Here is the introduction to the Bible study led by Dr. Paul Hammer—retired professor of biblical interpretation at Colgate-Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, N.Y.—at the 2000 Dunkirk Colloquy.
Where shall we begin Bible study? In one way, it is quite unbiblical to begin with the Bible. Biblical writers generally do not begin with an exegesis of texts, but with the reality of their situations. Then they tap into their traditions and texts to help them meet the situations they face in their faith communities and in their worlds.
As a former colleague of mine says, "The word became flesh, not text." ANd when it comes to texts, we know that no interpretation of a text can ever be absolutized, for the only Absolute is neither the Bible nor the Church but the living God.
One of my favorite stories about biblical interpretation is about two boys whose mothers were ministers. They were arguing about whose mother was the better preacher. Said the one, "My mother can take the same text and preach a different sermon each Sunday." "That's nothing," said the other. "My mother can take a different text and preach the same sermon each Sunday."
Perhaps there is a bit of truth in both. No text is ever exhausted by any one sermon. And every text finally points to the saving love of God for everyone in God's beloved world.
Bible's unity is enriched by its diversity
What I would like to do is to offer what I see as the interpretive or hermeneutical contexts generally of biblical writers themselves, though of course we cannot fit all these writers, who span a thousand years of Hebrew Christian history, into one mold. The diversity of biblical writers is quite amazing, but what would one expect from the multiple struggles they faced over such an extended period of time? Any biblical unity is enriched by such diversity.
Obviously, there is no one way to articulate such interpretive contexts, but I would suggest the following: a cosmic context, and ecclesial context, a canonical context, and evangelical context, and a pneumatic context.
First, a cosmic or world-embracing context. (Kosmos means "world.") Biblical writers embrace the realities of their worlds and their situations where they and their communities find themselves. Do they, like we, really have any other choice than to begin where we are?
Further, I find it instructive that the way in which the biblical writings are put together in our Bible places them in the context of creation in Genesis at the beginnning and of new creation in Revelation at the end. Thus the Bible as a whole has this cosmic or world-embracing context. As you and I come to this colloquy, we bring our cosmic contexts: our personal lives, our interpersonal relationships, our work, our leisure, our economics, our politics. We bring the glory and the tragedy of life in our world. We do our Bible study in a cosmic context.
Second, an ecclesial or a community-of-faith-participating context. (Ekklesia means the "called-out" assembly, the church.) Biblical writers were part of communities of faith, even when as prophetic persons they had to challenge their own communities. These faith communities were communities of worship, of instruction, of supportive fellowship, of wider mission in that cosmic context of which they were a part. Their life in an ecclesial context intended to guide and nourish and challenge them to be faithful in the larger cosmic contexts of their worlds.
We too bring to this colloquy our life in the faith communities of our churches, with their worship, their education, their fellowship, their ministries and missions. As early Christians prepared for their world-embracing mission, says Luke, "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).
Parenthetically, I find it interesting that here Luke says nothing about preaching! Life within the faith community calls for teaching. For Luke, preaching is for those who have yet to hear "the good news of great joy for all the people" (Luke 2:10). Someone once said that sometimes we seem to speak to the church as if it were the world and to the world as if it were the church.
Teaching is more for the ecclesial context. Preaching is more for the cosmic context. At any rate, we do our Bible study in an ecclesial context.
Third, a canonical or Bible-engaging context. Though the earliest biblical writers may not yet have had their scriptures, they did have their oral traditions. These traditions and the biblical writings that emerged from the communities of faith during a thousand years became canonical for Israel and the Church. From among other writings, these, taking several centuries of usage, finally became the canon or "measuring stick" to engage them again and again to inspire and challenge and keep them on course, though these writings hardly spoke with one voice as they engaged their ecclesial as well as their cosmic contexts.
In fact, an important aspect of the biblical writings is the way scripture can challenge scripture and point to an ongoing interpretive process. The canonical context points to both content and process, and thus the Bible canonizes both the writings themselves and the dynamically continuing process of interpretation. In Matthew's witness, Jesus himself carried on that process repeatedly with the words, "You have heard that it was said ... but I say to you." He can challenge ancient texts with fresh interpretive power. As we compare biblical writings, we can see this intepretive process continuing at many points. In other words, it is quite biblical to challenge the Bible. For example, we would certainly want to challenge this text: "Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rocks!" (Ps. 137:9).
It holds even for the Bible (as someone has said), "None of us is entirely useless. Even the worst of us can serve as horrible examples." The great authenticity of the Bible is that it's all there, the good and the bad, the glory and tragedy of human life. It's no put up job where everything fits into a simplistic mold. As we do Bible study, we do so in the canonical context of the whole Bible.
Fourth, an evangelical or gospel-happening context. Why bother with the Bible? Because the Bible as canon witnesses to the Word that became flesh, not text, that is, to the evangel, the "good news" of God's working in real human existence to touch it with creative and liberating and healing power. I am grateful that one of the uniting churches in the United Church of Christ bore the name "evangelical," which comes directly from the Greek word euangelion.
I am quite unhappy with those Christians who define themselves as the evangelicals, as if other Christians are not. All Christians are by definition evangelicals, for we all have our life in God's evangel, God's good news. Our life has to go on in an evangelical context.
We sometimes limit the evangel to what God has done in Jesus Christ, but Old Testament writers also use the term. More than five hundred years before the coming of Jesus, Isaiah writes, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation" (Is. 52:7).
The whole Exodus event is "good news" for Israel. The Ten Commandments are preceded by the grace and good news of God's liberation. "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; (therefore) you shall have no other gods before me". (Ex. 20:2-3).
And it is striking that the Apostle Paul can interpret his scripture (our Old Testament) in this way: "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you'" (Gal. 3:8). What here is the good news for Paul? It is the good news of God's inclusiveness in the promise to Abraham.
An evangelical context means that we live with the expectation that good news will happen to people, to communities, to God's beloved world: that God's good news for the world will bring a deeper sense of faith and hope and love, of freedom and justice and peace, of grace and truth and glory—the glory of God's self-giving love in the cross of Jesus Christ.
We do our Bible study in an evangelical context, in the expectation that God's good news will take on flesh among us as we live together in our canonical, ecclesial and cosmic contexts.
Fifth, a pneumatic or Spirit-empowering context. Biblical writers speak of God's spirit or Holy Spirit in differing ways (Isaiah is not Jeremiah and Jeremiah is not Ezekial; Paul is not Luke and Luke is not John.) We need to let each speak for themselves. But generally, the Spirit of God takes the events of God's deeds in the past (creation, exodus, cross, resurrection) and makes them alive in the present with a foretaste of the future. The Spirit empowers the present with good news from the past and with pregnant hopes for the future.
But how does that happen? It happens in part with the gifts of the Spirit, the charismata with which the Spirit empowers the life of each person and enlivens the evangelical, canonical, ecclesial and cosmic contexts of our lives. We are empowered not only for our own inner spiritual life but for that work of the Spirit that meant for Isaiah and Jesus "good news to he poor ... release to the captives ... sight to the blind ... liberty to the oppressed" (Luke 4:18-19).
Again, some Christians have appropriated the word "charismatic" for themselves with their particular gifts of the Spirit. But from New Testament usage, all Christians are charismatics, for we all are blessed with various gifts of the Spirit and we need to value each one in mutuality and edification and mission together. We do our Bible study in a pneumatic context.
What does this mean for Sunday worship?
To conclude, let me try to put these five contexts into our worship on Sunday mornings. Are they part of the picture?
Well, any sound planning of worship is going to have to take into account the cosmic context of what is going on in the world around us and in the lives of those who come to worship. The worship itself is an expression of the ecclesial context, the gathering of that community of faith with the multiple aspects of its life. In the worship is the reading of the scriptures and their engagement in the sermon, thus expressing the canonical context. And what we hope will happen in the worship is that God's good news will touch us individually and corporately, the evangelical context. And then we hope that people will be empowered by the Spirit with gifts to go forth to live the good news, individually and corporately, and so let it impact the cosmic context of the week that lies ahead. Then back again next week.
Every Sunday is a time to be empowered by the Spirit, for the sake of good news, as we engage the Bible, in the community, in order to be faithful servants in God's beloved world.
As to our sermons, I like the story of the sexton who used to greet his pastor after the service in one of three ways. If the sermon was good he would say, "Pastor, today the sheep were fed." If it was a so-so sermon he would say, "Pastor, that was a difficult text." And if it was really lousy he would say, "Well, Pastor, today the hymns were well chosen." Given that my spouse is a musician, I've learned how important it is that the hymns be well chosen. Thank you all.
We believe in God the Father,
infinite in wisdom, goodness, and love,
and in Jesus Christ, his Son, our Lord and Savior,
who for us and for our salvation lived and died and rose again
and liveth evermore,
and in the Holy Spirit,
who taketh of the things of Christ
and revealeth them to us,
renewing, comforting, and inspiring the souls of men.
We are united in striving to know the will of God
as taught in the Holy Scriptures,
and in our purpose to walk in the ways of the Lord,
made known or to be made known to us.
We hold it to be the mission of the Church of Christ
to proclaim the Gospel to all mankind,
exalting the worship of the one true God,
and laboring for the progress of knowledge,
the promotion of justice, the reign of peace,
and the realization of human brotherhood.
Depending, as did our fathers, upon the continued guidance
of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth,
we work and pray for the transformation of the world
into the Kingdom of God,
and we look with faith for the triumph of righteousness,
and the life everlasting.
We believe in the freedom and responsibility
of the individual soul, and the right of private judgment.
We hold to the autonomy of the local church
and its independence of all ecclesiastical control.
We cherish the fellowship of the churches,
united in district, state, and national bodies,
for counsel and cooperation in matters of common concern.
The Wider Fellowship
While affirming the liberty of our churches,
and the validity of our ministry,
we hold to the unity and catholicity of the Church of Christ,
and will unite with all its branches in hearty cooperation;
and will earnestly seek, so far as in us lies,
that the prayer of our Lord for his disciples may be answered,
that they all may be one.
The section on "Faith" is from the Book of Worship of the United Church of Christ. The Book of Worship is available from United Church Resources at 800-325-7061.
About this testimony
The Kansas City Statement was the most important affirmation of faith adopted by the Congregational Churches in the 20th century. In 1913, the churches' National Council met in Kansas City to affirm traditional congregationalist principles in a form that would meet the needs of the new century. The preamble of the new Constitution adopted then said the churches sought to reaffirm "the faith which our fathers confessed, which from age to age has found its expression in the historic creeds of the Church universal and of this communion." The Statement's form reflects both classical creeds received by Congregationalists from the catholic (universal) church and the confidence—inherited from the church's Puritan forebears—that God was in control of history and would lead humanity to a reign of justice, community and peace. Written on the eve of World War I, its belief in "the reign of peace," "the realization of human brotherhood" and "the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God" are particularly poignant. But these are beliefs that echo down to the 21st century, and which the United Church of Christ still holds today—although not in the exclusively masculine terms of 1913.
The United Church of Christ acknowledges as its sole head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior. It acknowledges as kindred in Christ all who share in this confession. It looks to the Word of God in the Scriptures, and to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, to prosper its creative and redemptive work in the world. It claims as its own the faith of the historic Church expressed in the ancient creeds and reclaimed in the basic insights of the Protestant Reformers. It affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God. In accordance with the teaching of our Lord and the practice prevailing among evangelical Christians, it recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion.
About this testimony
Adopted at the uniting General Synod of 1957, the Preamble of the Constitution of the United Church of Christ represents the core of the theological consensus that brought the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches together in covenant.
"Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God." [1 Corinthians 2:6-7 RSV]
The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a denomination that reflects the pluralistic story of American Protestantism. Created in 1957, it is known for bringing together ecclesiastical bodies rooted in English Puritanism, American frontier revivalism, and German religious history. It takes seriously the calling of Christians to oneness in Christ and participates actively in the contemporary ecumenical movement. The prayer of Christ "that they may all be one" is central to its self-understanding.
Louis Gunnemann, who has written about this young denomination in The Shaping of the United Church of Christ, notes:
The formation of the United Church of Christ was a venture of faith, a response to a vision created out of the heritage of the past and in the context of new responsibilities. To know the beliefs, movements and events comprising that history is to begin to accept ownership and to be shaped by it. 
History, however, as with many academic ventures, sometimes gets into habits. Popular patterns of interpretation prevail for a time and then "revisionists" come along and new interpretations emerge. "What actually happened" does not change; it is simply seen with new eyes and shared with new understanding.
History is organic; it grows and flowers, it dies back and goes to seed. It needs tending, like a garden, to produce its best blooms. Sometimes it benefits from fertilizer. At other times careful pruning and even the grafting of old branches on to new stock will revive its beauty.
The United Church of Christ organizes its history around the legacy of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. These two denominations, which were themselves the result of earlier unions, provide the raw material for the "historical orthodoxy" of the United Church of Christ. In UCC historical work, therefore, one commonly finds a careful balance between the "four streams which become one"—Congregational, Christian, Evangelical, and Reformed. Churchpeople have come to expect that each tradition will receive its "one quarter time." But this is a distortion of history.
What happens when historical orthodoxy governs the exploration of the past? First, some parts of the history are lost forever when only half the story is told. Certain individuals and groups remain invisible. After a time they seem to have never existed or certain events seem to have never happened. The histories of women and of many racial and ethnic groups do not fit into the scope of historical orthodoxy, and they are forgotten or selectively remembered. Often those who were on the losing side of controversies are not given fair treatment.
Second, when historical orthodoxy prevails, the methods used to retrieve historical information and the type of research deemed legitimate are consciously and unconsciously limited. In some instances the oral traditions and unofficial memorabilia of a group are ignored because they fail to fit scholarly criteria. Again, the experience of ethnic groups or of peoples marginal to the dominant history is overlooked because it exists in stories and songs and languages foreign to the researcher. In such cases certain types of historical material are not recognized as being important.
Third, when historical orthodoxy dominates, typical research sources (such as letters, diaries, and journals) are read from only one perspective. Good history, however, approaches such materials with an open mind. For example, the records of missionaries contain profound insights into "native" world views and values. If these materials are read only through "white" or "colonial" eyes, the history of mission and the church is distorted. When they are examined from the standpoint of mission recipients, the picture changes.
Fourth, when historical orthodoxy governs the approach to materials, current events and special movements seem to emerge unrelated to any historical context. Yet few things in the church exist without some previous expression. The legacies of contemporary special interest groups are grounded in histories that need to be discovered and understood. But when historians settle into standard ways of "seeing" the past, the sources of contemporary change are difficult to discern.
History is not always neat and fair. And the UCC history is more complex than the historical orthodoxy that informs its self-image. The United Church of Christ is an extremely pluralistic and diverse denomination that is nourished by many "hidden histories." These important stories out of its past do not appear within the traditional fourfold history. Yet, as Gunnemann says, only when churchpeople know the beliefs, movements, and events that make up their history will they be able to accept ownership and be shaped by that history.
"Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ" attempts to move beyond UCC historical orthodoxy. The hidden histories of the United Church of Christ are unknown. They need to be preserved and adequately shared within the denomination to enable ownership. This book seeks to expand knowledge about the diversity of contemporary church life. It will especially stretch leaders in their understanding of the UCC. It connects the United Church of Christ with some significant developments in American religious and ethnic history. More chapters could have been included, but this is a beginning. Another book exploring the histories of the Chinese, Hispanics, Hawaiians, and others could be developed.
This book began with plans for an optional event sponsored by the UCC Historical Council in cooperation with the Coordinating Center for Women at General Synod XIII of the United Church of Christ held on June 29, 1981, in Rochester, New York. Because of the interest generated in the "Unity and Diversity of the UCC" during that session, authors were found to write the eleven chapters that make up this collection. In rough chronological order the chapters document some of the hidden histories.
The first chapter is about the American Indian. Although contemporary historiography speaks of Native Americans, this essay retains the historical label Indian. The author of the chapter is not a member of the Indian community but writes from the perspective of the mission boards that initiated and maintained Christian work with American Indians for more than one hundred fifty years. In the not-too-distant future perhaps this story can be retold from a Native American perspective.
Most black history in the United Church of Christ is linked to the antislavery crusade of Yankee Congregationalists who worked throughout the nineteenth century to uplift and support their black sisters and brothers in the South. Some black UCC churches, however, do not come from that past. They are related to the development of the Christian denomination and evolved in the tidewater regions of Virginia and North Carolina, unconnected to black Congregationalism. This Afro-Christian connection is described in chapter 2.
The history of the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania is the concern of the third chapter, which presents the nineteenth-century controversy between the Mercersburg movement and those who called themselves "Old Reformed." Some of the tensions within the United Church of Christ today are similar to this conflict between "high church" and "low church" factions.
Foreign mission activities set the stage for the fourth chapter, on Armenian Congregationalism. Because of the work of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in the nineteenth-century, Armenian Christians of "evangelical persuasion" grew in numbers throughout the Ottoman Empire. Later, when Armenians came to the United States seeking refuge from persecution, they brought that legacy with them. From missionary beginnings Armenian Congregationalism moved to become part of the United Church of Christ.
The German heritage of the United Church of Christ is usually associated with the Evangelical and Reformed story. Chapter 5 tells how some German churches in the UCC were Congregational. These churches were organized on the midwestern frontier by German emigrants who came from Russia in the late nineteenth century. The emigrants were befriended by American Congregationalists but retained some of the Pietism they had nourished in Russia for several generations.
The image of the American Missionary Association (AMA) that is usually conveyed is one of white New England school teachers who went into the South after the Civil War to raise the educational level of blacks. Chapter 8 looks at that history from a different perspective and documents the involvement of blacks who worked for the AMA in education and in church development throughout the entire century.
Chapter 7 retrieves an important and often overlooked story of women in the church. Building on a German movement, in the late nineteenth century, the Evangelical Synod of North America offered women the opportunity of becoming deaconesses. These women shared their gifts in many health and welfare ministries sponsored by the church. Furthermore, their consecrated service gave them unique leadership opportunities as pioneer professional women.
The United Church of Christ has incorporated many diverse groups in its long history. Chapter 8 tells about a group—the Schwenkfelders—that seriously considered becoming part of the United Church of Christ but never did. Descendants of a sixteenth-century German reformer, they came to Pennsylvania in the colonial era and have been good neighbors to the German Reformed people for centuries.
Reformed hospitality, however, did result in a formal connection between the United Church of Christ and the Hungarian Reformed people. Chapter 9 explores the Hungarians' history in the United States and their independent status as the Magyar Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Within the United Church of Christ the Calvin Synod, a conference without geographical boundaries, continues to support UCC churches of Hungarian Reformed origins.
Chapter 10 returns to the story of women in the churches. This chapter explains how independent boards and organizations for women in the four denominations that formed the United Church of Christ provided a special power base for women at the turn of the twentieth century. It argues that these churchwomen changed the mission movement, helped women around the world, and set the stage for great changes in women's lives in the twentieth century.
The last chapter in the book, chapter 11, explores the development of Japanese Congregationalism in America. From Neesima Jo, who smuggled himself out of Japan in 1864, to the concentration camps of the 1940s and into the post-World War II period, the story of Japanese participation in the United Church of Christ is impressive.
Any examination of "hidden histories" is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, learning these stories is disturbing. Preconceptions and assumptions are stretched and challenged. This experience is painful, because these histories show how deeply captive the church is to cultural patterns of ethnocentrism, racism and sexism.
On the other hand, studies of this type highlight the strengths of pluralism. There is power for the entire church in knowing these stories; and for those who stand outside UCC historical orthodoxy these histories bring justice. The United Church of Christ seeks unity within its diversity. Only as it is able to locate, preserve, and share the fullness of that diversity will it be enabled to embrace the oneness of Christ.
We, the regularly constituted representatives of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, moved by the conviction that we are united in spirit and purpose and are in agreement on the substance of the Christian faith and the essential character of the Christian life;
Affirming our devotion to one God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our membership in the holy catholic Church, which is greater than any single Church and than all the Churches together;
Believing that denominations exist not for themselves but as parts of that Church, within which each denomination is to live and labor and, if need be, die; and
Confronting the divisions and hostilities of our world, and hearing with a deepened sense of responsibility the prayer of our Lord "that they all may be one";
Do now declare ourselves to be one body, and do set forth the following articles of agreement as the basis of our life, fellowship, witness, and proclamation of the Gospel to all nations.
The name of the Church formed by this union shall be UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST.
This name expresses a fact: it stands for the accomplished union of two church bodies each of which has arisen from a similar union of two church bodies. It also expresses a hope: that in time soon to come, by further union between this Church and other bodies, there shall arise a more inclusive United Church.
The faith which unites us and to which we bear witness is that faith in God which the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments set forth, which the ancient Church expressed in the ecumenical creeds, to which our own spiritual fathers gave utterance in the evangelical confessions of the Reformation, and which we are in duty bound to express in the words of our time as God Himself gives us light. In all our expressions of that faith we seek to preserve unity of heart and spirit with those who have gone before us as well as those who now labor with us.
In token of that faith we unite in the following confession, as embodying those things most surely believed and taught among us:
We believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord and Savior, who for us and our salvation lived and died and rose again and lives for evermore; and in the Holy Spirit, who takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, renewing, comforting and inspiring the souls of men.
We acknowledge one holy catholic Church, the innumerable company of those who, in every age and nation, are united by the Holy Spirit to God in Christ, are one body in Christ, and have communion with Him and with one another.
We acknowledge as part of this universal fellowship all throughout the world who profess this faith in Jesus Christ and follow Him as Lord and Savior.
We hold the Church to be established for calling men to repentance and faith, for the public worship of God, for the confession of His name by word and deed, for the administration of the sacraments, for witnessing to the saving grace of God in Christ, for the upbuilding of the saints, and for the universal propagation of the Gospel; and in the power of the love of God in Christ we labor for the progress of knowledge, the promotion of justice, the reign of peace, and the realization of human brotherhood.
Depending, as did our fathers, upon the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, we work and pray for the consummation of the Kingdom of God, and we look with faith for the triumph of righteousness and for the life everlasting.
About this testimony
The Basis of Union, 1943, was an early agreement between the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. It was formulated during World War II, a time like our own when churches believed it was God's call to witness to unity as a sign of reconciliation in a divided and despairing world. The agreement set the stage for the 1957 union of the two communions into the United Church of Christ.
As people of the United Church of Christ, affirming our Statement of Faith, we seek within the Church Universal to participate in God's mission and to follow the way of the crucified and risen Christ.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are called and commit ourselves:
To praise God, confess our sin, and joyfully accept God's forgiveness;
To proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our suffering world;
To embody God's Love for all people;
To hear and give voice to creation's cry for justice and peace;
To name and confront the powers of evil within and among us;
To repent our silence and complicity with the forces of chaos and death;
To preach and teach with the power of the living Word;
To join oppressed and troubled people in the struggle for liberation;
To work for justice, healing, and wholeness of life;
To embrace the unity of Christ's church;
To discern and celebrate the present and coming reign of God.
About this testimony
The UCC Statement of Mission, 1987, was drafted by a churchwide conference on mission in Houston, Texas, in which representatives from all communities in the church—including evangelicals, liberals, and others—tried to find common ground. The statement was affirmed by General Synod XVI later that year.
The average American history student learns about William Lloyd Garrison and the Quakers as the leaders of the antislavery cause. How many hear about the "evangelical" abolitionists or the American Missionary Association (AMA) and its predecessors, the Amistad Committee and the Union Missionary Society (UMS), covering the years 1839 to 1878? Garrison's periodical, The Liberator, had perhaps two thousand subscribers at its height, whereas The American Missionary, organ of the AMA, was read by twenty thousand church members. Garrison's repute is helped by the glowing biography written of him by his children and by the fact that The Liberator was preserved by the Boston Public Library and has been available for reading during these one hundred plus years. The AMA had no central repository for its archives. Its papers were sent to Fisk University, where they were stored in a room with an open window. Ten percent of them were destroyed by weather. In 1969 the papers were removed from Fisk for microfilming and were then housed temporarily in the newly created Amistad Research Center, which occupied several rooms of the Dillard University library, in New Orleans. In 1973 the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries relinquished control of the Center to a private board, on which it maintains only a minority presence.
The AMA was founded by leaders of both races who had much in common: All were political abolitionists, members of the Liberty and the Free Soil parties; all were opposed to colonization (the return of blacks to Africa); and all were church members of liberal communions. Most of the whites were Congregationalists. The blacks were Congregational or Presbyterian ministers. All believed in the equality of the races and insisted on integration in their activities. In this they stand in contrast to Garrison and his followers, who talked and wrote much about freeing the slaves but used blacks only in servile positions in the office or as oratorical performers on the lecture circuit. Even most of the Quakers, who historically have high marks as antislavery workers, were not comfortable enough in their race relations to admit black members into their societies.
Among its officers and members the AMA counted persons of stature in public and private life: the vice president of the United States, the governors of Massachusetts and of Connecticut, members of Congress, ministers of the gospel, and a state supreme court justice, all of whom were white. Its black members included newspaper editors and publishers, leaders of the Negro Convention movement, authors, members of Congress, ministers of the gospel, and a state supreme court justiceã"men of mark," as Lewis Tappan called them.
The AMA was established because two older ecumenical bodies, the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS) and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), refused to take forthright stands against slavery and accepted contributions from slaveholders. In addition to missions in Africa, Hawaii, Siam, Jamaica, and Egypt as well as among the American Indians, the immigrant Chinese, and the poor whites of the United States, the AMA founded more than five hundred schools and colleges for the freedmen of the South during and after the Civil War, spending more money for that purpose than the Freedman's Bureau of the federal government. 
Just to name some of the schools in which the AMA played a major role is to see the scope of its influence in the field of education in the South: Howard University, Berea College, Hampton Institute, Atlanta University, Fisk University, Straight (now Dillard) University, Tougaloo College, Talladega College, LeMoyne (now LeMoyne-Owen) College, Tillotson (now Huston-Tillotson) College, Avery Institute.
This was the gift of New England to the freed Negro; not alms, but a friend; not cash, but character. It was not and is not money these seething millions want, but love and sympathy. . . which once saintly souls brought to their favored children in the crusade of the sixties, that finest thing in American History, and one of the few things untainted by sordid greed and cheap vainglory. The teachers in these institutions came not to keep the Negroes in their place, but to raise them out of the places of defilement where slavery had wallowed them. The colleges they founded were social settlements; homes where the best of the sons of the freedmen came in close and sympathetic touch with the best traditions of New England. They lived and ate together, studied and worked, hoped and hearkened in the dawning light. In actual formal content their curriculum was doubtless old-fashioned, but in educational power it was supreme, for it was the contact of living souls. 
To tell the story of the AMA fully is to explore its New England heritage and the minds of those, like Tappan, who were instrumental in its origins: the influence of Charles G. Finney and the distinctive revivalism associated with him and with Congregationalism; the influences of Oneida Institute, Yale University, and Oberlin; the interaction of liberal nineteenth-century theology and radical abolitionism. It is also to tell the story of many black Americans who worked for the cause of Christian freedom and justice.
Although the AMA was not begun primarily for black persons, more of them served on its board and were commissioned by it than is true of any other predominantly white benevolent organization. More than five hundred black personsãofficers, teachers, and missionariesãcan be identified (not always easy in view of the color-blind nature of the AMA) among the AMA workers during the period covered by the archives. This remarkable record was achieved because of the uncompromising belief in freedom and equality on the part of the founders of the AMA. 
Most of the great black heroes of the nineteenth century had at least some relationship with the AMA. Even Frederick Douglass, who was aided in publishing his paper by officers of the AMA and who often worshiped in the First Congregational Church of Washington, DC, although castigating other benevolent organizations for their paternalism, excepted the AMA and described it as a "society honestly laboring to disseminate light and hope amongst us."
In the spring of 1839 African slavers kidnapped and sold a group of their compatriots to a Portuguese trader, who transported them in irons to Havana, Cuba, and resold them. Thus began the celebrated Amistad incident.  Fifty-four of the slaves mutinied, murdered some of the crew, and caused the remainder to sail into Long Island Sound and the jurisdiction of the American courts. New England antislavery forces rallied to form a committee to cover court costs and help the Africans return to their homeland. Before it ended the affair involved Presidents Martin Van Buren and John Tyler, former President John Quincy Adams (who acted as defense attorney in the final appeal before the Supreme Court), the possibility of war with Spain, and the establishment of the Mendi Mission in Africa. The Amistad Committee—Lewis Tappan, Simeon Smith Jocelyn, and Joshua Leavittãchosen after the adjournment of a meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, raised the funds for the care of the Africans and for their trials. 
The effort and the money that were expended turned out to be good investments. The Amistad case was not only a propellant for the antislavery cause, but also something more: Coming as it did at the time of schism in the American Anti-Slavery Society, it provided Tappan and the evangelical abolitionists with a new direction for the war on slavery and a national voice with which to address church members and speak for them. (This was particularly important for the Congregationalists whose denomination had no national organization until the start of the Congregational Union, in 1854.)
Tappan, New York merchant and transplanted New England Congregationalist, was the organizational genius of the abolition movement. He gave the AMA its spirit, its name, and his services as treasurer without pay for nineteen years. This magnificent American, for whom no definitive biography exists, lived his Christian faith although his life was threatened, his home ransacked and his possessions burned, and he was forced out of his church. He taught an integrated Sunday school and advocated integrated public schools in the belief that blacks and whites could know each other as adults only if they grew up together. When one of the Mendi (Africa) missionaries wrote to the "Rooms" in New York asking what the AMA officers would think if he were to marry an African woman, Tappan's answer was, "White or black, whom God puts together let no man put asunder." Small wonder that such a man and his fellow workers attracted leading black abolitionists to the AMA. 
Union Missionary Society
Prompted by the plight of the Amistad Africans on trial in his own state, James William Charles Pennington, pastor of the Talcott Street Congregational Church (black), in Hartford, Connecticut, issued a call for a Missionary Convention of black persons to consider the needs of Africa "because the exigencies of that country are great" and "because we are desirous that something should be done by us for the land which our fathers loved as the land of their nativity." The time was right, for blacks had no missionary society and Christian duty demanded that they follow the Great Commission of Jesus.
Blacks like Pennington who overcame the enormous infirmities of slavery gave abolitionists irrefutable evidence of their equality. Pennington had no known white ancestors. When he escaped slavery, at age twenty-one, he could not read, yet within five years he was an accredited teacher at New Town, Long Island. After his escape he worked during the day and studied at night to make up for the deprivation his mind had suffered in childhood. To prepare himself for the Christian ministry he went to New Haven. Pennington lacked the educational qualifications to enter Yale Seminary as a student but was allowed to audit courses. At the same time he served the Temple Street Congregational Church (founded by Simeon Smith Jocelyn and later served by Amos Gerry Beman), having been licensed in 1838. Two years later he began his work as pastor of the Talcott Street Congregational Church of Hartford.
The convention that created the Union Missionary Society (UMS) in Hartford, on August 18, 1841, was composed "chiefly" of "people of color" from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. Pennington was chosen president; the Rev. Amos Gerry Beman of New Haven, corresponding secretary; the Rev. Theodore Sedgwick Wright of New York, treasurer; and the Rev. Josiah Brewer (who was white) of Wethersfield, Connecticut, chairman of the executive committee. Tappan was elected to an office in absentia but declined. He did not think the time was right to enter into competition with the ABCFM. He still hoped that the foreign mission board would be persuaded to denounce slavery. Lewis, his brother Arthur, and many other abolitionists were convinced that the means for defeating slavery lay in the institutions of evangelical Protestantism. Slavery could not stand for one hour, they said, if the churches denounced it. The Amistad Committee agreed to sever its ties with the Africans and turn over its funds to the ABCFM, "provided assurance was given that it should be an anti-slavery mission" to be founded when the Africans were returned home. The Board declined the offer, and three New York abolitionists found themselves—rather reluctantly—in the missionary business. The group of missionaries sent to Africa with the Amistads included a black man and his wife under the care of the UMS. Tappan wanted the new mission to be headed by Pennington, but Pennington could not be persuaded to accept the position. His congregation had doubled in the year he had served it, but he feared what would happen if he left so soon. And he was also the president of the infant UMS, which would "need much labor to make it go." At its first annual meeting, in 1842, the UMS absorbed the Amistad Committee. This time Tappan accepted the office of corresponding secretary, but the organization was still predominantely black, with few sources of funds and little interest shown in it by most white abolitionists.
American Missionary Association founded
The action that finally prompted evangelical abolitionists to found a missionary society of the "whole gospel" took place two weeks before the Liberty Party convention in 1845. The ABCFM issued a statement to the effect that it was against slavery but would not direct its missionaries among the American Indian tribes to refuse church membership to Indians who owned slaves. One hundred people—one tenth of those at the conventionãheld a special meeting and decided on action. They reluctantly chose to start another missionary society in the place of those they had long sustained with their gifts. They determined that it would be democratically organized, unlike the old societies, whose boards were self-perpetuating and independent of their supporters.
After an initial meeting in Albany, part of the so-called burnt-over district and birthplace of so many nineteenth-century enthusiasms, the AMA was born in 1846.
Black leadership before the Civil War
Of the twelve men who served on the first board of the AMA four were Afro-Americans: Theodore S. Wright, Samuel Ringgold Ward, James Pennington, and Charles Bennett Ray. In later years Samuel E. Cornish, Henry Highland Garnet, Amos N. Freeman, and Sella Martin also served as officers. They were unusual men. Each had taken full advantage of the grudging opportunities afforded his race for education in the North. And having secured that hard-won prize for himself, each entered the fight to secure the blessings of education and first-class citizenship for all his race. Most of them had edited newspapers at some period of their lives, and all contributed widely to black and abolitionist publications. Although their lives were quickened by the urgency of the larger task, with the exception of Cornish, their purposes were tempered by the necessity of earning enough money to support their families. Their towers were neither covered with ivy nor made of ivory. These men were in the ranks daily, battling for and among their fellows.
Ray and Wright were free-born New Englanders. Freeman may have been as well, for he was ordained in Maine in 1841 and served the Fourth Congregational Church in Portland. Ray and Tappan were two of the founders of an integrated church in New York. Ray also served the AMA as auditor and as urban missioner in New York City, starting another Congregational church there. In 1828 Wright graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary, the first black person to receive a theological degree in the United States. He was a fervent critic of the colonization scheme. His time on the AMA executive committee ended with his death, in 1847.
Cornish was born in Delaware and educated in Philadelphia. He founded the First Colored Presbyterian Church in New York in 1822 and served it until Wright became its minister, in 1828. Later, as Shiloh Presbyterian Church, it and its minister removed to the Free School Presbytery. Cornish was an editor of the first black newspaper in America and remained a vice president of the AMA until his death, in 1858.
Pennington, Garnet, and Ward were slaves who escaped from Maryland. Garnet and Ward were brought north by their parents as young children. Garnet, second (perhaps) only to Frederick Douglass in leadership among black Americans, was a magnificent orator. In 1865, on the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, he was the first black person to address Congress. He died in Liberia in 1882, having been appointed U.S. Minister by President James A. Garfield, who served the AMA as trustee of Hampton Institute.
Ward was a home missionary of the AMA as well as a member of the executive committee. During the time he was one of the managers of the UMS he served the Congregational church at South Butler, New York. This church was well known for its progressive leadership. In 1853 it was the first church in a major American denomination to ordain a woman. Still later it sent the AMA its first superintendent to work among freed slaves.
Martin was born in North Carolina. His father was also his owner. He grew up in urban areas and managed to learn to read. Unlike most escapees, Martin made his way north from the deep South when he was twenty-three. His escape did not come until 1855, five years after the Fugitive Slave Law had wrought such havoc in the lives of Ward, Pennington, and Garnet, all of whom were forced to flee the country. Garnet left his position as a home missionary for the AMA, commissioned to start integrated Congregational churches in New York State, to flee to Great Britain and then on to Jamaica as a missionary of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland (antislavery and not the established church). Pennington went to Great Britain. Under AMA auspices Ward chose to go to the Canadian West, because the AMA thought this field was the most difficult in its home mission work. He started a newspaper for the black refugees who were there, and then he also went to Great Britain.
Not all the AMA home missionaries before the Civil War were men. The most interesting of the women and probably the most "temperamental" of them allãmen or womenãwas Mary Ann Shadd Cary. She eventually became one of the first black women lawyers in North America, but before that she took over Samuel Ward's paper in the Canadian West and became the first woman editor, white or black. The AMA found her to be both an able teacher of the fugitive slaves and a worthy opponent in disputes. She took on the eminent black men of her time, including Frederick Douglass, in the surviving portions of her newspaper. She also challenged the men at AMA headquarters for their lack of faith in her dedication to integrated schools. Despite her vitriolic attacks in letters and in her paper, the AMA recognized her ability. She later worked for the association at the Lincoln School, in Washington, DC.
Schools for freed slaves
The coming of the war found the AMA ready and in place with a decade and a half of experience as a missionary society. AMA missionaries and teachers followed the Union armies, establishing schools wherever and as soon as the military situation permitted. That the freedmen were taught by New England schoolmarms was a myth. True, a number of the teachers were women, but fully a third were men. Many came from New England, but a large number also came from New York, Michigan, Ohio, and elsewhere. Most important: Some of them, men and women, were black. Some, like their white counterparts, had received their higher education at Oberlin College, remarkable in its day for its acceptance of blacks and women.
Men or women, black or white, what courage they needed! And what stamina! Ignored, insulted, hated by the white population, they persevered through disease and terror and suffered many hardships. Refused housing by whites, they often shared the poor homes and poverty of black families. All week they taught: children in the daytime; classes at night for the adults; sewing, homemaking, and manual arts on Saturday; Sunday school on the sabbath. They worked when yellow fever, dengue, malaria, typhoid, and tuberculosis were scourges everywhere. Some died; some never fully recovered from fever contracted while in AMA service. The worst disease of all, however, was the prejudice and hate of the whites in the South. Letters in the archives document the shocking record. Male teachers were beaten and warned to leave or be killed. Some disappeared. Their schools were burned and they rebuilt them with their own hands. They started orphanages for black children and adopted some of the orphans themselves. The first teacher of the freedmen was one hired by the AMA. She was a woman but not a Yankee schoolmarm. Mary Smith Peake was a free citizen of the state of Virginia. She was born Mary Smith Kelsey in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1823. Her father was a white "Englishman of rank and culture" and her mother, a free mulatto. Thus a black woman had the honor of teaching the first day school for the freedmen. Her school in the Brown Cottage was the seed from which Hampton Institute would grow. Mary Peake's school included more than fifty children during the day and twenty adults at night. She became seriously ill but would not rest. On Washington's birthday in 1862 she died of tuberculosis. AMA secretary Simeon Smith Jocelyn called her a saint, and Brown Cottage became a sacred place.
Even when one discounts the Victorian's love of sentiment, one is awed by the evidence of affection bestowed on Mary Peake after her death. Two ministers wrote accounts of her life for publication. A brigade surgeon wrote an eulogy, and a regimental doctor wrote a poetic tribute. The Rev. Lewis C. Lockwood, AMA superintendent at Fortress Monroe, wrote that Mrs. Peake was missed "more and more" each day and that "she was indeed a queen among her kind." He had learned that the home and its furnishings that she had lost in the fire at Hampton almost equalled "the best in that aristocratic place." Yet she had been content to live in one room above the school, which Lockwood likened to the upper room of the Last Supper. She had erected to herself a "monument more enduring than brass or granite, by impressing her own image upon a group of susceptible pupils," in whom she would live again. "We never shall see her like again."
Until the AMA schools raised up their own teachers about 5 percent of the AMA workers were blacks. They were special folk indeed. They had acquired an education when most colleges were closed to blacks and women. At one point all the AMA teachers in Maryland were black women, an experiment to show how capable black women were. The idea was dropped immediately, however, lest white Southerners use it as evidence that black teachers and white teachers were incompatible. The names of these women do not appear in published histories. One of them was Edmonia Highgate, who, at nineteen, was already the principal of a school in Binghamton, New York. She and her family were members of Plymouth Church in Syracuse. Highgate had taught at Norfolk, Virginia; Darlington, Maryland; and New Orleans, Louisiana. In New Orleans she publicly attacked the school board for its segregation policies. Her students were fired on while they were on their way to school and so was her classroom while in session.
Before going to Louisiana, Highgate persuaded the AMA to make her their collecting agent, allowing her to send half of her receipts to the school taught by her mother, in Mississippi, and the other half to the AMA general fund. In the 1860s it was still an unusual occupation for any woman to travel about New York, New England, and Lower Canada, addressing meetings and raising money. For a woman of color to do it successfully says much about the AMA and Edmonia Highgate. She died while she was still young. The cause of her death remains unknown.
Two men who were products of the Mendi Mission in Africa became in fact missionaries to the United States. Thomas De Saliere Tucker, grandson of an African chief, during his second year at Oberlin College, offered to be a teacher of the freedmen. He was sent to aid Charles P. Day, a white teacher at Fortress Monroe. Day and Tucker lived in what was, ironically, the former summer home of President Tyler, who had been unwilling or unable to persuade the U.S. Navy to provide homeward passage for the Amistad Africans. Tucker did a credible job of teaching until he fell in love with a freed slave, Lucinda Spivery, who assisted in the Fortress Monroe school. This African aristocrat wrote the AMA that he did not think he should marry a woman that was so ignorant. Lewis Tappan probably made it possible for Lucinda to receive an educationãas he did for so many black youthãbecause some years later she was a regular teacher and her letters show her competence. Tucker finished his work at Oberlin and taught school in Kentucky and in Louisiana, where he edited several papers in New Orleans. He practiced law learned at Straight University and became the first president of Florida State Normal College, later Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, in Tallahassee.
Barnabas Root also was from the AMA Mendi Mission in Sierra Leone. Having graduated from Knox College in 1870 and from Chicago Theological Seminary in 1873, Root became a teacher and missionary among the freedmen. Unlike Tucker, Root's heart remained in Africa, and he returned in 1875. The Mendi missionaries died with such horrifying regularity that at one point Tappan called himself a murderer for sending women to that mission. The AMA always hoped that black Americans could withstand African diseases better than whites could. But Root, even though he was a child of Africa, did not survive long in Sierra Leone; he died in 1877. He spent his last days trying to finish a Mende language dictionary, which, along with his other books, formed the basis of a student library. In 1877 the AMA sent an all-black staff of missionaries to Mendi. All were graduates of AMA schools.
Another AMA gift to the world is the high regard in which the Negro spiritual is held today. The young black persons of the AMA colleges wanted to rid themselves of everything associated with slavery, including the old slave songs of their parents and grandparents. It took the appreciation of musicians like Adam K. Spence, principal of Fisk, and George L. White, who directed the world-famous Fisk Jubilee Singers, to give the spiritual its place in America's music.
Because of having to begin with teaching the alphabet, AMA ''universities'' originally contained everything from the first grade through provisions for graduate studies in law, medicine, and theology. But standards were not lowered. The first collegiate degrees awarded to black persons in the South were earned by two men and one woman at Fisk in 1875, almost ten years after Fisk was opened in a deserted army barracks hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Not until twenty-six years after Talladega College was founded were its first A.B. degrees awarded, although many teaching certificates were given during those years.
In 1916 the U.S. Bureau of Education praised the AMA: "No denominational schools surpass those of this group in educational standards or administrative efficiency. It is probable that no church board has equaled this association in the thoroughness of its self-examination." 
The AMA started more than schools, however. An integral part of the United Church of Christ are the churches the AMA established alongside the schools. If a church in the South is named First Congregational and was founded during Reconstruction, it is generally a predominantely black church started by the AMA. At first no thought was given to transporting Congregationalism to the freedmen. Although the AMA received most of its support from Congregationalists, it was nonsectarian. In fact, the Wesleyan Methodists and Freewill Baptists preceded the National Council of Congregational Churches in officially recognizing the AMA as their "special instrumentality for reaching the freedmen." The AMA commissioned teachers of most denominations, requiring only that the teachers be "evangelical" Christians (a term that then still belonged to mainline Protestantism) without racial prejudice.
From the beginnings of the AMAãlong before the Civil Warãits leaders had hoped for and yet feared the freedom they worked so hard to attain. Freeing four million slaves meant dispersing throughout the country four million persons whose experience at the hands of the slaveholders had inculcated insincerity, cunning, dependency, and self-hate. Education, said the AMA, was not enough. In fact, an educated amoral person was more of a threat to society than an uneducated one. The Christian religion was as important a gift to the freedmen as education was. And having found the black churches of the slave states wanting in moral training and leadership, the AMA started churches as adjuncts to their schools. In thisãas in all its workãthe AMA was intent on preparing the former slaves to enter the mainstream of American life.
Clara Merritt DeBoer is a writer and teacher. This chapter is based on a doctoral dissertation she completed at Rutgers University, 1973, "The Role of Afro-Americans in the Origin and Work of the American Missionary Association: 1839-1877."
1. Richard Bryant Drake, "The American Missionary Association and the Southern Negro, 1861ã1888" (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1957), 198.
2. W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (Milwood, NY: Kraus International Publications, 1973); italics added.
3. For the story of the American Missionary Association with an emphasis on what black persons did in and through it, see Clara Merritt DeBoer, 'The Role of Afro-Americans in the Origin and Work of the American Missionary Association: 1839ã1877' (Ph.D. diss., Rutgers University, 1973).
4. William A. Owens, Black Mutiny: The Revolt of the Schooner Amistad (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1968).
5. For the best general picture of AMA work before the Civil War, see Clifton Herman Johnson, "The American Missionary Association, 1846ã1861: A Study of Christian Abolitionism" (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina, 1959).
6. Clara Merritt DeBoer, "Lewis Tappan: Advocate of the Whole Gospel," AD. magazine, November 1977.
7. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education, Bulletin 1916, No. 38.
Written by Ruth W. Rasche
The story of the deaconess sisters is as old as the Christian church. It begins with the apostles yet endures to this day. The deaconesses are dedicated women who dared to be differentin order to give full-time Christian service to the ministry of mercy. Their life-style and work are part of the women's movement of modern times. They are the pioneer professional women of the church.
Deaconesses in the early church
Deaconess means messenger, servant, or helper. It comes from the Greek diakonos and was first used in the Bible by the apostle Paul, in Romans 16:1-2, to describe Phoebe, a woman leader and worker in the early Christian community:
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well.
Paul's letters indicate that women were prominent leaders and missionaries in the early Christian movement. Many in addition to Phoebe are named. Theological scholarship affirms that women were preachers, teachers, and leaders of the community as well as nurses serving the sick, the poor, and the persecuted.  When the time for definite ecclesiastical organization came, the work of deaconesses had become a necessity to the church and they received a place in its ordered ministry. They were highly respected and counted among the clergy. Evidence that they were ordained to some of the functions of the ministry is abundant in early church records.  On this biblical foundation the ministry of deaconesses in all succeeding generations rests.
Deaconess work in the Evangelical Synod
Deaconess work in the United Church of Christ began within the Evangelical Synod, one of the four roots of the UCC heritage. On March 18, 1889 the Evangelischer Diakonissen-Verein [Evangelical Deaconess Society] of St. Louis, Missouri, was organized, and soon thereafter the first Evangelical Deaconess Home and Hospital was opened.  Two deaconess sisters were consecrated to provide the professional leadership for this new venture. In the same year the Tabitha Institute of Lincoln, Nebraska, which was already established as an orphan asylum, added a Deaconess Home to its organization and also began its deaconess work with two consecrated sisters. After a few years, however, this effort was discontinued. 
Impetus for the organization of the Evangelical Deaconess Society resulted from events that had occurred a year earlier. An Evangelical pastor was summoned to give communion to a critically ill parishioner and found her being cared for in her home by a Roman Catholic nun because the woman was too poor to get help from anyone else. Much distressed at the situation and discovering that it was not an isolated incident, the pastor took the matter to the next monthly meeting of the St. Louis Evangelical Pastors' Association. "Why can't we train the young women of our church to care for the poor and the sick as do the deaconess sisters of Germany?"he asked. 
So much interest was aroused that a committee was appointed, more discussions were held, and the organizing meeting was finally convened at St. Peter's Evangelical Church. Seventy persons attended-sixty men, eight women, and two "young ladies." All signed their names as charter members of the new organization. Its purpose was twofold: (1) to nurse the sick and exercise care for the poor and aged and, (2) to found and support a deaconess home where deaconesses could be educated and trained.  A board of directors was elected, consisting of four pastors, four laymen, and four laywomen, as stipulated in the Articles of Association. 
The election of four women to the policy-making level of the Evangelical Deaconess Society was a breakthrough. In most German Evangelical congregations at that time the women sat on one side of the room and the men, on the other. A woman's church membership was held in herhusband's name. He voted and spoke for her and the whole family.
Whether a stroke of genius or simply a matter of practical consideration, the decision to include women as one third of the board of directors of the Deaconess Society proved to be fortunate in many ways. Women of the Evangelical churches throughout St. Louis mobilized for action and rallied to the deaconess cause. A wealthy widow donated funds that made possible the rental and renovation of a large home in center city, at 2119 Eugenia Street, which became the first Deaconess Hospital and Home. Women from all parts of the metropolitan area helped to prepare the home for occupancy and spread the word as to its purpose.
On Sunday, August 18, 1889, Katherine Haack, a minister's widow who was already a trained nurse, became the first deaconess of the Evangelical Synod when she was consecrated at a worship service held at St. Peter's Church. She immediately recruited her stepdaughter, Lydia Daries, also a trained nurse, to become the second deaconess. 
Meanwhile, members of Evangelical churches in cities across the United States were also being confronted with the unprecedented needs of the poor and the sick in their communities. In the 1880s 5.5 million immigrants had come into the United States—twice as many as in the preceding decade—and most of them came from Germany. In fact, census records show that four million persons of German heritage were living in the Middle West at that time. Many of the new immigrants were very poor. Coming, as they often did, with a language barrier and lack of skills, they found life harsh and bleak. Crowded city conditions and overburdened sanitation facilities led to illness and epidemics.
In order to alleviate some of this suffering, deaconess work was established in a variety of institutions in many cities across the land by members of the Evangelical Synod.
1889—Evangelical Deaconess Home and Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri; 1889—Tabitha Institute, Lincoln, Nebraska; 1892—Protestant Deaconess Home and Hospital, Evansville, Indiana; 1902—Evangelical Deaconess Home and Hospital, Lincoln, Illinois; 1905—Evangelical Emmaus Homes, Marthasville and St. Charles, Missouri; 1908—Evangelical St. Lucas Deaconess Home and Hospital, Faribault, Minnesota; 1910—Evangelical Deaconess Home and Hospital, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 1910—Evangelical Hospital, Chicago, Illinois; 1911—Evangelical Deaconess Home, Louisville, Kentucky; 1912—Evangelical Deaconess Association, Baltimore, Maryland; 1913—Evangelical Deaconess Hospital, Marshalltown, Iowa; 1915—Evangelical Deaconess Home and Hospital, East St. Louis, Illinois; 1917—Evangelical Deaconess Hospital, Detroit, Michigan; 1919—Evangelical Deaconess Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio
At about the same time, members of the German Reformed Church, also one of the four roots of the UCC heritage, established deaconess work in two locations.
1892—Deaconess Home and Hospital of the German Reformed Church, Cleveland, Ohio, which later became Fairview Park Hospital;1895—German Deaconess Home and Hospital, Buffalo, New York
In 1901 the American Congregational Deaconess Association was incorporated in Chicago, Illinois, at the recommendation of the Illinois State Association. A Deaconess Training Home was begun later that year with instructors from Chicago Theological Seminary. 
Worldwide deaconess work
Deaconess work had been well established in Europe long before 1889. Sixty-five deaconess sisterhoods with more than eight thousand deaconesses were serving at that time not only in Europe but also in Asia and Africa, including St. Petersburg, Russia; Edinburgh, Scotland; Cairo, Egypt; Jerusalem; and scores of other places in between. 
In the United States, the Lutheran, Episcopal, and Methodist denominations were engaged in various deaconess efforts by the late 1880s, and interdenominational groups were cooperating on some projects.  These efforts were all part of the nineteenth-century revival of deaconess work, which had declined after five centuries of prominence in Christendom. Deaconesses were mentioned occasionally in church records, but during the Middle Ages . . . the deaconess had become the nun. Many Roman Catholic sisterhoods established care for the sick in relation to their convents, but many such convents in northern Europe were closed after the Reformation.
Modern revival of deaconess work
A young Lutheran pastor, Theodore Fliedner, of Kaiserswerth, Germany, was responsible for the revival of deaconess work. He had traveled across Europe in the 1830s and was appalled by the suffering of the sick, the poor, the aged, and the outcasts of society that he saw in many places.
Inspired by a group of Mennonites who had organized the care of the sick in a village in Holland and by Elizabeth Fry, the Quaker who had cared for released prisoners in England, he returned to Kaiserswerth and with the help of his wife, Frederike, opened the first Deaconess Home and Hospital in Europe in 1836.
The Fliedners invited the young, unmarried women of their small congregation to join them in this venture of faith. A doctor's daughter, Gertrude Reichard, became the first recruited deaconess of modern times.  Despite strong opposition from the townsfolk, who did not want a "pest house" in their midst, and the skepticism of others who scoffed at the undertaking or disapproved of any career for women outside the home, the Kaiserswerth sisterhood grew and became a model for deaconess work all over the world. 
The Kaiserswerth model
The deep Christian commitment of the Fliedners, combined with their organizational ability, attracted not only those who wished to become deaconesses but also others who came simply to observe their methods. Florence Nightingale, who has often been called the patron saint of modern nursing, studied with the Fliedners on two occasions and stayed in Kaiserswerth for three months in 1851, before beginning her famous work later in England. She spoke of this experience with the Fliedners as the turning point in her life.  Of the deaconess sisters at Kaiserswerth she said, "Never have I met with a higher love, a purer devotion than there." 
Group living in a motherhouse, a primary concept for the Fliedners as they organized deaconess work, proved to be a significant element of their success and was an initial step in the modern-day women's movement. Single young women could, with parental approval, leave the family circle and find security living and working in the company of like-minded women who were dedicated to a career in the ministry of mercy.
Nineteenth-century society generally did not approve of single young women living outside the family circle. And only those of wealthy families could hope for more than an elementary education. The deaconess, however, could get a good education and pursue a meaningful career free from family responsibilities and the constant burden of childbearing, which accompanied most marriages. She was, in a relative sense, a liberated woman, a pioneer professional woman within the protective circle of the church. 
Because family ties in the nineteenth century were strong, the Fliedners wisely made parental consent one of the requirements of admission for deaconess work.  But unlike the Roman Catholic sister, who was "married to the church" for life, the deaconess was free to leave her work and return to her family at any time if the need arose for her to care for aged parents. Celibacy was a foregone conclusion, not because of church doctrine, but as a matter of practical necessity. No woman in the 1800s could have managed the time-consuming duties of caring for a large family and also give herself to the full-time, sixteen-hour-a-day work of a deaconess sister. 
If a deaconess did wish to marry, she was free to leave the sisterhood at any time to do so and many did. The General Conference of Deaconess Motherhouses, meeting in Kaiserswerth in 1891, reaffirmed this position:
As a deaconess is free to remain single, so she retains the freedom at all times to enter wedlock in a lawful manner. Neither before nor after consecration need she promise to remain single, but she honestly declares that after mature examination before God and her conscience it is her deliberate and firm determination to be a deaconess and to remain single so long as it may please God. 
Deaconess sisters who did not marry and remained in the profession were assured complete care in old age and in times of disability and illness. Such was possible only within the motherhouse setting, where the deaconess sisters served one another as well as others in need of help. Lifetime care was a necessity, because the sisters received only a small stipend for personal use and no salary. They could not, therefore, accumulate personal savings. Such a support system was an early form of social security and provided wonderfully liberating opportunities for the women who chose to become deaconesses. No worries about old age! In a society where, until recently, most women depended on the men of the family for financial security, deaconess work provided an attractive alternative.
The motherhouse, as organized at Kaiserswerth by the Fliedners, had two other functions. It was also a training school and a local congregation.
Because a deaconess is first of all "a disciple of the Lord," the sisters who lived together in a motherhouse constituted a community of believers that functioned much like a local congregation.  Morning prayers in the chapel, which always adjoined the motherhouse, and evening prayers after the workday ended were standard.
The executive deaconess, or Sister Superior, managed the internal affairs of the sisterhood, assisted by committees that were usually chosen democratically.  A pastor served as the superintendent of the institution engaged in deaconess work. He conducted worship services, supervised the spiritual training of the probationers, and sometimes served as business manager and public relations director. 
The most revolutionary contribution of the Fliedners in their Kaiserswerth model for deaconess work was in the area of training. They required that the training be threefold: spiritual, intellectual, and technical. This concept changed the entire image of nurses, who were not held in high regard in the early nineteenth century. Most so-called hospitals were miserable places where people went only as a last resort to die.
The first half of the nineteenth century stands as a grim period in hospital history.... Hospital wards were filled with discharging wounds which made the atmosphere so offensive that perfume was required. The nurses of that period are said to have adopted the use of snuff to make conditions tolerable. Surgeons wore their operating coats for months without having them washed, and the same bed linen served several patients. Pain, hemorrhage, infection and gangrene were rife in the wards. Mortality from surgical operations was as high as ninety and even one hundred percent....
Nursing was, if possible, on an even lower plane than medicine and surgery... The nurses were often of the criminal class, had no religious spirit of self-sacrifice, and exploited and abused the patients. 
Theodore Fliedner had visited many such hospitals and was deeply moved and distressed by what he had seen:
I had not infrequently found the gates adorned with marble, when the nursing within was bad. The medical staff complained bitterly of the hireling attendants, of their carelessness by day and by night, of their drunkenness and other immoralities. And what should I say of the spiritual attendance. Little thought was given to that. 
With the motherhouse as a training school the deaconess sisters soon became superior in all three aspects of their work—spiritual, intellectual, and technical. The training was systematic and thorough.  As a result, doctors could write orders and know that consistent, careful, loving care would be given in their absence by deaconess nurses. These methods were studied by many visitors who came to Kaiserswerth. Florence Nightingale wrote:
The Sisters are, however, bound, of course, punctually to obey the directions of the medical man, and they are too well trained not to do so, with far more correctness than is found in other hospitals.
The superintending Sister of every ward is always present during the daily visits of the medical man. The apothecary is a Sister, and she goes the round of the patients with him, noting down all his prescriptions and directions which she afterwards transcribes into a book. 
This was the beginning of structured nursing care.
Other visitors to Kaiserswerth, such as Jane Bancroft, a prominent Methodist educator from the United States, called attention to the spiritual assistance that the deaconess sisters were able to give the patients:
[The deaconess] must follow strictly the doctor's orders in all matters pertaining to diet, medicine and ventilation, and must inform him daily of the patient's state. She also assists the clergyman, if desired, in ministering to spiritual needs. 
The image of the nurse had changed completely. The deaconess sisters, who were spiritually, intellectually, and technically trained, brought dignity to the work of serving the sick. As in the days of the early Christian church, they transformed service to ministry. Modern theologian Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel, describing the women of the New Testament, says: "In [the Gospel of] Mark, to serve is not a humiliating activity but a mutual giving and taking, a self-surrender and mutual acceptance, and exchange of love, tenderness, help and comfort."  This description could apply to the deaconess nurse of modern times as well.
Three types of deaconess service
Prominent though it was, nursing was not the only type of service for which deaconess sisters were trained. Teaching and parish work were of equal importance, and missionary work combined all three.  Every deaconess sister was, however, trained first as a nurse regardless of her subsequent responsibilities, "because in no other way can her physical and mental powers be so thoroughly disciplined as by nursing." 
Teaching became an area of increasingly specialized service as hospitals grew more complex and deaconesses on training school faculties found it necessary to prepare themselves with highly skilled professional qualifications and advanced academic degrees. Some became very able scholars. 
The parish deaconess combined teaching and nursing with her spiritual training and was, in reality, an assistant pastor. Fliedner designated parish deaconess work as "the crown of the female diaconate, that is, the highest development or most perfect form of it."  The parish deaconess was responsible for Christian education, social work, and home visitation all part of the ministry that the pastor of a large parish could not do alone. 
The uniform type of dress, or garb, that the deaconess sisters wore identified them immediately wherever they went. At first, Fliedner had suggested only simplicity of dress, but circumstances soon compelled him to prescribe a special garb, because "it is well known that feminine nature is easily beguiled on this subject, for which reason a precise and minute rule is necessary. " 
The garb had a number of advantages. It wiped out all differences in birth and position and symbolized the spiritual relationship of the sisters to one another. Equally important was the fact that
the deaconess garb is a constant reminder of the dignity of the calling; it is also a protection, for a deaconess may go at any time of the day or night, in pursuit of her calling, and may appear anywhere, without molestation. Her dress is, so to say, her ticket of admission, her letter of recommendation. 
Although some deaconess sisters did not like wearing garb that made them all look the same, most welcomed it.  The simple, long, black dress, usually worn with a white collar for street wear and with a white apron for work, and a small cap tied on with a bow was much easier to care for than the many petticoats, tucks, and ruffles worn by most women during the nineteenth century. The garb liberated the deaconess from much of the drudgery of the flatiron and from the tyranny of trying to keep up with the Gibson girl image that was held up as the ideal for women at the turn of the century.  "The garb cuts off at once all luxury in attire and saves much money, time and thought which women think they must spend in order to keep their clothing in current fashion." 
From time to time the garb was updated in most of the sisterhoods in the United States until it was finally replaced with the standard white nurse's uniform in the 1920s for the deaconess nurse on duty and with the neatly designed, classic, dark blue shirtwaist dress for other occasions.
As the garb changed the deaconess pin became the primary means of identification for a deaconess sister. The Fliedners had discouraged the wearing of gold crosses or any other ornamentation as smacking of Romanism,  but Lutheran deaconesses in the United States usually wore a large silver cross.  Some deaconess sisters wore a pin similar to that of the Red Cross, but the Evangelical deaconess sisters adopted the distinctive, widely accepted deaconess pin based on the symbol of the Kaiserswerth Motherhouse.
The symbol of Kaiserswerth is a white dove, carrying an olive branch, resting against a blue ground. The blue flag floats from the old windmill tower on the river bank, attracting the attention of the traveler as he floats up the Rhine. 
Printed papers from Kaiserswerth were marked with a woodcut of the symbol of the dove and the olive branch. 
The deaconess pin has a white dove, denoting purity, on a blue background, representing courage and faithfulness, with a gold cross, signifying commitment to Christ and his work, all surrounded with a gold olive wreath, representing God's eternal and encompassing love. The pin was presented to the deaconess sister at the time of her consecration. Although simple in design, like the garb, it was not easy to obtain. Three to four years of intensive training, many long hours of practical experience, plus evidence of deep Christian commitment preceded consecration.
The Order for the Consecration of Deaconesses was prescribed in The Evangelical Book of Worship  and was similar to the liturgical procedure used in the ordination of a pastor. The order included the laying on of hands and an ordination prayer dating back to the fourth century.  In Kaiserswerth the consecration of a deaconess concluded with the sacrament of communion.
As part of her consecration a deaconess promised obedience to God and the rules of the motherhouse, willingness to do any work required, and faithfulness in all things.  This promise was not considered a vow for life, such as in the Roman Catholic Church, but a pledge in regard to a certain vocation. It was believed that the one vow of a Christian is the baptismal vow and that no special vow was justified. 
After consecration a deaconess was addressed as Sister, a title of respect that was not only biblically based but also descriptive of her life-style:
The name Sister, by which Christian custom addresses the deaconesses, beautifully expresses the communion of faith, in which they stand.... A simpler and more suitable name for the deaconess cannot be imagined. Together with the prescribed dress, this name wipes out all differences of birth and position. 
The practice of calling deaconesses by their baptismal names instead of their family names was another affirmation of the family character of the motherhouse in which they lived. So it was that the first two deaconess sisters of the Evangelical Synod were addressed as Sister Katherine and Sister Lydia.
The deaconess outreach
As soon as Deaconess Hospital in St. Louis was opened, in 1889, it was filled with patients, which prompted an urgent call for more deaconesses. Members of the first Board of Directors of the Evangelical Deaconess Society wrote articles in the widely circulated official church paper, Der Friedensbote, describing the wonderful opportunities that deaconess work offered to young women in the church. 
A few years later the Evangelical Deaconess Society of St. Louis began publishing its own monthly periodical, Der Evangelische Diakonissenfreund, in order to publicize deaconess work and to reach a wider audience for recruitment purposes. This publication and its successors were edited by the Rev. Frederick P. Jens. Throughout his forty-one years as Superintendent of the Deaconess Home and Hospital in St. Louis, Jens was a strong advocate of deaconess work and gave leadership to the Protestant Deaconess Conference, organized in 1894, and to the Evangelical Deaconess Association, organized in 1908. He translated from the German the widely used Principles of Deaconess Work, which was published by the Association in 1918. The Rev. Gustav Niebuhr was likewise a leader in the Protestant Deaconess Conference and a founding member of the Evangelical Deaconess Association. He edited Der Diakonissen-Herold, which was published for recruitment and informational purposes by the Deaconess Home and Hospital in Lincoln, Illinois. 
Slowly at first but then in growing numbers the young women of the church responded to the opportunities to become deaconesses. Because the seminaries were closed to them, deaconess work was the only way women could hope to have a full-time professional career in the church, and many were interested.
The St. Louis Motherhouse, patterned in most respects after the Kaiserswerth model, became the primary training center for deaconess sisters in the Evangelical Synod. In its nearly one hundred years it trained more than five hundred deaconess sisters  and sent many of them out to ministries of the church, including service in the following benevolent institutions:
Bensenville, Home Society, Bensenville, Illinois; Caroline Mission, St. Louis, Missouri; Evangelical Children's Home, St. Louis, Missouri; Evangelical Home for the Aged, Rochester, New York; Good Samaritan Home for the Aged, St. Louis, Missouri; St. Paul's Evangelical Old Folk's Home, Belleville, Illinois.
The deaconess sisters became leaders in almost every professional specialty related to modern health care and also served as teachers, parish assistants, and as missionaries in Ecuador, Honduras, and India. When the Conference of Deaconesses of the Evangelical and Reformed Church was organized in 1952, some of the deaconess sisters gave outstanding leadership. They also held prominent positions when the first Interdenominational Deaconess Conference in the United States was convened in St. Louis in 1956. 
As in many human endeavors, there were abuses. Deaconess sisters were often overworked, and some were sent without warning on overnight assignments that lasted for years. But there were also satisfactions and joys, and these predominated. The oral histories of the deaconesses of the St. Louis Motherhouse attest to this. Many sisters declare in retrospect, "I would do it all over again." 
Five capable deaconesses in St. Louis have served as Sister Superior, or Executive Deaconess: Sister Katherine Haack (1889-97), Sister Magdalene Gerhold (1897-1930), Sister Alvina Scheid(1930-42), Sister Olivia Drusch (1942-54), and Sister Frieda Ziegler (1954- ). Each brought her own unique ability to this leadership role, and together they contributed a continuity of purpose and direction to the sisterhood.
The deaconess legacy
All the deaconess sisters of the United Church of Christ are now retired. Two live in Marshalltown, Iowa; one in Faribault, Minnesota; and twenty-five in the Sisters' Home in St. Louis, located in the middle of the large Deaconess Hospital and Deaconess College of Nursing complex to which they contributed so much time and talent. Recruitment for deaconesses was discontinued in the 1950s. Once again times had changed. As many new opportunities for full-time Christian service in the church became available to women, all the seminaries of the United Church of Christ began accepting women in preparation for ordination. The deaconess calling became that of the pastor.
In retirement the deaconess sisters applaud this new day, which comes full circle to apostolic times, when women and men working together in leadership roles carried the church to the frontiers of new ministries in a world of great need.
As pioneer professional women of the church, the deaconess sisters have been the "forerunners of the ordination of women in Protestant denominations."" One can truly say that "the whole church is richer through the gifts and grace of these dedicated women." 
Ruth W. Rasche is Archivist for the Deaconess Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri. She is involved in preparations for the centennial of the Deaconess movement in St. Louis in 1989 and is a member of the UCC Historical Council.
1. Elizabeth Schôssler Fiorenza, "Word, Spirit and Power: Women in Early Christian Communities" in Rosemary Ruether and Eleanor McLaughlin, eds., Women of Spirit, FemaleLeadership in the Jewish and Christian Traditions (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), p.36.
2. Jane M. Bancroft, Deaconesses in Europe and Their Lessons for America (New York:Hunt and Eaton, 1890), p. 23, and Henry Wheeler, Deaconesses Ancient and Modern (NewYork: Hunt and Eaton, 1889), p. 87.
3. Evangelical Deaconess Society of St. Louis, Missouri, Eleventh Annual Report, 1899 (St. Louis: Eden Publishing House), pp. 9-10.
4. C. Colder, History of the Deaconess Movement in the Christian Church (Cincinnati: Jennings and Pye, 1903), p. 299.
5. Evangelical Deaconess Society of St. Louis, Missouri, Fifteenth Annual Report, 1904(St. Louis: Eden Publishing House), p. 11.
6. Evangelical Deaconess Society of St. Louis, Missouri, Articles of Association, Article II, 1891 (State of Missouri).
7. Ibid., Article IV.
8. Evangelical Deaconess Society, Eleventh Annual Report, op. cit., p. 10.
9. "Immigration to the United States," Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1958, 15:467. John M. McGuire, "They Settled in Missouri's Rhineland," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 29, 1983, p. 1F, describes the hardships of settlers in Missouri. A typhoid epidemic in Lincoln, Illinois, gave impetus to the establishment of deaconess work there, as reported in St. John Church, Lincoln, Illinois 1860-1960 (Lincoln, Illinois, N.D.), p. 19.
10. Historical Sketches of The Congregational Christian Churches and The Evangelical and Reformed Church, published jointly by the Executive Committee of the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches and the General Council of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, June 1955, pp. 29 30. Also see Golder, op. cit., pp. 284, 291-95, 466-67.
11. Golder, op. cit., pp. 69, 604-5.
12. Ibid., p. 273, and Carl J. Scherzer, The Church and Healing (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1950), pp. 121-28.
13. Golder, op. cit., p. 60.
14. Wheeler, op. cit., p. 179, and Sister Julie Mergner, The Deaconess and Her Work, trans. Mrs. Adolph Spaeth (Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publishing House, 1911), p. 46.
15. Sir Edward Cook, A Short Life of Florence Nightingale, abr. Rosalind Nash (New York: Macmillan, 1925), p. 47.
16. Anne L. Austin, History of Nursing Source Book (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1957), p. 196. This quotation is from Florence Nightingale in a letter to the British Museum in 1897.
17. Rosemary Ruether, "Mothers of the Church: Ascetic Women in the Late Patristic Age" in Ruether and McLaughlin, op. cit., pp. 72-73.
18. Wheeler, op. cit., p. 183. The other requirements for admission at that time were earnest Christian character; good health; basic ability in reading, writing, and arithmetic; and being between eighteen and forty years of age.
19. Christian Golder, The Deaconess Motherhouse in Its Relation to the Deaconess Work(Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Printing Company, 1907), pp. 54-55.
20. Ibid., p. 102.
21. Ibid., p. 49. The Deaconess Chapel United Church of Christ was officially organized in St. Louis in 1950. Its membership is limited to deaconess sisters.
22. Austin, op. cit., p. 195. Information is from a booklet written by Florence Nightingale in 1851, after her first visit to Kaiserswerth, entitled, "The Institution of Kaiserswerth on the Rhine, for the Practical Training of Deaconesses."
23. Golder, Deaconess Motherhouse, op. cit., p. 35.
24. Malcolm T. MacEachern, Hospital Organization and Management, 2d ed. (Chicago: Physicians Record Co., 1947), p. 16.
25. Austin, op. cit., p. 189. Quotation is from a pamphlet, Kurzer Abriss seines Lebens, by Theodore Fliedner.
26. Wheeler, op. cit., p. 287, and Golder, Deaconess Motherhouse, op. cit., pp. 42 43.
27. Austin, op. cit., p. 193.
28. Bancroft, op. cit., p. 83.
29. Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel, The Women Around Jesus, trans. John Bowden (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1982). p. 111.
30. Emil Wacker, The Deaconess Calling, trans. B. A. Endlich, 1893 (Guetersloh: Bertelman, 1888), p. 106.
31. Golder, Deaconess Motherhouse, op. cit., pp. 84-85.
32. Sister Elizabeth Schaefer of the Deaconess Motherhouse in St. Louis became an able Greek scholar and read her daily devotions from the Bible in the original Greek until she was past ninety. (Information from The Deaconess Archives, St. Louis, Missouri.)
33. Mergner, op. cit., p. 192, and Principles of Deaconess Work, published by the authority of the Federation of Evangelical Deaconess Associations in the Evangelical Synod of North America (St. Louis: Eden Publishing House, 1918), pp. 82-86.
34. Adele E. Hosto, "Principles and Experiences in Parish Deaconess Work," Der Evangelische Diakonissen-Herold 10, no. 2 (February 1916):4. Sister Adele Hosto was the only deaconess sister in the United Church of Christ who devoted her entire career exclusively to parish work. Many others did so for given periods of time.
35. Golder, Deaconess Motherhouse, op. cit., p. 109.
36. Principles of Deaconess Work, op. cit., p. 38.
37. Oral history tapes of individual deaconess sisters in The Deaconess Archives, St. Louis, Missouri.
38. Pamela Neal Warford, "The Social Origins of Female Iconography: Selected Images of Women in American Popular Culture, 1890-1945" (Ph.D. diss., St. Louis University, 1979),2, 28.
39. Principles of Deaconess Work, op. cit., p. 37.
40. Wheeler, op. cit., p. 289.
42. Bancroft, op. cit., p. 91.
43. Wheeler, op. cit., p. 281.
44. Published by the German Evangelical Synod of North America (St. Louis and Chicago: Eden Publishing House, 1916), pp. 228 31.
45. Prayer used in Order of Consecration of Deaconesses: "Eternal God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of man and woman, who didst fill with Thy Spirit Miriam and Deborah and Hannah and Huldah, who didst in the tabernacle of the testimony and in the temple ordain women to be keepers of Thy holy gates, who also didst not disdain that Thine only begotten Son should be born of a woman; do Thou also look down upon these Thy servants who now have been set apart to the ministry of Deaconesses; grant them the gift of Thy Holy Spirit, and cleanse them from all defilement of the flesh and spirit, that they may worthily discharge the work committed unto them to Thine honor, and to the praise of Jesus Christ, to whom with Thee, and the Holy Spirit be glory and adoration for ever and ever. Amen."
46. Bancroft, op. cit., p. 85.
47. Principles of Deaconess Work, op. cit., pp. 28-33.
48. Wacker, op. cit., p. 95.
49. Ibid., p. 85.
50. C. Fritsch, "Diakonissenbriefe," Der Friedensbote 40, no. 21:166 (November 1, 1889), and J.P. Irion, "Em Wart an unsre Christlichen Jungfrauenund wen er sonst angeht," Der Friedensbote 40, no. 7 (September 1889):134.
51. Evangelical Deaconess Society of St. Louis, Missouri, Fiftieth Annual Report, 1939, (St. Louis: Eden Publishing House), p. 23.
52. William G. Chrystal, A Father's Mantle: The Legacy of Gustav Niebuhr (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1982), pp. 77 94, gives an excellent account of Pastor Niebuhr's work in the deaconess movement.
53. Evangelical Deaconess Society, Forty-Ninth Annual Report, 1938, p. 8, reports that 454 deaconess sisters had been in training up to that time. Succeeding reports add more.
54. Mary Lou Barnwell, "Joining Hands in Christian Service," The Methodist Woman, July-August 1956, p. 8, speaks of Sister Pauline Becker's leadership as Field Secretary. 55. Oral history tapes, op. cit.
56. Ruether and McLaughlin, Introduction, op. cit., p. 24.
57. Minutes, Twelfth General Synod, Indianapolis, Indiana, June 22-26, 1979, United Church of Christ, p. 72.
As a result of many mergers, covenants, mission projects, affiliations, and neighborly activities, the United Church of Christ has incorporated many diverse groups into its history and structure. Not every group, however, that considered affiliation with the United Church of Christ (or its antecedent denominations) actually took formal action. One such group was the Schwenkfelders.
Who are the Schwenkfelders?
The Schwenkfelders are descendants of the followers of Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig (1489-1561), a German Reformer. They came to southeastern Pennsylvania in the 1730s. Church historians have generally ignored Schwenckfeld; his contemporary, Martin Luther, gave them good reason. Luther, in one of his letters (December 6, 1543), spoke of Schwenckfeld as "the poor simpleton" who was "possessed of the devil."  Schwenckfeld refused to retaliate and concealed Luther's stinging correspondence among private papers, commended the burly Saxon's virtues, and named him in prayer to his dying day.
Schwenckfeld's gracious conduct was partly a reflection of his home life. He was of Silesian nobility, raised in a devout Roman Catholic home, and educated for diplomatic service, which ended at age twenty-nine, when he lost his hearing. (Court secrets were not shouted.) At the same time Schwenckfeld began to read the writings coming from Wittenberg and Luther and experienced a spiritual awakening. His full attention was given to mastering Hebrew and Greek, studying the scriptures and early church writing, and for eight years, affirming many of Luther's views.
Separation came when the Silesian nobleman discussed the meaning of the Lord's Supper with Dr. Luther and tried to reconcile conflicting interpretations. Agreement was impossible. In despair Schwenckfeld declared that he could not approach the Lord's Supper as long as Christians were divided and announced he would abstain from communing until the differences were resolved. This decision, called the Stillstand, was initiated in 1526. Schwenckfeld also questioned the practice of infant baptism but shunned the Anabaptists' insistence of rebaptizing adults, as well as their literal use of the scriptures. To him, the Bible was not a "paper pope" but mere words that required God's Spirit to bring them to life.
At first, Schwenckfeld's company was solicited by the well-to-do and intellectuals, but pressure from both Roman Catholics and Protestants prompted King Ferdinand of Silesia to banish Schwenckfeld from his estate. Living in exile, he depended on friends, who circulated his writings and provided him refuge until his death on December 10, 1561.Because Schwenckfeld remained a bachelor, his followers were all "spiritual heirs" who were attracted to his reforming spirit of "The Middle Way," between literal biblicism and blind sacramentalism. During his life and after his death those who adhered to his expression of the Christian faith existed without any formal organization. Some attended the recognized churches (Roman Catholic and Lutheran), others refused; some communed, others abstained. They met in private homes for worship and study and visited churches where pastors were willing to honor Schwenckfeld's writings until the 1540s, when the ruling prince ordered strict adherence to the Augsburg Confession. Schwenkfelders who did not comply were tried, exiled, imprisoned, sent to Vienna as galley slaves, or pressed into service as soldiers against the Turks. A common preference of the 1580s was Vienna, where the Roman Catholics were judged to be less severe than the Lutherans in Silesia! Hence the Schwenkfelders' strong dislike for Lutherans!
Waves of persecution threatened the Schwenkfelders with extinction throughout the 1600s, until 1719, when a Jesuit mission initiated another approach. Representatives of the Schwenkfelders were requested to travel to Vienna to defend their Schwenkfeldian views in writing.  The defenses were futile, and by 1726 only one alternative remained: leave everything and escape. Those who did sought refuge in Saxony with Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, leader of the Moravians, but that stay was only temporary. On July 29, 1734, forty families began the journey to Pennsylvania and a new chapter in their history. 
Settlement in America
The "Saint Andrew" landed at Philadelphia on September 22, 1734. On the twenty-fourth a daylong thanksgiving service was held, beginning a practice called Gedaechtnisz Tag, which is the oldest ongoing thanksgiving observance in America. Because no land grant was large enough to provide the Schwenkfelders with a site similar to the Moravian tract at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, each family started its homestead, ranging from Chestnut Hill, near Philadelphia, into what are now Berks and Lehigh counties. The first thirty years were a time to establish farms and mills; after that, attention was given to organizing their unstructured house fellowships into a Society of Schwenkfelders, in 1782.
Families grouped into an Upper District and a Middle District. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, worship in the home began changing to meetinghouse services, with three in the Upper District (Washington, Hosensack, Kraussdale) - today's Palm Church - and three in the Middle District (Salford, Towamencin, Worcester) - today’s Central Church. In the beginning, services were held at each location on one Sunday in three, so that it was one congregation rotating to three locations.
In 1763 a catechism was prepared by Christopher Schultz. He prepared the Schwenkfelders to adapt to the totally different life in America, where those who had been their persecutors in Europe were now their neighbors and friends. In a new climate the Schwenkfelders began a new era.
Relationships with German Reformed
In southeastern Pennsylvania the Schwenkfelders naturally formed some relationships with other German colonists. By the early nineteenth century close ties had developed between Schwenkfelder pastors in the Upper District and members of the New Goshenhoppen Reformed Church (now United Church of Christ, in East Greenville, Pennsylvania). The Rev. C.Z. Weiser described this kinship in the Mercersburg Review. He wrote about similarities between Christopher Schultz’s catechism, based on Schwenckfeld’s works, and the Heidelberg Catechism of the Reformed Church in the United States; each corresponded to the other "in reference to the classification of the Ten Commandments, and embodied the essentials of the Reformed Confession, if we except (meaning: exclude) the doctrine of Infant Baptism."(4) However, an incident occurred that proved differences were greater than similarities. Weiser’s article related the sad discovery as he told about the Schwenkfelder pastor, Christopher Schultz Jr., who was invited to supply a vacant Reformed church in the early 1830s. The unbaptized, unordained pastor created a controversy among the parishioners that also disturbed his conscience. The Schwenkfelder catechism did not forbid the outward practice of baptism, confirmation, communion, and ordination; at the same time his position was to follow a church life in which these rites were excluded.
He consulted with neighboring Pastors ... who advised him to bring Ordination and the Sacraments across the waters, at the hands of their forerunners in Silesia or Saxony. "So mote it be!" — said Pastor Schultz. But alas! — the few who remained back were precisely in the same dilemma. now commenced Pastor Schultz's inward conflict. There was no way open to bring an Apostolic succession over to the Schwenkfelder Society. . . A midnight melancoly possesed his soul. he became an inmate of the Lunatic Asylum, and died under the cloud in 1841.
Weiser identified the crisis as the absence of an ordained ministry among the Schwenkfelders, for their pastors were chosen by lot from the congregation. In 1895 the crisis was addressed, as Schwenkfelders in both districts decided to practice adult baptism by sprinkling and the Lord's Supper (at first served with a common cup and later changed to communion in the pews).  The study papers and committee reports that preceded this decision are an agonizing account of working out a response for neighbors who unrelentingly asked the Schwenkfelders, "If you are Christians, why do you not baptize and commune?" To this day some Schwenkfelders claim that the decision was accommodation; others claim that it was an overdue resolution. Regardless of any evaluation of the decision, it was a dramatic example of how the New World created a climate that gave new direciton to Schwenkfeldian beliefs and practices. After 1895 and the end of the Stillstand, and 1909, when the Society of Schwenkfelders was incorporated into the Schwenkfelder Church, a loose house fellowship from sixteenth-century Silesia became a Protestant denomination. It was the smallest denomination in the world, numbering five churches—all in southeastern Pennsylvania—with a total membership of 3,000.
Relationships with the Congregationalists
In the late nineteenth century the Schwenkfelders developed an important relationship to Congregationalism around the long-standing desired to collect all the writings of their society: the Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum. It began as a seearch through Europe for extant works of Schwenckfeld and concluded with the publication of nineteen volumes. In the monumental task two names familiar to Congregationalists emerged: Chester David Hartranft and Hartford Theological Seminary.
Hartranft's contact with the Schwenkfelders is like a maze, beginning with Augustus C. Thompson, an 1838 graduate of Hartford's predecessor school, the Theological Institute of Connecticut. Thompson continued his studies at the University of Berlin, where his roommate was August F.H. Schneider. Schneider became interested in the Schwenkfelders through church historian Gottfried Arnold. To help Schneider in his studies, Thompson had his brother in the United States contact the Schwenkfelders in Pennsylvania. That contact helped to initiate a thirty-five-year project in which Schneider assembled copious notes about Schwenckfeld and the Schwenkfelders.
Forty years after those student days in Germany the Schneider collection was placed on the market. Through the generosity of Newton Case, the volumes were purchased for Hartford Seminary's library. Thompson, then a trustee of the seminary, happened to recognize the handwriting of his former roommate and enthusiastically introduced the material to Prof. Chester D. Hartranft—a providential preparation. 
Hartranft's biographical sketch included such details as the following: born in Pennsylvania's Montgomery County on October 15, 1839; graduated from Philadelphia's Central High School; studied at Rambo's School in Trappe, the Hill School in Pottstown, the University of Pennsylvania; served briefly in the military; graduated from the Reformed Theological Seminary at New Brunswick; served as a (Dutch) Reformed pastor for twelve years and then accepted a professorship at Hartford Theological Seminary. The missing detail was his genealogy; he was a descendant of the 1734 Schwenkfelder immigrant, Tobias Hartranft, and a distant cousin of Pennsylvania governor Maj. Gen. John Frederick Hartranft. The Schwenkfelders were also unaware of the relationship; the professor's name was missing from the 1879 Genealogical Record. The omission was quickly corrected when a committee began looking for a prominent speaker for the one hundred fiftieth anniversary (1884) of the landing of the Schwenkfelders and realized that the Hartford college and met his future wife. But Kriebel was attracted to another part of Hartranft's life, his denomination: the Congregational Churches.
Kriebel was interested in introducing the Schwenkfelders to wider associations with other churches and denominations. Beginning in August 1922 the young people of the Congregational Christian Churches of the Middle Atlantic District (Pennsylvania; New Jersey; Maryland; Washington, DC; and Virginia) met each summer for ten days at Perkiomen School. The group worshiped in Palm Church during their two-Sunday stay, and one of their clergy preached at both services. The September 1927 issue of the Schwenkfelders' bimonthly magazine, The Schwenkfeldian, printed a full report by the Rev. Harry Myers, pastor of Philadelphia's Pilgrim Congregational Church. His assessment of the conference was that "the friendly relationship between the Schwenkfelders and the Congregationalists in the foreign field is now being carried forward in the home land in a very happy way.
Kriebel must have shared that impression and acted to turn it into a more tangible relationship. At the annual meeting of Palm Church in April 1929 he addressed the congregation on the subject of merger with the Congregational Churches. The minutes contain no details, but members who recall being there report that a motion was defeated by a hand or standing vote, with no count being noted. The reasons for the motion's defeat are a mix of interesting explanations. One reason given by a member who cast a negative vote was that the Congregational preacher at the previous summer conference insisted, while preaching, that a Schwenkfelder mother carry out her crying baby. Some "no" votes were a protest to his request. Another explanation attributes the motion's defeat to one of Kriebel's relatives, Howard W. Kriebel, who agitated for negative votes to get back at "Dr. O. S." for some unknown reason, because "they were always at each other, and this was one of those times." 
Congregationalists and Schwenkfelders can trace other, pleasant associations of the twentieth century. Some of these associations came through the pastors, such as Johnson and Kriebel, who ended the Schwenkfelder practice of being chosen by lot. From their time on the ministers were college and seminary trained, and the institutions attended included Hartford, Oberlin, and Union Seminary in New York.In the early twentieth century, when the Schwenkfelder churches changed from German to English in their worship services, the resources that were used were not translated but new ones were written. In 1928 the Schwenkfelders published a Book of Worship for Church and Home, borrowing from Congregational, Reformed, and Presbyterian material "in the spirit of Denominational Fellowship which is becoming more and more marked in these days" (the committee's comment in the preface). For their hymnal they chose the 1935 edition of the Pilgrim Hymnal, which Palm Church later updated to the 1958 edition. And in 1909, when the churches were incorporated, the polity adopted was congregational.
The question of involvement in missions was raised at the 1844 fall meeting of the Schwenkfelders. An offering of $273 was received and sent to Benjamin Schneider, a German Reformed missionary who was serving under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in Brusa, Asia Minor. Why was Schneider selected to receive the offering? He had been a neighbor from Long Swamp Reformed Church; the Schwenkfelders of the Upper District knew him personally. Again, in 1865, the German Reformed Missionary Society was used as a channel for directing Schwenkfelder Harvest Home offerings to the Pennsylvania Bible Society. 
By the 1894 Fall Conference, interest in missions resulted in a committee to investigate a venture in home missions in Philadelphia. On December 24, 1895, a charter was granted, establishing the Schwenkfelder earlier.
The action of the Palm congregation was followed by the Central, Lansdale, and Norristown churches when they called UCC ministers to become their pastors.  In 1964 Jack R. Rothenberger, whose family is listed in the Genealogical Record and who was ordained a Schwenkfelder minister in 1955 after graduating from Hartford Seminary, was granted standing in the United Church of Christ, where he was already active in association and conference committees.
The early 1960s were filled with ministerial conversations about the similarities between the two denominations. With historical references as an incentive, the pastors made a bold proposal: "Why not affiliate with the United Church of Christ?" At the May 20, 1961, General Conference a motion activated "the appointment of a study committee to determine the thinking of the people on the question of the future of the Schwenkfelder Churches. And to make specific recommendations to General Conference at Spring 1962 Meeting."  The General Conference Moderator appointed a "Special Committee to Consider the Future of the Schwenkfelder Church," with each church being represented by the pastor and at least one layperson. The Committee met over the next three years and worked out a schedule: Articles appeared in The Schwenkfeldian; a traveling panel visited each church school; Rothenberger, whose 1962 master's thesis was "Caspar Schwenckfeld Von Ossig and the Ecumenical Ideal," delivered a sermon in each church; and special programs were planned for the annual thanksgiving day and General Conferences. The Committee also evaluated resources describing the Mennonite, Church of the Brethren, American Baptist, and UCC denominations, noting differences and similarities to the Schwenkfelder Churches. The overall impression was that the United Church of Christ was
very unusual; not one denomination but several joined together.... Its name implies its members are ecumenically minded. Its background is one in which Schwenkfelders have participated on a number of occasions. Its organization is not overbearing or complex,.. its constitution guarantees that others who work with it will not be absorbed or indoctrinated or restricted. 
A motion from the Committee urged delegates at the 1963 Spring General Conference to engage in study, with each church coming to its own decision. By February 24, 1964, the Committee had its responses:
Central—There appears to be a growing concern about the future of our churches. A small vociferous group seems to be against what our committee has done and is doing all in their power to discredit the committee. Seems to be a confusion on the meaning of words, such as: merger-affiliation. Apparent fear on the part of some that the committee has made final decision for all the people.
Norristown—A "Future of the Schwenkfelders" committee has been appointed.... Appears to be growing concern about the problem.
Philadelphia—The congregation is still open to ideas and has not yet made up its congregational mind about the matter.
Lansdale—There is little apparent strong opinion being voiced in either direction. Frustration was expressed over the fact that many people have made up their minds before having read The Schwenkfeldion. (This "frustration" seems to be present in each of the churches.)
Palm—No strong opinions have been heard. Affiliated for five years and many people are not aware of it. We have benefited, without paying for the benefits. Majority of people seem indifferent. A few negative voices have been raised. 
The Committee's next step was to give each church a study packet, to "allow the Holy Spirit to direct us toward the future," and to ask the May 16, 1964, Spring General Conference to vote to disband the committee. The motion was affirmed, and "t In 1870 the Rev. C. Z. Weiser, the Reformed pastor neighbor to Schwenkfelders in the Upper District, now Palm Church, remarked, "As a Society, they will not merge with any other denomination." The special committee of the early 1960s was not thinking merger but affiliation, and that thought was resisted. Perhaps the resistance was owing to the committee's failure to recognize another New World pursuit of the Schwenkfelders: an interest in self-identity. After 1734 a Schwenkfelder was not so much a spiritual heir of Reformer Caspar Schwenckfeld as a bloodline descendant of the Schwenkfelders who came to colonial Pennsylvania on the Saint Andrew. Genealogy became a primary concern, an interest that was threatened by the committee of 1961-64. Often a positive response to affiliation is the result of stressing a group's strengths, not its weaknesses, needs, and deficiencies. The committee could not communicate to the Schwenkfelder Churches that there was a compelling reason for affiliation—to share the spiritual gifts received from Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig.
When UCC members visit a Schwenkfelder church today they discover a quiet blending of the four denominations represented in the merger of 1957—a secret hidden in the history and life of Pennsylvania's Schwenkfelders.
Martha B. Kriebel is pastor of the Trinity Reformed Church, UCC, Collegeville, Pennsylvania. She is a member of the UCC Historical Council.
1. For literature on the life and teachings of Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig and information about the Schwenkfelders, contact the Schwenkfelder Library, One Seminary Avenue, Pennsburg, PA 18073.
2. The value of the defense was that a clear statement of Schwenkfeldian beliefs was put into print in the 1720s, and later published in English as Elmer Schultz Gerhard, ed., A Vindication of Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig (Norristown, PA: Board of Publication of the Schwenkfelder Church, 1942).
3. Other ships brought Schwenkfelder families to Philadelphia during the 1730s, but this was the largest number of immigrants.
4. C. Z. Weiser, "Caspar Schwenkfeld and the Schwenkfelders," Mercersburg Review, July 1870:362.
5. Ibid., p. 363.
6. For a detailed account of this decision, see Martha B. Kriebel, Schwenkfelders and the Sacraments (Pennsburg, PA: Board of Publication of the Schwenkfelder Church, 1968).
7. This incident is reported by W. Kyrel Meschter in the draft of a book to be published by The Board of Publication of the Schwenkfelder Church in 1984, p. 32.
8. Ibid., p. 36.
9. Quoted from a conversation that Elva S. Schultz had during the 1960s with the pastor of Palm Schwenkfelder Church, the Rev. Martha B. Kriebel.
10. Selina G. Schultz, "Schwenckfelder Interest in Missions," The Schwenckfeldian 1, no. 6[September 1947): 7-9.
11. Samuel K. Brecht, "Supplementary History—The First Schwenkfelder Church of Philadelphia," The Genealogical Record of the Schwenkfelder Families (Pennsburg, PA: Board of Publication of the Schwenkfelder Church, 1923).
12. Selina Schultz, op. cit., p. 11.
13. The UCC pastors who were called were as follows: Central: William B. Bradshaw, Eric T. Braund; Norristown: Ronald Lockhart, David R. Crowle, Herbert H. Dewees; Lansdale: William E. Cameron, Larry 0. Bechol, Andrew H. Johanson, Arlan M. Bond.
14. At the May 19, 1962, General Conference the Committee reported meeting twice, but "we are not prepared at this time to make specific recommendations to General Conference."
15. Quoted from "Which Way?" a pamphlet prepared by Martha B. Kriebel for the special committee.
16. Minutes, Special Committee, February 24, 1964.
17. Weiser, op. cit., p. 370.
Statement of Faith of the United Church of Christ - La Declaración de Fe de la Iglesia Unida de Cristo
We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father, and to his deeds we testify:
He calls the worlds into being, creates man in his own image and sets before him the ways of life and death.
He seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.
He judges men and nations by his righteous will declared through prophets and apostles.
In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord,he has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to himself.
He bestows upon us his Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.
He calls us into his church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be his servants in the service of men, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.
He promises to all who trust him forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, his presence in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in his kingdom which has no end.
Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto him.
We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, who is made known to us in Jesus our brother, and to whose deeds we testify:
God calls the worlds into being, creates humankind in the divine image, and sets before us the ways of life and death.
God seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.
God judges all humanity and all nations by that will of righteousness declared through prophets and apostles.
In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord,God has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the whole creation to its Creator.
God bestows upon us the Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.
God calls us into the church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be servants in the service of the whole human family, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table,to join him in his passion and victory.
God promises to all who trust in the gospel forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace,the presence of the Holy Spirit in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in that kingdom which has no end.
Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto God.
We believe in you, O God, Eternal Spirit, God of our Savior Jesus Christ and our God, and to your deeds we testify:
You call the worlds into being, create persons in your own image,and set before each one the ways of life and death.
You seek in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.
You judge people and nations by your righteous will declared through prophets and apostles.
In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Savior, you have come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to yourself.
You bestow upon us your Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.
You call us into your church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be your servants in the service of others, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil,to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.
You promise to all who trust you forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, your presence in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in your realm which has no end.
Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto you.
Creemos en Dios, el Espíritu Eterno, Padre de nuestro Señor Jesucristo y nuestro Creador; y de sus obras testificamos:
Dios llama los mundos para que existan, creó al ser humano a su imagen y semejanza, y puso ante la humanidad los caminos de la vida y la muerte.
Busca en su santo amor salvar a todas las personas de su desorientación y pecado.
Dios juzga al ser humano y a las naciones por medio de su justa voluntad declarada a través de los profetas y los apóstoles.
En Jesucristo, el hombre de Nazaret, nuestro Señor crucificado y resucitado, Dios ha venido y ha compartido nuestra suerte, venció el pecado y la muerte y reconcilió al mundo para sí mismo.
Dios nos concedió el Espíritu Santo, que crea y renueva la iglesia de Jesucristo y une en un pacto de fidelidad a personas de todas las edades, idiomas y razas.
Dios nos llama como iglesia para que aceptemos el costo y la alegría del discipulado, para que seamos sus servidores al servicio del ser humano, para proclamar el evangelio a todo el mundo y resistir los poderes del maligno, para compartir el bautismo de Cristo, comer en su mesa, y unirnos a Jesús en su pasión y victoria.
Dios promete a toda persona que confía en Jesús el perdón de los pecados y la plenitud de su gracia, valor en la lucha por la justicia y la paz, su presencia en las tristezas y en las alegrías, y vida eterna en su reino que no tiene fin.
Bendición y honor, gloria y poder sean dados a Dios.
About this testimony
The original (traditional) version of the UCC Statement of Faith was adopted in 1959 by General Synod and is widely regarded as one of the most significant Christian faith testimonies of the 20th century. The Statement of Faith in the Form of a Doxology was authorized by Executive Council in 1981. For these and other affirmations of the Christian faith, see the Book of Worship of United Church of Christ and The New Century Hymnal. Both resources are available from United Church Resources at 800-325-7061, or can be ordered from The Pilgrim Press at www.ThePilgrimPress.com