian Conference convened at Christian Chapel in Wake County, North Carolina, in 1873, twenty-seven ministers were listed. At the same meeting a new conference was recognized in Eastern North Carolina, and it was decided that the name of the Colored Christian Conference be changed to the Western North Carolina Colored Christian Conference. In the same year a group of Afro-Christians in Virginia met at Mount Ararat Church in Suffolk, Virginia, to form the Virginia Colored Christian Conference. Here again, the Reverends J. W. Wellons, H. B. Hayes, and W. B. Wellons were present as "fraternal messengers" from the white Southern Christian Convention. Six churches, two ordained ministers, and six licentiates of the Afro-Christian Connection participated in this organizing effort. 
It is remarkable that within a decade after the Civil War ended this small group of former slaves, many of whom could not read or write English, had moved out of the "Nigger" balconies of their former white masters' churches, established more than fifty churches, organized three conferences, and ordained forty ministers in North Carolina and Virginia. With a minimum of technical assistance from their white Christian counterparts, the Afro-Christians demonstrated that what they may have lacked in formal education and material resources, they compensated for by their faithfulness and dogged determination to develop and expand a Christian Church that captured and perpetuated something of the glow and exuberance of the African religious experience.
Preaching was central in the service of worship in Afro-Christian churches. It consisted of exegesis of biblical texts and vivid stories of biblical characters and racial oppression. The preacher did not always make application to the broad social issues of the times, but application was always made to what was perceived as personal Christian morality and ethical behavior. In this regard the Afro-Christian preacher was as severe as any New England Puritan. No Afro-Christian preacher would conclude a prayer or sermon without sounding a clear eschatological note of hope. The congregation never departed without being assured that despite the oppression, the suffering, and the pain experienced daily in this life, joy will surely come in the morning. The following quotation is a classic example of the expressions of hope with which Afro-Christian preachers concluded their sermons:
But things will be alright bye and bye
Bye and bye, when I come to press my dying pillow
After while, when I'm done climbing the rough side of the mountain
After while, when the big bell tolls in Zion
Bye and bye, when I've prayed my last prayer and sung my last song
Bye and bye, when I've come down to the chilly stream of the Jordan to pull off mortality and put on immortality
I'm going to be done with the troubles of this world
I'll hear the welcoming voice of Jesus saying, "Come ye blessed of my Father. You have been faithful over a few things. Now I'll make you ruler over many." 
A typical prayer handed down orally from generation to generation and usually a part of the worship service every Sunday morning went like this:
This morning, our heavenly Father,
It's once more and again, that a few of your handmade servants
bow humbly before your throne of grace.
We come before you this morning,
not for form nor fashion
not for outside show to the world,
But to confess our sins as wayward children
and to ask you to forgive us and
try us one more time.
We want to give you some humble and sincere
thanks, O God, for waking us up this morning
with your finger of love.
We want to thank you for waking us up in
time and not in eternity.
So that our bed was not our cooling board
and our covers were not our winding sheet.
We want to thank you this morning, Holy Father,
for articulation of speech and the blood
that still runs warm in our veins.
We want you to come by here this morning, O Lord,
and baptize us with the Spirit from on high,
Bless the preacher who shall stand in the
shoes of John this morning,
Lower him in the deep treasures of your love,
Crown his head with wisdom and give him
the utterance to call sinners to repentance.
Visit the sick in their affliction, and cool their
raise them up from their beds of suffering and pain,
Visit the prisoners and care for the dying
and I will be careful to give you the praise.
This is my prayer. Amen and Thank God.
This prayer, as well as the preaching and singing, was of high emotional intensity so characteristic of the African dance and music. Preaching and singing were always punctuated with loud amens and shouts of joy.
During the early years of Afro-Christian formation a deep and abiding concern for the education of ministers and laypeople of the churches was paramount. The yearning for an educated and enlightened ministry reached its fruition in the period from 1871 to 1873, when the Conferences of North Carolina and Virginia decided to tax each member ten cents a year to purchase a site and build a school at Franklinton, North Carolina. This action proved to be the most significant event of the Afro-Christian Connection. 
The post-Civil War South was very poor. The economic condition of the ex-slaves was even more desperate but not so much as to dim the vision of a people whose determination to build a school far exceeded their economic means. By 1880 the Afro-Christians, assisted by modest contributions from Christian Church members in the North, had raised enough money to purchase land, erect a building, and move to the new location.
The American Christian Convention took a firm hand in governing the Franklinton school. It appointed a Board of Control to manage the affairs of the budding institution and sent George Young, a young, white minister of the Eastern Christian Conference of New York, to serve as the first principal. A prominent black minister, Henry E. Long, became his assistant. The school was incorporated in 1883 under the name of Franklinton Literary and Theological Christian Institute. During its early years the Institute attracted more than two hundred students, ranging in age from five to forty-five. Fathers, mothers, and children often attended as families, studying a wide variety of subjects from the alphabet to Latin, algebra, physiology, and theology. None was turned away, no matter how poor.
Letters published in the Herald of Gospel Liberty, a publication of the American Christian Church, indicate that widespread interest and support existed among northern white Christians for this pioneering effort in black education and leadership training at Franklinton. 
After visiting Franklinton the Rev. John G. Wilson, of Philadelphia, wrote:
The school building occupies the most eligible site in the area. The ground is sufficiently elevated to command a prospect of the entire village, and large enough for the building of a first-class college and campus which it may become someday. At all events it bids fair to attain the rank of the Literary and Theological Institute of the North Carolina and Virginia African Conferences of the Christian Denomination.
The Rev. W. G. Clements, pastor of a white Christian church in Wake County, wrote in a letter to the Herald of Gospel Liberty:
For some of the brethren and sisters of the North who have given material aid to the Colored Christians of North Carolina, I thought it might be of interest to those donors to know that the Lord was blessing their efforts to do good. Having been raised up among the Colored people, and having watched their progress since the Civil War, I think I can speak advisedly as regards their improvements, and I do not hesitate to say, when we take into consideration the means at their command, they have made fair improvements. There is much ignorance among them yet, but where they have had an opportunity of going to school they have generally learned very well.... Those who have given their money to this institution of learning [the Franklinton school] have done a great work.
Another white visitor to Franklinton, the Rev. D. L. Putman, wrote:
This school is no longer an experiment. A fine location, suitable buildings and three years of school, in which there has been with each successive year an increasing interest and a permanent growth in numbers, have placed Franklinton permanently among the institutions that be. The work done has been excellent, equal to that of any institution of its character and advantages. The proficiency made in the studies in academic and theological departments has been highly commended. The Franklinton School is a great power for good.
Fourteen years after George Young arrived to serve as the first principal of the Franklinton school his assistant, Henry E. Long, became the first black president. From 1904 on great progress was made under Long's able and inspiring leadership. The Afro-Christian Conferences of North Carolina and Virginia gave one thousand dollars to purchase a new site for the school, now called the Franklinton Christian College. Gifts from the Northern Christian Churches and the Afro-Christian Churches were used to erect buildings. The years between 1905 and 1930 were the golden years of Franklinton Christian College. Although it never achieved the full status of college by reputable standards, it provided the essential education and training for pastoral and lay leadership for the Afro-Christian Church. Franklinton also provided strong institutional support for the substantial growth in the number of churches and membership in North Carolina and Virginia, without which the organization of the Afro-Christian Convention would have been impossible.
In an eloquent address to the Afro-Christian Convention in 1916, the Rev. Smith A. Howell, who later became the president of Franklinton Christian College, articulated the importance of Franklinton and the necessity for an educated ministry.
The Schoolhouse is the foe of ignorance whether in or out of the pulpit. Rapid intellectual advancement of the pew is an imperative call for a trained ministry. Is the calling of the ministry of less dignity and importance than the call of such honorable professions as law, medicine, etc.? Possessing the opportunities so earnestly desired by our fathers, what justifying excuse is there for a lack of intellectual training on the part of the ministry of today? We are persuaded that our ministry is so well aware of these truths that no argument is needed to enforce the ammunition to scrutinize with care the candidates for admission to our Conferences and insist on a high standard of qualifications. The future of our church largely centers upon the School of Theology at Franklinton Christian College. This school is to be considered the theological center from which goes a trained ministry. There is an imperative need that there be a thorough awakening to this truth. Our plea is for an educated ministry! An educated ministry!! An educated ministry!!! On this the respectability and influence of our church depends. 
When the school closed in 1930, in the depths of the depression, a dream was shattered and the hope for an educated Afro-Christian ministry was lost for many years to future generations. Afro-Christians had no way of compensating for this loss. They were denied access to Elon College, the prominent educational institution of the white Southern Christian Convention. Bricks Junior College, in Enfield, North Carolina, an institution established by Northern Congregationalists, through the American Missionary Association, for the education of black Americans, had also closed. After the merger of the Congregational and Christian Churches, in 1931, theological seminaries were open to blacks, but few were considered to be qualified for admission. In the absence of an educational institution of their own, many Afro-Christians reverted to a mischievous anti-intellectualism and spiritualism to compensate for their lack of formal training.
Compare these words of the Rev. J. J. Farmer to the Eastern Virginia Conference of Afro-Christian Churches in 1946, with those of the Rev. Smith A. Howell, quoted above:
All I have heard at this annual meeting is education. Education! I'm sick and tired of hearing about it. I want to hear about Jesus. He's the source of my salvation, not the college or seminary. I want to tell you that you can go to the college and you can go to the school, but if you ain't got the religion of Jesus, you're an educated fool. 
This burst of anti-intellectualism received some loud applause but did not go unchallenged. The Rev. Zanda P. Jenkins, a new breed of Afro-Christian minister, with college and seminary training, eloquently challenged what he called "that anti-education garbage unfit for consumption by those who love Jesus and care about His Church."
Although the educational level of the pastoral leadership and membership of the former Afro-Christian Churches within the United Church of Christ has improved substantially, many churches continue to bear the tremor of the closing of Franklinton Christian College.
The Afro-Christian Convention
In May 1892, at Watson Tabernacle, New Berne, North Carolina, the various black conferences organized into the Afro-Christian Convention. By that time the Eastern North Carolina Conference had become the Eastern Atlantic Christian Conference; the Western North Carolina Conference had returned to its original name—the North Carolina Colored Christian Conference. The Eastern Virginia Conference continued under the same name. 
Two other conferences had come into being: the Cape Fear Conference, which eventually faded out of existence, and the Georgia-Alabama Colored Christian Conference, organized in 1887. In 1910 the Lincoln Conference was formed by mutual agreement with the North Carolina Colored Christian Conference and a group of churches located in the Burlington, North Carolina, area. In 1912 the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York Christian Conference was organized. By 1916, according to the oldest minutes of the convention that have been found, there were seven conferences, four mission churches in British Guiana, South America, and one mission church in Trinidad, British West Indies. 
The Afro-Christian Convention experienced significant growth and expansion under the able leadership of the Rev. Smith A. Howell, who was elected president in 1914 and served in that office for twenty years. During this period the number of churches grew to more than 150, with a membership of 25,000. Included in the Convention were 185 ordained ministers and licentiates; 150 Sunday schools and Christian Endeavor Societies; more than 12,000 Sunday school pupils; several Sunday school conventions; a Woman's National Home and Foreign Missionary Convention, which organized and trained the women of the church; and an active Afro-Christian Publishing Association, which was based in Franklinton, North Carolina, and served the churches and organizations of the Convention. 
Before the organization of the Convention of the South, a later union of black Congregationalists and Afro-Christians, the Afro-Christian Convention operated virtually independently of both the Christian Church and the Congregational Churches, despite the Christian and Congregational merger of 1931. Afro-Christians separated from their black Congregationalist sisters and brothers and from their white Christian counterparts for different reasons.
Black Congregationalists were beneficiaries of the education, acculturation, and religious orientation of the American Missionary Association (AMA), whereas Afro-Christians were the victims of neglect by their white Christian counterparts. The AMA schools founded for the education of blacks in the South were oases of racial goodwill in an otherwise hostile, white racist society. The late Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, distinguished president of the black Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, North Carolina, used to describe her school as "a little hunk of New England Congregationalism in the deep South." Black Congregationalists identified freely with New England Congregationalism, and for many years they were considered objects of mission by the Congregational Church.
Afro-Christians had no such sense of identity with the white Christian Church. They had no alternative but to build their own church connection. Even after the organization of the Convention of the South, black Congregationalists remained virtually separated from Afro-Christians by maintaining their own separate Associations. As late as 1957, at an annual meeting of the black Western North Carolina Association of Congregational Churches, the Rev. W. M. McRae reminded the Superintendent of the Convention of the South, Dr. J. Taylor Stanley, that "we are not Christians, and despite your efforts to make us so, we remain American Congregationalists."
The Convention of the South
In 1941 there were 106 black Congregational churches, scattered throughout the South in eleven states, with a total of 6,975 members; there were 129 black Christian churches, concentrated almost entirely in North Carolina and Virginia, with a total of 12,640 members.
Comparisons between Black Christian and Black Congregational churches in the South were inevitable. The average membership of a Congregational church was sixty-six; average membership of a Christian church was ninety-nine. Nearly all Congregational pastors had had at least some college and seminary training; many had both college and seminary degrees. Very few Christian pastors had training above the high school level; none had completed requirements for a seminary degree. The Congregationalists had had large financial assistance toward ministers' salaries and church buildings and facilities, as well as opportunity for liberal educational and religious training in church-related schools and colleges, conveniently located throughout the South. The Black Christians paid the meager ministers' salaries themselves, built their own churches, and developed their own church organizations, with very little encouragement, financial or otherwise, from their white Christian neighbors. 
The birth of the Convention of the South of the Congregational Christian Churches, in 1950, was pivotal in the history of the Afro-Christian churches. Up to this point Afro-Christians had not only operated virtually independently of the Congregational Christian denomination but also had had little contact with black Congregationalists. Under the able and sacrificial leadership of J. Taylor Stanley, the Convention of the South was organized in Greensboro, North Carolina. This organization brought together all black Congregationalists and Afro-Christians in the South, from Virginia to Texas. A few Afro-Christian churches in New Jersey and New York were also included. For the first time a mechanism for the inclusion of Afro-Christians in denominational life and work was in place. Even though the divisions between Afro-Christians and black Congregationalists persisted among the older generation, the young people began to discover a common Congregational Christian identity through Pilgrim Fellowship, youth rallies, and youth camps and conferences. By the mid-1950s the new generation of Afro-Christians was reclaiming the aspirations for higher education that was characteristic of their forebears who had founded Franklinton Christian College. The adults began to identify with the denomination through Woman's Fellowship and Layman's Fellowship groups that were keyed into national programs. Christian education training institutes and workshops and pastor training events contributed to a new level of consciousness and a sense of common identity.
Another event that facilitated the transition was the merger of the remnants of Franklinton Christian College with Bricks Junior College, in the early 1950s. This new conference center, Franklinton Center at Bricks, North Carolina, provided the institutional support for the training of pastors, youth, and adults of Afro-Christian and Congregational backgrounds. At Franklinton Center, Afro-Christians were grounded in the history, heritage, theology, and mission of the Congregational Christian denomination. Church school superintendents and teachers were introduced to denominational curricula and taught how to use them creatively. Increasingly, new patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving appeared. "Congregational Christian" began to replace "Christian" on the bulletin boards of the churches, Pilgrim Fellowship replaced Christian Endeavor Society, the Kansas City Statement of Faith began to replace the Five Cardinal Principles of the Christian Church, and in some instances the assortment of "Christian" hymnals were replaced by the Pilgrim Hymnal.
The United Church of Christ
Throughout the 1950s the Convention of the South moved toward becoming a self-supporting and self-directing conference of black Christians and Congregationalists. In 1957, when the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches formed the United Church of Christ, there was concern that the new denomination be inclusive as to race and previous religious and cultural background. The UCC constitution, adopted in 1961, insisted that all conferences and associations include all churches within stated geographic bounds. This decision fragmented the Convention of the South.
Most of the churches of the Convention of the South became part of the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ when it organized in 1965. Thirty-two churches from the Convention eventually related to five other conferences within the new denomination. Although this inclusiveness was right in the minds of many Afro-Christians, it made it even more difficult to keep the Afro-Christian tradition alive. 
The Afro-Christian legacy
From the beginning of Afro-Christian church life, immediately after the Civil War, until the formation of the United Church of Christ, Afro-Christian churches preserved their essential character. This legacy can be summarized in four statements: They were fiercely independent; they maintained simple organizations; they upheld the centrality of Christ; and they preserved the African idiom.
Afro-Christian churches and leaders guarded their independence and autonomy with great zeal. Unlike many of their Congregational sisters and brothers, who had become dependent on subsidies for pastoral leadership and church buildings, Afro-Christians graciously declined such subsidies in rigorous regard for their pride, dignity, and independence. Until recently, they rejected aid from the denomination, fearing that help from sources other than local church members had strings attached that might infringe on their freedom and autonomy. They were suspicious of centralized ecclesiastical authority located in the conference, convention, or national bodies. As a consequence of such zeal for independence, Afro-Christian churches suffered a lack of educated pastoral leadership and adequate facilities.
Afro-Christians were deeply committed to fellowship and covenant while at the same time insisting on autonomy and independence. Annual meetings of Afro-Christians showed this paradox. Heated debates revolved around the authority of the Conference over local churches. But the high quality of fellowship at worship and at meals sustained a deep and abiding sense of covenant that usually led to consensus.
Organization, worship, and mission in Afro-Christian churches were simple, never complex. Informality characterized these structures. The deacons in charge of the church's affairs were ordained for life. The chairperson of the board usually remained in that office until death. The essential role of the pastor was to preach, care for the sick, and bury the dead.
Complicated, formal processes of planning were conspicuous by their absence. The congregation met to transact business when urgent matters required action by the membership. Otherwise, the congregation trusted the deacons to "fix it." Members of the congregation were informed on essential matters and often voted during the regular worship service, which usually followed this pattern:
Prayer and Praise Service
Opening Congregational Hymn
Opening Doors of the Church (music)
Poor Saints' Offering
Such worship services moved at a slow pace, with little regard for a time to begin and end. It was not uncommon for a service to last three hours.
The preaching, teaching, music, liturgy, and mission of the Afro-Christian churches all evolved out of the affirmation that Jesus Christ is the only Head of the Church. Sometimes this Christocentric rhetoric got in the way of the formation and pursuit of an explicit social vision. Furthermore, the rhetoric was not always matched by the behavior and attitudes of the deacons, who ruled with an iron hand. Even charismatic pastors sometimes forgot the first Cardinal Principle as they led the "flock."
The Christocentric affirmation of Afro-Christians was not only a theological focus, but also served as a mechanism for the containment of overly aggressive and assertive pastors and deacons. When a pastor or deacon exceeded the limits of power and authority, he was reminded by members of the congregation that "Jesus Christ is the Head of this church, not you."
The preaching, singing, and shouting in the Afro-Christian churches were related to African experiences. The preaching and singing looked back to African chants; the shouting was closely akin to African dance. The feeling aspect of religion dominated. One of the gifts that Afro-Christians brought to the Convention of the South, and subsequently to the United Church of Christ, was their capacity to feel religion and express the same with fervor and great joy.
Great changes have and are taking place in the former Afro-Christian churches. Their relatively small numbers and limited geographical focus precluded their high visibility in the formation of the United Church of Christ. The unique character of these churches, however, continues to provide an invaluable presence.
With the formation of the United Church of Christ, Afro-Christians, by and large, accepted the mandate to become an integral part of the new denomination. They have contributed to the rich pluralism, social vision, viable congregational polity, and "soul" of the United Church of Christ.
Percel O. Alston was General Secretary of the Division of Christian Education, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries. He also served churches in the Afro-Christian tradition, as did his parents.
1. Louis H. Gunnemann, The Shaping of the United Church of Christ (New York: United Church Press, 1977), p. 162.
2. John S. Mbiti, African Religion and Psychology (New York: Doubleday, 1970).
3. J. Taylor Stanley, Conference on Church History (Burlington, NC: Southern Conference, 1974), pp. 17-23.
4. Percel 0. Alston, "The Black Constituency of the UCC" (Paper, 1975).
5. J. Taylor Stanley, A History of Black Congregational Christian Churches in the South (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1978), pp. 50-54.
6. D. T. Stokes and William T. Scott, A History of the Christian Church in the South (Elon College, NC, 1973).
7. Milo True Morrill, A History of the Christian Denomination in America, 1794-1911 (Dayton, Ohio: Christian Publishing Association, 1912), p. 270.
8. Robert J. Alston, "Things That Matter Now" (Sermon, 1945).
9. Stanley, History of Black Congregational Christian Churches, op. cit., p. 62. 10. Letters reprinted in ibid., pp. 63-68.
11. In ibid., pp. 71-72.
12. Percel O. Alston (Notes on the Eastern Virginia Conference of the Congregational Christian Churches of the Convention of the South, Newport News, Virginia, 1951).
13. Morrill, op. cit., p. 271.
14. Stanley, History of Black Congregational Christian Churches, pp. 57-60.
15. Ibid., p. 61.
16. Ibid., p. 119.
17. Ibid., pp. 138-39.